The buzz word that seems to never leave the tips of the Big Military’s tongue is “toxic leadership.” It can be defined as the behavior of a leader who puts their own well-being first while destroying the well-being of everyone underneath them — the type of person who would stand on the neck of their troops if it meant a single “attaboy” from their own superiors.
Do not get this twisted. Toxic leadership is not “Sergeant said something mean to me one time!” It is not “Sergeant had to punish me when I messed up!” And it is not “Sergeant made me do military things!” Toxic leadership is like bad art. You can’t quite nail down how to perfectly define it, but when you see it — you know.
1. Do praise the good leaders
During my time in the Army, I’ve had the pleasure of serving under some damn fine officers and NCOs (a few of which I know read my articles years after I got my own DD-214 blanket.) Every single one of the good ones understand that respect is a two-way street. And every single one took strong stands against the toxic leadership that is “the scoliosis of the backbone of the Army.”
If you want to see the good leaders, shine a light on them. They’re out there. This is best and most effective means to cleaning the toxicity out of the military.
2. When dealing with toxic leadership, don’t give up
If you do find yourself under the boot of one of those slimy bastards, continue the fight. If you want to count the days until your blanket, that’s fine. If you want to put an end to that crap to help your brothers and sisters-in-arms, that’s better.
No one should ever hate their time in the military. We’re a family closer than most blood families.
3. Do respectfully and professionally communicate with them
The first sentence of the U.S. Army and Air Force Non-commissioned officer creed is: No one is more professional than I. The Marines have “I am the backbone of the Marine Corps” and is a sentiment shared by every branch. These are the words they swore to live by. If they are worth a damn, they prove it every day.
Find out if what they’re doing is truly toxic or if there’s just a bigger picture at play. Even if you don’t owe it to them, owe it to the rank they wear.
4. Don’t disrespect their position or rank
That being said, even if every fiber of your being is saying they don’t deserve their rank, you can’t lose your military bearing. Keep the formalities. Stand at attention or parade rest. Refer to them by their rank and don’t use expletives in reference to them.
It’s much harder for your concerns to be taken seriously if you come across as complaining to their peers.
5. Do Command Climate Surveys
The most mind-numbing briefings and paperwork lower enlisted seem to do is a Command Climate Survey. They seem to get filled with a bunch of fluff that won’t change things — or fluff that can’t be changed. But what actually gets the hosts of the surveys to sit on the edge of their seats is signs of actual toxic leadership.
They won’t bother listening to gripes and complaints. However, if you point out specific events and provide actual solutions: they do listen.
6. Don’t put toxic leadership on blast
Keep your bearing. If you know the reason they’re not at morning formation isn’t because they’re “at Dental,” you don’t need to shout it out in front of the platoon. And whatever you do, don’t put a photo out of context on social media.
Use the open door policy to their superior. Explain the situation in a more controlled environment that won’t put a target on your back.
7. Do strive to be better than toxic leaders
To avoid sounding like one of those knitted pillows on Grandma’s couch, everything is a learning experience. It’s easy to look at the good leaders and follow their footsteps. But it’s much more critical to look at a toxic leader and say “When I’m that rank, I will never be like them.”
Watch them burn, hold your head up high and march forward. Right now, you’re the leader your unit needs.
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:
An Air Commando from the 7th Special Operations Squadron, 352d Special Operations Wing fires a .50 caliber machine gun aboard a CV-22 Osprey during a flight around southern England, Sept. 11, 2017. The Osprey flew out to a range where the crew sighted, loaded and ran through technical and tactical procedures to re-qualify on the .50 Caliber weapons system.
Aircrew from the 179th Airlift Wing depart from here to pick up and deliver much needed supplies to relief workers in the Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma, September 14, 2017. The 179th Airlift Wing is always on mission to be the first choice to respond to community, state and federal missions with a trusted team of highly qualified Airmen.
The crew of a Nebraska Army National Guard UH-72 Lakota helicopter from Company A, 1-367th Aviation (Security Support) Regiment prep for a new mission in northern Florida, Sept. 14, to evaluate river levels and flood damage, while ensuring flooded areas are free of stranded civilians. The crew of the UH-72 Lakota helicopter included four or approximately 100 Nebraska Amy National Guard Soldiers currently serving on State Active Duty out of Jacksonville, Florida, in support of Hurricane Irma relief and recovery operations.
A tank commander assigned to 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division looks for positive identification of the “enemy” from his battle position at the field training site for Exercise Bright Star 2017 in Mohamed Naguib Military Base, Egypt, Sept. 12. Bright Star builds on the strategic security relationship between Egypt and the United States, a historic partnership which plays a leading role in counterterrorism, regional security, and efforts to combat the spread of violent extremism.
Sailors refuel an MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the “Grandmasters” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 46, Det. 1 on the flight deck of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79) Sept. 11, 2017. Oscar Austin is on a routine deployment supporting U.S. national security interests in Europe, and increasing theater security cooperation and forward naval presence in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations.
The USS Constitution’s Executive Officer, Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Anderson, leads a Salt Lake City Navy Week Presentation at the Murray Boys Girls Club. Navy Weeks focus a variety of assets, equipment and personnel on a single city for a week long series of engagements designed to bring America’s Navy closer to the people it protects, in cities that don’t have a large naval presence.
Corporal Nelson Rivera, from Brooklyn, NY., assigned to Battalion Landing Team 1/5, stands guard in defense of the amphibious task force during a straight transit aboard USS San Diego (LPD 22). During the DATF, USS San Diego’s small caliber action team (SCAT) and Sailors assigned to the ship worked together to provide 360-degree security coverage of the ship. The 15th MEU and America Amphibious Ready Group are operating in the 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.
September is Suicide Prevention Month. The involvement of family, friends and fellow Marines is the best method to deter suicide. Aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California, the Behavioral Health Section provides counselors and a 24-hour help line for those reaching out during times of crisis.
Coast Guard Air Station Borinqun, Puerto Rico MH-65 Dolphin helcopter crew transfers a 60-year-old man with a reported head injury to awaiting emergency medical services at the air station, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017. The man reportedly sustained a severe head injury Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017 from a downed power line following Hurricane Irma.
An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter flys over the Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton to receive fuel to continue relief operations in Key West, Florida, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. The Hamilton crew deployed to Florida in support of Hurricane Irma relief operations.
The Veterans Affairs home loan can be incredibly confusing, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the information found on the VA website. So we have broken it down into six basic questions for you: who, what, when, where, why, and how?
*As always, when making decisions that impact your personal finances, make sure you’re sitting down with a financial advisor. Most banks have financial advisors on staff who are always willing to work with customers.
The VA home loan program is a benefit for eligible service members and veterans to help them in the process of becoming homeowners by guaranteeing them the ability to acquire a loan through a private lender.
Utilizing the VA home loan, lendees do not make a down payment and are not required to pay monthly mortgage insurance, though they are required to pay a funding fee. This fee varies by lender, depends on the loan amount, and can change depending on the type of loan, your service situation, whether you are a first time or return lendee, and whether you opt to make a down payment.
The fee may be financed through the loan or paid for out of pocket, but must be paid by the close of the sale.
The fee for returning lendees and for National Guard and members of the reserve pay a slightly higher fee.
The fee may also be waived if you are:
a veteran receiving compensation for a service related disability, or
a veteran who would be eligible to receive compensation for a service related disability but does not because you are receiving retirement or active duty pay, or
are the surviving spouse of a veteran who died in service or from a service related disability.
Lendees may utilize the loan program during or after honorable active duty service, or after six years of select reserve or National Guard service.
Veterans Affairs helps service members, veterans and eligible surviving spouses to purchase a home. The VA home loan itself does not come from the VA, but rather through participating lenders, i.e. banks and mortgage companies. With VA guaranteeing the lendee a certain amount for the loan, lenders are able to provide more favorable terms.
Eligible lendees should talk to their lending institution as each institution has its own requirements for how to acquire the loan.
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:
Firefighters from the 151st Civil Engineer Squadron extinguish a simulated airplane fire June 7, 2016, at the Salt Lake City Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighters Training Center. The state-of-the-art facility is equipped with a simulator, which allows for interior and exterior training and includes a multitude of various fire scenarios.
An A-10C Thunderbolt II assigned to the 75th Fighter Squadron performs a low-angle strafe during the Hawgsmoke competition at Barry M. Goldwater Range, Ariz., June 2, 2016. The two-day competition included team and individual scoring of strafing, high-altitude dive-bombing, Maverick missile precision and team tactics.
U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, carry equipment through a pond during the team obstacle course at the French Jungle Warfare School near Yemen, Gabon, June 9, 2016.
A U.S. Army Soldier, assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, provides security during Decisive Action Rotation 16-06 at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., May 16, 2016.
DILI, Timor Leste (June 8, 2016) Crew members assigned to the Blackjacks of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21 move an MH-60S helicopter into the hangar aboard hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19). Deployed in support of Pacific Partnership 2016, Mercy is on its first stop of the 2016 mission. Pacific Partnership has a longstanding history with Timor Leste, having first visited in 2006, and four subsequent times since. Medical, engineering and various other personnel embarked aboard Mercy will work side-by-side with partner nation counterparts, exchanging ideas, building best practices and relationships to ensure preparedness should disaster strike.
PACIFIC OCEAN (JUNE 4, 2016) An F/A-18E from the Flying Eagles of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA-122) launches from the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) flight deck during night flight operations (left) while an EA-18G Growler from the Vikings of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ-129) taxis onto a catapult (right). The ship is underway conducting command assessment of readiness and training (CART) II off the coast of Southern California.
Marines with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division conduct military operations on urban terrain during a field exercise (FEX) at Camp Pendleton, California, May 24, 2016. FEX is designed to sharpen the battalion’s combat capabilities.
Marines with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division advance down range during the Eager Lion 16 final exercise in Al Quweyrah, Jordan, May 24, 2016. Eager Lion is a recurring exercise between partner nations designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships, increase interoperability, and enhance regional security and stability.
Flight Mechanics serve a dual role in the aircraft. First, they help the pilots monitor performance and flight instruments. Their knowledge of the aircraft and technical expertise make them invaluable resources for identifying and troubleshooting aircraft malfunctions. Second, they are responsible for operating the helicopter’s hoist. This entails both physically manipulating the hoist as well as providing conning commands to the pilot at the controls.
The pilots at Air Station Savannah come from a myriad of backgrounds. For some, this is their first operational aviation tour. Others have completed multiple tours around the country in places like Kodiak, AK and Puerto Rico. We also have a large number of Direct Commission Aviators who transferred over to the Coast Guard from other services such as the Army and Marines.
Chances are you’ve heard this advice at one time or another. Service members visit sick call with issues ranging from upper respiratory infections to needing to have a toenail removed. With over 130 military installations located throughout the world, every soldier, airman, sailor or Marine has medical care readily accessible.
If the troop in question needs to go to medical that day without an appointment, he or she is going to end up in an urgent care center commonly known as “Sick Call.” Here are six things you probably didn’t know about sick troops and the care they need to get back to work.
You’re sitting on a patient table when a medical technician tells you to say “AHHHHHHH” before sticking a blue-handled thermometer under your tongue. But did you ever wonder why it was color coded?
The military purchases dual-function thermometers which are typically red and blue. The blue one is assigned to take your oral temp, where the red draws the short end of the stick and gets shoved up where the sun doesn’t shine. Not to fear, rectal temperature checks are primarily used on heat causalities.
Better hope the nurse isn’t color blind because … that would suck. The photo above shows a member of the medical staff using the right color. A+.
2. The “Feared Medical Condition Not Demonstrated”
Believe it or not, this is a real medical diagnosis. If you were to open your medical record right now and saw this term printed one or more times, chances are you were a “sick call commando.” This isn’t the commando label you want to have.
“Feared Medical Condition Not Demonstrated” is a polite way to inform other medical professionals they didn’t find anything wrong with you physically. You can try and tear out the paper from your record, but unless it was hand written, it’s in the computer system. For-ev-er.
3. “One Chief Complaint Only”
For those who don’t know, a “chief complaint” is the term used for the reason you showed up to medical. “I have a headache and I think I broke my foot.” From my direct experience working alongside seasoned doctors, some stated to the patient they weren’t allowed to treat more than one medical condition at each encounter. It’s also bull.
This is regularly used as an excuse to get rid of you. You would likely have come back the next day for the second issue or visit the ER. Good thing Tricare covers both.
4. On The Job Training
Medical clinics commonly use the ideology of “show one, do one, teach one.” The doctor shows a new medic/corpsman/tech how to perform a procedure, they repeat it on another patient in front of the doctor, then go off and show someone else how to perform it. Sounds like a pretty good plan right? It was pretty darn helpful and a confidence builder for the lower enlisted.
This type of training isn’t that rare, even in the civilian sector. What is rare is how many different procedures junior enlisted were allowed to perform “under doctor supervision” – who were usually warming up their afternoon coffee.
5. Service Connections
When the VA gathers its data to process your compensation claim, it may seem hard to believe, but they don’t hire a team of private detectives and Harvard-trained doctors to conduct an extensive investigation to ensure that you get the top rating you deserve.
After submitting your claim, the VA board wants proof your condition was a result of your time on active duty. Missing sick call and other medical documents can cause a massive delay in reaching your service connection settlement. Cover your six and make copies of your copies.
You may remember the day when you walked into the Military Entrance Processing Command and signed your service contract. A proud day.
What you made not have realized is that those papers you signed included The Feres Doctrine.
The Feres Doctrine is a 1950s-era rule that protects the federal government from its employees collecting damages for personal injuries experienced in the performance of their duties. So if a military doctor screws up on you, you can’t sue the government, but they can charge you with an Article 108 (destruction of government property) for getting a new tattoo or a sunburn.
With more than 200 USO locations throughout the world, their mission never ends, connecting American’s troops to their friends and families back home.
For more than seven decades, the USO — or United Service Organizations — has thrived on boosting the morale of service members stationed around the globe with various musical performances and celebrity appearances.
Famous for entertaining the troops, the USO has established a program that will continue to support service members as they transition back into civilian life called Pathfinder.
Cpt. Jason Pak takes time with his interpreter for a quick photo op during his Afghanistan deployment.
The USO Pathfinder transition program offers personalized and hands-on services to those exiting from their military obligation.
USO Pathfinder services are co-located with USO centers at 13 locations across the U.S. for one-on-one support.
This Pathfinder program connects service members and military spouses to the resources that are best fit for them across a variety of focus areas, including employment, education, financial readiness, veteran’s benefits, housing, legal family strength wellness, and volunteerism.
Being a recruiter is harder now than it was during the surge. Post 9/11 recruiting stations even had to turn people away because every seat was full – plus a waiting list. The challenges of keeping numbers up are influenced by decisions in the Capitol. However, accomplishing the mission at the ground level is paramount regardless of politics. Its your career. Here are 5 ways military recruiters can boost their quotas.
1. Don’t use high pressure tactics
First of all, they don’t work. On the off chance that they do, the effects are only temporary. You’re not the top salesman in Glen Gary Glen Ross. Human beings are complex creatures but once they figure out that you’re attempting to manipulate them – all bets are off. They’re gone forever because, at the center, trust has been betrayed. Every branch has core values. Intimidation and deception are not found in any of them.
These young minds are coming to you, the recruiter, as the first mentor they will ever have in their military career. Your actions will shape the perception they have of your service branch. What you do and say when someone is deciding to sign the dotted line will impact them for the rest of their lives. Your branch and the lifestyle it offers should be enough to get you the troops you need. If someone has been in the service for years, it’s easy to forget that the military is cool. Lean on that.
2. Pedigree is a positive indicator
Communication is key to identifying potential candidates to recruit. When you hear that someone has family ties to the military it is a good indicator that they may have considered following in their footsteps. Tread lightly. Those same family members may be your biggest obstacle because of their experience in the service. For example, with Marines it’s 50/50. You may get someone who’s parent is a motivator and would be proud to have them join the Corps. You may also get hard charger who charged hard so his pups would not have to charge at all. Communicate and find some common ground. Never underestimate the influence of a parent.
3. Make sure they’re looking at the right branch
Of course, rivalries between recruiters is a thing, especially if the offices share a building. The potential recruit may be interested into more high speed, low drag occupation may be better suited in the Marine Corps or the Army. Every branch offers the Post 9/11 GI bill, so, if they’re interested in post service benefits offer an MOS that will help them post college too. The Air Force is highly technical and the Navy is the best branch when it comes to medical fields. Law enforcement and federal agencies love combat related experience or intelligence prior service skills.
Everybody gets out eventually, ask them about the future, and show them how the military can help them get there. Find allies in other recruiting offices and trade candidates when appropriate.
4. Make them study
The ASVAB should not be taken lightly. Let them know that passing is not enough, what if they want to change their jobs later in their career? The hassle of being on active duty and studying after one has been out of school for years is not fun. If you get a good enough score on the ASVAB and GT score off the bat, let them know they’ll never have to worry about it ever again.
Also advise them to take the SAT for the same reason. When I got out of the service my SAT score from high school was pretty good. I was able to enroll in college because it fell within window that I wouldn’t have to retake it. Their future self will thank them for it – and you too.
5. Be a straight shooter
You don’t have to say every single pro and con about the branch but at least be straight when it comes to the military occupational specialty. My recruiter told me I would be a better fit in comm due to the fact I was already CCNA certified and had college credits in the field. I pushed for infantry yet he wouldn’t let me sign as an 0311 until I thought about it for a month. I was going to enlist, no doubt about that, but he looked out for me by putting my needs ahead of his own. That’s what Marines do, we look out for each other. At that time I didn’t have my Eagle, Globe and Anchor but I knew that integrity was exactly what I was looking for in the Corps.
In On War, Carl von Clausewitz teaches that war is an extension of politics by other means, as emphasized by a balance of power strategies. That’s really what a trade war is — political gamesmanship. But that’s not a very practical definition.
In more concrete terms, it’s where trade-related policies have a negative effect on certain countries. Those countries then retaliate. Then, the original country retaliates, upping the ante. The escalation could, theoretically, go on forever until everyone hates them both.
A trade war doesn’t necessarily happen just between geopolitical adversaries. The United States has sparked trade wars with its democratic, political allies. In 1983, the U.S. placed import tariffs and quota on specialty steel coming from Europe. It cost Europe two percent of its steel market share in the United States. Europeans demanded to be compensated. When that didn’t happen, European markets imposed similar tariffs on chemicals and plastics.
Most of the trade wars involving the U.S. since 1980 were with Europe or Canada — only one was with an ideological rival, like China. In 1985, a quota on Chinese textiles resulted in China suspending agricultural imports from the U.S., a $600-million loss for American farmers.
China wasn’t even as important a trading partner as they are today. Still, experts think the countries most likely to take the brunt of a Trump Steel Tariff are Brazil and Canada. And Canada has no qualms about retaliating. They did in 1993 as a result of duties on Canadian steel products.
As a matter of fact, the Ottawa Reporter already reported that Canada demanded an exemption and vowed retaliation.
So, this all sounds weirdly frightening, even though most of us reading this have no idea how it will actually affect our day-to-day. At worst, it could lead to another Great Depression. The Smoot-Hawley tariffs were protectionist duties that are said to have exacerbated the global economic downturn. Some even believe the looming threat of the tariffs caused the Depression itself.
More to the point, prices of certain goods related to the war will go up, especially if domestic producers of those products can’t fill the demand.
For example, if aluminum manufacturers can’t meet their needs with U.S. aluminum, products requiring aluminum will still need to be made, they’ll just use the aluminum that costs 10 percent more. The cost will pass on to the consumer.
Moreover, since the customer will be forced to pay a higher price for overseas steel and aluminum products, domestic producers will likely just raise their prices to meet the market price.
Here’s the war part: other countries will slap tariffs on the $2.3 trillion worth of exports from the United States. Suddenly, American companies operating overseas are not as competitive in those markets as they once were.
China is the U.S.’ largest debt holder (and owns as much as $1 trillion) and many other countries’ desire to invest in purchasing U.S. debt keeps interest rates here relatively low. They may be less inclined to buy American debt in a trade war and that would drive up interest rates on domestic American purchases.
How does one win a trade war? The same way they win a real war: by not fighting it in the first place. The best outcome of all this trade war talk is that the countries involved re-evaluate their trade relationships in a way that prevents a financial battle.
Service members from all ranks experience some crazy things during their time in uniform. From taking on the bad guys in a firefight to surviving some crazy accidents that most civilians couldn’t stomach — it’s all just part of the job.
We embrace the suck and, in the process, develop a unique sense of humor that’s not for everyone. For us, laughing at the crazy events of our daily life in service makes us stronger and helps us to push through the next dangerous mission with smiles on our faces.
When we tell people the true stories of what we’ve seen and done, the average man or woman lets out an exasperated “wow.”
It was a typical winter morning in northern Afghanistan. The sky was clear, and the blinding sun slowly climbed into it. The sun was bright, but it didn’t do much to fight the biting cold that pumped down the turret opening in our Humvee and chilled us all.
I was in a light infantry reconnaissance platoon, made up of an almost even split of snipers and recon guys. We were on our way to a large forward operating base just south of Kabul. Our specific skill set had been requested by the commander there so we crammed into our cold Humvees and headed into the unknown.
We pulled into the base later that morning and were shown to the tent that we’d call home for at least a day or two. After unloading all of our gear and equipment, me and the other lower enlisted guys made ourselves at home while our senior leaders went to work out the specifics of the mission we’d be supporting.
We hadn’t been there long before sudden pounding winds seemed to threaten the integrity of our tent. One soldier leapt up from his cot and ripped open the door flap of our tent. The clear sunbathed sky had faded behind a thick sheet of dark clouds and snow was collecting quickly on the ground outside.
The soldier fastened the door flap shut as we all looked at each other in amazement. “This mission has got to be scrapped” quipped one soldier. “There’s no way we’re going out in this” added another. Assuming the mission was a no-go, we settled back into our cots and pulled out our books, iPods, magazines and other essentials needed to ride out the storm.
Just as we were all getting comfortable and cozy in our sleeping bags, a red-faced and snow covered staff sergeant barreled into our tent. “Get your cold-weather gear on and get outside”. The staff sergeant stormed out of the tent just as rapidly as he’d come in.
We tossed our creature comforts to the side and began tearing through our bags for heavy jackets, pants and beanies. Questions and confusion filled the frantic tent. Once suited up, we all funneled out of the tiny tent opening into the storm and lined up in front of the two stone-faced staff sergeants.
We stood there silently as they divided us up between them. Reading our confused expressions, the staff sergeants laughed and explained what was about to happen.
“You guys go with him” he said gesturing at the other staff sergeant and his group. “And you guys come with me. We’ll have 15 minutes to build up our arsenal of snowballs and then it’s on. If you get hit, you’re out. You can be revived by a teammate once, but if you’re hit again, you’re out until the next round”.
Before our shock could fade, we were elbows deep in snow mounds, hastily and inefficiently shaping snowballs with our gloved hands. The 15 minutes were up and my group had established three separate caches of snowballs in case one were to be compromised. Our hodgepodge of recon and sniper guys made it difficult to establish a quick plan of attack. Me and the other recon guys suggested we move between tents to find a good ambush point. The snipers suggested we push to a small hill top and take advantage of the high ground. The infighting put us at a disadvantage.
When the other team started lobbing snowballs, strategy turned into self-preservation and it was every man for himself.
A number of my recon teammates had been taken out of the game so I retreated to the hill top where a few snipers were dug in. The high ground gave us the upper hand, and the continuing snowfall guaranteed we wouldn’t run out of ammo. We had the other team pinned down and just when we thought we had the game won, we were flanked and wiped out.
The snowball fight went a few more rounds and the longer we were out in the storm the more exhausted we got. Our honed military training and tactics gradually devolved into a laughter filled display of “soldiers on ice” as we slipped and fell endlessly.
When the snowball fight was over, we sluggishly made our way back to our tent, shed our cold weather gear and collapsed onto our cots.
The mission we came for had officially been scrapped, so we quietly retrieved the creature comforts we had discarded earlier and tucked ourselves into our sleeping bags. The next morning the bright sun rose and melted most of the snow. We gathered all of our equipment crammed ourselves back into our cold Humvees, and headed to the next outpost.
That day was rarely talked about in the months that followed. It was as if we were all safeguarding a cherished memory and if we spoke about it, the day would somehow seem less special.
I’m sure the snowball fight meant something different for everyone on the battlefield that day. For me, its meaning has evolved over the years. What was once just another story from my time in Afghanistan has grown into a meaningful narrative about the human moments soldiers often experience while deployed but are rarely reported.
For me this day was important because it helps me show that not every war story is a tale of heroism or tragedy.
When the winter months creep by here at home, I look forward to an impromptu moment where I’ll look out on a large snow covered field, and I’ll tell whoever will listen, about my snowball fight with snipers.
In the military, no one knows what’ll happen next — enlisted life is unpredictable and service members must always remain flexible so that they can adapt. No matter what happens, however, there are always some pretty amazing moments and, luckily, there are talented photographers across the service who expertly capture them.
Here are our favorite photos from this week:
From Left to right: Staff Sgt. Leanne Waggoner, Airman 1st Class Alexia Lewis, SSgt. Ashley Cardillo, Capt. Victoria Nicholson, Senior Airman Kaitlyn Besse, Capt. Jamie Larivee, and Capt. Nichole Evans pause for a photo after offloading cargo from a C-17 Globemaster III, March 18, 2018, Darwin, Royal Australian Air Force Base, Australia, during a Women’s Heritage Flight. The all-female aircrew conducted the mission that displayed pride in their heritage and showcased their ability to conduct rapid global mobility in today’s Air Force by transporting equipment and military passengers to Pacific Command area of responsibility.
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Melanie R. Breslin, an aircraft fuel systems specialist at the 177th Fighter Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, stands fire guard before the launch of an F-16C Fighting Falcon at the Air Dominance Center in Savannah, Georgia, March 22, 2018. The 177th FW participated in an air-to-air training exercise to sharpen air combat capabilities and accomplish multiple training upgrades.
U.S. Army Paratroopers with 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade run forward during a platoon level
live fire exercise at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, March 21, 2018.
Soldiers assigned to the U.S. Army Caisson Platoon, 1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) continue their solemn duty of rendering final honors to fallen military members at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., March 21, 2018. The U.S. Army Caisson Platoon continued to execute their duty despite inclement weather.
Electronic Technician 3rd Class Justin Davis, a native of Vail, Arizona assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron (CRS) 3, fires a .50-caliber machine gun aboard MKVI patrol boat during a live-fire exercise as part of unit level training provided by Coastal Riverine Group (CRG) 1 Training and Evaluation Unit. 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.
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Emily Westfall directs the crew of an F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Bounty Hunters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 2 on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is operating in the western Pacific as part of a scheduled deployment.
A Marine with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, wears an Enhanced Combat Helmet during Urban Advanced Naval Technologies Exercise 2018, March 21, 2018. Urban ANTX18 is an innovative approach to concept of operations and capability development that integrates engineers, technologists, and operators into a dynamic development team.
U.S. Marines with Force Reconnaissance Company, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force; British Royal Marines with J Company, 42 Commando and Sailors with Explosive Ordinance Disposal Mobile Unit 5 conduct special insertion and raids training with a section of MH-60Ss from Helicopter Sea Combat 25 on March 18, 2017, on Guam. The units are conducting joint, combined training in order to develop shared standard-of-procedures in a visit, board, search and seizure environment so they can provide a more flexible and mission-ready capability to geographic combatant commanders in the Pacific.
Two Coast Guard members assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf arrange bales of cocaine on the flight deck in preparation for a drug offload at the B Street Pier in San Diego, March 20, 2018. Bertholf is a 418-foot national security cutter homeported in Alameda.
Short answer: One is still used as a tactically viable way of getting troops into the fray and the other is more ceremonial.
Benjamin Franklin once said “Where is the prince who can afford to cover his country with troops for its defense, so that ten thousand men descending from the clouds might not, in many places, do an infinite deal of mischief before a force could be brought together to repel them?”
Both of these troops fit that bill over two hundred years later.
Out of all of the current military rivalries, this one still ranks pretty high on the list. As someone who’s Air Assault and let his personal rivalry simmer a bit, there’s no reason to keep it up. The differences between the two just keeps growing with each conflict.
By World War II, many forces developed their own form of Airborne infantry that soared into combat. Allied forces captivated folks back home with the tales of jumping into the European theater. Over the years, airborne operations can be performed in essentially two ways: static jumps (think of the age-old cadence “Stand up, Hook up, Shuffle to the door! Jump right out on the count of Four!”) and HALO/HAHO, or High Altitude, Low Opening and High Opening (free-falling).
Air Assault rose in the Cold War and became more prominent in the Vietnam War. There are usually two means for getting troops into combat, FRIES, or Fast Rope Insertion/Extraction, where you grab a piece of rope and slide out of a hovering helicopter and just Air Insertion, where the helicopter lands on the ground and troops hop out. Technically, there’s also Sling Load operations, where you attach things underneath a helicopter, but that’s more of a special task that’s assigned to Air Assault qualified troops.
But in the wars since 9/11, you can count on one hand the number of combat jumps performed by US troops. They were done twice in Iraq and once in Afghanistan — and all three to command and control airfields.
Making a combat jump authorizes you to wear a Combat Jump Device. It’s a gold star that adorns the Parachutist Badge and is often referred to as a “mustard stain.” Finding one of these bad asses outside of Jump School is like finding a CW5 — you know they have to exist somewhere because you’ve seen the badges at the PX, but it still sounds as plausible as any other barracks rumor.
There isn’t as comprehensive list on total Air Assault missions because it’s far more common. It’s just another way to get around.
Many combat arms guys can tell you that they never went to Air Assault school, but still do Air Assault operations in country. The only Air Assault task restricted to someone who actually went to the school is the previously mentioned sling load operations. Even that has its “volun-told” feel to it. Sling loading has a risk to it that could be deadly if not done properly. Only Airborne school qualified personnel are allowed to complete airborne jumps (because of the weeks they spend just learning how to fall properly).
Sure. We have our disagreements and will probably flame each other in the comment section. They’re both ways to get men out of a perfectly good aircraft.
We both deal with a heavy amount of prop / rotor wash that training can never prepare you for. And both of our badges are still highly sought after by badge-hunters — usually a staff lieutenant or junior NCO. And they both will probably correct you by saying “well actually, according to Army regulation…”
Wear your blood wings proud, my brothers and sisters.
We’ve all seen them before. The cans, small shots, and uniquely packaged energy drinks that promise to give you an energy boost during the most important parts of your day. At first glance, it seems like a great idea: chug it down and get reinvigorated for the day. But, if you go beyond wanting to simply stay alert and begin to overindulge, you could wind up doing some serious harm to your body.
Energy drinks became the beverage of choice for many service members during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research analyzed data collected during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2010 and found nearly 45 percent of deployed service members consumed at least one energy drink daily. Nearly 14 percent reported drinking three or more per day.
Many of the most popular energy drinks are heavily marketed to young people, including military members. The marketing is sexy, the packaging is slick, the flavors are sweet like fruit drinks children crave, and the beverages are readily available on military bases and down range.
But, there are real reasons to avoid overusing energy drinks.
Energy drinks can cause drastic side effects
Energy drinks are loaded with caffeine, and too much of it isn’t good for you. Dr. Patricia Deuster, professor and director of the Consortium for Health and Military Performance at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, warns service members to avoid consuming more than 200 mg of caffeine every four hours. That means service members should add up the caffeine in their energy drinks, plus any other caffeinated beverages they may drink, like coffee and soft drinks.
“If it’s got more than 200 mg of caffeine, don’t use it,” cautions Deuster.
Deuster also warns female service members to be cautious about using energy drinks, noting the amount of caffeine you ingest relative to body weight is an issue for women. “Women get a higher concentration [of caffeine] since they tend to be smaller,” she said.
“Doctors don’t know what the effects of [energy drink] ingredients are in larger doses,” Deuster noted. “I don’t think anybody has an answer to the long term effects question.”
High amounts of caffeine can lead to increased blood pressure, panic attacks, heart palpitations, anxiety, dehydration, insomnia, and even bowel irritability when energy drinks are mixed with alcohol.
What is clear is consumers need to be more aware about what they’re putting in their bodies when it comes to energy drinks.
Energy drinks can activate your sweet tooth
Energy drinks are loaded with sugar. Some cans pack a punch of 27 grams of sugar — two thirds of the recommended daily maximum for men, and 2 grams more than the maximum doctors recommend for women. Some service members can double or even triple that if they drink more than one energy drink per day.
All of that extra sugar can cause your blood sugar to increase. Even the sugar-free versions of energy drinks can lead to weight gain, as research suggests artificial sweeteners may raise blood sugar, too.
Your body can also begin storing fat, especially if you’re unable to increase physical activity.
Energy drinks + alcohol = a dangerous cocktail
Energy drinks have become popular mixers for alcohol, raising concerns for health experts.
“A lot of the young people mix energy drinks with alcoholic beverages, then you’ve got a wide awake drunk,” says Deuster.
The CDC warns that when alcoholic beverages are mixed with energy drinks, the caffeine stimulant can mask the effects of the alcohol, which is a depressant. Often, the person drinking doesn’t even realize that they’re actually drunk. According to the CDC, that means people who mix alcohol with energy drinks are three times more likely to binge drink than those who don’t mix alcohol with energy drinks. Experts warn motor skills can be affected and some people engage in riskier behaviors while under the influence of alcohol and energy drinks. Additionally, both caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, which can cause dehydration if you’re not careful.
Some companies sell pre-mixed alcoholic energy drinks which have the same sweet or tart flavors as standard energy drinks. As the Army notes, the alcohol content in these beverages can be significantly higher than what’s found in beer.
These energy drinks with alcohol may appeal to underage drinkers because they’re cheaper than hard liquor and they’re marketed with a message that the drinker can last all day or all night long. The sugary nature of the beverages also makes drinkers feel they can imbibe longer than if they were having harder alcohol.
Energy drinks can ruin your good night’s sleep
Deuster raises concerns about a problem in the military with energy drinks and sleep. And, the data back up those concerns. While service members may initially use energy drinks to make up for a lack of sleep, overuse can lead to a harmful cycle. Excess consumption of energy drinks can cause sleep problems and hamper performance.
Dr. Nancy J. Wesensten, from the Center for Military Psychiatry and Neurosciences Research, tells Army Medicine that research on caffeine shows that it can be effective if used properly. However, Wesensten notes “because caffeine impairs sleep, individuals should stop all caffeine consumption at least 6 hours prior to scheduled sleep. Otherwise, sleep could be impaired without the person even being aware of it.”
As caffeine is the major ingredient in energy drinks, the CDC reports service members who drink three or more of the drinks per day were significantly more likely to report sleeping fewer than four hours per night. They were also more likely to report disrupted sleep and other illnesses. Lack of sleep can impact memory and a service member’s ability to pay attention when it matters most. Research indicates service members who drank three or more energy drinks each day also had difficulty staying awake during briefings or on guard duty.
The Army’s Performance Triad offer tips on how to get a better night’s sleep, including controlling light and temperature, as well as leaders ensuring service members have time for quality sleep.
You really don’t know what’s in them
These drinks are not regulated as dietary supplements. While the cans have nutrition labels, many do not list supplement information.
One area that’s concerning to Deuster is the ingredient taurine. The chemical compound is an amino acid found in animal tissue. Many manufacturers purport the ingredient will enhance mental and physical performance. Researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center report little is actually is known about taurine’s neuroendocrine effects.
So, what should service members use instead of energy drinks?
Deuster keeps it simple: “Good old water.” Appealing to service members’ frugality, she adds,
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