Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children - We Are The Mighty
Military Life

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children

April is designated the “Month of the Military Child,” established in 1986 by then Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. Blue Star Families and USAA are bringing awareness to the military’s children and their needs. 

In 2009, Kathy Roth-Douquet founded Blue Star Families alongside a few other military spouses and remains its CEO. Her mission and passion for the organization has remained the same, even 12 years later. The issues military families are facing have remained the same as well. “Month of the Military Child is really about bringing awareness to the challenges and the strengths of these  military kids,” she explained. “This COVID year has been a challenging year and it hit military families harder than most people.”

Around a third of military families move every single year and despite the pandemic, that continued. “Isolation came to everybody…for military kids, you were putting isolation on top of isolation. They were already vulnerable,” Roth-Douquet shared. She also touched on the recent data suggesting that almost 50% of employed military spouses lost their jobs due to the pandemic. For a population already underemployed, this was catastrophic.

Image courtesy of Blue Star Families

“The loss of the spouse’s income and needing to provide food at home more often meant that as many as 27% of our junior enlisted families who participated in our survey said they were experiencing food insecurity,” she explained. Food insecurity wasn’t happening to just them, either. Roth-Douquet also stated that even the mid-level enlisted and noncommissioned officers were experiencing it as well. 

In 2020, USAA gave $30 million to all of the military relief organizations. Recognizing the negative impacts of the pandemic for military families, they stood ready to serve. Justin Schmitt is the Assistant Vice President for USAA’s Corporate Responsibility. 

Schmitt comes from a family with deep military ties, although he is not a veteran himself. “I almost feel guilty about not serving,” he said. “What I’ve learned with over 14 years at USAA is that you don’t have to wear a uniform to serve our country…the cause of supporting military families is one of the noblest of causes for the civilian community.”

This means recognizing the sacrifices of the military families in the name of American freedom.

“When a service member serves our country, really their spouses and their children serve as well. We really believe that the well-being of the family unit is essential for the service member to do their job,” Schmitt said. “Our philanthropic strategy is focused on strengthening the military family’s resilience…many civilians may not realize the simple act of friendship and welcoming a military family that has moved onto your street or has joined your school…can make a huge impact on the mental health and well-being of the military family.”

Nonprofit organizations like Blue Star Families have remained committed to collecting the data and then creating measurable and impactful solutions to the issues military families are facing. With the underemployment and unemployment of the military spouse mainly linked to childcare, it’s an issue that needs to be addressed immediately, according to Roth-Douquet. 

“Unless we really deal with this, we will not be able to keep women in the service coming up and we will not be building strength over all. That’s an enormous issue we need to tackle,” Roth-Douquet explained. The other concern not often broached by committees is the vital need for mental health resources for military children. 

“We are coming to understand that, with over 20 years of combat, we’ve been raising kids in an atmosphere where we really haven’t understood the fall out that comes from it. We need to provide more understanding, support and intelligence on how we help our military kids,” she said. It’s something that we haven’t really grappled with as a country but something Blue Star Families plans on taking on in the future.”

Schmitt echoed that comment, sharing that he’s grateful for the partnerships of national nonprofits working together to find solutions to these problems. 

For Roth-Douquet, Blue Star Families was born of a concern for her community and her own children. “I felt like I couldn’t solve problems for them by myself. I needed to look at it in a broader way and get my community involved,” she explained. “People love their children and worry about their children…for me, that’s where the passion comes from and that’s why it’s motivating to keep doing the work. Action can be therapy. If you feel like you are making a difference then you are going in the right direction.” 

During a Blue Star Families program June 22 at the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Community Center, JBM-HH Commander Col. Fern O. Sumpter and Walt Disney Company official Tammy McFeggan take turns reading the book “Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem” to children. (Photo By Rhonda Apple)

As we continue to celebrate Month of the Military Child, look for ways to uplift and encourage this often-forgotten population. For their courage and sacrifice is awe-inspiring. Let us recognize it and support them as their parents continue to answer the call that others cannot or will not.

Military Life

Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think

When deployed troops buy whatever they need, if they pay in cash, they won’t be given pennies, nickels, dimes, or quarters as change. Instead, they’ll be given cardboard coins (colloquially called “pogs,” like the 90s toys). And, now, coin collectors are going crazy for them.


Depending on where in Iraq or Afghanistan troops are stationed, they may have easy access to an AAFES (Army Air Force Exchange Service) store. Bigger airfields have larger stores that sell all an airman could want — meanwhile, outlying FOBs are just happy that their AAFES truck didn’t blow up this month.

Giving cardboard in return for cash isn’t some complex scheme to screw troops out of their 85 cents. Logistically speaking, transporting a bunch of quarters to and from a deployed area is, to put it bluntly, a heavy waste of time. While a pocket full of quarters may not seem like much, having to stock every single cash register would be a headache. So AAFES, the only commercial service available to troops, decided in November 2001 to forgo actual coins in favor of cardboard credit.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Carrie Bernard)

The AAFES coins aren’t legal tender. They are, essentially, gift certificates valid only at AAFES establishments. If troops can manage to hold on to their cardboard coin collection throughout a deployment, they can exchange the coins for actual money at any non-deployed AAFES customer service desk. Occasionally, AAFES runs promotions that gave double-value to troops returning their pogs — but troops who decline to cash in might be getting the best value in the end.

The weirdest thing about the AAFES pogs is the collectors’ community that has grown from it. Coin collectors everywhere have been going crazy for our AAFES pogs. On eBay, you can typically find a set of mint-condition paper coins going for ridiculous prices. Of course, like every collector’s item, complete sets and the older coins go for much more.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
I get that it’s a typo on President Reagan’s name, but seriously… that was just worth five cents. (Screengrab via eBay)

Military Life

6 reasons military service members are the best lovers

Since the beginning of time, the dichotomy of love and war are two sides of the same coin. You must have yin to have a yang, an alpha and omega. Most war movies depict what it is like for a spouse to be away from their love who’s fighting half-a-world away. Military service members play romantic interest roles in movies for a reason: they’re lovers and fighters – and they’re the best at both.

Here are 6 reasons military service members are the best lovers:

1. Love letters

Tinder and other apps have changed the way people find someone but they will never change the romanticism of love letters between star-crossed lovers. Love letters from warriors and their beloved are something that technology cannot compete against. When I was in Afghanistan I could only use the satellite phone once a month due to the remote area we operated in. There is something about those private correspondences you share that is difficult to put into words.

It’s borderline magical, like a fairytale. My then-girlfriend used to sign her letters calling me her ‘Knight in shining armor.’ It may be corny, fine. It hits different seeing those words on paper, in the handwriting of your love, with her perfume on the sheets of paper, after literally taking off your armor returning from fighting the enemy.

Love letters are something that you never see in the civilian world which makes them even more impactful. When kindred spirits finally rendezvous, sparks are going to fly, I guarantee it.

2. Military service members are usually in shape

military service members exercising
All this exercise has its perks.

There isn’t much to the science here, military service members are in shape – not by choice – but in shape regardless!

3. Spare no expense

Warriors do not earn a lot compared to their civilian counterparts. If we did it for the money we wouldn’t be who we are. Returning from deployment, troops are known to spare no expense living life to the fullest and will bring you along for the ride. Post Afghanistan; there were cliques that vacationed together with their spouses in the Virgin Islands, others went on skiing trips, or other adventures. Believe me, vacationing with a military service member is nothing to take for granted, these MFs know how to party.

4. Smooth talkers

Military service members can sell water to a fish. It’s hard to not like someone that’s actually a good person. If a troop, especially a Marine, likes you – you’re going to know it. They’re warrior poets, some are rougher around the edges, but they have their own way of communicating that you’re the best thing since sliced bread.

5. Military service members are protective

military service members with children

Rest assured that you won’t end up like Batman’s parents, a military service member is brave. Any clime, any place, we’ll knock anyone out who disrespects someone we love.

6. Endless choices

If intellect isn’t your forte then you have an endless buffet of to choose from. I had one friend from high school I kept in contact with when I was active duty. She asked if I could hook her up with someone, I responded with ‘say no more.’ I asked her preferences and on a leave block she flew down for the holiday weekend. Every detail she mentioned was taken into account and I had a wall of handsome ready for her to pick whomever she wanted. We have 5,000 Marines per company element, one of them is bound to float your boat.

Military Life

These are the best military photos for the week of September 9th

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:


Air Force:

Airmen of the 122nd Fighter Wing, Indiana Air National Guard along with 12 of the 122nd’s A-10c Thunderbolt II fighter aircraft arrived at Nellis AFB September 7 to kick off the 2017 Green Flag-West air-land integration combat training exercise. Green Flag-West is a Close Air Support and Joint exercise administered by the U.S. Air Force Air Warfare Center and Nellie AFB through the 549th Combat Training Squadron.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
U.S. Air National Guard photo by SSgt Rana Franklin

An F-15E Strike Eagle fire flares over Iraq during a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, on Sept. 6, 2017. The F-15E Strike Eagle is a dual-role fighter designed to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. An array of avionics and electronics systems give the F-15E the capability to fight at low altitude, day or night, and in all weather conditions.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride

Army:

Sgt. First Class Roy Chandler III (left), a Soldier assigned to Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment from the Alabama Army National Guard, Sgt. Jazmin Jenkins (middle), a public affairs specialist with the 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina and Spc. Benjamin Grogan (right), a helicopter repairer with the Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment, sit on the tail of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter en route to deliver hay bales to cattle that have been stranded by Hurricane Harvey near Hampshire, Texas on Sep. 3, 2017. The Department of Defense is conducting Defense Support of Civil Authorities operations in response to the effects of Hurricane Harvey. DSCA operations are part of the DoD’s response capability to assist civilian responders in saving lives, relieving human suffering and mitigating property damage in response to a catastrophic disaster.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven / 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

U.S. Army Paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade conduct casualty room clearing in order to identify the best medics in the Brigade at Del Din, Vicenza, Italy on September 7, 2017. The training consist of nine physically and medically tasked events over the course of 48 hours. Once identified the Paratroopers will go to San Antonio, Texas, to participate in “Best Medic Competition”.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
Photo by Spc. Cheyenne Shouse

Navy:

Airman Christopher Mowrey, left, from Georgetown, Kentucky, and Airman Brian Bernard, center, from Stormville, New York, secure a CH-53E Super Stallion, assigned to the “Dragons” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 (Reinforced), to the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). Bonhomme Richard, flagship of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, is operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to enhance partnerships and be a ready-response force for any type of contingency.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Cosmo Walrath

Naval Air Crewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Brad Barbour, from the “Night Dippers” of helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 5 (HSC-5), scans the Atlantic Ocean for threats while standing plane guard. HSC-5 is currently attached to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) while she is underway conducting training after successful completion of carrier incremental availability.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Shane Bryan

Marine Corps:

Marines with 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion Delta Company prepare a Light Armored Vehicle 25 for the static display in preparation for Marine Week Detroit, Sept. 5, 2017. Marine Week Detroit is an opportunity to showcase the Corps’ capabilities and missions as America’s expeditionary force in readiness.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tia Dufour

U.S. Marines with Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), conduct preliminary boarding procedures on a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 162 (Reinforced), 26th MEU, aboard amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) in the Atlantic Ocean, Sept. 7, 2017. The preparations ensure the 26th MEU is ready to respond to any requests to bolster Northern Command’s support of FEMA’s assistance to federal, state and local authorities’ ongoing relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally

Coast Guard:

Captain Eric King, captain of the port of San Juan, Puerto Rico, conducts a port assessment of the U.S. Virgin Islands with a Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Florida MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. The port assessment was conducted after Hurricane Irma passed over the area.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Crystalynn Kneen

Petty Officer 2nd Class Lee Civitarese, a crewmember from Coast Guard Station New York watches the CMA CGM Theodore Roosevelt, a 1,200-foot container ship, pass under the recently elevated Bayonne Bridge on its maiden voyage to the United States on Sept. 7, 2017. The Theodore Roosevelt is the largest capacity container ship to transit under the Bayonne Bridge since the project to raise the bridge started in May 2013.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sabrina Clarke

Military Life

6 reasons why working with a foreign military can suck

Going to another country on Uncle Sam’s dime can be amazing. It gives you an opportunity to travel and learn about a new culture in ways most civilians will never know.


As a service member, working with a foreign military is one of the most rewarding things you can do because you get to directly interact with a nation’s real population, not just the tourist-facing folk. But there’s a downside to everything — and this is no exception.

Here’s why working with another country’s military can be extremely disappointing.

Related: 6 reasons why working with a foreign military is amazing

1. Dog-and-pony shows

When working with a foreign force, the American military will try its best not to offend the host country. This doesn’t mean, however, that they won’t try to make the U.S. Military look better than everyone else at every opportunity. This leads to the ol’ dog-and-pony show where your command will not only make you look as pretty as possible, they’re also going to make you give up your free time to make themselves look good.

This may come in the form of Olympic-style fitness competitions, parades, or doing some extra cleaning around the barracks/ship/bivouac. Ultimately, the aim is to say (without saying), “here in the U.S. Military, we’re better than you — and we know it!”

 

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
It may look something like this. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson)

2. Learning tactics

This can be cool if you’re working with a military that has plenty of experience and, therefore, employs tactics that are equally efficient as ours. But when you work with a host country whose military falls short in several areas, it can be less than stellar. American tactics are built around an individual’s ability to act, while other countries rely on squad leaders to make every decision.

When you learn that another country’s tactics are terribly inefficient, it becomes disappointing. You have to come to terms with the fact that you’re training with that country because you might have to work with them in the future.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
It’s hit or miss. Some countries are great, others fall short. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by MCIPAC Combat Camera Lance Cpl. Sergio RamirezRomero)

3. Language barriers

It’s a given that when you travel to another country to work with their military, foreign troops are probably not going to speak English very well if at all. Even if they do, there are so many dialects across the United States that there may still be issues with translation. Some languages don’t have terms or phrases for things that Americans do, so communicate becomes difficult.

4. Cultural disconnect

Even if you’re working in a country with plenty of English speakers, there’s still a cultural disconnect. Hell, even within the United States, people still argue about whether it’s “pop” or “soda.” Humor may vary between countries, so jokes that Americans find funny may not translate — be warned.

Pay close attention to the culture briefs you get prior to deployment and do some of your own research to figure out how to keep making your foreign counterparts laugh.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
This is a two-way street. So be flexible and open-minded. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Sergio RamirezRomero)

5. Flexing American tactics

Your command will undoubtedly make you show off your tactics. This might not sound so bad, but try watching the light in a foreign troop’s face disappear when they realize Americans are considerably better warfighters and they’ll likely never stack up.

You can teach American tactics all you like, but they may not have the resources for proper training.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
They’re just going to have to live with the fact that we’re better. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Sergio RamirezRomero)

 

Also read: 5 more of the greatest military heroes you’ve never heard of

6. Gear thievery

Stealing is common everywhere you go, and the American military has no tolerance for such dishonorable activities. The problem here is that other countries may have service members who want your gear because theirs is trash (they’re in for a surprise). Make sure that your gear is secure to avoid losing an issued item.

 

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
This is what they think when they see your precious unguarded gear laying around…

Military Life

5 British army slang terms you need to know for your next joint mission

Although the United States and Britain have had their share of disputes early on in American history, today the two countries are the closest of friends.


In case you were living under a rock, British troops fought alongside US in the global war on terror. That means while our service members are overseas, there’s a solid chance they will encounter members of the British army on a joint mission.

That being said, the British have some popular slang terms that we Americans don’t use but probably should know.

Related: This British soldier may have spared Hitler’s life during WWI

So check out this list of slang terms you just might hear from your British counterparts on your next deployment.

1. “REMF”

This term stands for “rear echelon mother f*cker” which is directed to those service members who have cushy jobs (non-combat related) while stationed in the rear.

2. “Crow Bag”

Reportedly, this hilarious term stems from WWI and means “combat recruit of war.” The title is given to the newest of army newbies fresh out of boot camp.

3. “Lizard”

Meaning, an individual who screws up idiotically. That is all.

4. “Jack”

This term has several different meanings including selfish, lazy, and workshy (unwilling to work). Jack is the guy no one wants in their unit.

Also Read: This British sniper took out six insurgents by detonating a Taliban suicide vest

5. “Ally”

This is one of their more popular slang terms which means stylish, tough or hardworking. In comparison, our American troops wouldn’t use that word to describe a hardcore Marine — just saying.

Bonus: NATO

No, this one doesn’t stand for North Atlantic Treaty Organization like our minds default into thinking. It’s apparently a common phrase meaning a white tea with two sugars.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Check out Liam Brown‘s video below to hear these slang words perfectly pronounced and explained for yourself.

YouTube, LiamBrown

Military Life

Dress uniforms from every military branch, ranked

There is a multitude of military uniforms across the five branches and they all serve a purpose. Uniforms are (intended) to be functional and cater to the specific career fields that exist in each military branch. However, when it comes to appearance — especially dress uniforms — there are some that outshine others.


Let’s take a look at whose uniform wins the race, appearance wise.

5. Air Force

Sorry, my dear Air Force, but you have the worst uniform out of all services. Granted, the Air Force is the youngest of all branches, so there might still be some room for growth, but why does everyone wearing their dress blues look like a flight attendant? Please, just give the uniform some variety already.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children

There’s nothing special about Air Force dress blues or the horrendous gray, green, tiger-striped ABUs that are worn on a daily basis. Also, anytime a cardigan is an acceptable, issued uniform item, you might as well openly welcome the heckling when you raise your hand to enlist. Hopefully, things get better with age.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children

4. Coast Guard

Who would have thought that the Coast Guard would outshine the Air Force on this? Let’s be honest, the only thing that separates the Air Force dress uniform from the Coast Guard dress uniform is the gold insignias, buttons, and rank. Maybe it’s a tie? At this point, the gold is the only detail that gives the Coast Guard an upper hand.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
SEAL Tridents definitely help.

Truthfully, while the Air Force looks like flight attendants, the Coast Guard at least has a white and black hat the makes them look like airline pilots. Oh, and the operational dress uniform (ODU) doesn’t consist of tiger stripes, but a solid dark blue that is just so vanilla they don’t stand out as memorable. That utility baseball cap isn’t doing any favors for anybody, either.

3. Army

Something about the old school green uniform stirs up nostalgia. The Army dress uniform has changed over the past 242 years of existence, but for some reason, the classic look of the uniform reminds everyone how the Army has always had their sh*t together.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
(Stares in Army)

There’s no hodgepodge of colors, nor does it make the service member look like they could be mistaken for anything other than a soldier. Simplicity gives the Army uniform some kick to outperform the predecessors. The Army Service Uniform (ASU), in particular, brings forth some finery with its class A’s and class B’s, to be worn on varying occasions.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
There’s a lot of sh*t on Army uniforms to get together.

2. Navy

Selection, selection, selection… maybe this is why the Coast Guard and Air Force seem so bland? The Navy is steeped in traditions and these traditions are upheld and displayed through a variety of different dress combinations. As with the Army, the Navy has the old-school, nostalgic vibe of bygone eras. Who doesn’t remember the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square?

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
She definitely remembered.

The Cracker Jack uniform, as it’s known, is probably one of the most iconic and well-known uniforms out there. Although bell-bottoms are not necessarily the first thing anyone wants to be wearing there are so many more uniforms in the Navy’s arsenal that we can look past the ridiculousness of the 70’s trend.

1. Marine Corps

Who doesn’t love the look of a red stripe down the pants of a dress uniform? There is just something so put-together, so sharp about the Marine Corps uniforms. Not only does this uniform blow every other uniform out of the water, but it also has some impressive folklore attached. The red stripe on non-commissioned officers trousers, for instance, is said to commemorate those who lost their lives during the storming of Chapultepec Castle in 1847, during the Mexican-American War.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
Guys, it’s okay. We all know this doesn’t only apply to women, even though you won’t admit it.

While most of the stories behind the uniform have been found to be untrue, it’s still the only uniform that has such well-told history and legend attached. Well, the Corps took the prize in this race, and who can really disagree with its clean sweep? You win this one, Marine Corps… You win.

Articles

Coast Guard food specialists will make you want to switch branches

Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Arianna Gunn is relentless. Yes, that’s a rating in the Coast Guard. And it’s no joke to the men and women who work that job. The Coast Guard, like any force in history, runs on its stomach.

Gunn’s drive to serve fresh, delicious, inventive, bar-raising gourmet meals to the crew members of her Coast Guard Cutter, Cochito, powers that vessel as surely as the twin diesels in its engine room. As it conducts long patrols of U.S. coastal waters, searching, rescuing and advancing the mission of the Department of Homeland Security, Gunn’s role in maintaining operational morale cannot be overstated.


Like Meals Ready to Eat host August Dannehl learned when he joined the Cochito on patrol, as far as ship’s cooks go, FS2 Gunn is in a class of her own.

She’s not a recipe follower so much as a recipe pioneer. She gathers her ingredients at local markets and farm stands. She joyfully invents dishes working in a galley the size of a closet. She defines the rhythm of the Cochito’s days at sea by the anticipation and delivery of each of her remarkable meals.

“There are times during this job, during a search and rescue case off shore, we don’t sleep, it’s too rough to eat, it’s almost unbearable. And coming back into calmer waters, looking forward to that amazing home cooked meal, that just brings everybody together,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Stephen Atchley, Coast Guard Cutter Cochito.

We could wax on about the culinary virtuosity of FS2 Gunn, but instead, we’ll hit you with some optics as an appetizer.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
Yeah… (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
Oh yeah… (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
Uncle Jesse would say “Have mercy.” (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
The Chef herself in her uncanny galley. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Watch more Meals Ready To Eat:

These military chefs will make you want to re-enlist

This veteran farmer will make you celebrate your meat

This is why soldiers belong in the kitchen

What happens when a firefighter’s secret identity is revealed

This is the food Japanese chefs invented after their nation surrendered to the Allies

Articles

Marines will get upgraded personal water filters

The Marine Corps is investing in a next-generation water purification system that will allow individual Marines to get safe, drinkable water straight from the source.


The Individual Water Purification System Block II is an upgrade to the current version issued to all Marines.

“With IWPS II, Marines are able to quickly purify fresh bodies of water on the go,” said Jonathan York, team lead for Expeditionary Energy Systems at Marine Corps Systems Command. “This allows them to travel farther to do their mission.”

Finding ways to make small units more sustainable to allow for distributed operations across the battlefield is a key enabler to the Marine Corps becoming more expeditionary. Developing water purification systems that can be easily carried while still purifying substantial amounts of water is part of that focus.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
Master Sgt. Kevin Morris prepares the Individual Water Purification System II for safe, drinkable water straight from the source. IWPS II is an upgrade to the current IWPS issued to all Marines. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

The current system filters bacteria and cysts, but Marines still have to use purification tablets to remove viruses. That takes time – as long as 15 minutes for the chemical process to work before it is safe to drink. IWPS II uses an internal cartridge that effectively filters micro pathogens, providing better protection from bacterial and viral waterborne diseases.

“IWPS II will remove all three pathogens, filtering all the way down to the smallest virus that can be found,” said Capt. Jeremy Walker, project officer for Water Systems. “We have removed the chemical treatment process, so they can drink directly from the fresh water source.”

IWPS II can also connect to Marines’ man-packable hydration packs.

“The system is quite simple and easy to use,” said Walker. “The small filter connects directly with the existing Marine Corps Hydration System/Pouch or can be used like a straw directly from the source water.  The system has a means to backflush and clean the filter membrane, extending the service life. The system does not require power, just suction.”

The current system was fielded in 2004 and used by small raids and reconnaissance units in remote environments where routine distilled water was unavailable. Since then, the system has been used in combat and disaster relief missions.

Also read: Here’s the Army’s awesome new gear to protect soldiers

IWPS II is expected to be fielded to Marines in fiscal year 2018.

“IWPS II will be especially helpful for deployed Marines in emergency situations when they are far from their base to ensure they have a source of water without resupply,” said Walker.

IWPS is one of the many water systems fielded by MCSC’s Combat Support Systems. To read more about the capabilities fielded by CSS click here.

Military Life

How the Army should celebrate its birthday like the Marines do

Ask any young Marine when the Marine Corps Birthday is and they’ll all know immediately that it’s November 10th. Ask them on November 10th and they may be intoxicated and/or greet you with a “Happy Birthday, other Marine!”

Ask any lower enlisted soldier what day the Army’s birthday falls on. They’ll probably struggle for a minute before deflecting the question and acting it like it’s some obscure fact they should know for the board. Here’s a hint: It was June 14th, otherwise known, at the time of writing, as yesterday.

If an Army unit throws a birthday ball, most soldiers there will probably be “voluntold” to go. Marines celebrate the Marine Corps’ birthday in the barracks or long after their military service ends, no matter where they are in the world. Don’t get this twisted. The Army goes all out on its birthday, it just doesn’t resonate with everyone outside of the higher-ups at nearly the same passion as the Marine Corps’


.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
Army officers would see that they celebrate it at about the same level. Joe in the back of the platoon doesn’t.
(Photo by Nathan Hanks)

There are several reasons why Marines celebrate their birthday as hard as they do. The most obvious one is that Marines take pride in every aspect of being a Marine. Even earning their Eagle, Globe, and Anchor is a tattoo-worthy achievement. The only equivalent thing a young soldier has is putting on their first unit patch. Unless it’s one of the more historic divisions, it’s just — like the Army birthday — another day in the Army.

Another benefit the Marines have is that the following day, Veteran’s Day, is a federal holiday. A Marine can drink as much as they want without fear of missing PT in the morning. The Army would have gotten a day off the next day if it didn’t receive the American flag for its second birthday — or, you know, if people actually celebrated Flag Day.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
Even Betsy Ross gave us a birthday present and Joes don’t care.
(Photo by Sgt. Russell Toof)

The Army could take some cues from the Marines on this one. The Corps is fiercely proud of their branch and that’s something the Army should emulate. Hell, Marines are so loyal to their branch that they’ll even buddy up with the Navy one day a year to play a football game.

The Army already does something to this effect on a much smaller scale at the division level. On August 12th, 1942, Major General William C. Lee activated the 101st Airborne Division and said that they had no history at that time but “a rendezvous with destiny.” And it did.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
Just look at literally every war since our activation. You’re welcome.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas M. Byers)

That entire week, the 101st celebrates Week of the Eagle. It’s a week of smaller-scale parties and sporting events that bonds the soldiers together — much more than its May 24th’s Day of the Eagles on which everyone just takes part in a painstaking, slow division run. Soldiers in the 101st are proud to wear their Old Abe.

At the unit level, a simple call of “no PT on the morning of June 15th” would immensely spark interest in soldiers. Instead of knife-handing soldiers to go to unit functions, encourage them to enjoy the night in the barracks. Instead of unit runs, encourage platoon bonding events that will most likely end up in drinking. Traditions like having the oldest troop give the youngest troop a piece of cake don’t have to be brought over if the Army just lets soldiers enjoy their day — their birthday.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
(Photo by Spc James C. Blackwell)

Even little things, like Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dan Dailey’s challenge for soldiers to “earn their cake” on the Army birthday a few years back, are a step in the right direction. You could even have fun with the most Army thing imaginable… impromptu push-up contests. Winner gets “bragging rights” for the year and first piece of cake.

It’s wouldn’t take a huge overhaul to reinvigorate soldiers’ interest in the Army’s birthday, thus sparking Army pride.

Articles

8 steps to evacuate casualties from combat zones

Technically, aeromedical evacuation has been around since World War I, bringing our wounded back home by way of aircraft. Present day, AE is still a critical component to getting injured troops back to safety.


AE crews, medics, and personnel outside the wire are expertly trained to care for combat-related injuries and conditions. With others’ lives on the line, it’s not surprising that the many-step process of evacuating a casualty of war has been refined to achieve the highest survival rate possible.

1. Triage

The injured are first examined by a medic, corpsman, or any medical personnel available to assess injuries. The medical personnel will continue to attend to the wounded until transportation arrives to transfer them to a higher level of care.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
Soldiers conduct simulated casualty triage at Forward Operating Base, Solerno, Kandahar. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Kamil Sztalkoper)

2. Patient movement

It is of utmost importance to quickly transport the triaged to the nearest hospital or Mobile Air Staging Facility (MASF). The only hardened hospital capable of caring for critical combat-related injuries for a longer period of time is Bagram AB, Afghanistan.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
Marines carry their comrade to Huey medevac helicopter. (photo by Stars and Stripes)

The means of transportation for moving a troop to Bagram AB is dependent on where they were injured. If the service member is injured just outside of base, then a Humvee is the obvious choice. If personnel are wounded at a Forward Operating Base, a Huey dust-off mission will be spun up to retrieve casualties.

3. Diagnosis

Once patients are transferred to the hospital, they are stabilized by doctors working in the facility and their diagnosis is entered into a database, called Tra2ces. Tra2ces is relatively new and is one of the sole reasons why the wounded have been tracked so efficiently on their journey from the point of injury to back home with their families.

4. TACC

After patients are successfully entered into the tracking system, the next step is to continue moving back to the States. Tactical Airlift Command and Control (TACC) is responsible for scheduling all planes flying in- and out-of-country.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
Lt. Col. John Keagle coordinates a C-17 Globemaster mission to Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Justin Brockhoff)

Depending on the injury, patients are categorized and listed in order of priority. In other words, the most critically wounded will top of the list and will typically be sent home first.

5. AEOT

It is the responsibility of the Aeromedical Evacuation Operations Team (AEOT), specifically the admin mission controller, to assign a medical crew to take care of patients in flight. The crews have strict guidelines and must be current in all of their medical training. There is zero tolerance for sandbagging in this career field.

6. AE medical crews

The AE crew consists of three enlisted medical technicians and two flight nurses. The crews are given all patient information and medical equipment needed before mission take-off.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
Master Sgt. Russel Goodwater and Master Sgt. Timothy Starkey assess their checklist for proper protocol during a AE training mission. (photo by Master Sgt. Christian Amezcua)

In the crew, each member has their own task and they work together to guarantee mission success. After all, they are caring for the most precious cargo — their fellow service members.

7. CASF

Before take-off, patients are moved from the hospital to the flight line. The Casualty Air Staging Facility (CASF) could be considered a tent hospital, located on the flight-line, close to the aircraft. Patients will be moved to the CASF in preparation and set up for the flight that will take them one step closer to home.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
CASF personnel litter carry a patient from an ambulance bus onto C-17 aircraft at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Master Sergeant Adrian Cadiz)

8. Mission launch

After medical and ground personnel load all patients onto the aircraft, they are flown to Ramstein AFB, Germany, where they can get more in-depth medical care for their injuries. Bagram AB simply does not have the extended-care capability to continually treat critically injured patients.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
Above, patients have been securely loaded onto a C-17 Loadmaster and await transport to Ramstein AFB.(Photo by Master Sgt. Christian Amezcua)

After a stay at Ramstein, patients are sent back to home base on another AE flight. All the while, AE medical crews are in the air with their patients, providing them with expert care, comfort, and, if needed, a hand to hold.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
A medical tech holds the hand of a patient during an Aeromedical Evacuation mission transporting patients from Kandahar to Bagram Air Base.(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller)

Military Life

4 ways to enjoy the outdoors while serving

Serving in the military is often portrayed as a challenging task and with the right reasons. Nevertheless, there are undoubtedly many advantages — embracing mother nature while serving is the one we’ll focus on. A lifestyle (what I’ve become to understand what the service actually is!) that offers you the chance to travel worldwide is unique and rewarding. The military has created this long culture of moving around, which means more opportunities for soldiers to experience outdoors in different countries and continents. Acknowledging the hardship of continuous relocations for military families, I will emphasize my personally-identified outdoor benefits in serving in the military.

  1. Soldiering up while learning to live in the field

Whoever has been in the army still has vivid memories of their first Field Training Exercise. There’s always that guy or gal who forgot his one piece of equipment he shouldn’t have forgotten leading up to a long, cold, freezing night. I have great stories about the rookie mistakes my buddies and I made in our first days in the field. Yet, this was all part of the learning process, and as time went by, we all learned how to gear up and started to relish mother nature every time. 

If you’re a morning person (well, no one cares if you are or not, you’re still waking up early), you can see the morning mist slowly vanishing into nothing. At these times, we enjoyed sharing a cup of coffee and having small talk with our fellow soldiers. 

If you like sunsets, there’s nothing like watching them as you eat an MRE with your friends (the MRE is not a must). 

  1. Enjoying outdoors all over the world

Having served in the military in Europe, I was fortunate to train with many countries worldwide. I was attached to a Royal Commando Company from Great Britain. We trained together on the beautiful beaches of Albania. Having the sea breeze cool us off after strenuous exercises was something we all craved. The mixture of the Adriatic Sea combined with Commando Fighting Tactics was a combo made in heaven.

outdoors
NATO Snipers Practice High-Angle Shooting in Austria

On the other side of the world, in Wisconsin, I enjoyed one of the most beautiful spring weather ever. My unit was attached to a National Guard Unit from the Midwest and drove to this beautiful Army Base near the Canadian border. The trees, the air and the scenery were something I’ll never forget.

One of the best pieces of training I’ve ever completed was Winter Survival Training with Austrian, German and Swiss Alpine Infantrymen. My fellow cadets and I attended the two-week training in the Sharri Mountains near the trijunction between Kosovo, North Macedonia and Albania. If you wanted to see the power of nature, this was the place. We would start our morning hikes in beautiful sunny weather, wearing only shirts. As we approached the peak, an immense cloud with atrocious wind would cover us in no time. We would have to rush back to our shelter to survive — the beauty, unpredictability and mercilessness of nature-all within 30 minutes. No other profession offers this opportunity!

There have certainly been times of heavy rain and freezing cold, which I didn’t enjoy and that I’ll never forget. However, having had the opportunity to travel to more than 30 countries and four continents, I have enjoyed the outdoors everywhere I trained and traveled in the military capacity. These travels have made me appreciate nature so much more!

3. Hiking while completing mandatory ruck marches

If you serve in an infantry unit, you will probably have frequent ruck marches. Such activities can certainly be challenging and tedious, but if you’re into hiking and outdoors, they will feel less like work. The opportunity to patrol in mountains and hills with no signs of human construction feels more like a movie from WWII. 

The remote areas where this training takes place more often than not offer a fantastic escape from urban stress. This is undoubtedly a factor not to be ignored since today’s world is defined by a fast-paced life with a rapid decrease in outdoor activities. Going out in ruck marches and FTXes will allow you to enjoy nature and fulfill your professional duty while getting paid to do so. Having a few beers and barbeque would be excellent, but we all know that’s not going to happen!

4. Working out in the outdoors with passion and camaraderie

One of the leading military activities known to occur in the outdoors is physical training. Whether soldiers are training with their platoon or in large running formations with their Battalion Commander, they’re undoubtedly enjoying the camaraderie. 

As soldiers test their limits in developing their physical stamina, they learn how to cope with the weather and the environment. The all-weather training regimen gives the soldier a challenging task but also prepares them for any engagement. The CrossFit culture has dramatically shifted the culture from gyms to out-of-doors while achieving better results.

Serving in the outdoors and appreciating it

serving in the outdoors

The military profession is essentially defined by the outdoors. All soldiers seem to enjoy it since it gives them an excellent opportunity to develop personally and savor nature. At the same time, they can travel around the globe while experiencing sceneries from all over the world. While this may appear as an unorthodox way to defend your country’s freedoms, it comes with difficulty and risk to soldiers’ lives. 

Yet, true warriors overcome all obstacles and learn to appreciate the beauty of nature, wherever they may be.

Military Life

6 reasons why beach assaults actually suck

The very essence of being a Marine Infantryman is being amphibious — it’s the reason we exist as a Marine Corps. However, the last two wars have been fought on land, so it’s understandable that beach assaults have taken a back seat in terms of training goals.


But, with the Marine Corps moving into a peacetime and with sights being set on near-peer rivals, amphibious assault training has resurfaced as pivotal.

Plenty of Marines are excited by this — as they should be — but beach assaults are just one more thing to add to the long list of reasons why the infantry is affectionately called, “the suck.”

Related: Marines want to swarm enemy defenses with hundreds of small boats

1. Sitting in an amphibious assault vehicle for hours.

Have you ever wanted to just lock yourself in a dark, metal box that floats on the ocean for hours? If you answered, “yes,” then you’ll love beach assaults. You get locked inside an AAV while you’re taken from ship to shore. Not only is it really dark and hot, it’s also terribly boring.

 

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
These vehicles are extremely cramped. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nathaniel Castillo, 1st Marine Division Combat Camera)

2. Diesel fumes.

Remember that thing about being locked in the metal box? Well, that metal box burns diesel and the fumes make their way into where you and your buddies are waiting. Essentially, you just sit there and inhale the fumes until you reach the shore.

3. Your gear gets soaked.

This isn’t true for absolutely everyone as some AAVs are pretty good about staying air-tight, but these are old vehicles and they’re prone to mechanical shortcomings. As many Marines will tell you, be sure to waterproof your gear because, between ship and shore, you’ll often end up in ankle-deep water.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
Good luck turning that gear back in after this. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle Carlstrom)

4. The blinding sunlight.

If your assault happens during the day, the moment the ramp drops and you run outside, your eyes are going to have to adjust from the dark, dank interior of the AAV to unrelenting sunlight. For a few seconds, as you run to your position in the attack, you’ll be nearly blind.

5. Your rifle gets extremely dirty.

Between the salt water, sand, and any oil leaks, your rifle is going to get crapped on. Hopefully, you either lubed it up prior to leaving the ship or you did so while sweating your ass off in a cloud of diesel smoke. There’s no way you’ll keep it clean, but this will at least ensure you can shoot your rifle.

Blue Star Families and USAA collaborate to celebrate military children
Once the attack is over, prepare your anus as the armory rejects your rifle like never before.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by MCIPAC Combat Camera Lance Cpl. Sergio Ramirez Romero)

Also read: 5 things service members hate on that are actually useful

6. Sand. Sand everywhere.

It’s rough, it’s coarse, and it gets everywhere. Sand will not only get in every small space on your rifle, it’s going to get into everything you have. Every crack in your gear, uniform, and body. You’re going to have sand in places that didn’t even touch the beach. Once you get back to ship, you’ll have to deep clean everything — including yourself.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information