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.
From the point of view of an airman who (in the right town) could be mistaken for a Coastie while wearing my dress blues, I have to say: Marine Dress uniforms have no equal. I totally get why people join the Marines just for the dress blues.
After a few years in the military and a few years in military-oriented media, I thought I had seen every uniform there was. That’s when I saw this guy:
This was surprising to me because I continually make fun of the movie Basic for depicting Samuel L. Jackson’s Army character wearing a cape. But I wasn’t the only one who was perplexed by this. In 2016, a Quora user asked Marines what that cape was.
For those not in the know, the Marines in the top photo are “pretty much wearing the same mess dress uniform” and the cape is a somewhat antiquated, but still on the books, accessory: the Boat Cloak.
Boat Cloaks are a made-to-order item that can cost upward of $1,000 at the NEX/MCX. One former Master Gunnery Sergeant recalled seeing one worn by a Chief Warrant Officer 5 at a Marine Corps ball. The Master Guns described the look as “magnificent.”
It’s difficult to find exact regulations for the Boat Cloak, but it looks like there are different versions for the Senior NCOs and Officers. As of 1937, it was still a required item for officers.
So you want to join the U.S. military and become a flat-bellied, steely-eyed killer of men (or mover of supplies, or photo-taker of soldiers, whatever). That means some trips to the recruiter and boot camp might be in your future. Here are six things to help prepare you for basic training:
1. Work on your physical fitness
Let’s get the most obvious thing out of the way first. You should exercise. A lot. Recruiters can tell you what exercises are most important for your branch and job school since they do differ. In general, future Marines and soldiers should concentrate on overall muscular strength and endurance. Soldiers can be lax about pull-ups but Marines should hit them hard.
Everyone, including sailors and airmen, should build up their endurance by running, biking, and strenuously hiking.
2. Read books from the professional reading list
Every branch has a professional reading list for their service members. Some are extensive, like the Marine Corps’, which includes a list of required reading for all Marines as well as lists assigned to each pay grade.
Others are shorter with just a few books that focus on future fights, tradition, and military history such as the Coast Guard’s 2015 list, which contained just nine books selected by the commandant and one nominated by Guardians. The Army, Air Force and Navy lists are available as well. The Air Force one even includes must watch Ted Talks and other videos. Get the books from a library if you don’t want to buy them.
3. Actually read those books of information the recruiter gives you
A little more on the topic of reading: Recruiters give new recruits pamphlets, booklets and little primers on military customs and courtesies, rank structure, the phonetic alphabet and other easy to learn and vital bits of knowledge.
Read these. Really read them. Some of them, like ranks and the phonetic alphabet, should be turned into flash cards for studying. The training cadre at basic training units will expect you to know these things. That’s why the recruiter gave you the pamphlets.
4. Study for entrance exams
If you haven’t been given those pamphlets yet, then you probably haven’t officially joined yet and may still be waiting to take the entrance exams. The most common is the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, but some specific jobs have additional testing requirements.
Most of these tests have study guides that can help you prepare for the real experience. The best ones feature questions that were used in previous iterations of the actual test.
5. Practice hiking and navigating by map and compass
Every military branch has access to good, reliable GPS systems, but most units are training members to navigate by map and compass anyway. The seagoing services are even getting back into celestial navigation.
It’s part of a “back to basics” push to keep military operations moving forward if an enemy destroys America’s vulnerable GPS satellites. Luckily for new recruits, it’s a trainable skill that they can practice on their own while getting some of the fitness discussed in number 1 on this list.
But bring a friend, let someone know where you’re going and what time you expect to return, and/or bring GPS with you. After all, it doesn’t help anyone if you end up stranded in the woods.
6. Learn some discipline
Seriously, more than anything else, practice taking direction and doing what you’re told without question or argument. The military is full of experienced and smart people who want to show you the ropes and let you develop critical thinking skills, but they need to know that you can take orders quickly so that they can trust you in a potential combat situation.
The first part of that trust is knowing that, if they tell you to spend two hours standing in the sun without moving, you will do it. Basic training cadre members will test this by having you stand for two hours in the sun with an order to not move. Learn to do annoying things without moving, complaining or asking for special treatment.
In April of 1948, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment took on the unique responsibility of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Being a Tomb Sentinel isn’t as simple as walking back and forth while keeping a close eye out; it’s an extremely high honor that requires immense professionalism and commitment.
Each year, Arlington National Cemetery receives around four million visitors who come from across the globe to pay their respects to heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. At the The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, visitors watch solemn, powerful ceremonies that take place to honor the dead. If you plan on visiting this historic site, you’ll want to carefully read over the rules and regulations before stepping foot on those hallowed grounds. It is the job of Tomb Sentinels to protect this sacred place from all four million of those visitors — you don’t want to screw up and get yelled at like this unlucky visitor.
During a wreath-placing ceremony, a crowd gathers and two children are selected to lay the elegant decoration at the center of the tomb for all to see. The chosen children are assisted by a Sentinel in order to ensure the wreath is properly placed as the other soldiers render a perfect hand salute.
Once the wreath is laid, the Sentinels move to their assigned area as Taps is played, showing ultimate respect.
After the hymn ends, the participants march away with extreme military bearing. This time around, however, something interesting happened.
On the other side of the crowd, a woman wearing all white decided it was a good idea to walk up and slip past the barrier that keeps spectators from making physical contact with the tomb. As she made her way closer, the guard did precisely what he’s supposed to do — man his post.
“It is requested, that all visitors stay behind the chain rails at all times!” the guard sternly instructs.
Without thinking twice, the woman in white quickly squeezed her way back through the barrier and pretended like it never happened. Once she was secured in the designed visitors’ area, the ceremony resumed.
Check out the video below to watch a Tomb Sentinel protect the sacred ground from a curious trespasser.
The days following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States were strange days for many of us. Not only here at home, where the American worldview changed literally overnight, but also in Afghanistan. For obvious reasons.
What might not be so obvious are the many ways which the United States systematically struck back against al-Qaeda and the Taliban who protected its members in Afghanistan. By now, many have heard of the U.S. Army Special Forces who assisted the Northern Alliance on horseback. The new movie 12 Strong depicts their mission.
But three days after the Green Berets and Northern Alliance leader Abdul Rashid Dostum teamed up for the fall of Mazar-e-Sharif, another joint American-Northern Alliance team was fighting to capture – and keep – the Afghan city of Herat.
According to reports from the open-source U.S. Foreign Broadcast Information Service, American air power had been conducting air strikes on the city since October 2001, destroying armored columns, tunnel complexes, and other support facilities. The city was ready by the time the joint assault took place.
American Special Forces, Northern Alliance fighters, and Shia militias moved on the city as the populace took arms against the Taliban with anything they could find. Defeated Taliban fighters fled the city within the same day.
The whole operation was overseen in Tehran by agents of the CIA working with Iranian intelligence officers. Shortly after the city fell, a Northern Alliance spokesperson said it was the first time Khan set foot in the city since it fell to the Taliban in 1995.
In 2005, an Iranian Presidential candidate alluded to the story via an interview with USA Today’s Barbara Slavin, who was able to confirm some parts of the story, while some sources alluded to further collaboration and denied other parts.
The United States Navy’s aircraft carriers are huge ships. This isn’t just for show; they need to be large to operate four squadrons of multi-role fighters plus other assorted planes, like EA-18G Growlers, E-2 Hawkeyes, and helicopters. But all of that space is useful for transporting other things, too. After all, we’re talking over four acres of sovereign United States territory.
For instance, when the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) was switching homeports from Bremerton to San Diego (before being deployed to Japan as the forward-based carrier), she did a solid for all of the sailors who man her — she gave their rides a ride.
Many sailors have vehicles. But when you’re sailing a ship, your options for vehicle transportation are limited. Sure, you can have your vehicle shipped — but you’ll have to pay a fee. Yeah, you can ask a buddy to make the road trip out to your new home port, but what if something happens along the way? Or, you could always sell your car and buy a new one, but that’s a hassle and a half — plus, you don’t want to shed that sweet Mustang, right?
Since it was just a short trip up the coast and since they didn’t need to operate the air wing, the sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan were allowed to park on the ship. Without the air wing, there’s a lot of room for helping the crew get their vehicles to the new home port.
For one brief coastal cruise, the Ronald Reagan became a $5 billion, nuclear-powered car carrier. The sailors saved money, the Navy didn’t have to pay contractors to move the vehicles, and we got some cool photos out of the deal. That’s a win-win-win all around.
For decades, snipers have been a dominating instrument of warfare striking fear in the heart of their enemies — scoring record kill shots from distances up to two miles away.
With Hollywood tapping into the lifestyle with such films as “American Sniper” and the “Sniper” franchise, many young troops get a misconception of what it’s like to be one.
So we asked a few veterans of the craft what would they want young troops to know before embarking on the intense journey to become a sniper. Here’s what they said:
1. It’s not like in the movies
Hollywood often showcases a sniper as a single-man force tracking down that perfect location to take that most concealed shot possible.
In modern day, scout snipers typically work in 4-8 man teams consisting of a shooter, spotter, radioman, and additional troops to provide security.
2. Shooting is only a fraction of the job
A sniper needs to properly plan the mission, insert and quietly maneuver to a well-concealed firing location, stalk his prey, complete the math calculation before firing his weapon accordingly, then safely egress out.
A mission could last days.
3. Have mental conditioning
Being sniper isn’t just about being an excellent marksman — although that’s important. But when you’re in an operational status, you have to overcome many mental constraints like lack of sleep and sometimes limited rations. The teams typically only leave the wire with what supplies they can carry — and that’s it.
The teams are usually outnumbered by the enemy and must maintain discipline throughout the mission. If the sniper has a mental breakdown in the field, the mission could be lost.
4. Patience is a virtue
Making a mistake because you’re in a hurry is unacceptable and can get you killed. A sniper’s hyperactive moment could result in death.
5. The selection
Completing indoctrination doesn’t guarantee a spot in the platoon. Sniper teams look for the guy who is not only capable of firing that perfect shot but has an outgoing personality. Once a troop is selected, they will go on to the next phase of intense sniper training.
6. It’s constant training and learning
Battlefield tactics change and evolve based on the environment the shooter is facing. That said, a sniper team must be able to adapt and overcome any situation that presents itself.
If the wind keeps up or the sniper is forced to relocate, he will more than likely have to reconfigure his sight alignment within moments.
7. It’s not a way out of the infantry
Young troops tend to believe that going through the sniper pipeline is an easy way out of the grunt lifestyle. To outsiders, life in the scout sniper platoons can appear more glamorous because of the modernized gear they train with and operate.
The truth is, that’s just additional heavy gear they must haul during their missions.
The US Navy’s new supercarrier is going through shock trials, and that means setting off live explosives near the warship to simulate aspects of actual combat conditions.
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), the first of a new class of aircraft carriers, completed the first explosive event of the ongoing full-ship shock trials on Friday off the US East Coast, where the Navy detonated explosives near the carrier.
The Navy said in a statement the aircraft carrier was “designed using advanced computer modeling methods, testing, and analysis to ensure the ship is hardened to withstand battle conditions, and these shock trials provide data used in validating the shock hardness of the ship.”
The official Twitter account for USS Gerald R. Ford tweeted Saturday that “the leadership and the crew demonstrated Navy readiness fighting through the shock, proving our warship can ‘take a hit’ and continue our mission on the cutting edge of naval aviation.”
Though the Navy has conducted shock trials with other vessels, the latest trials with the Ford, the service’s newest and most advanced carrier, mark the first time since 1987 the Navy has conducted shock trials with an aircraft carrier.
The last aircraft carrier shock trials involved the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, according to the Navy.
Shock trials are designed to test how Navy warships hold up against severe vibrations and identify potential shock-related vulnerabilities in a combat vessel.
Nearby explosions, even when vessels were not taking direct hits, would send destructive, high-pressure waves toward them.
During the major global conflict, “it was discovered that although such ‘near miss’ explosions do not cause serious hull or superstructure damage, the shock and vibrations associated with the blast nonetheless incapacitate the ship, by knocking out critical components and systems,” the study said.
“This discovery led the Navy to implement a rigorous shock hardening test procedure,” the report said, referring to shock trials.
The Navy said that the trials are being conducted in a way that “complies with environmental mitigation requirements, respecting known migration patterns of marine life in the test area.”
The service further stated that it “also has employed extensive protocols throughout [full-ship shock trials] to ensure the safety of military and civilian personnel participating in the testing evolution.”
After completing full-ship shock trials, the aircraft carrier will return to the pier at Newport News Shipbuilding for its first planned incremental availability, a six-month period during which the ship will undergo “modernization, maintenance, and repairs prior to its operational employment,” the Navy said.
In March 1999, NATO announced that coalition forces would begin a massive air war and bombing campaign against Serbia. Within hours after the first round of strikes, an A-10 squadron received an urgent call that one of America’s stealthiest aircraft had been shot down — the F-117 Nighthawk.
It was reported the stealth pilot managed to bail out in time but was trapped deep behind enemy lines.
As rebel forces assembled to hunt down the American pilot, allied forces gathered and quickly began designing a search and rescue mission to locate their missing brother.
“One of the things I have to do as the on-scene commander is figure out if he’s ready to be picked up,” Air Force pilot John Cherrey explains.
Since landing an A-10 in enemy territory was impractical, using Black Hawks to pick up the missing pilot was the only option. But with Serbian missiles on high alert, there was no way helicopters could outrun enemy defenses.
The rescue mission must be handled with extreme caution or risk losing more men, so developing a clever plan was in order.
The Warthog’s commanders decided to create a diversion that would prompt Serbian anti-air missile radar to look in one direction, while the slower Black Hawks swooped in through the enemies’ back door.
Their plan worked as the two Black Hawks managed to sneak their way to the downed pilot and egresses out of the Serbian air space. Once the A-10s were notified the pilot was safe, they bugged out and went home. No additional casualties were reported.
Check out the Smithsonian Channel‘s video to see how Allied forces went on this daring rescue mission for yourself.
Every week, new service members report for duty at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton located in Southern California. There, they’ll undergo some intense training — but they’ll also have some time off. So, the boots will often ask others what fun stuff is nearby.
You might get a few good suggestions but, for the most part, it’s tough for a newbie to travel around without spending a sh*t ton of cash. So, if you’re “ballin’ on a budget,” we’ve come up with a few places you can visit while on liberty that won’t bleed your wallet dry.
Located in Irvine, this outdoor mall contains of plenty of excellent restaurants, a state-of-the-art movie theater, and a Dave and Busters to help you hone your gaming skills. Just north of Camp Pendleton, the large shopping center has enough to keep you entertained for hours.
Ready for some excellent fish tacos? Well, OC Tavern has great ones alongside a full bar to get you smashed — if you’re of age, of course. This place hosts concerts, has a cigar lounge, and is a great place to play billiards. Since it’s located just a few minutes north of Camp Pendleton, it’s an easy spot to reach on a Friday or Saturday night.
Located in Mission Viejo, this shopping and entertainment area is close to Camp Pendleton and features a Buffalo Wild Wings, a solid movie solid theater, and a gym where real girls go — as opposed to the male-dominated Marine gyms.
Since it’s closer than Irvine Spectrum, the Uber ride will be cheap, which is perfect for junior enlisted who don’t make a lot of cash.
Located just north of Camp Pendleton, Goody’s Tavern is a chill place for great drinks and entertainment. You’ll run into tons of Marines here, so you know you’ll be in good company.
Del Mar Beach
Located near the main gate, the beach in Del Mar has everything you need to blow off steam. There, you can camp and rent small cottages for a few days at a time. These rental areas are so close to the shore that you’ll hear the waves lapping onto the sand as you sleep. There are also BBQ pits available, and you can sneak in a few games of football or volleyball before heading back to the office on Monday morning.
Starbucks Armed Forces Network, a private group within the company of Starbucks, released a statement yesterday asking that those calling for Starbucks to hire 10,000 veterans instead of refugees check their facts.
Recently, Starbucks came under fire for announcing that they would hire 10,000 refugees. The general reaction was anger and calls for boycotts of Starbucks until they vowed to also hire 10,000 veterans.
The problem with that? Starbucks vowed to hire 10,000 veterans in 5 years way back in 2013. And they’re ahead of schedule.
One of the many internal groups at the coffee giant, Starbucks Armed Forces Network, penned a note to their customers to explain why the anger at the refugee program was misdirected.
The note, simply signed by The Men and Women of Starbucks Armed Forces Network (AFN), began, “We write to you today as representatives of the thousands of veterans and spouses who currently work for Starbucks Coffee Company.”
The writers went on to express their gratitude to their customers and then they moved right into addressing the refugee and veteran initiatives.
“The false and inaccurate statements [about the veteran hiring initiative were] deeply troubling to those of us who’ve served,” the group wrote.
The statement described how the CEO and his wife, Howard and Sheri Schultz, had visited military installations around the country to learn more about how they could advocate better for veterans and military spouses after announcing the veteran hiring initiative in November 2013. The couple invested their own personal funds into “plans for transitioning service members,” according to the group.
“We respect honest debate and freedom of expression,” the statement read. “But to those who would suggest Starbucks is not committed to hiring veterans, we are here to say: check your facts. Starbucks is already there.”
The 5 year initiative has only used about 60 percent of its time, but has met 88 percent of its goal. This means that, if they continue at this rate, Starbucks will surpass their initial goal of hiring 10,000 veterans by 2018 by 4,600 veterans.
The company also offers Military Service Pay to employees who have to report for National Guard or Reserve assignments. Eligible partners can receive up to 80 hours of paid time to fulfill their reserve service obligations yearly.
Starbucks provides a Military Allowance to eligible employees that are called to active duty, as well.
Starbucks has made a name for themselves as a veteran friendly company, even being awarded Gold status by G.I. Jobs in this year’s annual “Military Friendly” list.
SSG Ken Lepore joined the Army National Guard post-high school to help pay for college and because he loves his country. Through his service in the Army National Guard, he has grown immensely as a professional and as a person. He credits his time on deployment and serving the U.S. in making him a more mature, educated and driven citizen. He now serves as a recruiter for the Army National Guard in Central Ohio and interacts with high schoolers looking for a challenge and the opportunity to serve. Lepore discusses his life experiences, insights and tips on joining the Army National Guard.
1. How long have you been in the Army and what have your experiences been?
I have been in about 15 years overall with about a 3.5-year break in service. My three tours were as a tank crewman and cavalry scout to Kosovo in 2004-2005, then Iraq 2006-2007, and again to Iraq in 2009-2010. I also deployed to support the relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina 2005.
2. When did you become an Army Recruiter?
I became a recruiter in 2015. Before that, I worked as a teacher, in college admissions and now work as an adjunct professor of history at Marion Technical College.
3. What are some of the obstacles that come up during the recruitment process?
The most notable obstacles for recruits to overcome are COVID, of course, their ASVAB score, physical things, legal issues and negative perceptions.
Overall, the answer to this really does depend on the areas where one recruits as well as knowing one’s recruiting area. But remember, it is always about being physically, intellectually and morally qualified. So, there is always the potential that the ASVAB can become an obstacle. For example, I rarely had issues with kids who could not pass the ASVAB, but I recruited out of suburban and exurban schools that have pretty highly ranked education programs.
Again, that does not mean that everyone I met and worked with passed the ASVAB, but it does mean that, based on how ASVAB scoring works, the vast majority of kids I worked with could read and do the math on at least an 11th-grade level. Again, a passing score is a 31 or above, and this is not a percentage, but a percentile.
The physical things are a different kind of obstacle, but even though we ask some questions with that APPLE-MDT process to try to discover any potential medical or physical issues early in the recruiting process, it is typically when conducting a thorough medical questionnaire that any physical/medical issues will become known. This does not necessarily mean that someone will be disqualified – we are recruiters, not doctors, so it is not our place to tell someone if they are disqualified, although we may have a pretty good idea.
But, it identifies the need for more documentation, typically medical docs, which are submitted to MEPS. For example, if someone tells me they had surgery on an ACL, I know that we are going to need documents, so we know they will be okay at training and doing their jobs without that ACL becoming an issue. Then, based on the questionnaire and any accompanying documentation, the doctors at MEPS can make a preliminary determination on if someone is physically qualified or not – if they say no, then we request a waiver.
So, let’s say that nothing is wrong or that there was something like the applicant had braces and the accompanying documents from the dentist show when the braces will be off, and we get preliminary approval, this means we can schedule them for a face-to-face physical at MEPS. This is not like a physical fitness test, but it is more like a sports physical at high school or college – makes sure everything bends the right way, height/weight standards, checks vision/hearing, urinalysis, etc. This is the point where the doctors at MEPS will officially stamp that paperwork as physically qualified, but if anything requires more documentation or is a disqualifier, they will let you know. If that happens, we either try to get the necessary documentation or request a waiver, if possible. There are some things, for example, that we cannot plan for or necessarily know beforehand too, like say astigmatism or a high cylinder in the eye or heart arrhythmia, but that is exactly why it is that two-part process.
Other obstacles are legal obstacles, and this does not just mean having felonies, but even having an unresolved parking ticket – those need to be paid. Again, this was not something I had much of an issue in my former recruiting area, but for others, like with the ASVAB, it can be a real problem, whether drug charges, or a DUI, theft, violent crimes, etc. We have regulations that will let us know what is okay and if a moral waiver and suitability review needs to be initiated.
But this is where that bit of common sense comes into play as well, because members of the military are expected to hold themselves to a high standard and because we need that trust with the public as well. Essentially, I was not afraid to tell someone to get out of my office because of their legal background. My old office partner was doing a sex offender check in the online registry (we do it for everyone), and the guy he was working with came up – process over, dude, we’re done here.
Another time, he and I were at the Franklin County Courthouse, getting court documents on someone as part of a background check, and a lawyer or a social worker came running up to us telling us that her client was perfect for the military and how the military could help him (it is illegal for recruiters to get involved to get charges dropped in order to allow someone to enlist); anyway, my old office partner calmly asked her if her client was someone she would want armed to the teeth, which made her pause. She replied that he was not. Bad choices will derail enlistment – this is not and cannot be the last resort, but rather a first choice.
So this is where the public perception can become a benefit or an obstacle to recruiting. I am someone who very much hates being lumped in as one of McNamara’s boys, and I do get annoyed with the aforementioned perspective that military service is for poor people and stupid people with no prospects in life. This obviously is not true at all – again, I have a graduate degree, and I chose to join twice, one of those times after I had my college paid for. But where this can become an obstacle is, for example, when some parents carry that military service is beneath their child, which I have experienced a couple of times, typically in some of the more affluent areas I recruited in.
I had a kid I was working with whose parents bought him a brand new Mercedes to stop talking to me. I said, “I don’t fault you, dude, that’s a $60,000 car, I don’t think you learned a positive life lesson, but I don’t fault you at all.” Another time, I was taking a young lady just to take her ASVAB, and only do that – nothing else. She just wanted to take it as a career exploration tool, and I told her I will be glad to help.
It was her grandparents who came on the attack, crying when they saw me in uniform, letting me know I was a monster, and they knew people who went to Vietnam and begging their granddaughter not to do this. Again, she was not going to enlist (ever), and I knew that – that’s why her guidance counselor contacted me out of all the recruiters. But I did take great offense to their behavior, and I tactfully reminded them that, among other things, I was/am better educated than both of them. Nonetheless, there does seem to quite often be an uncle or a family member or someone who had a bad experience with a recruiter or with the military, and that becomes a difficult obstacle — overcoming perceptions — particularly entrenched ones.
4. Are there any ways to combat these things, and if so, how?
So, combating the aforementioned obstacles really comes down to the obstacle itself. Something like a recruit being over height and weight standards is actually one of the easier things because I can supply them with a workout plan and make some dietary recommendations, but it is on them to follow it and make it happen. This is actually nice because it shows early on in the process how much someone wants to be in. I had a young man who lost 180 pounds to join, and that said everything I needed to know about his dedication, character, motivation, etc., and I knew that he’d do fine at training and in his unit.
Some of the other medical stuff does become more of a challenge, though, particularly because you don’t want someone to be a liability to themselves or others. But, as mentioned earlier, we can always try to request a waiver – it will get either approved or denied, but at the end of the process, you’ll know why. I worked with a young lady who had a penicillin allergy – we got all the medical documents, submitted them with the questionnaire to MEPS, and she was marked preliminarily as not qualified. So, we submitted a request for a waiver, which did get approved; then she took her physical, passed, and joined. The process took about a week and a half long, but that’s okay, as it shows that even with an allergy to a medicine, we took the right steps and she was taken care of.
Combating the legal obstacles is a little more cut-and-dry because in AR 601-210 and the National Guard’s accompanying documents, the Accessions Options Criteria and the Annex A as well as other regulatory guidance that comes out, it lets us know what we can work with, as far as having a legal background and what we cannot. However, I found that I never really had many problems with interested individuals having legal backgrounds beyond anything more than traffic violations, an occasional single DUI or drug charge – and yes, you can have a whole bunch of traffic tickets and still be able to enlist as an 88M Motor Transport Operator (truck driver), although I tended to steer bad drivers away from that MOS (no pun intended). But, I knew that pretty much anything beyond that, I probably was not going to work with that person anyway because I knew I would not want someone with multiple assaults, theft or domestic violence charges in my squad, so I wouldn’t bother. I cannot speak for other recruiters or other branches of the military, but as a student of history and of languages, I tend to pay attention to the patterns.
It is combating that obstacle of public perceptions that is the most difficult, but I found that I dealt with it two-fold – as a member of the military, and as a recruiter. This is one reason why we, as recruiters, need to be judicious about who we enlist and also not deceive or lie to people we work with. So, this essentially comes down to trust, as it ties into public perception. For starters, one of the best compliments I have ever received in my life was from an undergraduate philosophy professor at Ohio U, who told me that I dispelled every pre-conceived notion he had about people in the military. But because of my relative size (I’m 5’6” and 145 lbs), I do not exactly come off as that hard-charging, flag-waving recruiter, which is good, because that has never been my style.
Instead, I tried to make myself an example, to my soldiers, to my students and now to my recruits. When working with parents and teachers and guidance counselors, it is a similar thing. One soldier’s dad told me in an initial interview (he was prior service) that I was completely unlike any recruiter he had ever met. Several of my teacher and guidance counselor friends at my old schools have echoed similar things. They and my old boss told me that I recruit different kinds of people/soldiers than what they anticipate – actually, a lot of my old recruits have contacted me too and told me that they never could have seen themselves in the military or never even considered it until they met someone just like them – bookish, athletic-ish and trying to figure out how to pay for college.
And as I said, this was not really on my radar until my senior year of high school, so I get it. For me, it felt like I had the chance to show people that there should be zero stigmas from being an enlisted person in any branch of the military (but especially the Army National Guard) because before I turned 28, I had completed nine years in the Guard, three overseas tours, a graduate degree, no student loan debt, a myriad of languages and had a lived a fairly full life before I had attended my 10-year high school reunion. The little things that we can do to get rid of McNamara’s stigma and tip the hat to the importance of disciplined initiative drilled into my head at training. Besides, after you graduate from basic training and job training, you really do feel like you can accomplish anything – all obstacles become surmountable.