Coming off the trail is a strange period in a military family’s life. After putting years into an OSUT unit — yes the WHOLE family puts in time — suddenly it’s about to be over. Back to normal working hours … well normal military working hours. Back to a life where you’re not constantly supervising. And now, after putting in so much blood, sweat and tears, after losing so much sleep, things are different. On the other side of drill life has somehow changed, all for the better. Because now you’ve had a fulfilling experience, helped grow the military, helped change lives and make stronger soldiers.
It’s an EMOTIONAL experience
You never knew just how much you had invested in this gig until it’s over. Do you hear that sound of deafening silence? It’s relief overtaking your entire body. Let it soak in. That is, if you can hear it over the sound of your still-yelling voice. Remember, it’s now ok to talk at normal decibels. Carry on.
You feel bad for the new guys
Each new drill and their subsequent family — they’re coming in with a long road ahead. Even the mention of how long their stint is can make you cringe. It’s best to take a deep breath and walk on.
Your career will never be as entertaining
Never underestimate the stupidity of a private … that’s a saying for a reason. I mean, it’s not their fault — they’re the new guy who doesn’t know any better. (What dumb moves did you make as a private?) But in the same light, their moves brought endless entertainment. So much so that it’s likely to never be beat — that is, unless you promote and return to basic once again.
There’s no use in repurposing the hat
Unless you catch a job as Smokey the Bear, there’s no re-using the brown round. And good riddance to the things, too. They’re hot, they’re heavy, and they serve little purpose other than identifying you to your trainees. Put them on display or blow them up in the field, that’s your call.
If you haven’t lived it, you won’t understand
Families who haven’t lived drill will never understand what it’s like. It’s a far cry from “normal” military life. And unless you’ve been there personally, it doesn’t hit quite as close to home. Anyone who says it’s “not that bad” should be promptly told where to go. Anyone considering volunteering should be patted on the back and wished the best of luck.
You made less than minimum wage
All that extra drill pay everyone talks so much about? Yeah, you didn’t know it would be accounting for all hours of the night, endless stints of the field, and really never getting a clear day off. Count in the pandemic and you may or may not have felt like you’d never go home again. Our best advice is to NOT do the math on how much you’re actually making per hour. It’s beyond depressing.
Your sanity still exists
Don’t worry, it’s still in there, somewhere. Once you come off the trail, life somehow settles. That crazy feeling you had from lack of sleep? It’s gone. That shakiness from too much caffeine? The blinking and your kids grew three inches and learned 10 new skills? The wanting to pull your own hair out because you cannot just relax and have a “chill day.” All that — it’s gone and comes back … eventually.
You made great friends along the way
Leave was non-existent unless it was the holidays (and we don’t mean four-days, what are four-days anyway? Lolz) — we’re talking about the big ones: Christmas, Haunnaukah, New Year’s — that’s your annual leave. Two weeks of freedom is all. That meant spending time off — rare as it might have been — with fellow families on the trail. And in some big moments in life, you were all each other had. It made you close and wonderful memories were made.
Yes, they learn the basics in Boot Camp and Basic Training. Yes, they’ll acquire a general understanding of their MOS while in advanced training. But that’s just it — bare-minimum knowledge. Don’t expect those under your command to be experts in everything straight out the gate. After all, if someone doesn’t know or understand a specific task relevant to their career, there’s no one to blame but you. This is the idea behind “hip pocket training.”
Sometime throughout the day, an NCO should give a class on a specific topic. No PowerPoint slides copied from someone else, no reading from a book — the NCO should be the subject matter expert in whatever they’re teaching. If not, there’s no shame in asking someone else who is to “assist” in training.
7. Weapons familiarity
Every grunt and every POG should know how to properly use their weapon system, not just “pull this here, it goes bang, and that thing over there drops.” They should know every inch of their weapon. What every piece does and how it works with other pieces. Troops should know how to properly maintain it and what to do if a malfunction occurs. There’s plenty more you can do other than dime drills.
If you don’t know what a dime drill is: lay in the prone position with a rifle and have someone place either a washer or a dime at the end of the barrel. The objective it to practice pulling the trigger without jerking the weapon to the left or right, but steadily enough to keep a constant grouping of shots.
Just as there are countless classes you can host on weapons training, there are countless you can teach on medical. How to treat and dress combat injuries, how to respond to casualties of various weather conditions (hot weather, cold weather, etc.), and how to prepare a troop to properly hand off the injured to professionals — these are all life-saving skills. They don’t need to be field surgeons, but there’s no excuse for not knowing how to bring someone to proper care.
One such class could be on how to properly extract a casualty under fire. For maximum effect, train as you fight — in gear. Practice all means available, from over the shoulder carries to drags. If even the smallest person in your team can find suitable means of extracting the largest person, you’re golden.
While the average troop may not need to touch a radio, if the worst comes to worst, they’ll need to know. Troops who can properly use a radio and not talk on it like it’s a freaking cellphone are invaluable on the battlefield. Teach the basics of setting up a radio, proper etiquette while talking, and the common requests, like calling for fire or a nine-line MEDEVAC.
If the radio operator can’t get on the hand-mic or is injured, someone else will need to operate it. The Medical Evacuation will need to know the most important five things before they can set out. They are: The location of the injured, the frequency to reach the radio operator, the precedence and number of the injured, if any special equipment is needed, and number of patients who need a litter or can walk. The mnemonic device most commonly used to remember this is, “Low Flying Pilots Eat Nachos.”
The best part about wilderness survival training is that, by definition, it’s supposed to be about not having the proper tools. Whether you train the troop in how to survive outside in a desert or how to survive the backwoods of your military installation, these are tips that can also be applied off-duty when civilians ask to go camping.
A quick and easy skill to learn is how to build a debris hut. You could use a poncho, but you can make a basic structure with just three sturdy sticks as a base and some branches for insulation.
Above all, the troop must know the skills required by their specific MOS. But, as what everyone who has ever deployed can tell you, you’ll always do more. Even if you believe that you and your troops have the most cushioned position in the safest place, they should know their battle drills. Specifically, Battle Drill 2: react to contact.
BD2 is the breakdown of what you should do after an enemy engages you. Immediately — before they have time to think — troops should be able to identify what makes great cover from wherever the enemy is. It should be second nature that they should stack on a concrete wall and await the next orders. The rest of BD2 falls on the leader’s shoulders.
Continuing on the theme of “things you weren’t trained to do but do anyways,” we have: other people’s tasks. Your troops should be self-reliant to the point that they don’t need the people from the other platoon to hold their hands through everything. A great way to do this is to find another NCO from another section and make a deal. You help teach their troops this time, they help you teach next time.
This doesn’t have to be between the squad or platoon levels. If you have a buddy in another battalion or brigade who has a wildly different MOS from you, ask them to help break the monotony of daily training. Everyone has something to offer. Even if they’re grunts and you’re far from it, you can still pick up a few things here and there.
Troops need to know the shoulders of the giants upon which they stand. Every military installation has names of great troops, famous battles, and historic locations written on nearly every building and street. If you’re a 101st Airborne soldier stationed at Fort Campbell, you should be able to give details on the significance behind the name “Market Garden Road” whenever you run it in the morning.
Next to base pay, allowances are the most important part in the breakdown of your paycheck. They are funds paid to the service member to provide for specific needs that are not directly provided for by the military – for example, clothing and housing — and they are generally not considered taxable income.
Basic allowance for subsistence, or BAS, is intended to partly compensate the service member for the cost of food. These allowances are not intended to compensate the service member for the cost of feeding dependents.
Who: All service members, though service members utilizing the chow hall, deployed, or attending schools/training may not receive BAS as it is directly applied to chow halls or MREs (meals ready to eat).
How much: Officers rate $246.24 per month, enlisted personnel rate $357.55 per month.
Basic allowance for housing, or BAH, like BAS, is intended to compensate the service member for the cost of housing.
Who: Service members who do not reside in military quarters or on-installation housing.
How much: BAH differs by duty station and rank. Additionally, there are several different types of BAH that impact the exact amount the service member receives.
BAH with dependents will be higher than BAH without dependents.
Partial BAH is paid to service members who live in government quarters without dependents.
BAH reserve component/transit (BAH RC/T) is for service members who fall within certain parameters that wouldn’t generally receive BAH (i.e. a reservist activated for less than 30 days or a service member stationed somewhere with no previous BAH rate set up, generally overseas).
BAH-differential (BAH-Diff) is authorized for service members who pay child support but don’t necessarily have a dependent living with them (this amount is determined by subtracting the amount of BAH without dependents from that of BAH with dependents).
There are several types of clothing allowances: initial, cash clothing replacement, extra clothing, and military clothing maintenance.
Who: Officers and enlisted alike rate an initial clothing allowance.
How much: The allowance is directly applied to the bill when uniforms are issued.
Cash clothing replacement:
Who: Enlisted personnel yearly in the anniversary month of the service member’s enlistment.
How much: Varies by rank.
Who: Any service member in a situation where additional uniforms or specific civilian attire is necessary in order to perform duties (i.e. detachment commanders at an embassy require suits).
How much: For civilian attire, this amount ranges from $287.45 to $862.35 and depends on whether it’s the initial payment, and for how long the service member is going to be in the position.
Military clothing maintenance:
Who: All service members during and after 3 years of active duty.
How much: Varies.
Dislocation Allowance, or DLA, is intended to partly reimburse service members for the cost of relocating due to orders or evacuation.
Who: All service members regardless of whether the member has dependents; except for National Guard members and reserve members who are reporting to or leaving active duty unless the member is activated for longer than 20 weeks at one location and is authorized to receive PCS allowances and have family members accompanying.
The Navy’s elite SEAL teams have taken on a lot of America’s enemies, and have proceeded to kick ass and take names. Now, though, they are facing a potential challenge from within — a streak of drug use.
According to a report by CBSNews.com, five SEALs were kicked out for drug use in a three-month period late last year, prompting a safety stand-down.
“I feel like I’m watching our foundation, our culture, erode in front of our eyes,” Capt. Jamie Sands, Commodore of Naval Special Warfare Group 2, said in a video of a meeting carried out during the December 2016 stand-down.
“I feel betrayed,” Sands added. “How do you do that to us? How do you decide that it’s OK for you to do drugs?”
One of three SEALs who went to CBS News outlined some of the drugs allegedly being used.
“People that we know of, that we hear about have tested positive for cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, ecstasy,” the SEAL said in an interview. CBS disguised the SEAL’s voice and concealed his identity.
Leadership in Naval Special Warfare Group 2 viewed the drug use situation as “staggering,” according to the CBS News report. One of the SEALs who went to CBS said that “it has gotten to a point where he had to deal with it.”
“I hope he’s somebody that we can rally behind and hold people accountable, but I’m not sure at this point,” the SEAL added.
One thing Sands has done has been to carry out drug testing even when away from their home bases, something not always done in the past.
“We’re going to test on the road,” Sands told the SEALs in a video released to CBS News. “We’re going to test on deployment. If you do drugs, if you decide to be that selfish individual, which I don’t think anyone’s going to do after today — I believe that — then you will be caught.”
During the stand-down, drug testing was done, and one SEAL who had earlier tested positive for cocaine ended up testing positive again, this time for prescription drugs. That SEAL is being kicked out.
The Airman Battle Uniform (ABU) survived a little over a decade before the Air Force decided to get rid of it. Today, the United States Air Force announced that they’ll be switching to the Army’s Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP) uniforms.
According to a report by Military.com, the OCP will be available at four base exchanges: Aviano Air Base in Italy, MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, and Shaw Air Force Base and Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina. The OCP will fully replace the ABU by April 2021 at a total cost of $237 million. To put price that into perspective, that’s enough to buy roughly two and a half F-35A Lightning II multirole fighters.
Air Force personnel wearing the ABU in hot climates, like these Airmen in the Nevada desert, were often feeling the heat.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class George Goslin)
“The uniform works in all climates — from Minot [North Dakota] to Manbij [Syria] — and across the spectrum of missions we perform,” Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force Chief of Staff said in an Air Force release. “It’s suitable for our Airmen working on a flight line in Northern Tier states and for those conducting patrols in the Middle East.”
So, why spend so much money on a new look when you could spend it on couple extra F-35As? It turns out, the Airman Battle Uniform wasn’t quite hitting the mark in some areas. First and foremost, it’s fairly uncomfortable in hot climates. In fact, some Air Force personnel were already using the OCP over the ABU on deployment.
Airmen were already wearing the Army’s Operational Camouflage Pattern in a number of instances on deployment.
A few notes for Airmen with this rollout: It will take time for the OCP to be fielded across the entire Air Force. Additionally, as noted in the “frequently asked questions” document, mixing ABU items (like cold-weather gear) with OCP items is not authorized. Also, some ABU items must be returned, like flight suits and tactical gear. Uniform disposal boxes will be available and any items put in there will be burned or shredded, so dispose carefully.
The Air Force expects that all Airmen will be wearing the OCP by April 1, 2021.
Participating in adaptive sports helped to get Major out of a serious depression he had fallen into after being severely wounded, he said. Adaptive sports are designed or modified for disabled athletes to compete against others with similar disabilities or injuries.
“Before I got injured I loved competition, sports, and getting into shape,” said Major, who represented the Baltimore Veterans Affairs at the Army Trials.
Participating in adaptive sports “changed my life,” he said.
“It made me more sociable with other veterans who have similar injuries and stories,” Major said.
Sports also helped him to have a more positive attitude about his injuries, he added.
During the Army Trials, Army athletes in wheelchairs, with prosthetic limbs, and some with injuries that weren’t apparent at first glance competed in a variety of events.
They came from more than a dozen installations and participated in track and field, cycling, archery, shooting, wheelchair basketball, and seated volleyball.
Most had compelling stories, like Major, about how participating in sports got them out of a dark place and thrust them into a new chapter in their lives.
Lt. Col. Luis Fregoso was one of the organizers of the Army Trials with the Warrior Care and Transition Program in Arlington, Va. This Army organization oversees the most critical cases of wounded, injured, and ill soldiers and helps them transition back to active duty or to civilian life.
Sports can play a huge role in the healing process, said Fregoso, who is from Los Angeles.
“A lot of soldiers, when they have this life-changing event happen to them, they will get into a dark place,” Fregoso said. “The common theme is they just don’t feel their normal self and start spiraling into a bad area, especially in their mind.”
Sports help them to adapt to their “new normal” and can give them the confidence to tackle other areas in their lives, Fregoso added.
Retired Master Sgt. Shawn “Bubba” Vosburg still has the look of a soldier out on a mission. But he suffers from post-traumatic stress, a traumatic brain injury, and a slew of other injuries up and down his body.
Competing in sports helps to “tie you back to the military,” said Vosburg, who is originally from Colorado Springs, Colo., but now calls El Paso home. He represented Fort Bliss during the recent competition.
“You do so much time in the military, and you lose that when you retire,” Vosburg said. “But (adaptive sports) introduces you to new people whom you consider friends and family, and that family is growing.”
Vosburg credits sports for saving his life and he wants to return the favor to his fellow veterans.
He is working on a master’s degree in social work at the University of Texas at El Paso and wants to help “bring more soldiers out of the dark, like I came out of,” he said.
When we think of Green Berets, we think of tough, highly-trained troops that have been groomed to take on high-priority missions. Seeing as the military is home to a number of unique specializations, it’s easy to assume that when it comes to any kind of amphibious assault or landing, you’ve entered Navy or Marine Corps territory — right? Not necessarily.
The U.S. Army does some of its own diving. In fact, the U.S. Army actually operates a number of its own ships, too, for moving stuff around. In an instance of Hollywood actually getting it right, the 1986 film The Delta Force touched on one instance in which dive training proved very useful: infiltrating a target.
Chuck Norris prepares to infiltrate a terrorist base in ‘The Delta Force.’ The diving is not Hollywood BS.
The training is extremely tough — one of three candidates who attend the school will not pass the course. After another series of tests (known collectively as “Zero Week”), Special Forces diving students learn how to handle SCUBA gear and re-breathers and learn all the skills required for an amphibious insertion. Then, It all culminates in a field training exercise.
One-third of the soldiers training will wash out of the Combat Divers Qualification Course.
(U.S. Army photo by Linda L. Crippen)
Check out the video below to see an old-school video about Green Berets putting their dive training to good use.
Ah, the MRE. Known by such illustrious nicknames as “Mr. E,” “Meal, Rarely Edible,” and “Meal, Ready to Excrete,” the military meals ready-to-eat aren’t exactly known for their delightful taste.
Luckily, the taste of (at least) some MRE’s has improved over the years. Troops these days don’t have to deal with the terror that was the “Four Fingers of Death” — aka hot dogs — or the bean burrito. If you are opening a box of meals out in the field, these are the ones to look for.
#6: Chili with Beans
It’s got a Ranger Bar! Sadly, this bad boy comes with cheddar cheese and snack bread — which sucks — so you should probably trade that out with the one weird guy in your platoon who actually likes snack bread. Oh, and the chili is kind of good too.
#5: Maple Sausage
This is obviously better around breakfast time, since most of the contents are geared toward that very important meal of the day. The sausage, if heated up, isn’t half bad. But the big takeaway here is the Maple Muffin Top. Unfortunately they couldn’t jam a full muffin in there, but hey, the top is the best part anyway.
This also has the trail mix, crackers and cheddar cheese, and orange beverage powder. Don’t eat it all in one sitting.
#4: Cheese Tortellini
There are so many MRE’s with totally crappy main meals. I’m throwing it out there right now: I actually like the cheese tortellini. Unless you don’t heat it up. Not only is the main meal pretty damn good, but it’s got all kinds of goodies, including wet pack fruits, a first strike protein bar, peanut butter and crackers, and beverage powder.
And if you are feeling extra brave, throw that extra hot hot sauce on top of the tortellini. Just make sure a port-a-john is on standby.
#3: Beef Ravioli
If you are Italian, you are going to hate this meal, since calling this concoction ravioli is probably a grave sin. But for the rest of us, it’s actually a decent meal when it’s hot. But the best part: Bacon cheese spread. In the field, you can probably sell that stuff and make serious bank.
#2: Meatballs in Marinara
Just like the beef ravioli, this one is pretty decent. It also has jalapeno cheese spread and tortillas, and who doesn’t like that Jal-op-eno? The potatoes au gratin are fairly terrible, but at least there’s a first strike bar, and beef snack strips. Unless you are a fatty who eats the entire meal, there’s lots of trading opportunity here.
#1: Chili and Macaroni
Chili Mac is the best. There’s no question. Main meal: delicious. But wait, there’s more. This has a pound cake, jalapeno cheese spread and crackers, candy, and beverage powder. Even the accessory packet is the best: There’s coffee AND matches in there. Brew up a cup of joe then burn things when you’re bored.
There are way more Meals Ready-to-Eat in existence of course. We didn’t rank them all. If you want to see what’s in the current batch, you can check out MREInfo.com.
Short answer: One is still used as a tactically viable way of getting troops into the fray and the other is more ceremonial.
Benjamin Franklin once said “Where is the prince who can afford to cover his country with troops for its defense, so that ten thousand men descending from the clouds might not, in many places, do an infinite deal of mischief before a force could be brought together to repel them?”
Both of these troops fit that bill over two hundred years later.
Out of all of the current military rivalries, this one still ranks pretty high on the list. As someone who’s Air Assault and let his personal rivalry simmer a bit, there’s no reason to keep it up. The differences between the two just keeps growing with each conflict.
By World War II, many forces developed their own form of Airborne infantry that soared into combat. Allied forces captivated folks back home with the tales of jumping into the European theater. Over the years, airborne operations can be performed in essentially two ways: static jumps (think of the age-old cadence “Stand up, Hook up, Shuffle to the door! Jump right out on the count of Four!”) and HALO/HAHO, or High Altitude, Low Opening and High Opening (free-falling).
Air Assault rose in the Cold War and became more prominent in the Vietnam War. There are usually two means for getting troops into combat, FRIES, or Fast Rope Insertion/Extraction, where you grab a piece of rope and slide out of a hovering helicopter and just Air Insertion, where the helicopter lands on the ground and troops hop out. Technically, there’s also Sling Load operations, where you attach things underneath a helicopter, but that’s more of a special task that’s assigned to Air Assault qualified troops.
But in the wars since 9/11, you can count on one hand the number of combat jumps performed by US troops. They were done twice in Iraq and once in Afghanistan — and all three to command and control airfields.
Making a combat jump authorizes you to wear a Combat Jump Device. It’s a gold star that adorns the Parachutist Badge and is often referred to as a “mustard stain.” Finding one of these bad asses outside of Jump School is like finding a CW5 — you know they have to exist somewhere because you’ve seen the badges at the PX, but it still sounds as plausible as any other barracks rumor.
There isn’t as comprehensive list on total Air Assault missions because it’s far more common. It’s just another way to get around.
Many combat arms guys can tell you that they never went to Air Assault school, but still do Air Assault operations in country. The only Air Assault task restricted to someone who actually went to the school is the previously mentioned sling load operations. Even that has its “volun-told” feel to it. Sling loading has a risk to it that could be deadly if not done properly. Only Airborne school qualified personnel are allowed to complete airborne jumps (because of the weeks they spend just learning how to fall properly).
Sure. We have our disagreements and will probably flame each other in the comment section. They’re both ways to get men out of a perfectly good aircraft.
We both deal with a heavy amount of prop / rotor wash that training can never prepare you for. And both of our badges are still highly sought after by badge-hunters — usually a staff lieutenant or junior NCO. And they both will probably correct you by saying “well actually, according to Army regulation…”
Wear your blood wings proud, my brothers and sisters.
Being in combat is one of the craziest experiences a person can have. Bullets are zipping by your melon and impacting the wall behind you, eyes wide and on the alert as the incoming rounds blanket your position. Sounds crazy. Because it is.
War is hell.
Well-trained military minds know, winning the battle is the most important aspect of winning the war. In combat, the rules are different than in any other situation you’ll probably find yourself. All available fingers need to be pulling triggers.
So if allied forces take a mass casualty, the guy who is hurt the worst isn’t necessarily the one who gets treated first.
During combat, the rules on who receives care first changes in a matter of moments. If a squad is under heavy attack and a few trigger pullers get hurt, then the unit is down a few bodies.
After the field medic takes care of their wounds, let’s say subject “A” sustained a “GSW” or gunshot wound to the chest, they are now out of the fight. If subject “B” took a bullet to their leg, they’re still considered in the fight because it’s not life-threatening.
So during wartime rules, subject “B” is supposed to be treated first to allow them the chance to get back on their weapon system and return to the fight. Hopefully subject “A” will be okay and pull through.
Military service members are famous for their special lingo, everything from branch-specific slang to the sometimes stilted and official language of operation orders.
That carefully selected and drafted language ensures that everyone in a complex operation knows what is expected of them and allows mission commanders to report sometimes emotional events to their superiors in a straightforward manner.
But there’s a reason that Hallmark doesn’t write its cards in military style for a reason. There’s just something wrong with describing the birth of a first-born child like it’s an amphibious operation.
Anyway, here are seven life events inappropriately described with military lingo:
1. First engagement
“Task force established a long-term partnership with local forces that is expected to result in greater intelligence and great successes resulting from partnered operations.”
2. Breaking off the first engagement
“It turns out that partnered forces are back-stabbing, conniving, liars. The task force has resumed solo operations.”
“Partnered operations with local forces have displayed promising results. The new alliance with the host nation will result in success. Hopefully.”
4. Buying a first home
“The squad has established a secure firebase. Intent is to constantly improve the position while disrupting enemy operations in the local area. Most importantly, we must interrupt Steve’s constant requests that we barbecue together. God that guy’s annoying.”
5. Birth of the first child
“Task force welcomed a new member at 0300, a most inopportune time for our partnered force. Initial reports indicate that the new member is healthy and prepared to begin training.”
6. Birth of all other children
“Timeline for Operation GREEN ACRES has been further delayed as a new member of the task force necessitates 18 years of full operations before sufficient resources are available for departure from theater.”
“Task force operators have withdrawn from the area of operations and begun enduring R and R missions in the gulf area as part of Operation GREEN ACRES. Primary targets include tuna and red snapper.”
In 1991, 18-year-old June Copeland was brushing her teeth when her twin brother, Jerry Copeland, asked her to join the Army with him. Her answer? A resounding “No.” After much cajoling, the two agreed to enlist together for maybe three to four years.
While Jerry served his commitment and entered civilian life, June ended up making a robust career of it. She would go on to graduate from West Point and become an adjutant general. Nearly three decades later, Col. June Copeland has made both education and the Army central to her family’s legacy.
Currently, June is stationed at the Pentagon. When you ask her about her greatest accomplishment, she points to her three daughters — June Alyxandra, Jasmyn, and Jeilyn — all of whom have graduated from or are currently attending West Point.
June’s drive for excellence and her grounding comes from family, particularly her mother.
“When my ancestors were freed, we decided to stay on the plantation in Georgia. So, my grandmother was born there,” she said. Her mother grew up during Jim Crow and was one of 12 students who integrated schools in Savannah, Georgia. “She always talked about the benefits of education . . . Her biggest emphasis was always on getting a good education, making it count, and working towards a goal.”
While at basic training, June was crestfallen to learn that her first assignment would be in Germany. She called her mother in tears worried that she wasn’t ready for such a big step.
“When you are in basic training you see about five colors: brown, brick, dirt, tan, and green. All of a sudden, I saw all of these colors, pink, yellow, red, purple, just floating around and I was mesmerized,” she said.
Suddenly, June realized that it was her mom dressed in the most beautiful floral shirt. While her brigade was performing drill and ceremony, her mother and 10 family members were there to cheer her on and encourage her. Her mother served as a literal bright spot in the drab world of basic training.
Today, June serves as a mentor, cheerleader, and bright spot for her own daughters.
“Everyone loves our story,” June said. “The thing I love the most about the girls is that they are good people. They are amazing human beings. They are good people to their hearts,” she said.
For June, the values of West Point just make sense for her family. “The values: don’t lie, cheat, or steal. Be an honorable person. Character matters. These are all things that my parents instilled in me and I made sure I instilled them in my children. It works,” she said.
When her oldest daughter, June Alyxandra, was a sophomore in high school, the two mapped out a plan for her educational and career goals.
“It wasn’t until we sat down and talked about the future that I really thought about West Point,” June Alyxandra said.
A 2020 West Point graduate, 2nd Lt. June Alyxandra Copeland is now 23 and stationed at Fort Drum, New York, where she serves in the 10th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion of the Combat Aviation Brigade.
Twenty-year-old twins Jasmyn and Jeilyn Haynes were eager to follow in their big sister’s footsteps. Both are currently juniors at West Point. Jasmyn, an IT major, is on the dance team and Jeilyn, a history major, is on the debate team.
“I would have loved to make the debate team, and I think she would have loved to be on the dance team . . . but we had to part ways,” Jasmyn said with a smile. “There was a lot of teasing.”
All three girls say that the institution provides a structure for success.
“They teach you how to fail so they can figure out what you’re good at so they can help you discover where you need to work to succeed,” June Alyxandra said.
Jeilyn says that West Point presented many challenges physically, academically, and in terms of time management. “However, the one thing where we never struggled with was the character and moral values because our mother raised us. She taught us character. She taught us courage.”
“Resilience!” Jasmyn interjected. “She taught us resilience! So when we did fail, we would always get back up.”
“Education is very important to our family,” Jeilyn added. “So are the values of duty, honor, country. What’s astounding about my mom is that she took those values and she raised us with them. So going into West Point, when people found out our mother was a lieutenant colonel in the Army, people looked at us like these West Point Simbas.”
“Yea, like we grew up low crawling to breakfast,” June Alyxandra interrupted with a laugh.
June says that while there have been many lessons for the girls, education remains at the heart of her family’s priorities.
“One thing my mother would always say is that the key to changing your life, the key to elevating yourself and your family, and [taking] your legacy to the next level is always making sure you have an education. Once you get that piece of paper, it can never be taken away from you,” June concluded.