5 types of recruits you'll encounter at your first PFT - We Are The Mighty
Military Life

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT

When recruits first arrive at boot camp, they run an initial Physical Fitness Test (PFT) to determine the capabilities of each prospect. The Marine PFT consists of pull-ups, crunches, and a timed, three-mile run. They will repeat this test a few times over the course of their stay in boot camp and results are carefully monitored by drill instructors, who track individual improvements.


If a recruit fails the test, they’ll fall behind in training, prolonging the time spent at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot — a place where no young man or woman wants to spend any extra time.

The initial test is taken within a week or so of arriving. While there, recruits will likely see a few of the following archetypes in action.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT
Recruits of India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, push forward during the three-mile run portion of their Physical Fitness Test aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif.
(Photo by Marine Sgt. Benjamin E. Woodle)
 

The marathon runner

Some recruits barely meet the physical requirements of the screening process at MEPS — others show up to boot camp in tip-top shape. Once the drill instructor gives the platoon the signal to start the three-mile run, you’ll quickly notice the endurance runners pull ahead of the pack.

The overrated bodybuilder

This guy or gal sports layers upon layers of muscle. They look tough and can probably lift a truck and a half, but this mass becomes a problem when it’s time to complete the timed run. This recruit probably maxed out on the pull-ups and sit-ups without problem, but they’ll be breathing heavily after about a mile’s jog.

On the flip side, these recruits are great when it comes time to lift the log.

www.youtube.com

 

The “Pvt. Pyle”

We meant it when we said some recruits show up to boot camp after just barely satisfying the requirements of a MEPS physical exam. This recruit isn’t remotely prepared for the physical demands of the Marine Corps — they’ve got a long way to go. This type of recruit makes the mediocre boots look pretty sh*t-hot.

But, as the saying goes, “you don’t have to finish first, just don’t finish last.”

The skinny kid with upper body strength

You don’t have to be a bodybuilder to do well at the PFT. In fact, being skinny can actually help you crank out numbers on the pull-up bar and smoke everyone else during the timed run. Conversely, however, it’s a good idea to get those legs stronger in preparation for all those fun hikes you’ll go on — especially if you’re headed to San Diego for basic training.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT
Drill instructors with Company I, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, encourage recruits to push their limits as they finish the final part of the initial physical fitness test aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.
(Photo by Marine Lance Cpl. Bridget M. Keane)

 

The sh*tty counter

It may be frowned upon by the Corps, but if you’re lucky, your platoon mate will count by twos during your PFT. We know, it doesn’t sound so ethical, but it happens all the time. Conversely, some recruits live life by the books and make their platoon mates actually do every single sit-up on their way to reaching the goal of 100.

Lists

7 real excuses troops use that no NCO ever believes

No one likes being stuck on a pointless detail. Whether it’s a legitimate task that needs to be done or it’s just a way to stall for time until close-out formation, everyone would much rather be doing nothing. Some troops will try to talk their way out of work — but NCOs have been in long enough to hear each and every excuse troops can imagine. Plus,chances are they tried to use the exact same ones back in the day.

Yes, there are valid excuses out there, but an NCO who’s been around for a while will side-eye even the most honest troop because of the onslaught of lame excuses, like these:


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Your NCO might set you up with a more effective alarm clock.

“I didn’t set my alarm clock…”

Military life is nothing if not consistent. You know that each and every morning you’re going to be at PT at a specific time.

The only way that someone could not set their alarm clock is if they undid it for whatever reason.

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They’ll know if you come back without your face being numb.

Giphy

“I’ve got an appointment…”

Appointments are known well in advance, so it’s kind of hard to get caught off guard. You can’t miss a dental appointment or else the chain of command will get hammered for it. So, most NCOs won’t interrogate a troop if they say they’ve got to see the dentist, but it just so happens to be time for a huge detail and someone just so happens to have a surprise appointment, they might check their slip.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT

Don’t worry. Motrin fixes everything.

“I’m not feeling too well…”

Getting seen by the medics/Corpsmen is a necessary headache in the military and coming down with some kind of sickness isn’t unheard of among grunts who live in some rough conditions.

Still, there’s a proper channel for these sorts of things. The military isn’t like some civilian job where you can just “call in sick” whenever you feel like it. The only alibi that might work is to blame MREs for some god-awful movements in your bowels.

Even if it doesn’t work, you’ll be ridiculed to the point that you might as well see the medics for burn treatment.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT

So many people are getting away with driving without a PT belt. I’m disappointed.

(Meme via USAWTFM)

“I didn’t know that…”

Citing your own ignorance is the fastest way to infuriate an NCO. Essentially, the subordinate is trying to forgive their own wrongdoings by hot-potatoing the blame directly onto a superior.

If what you didn’t know actually was niche information, like the location of connex keys, you might catch some slack, but don’t ever think of saying something like, “but I didn’t know that I couldn’t walk on Sergeant Major’s grass!”

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT

Everyone gets creative with the crap in supply.

(Meme via Navy Memes)

“I can’t because we’re all out of…”

This is a catch-all excuse for anything that shifts the blame onto supply, but it’s almost always used in regards to cleaning supplies.

Sure, the cleaning closet may look bone dry, but your average supply room has more bottles of PineSol than they know what to do with. They’d be more than happy to clear some space in their lockers for actual military stuff. Just ask them.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT

If you’re driving one of these around, we may believe you… but don’t expect sympathy.

“I can’t come in because my car…”

If you’re coming from off-post and your car breaks down, that sucks. Let your superiors know what’s going on. If you report the issue two minutes before formation, you’re in the barracks a few blocks over, and you didn’t ask anyone else for a ride, then good luck keeping your rank.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

“But Sgt. Smith told me…”

Don’t ever play the “mommy vs daddy” game between NCOs — you’ll always lose. They won’t just take you at your word. They’ll argue and you’ll be brought in as a witness. If it turns out that you were just saying that to try and weasel your way out of something, well, try not to cry when you get ninja-punched.

Articles

Here’s how to make it to the CrossFit Games while on active duty

Think you can hack competing as a top CrossFit athlete while on active duty? Former Navy SEAL and top CrossFit athlete Josh Bridges thinks so, too.


Bridges, who while a member of SEAL Team 3 placed second in the 2011 worldwide CrossFit championship, known as the Games, told Military.com that given enough motivation, dedication and a friendly command, an active duty athlete could have what it takes.

“As long you had the right command who was willing to be like ‘yeah, we’ll let you train’ – as long as you’re doing your job and getting all that stuff done, why not?” Bridges told Military.com during a recent interview. “I think it’s doable.”

Since 2011 when he first competed while on active duty, Games-level CrossFit competition has shifted from a field of athletes who hold full time jobs outside of the sport, to athletes who train fulltime. That change, Bridges said, would undoubtedly make it harder for an active duty service member today to make it than it was for him in 2011.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT
DoD photo by Sgt. Ruth Pagan.

Still, he said “If you really want to be a competitive athlete and be in the military at the same time, it’s doable. You’re going to have to put in long hours, and when your friends and buddies are going out to the bars on the weekends, you’re not going to be able to. … There’s going to be some sacrifices you’re going to have to be willing to make.”

To make the Games while on active duty he said he had to get permission from his Chief to miss some training. He also had to sacrifice a lot of time at home.

Also read: This former NFL player started a gym to help wounded warriors

“It was tough,” he said. “There were definitely days where I’d be out doing land warfare drills in 105 degree temperatures, and then on a one or two hour break in the middle of the day, I’d have to go into the gym and train. You definitely had to set your priorities right and just be like ‘this is what I have to do if I want to go to the Games. It is what it is.'”

Competing at Games level and successfully training as a SEAL share some of the same skills, Bridges said, in that sometimes you have to just “shut your brain off” about the physical demands.

“In CrossFit, at the Games, you’re going to be asked to do workouts that you’ve never done and movements that you’ve never practiced,” he said. “Being a SEAL is the same way – you almost have to shut your brain off and stop thinking. …You definitely have to be 110 percent into it.”

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT
DoD Photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Ross

Bridges, 34, finished first this year in CrossFit’s California regional Games qualifier and will compete in the Games in Madison, Wisconsin August 3 to 6. Bridges left the Navy in 2015 as an E-6, and spent the last three years of his active duty time in a training command as a master training specialist while rehabbing from knee surgery for a torn ACL, PCL and MCL sustained during deployment.

Anyone familiar with CrossFit knows that thanks to the sport’s focus on movements that rely heavily on knee strength and mobility, including heavy barbell and odd weight work, getting back into competition shape after a major knee injury is no small feat. But Bridges said he keeps the fire burning by focusing on his goals.

“It’s not easy, for sure, to sit there and go into the gym day in and day out and grind, and grind and grind,” he said. “When I went to start competing I had a goal to win the Games. I fell just short. After the injury I was like ‘hey, you can have same goes, it’s just really going to be hard. … I’m a little hard-headed sometimes, that once I have that goal, I’m going to make it happen no matter what.”
Articles

6 things corpsmen should know before going to the ‘Greenside’

There aren’t many jobs in the military where your sea-duty station consists of serving with another branch. But for the Navy rate of an “HM,” or Hospital Corpsman, that’s exactly where you can expect to find yourself.


After you graduate Field Medical Training Battalion, expect to get orders to the Marine Corps side of the house or what we call, the “Greenside” — sooner rather than later.

We call it the greenside because you’re going to wear a sh*t ton of green for the next three years.

Related: 4 unusual tasks Corpsman do that their recruiters left out

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT
Doc, meet the company first sergeant. (imgflip.com)

It can be pretty nerve-wracking for a Corpsman to cross over for the first time. But don’t worry, WATM has your back.

Check out what you should know about heading over to “Greenside.”

1. PT

You don’t have to be a marathon athlete, but don’t let your Marines ever see you fall out of a hike, a run, or get hurt — you’ll look like a p*ssy.

Be the exact opposite of this guy (giphy

2. Chugging a beer

Marines drink a lot of beer during barracks parties. So get your tolerance up and have a few I.Vs handy.

Finding new ways to drink is badass. Plus you’ll look cool. (giphy

3. Always be cool

Marines are trained to love their Doc — they’re also trained to kill. They’re going to look to you for advice from time-to-time. When your grunts do something right, congratulate them.

Great job, Lance Corporal! (giphy)

4. Know every line from “Full Metal Jacket”

Marines love that sh*t when you manage to work a line or two into a conversation. Oh, make sure you have a copy of the movie on your hard drive when you deploy; it’s the “unofficial” movie of the Marine Corps.

Any line will do, as long as it fits the conversation. (giphy)

5. Know your ranks

Marine ranks are different than Navy ones. A Marine Captain is an O-3, compared to a Navy Captain who is an O-6. Big difference.

“Do I look like I’m in the Navy to you!” (giphy)Learn to count chevrons. Senior NCOs’ collar devices can blend into their uniform, making it tough to make out their proper title. Find an alternate way to greet them properly, or you can just take the less populated walkways (aka the long way).

Also Read: 8 tips for ‘skating’ in the military

6. Learn sick call

Face it, the Navy has only given you officially 12-16 weeks worth of medical training. No one is going to ask you to perform open-heart surgery on your first day.

Marines are going to get sick and injured, and that’s your time to shine. When you’re working in the B.A.S., or “battalion aid station,” you’re going to have to explain why your patient is in sick call to the Independent Duty Corpsman or the doctor on staff. Knowing the medical terminology will earn you respect from the Navy doctor to the point they aren’t going to waste their time doing the second examination.

Getting your Marine a day off work or light duty is key. Impress your Marine and your life, and your heavy pack will seem lighter on a hike — it’s a beautiful thing.

Can you think of any more? Comment below.
Military Life

6 activities in the infantry that are more common than combat

People often associate the military with fighting wars, which makes complete sense. The infantry, which is the spearhead of the military, is the primary combat job. So, one might would think infantrymen are in every country upon which the United States is dropping bombs. The truth is: they’re not. In fact, chances are, they’re stuck on a boat, an island, or in a porta-john waiting for the next war to pop off so they can play in the big leagues.

Being in the infantry between wars is a lot like being on a professional sports team that only ever goes to practice. Realistically, the United States has been at war for quite some time, but what people don’t know is that infantry probably aren’t involved in that war.

Here’s what they’re doing instead:


5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT

It might be accurate to assess military life as 80% waiting. Hell, most of the time you spend in boot camp is in lines.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. A. J. Van Fredenberg)

Waiting

Whether it’s in a line, in the field, or in a barracks room, the infantry is stuck waiting. Always. Waiting. Anthony Swafford, author of Jarhead, truthfully wrote, “…we wait, this is our labor.” If that doesn’t define “peacetime” military life, what does? The fact of the matter is that you’ll spend most of your time waiting for something and no one knows what that something is, not even your command.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT

You’ll probably spend more time holding a broom than a rifle, honestly.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Caitlin Brink)

Cleaning

Everyone knows veterans are extremely organized and are good at keeping things clean. That’s because we spend so much of our time cleaning everything that it becomes habit. In the military, you even clean things that can’t be cleaned. In fact, most of what you do is polish turds, considering military barracks (specifically those of the Marine Corps) haven’t been renovated since the day they were built.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT

You’ll get used to smoking in your free time.

(Rally Point)

Smoking

This isn’t for everyone, but quite a few people pick up the habit because it’s a great time killer. Remember how we said you spend 80% of your career waiting? Well, if you pick up smoking, you’ll bring that down to 70% and use that other 10% to smoke as you combat the boredom of waiting.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT

This will probably be what kills you first.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by LCpl Andre Heath)

In a safety stand-down

Whether it’s a three-hour lecture on sexual assault, the importance of wearing a seat belt, or why the desert tortoise is sacred at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (a.k.a. Twentynine Palms), you’re going to sit in the base theater for an entire day listening to one commander “piggy back” off another.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT

Don’t worry, there will be porta-johns in-country.

‘Appreciating’ adult films

If you don’t pick up smoking, you might instead find yourself killing time in a porta-john doing this. If you’re at Twentynine Palms during the summer (or in general), you might even challenge yourself to see if you can complete your “mission” before you pass out in the porta-john.

Just to be clear, this will probably be in addition to killing your lungs.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT

You’ll probably play a video game where you portray someone doing your job, too.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ash Severe)

Video games

Remember what we said about waiting in a barracks room? This is what you’ll probably do during that time. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a leadership position or if you’re a boot rifleman (if you’re a boot, you should study instead), you’ll be killing time by playing video games. When you’re taking a break from that, you’ll probably be doing #3 or #5 instead.

Just make sure one of the first things you do in your unit is buy a small T.V. and game system or a highly efficient laptop. Even if you go on a combat deployment, you might be able to take it with you to kill time between patrols or other duties.

Military Life

The pros and cons of being a military spouse

The title of “Military Spouse” is a descriptor that those married to service members wear proudly — and with good reason. There is a sense of pride in being married to someone who has dedicated their life and career to defending our great nation.


Military life affects the entire family to varying degrees and finding others who can relate to what you are going through is important. So, it makes sense to identify as a “Military Spouse” and be an active part of that community.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT
We’re a family and it’s beautiful. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Calvin Shamoon)

But is there a downside?

Maybe.

My husband recently retired from the military after 20 years in the Marine Corps. We were ready for this transition. We knew exactly where we wanted to retire, we had friends and family in the area, and, having already lived in the location in the past, we had a few roots already planted.

I was a very active part of the military-spouse community and, over time, I became very well-versed in making friends and adapting to living in certain areas for only a few years at a time. Even today, we still find ourselves gravitating towards military families when it comes to social gatherings.

But 18 months into this “retirement” phase of our lives together, I am feeling a little bit lost.

It’s not that I’m getting the itch to move — I have jokingly told my husband that I just want to be buried in the backyard because I am not moving again. But I do feel a loss of identity when it comes to friendships.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT
No one gets the military community like the military-spouse community. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. John Healy)

Making friends with folks who have lived in one area their entire lives is a bit challenging. It’s not because they’re not open to being friends with a newcomer, it’s because I find myself so far out of my comfort zone. The zone where, no matter what, another military spouse and I instantly had at least one thing in common upon first meeting. So I struggle to create long-lasting, meaningful friendships (that are so valuable to my mental health) in a community of people who have been around each other their entire adult lives.

Was there something I wish I had done differently while my husband was on active duty? I’m not sure. I don’t regret the many incredible, life-long friends I made, even if they are spread out across the world. I don’t regret being active in the military-spouse community because I learned so much and grew as a person.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT
Military spouses of Combat Logistics Battalion 31 visit local children at the Life is Beautiful Daycare Center in Ishikawa, Okinawa, Japan. (U.S Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jonah Baase)

But I do wish that I had spent more time making connections with those outside of the community. I had “civilian family” friends, sure, but it feels like a life skill I could have spent more time honing.

Just like active duty service, transition out of military service impacts the entire family. There are many aspects of the transition to be considered, but one that I really wish I had realized was being careful of putting so much stock in my identity as a military spouse, especially when it comes to the friends I made.

I don’t wish that I had spent less time with military friends, I don’t wish that I had shied away from participating in the community, but I do wish I had spent more time thinking of life after my husband’s military service in regards to my own identity.

Military Life

How to properly retire an American Flag

The American flag, also lovingly known as “the Stars and Stripes” and “Old Glory,” is one of the most famous patriotic symbols in the world. Over the years, it’s been modified to reflect our country’s growth and waves triumphantly across our great nation. We associate our nation’s emblem with the freedom and democracy the US champions.


The flag has been raised on various battlefields throughout the world and many Americans hoist it outside of their homes as a badge of loyalty. But nothing lasts forever and, eventually, flags need to be removed from operational service. When an American flag can no longer be used, the symbol must be removed from service in a dignified way.

So, how do you properly dispose of our nation’s flag?

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT
Members of the Dover Air Force Base Honor Guard prepare the American flag by properly folding during a retreat ceremony.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

According to the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization, first, the flag should be folded up in the customary manner. This means holding the flag waist-high and folding the lower half of the stripe section lengthwise over the field of stars. Then, folded again, keeping the blue stars facing up.

Next, triangularly fold the striped corner of the already-folded edge to meet the open side of the flag. Continue making triangular folds until you’ve covered the entire length of the flag. Once the flag is prepared, it’s to be placed in a fire. Any individuals in attendance must stand at the position of attention, salute the flag, and state the Pledge of Allegiance, which is to be followed by a period of silence.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT
Lt. Earl Wilson, from the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) places an unserviceable American flag into the fire during an American flag retirement ceremony.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brandon Cyr)

Once the flag is consumed by the flames, its ashes are to be buried.

Note: Please check with local fire codes before choosing your fire and bury sites.

Articles

The VA might actually be getting its act together

Trying to emerge from scandals that shook the agency to its core, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is attempting to overhaul what officials admit was sometimes pretty bad customer service.


Quietly, since 2015, the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs has built a national Veterans Experience Office.

The office’s first steps have been rolling out over 100 community veterans committees nationwide and retraining employees to be less rigid and more customer-focused.

The VA even hired professional writers to redraft the language of 1,200 official letter templates to make them more reader friendly.

“(We) had somehow gotten away from the primary mission of organizing the enterprise through the eyes of the customer,” said Joy White, who leads the office’s Pacific district, which includes California and the West Coast.

“(We did) things that made sense to us, made it easy for us as the VA,” White said. “But, in all of that, we lost the voice of the customer.”

The task at hand: How to change the culture of a massive federal agency that provides everything from medical care to monthly disability checks to funerals.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT
Or her widow, Mr. President. Or her widow. (Photo: Veterans Affairs)

Some might wonder if — with what’s a famously dense bureaucracy — it can be done. Even new VA Secretary David Shulkin has said it’s a struggle to fire bad apples, including employees who watch porn on the job.

The new Veterans Experience Office’s budget this fiscal year is $55.4 million, up from $49 million last year, “to lead the My VA transformation,” according to a budget document. About 150 jobs now fall under this office’s umbrella.

Two years in, the nation’s veterans organizations are still taking a wait-and-see position.

“We’re not sure how much the VEO has improved the VA to date, but we are encouraged by this initiative and hope to see it succeed,” said Joe Plenzler, American Legion spokesman. “Any effort to improve dialogue between veterans and VA employees and administrators is time and money well spent.”

One vocal critic of the VA said the office has potential but not if it tries to just “paper over” structural issues facing the veterans agency.

“Doing things that are more feel-good measures, but actually don’t address some of the core problems of the VA, could distract from what’s needed to be done,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director at Concerned Veterans for America.

“That’s the danger I see, potentially, with this office. But I want to say there’s a lot of opportunity here. If this office is managed well and insists that they are here to improve the outcomes for veterans — and not just ‘the experience’ — they could be successful.”

Also read: The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

The “veterans experience” campaign started under former VA Secretary Bob McDonald, the retired Proctor Gamble chief executive brought in by President Barack Obama in mid-2014 following a national scandal over wait times for VA medical care.

McDonald installed a “chief veterans experience officer” in early 2015.

The office reports directly to the VA secretary — now Shulkin, a doctor and health-care executive who is the first non-veteran to lead the agency.

Whether he will continue the “experience” campaign is an open question.

However, in April he named Lynda Davis, a former Army officer and Pentagon civilian executive with experience in personnel and suicide prevention, to head the office. She replaces a former McDonald’s executive, Tom Allin, who held the job for about two years.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT
Talihina Veterans Center (Oklahona Department of Veterans Affairs)

Some of the hiring was for “human-centered design” teams. These teams, which include people from Stanford’s prestigious D School, are supposed to re-engineer VA routines that aren’t working.

They produced a “journey map” showing what VA patients experience.

It identifies “pain points” along the way, such as cancelled appointments. It also calls out “moments that matter,” such as the check-in process and whether it’s hard or easy to park.

Two early goals were to establish one consumer-oriented website and one toll-free telephone number for all VA divisions. The result was vets.gov and 1 (844) My-VA311.

The VA is now looking for inspiration from national brands famous for good service. Starbucks, Marriott, and Walgreens are on the list.

“We get the experience that we design. Historically, we haven’t put an emphasis as an organization on customer service. There was no program of record that said ‘this how we do customer service,'” White told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“You walk into a Starbucks anywhere in the country, there is something that looks and feels very familiar wherever you go.”

Also read: Starbucks donated free coffee to every US service member in Afghanistan

One change the Veterans Experience Office has led: hiring for customer-service skills, instead of just looking for people qualified for a position.

“We weren’t hiring for attitude,” said White, who said her office identified questions to insert in the VA’s interview process to draw out whether an applicant had customer service aptitude.

In a changing health-care industry, this is a bandwagon that the VA is belatedly jumping on.

Other hospital organizations have rebooted their customer experience in the past decade in response to a shift in Medicare reimbursement policy that now rewards for patient satisfaction, experts said. The power of social media is also a factor.

The Cleveland Clinic was the first major academic medical center to appoint a chief experience officer in 2007. Across the country, hospitals have built grand entrances, opened restaurants intended to draw non-patients and put flowers by bedsides.

“My sense of it is that we live in the age of the empowered consumer,” said John Romley, an economist at the University of Southern California’s Schaeffer center for health policy.

“VA customers maybe have less choice in the matter, but at the same time, there’s a great deal of sensitivity in the broader population about how we treat these people in the VA system.”

The VA’s new customer service motto — Own the Moment — sounds a bit like a commercial TV jingle.

Training is rolling out across the country, including at the La Jolla VA hospital.

The premise: Each VA employee should “own” their time with a customer, the veteran, and do their best to ensure the person gets the help he or she needs.

That contrasts to the like-it-or-lump-it experience that veterans have sometimes complained about in the past.

“We’re moving away from a rules-based organization to a more of what we call a values, principle-based organization,” said Allan Castellanos, the VA employee teaching the La Jolla seminar.

“I call it more like integrated ethics, like doing the right thing for the right reason,” he said.

The employees were shown a video of VA workers going the extra mile to welcome an uncertain new veteran into a clinic.

In another, VA workers allowed the family of a dying veteran to bring his horse onto hospital grounds.

The VA is trying to emerge from bunker mentality after back-to-back national embarrassments.

First, in 2013, the backlog of disability claims rose to mountainous proportions, bringing down the wrath of Congress and the public.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT
We just wanna see more vets smiling. (Photo: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

Then, in 2014, news reports revealed that VA medical workers were keeping secret lists of patients waiting for appointments to make wait-time data appear satisfactory.

All of this occurred as the VA struggled to handle a flood of new veterans coming home from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

A few of the ideas being pursued by the Veterans Experience Office have origins in San Diego.

Officials acknowledge that what they are calling Community Veterans Experience Boards — the 152 community boards they eventually want to create nationally — came from San Diego’s longstanding example.

San Diego veterans leaders meet monthly with VA officials here in both closed-door and public sessions.

Additionally, the tragic suicide of 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran Jeremy Sears appears to have helped spur a campaign to redraft VA correspondence to make it more user friendly.

Sears shot himself at an Oceanside gun range in 2014 after being rejected for VA disability benefits despite the cumulative effects of several combat tours.

Veterans advocates suggested that the VA rejection letter could have offered advice on where to go for counseling and other assistance, instead of just a “no.”

“That was one of the ‘pain points’ that was identified,” White said, referring to the veteran’s “journey mapping” that her office did. “There was a lot of legalese, when in fact we just want it to be simple and clean.”

They started with the Veterans Benefit Administration’s correspondence and are working their way toward the Veterans Health Administration’s appointment cards.

Veterans Experience Office officials first told the Union-Tribune that they could provide examples of the rewritten letter formats, but later said they weren’t ready yet.

The Veterans Experience Office, headquartered in Washington, now has split the country into five districts and dispatched “relationship managers” to each.

The Veterans Experience Office is now trying to finesse those moments that matter to veterans. In 2017, officials expect to roll out a veterans real-time feedback tool in 10 locations. They also plan to release a patient experience “program of record.”

“Our goal is to build trust with veterans, their family members, and survivors,” White said. “How do we do that? By bringing their voices to everything we do.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Abraham Lincoln’s wrestling skills made him the John Cena of his time

You know Abraham Lincoln as the emancipator and one of America’s greatest presidents, but a wrestler?


At 6-feet-4, 180 pounds, the frontier man was a highly regarded grappler who went 12 years with only one defeat in approximately 300 matches. According to Lincoln biographer Carl Sandberg, Abe was also an accomplished trash talker once challenging an entire crowd of onlookers after beating a foe: “I’m the big buck of this lick. If any of you want to try it, come on and whet your horns.”

Related: Here’s what America’s 6 sailor presidents did when they were in the fleet

Historians recount Lincoln’s badassery to as early as his teenage years. At age 19, he defeated the Natchez thugs by throwing them overboard during their attempted to hijack Lincoln’s stepbrother’s river barge. Ten years later, while working for an enterprising storekeeper in New Salem, Illinois, he doubled as a prize fighter for his boss who promoted his famous match against county champ, Jack Armstrong. Lincoln won by knockout when he threw Armstrong off his feet.

Lincoln was neither the first nor last president to succeed in wrestling. At age 47, George Washington famously defeated seven members of the Massachusetts militia during the American Revolution, Teddy Roosevelt cross trained in boxing and Jiu-Jitsu. Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant and William Taft were also champions, wrote Jennie Cohen for History.

Legend has it that Lincoln once beat a man by picking him up and tossing him 12 feet during a campaign speech. This American Heroes Channel video perfectly shows why you don’t want to get into a scuffle with honest Abe.

Watch:


American Heroes Channel, YouTube
Military Life

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association

Homeowners associations like to tell American property owners what they can and can’t do with their own properties, homes, and vehicles. While to a certain extent, this makes sense, some HOAs can take it a little too far. 

For about a month, the “Battle of River Oaks Boulevard” raged in a Houston residential neighborhood as lawyer Tony Buzbee fought for the right to park his World War II-era Sherman M4A4 tank at his home. 

M4 Sherman tank, (By Joost J. Bakker CC BY 2.0)

Buzbee’s home on River Oaks Boulevard is supposedly in one of Houston’s more upscale, classier neighborhoods. But the local homeowner’s association display flagrant disregard for history and a lack of class as they tried everything they could to get the Sherman tank off the street and out of their lives. 

There was nothing wrong with the tank or where it was parked. The Sherman was a fully operational and completely restored original named “Cheyanne” that had sat in the Normandy Tank Museum near Omaha Beach until Buzbee purchased it in 2016.

The lawyer purchased it to preserve a bit of history while teaching others about the history of World War II. 

“It was this particular type of piece of equipment that helped us win that war,” Buzbee, the grandson of a Normandy vet, told a reporter. “And had we not won that war, this would be a completely different country, now we celebrate our freedoms and our right to speak, and our right to have a tank on our front yards.”

Tony Buzbee tank owner
Attorney and politician Tony Buzbee speaking about his decision to donate the tank to a museum.

Meanwhile, the local homeowner’s association claimed it “impeded traffic,” caused “safety issues,” and that neighbors had “serious concerns.” All of these claims are not true. In one instance, a neighbor even professed his wish that the Sherman tank was a permanent addition to the neighborhood.

This is Texas, after all. The main cannon isn’t even operable.

Buzbee even cleared the tank’s arrival with the local police and security forces in the area. He followed local law enforcement regulations and orders to the letter. That’s when the local HOA decided to step in and cause a fuss. 

The first salvo was fired by the HOA, who sent Buzbee a certified letter stating he had to remove the tank. Because the letter upset him so much, he decided to do nothing just to see what the HOA would do about it.  Then he started getting parking tickets and citations for the tank, even though he had cleared its position with the Houston Police Department. 

He still left it there. But when the citations kept coming, he decided to move it, despite his adamant belief that he was in the right and his neighbors loved the piece of history in their neighborhood. 

So even after surviving landing at Normandy, fighting through the hedgerows of France, winning World War II, almost being lost to history after the closure of the tank museum, and Buzbee importing the tank across the ocean from France, all was for naught. All it took was a bunch of tightwads in a Houston suburb to forcibly remove one of the greatest weapons in the arsenal of democracy. 
In an almost ironic twist of history, the tank that helped secure the freedoms we enjoy at home was taken down by a small group of people imposing their will on the majority. If anything, it sounds like River Oaks Boulevard needs more Sherman tanks, not less.

Articles

Why WWII soldiers nicknamed the Sherman tank ‘death trap’

The Sherman tank was a powerful force to be reckoned with on the battlefields in WWII; it was fast and mobile and it shelled out plenty of firepower.


It provided just enough cover for American ground troops as it stomped through the German front lines. The Sherman was designed to patrol over enemy bridges and it was easily transported on railroad cars.

Related: 9 tanks that changed armored warfare

When the U.S. decided to invade Europe, General Patton selected the Sherman as his particular tank of choice and wanted as many to roll off the assembly lines as possible. Nearly fifty thousand were produced between 1942 and 1945.

Weighing in at 33 tons, it sustained a speed of 26 miles per hour and housed 2 inches of armor. Many saw the image of the Sherman tank to be invincible just like the American war effort, but the brave soldiers who served as tank crew members believed that it had too many engineering flaws and was far inferior compared to the German’s Tiger and Panther tanks.

The Sherman tank was equipped with a fully-transversing 75mm turret short barrelled gun that fired a high explosive shell 2,000 feet per second. Compared to the German tanks that shot accurately at 3,500 feet per second, the enemy’s armor piercing ammo was 2-3 times more effective.

It was recommended that to defeat the Germans, the tank crew had to speed up and flank around their battlefield rivalry and get within 600 yards range to be effective.

Captain Belton Y. Cooper, author of Death Traps and a member of the 3rd Armor Division maintenance unit, recounts knowing how inferior the Sherman was after seeing its physical destruction firsthand. He knew it was no match for the Nazi’s arsenal.

“We lost 648 tanks totally destroyed in combat, another 700 knocked out, repaired and put back into action,” Cooper says. “That’s 1,348 tanks knocked out in combat. I don’t think anyone took that kind of loss in the war.”
(HistoryAndDocumentry, YouTube)
Articles

This Pearl Harbor survivor was buried in the ship he escaped from

In the early hours of Dec. 7th, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service, killing 2,403 service members and launching President Roosevelt’s decision to enter World War II.


Well into the attack, the USS Arizona took four devastating direct hits from 800kg bombs dropped from high altitude Japanese planes. One of the bombs ripped into the Arizona’s starboard deck and detonated. The explosion collapsed the ship’s forecastle decks, causing the conning tower to fall thirty feet into the hull.

Due to the events of that traumatic day, 1,177 Sailors and Marines lost their lives, but the numbers of those men buried at the historic site continue to increase.

Also read: 4 times the U.S. fought in World War II before Pearl Harbor

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT
The USS Arizona memorial as it exists today in Hawaii. (Source: History)

Master Chief Raymond Haerry (ret), served as a Boatswain’s Mate on the Arizona as it was bombed by enemy forces in the pacific fleet, which threw him from the ship and caused him to land in the oil and fire covered water.

Haerry had to swim his way to Ford Island — then got right back into the fight by firing back at the enemy. He was just 19 years old.

75 years after the attack, Haerry returned; his ashes were laid to rest inside the sunken ship’s hull, rejoining approximately 900 of his brothers. More than 100 people gathered at the USS Arizona Memorial for the symbolic funeral in his honor — a ceremony only offered to those who survived the deadly attack.

The retired Master Chief became the 42nd survivor to be placed at the site out of the 335 men who survived.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRYTQdgJZvU
(Global News, YouTube)
Military Life

Here are the best military photos for the week of March 16th

Life in the military is unpredictable. There’s no way for service members to know what will happen on a day-to-day basis. Luckily, the ranks are filled with photographers who stand ready to capture everyday life, both in training and at war.


Here are the best photos from across the military this week:

Air Force:

Crew chiefs from the 317th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas wait for take-off Mar. 12, 2018 at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Team Little Rock hosted over 65 Airmen from six wings to train together and showcase tactical airlift. Partnerships and interoperability enhance operational effectiveness and mission readiness.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Dana J. Cable)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Christine M. Pepin, a crew chief with the 177th Fighter Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, performs a cursory inspection prior to hot pit refueling of an F-16C Fighting Falcon at the Air Dominance Center in Savannah, Georgia, March 13, 2018. The 177th FW participated in an air-to-air training exercise to sharpen air combat capabilities and accomplish multiple training upgrades.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Cristina J. Allen)

Army:

The U.S. Army Military Advisor Training Academy of the 316th Cavalry Brigade at Fort Benning conducts a field training exercise at Lee Field, March 14. The three-day exercise is the culmination of a four-week program designed to prepare Soldiers to conduct key leader engagements, exercise defense plans with local leadership and foreign forces, and grow the skills necessary to develop report with local populations. The U.S. Army MATA trains, educates, and develops professional Soldiers within the Security Forces Assistance Brigades.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT
(Photo by Patrick A. Albright)

A combat engineer assigned to Regimental Engineer Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, pulls security as the Soldiers press forward to clear a trench during a live fire exercise at a range near the Bemowo Piskie Training Area, Poland, March 13, 2018. These Soldiers are part of the unique, multinational battle group comprised of U.S., U.K., Croatian and Romanian soldiers who serve with the Polish 15th Mechanized Brigade as a deterrence force in northeast Poland in support of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Andrew McNeil)

Navy:

An explosive ordnance disposal technician assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group (EODGRU) 2 prepares to rappel during helicopter rope suspension technique (HRST) training at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. EODGRU 2 is headquartered at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story and oversees Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 2 and all east coast based EOD mobile Units.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Charles Oki)

An MH-60S Sea Hawk, assigned to the Indians of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 6, readies for takeoff on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt and its carrier strike group are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alex Corona)

Marine Corps:

U.S. Marines with Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division fire an M777A2 155mm howitzer during the 10th Marines Top Gun Competition for Rolling Thunder at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Mar. 15, 2018. The Marines were evaluated on their timely and accurate fire support capabilities and overall combat effectiveness.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Nghia Tran)

A Marine assigned to Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) fires his M4 carbine rifle during a routine deck shoot aboard the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS New York (LPD 21) March 14, 2018. Marines conducted the training to maintain their combat skills and proficiency while deployed to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations. U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Juan A. Soto-Delgado)

Coast Guard:

A Coast Guard boat crewmember aboard a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium, from Station St. Petersburg, Florida, assists two adults and three children Monday, March 12, 2018, from their disabled 18-foot pontoon boat 1 mile south of the Gandy Boat Ramp, Florida.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Aaron Massey)

Members of Astoria Emergency Medical Service surround an injured female hiker at Coast Guard Sector Columbia River in Warrenton, Ore., prior to transporting her to Columbia Memorial Hospital for further medical care, Mar. 11, 2018.The hiker was hoisted from Saddle Mountain by a sector MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew, which consisted of Lt. Cmdr. James Gibson, Lt. Jason Weeks, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ali Dowell and Petty Officer 1st Class Jason Yelvington.

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Jason Weeks.)

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