George Hand is a retired Master Sergeant from the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, and the Seventh Special Forces Groups (Airborne). The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own.
Military units are strong on tradition, well, formal tradition anyway. Then… then there are those un-recorded traditions, born and raised and assimilated into every unit’s corporate culture. In my own squadron of Delta, there was the both cherished and despised tradition of birthday hazing.
Everyone suffered from it because, well… everyone has a birthday, and if you tried to keep your date secret, a new birthdate was promptly assigned to you, and you were to be hazed with additional spirit for your insolence. Above all, you were expected to fight, to fight hard against the birthday-boy onslaught.
I fancied myself as one who despised the ritual. Over the years, I looked on in abject horror as men were blindfolded, bound, hung upside down, and dunked repeatedly into the swimming pool hanging by a rope tied to their legs. As you can imagine, I suffered minor nightmares as my birthday approached.
And that day came.
I entered my team room to the Cheshire grins of my brothers. Someone was singing “Happy Birthday” with a chuckle. I readied myself and, embracing the strategy I had devised, I spoke:
“I’ve decided, gentlemen, that I would not be participating in this ‘birthday bash’ tomfoolery. I’m protesting this with passive resistance; I won’t fight you.”
The Reverend Chill-D got his name when he suddenly, unexpectedly and inexplicably, found Jesus once… for about a week. The Reverend was the pinnacle instigator and executer of the most heinous of hazing events. He loved it; it was in his life’s blood; he could taste it; he was born again into a world where hazing held the only key.
“You’re gonna do what… you’re not gonna do what, Geo??” he questioned with our noses damned-near touching tips.
“I… I… I’m not going to fight you guys, Chill-D.” I stammered.
“Well, well, well…” the Reverend continued, “Boys, looks like we got ourselves a coward! And we all know what we do with cowards!”
Suddenly, a great pounce erupted in the room. There was much suffering and gnashing of teeth; sinew and tendon stretched dangerously close to its tinsel edge. Bone creaked and popped and nearly broke… but held fast.
When I came to, I couldn’t move. I was bound, somehow, on every inch of my body and lying supine on the floor. I was gagged with what I recognized by taste as duct tape, a thing all military folk know as “hundred-mile-an-hour tape, roll, green in color, one each.” I divined that my body, too, was bound in such fashion. From behind, I was lifted vertically at my head by an unseen force. I could understand now that I was duct-taped to a moving dolly.
“Time to go to the pool, Great Houdini… we’re throwing you in the pool taped to this dolly. Better start thinking how you’re gonna free yourself!” and I truly did start to ponder that conundrum, as I knew my men not to be simple braggarts. How long could I hold my breath? What tools might I be carrying in my flight suit?
A man shot into the room with a canteen cup and sheet of paper. With the shriek of more stripping of tape, the canteen cup was taped fast to my right hand, and the paper was slapped to my chest.
“We’re taking him right now to the finance window and standing him next to it!” reported the villain.
I was rolled to the finance window and stood. There, in line at the window, was a group of eight women from the Unit waiting to collect travel funds. As the boys left me, there was much staring and blinking between me and the women. I rolled my eyes vigorously to the extent that I became nauseous.
“Please help…” one of the women began to read the sign on my chest, “…I must raise .56 to buy each of my friends a soda. If I fail to raise this money by 1300hrs, they will kill me.”
And the kind ladies each chipped in their change from their travel funds until I had some $40.00 and even a roll of Starburst candies. Yet I stood. I stood until some valiant men from our Signal Squadron came and sliced me loose.
As I stepped back to my squad bay pushing the dolly, I realized there would be more scunion to bear from the boys. I paused… and as the pool door was just to my side, I stepped in and plunged myself into the watery goodness.
I then sloshed my way through the squadron lounge where my brothers languished before the TV, being it still the lunch hour.
“What the hell happened to you?” queried the Reverend.
“Some pipe-hitters from C-Squadron cut me loose… but then they throttled me and threw me in the pool!” I sulked as I headed for my team room. En route, I passed a bubba from our A-Assault team standing in the open doorway smiling at me.
“How that that new passive resistance policy of yours working out for ya, Geo?”
Every July 4th, we celebrate our independence by displaying our patriotic spirit and pride in all things American. Here are some ideas to help you celebrate America and all its glory the right way!
1. Recite the Pledge of Allegiance
Find an American flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. (And listen to the words as you say them.)
2. Attend a Naturalization ceremony
One of the most patriotic things you can do is support our nation’s newest citizens by attending a naturalization ceremony. Each year, cities and some overseas military installations host these ceremonies on the 4th of July. Many of these individuals have been waiting years to become citizens and some have even served in the military. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, more than 7,000 new citizens will be welcomed this year. To see if there is a ceremony in your town, please check out this link: https://www.uscis.gov/news/news-releases/celebrating-independence-day-naturalization-ceremonies-0
3. Head to the ballpark
They don’t call it America’s pastime for nothing. Baseball was born right here in the good ole USA. Have some peanuts and cracker jacks and enjoy the ball game. And don’t forget to stick around for the seventh inning stretch.
4. Watch Nathan’s Famous 4th of July Hot Dog eating contest
Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog eating contest is an American staple held each year on America’s birthday. This year marks the 100th Anniversary of Nathan’s Famous. There is something very American about watching men and women chow down processed meat to earn the title of hot dog eating champion and a shiny championship belt.
5. Grill out and have a cold one
Watching grown men and women scarf down as many hot dogs as possible in 10 minutes can make you hungry. So do what Americans do best and fire up the grill. Cook yourself a massive steak, have a mountain of potato salad, and enjoy a nice cold beverage in the company of friends and family.
6. Eat a slice of Apple pie
After stuffing your face with BBQ food, grab yourself a slice of apple pie. Adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream will only make it taste better.
7. Watch the Fireworks
Fireworks have been a part of Fourth of July festivities since the first anniversary of the nation’s independence. Thousands of public firework displays will be held from coast-to-coast for the public to check out. If you chose to do your own fireworks, please be careful. Safety first!
8. Thank a veteran or current service member
This one is pretty easy and will make our forefathers proud!
Happy 4th of July everyone!
Let us know what other great American things to do on the 4th of July in the comments.
Everyone’s a critic. After you complete a job, someone is going to tell you how you did. If you messed up, you’re gonna hear about it.
In the military, if you did good work, you may have heard the term “Bravo Zulu,” which means “well done,” — but…why?
Since the Navy has strong traditions, motivated sailors tend to uphold those traditions and use nautical terms in their everyday dialogue. But why not just say “well done,” right?
According to the Navy, the popular term comes from the Allied Naval Signal Book created by NATO as a system of signals displayed by either a flag hoist or voice radio to communicate and relay messages back and forth between various naval vessels.
The system is comprised of letters and/or numbers that are represented by flags and pennants which have meaning either by themselves or in different combinations.
The Navy uses a system of 68 flags covering the 26 letters of the alphabet, 10 numeral, 10 numeral pennants, 4 substitutes, and 18 special flags and pennants.
When a ship wants to relay a message like “well done,” they will hold up the two flags like shown below.
If a vessel wants to communicate another message like “action is being carried out” they would hang up the “Bravo Alpha” flag or “action is not being carried out” the “Bravo India” flag will get hoisted.
A hoisted “Bravo” flag by itself means the vessel is “carrying dangerous cargo” which is far different than doing a job “well done.” For more nautical messages click here.
The Leadership Development Course taught at Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, seeks to improve people skills and allow students to learn from previously failed experiences. Key points of discussion are developing exceptional leaders and combating toxic leadership tendencies. Another focus area is emotional intelligence, or the ability for Airmen to understand and control their emotions, while understanding others to effectively lead.
“Toxic leadership is a very big topic in the media today,” said Dr. Fil Arenas, Air University associate professor of leadership studies. “Toxic leaders are leaders that not only cause serious harm to their followers, but to their organization. We’re trying to get away from all these abusive behaviors. There is a large gradation in the literature of toxic leadership that goes from trace toxics, to completely abusive leadership that causes people to commit suicide; that is the extreme scale.”
To keep pace with the constant evolution of technology and understanding of the psychology of personalities, the Air Force has shifted how it looked at leadership and how to develop effective leaders.
“Leadership isn’t just about intelligence and just having IQ doesn’t make you an effective leader,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Clayton, Air University assistant professor of leadership studies. “You have to be able to connect with people, create relationships and understand how you impact the environment.”
Janine Belasco, a U.S. Air Force simulation specialist, acts as a male avatar during a virtual empathy and interpersonal communication exercise, at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., The simulation was adopted as a capstone for Air University’s new Leadership Development Course.
The shift to developing leaders’ interpersonal skills presented a training opportunity in an area that was unfamiliar to Air University, prompting Clayton to ask local education experts for support and guidance.
He was introduced to Janine Belasco, a trained actress with no military affiliation, and her line of employment — virtual empathy and leadership training.
“It is the most important work to me,” Belasco said. “To help people be able to talk about how they feel and to help people be able to feel empathy before they become leaders so they can react to others with true emotions and acts of caring is very important.”
Lt. Col. Andrew Clayton, Air University assistant professor of leadership studies, mentors a student during an empathy and interpersonal communication exercise at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. A need to look at leadership development differently sparked Clayton to look to local education institutions for guidance on a new training opportunity for empathy and leadership.
In the sun-blasted, 100-degree heat here, a military working dog is being held on a short leash. Rex, a German shepherd, is a muscular 85 pounds and covered in thick, brown fur.
His partner and handler, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jordan Fuentes, a master-at-arms, barks out commands, but Rex’s wagging tail signals that his mind is elsewhere.
An observer suggests that the humans take off their hats for comfort.
(Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Rullo)
“I wouldn’t do that,” Fuentes said.
Why? Does Rex become aggressive with the removal of hats? Is it a signal to attack?
No. Rex loves to steal hats to play with, Fuentes said. Rex likes to play with a lot of things. He looks for fun wherever he is —and of course does not know he has been diagnosed with cancer.
Rex, officially known as military working dog T-401, was diagnosed while being treated for an ear infection.
“I noticed dry spots on his ears,” Fuentes said. “I waited a little bit to mention it to the vet since I thought it was a reaction to the medicine.”
Fuentes said that ear infections are common in military working dogs that are deployed to desert areas because of the large amount of sand that gets into their ears, which, in Rex’s case, are prominent.
Rex was first examined in March by the Camp Lemonnier veterinarian, Army Capt. Richard Blair. During a follow-up examination, Blair noticed other skin lesions that raised additional concerns.
“We had to dig deeper to determine what was really going on,” Blair said. Possible reason for the lesions included a reaction to the medication, a skin infection, or even allergies.
While the facilities at Camp Lemonnier are appropriate for the everyday care of working dogs, the base does have some limitations due to its remote location, Blair said. So, he worked with other vets in the area of operation to determine what caused the lesions.
“After some logistics challenges, we were able to get our samples submitted to a pathology lab in Germany,” Blair said. “After a few weeks, we got the results back.”
Fuentes said that he was working with Rex at the dog kennel on base when his kennel master got the call from Blair.
“Cancer was the last thing I would have thought of,” Fuentes said. “My heart sank when I heard the news.”
Military working dogs form strong bonds with their handlers.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Griffin)
Getting Care, Beach Time
Rex has been a military working dog his entire life. He’s been deployed several times, including two tours here.
His behavior has not changed since the diagnosis, Fuentes said. He’s still a sweet dog who just wants to play tug of war.
Fuentes reached down and scratched Rex between his ears.
The bonds between service members can be strong. Serving in a combat zone, working long hours, getting through stressful situations and living together in small spaces has a way of making the bonds stronger.
Rex and Fuentes live together in a 7-by-20 container. Fuentes joked that Rex likes to take up all of it.
“He’s obnoxious,” Fuentes said. “He’s all up in your business, taking all of your space.”
The data on dogs with cancer is not as complete as it is on humans with cancer, Blair said. As a result, Rex’s prognosis isn’t certain, but getting him sent back to the U.S. is vital to his treatment.
At home, “he can get to more definitive care,” Blair said.
Rex will be redeployed in early August. His retirement paperwork has also been started.
After retirement, Rex “won’t have to work and can enjoy the rest of his life — just chilling,” Fuentes said.
Fuentes is scheduled to redeploy with Rex and said he hopes to adopt him — but he isn’t the only person trying. A former handler is also interested.
“It’s a race to the end to see who gets him,” Fuentes said.
Fuentes will be returning to Naval Air Station Lemoore, California. Rex has never been to the beach, he said, and he’d like to take him there.
Navy Capt. Charles J. DeGilio, Camp Lemonnier’s commander, presented Rex with a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal at a ceremony here July 27.
DeGilio said that military working dogs, including Rex, fill an important role.
“Rex has served honorably to help keep the men and women of Camp Lemonnier safe,” DeGilio said. “I want to personally thank him for his service and wish him fair winds and following seas.”
It’s raining on a Tuesday morning — pretty standard for a Marine physical fitness test — and I know that rain or shine; pull-ups, sit-ups, and a three-mile run are going to happen. I stand, shivering in the pre-dawn drizzle, listening for the sergeant to call me forward. I’m at an about face waiting for my buddy to finish his set of pull-ups. 21… 22… 23… he just hit a perfect score. It’s my turn now. I stretch my arms and take a deep breath.
“Next,” the sergeant calls.
I mount the bar and wait for the signal to start. This isn’t my first PT test, which is a blessing and a curse. I know exactly the number of pull-ups that I need to crank out, but after three deployments, I have no idea how my body is going to respond. I prepare myself for a battle. I start to pull and pull harder. I breathe slow and deep, but then my shoulder pops, an injury left over from my years as a high school pitcher. I gut through the pain to the end. 21… 22… 23… I finish the test with a perfect score, but the pain in my arm will take weeks to heal. I’m qualified by Marines standards but my injury makes me feel anything but ready for war.
Army Major General (Ret.) “Spider” Marks, Board of Advisors for Sparta Science
Just like the legendary King Leonidas and his 300, today’s warriors require strict physical training and discipline to make sure they are ready for any battle. Readiness is exactly the problem that Army Major General (Ret.) “Spider” Marks and his team at Sparta Science are trying to fix. In fact, my PFT injury is much more common than I thought. The Marine Corps estimates that musculoskeletal injuries cost 365,000 lost duty days and 1 million annually.
To help Marines increase their readiness for war, the Marine Corps is turning to some 21st century technology. General Marks is no stranger to hard problems and out-of-the-box thinking. He cut his teeth as an Airborne Ranger and the senior intelligence officer in Iraq. General Marks told We Are The Mighty,
“Every Marine has his or her strengths and weaknesses but we all have to complete the mission. Sparta Science helps to identify those individual weaknesses and provide a training program to make sure you are ready to fight on any mission.”
Dr. Phil Wagner uses the Sparta System.
Sparta Science is the brainchild of Dr. Phil Wagner, a strength coach and former Rugby player who asked himself a simple question, “Can we use technology to increase performance and prevent injuries before they happen?” Dr. Wagner believed the answer not only to be a resounding “yes” but he believed he could also identify potential injuries in a matter of seconds. He’s developed the Sparta System, which first uses a movement assessment (Balance, Plank, Jump) to capture a personalized body scan. The scan is then compared against over a million other assessments and with AI technology, the system can identify areas prone to injury and prescribe personalized training programs to correct weaknesses.
Sparta System dashboard.
The Sparta System is already being deployed among college athletes and even professionals in the NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA to outstanding results. Not only is the system helping athletes achieve their peak physical performance but it’s also helping prevent injuries that can cost players/teams millions of dollars in medical expenses. General Marks and the Sparta team believe their system can also help military leaders all the way from the top brass to the NCOs on the ground to better leader and prepare their troops for war.
Athletes undergo assessment through the Sparta System.
Imagine that within minutes of completing a Sparta Assessment, your NCO or Platoon leader could have a chart showing your overall readiness score — and any injury risks to your feet, knees, or back. It’s this level of detail that General Marks expects will change the game in military readiness,
“By having access to this kind of information, military leaders can make smarter choices about how to train for war and employ those soldiers once they get there. The Sparta System makes us fight better.”
As this new system continues to be used among various military units, we should expect the ancient Spartan ethos of “the more you train in peace the less you bleed in war” to still apply. However, we can also avoid some preventable risks, like popping shoulders during a PFT.
Sergeant Fritz Niland had more to do with Band of Brothers than Saving Private Ryan – save for being the inspiration for the movie’s central plot. Historian Steven Ambrose even wrote about Niland in his book, “Band of Brothers – E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne, from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.” Niland, like the fictional Ryan, lost three brothers in combat, and found out about them all in the same day.
Sadly, his mother did too.
From left to right, the Niland Brothers, Edward, Preston, Robert, and Fritz.
No one had to go searching for Sgt. Niland. He didn’t need to be saved. Niland went looking for his brothers after D-Day, while assigned to the 101st Airborne Division in Europe. His brother Bob was in the 82d Airborne, also fighting in Europe. While looking for his brother Bob, he discovered Bob was killed on D-Day. According to Ambrose, Bob Niland’s platoon was surrounded, so Bob manned a machine gun to harass the Germans so his unit could break through. They did, and Bob went through three boxes of ammo before he was killed in action. Fritz then went searching for another brother, Preston.
Preston Niland was a second lieutenant and platoon leader in the 4th Infantry Division. He too landed on D-Day, but with his men at Utah Beach. Fritz discovered that Preston Niland was killed in action on D+1 at Normandy’s Crisbecq Battery. Fritz returned to the 506th with the heartbreaking news. The news got worse from there.
Frederick “Fritz” Niland is buried at Fort Richardson National Cemetery, Alaska.
Upon returning to his unit, Father Francis Sampson informed Fritz Niland that a third brother was killed by the enemy. Technical Sergeant Edward Niland, who had been imprisoned by the Japanese in the China-India-Burma theater was considered killed in action. Fritz Niland was now the sole surviving son of his family. The Army decided to send him home as soon as possible. His mother had received all three War Department telegrams on the same day. No platoon was sent to take him home, instead, Father Samson escorted Niland to Utah Beach, where he was flown home to complete his service stateside.
Luckily, Edward Niland wasn’t actually dead. He’d been held prisoner by the Japanese after being shot down in May 1944. He was held for over a year before being liberated in 1945. Word had not yet come to the European theater when Fritz found out about his brothers. The two surviving brothers actually moved to their native Tonawanda, N.Y. when they left the Army, and Edward actually outlived Fritz by a full year. Edward died in 1984, while Fritz passed in 1983.
Robert and Preston are buried side-by-side at the American Cemetery near Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France.
In our increasingly divided political world, it’s important to take the time to realize that no President of the United States takes office hoping to be remembered as the worst to ever hold the office. And even though one out of our 45 historical Presidents has to hold that position, I’m sorry to tell you that it’s not one of the Presidents who ever held the office in our lifetimes.
Part two of this series that highlights the most patriotic moments of every Presidency covers Presidents 12-22, from Zachary Taylor to Grover Cleveland. It also includes James Buchanan, which is interesting because Buchanan jokes have been hard to come up with since 1881.
Zachary Taylor had been serving the United States in the Army all the way back to the War of 1812. But by the time came for war with Mexico, Taylor was a general – and a good one. Beating the Mexicans paved his way to the White House.
What’s more patriotic than 30-plus years destroying America’s enemies? As President, Taylor didn’t serve long, but like Andrew Jackson, he asserted the authority of the federal government over the states at a time when it was most important. When Texas and New Mexico entered a border dispute, Taylor stepped in and settled the land boundary. When Texas refused to comply, Taylor threatened to lead an Army – himself – down to Texas, saying everyone there “taken in rebellion against the Union, would hang with less reluctance than hanging deserters and spies in Mexico.”
That’s a Commander-In-Chief.
Not terribly good with handling ongoing domestic trouble, Millard Fillmore was definitely not going to take shit from some other country.
Fillmore took office after Taylor died from an intestinal ailment involving fruit and iced milk. Fillmore, true to the duties of Vice-President took office to finish up Taylor’s term. It was lucky for France and Portugal that President Taylor was uninterested in foreign affairs, but President Fillmore certainly was.
When Fillmore found out that France, under Napoleon III, was meddling in the affairs of Hawaii, he issued them a stern warning – those were in the American sphere of influence. He also sought money owed to the U.S. from Portugal and sent Commodore Matthew Perry to Japan to open the island nation up for trade… American trade.
The second installment of this list will include many Presidents that are in the running for the title of “worst.” Franklin Pierce is perpetually nominated for the dubious honor. While the former general’s patriotism is beyond reproach, his skills in office definitely are not. To make matters worse, his tenure is also ranked as one of the least memorable.
What’s most patriotic about Pierce’s tenure is that Pierce ended up losing his party’s nomination for re-election and he accepted that outcome, stepping aside for the election of 1856. The peaceful transfer of power is a central tenet to American Democracy and Pierce more than upheld that tradition.
Called “Old Buck” in his later years.
Here it is: the actual worst president ever. As I’ve noted time and again, even James Buchanan didn’t enter office wanting to be the worst. He genuinely thought he was doing what was best for the United States. What he did, however, was absolutely not the best thing for the United States. Even though his tenure is overshadowed by his inaction on the eve of the Civil War, it wasn’t entirely without patriotic moments.
In 1855, the USS Water Witch was fired on by guns from a Paraguayan fort while surveying the Rio de la Plata basin. The attack killed the Water Witch’s helmsman. In response, Buchanan sent a U.S. Navy Squadron of 19 ships to Paraguay (which included the refurbished Water Witch). Paraguay apologized to the United States, paid an indemnity to the family of the Water Witch’s helmsman, and granted favorable trade status to the U.S. — all without firing a shot.
Finally, a President with a beard takes office.
The night is darkest just before dawn. When Lincoln took office, seven states already seceded from the Union. Lincoln tried many last-minute measures to hold the Union together, including writing a letter to each governor individually, reminding them that he wasn’t coming for them and that a Constitutional convention to make an amendment respecting the rights of the states was possible. It was all for naught.
When he determined the Civil War was coming whether he liked it or not, he was decisive. He quickly authorized the formation of the Union Army, helped create a Union strategy to blockade and attack the Confederacy, soothed the fears of border states that might have otherwise seceded, and paid close attention to foreign policy to keep foreign powers from supporting the Confederacy. He eventually found the right combination of Army leadership in Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman, who helped bring the South to its knees.
Lincoln’s deft political prowess and patience allowed him to free the slaves in the states that were in rebellion and then, after the Election of 1864, when the Congress was packed with fellow Republicans, freed the slaves everywhere in the United States.
“Man, Abraham Lincoln is a tough act to follow. How am I supposed to compete with that?” – Andrew Johnson
Johnson had none of Lincoln’s finer qualities – no wisdom, no popularity, no beard. Even though Johnson wanted a swift reconstruction after the Civil War as Lincoln did, he had none of the power Lincoln could muster through sheer force of will. As a matter of fact, Congress repeatedly overrode his vetos and the House of Representatives even impeached him. He barely avoided conviction. His entire term was spent in fights with Congress.
The one shining moment of American Union patriotism was in his dealings with former Confederate President Jefferson Davis. While many former Confederates were allowed to simply resume normal life after the war, Johnson put a bounty on the head of the Chief Confederate — to the tune of id=”listicle-2610056421″.6 million in today’s money.
Ulysses S. Grant
Grant would be the first to tell you that he wasn’t the best President, but he was dedicated to the rights and principles of the United States and its Constitution. From the moment he took office, he advocated for voting rights for every man (yes, just men), but specifically extended it to the newly-freed African-Americans and Native Americans. But a new terrorist group in the south was trying to disrupt that effort — the Ku Klux Klan.
Grant created the badass-sounding Department of Justice whose sole purpose (back then) was to enforce Reconstruction laws by any means necessary — along with Federal troops and U.S. Marshals. He actually appointed former Confederate officer Amos Ackerman as the first Attorney General. Ackerman indicted 3,000 Klansmen and convicted 600 offenders. He also forced thousands of other to flee Georgia, fearing for their freedom. That was just the first year. Grant had no problem sending U.S. troops to the south to enforce Federal laws.
Don’t let that cold stare fool you. Beneath it is actual ice.
Rutherford B. Hayes
Hayes was a wounded Civil War vet who rose to the highest office in a controversial deal that ended Reconstruction and cast doubt on Hayes’ legitimacy. All that aside, Hayes still expended every possible effort to welcome newly-freed former slaves and Native Americans into U.S. Citizenship.
Hayes’ most American moment came when he, General William T. Sherman, and their wives travel West on the Transcontinental Railroad, physically bringing the country closer together by becoming the first sitting president to travel west of the Rocky Mountains.
At this point, you pretty much have to be a Civil War veteran to get elected.
James A. Garfield
The 20th President was only President for a few months before he was shot in the back on a train. But in those months, Garfield devised a plan to increase the prestige (and pocketbook) of the United States through increased trade, a planned canal across Panama, and a new look for an expanded U.S. Navy that would protect American merchant vessels while challenging the supremacy of the British Fleet.
But he was shot in the back on a train.
No one ever grows Chester A. Arthur beards anymore. This needs to change.
Chester A. Arthur
Arthur was a longtime fan of political patronage, especially in the corrupt political system that existed in New York City during his age. Even though he came to power unelected, he still determined to change this. Inexplicably, one of the biggest beneficiaries of the civil service “spoils system,” in place since the age of Andrew Jackson, was the one to change it.
Under the new system, civil service in the United States became a meritocracy. Arthur forced resignations and even had the Justice Department try to convict the worst offenders of the corrupt spoils system. In its place, a civil service examination requirement was passed and Arthur created a special board of former rivals to ensure its enforcement and expansion.
It takes a big man to get elected when the other party is dominant. Advantage: Cleveland.
Grover Cleveland #1
Cleveland was a Democrat elected during a period of Republican domination of American politics. As a President, he understandably used the executive veto power more than anyone else until that time. But what he and the Congress could agree on, they also acted on: Defending America.
Even though the United States had no real external threats at the time of Grover Cleveland’s first term, the coastal defenses and U.S. Navy hadn’t really seen a major upgrade since the Civil War, more than 30 years prior. After all, land wars inside the United States against native tribes had been the focus. Cleveland upgraded the coastal defenses of 27 different sites. And while the Navy received a few good new, steel ships during Arthur’s administration, Cleveland ensured they were completed and ordered 16 more. The forts would last until the outbreak of World War II, while the new U.S. Navy ships would come in handy defeating Spain just a decade later.
These are unprecedented times. Two weeks ago, COVID-19 felt very far away. Monday, we all woke up to a new reality. Schools and businesses: closed. Social gatherings: canceled. Ever-increasing travel restrictions. And the term “social distancing” is already feeling like the phrase of 2020.
This is uncharted territory for all of us and we have to be willing to lend each other a hand, albeit from at least six feet away.
I am honored to lead the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN), a national nonprofit that serves military families and advises on military family issues. Partly out of utility, MFAN is a 100% remote organization. All of our team members are military-connected, and that means we move around a lot. As a military spouse myself, it was important to me that we build an organization that could thrive regardless of where the military sent my family and other team members’ families. As a result, we have learned that an organization can be highly effective without brick and mortar, but many of those lessons were learned through trial and error. In the spirit of helping others, here’s what works for us:
MFAN has been able to achieve a feeling of closeness even though we work across multiple time zones, sometimes even from other continents. When new team members join our organization, they are often reluctant to pick up the phone to call someone and ask a question. Interpersonal relationships and team cohesion are essential, especially when we were dealing with a high-pressure situation. We have to be able to lean on each other without hesitation. A few strategies have helped us overcome reservations.
Schedule video conference calls.
Seeing each other can make a big difference. Set an expectation about attire for these. For MFAN, when it is an internal conversation, we are casual. When we are meeting with partners via video, we do business casual. Setting these clear expectations can help you avoid cringe-worthy moments later on.
Create a virtual water cooler.
Schedule video calls when you aren’t talking about a work agenda. MFAN has been known to host team happy hours at the end of a busy time. This allows us to connect on a personal level. During these happy hours, we talk about life, family, weekend plans, wherever the conversation brings us.
Many of our team members have children and are juggling demands outside of work. It has always been important to us that we acknowledge and accommodate that. Before the schools were closed, the 20 minutes twice per day when I was doing drop off and pick up at my daughter’s school were on the work calendar I shared with our team. When you are working in an office and you aren’t at your desk, your team members can see you. But when you’re working remotely, no one has any idea if you’re at your desk or not, so it’s important to be transparent and let others know your schedule.
Whether you realize it or not, when you’re working in an office, you take intermittent mental breaks. Maybe you stop by a colleague’s desk, refill your coffee mug, grab water, or even just walk from your desk to a conference room. You need those mental breaks when you’re working from home, too. Without them, it’s easy to become burnt out and mentally exhausted. To be honest, this is something I constantly struggle with. I regularly have days when I realize at 2 p.m. that I haven’t eaten. Don’t do what I do! Take breaks, practice self-care. Eat lunch!
Dedicate a space.
This one is especially challenging with schools and childcare facilities closed. Whenever possible, create a space in your home where you will work, and try to keep it consistent. This will allow you to set expectations for yourself and others around you that when you are in that location, you are working. Also, try to practice ergonomics.
Don’t neglect hygiene.
Yes, a perk of working from home is that you don’t necessarily have to get dressed up like you would if you were leaving the house. Having said that, practicing simple hygiene (as if you were leaving the house) can get you in the mindset for work. Shower, change your clothes, brush your teeth. This sounds ridiculous, but those of us who have been on maternity/paternity leave at some point know these habits can be the first to go. Get yourself into as much of a routine as possible — this will help you get closer to achieving normalcy in a completely abnormal time.
This is new for everyone. Be patient with yourself and others. Try to take a step back and look at the big picture. This isn’t permanent; we will come out of this. And, I am confident we will do so having learned quite a bit about ourselves, our colleagues and how we work along the way.
On Sept. 22, 1917, a British Lewis gun team was hit by an incoming German shell during the third Battle of Ypres, near Passchendaele, Harry Patch was a member of that team. He was blown away by the blast, but his other three teammates were completely vaporized. He never saw them again. Patch struggled for years to tell that story, which he finally did before he died in 2009.
At his death, the last British Tommy to see World War I combat was 111 years, one month, one week, and one day old.
A Canadian soldier tests out a Lewis Gun similar to the one Harry Patch worked in World War I.
With Patch went our collective connection to a bygone era. While other Great War veterans outlived Patch, Patch was the last among them to fight in the mud, the wet, the disease-ridden trenches of World War I’s Western Front. He was born in 1898 and drafted into the British Army at age 18. After a brief training period, Private Patch was sent to the Western Front with the other members of his Lewis Gun team during the winter of 1916. The next year is when the German artillery round hit his position and killed his friends.
Patch was still wounded and recovering by the time of the Armistice in November 1918. For the rest of his life, he considered September 22 to be his remembrance day, not November 11.
Patch with Victoria Cross recipient Johnson Beharry in 2008.
By the time World War II rolled around, Harry Patch was much too old to join the Army and served as a firefighter in the British city of Bath instead. Patch never discussed his wartime experiences with anyone, let alone journalists, so he declined interviews until 1998, when the BBC pointed out to him that the number of World War I veterans still alive was shrinking fast. His first appearance was World War I in Colour, where he recalled the first time he came face to face with an enemy soldier. He shot to wound the man, not kill him. Patch was not a fan of killing, even in warfare.
“Millions of men came to fight in this war and I find it incredible that I am the only one left,” he told the BBC in 2007.
Six pall-bearers from the 1st Battalion The Rifles bear the coffin of World War I veteran Harry Patch into Wells Cathedral in 2009.
Before his death, Harry Patch returned to the fields of Passchendaele where his three best friends met their end. He was going to once again meet a German, but this time there would be only handshakes. At age 106, Patch met Charles Kuentz, 107-year-old German World War I veteran who fought the British at Passchendaele. The two exchanged gifts and talked about the futility of war.
Patch wrote his memoirs at 107, to become the oldest author ever, and later watched as World War I-era planes dropped poppies over Somerset in memoriam to those who served. He died in 2009, aged 111 years, one month, one week, and one day. The bells of Wells Cathedral in Somerset were rung 111 times in his honor.
America’s troops have very awesome tactical gear, even through all the teething problems that systems like the F-35 Lightning II have had.
That said, all that gear can’t win a war unless you can come up with a good plan.
During a walk-through demonstration given by Lockheed Martin at the 2017 AirSpaceCyber expo held at National Harbor, Maryland, the company explained how the technology and capabilities of mission planning are set to take a huge step forward.
But what’s it like now?
The present state of integrating the air, land, maritime, space, and cyber components in the military was described as a series of stovepipes by Kim Ponders of Lockheed Martin’s famous Skunk Works.
Hiccups with this integration sometimes means that different components go after the same target.
In essence, a JDAM dropped from a F-35 could very well hit an SA-20 command vehicle that was already fried by a cyber attack, and the site then gets hits by Tomahawk cruise missiles, even though the missiles are useless without a command vehicle.
While there are times that overkill can help, there are circumstances — like a target-rich environment or when you are short of munitions — where overkill can be a problem.
In essence, this helps network 4th-generation fighters with the 5th-generation fighters without compromising the stealth of the F-22s and F-35s. During that exercise, the Einstein Box was placed on one of the early successes of the Skunk Works, the U-2 Dragon Lady.
This merging of systems ranging from the F-22 Raptor to destroyers and cruisers equipped with Aegis to the control system for the Tactical Tomahawk cruise missile to the Space-Based Infrared System will eventually make it a lot harder to the bad guys, largely because American (and Allied) troops will be able to pass information to each other much faster than before.
By being able to pass the information faster, American troops will be able to rapidly pair platforms with targets. This will help them make the most of their assets on the scene. Lockheed even has teamed up with Raytheon and SRC to design a new JSTARS that could carry out MDC2.
This means that in the future, the pilot of a F-35 could detect a radar emission, and other assets (either special operation forces on the ground or a satellite) could very quickly tell that pilot whether the emitter is real or a decoy, how far it is from the van, and the pilot can then address the threat, or be told that another asset will handle it. Rapidly getting that information to everyone will eventually help save the lives of American troops, and that’s a very good thing.
There’s a long history of military slang, probably dating all the way back to when the first people hit each other with sticks and rocks. While military slang can be fun, it’s even more fun when it seeps into the common vernacular of everyday people. The only problem is when a word or phrase is too good, its origin gets lost in time, and people forget where it came from – but no longer.
Here are just a few words and phrases that came from military tradition.
1. “Best man”
In the days of yore, it was quite possible that a betrothed man might lose his wife even before their wedding to any number of possible hazards – rival bands, enemy leaders, or even random highwaymen. So while he was in the middle of the ceremony, he would enlist his best swordsman to cover his back while his attention was focused elsewhere or hold off an attacking party while the new couple made their getaway.
These days, to be way out in the boonies means you’re out in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in the sticks. When the term was coined, it meant that too, only the actual boondocks are in the Philippines. In Tagalog, “bundok” literally translates to “mountains” so when Filipino fighters told American troops they were headed to the bundoks during the 1898 Spanish-American War and the subsequent Philippine-American War, it meant they were headed to the islands’ inner wilderness.
Sorry, but the term “cowboy” used to define the ranchers and vaqueros of the Old West was never actually used for those guys at the time. They were usually just called cow herders or cowhands. The term “cowboy” goes well past the 19th Century. The original cowboys were American colonists loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolution. They would band together in guerrilla units and lure other units of rebel farmers into ambushes using cowbells to coax them in. After the war, it was used to describe criminals from Texas who made raids into Mexico.
4. “Face the music”
In the European military tradition (from which the U.S. tradition is derived), any disgraced officer who was summarily kicked out of his unit was done so in the most demeaning manner possible. As the regiment’s drummer played on, the officer would have his sword broken, his buttons removed, and his charges read to the entire room. The officer was them marched across the parade ground to the tune of the “Rogue’s March” toward the regimental band.
5. “Last ditch effort”
In the kind of fighting that took place in the 16th and 17 Century, troops didn’t just maneuver around the battlefields in the open, in tight formations, wearing bright colors. I mean, they did that, but they also constructed a series of earthwork redoubts and other protective places to hold. Among these was a series of trenches they could fall back to if the stuff started hitting the fan – and they would dig many in case things went really wrong. But everyone knew by the time you got to your last one, you had to do something amazing, or everyone was likely to die in that last ditch.
6. “The whole nine yards”
This term appeared in the 1950s, after the end of World War II – and it has nothing to do with football or anything else where yardage is a factor. It refers to the length of the ammunition belts designed for American and British fighter planes during the war, 27 feet (or nine yards). When flying a particularly tough mission or otherwise using a lot of ammo, a pilot might have been said to use “the whole nine yards.”
The Navy said it would swap out the aging C-2A Greyhound aircraft used to resupply aircraft carriers for new CMV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft in January 2015.
As the service has gotten closer to deploying with its variant of the Joint Strike fighter, the F-35C, the need for the V-22’s heavy-lifting capacity has grown more urgent. And after a round of tests in early August 2018, the Navy is a step closer to meeting its resupply and logistics needs.
Aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in August 2018, Osprey pilots successfully performed rolling landings and takeoffs at a total weight of more than 57,000 pounds, outstripping the C-2A’s maximum landing weight of 49,000 pounds.
The Osprey’s vertical-lift capability, along with its ability to reach fixed-wing aircraft speed and range, make it ideal for carrier onboard delivery and vertical on-board delivery, the Navy says. That extra lifting capacity also provides a missing link in the Navy’s plans for the F-35C.
The engine in the F-35C and the Marine Corps’ variant, the F-35B (which has already deployed to an amphibious assault ship) is too heavy for platforms like the MH-60 helicopter and too big for the C-2A. Only the V-22 combines the range and lifting ability to get the engine over the final stretch between shore and ship — the “golden mile.”
The Navy plans to replace its 27 C-2As with 38 CMV-22Bs beginning in 2020. Below, you can see how the latest round of testing went down.
An MV-22 Osprey lands on the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, Aug. 1, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Roland John)
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class Marlon Daley directs an MV-22 Osprey to land on the Bush.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Roland John)
It has more fuel capacity in the fuselage and wings, a special high-frequency antenna to aid navigation over open water, and a better intercom system to communicate with passengers.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Roland John)
The expanded fuel capacity allows the CMV-22B to haul up to 6,000 pounds of cargo for a distance of 1,100 nautical miles, or roughly 1,265 statute miles. This beats out the Greyhound’s cargo capacity of just 800 pounds and its range of 1,000 nautical miles.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Roland John)
“I started off flying Greyhound carrier onboard delivery (COD) aircraft and I love the platform,” said Lt. Cmdr. Steven Tschanz, a Navy test pilot who took part in the Osprey tests aboard the USS Bush. “With that said, nothing lasts forever and the Navy came up with a solution to move us into the future with the CMV-22 Osprey.”
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Roland John)
F-35Bs belonging to the Marine Corps have already been deployed on a Navy ship. A detachment of the aircraft joined a Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp in early 2018 — the F-35B’s first operational deployment with an MEU.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Joseph E. Montemarano)
The Navy’s F-35C, the largest of the three Joint Strike Fighter variants, is slated to deploy for the first time aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson sometime in 2021. The fifth-generation fighter is supposed to eventually make up half the fighters based on aircraft carriers.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Roland John)
The Navy plans to run CMV-22 operations out of Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia and out of Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego. The changeover to the new aircraft is expected to start in 2020 and wrap up in 2028.
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class Marlon Daley directs an MV-22 Osprey on the Bush.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Roland John)
“This underway is a historic event for the Navy,” Kurey said in a Navy release. “I never thought I’d be part of something like this as a COD guy. There’s a lot of reluctance to join new platforms that are so different initially, but to be part of the first wave that can help to make that transition happen is an amazing experience.”
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Roland John)
“This is why I went to test pilot school,” said Tschanz, the test pilot. “I finished my flight with my co-pilot and we fist-bumped. This is why I joined. This is why I’m a test pilot. It’s things like this that make this job.”