An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal - We Are The Mighty
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An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Two ranks occupy the same pay grade in the U.S. Army, the specialist and the corporal. The difference between the two isn’t always as clear to other members of the military from other branches.

In short, the difference between the two E-4 grades is that one is considered a non-commissioned officer while the other is not. The corporal will go to the NCO training school while the specialist might not. In practice, the corporal outranks a specialist and will be treated as an NCO by the soldiers below him or her. The specialist is still an E-4 level expert at his or her MOS.

That’s why a specialist is also known as a “sham shield” — all the responsibility of a private grade with all the pay of a corporal. Now that you know the gist of the difference, you’ll see why this Quora response is the best response ever — and why only a veteran of the U.S. Army could have written it.


When someone on Quora asked about the difference between these two ranks that share a pay grade, one user, Christopher Aeneadas, gave the most hilarious response I’ve ever seen. He served in the Army from 1999-2003 in signals intelligence. Having once been both a specialist and a corporal, he had firsthand knowledge of the difference, which he describes in detail:

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

A Full Bird Private has reached the full maturity of a Junior Enlisted Soldier. That magnificent specimen is the envy of superiors and subordinates alike.

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

The Sham Shield is the mark of the one who has taken the first steps toward enlightenment.

The Specialist knows all and does nothing.

The first two Noble Truths of Buddhism are:

The First Noble Truth – Unsatisfactoriness and suffering exist and are universally experienced.

The Second Noble TruthDesire and attachment are the causes of unsatisfactoriness and suffering.

The Full Bird Private understands that to cease suffering, one must give up the desire to attend the Basic Leader Course (BLC).

A soldier can live for many years in harmony with his squad and his command if he simply forgets his attachment to promotion. There is wisdom in this.

In the distant past, there were even greater enlighted souls. Specialist ranks only whispered of today: Spec-5s and Spec-6s. Some even reached the apotheosis of Specialist E-7!

Mourn with me that their quiet, dignified path is lost to soldiers today.

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

The Corporal is a soldier of ambition.

They have accepted pain without pay.

They have taken duty without distinction.

Whether they are to be pitied or admired is an open question. I take it on a case-by-case basis.

They hung those damned chevrons on me unofficially for a time. I guess they caught on that I liked my Specialist rank a bit much.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 pro tips for putting together Christmas care packages

It’s that time of year where we start putting together care packages for service members stationed near and far, as well as family members who are “back home.” This year especially, many people won’t be traveling like in years prior, which means mailed gifts or sending care packages rather than celebrating in person. 

When planning your holiday care packages, remember to provide personal touches and items that interest the receiver. Simple additions like homemade artwork from kids, pictures, or local trinkets can take your gift giving to the next level. 

Consider these additional tips in order to put together your best care package yet. 

  1. Know your audience

First things first — who are you gifting to? Consider if you’re buying for family members? Soldiers? Kids? Make a list of everyone on your list and put together a list of ideas. For soldiers downrange, you’ll likely be shopping for necessities. This means snacks, entertainment (books, magazines, movies), toiletries, and any other favorites that your soldier wants but can’t get their hands on in location. These are some of the most well-received gifts of all time, including a mix of thoughtfulness and needs. 

Meanwhile, if you’re shopping for family members or kids, you will likely have more creativity. 

  1. Gift them their interests

Next, search around for gifts that you know they will love. There are always gift guide finders (and an entire search function on Amazon), but don’t be above asking, either. Some giftees will assure you that you don’t need to get them anything. But hopefully you get some real, usable info in the process. Find out what your loved ones enjoy and get them something they’ll use!

And remember that gift cards aren’t a cop-out. Include a nice card and then feel good about the fact that you gave them an excuse to order at their favorite place. 

care packages
  1. Shop local

One of the most notable aspects about sending a Christmas care package — you’re not visiting in person. Or rather, they aren’t visiting you. That means you can include some novelties about wherever you’re stationed. Look for non-perishable foods, handmade goods, or any local claims to fame that your loved one won’t find elsewhere. This can also be a fun way to explore local hotspots … or shop online and learn about local businesses. 

  1. Don’t overlook experiences as gifts

GIving a holiday gift doesn’t mean you have to give a physical item. It simply means you have to show a loved one that you care. Consider different types of gifts that can be given for all to enjoy. Kids might enjoy a theme park or zoo. Adults may be wanting to try a new restaurant or brewery tour. Or perhaps there’s a location that’s great for all ages, such as an arcade, bowling alley, or water park. Snag a gift card and let them have a fun day out in lieu of a traditional Christmas gift. 

  1. Get it in the mail in time

Christmas may be weeks away, but you also have to consider shipping times for your package to arrive before December 25th. Look at where you’re shipping to, then follow Post Office guidelines to ensure your package arrives on time. It likely means shopping sooner rather than later, but that also means one more item to knock off your to-do list! 

Take these deliver-by dates into account in order to ensure your packages arrive on time. 

The good news is that military post office dates still allow December packages to be delivered in time for the holidays. 

What are your favorite ways to send Christmas care packages to those you love? Tell us your tips in the comments.

Military Life

4 of the best things about being stationed at Camp Pendleton

Twentynine Palms, Camp Lejeune, and Quantico are just a few of the Marine Corps bases that house those who’ve earned the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor. Although the various duty stations each offer their own benefits, none compare to the awesomeness that is Camp Pendleton.

In 1942, the government purchased land in Southern California from a private owner for $4,239,062. The property was soon named in honor of Maj. Gen. Joseph H. Pendleton for his outstanding service, thus creating Camp Pendleton. Some might tell you there are downsides to be stationed there, but, in general, it’s considered the best. Here’s why.


An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

The Marine Corps Exchange located on the main side of the base. If you can’t find what you’re looking for here, it’s not Marine Corps-quality.

It has everything you need

Shopping, recreation centers, and schools are just a few amenities that make the historic property a full-scale, working city. The Camp has been designed and developed to fulfill the every need of those stationed within the gates.

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

There’re so many activities

The San Diego Zoo, Sea World, and Universal Studios are just a few of the places you can take your family to visit on a sunny afternoon. The drives will take you typically take around an hour or so, depending on traffic, but since you live so close, you don’t have to spend money on a hotel room — which makes sh*t cheaper.

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Visit Camp Pendleton today and notice there’s not a cloud in f*cking skies!

(Photo by Marine Sgt. April L. Price)

That SoCal weather

Do you like doing PT in the pouring rain? Well, if you do, Camp Pendleton isn’t the place for you. According to U.S. Climate data, Camp Pendleton receives an average of 13.3 inches of rain per year. Compare that to the national average of 32.25 inches.

Camp Pendleton is starting to sound pretty impressive, isn’t it?

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Members of the Western Army Infantry Regiment, Japan Ground Self Defense Force, and Marines with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit play a game of football on the Del Mar Beach at the conclusion of Exercise Iron Fist 2013

(Photo by Sgt. Christopher O’Quin)

It has its own beach

The beach in Del Mar has places where you can camp or rent small cottages for a few days. These private areas can get you close to the ocean enough to hear waves crash onto the shoreline while keeping you near enough to the base to hear the Marines call out their famous and well-rehearsed cadences as they run by.

It’s a perfect location.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

10 things you need to know about dating someone in the military


They move fast.

This may not go for everyone, but typical military life usually means being away for months at a time. Because of this unique schedule, members of the armed forces tend to move on different romantic timelines than the average Joe. Often, that equates to getting a lot more serious a lot more quickly.

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Being in the military might run in the family.

There are plenty of young adults who opt to join the military all on their own. That said, it’s not uncommon for military life to be passed down through generations. Serving one’s country is a badge of pride in many families. What does that mean for you? If you decide to settle down with someone in the armed forces, be prepared for your own kids to follow a similar path.

They’ll love you, but they also love their country. A lot.

Even if military life is completely new to you (or even seems a little crazy), respecting their decision to serve their country is non-negotiable. They’re doing it to protect not just you, but everyone else, too. That’s a lot of love!

You might have to move, more than once. 

The military brat title exists for a reason. It’s not uncommon for military families to have to hop from base to base over the years, so prepare yourself for that possibility.

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

They’ll be gone often.

This goes without saying, but their schedules won’t be predictable. They’ll be gone for major holidays and life events, and you won’t have a say. If you can’t roll with the punches, stay out of the military dating game.

Their squad will be their second family. 

Seriously. Whether they’re in the Army, the Navy, the Marines, or the Air Force, they learn right off the bat to stand by their team. They have each other’s backs, for better or worse. They’re responsible for getting each other home safely. When your partner’s battle buddies (brothers and sisters, really), are around, embrace it and give them time to catch up.

They may keep a few secrets.

The harsh reality is that veterans have seen a lot more than most civilians can imagine. They’ve seen pain, made tough calls, and experienced a different kind of heartbreak. When they return, they may not want to talk about it. If they seem like a closed door, don’t take it personally. They probably don’t want to burden you with difficult memories, and they may not be ready to relive them. It can take time to open up! At the end of the day, some secrets might just stay secret…and you have to be okay with that.

Complete strangers will take over your lives.

In a way, the government will dictate where you live. Where your kids go to school. When you can take that family vacation. People you’ve never met will decide whether your partner is home for the holidays. Flexibility is a must, as is loyalty. Starting a life with someone in the military means that you, too, will live a military lifestyle. Before you take that leap, make sure you can handle it!

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Being a military spouse is scary.

When your partner is deployed, nothing is guaranteed. You can pray they are safe, but you can’t always be sure. It’s scary, but it also makes their return home so much sweeter. You really learn to cherish every moment together.

media.defense.gov

When they’re home, they’re all yours.

If members of the armed services know one thing, it’s devotion. Life with them may be complicated, but it will be filled with adventure, new experiences, and lots of love.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This American President started his day in the most veteran way possible

Our first president, George Washington, sold whiskey from one the country’s largest distilleries after leaving office — but reportedly never drank his own supply. Instead, Washington sipped a dark porter style of beer mixed with molasses that was brewed in Philadelphia. His presidential successor, John Adams, loved drinking hard cider, rum, and Madeira wine during his time off. The eighth President of the United States, Martin Van Buren, drank so much whiskey that he earned the nickname, “Blue Whiskey Van.”

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Many of our Presidents turned to their alcohol beverage of choice in order to relax after a long day’s work. However, one president flipped the script and decided to start his days by knocking back a shot of his favorite: bourbon.


It’s reported that President Harry S. Truman liked to start his days with a nice, brisk walk and a shot of Old Grand Dad (bourbon).

Truman appreciated a strong Old Fashioned and, reportedly, would complain to his staff if he felt the cocktail was too weak. Although it may seem unhealthy for a person of his position to consume such a potent drink so early in the morning, he actually prided himself on maintaining a nutritious diet.

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal
Truman sitting at a table with Roosevelt discussing some presidential stuff.

In a diary entry, dated January 3, 1952, Truman wrote:

“When I moved into the White House, I went up to 185. I’ve now hit an average of 175. I walked two-miles most every morning at a hundred and twenty-eight steps a minute, I eat no bread, but one piece of toast at breakfast, no butter, no sugar, no sweets. Usually have fruit, one egg, a strip of bacon and half a glass of skimmed milk for breakfast, liver & bacon or sweetbreads or ham or fish and spinach and another non-fattening vegetable for lunch with fruit for dessert. For dinner, I have a fruit cup, steak, a couple of non-fattening vegetables, an orange, pineapple, or raspberry for dinner. So, I maintain my waistline and can wear suits bought in 1935!”

On behalf of the veteran community, we say well done, sir.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

It might surprise the casual student of history to learn that the United States was not alone in supporting South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. America’s traditional list of allies joined us in trying to contain the spread of Communism in South East Asia, including Taiwan, South Korea, and Australia. Each one of them brought the pain to the enemy in their own way.

South Koreans were so zealous in their fight against Communism that everyone else actually had to restrain them at times. Aside from the powerful bombing campaigns, America employed precision special operations units, which North Vietnamese called “the men with green faces.” It was the Australians they feared most, however.

At any given moment, everything would be fine and then, suddenly, you’d see all your men killed in the blink of an eye. That’s how they knew the Aussies were in the area.


Even though Aussies had been in Vietnam since 1962, the Australian Special Air Service Regiment first arrived in Vietnam in April 1966 with the mission of conducting long-range reconnaissance patrols in the dense Vietnamese jungles.

They were so effective in the field, the NVA called the Australians the “Ghosts of the Jungle.” They even provided instructors to the United States’ Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol school. They would operate on 24-hour missions in the areas surrounding friendly bases.

Related: You had to bet your life to graduate from the Vietnam-era ‘Recondo’ school

Small fire teams of four to six men moved much more slowly than any other unit, even other special operations units. But once in contact with the enemy, the Australians unleashed a barrage of fire, designed to make the enemy believe there were more men on the opposing side than there really were.

The slow, quiet movement and hellish raking fire the Australians brought to the NVA and VC made them the most feared enemy unit in the areas of South Vietnam. Even the most quiet VC infiltrators could easily walk into a devastating Aussie ambush.

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

An SASR patrol during Operation Coburg, South Vietnam 1968.

(Australian Defense Ministry)

Each Aussie SASR unit operated with an attached New Zealand SAS trooper and each of the three “Sabre” squadrons did, at least, a one-year tour in Vietnam, operating throughout Phuoc Tuy province as well as in Bien Hoa, Long Khanh, and Binh Tuy provinces. They also deployed with American Special Forces and Navy SEALs throughout the country.

The Australian SASR first came in contact with the enemy in May, 1966, when they met a Viet Cong force in the area around Nui Dat. It did not go well for the VC. From there, the Aussies spread their recon patrol range by several kilometers. By the end of their time in Vietnam, the unit performed 1,200 combat patrols with one killed in action, one dead from wounds, three accidentally killed, one missing, and one death from illness. Another 28 men were wounded in action.

Before leaving in 1971, the ANZACs killed 600 enemy troops, the highest kill ratio of the entire war.

MIGHTY FIT

3 hiking tips you hadn’t thought of from a U.S. Marine

One of the most arduous parts of Marine Corps life and training has to be the long-distance rucks. Covering a lot of miles with a lot of weight on your back may seem like a simple enough proposition, but as time goes by, you start to pick up on a few things that can make an otherwise grueling hike just a bit more pleasant–or at least, a bit less likely to cause you the sort of nuisance injuries that can really make a week in the field feel more like a week in hell.

While the nuts and bolts of a long distance hike are simple enough (bring adequate food, water, and appropriate emergency gear, then just put one foot in front of the other until you’re finished) there are some things you can do before you set out or carry with you on the hike that will pay dividends throughout the hump and after, as your body recovers.


An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

It doesn’t matter if it’s made for a man or a woman, all that matters is that it works.

(Courtesy of the author)

Use dry deodorant to manage chafing

Despite how much I’ve worked out throughout my adult life, I somehow never quite managed to get one of those “thigh gaps” all the girls on Instagram keep talking about, and as such, chafing in my groin and between my thighs has always been a concern on long-distance hikes. The combination of sweat, the seams of my pants, and my rubbing thunder thighs always conspire to leave my undercarriage raw, which quickly becomes a constant source of pain as I log the miles.

Even with spandex undergarments and an industrial supply of baby powder, chafing can rear its head and ruin your day, but you can relieve a lot of that heartache (or, I suppose, crotch-ache) by rubbing your dry stick deodorant all over the affected area. The deodorant creates a water-resistant barrier that protects the raw skin as you keep on trucking. This trick has worked for me in the savannas of Africa, the busy streets of Rome, and even in the relentlessly humid Georgia woods. Remember–it’s got to be dry stick deodorant. Gel stuff just won’t do the trick.

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Also comes in handy if any of your buddies passes out early at a party.

(Courtesy of the author)

Carry a sharpie to keep tabs on bites

Spider and other insect bites can be a real cause for concern on the trail, and not necessarily for the reasons you think. It’s not all that likely that you’ll get bitten by a spider with the sort of venomous punch to really make you ill, but even an otherwise innocuous spider or insect bite can turn into big problems in a field environment. Bites create a high risk for infection, and not everyone responds to exposure to venoms, bacteria, or stingers in the same way. That’s why it’s imperative that you keep an eye on any questionable bites you accumulate along your hike.

Use a sharpie to draw a circle around the outside perimeter of a bite when you notice it, then note the time and day. As you go about your hike, check on the bite sporadically to see if the swollen, red area is expanding beyond the original perimeter. Add circles with times as you check if the bite continues to grow. If the bite grows quickly beyond that first drawn perimeter, is bright or dark red, and feels warm and firm to the touch, seek medical care for what may be a nasty infection. If you experience any trouble breathing, that’s a strong sign that you may be going into anaphylactic shock due to an allergy, and you need immediate medical care.

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

One of the best feelings in the world, followed by one of the worst feelings (putting your boots back on)

(Marine Corps Photo By: Cpl. Matthew Brown)

Add moleskin to blister prone spots on your feet before blisters form

If you’ve done any hiking, you’re already familiar with moleskin as a go-to blister treatment, but most people don’t realize how handy moleskin can be for blister prevention as well.

If you know that you tend to get blisters on certain spots on your feet during long hikes (the back of the heel and the inside of the ball of the foot are two common hot spots, for instance) don’t wait for a blister to form to use your moleskin. Instead, cut off a piece and apply it to the trouble spots on your feet ahead of time, adding a protective buffer between the friction points of your boot and your feet themselves.

It helps to replace the moleskin about as often as you replace your socks, to prevent it from peeling off and bunching up on you (causing a different hiking annoyance), but when done properly, you can escape even the longest hikes pretty blister free.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This heroic working dog conducted 210 combat missions while deployed

Military Working Dog Gabe started his Army career in a rare way, escaping near-euthanasia in a Texas shelter before becoming a remarkably successful working dog and a celebrity loved by famous humans, like Betty White and Jay Leno.


2012 Hero Dog Awards Tribute – Gabe

youtu.be

Gabe is credited with going on 210 combat missions and finding 26 caches of weapons and explosives before retiring to live with his handler in 2009 as a sergeant first class. He passed away in his handler’s arms in 2013.

Most military working dogs are purchased from European breeders and raised from birth to work in military units or police agencies. But the U.S. was running short on good dogs, and it has always allowed the occasional stray into the ranks. Gabe was one of those strays.

He had been sitting in a shelter where he was reportedly a day away from euthanasia when the Southeast Texas Labrador Retriever Rescue Organization pulled him out. The Army found him then and tested him for potential as a military working dog. He passed and was assigned to Army Staff Sgt. Charles Shuck.

The team trained together as a Specialized Search Dog team, a then-new program that focused on entirely detecting IED and IED-making components. Dogs in the SSD program don’t search for drugs. They don’t search for cadavers. They don’t chase.

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Gabe visits with actor Betty White.

(U.S. Army)

They find bombs. They find them in combat, in the burning desert, and sometimes under fire. Gabe finished a five-month training iteration and was the rock star of the class. After they graduated, Shuck’s commander asked if they could deploy to Iraq. They needed Gabe in the show.

And so he went, and Gabe and Shuck were quickly favorites with troops on the ground. They rolled out often, 210 times in a single deployment. Of those missions, 170 were combat patrols where they led columns of soldiers through dangerous areas, smelling for the tell-tale scents of IEDs.

And Gabe was able to find the goods. In one case, he hit on 36 mortar rounds stashed by insurgents. Mortar rounds are popular tools for bomb makers because their explosives are reliable and powerful. Recovering them saves lives. Gabe also visited soldiers during his deployment, improving morale.

Gabe would eventually garner three Army Commendation Medals, an Army Achievement Medal, and dozens of military coins and other awards. In 2008, he received the Heroic Military Working Dog Award Medal from the American Kennel Club.

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Gabe visiting with children in a school.

(U.S. Army)

But Gabe was senior and needed to retire soon after the deployment, something he did in 2009. The Army allowed Shuck, Gabe’s only handler, to adopt him. He visited schools and hospitals and became a celebrity, appearing in photos with Betty White and Jay Leno.

The heroic dog enjoyed almost four years of retirement, but cancer had stealthily crept through his liver and spleen. It was discovered in February 2013, but it was far too late to operate.

Shuck made the decision to have Gabe put to sleep and cradled him as he passed.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The massive C-5 Galaxies are becoming air ambulances

During a cold, gloomy first week of December, total force airmen teamed up at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, to test the capability of the Air Force’s largest aircraft to perform aeromedical evacuation during a proof of concept event.

The goal was to establish the C-5M Super Galaxy as part of the universal qualification training program for AE forces. If successfully certified, the C-5M will have the capability to move three times the current capacity in one mission compared to other AE platforms.


The PoC event was made possible by recent upgrades to the C-5M that made the cargo compartment more suitable for AE operations.

“The engine upgrade allowed the aircraft to produce a lot more power and to use the jet more efficiently,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Boots, 60th Operations Group Standardization and Evaluation C-5M flight engineer evaluator. “Another factor was the environmental system received upgrades. We now have better control over the systems and we’re able to better control the environment (temperature and cabin pressure) that the AE folks would have downstairs in the cargo compartment.”

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Airmen with the 22nd Airlift Squadron and 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., along with Air Mobility Command airmen onload aeromedical evacuation equipment onto a C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., during an AE proof of concept evaluation, Dec. 2, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Joey Swafford)

The C-5M upgrades allowed the proof of concept to work, but the airmen’s innovation is what made it happen.

“The Air Force as a whole is more interested in using the assets that we have more efficiently and maximizing the capability that we can get out of different airplanes,” said Maj. Kevin Simonds, 22nd Airlift Squadron C-5M pilot. “I think this is an example of that. It’s a priority within the force and in the MAJCOM (Air Mobility Command) as well to try to maximize the way we use the assets that we have.”

With the Department of Defense’s shift to focus on great power competition and maintaining readiness, the C-5M’s greater capability to the AE enterprise could be a game changer.

“It was great to observe, first hand, our airmen working hard to make innovative strides using our existing platforms to get after a critical mission set,” said Brig. Gen. Darren James, AMC’s Operations, Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration director. “Last week’s test provided valuable learning as we move forward in evaluating ways to increase our readiness and support of the 2018 National Defense Strategy.”

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Staff Sgt. Ethan Heitner, 22nd Airlift Squadron C-5M Super Galaxy loadmaster, completes a post-flight inspection on a C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft after an aeromedical evacuation proof of concept flight at Scott AFB, Ill., Dec. 6, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Joey Swafford)

Not only will the C-5M AE mission benefit readiness for any future conflict(s), it will be a benefit during any future natural disasters.

“Using the C-5 for AE is going to be a pivotal point moving forward because it can be another platform for AE to move troops and also to aid in humanitarian missions and perform mass evacuations,” said Maj. Catherine Paterson, 439th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse.

The C-5M and crew traveled from Travis AFB. They were joined in the PoCby other active-duty airmen and civilians from AMC, Scott AFB and the 43rd AES,Pope Army Air Field, North Carolina. Reserve AE teams from the 439th AES,Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts, 433rd AES, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. Lastly, the team included the 142nd AES, Delaware Air National Guard, making it a total force effort.

This effort allowed for training standardization and boosted readiness for operational missions.

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Aeromedical evacuation team members participate in a training scenerio during a C-5M Super Galaxy AE proof of concept flight from Scott Air Force Base, Ill., Dec. 5, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Joey Swafford)

“It’s always beneficial to have the total force working together as one team,” said Paterson. “You always learn new things from working along with people from different backgrounds. You get different ideas, different concepts and you work together with the sole purpose of bringing troops home safely.”

With the proof of concept successfully testing the cargo department as a viable option for AE missions, the AE community is waiting for the Air Force to certify the use of the platform before the C-5M is officially part of their mission.

“We have made a great amount of progress in the last eight months,” said Maj. John Camacho-Ayala, Headquarters AMC branch chief for aeromedical evacuation operations and training. “I think that sometime in the near future we will definitely have a C-5M as part of our arsenal and a part of our weapons systems for the AE enterprise.”

Once all the certifications are completed, the AE community will gain their biggest ally yet with the Air Force’s largest plane.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

From small town Pennsylvania to teaching at the U.S. Navy, then to social work and back to teaching, Darryl Ponicsan has lived an inspiring and interesting life. After his second stint of teaching, he struck gold with his first novel “The Last Detail.” From there the sky was the limit where he is most known for his novels that have been adapted to screenplays which include “The Last Detail,” “Cinderella Liberty” and “Last Flag Flying.” Screenplays include “Taps,” “Vision Quest,” Nuts,” The Boost,” “School Ties” and “Random Hearts.” He also wrote the voice-over for “Blade Runner.” We sat down with him to hear about his life and his service to our country.


1. Tell me about your family and your life growing up?

My parents ran a mom ‘n pop auto parts store in Shenandoah, Pa., a coal mining town that was booming then. Now you can buy a three-story house there for the price of a used Chevy. I worked in the store as a kid and hated almost every minute of it. The town itself, however, was rich soil for drama and comedy. I’m surprised I’m the only writer ever to come out of the place. At the age of nine we moved into the first and only home my parents ever bought, six miles over the hill in Ringtown, a farming community. I had a happy childhood there, graduating from the local high school, now gone, in a class of 22 students. I think I ranked #18.

2. What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?

My father and I used to take our own trash to the dump once a week and dump it into a deep pit. One day there were two bums there. I was around 13. One held the end of a rope, and at the other end was his partner with a big bag, scavenging for anything of value. The one on top asked if they could go through our garbage before we dumped it. My father said sure, and we stepped aside. I said something belittling about what they were doing. My father told me, “It’s an honest living.” A great lesson in life. Years later, I was going through a nasty divorce. My mother told me it took years to build my character, don’t let this take it apart. Those two moments are linked in my memory, because in truth I did not have a close relationship with either of them.

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Darryl during his days as a teacher.

3. What challenges did you face at school and in the community?

As I said, I was in a class of 22. There were no cliques. In Shenandoah I was a latchkey kid at a very early age, unheard of today, but the neighbors looked after us as we played in the streets. Likewise in Ringtown where my parents knew all my teachers on a first name basis. I got into a little trouble fighting, which seemed to be our favorite pastime, but we fought with fists only and afterwards were usually ok with each other.

4. What values were stressed at home?

My parents were laissez-faire. They seldom knew where I might be. Frugality, toughness—both emotionally and physically—a work ethic, and honesty were values instilled in us, more by example than preaching.

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Darryl at his first duty station

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Camp Perry in Ohio and with his friends after bootcamp (top right).

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Darryl at Guantanamo Bay Cuba in 1964 (far left).

5. What influenced your career choices post college and why did you join the Navy?

Honestly, I never thought of a career, not even when it seemed I was living one. I became a teacher by default, and when I was offered tenure, I resigned to join the Navy, at age 24, because I wanted to be a writer, not a teacher. In those days everyone was expected to serve a hitch. My brother went to the Air Force at age 18. I chose the Navy because no one had yet written a Navy novel from an enlisted man’s point of view, at least not that I knew about. I’d studied creative writing at Muhlenberg, Cornell, and CalState LA, but my true education as a writer started as a child in a coal town and matured during my time in the Navy.

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

James Caan and Marsha Mason in “Cinderella Liberty.” From IMDB.com.

6. What lessons did you take away from your service and what are some of your favorite moments from the Navy?

The Navy is the only branch that draws its cops from the rank and file on a temporary basis, as a work detail. This is both a good and bad idea for exactly the same reason: the Shore Patrol does not put aside his humanity when he puts on the arm band. (Navy brigs, however, are run by Marines.)

I spent most of my enlistment at sea, and I have many memories of the sea itself. I remember seeing my first flying fish. I remember the Atlantic as still as a pond and so wild that I had to lie on a table and hook my elbows and heels over the edges. My very first night at sea I was intensely seasick, throwing up over port and starboard while standing my first mid watch. And of course, there were the liberty ports. We would rotate nine months in the Mediterranean, a month or so in Norfolk, and then four or five months in the Caribbean, my ship was the first American warship to tie up at St. Mark’s Square in maybe ever. We would walk off the ladder right onto St. Mark’s Sq. We were in Venice for a week. I was on the USS MONROVIA (APA-31), the flagship for Comphibron 8, an amphibious squadron. Occasionally we would move to the USS OKINAWA, a helicopter carrier, which was a luxury compared to the Monrovia. I also spent about two months in transit on the USS INTREPID, which is now a museum in Manhattan.

An indelible memory, resulting in my novel and movie “Cinderella Liberty,” was a week-long stay at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va. I went there for a surgery. It turned out I didn’t need the surgery, but it took a week to process me out of the hospital. I had liberty every night until 2400.

Another weird one: my first TDY after boot camp, before getting a ship, was at an Army depot in Ohio. Long story. I was there for a whole summer.

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Faculty picture for the school yearbook.

7. What did you enjoy most about being an English teacher and a social worker?

Both had annoying bureaucracies which hampered some good work, and the pay in both is shamefully low, but the rewards of seeing children progress or in helping people in true need cannot be measured. A lot of my former students are now Facebook friends. They’re all retired and I’m still working.

8. What inspired you to write “The Last Detail,” “Cinderella Liberty” and the “Last Flag Flying,”?

“The Last Detail” was an incredible stroke of luck. It was handed to me almost whole while I was in transit aboard the USS INTREPID after leaving the hospital. I was working with a crusty old P.O.1 in a tiny office. The Career Guidance Office. We played chess all day and swapped sea stories. He told me about having to escort a young sailor from Corpus Christi to the brig in Portsmouth, NH. The kid was unjustly sentenced to a long sentence for a small offense. I knew immediately I had struck gold. It took five or six years to evolve from a short story to a novel.

“Cinderella Liberty” was based on my Naval Hospital experience. That one took about four months to write.

“Last Flag Flying” was the result of endless prodding by a friend to revisit the characters in “The Last Detail” and essentially duplicate their train trip. I resisted for obvious reasons, but I was so obsessed with Bush pushing us into an endless and unnecessary war I felt it might be the best way to get it all off my chest.

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Otis Wilson, Randy Quaid, Jack Nicholson and Don McGovern in “The Last Detail.” From IMDB.com

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Steve Carrell, Laurence Fishburne, Darryl, Bryan Cranston and Rick Linklater on “Last Flag Flying.”

9. What was it like working with Jack Nicholson, Hal Ashby, Robert Towne, Harrison Ford, Martin Ritt, Barbara Streisand, Richard Dreyfus, Harold Becker, James Woods, Mark Rydell, Sydney Pollack, Sherry Lansing and Stanley Jaffe, Richard Linklater, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne and Steve Carrell?

I never worked with any of the principals involved in “The Last Detail.” I worked alone on Towne’s first draft for two weeks, the first time I ever saw a screenplay. Of the others, I worked most intensely with Barbra, Harold Becker, Mark Rydell, and Rick Linklater.

Mark Rydell did “Cinderella Liberty.” I worked closely with him on the script, my first, which took over twice as long as it took to write the novel. A WGA strike forced us to call it done. Mark was a charming, clever director, but I think I absorbed some bad stuff from him. He was an operator and I know at times I emulated him. A mistake. I’m not an operator, and I should have known that from the beginning. Not that his heart wasn’t in the right place.

I did several scripts with Harold Becker, who I liked personally, but I never fully trusted him. I saw him throw others under the bus and I’m pretty sure he did likewise with me.

Sherry Lansing was often derided as a cheerleader, but she was the best of cheerleaders, always encouraging, out in front. She was great to work with on “School Ties.” She was one of the first women to break out big in the business. I like her a lot. I worked with her and Jaffe on “Taps” and “School Ties,” which Jaffe left to head up Paramount. Stanley and I had a love-hate relationship. While at Paramount he hired me to do a major rewrite for a green-lit picture with a major star. I knew he had bragged about getting me cheap for “Taps,” so he made up for it with this job. It was outlandish. I can’t mention the project because at the last moment the star decided he couldn’t work with the director, and the whole thing crashed and burned.

Sydney Pollock was a good friend and a guide to me in the industry. He helped me through the political and filmmaking process in Hollywood. Sydney said that I was not “part of all this,” meaning the ethos and byzantine angles of Hollywood, and he took on the role of guide. I never did learn the ins and outs of the business, and whenever I pretended to I came off as a jerk.

My best experience, which turned out to be my least successful movie, was with Rick Linklater. All indications are that the movie will be rediscovered as time moves on. That happened with “Vision Quest,” a failed picture that keeps finding new audiences that are deeply moved by it. Rick never speaks above a whisper. He seems always on an even keel. Whatever he does comes from the heart.

Barbra was a singular experience. She’s taken a bad rap in the past. Even though I didn’t even like her, until I met her. I was so nervous about our first meeting. At the time, Sidney Pollack told me I would love her, and I did, even though I have a hard time being around perfectionists, who I believe get in their own way. Alvin Sargent, a good friend, worked with me as a collaborator on “Nuts.” Mark Rydell was originally the director. At one point she asked Rydell to step aside and let her work alone with the two of us. He wasn’t happy about it, but Barbra gets what she wants. We practically lived at her house in Beverly Hills for a week. It was agony, it was a joy. Rydell was replaced by Martin Ritt, one of the great old lefty directors.

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Tom Cruise, Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn in Taps. From IMDB.com

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott on “Blade Runner.” From IMDB.com

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Richard Dreyfus and Barbra Streisand in “Nuts.” From IMDB.com

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Linda Fiorentino and Matthew Modine in “Vision Quest.” From IMDB.com

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Ben Affleck, Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon and Zeljko Ivanek in “School Ties.” From IMDB.com

10. What are you most proud of, your life and career?

Whatever I may be proud of came with a good deal of luck. I’m proud and lucky that my children are not addicts, and I’m proud I never wrote anything I’m ashamed of.

I’m also proud and lucky to have received an Image Award from the NAACP as Screenwriter of the Year. (1973) I may be the only Caucasian to receive that.

Several years ago, I was living in Sonoma and found I could not work because of the raucous noise of leaf blowers. I went to the city council and took my allotted three minutes to urge them to ban blowers. I went to every meeting over the next year, taking my three minutes. I did my homework and concluded that blowers were the most destructive handheld tool ever invented. I bombarded them with data they could not ignore. They finally voted to ban them, but the mayor caved to commercial pressure and changed his vote. He lost the next election because of that. The issue finally went to a ballot measure and the ban was passed by 16 votes.

I did the same thing in Palm Springs, but this time it was a slam dunk. I’m proud to have had a role in banning leaf blowers in two different cities.

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Darryl worked a season with the George Matthews Great London 3-Ring Circus and wrote a book about it, “The Ringmaster.” He became Randy the Clown.

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Darryl with Stephen Colbert at an event for “Last Flag Flying.”

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Darryl’s NAACP Image Award for Screenwriter of the Year for 1973.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to get VA health care without all the paperwork

It will soon be easier for you to get VA health care in your community without paperwork.

As of January 2020, you won’t have to provide a signed, written authorization for VA to release your electronic VA health information to a participating community care provider.

VA will automatically begin sharing your health information with participating community care providers using the Veterans Health Information Exchange. The electronic system is secure and safe.

This change will make it easier for your health care team to make better decisions about your health care. It can also help you be safer, especially during emergencies.


No action needed

If you are OK with VA sharing your electronic patient information with your community care provider, you don’t have to do a thing. Your information will be shared automatically.

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Form needed to OPT OUT of electronic sharing

However, if you do not want to share your information electronically, you must submit VA Form 10-10164 (Opt Out of Sharing).

There is no September 30 deadline to submit your form 10-10164

You can submit your Form 10-10164 at any time. VA will share your information until you submit your form.

If you submitted Form 10-0484 before September 30, you do NOT need to submit Form 10-10164.

You can return VA Form 10-10164 at any VA Medical Center. Just visit the Release of Information (ROI) office. You can also send it by mail. After VA processes your form, your VA health information will not be shared electronically with community providers you see for treatment.

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

(Photo by John Schnobrich)

Change your mind? No problem

You change your mind and share your health record with your participating community provider. Just complete and return VA Form 10-10163 (Opt In for Sharing) at any time.

You also can still ask VA to share your information with participating community care providers by fax or mail service.

If you don’t share your information, it will not affect your VA health care or your relationship with your VA health care provider.

Download and print forms here.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China just slapped paint on its J-16 and called it ‘stealth’

China claims that its advanced strike fighter now has “near stealth” capabilities.

The Shenyang J-16 twin-engine, twin-seat multi-role fighter has reportedly been upgraded with radar-absorbent paint, also known as ferromagnetic paint.

“The silver-gray painting covering the J-16 is a kind of cloaking coating that gives the warplane a certain stealth capability, making it nearly invisible to the naked eye and electromagnetic devices,” the official Global Times reported, citing a recent interview with Chinese aviation brigade commander Jiang Jiaji conducted by state broadcaster CCTV.


The aircraft is a modified version of the J-11, which is a carbon copy of Russia’s Su-27. It was designed for maneuverability, not stealth. Chinese military expert Fu Qianshao told the Global Times that the new paint job reduces the plane’s radar cross-section, making detection less likely. “The enemy will only recognize it at close range, giving it a huge advantage in combat,” Chinese media reported.

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

A Russia Sukhoi Su-27.

The J-16, a heavily-armed offensive companion for China’s J-20 stealth air superiority fighter, is said to be capable of carrying eight tons of weapons, including guided smart bombs, air-to-ground missiles, and even anti-ship missiles. China is also reportedly developing an electronic attack variant.

While Chinese military officers argue that the radar-absorbent paint makes the fighter “nearly invisible,” this is likely an exaggeration of the coating’s capabilities.

The US Air Force has been applying ferromagnetic paint to F-16s for decades, according to The National Interest. In 2012, the F-16s received new coats of paint similar to that of the stealthy F-35, the Aviationist reported at that time. Even with the upgrade, the F-16s have a radar cross-section of 1.2 square meters, much larger than the impressive 0.005 square meters of the F-22 and F-35.

No amount of radar-absorbent paint, TNI notes, can make up for the shape of the aircraft, which are not designed to significantly reflect radar waves. Despite improvements, the F-16 continues to be labeled a “fourth-generation aircraft,” with no mention of stealth capabilities. The same is likely true of China’s J-16, although the stealth paint may dampen part of the radar return making it relatively harder to pick up on radar.

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)

The J-16 advances China’s ability to conduct offensive strikes. “In the past the PLA Air Force’s combat division has been characterised more as a defensive arm, with limited range and offensive capabilities, confined mainly to its immediate region and territory,” Collin Koh, a research fellow with the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, told the South China Morning Post.

The aircraft is expected to play a role in an armed conflict over Taiwan, a self-ruled island Beijing views as a renegade province.

Chinese military analysts explained to Chinese media that the J-16 could carry out a devastating assault against surface targets after the J-20 cleared away an enemy’s air defenses. It is unclear whether China actually has the ability to conduct such operations, as both aircraft are relatively new.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why the next season of ‘The Punisher’ will be bittersweet

If there is one comic book character who embodies the military veteran spirit, it has got to be Marvel’s Frank Castle, also known as The Punisher. While there have been several movie and television adaptations, the one that most faithfully portrays the Frank Castle we know from the comic books is Netflix’s The Punisher, starring Jon Bernthal.

Bernthal’s Castle first made an appearance in the second season of Daredevil, and his graveyard monologue solidified his role in the hearts of fans. The first season of his solo series was everything fans of the comics could have hoped for. The next season, which is to be released on January 18, is also highly anticipated, but a dark cloud looms: This may be the finale.

Don’t despair; the pieces are lining up to make this the greatest thing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet.


An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Deadpool can jokingly play with the PG-13 rating by breaking the fourth wall. The Punisher on the other hand…

(20th Century Fox)

In October, Netflix cancelled Iron Fist. Not even a week later, Luke Cage was also cancelled. A month after Daredevil’s season three premiered, it, too, was given the short end of the stick. Put two and two together and you can reasonably expect The Punisher and Jessica Jones to eventually get the ax as well, but not before their upcoming seasons are released in 2019.

Both Iron Fist and Luke Cage ended on bizarre cliffhangers. You can tell the cancellations probably came as a shock to the show-runners. Daredevil, on the other hand, had enough of a heads up to carefully and properly wrap up the story threads of each character. The Punisher — which wrapped filming in mid-August — hopefully had the same kind of foresight.

The current rumor is that each character will appear in later Marvel properties after the contractual two-year “cooling-off” period is over. If they do come over, they’ll be utilized in the already-established, PG-13 Marvel Cinematic Universe. And that’s great; it’d be amazing to see Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin face off against Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. We could even see Mike Colter’s Luke Cage join the New Avengers alongside Wolverine and Dr. Strange.

But those future appearances will adhere to PG-13 restrictions. If you saw Once Upon a Deadpool, the edited-down, more family-friendly version of Deadpool 2 made entirely to keep the Regenerating Degenerate just the way he is in his R-rated films while remaining compliant with Disney, then you know there are creative ways to make this work.

But trying to fit The Punisher, a man known more for his penchant for violence than a tendency to break the fourth wall, into a PG-13 rating may not work quite as well.

There is a silver lining here. The series is afforded something rarely seen in television series: closure. Season 2 can go all out because there’s no season 3 for which to save some energy. They’re not going to get renewed. They can wrap up characters or kill off important ones to better fit the narrative.

We may even get the story that’s always been teased in the comics: his ending. Punisher fans know Castle won’t settle down in some suburban home, but can he keep living the life of a vigilante? He never really managed to keep an ever-growing rogue’s gallery of villains because he kills them all — just to have another secure a place on his sh*tlist. What happens when this well dries up? What is a Punisher without anyone left to punish?

Details about the next season are sparse. Ben Barnes is reprising his role as Billy Russo, who completed his transformation into the villain Jigsaw in Season 1, and Josh Stewart is playing John Pilgrim, who may end up being the villain from the PunisherMAX comic series, Mennonite.

Since the burden of a serialized third season is lifted, the show-runner, Steve Lightfoot, said in an interview that his focus was to make the best season possible and to keep characters true to their comic-book counterparts. And as a huge comic book fan and a veteran, that’s all I’m asking for.

Check out the season two trailer below.

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