Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options - We Are The Mighty
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Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

Let’s chat retirement for a quick minute. You took the Blended Retirement System training, right? Probably because your boss told you to get it done so she could report 100 percent completion for your unit, right? And it was probably the most boring two hours of your life, right? So, now that we’re halfway through 2018, how much do you actually remember about BRS and retirement from that training? Not much, am I right?

Exactly. So let’s break it down.

Who’s eligible for BRS?


Anyone who was in the military as of Dec. 31, 2017, is automatically grandfathered into the High-3 Legacy retirement system. Remember, that’s the one where you multiply the number of years you serve by the average of your highest 36 months of basic pay by 2.5%. This option requires you to serve at least 20 years to qualify for retirement. However, if you have less than 12 years of service (active duty) or less than 4,320 points (Reserves/National Guard), then you have a choice to make. You can either stick with the High-3 system or opt into BRS.

First, let’s be frank. This is a highly personal decision, and quite honestly, we support you either way. But we (the Department of Defense) want to ensure you have the right tools and information to make the best choice for you and your family.

So. You need to take a hard look at your finances and your goals. Chat with your spouse or family. Make an appointment with your installation’s personal financial manager or another trusted advisor and run the BRS calculator. See which choice is best for you.

If you want to stick with the High-3, great! Enjoy that retirement and ride off into the sunset!

If you choose BRS, that’s great too! There are some great benefits to BRS, IF you decide it’s the best choice for you. So let’s look at how you can 1) take ownership of your retirement, and 2) make the most of it.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
(National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson)

Remind me again what BRS is?

Through the Blended Retirement System, you don’t have to serve 20 years to walk away with government-provided retirement benefits. So, if you don’t think you’ll make a career out of your military service (and that’s FINE!), BRS would be a great choice for you. If you do plan to serve 20 years, the important thing to remember is that if you opt into BRS early and maximize your Thrift Savings Plan contributions, you could have a retirement that is potentially equal to or more than what you might earn with the legacy retirement system.

There are three main parts of BRS that make it different from the High-3 Legacy system:

Defined benefit: Monthly retired pay for life after at least 20 years of service. This is part of BOTH retirement options. However, under BRS, the defined benefit multiplier changed from 2.5% to 2.0%. So apply this to the formula:

High-3: Number of years you serve X Average of your highest 36 months of basic pay X 2.5%

BRS: Number of years you serve X Average of your highest 36 months of pay X 2.0% (This results in about a 20% reduction in monthly retired pay. However, you have the opportunity to make up the difference by maximizing your TSP contributions and receiving the government matching funds.)

Defined contribution: Government automatic and matching contributions of up to 5 percent of basic pay to your Thrift Savings Plan. Even if you’re sticking with the legacy system, TSP is still something you should consider. While the government won’t match your contributions (that’s BRS only), TSP is a great way to augment your monthly retired pay.

Continuation pay: A one-time, midcareer bonus in exchange for an agreement to perform additional obligated service. It’s a direct cash payout, much like a bonus, and is only available to service members enrolled in BRS. Service members who are eligible may receive a payment of at least 2.5 times your monthly basic pay. Reservists and members of the National Guard are eligible to receive 0.5 times their monthly basic pay as if serving on active duty. However, this is unique to each service, so ensure you check with your Manpower/Personnel office to find out more information. You can find more information on continuation pay here.

So, if you opt into BRS and serve 20 years or more and qualify for retirement, you have a pretty sweet deal. But the cool part is that even if you DON’T stay for retirement (which again, is totally OK), you still walk away with your TSP. And don’t worry, you’re always vested (entitled to) your own contributions and earnings. However, to become vested in the Service Automatic Contribution (1%), you must have completed two years of service. After two years of service, you are considered fully vested.

AND what’s even cooler is that, say you get out of the military completely and you get a civilian job with a 401(k) — you can roll your TSP into that company’s retirement fund. Or, you can choose to leave your TSP alone until you’re of the age to tap into it (which is 59 1/2, btw). Even if you’re not contributing to it anymore, your TSP will continue to grow over time based on the market’s performance. So, you could potentially have a tidy sum that you can access when you finally retire from working. Let’s just call this what it is … a win-win.

What’s next?

First and foremost, like we said already, it’s critically important that you make this decision fully armed with the information you need to make the best choice possible for your financial future. That means going to your installation’s financial manager, talking with your spouse or someone you trust. Deeply consider what you want your life after the military to look like, how you’ll get there and how either the High-3 system or BRS can help you get there.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Michael E. Davis Jr., Maryland National Guard Public Affairs Office)

If you are one of those folks who is grandfathered into High-3 and choose to stay there, then there’s nothing you need to do. Just keep going to work, doing great things and getting closer and closer to retirement.


If you decide that BRS is the way to go, remember that you have until Dec. 31, 2018, to opt in. That can be done via MyPay if you’re a Soldier, sailor, Airman or Coast Guard member, or MarineOnline for you Marines. Once it’s done though, you can’t change your mind. The decision is final.

Then, after that, double check your TSP contribution to ensure that you receive the government matching benefit. If you opt in, you automatically receive the 1 percent government contribution. But YOU have to physically adjust anything after that to ensure you receive the government matching. If you don’t make any TSP changes, your existing contribution rate stays the same, even if that is zero. And if you can’t afford to contribute the full amount right now, that’s totally OK. But think about what you can contribute now and then factor in pay raises or bonuses for potential opportunities to increase your contribution when you can.

If you’re a Reservist, this applies to you, too. But your TSP contributions come from your weekend drill pay. But, any time you’re on long-term active duty orders, your contributions will continue, but come from your basic pay.

So, let’s recap for a hot minute.

While planning for retirement might not be on your mind now, it’s really, really important that you take a second to thoroughly think through your options: BRS v. High-3. And if you’ve made your decision and BRS is it, ensure you opt in by the deadline, Dec. 31, 2018. However, after Dec. 31, 2018, your retirement choice will be irrevocable. If you’ve already opted in, or once you do so, ensure your TSP contributions are adjusted to maximize your TSP and ensure you receive the government matching capability. You’ll be able to adjust your TSP contributions at your leisure any time moving forward.

We just ran through a lot of pretty dense stuff. But, like we said, we, the Department of Defense, are totally cool with whatever choice you make. We just want to ensure you have the tools and resources to make an educated decision. Your retirement is your future – be sure you’re financially prepared for it — and give yourself a high five for making the right choice for you!

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The new USS Indiana is one of the most lethal subs ever built

The US Navy commissioned its newest Virginia-class fast attack submarine in late September 2018.

The nuclear-powered USS Indiana (SSN 789), the fourth Navy vessel named after the state of Indiana and the Navy’s sixteenth Virginia-class submarine, entered service on Sept. 29, 2018, at a commissioning ceremony in Port Canaveral, Florida.

Indiana is a flexible, multi-mission platform designed to carry out the seven core competencies of the submarine force: anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, delivery of Special Operations Forces (SOF), strike warfare, irregular warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and mine warfare,” the Navy said in a press statement.

Check it out below.


Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

(US Navy photo)

The Indiana is the sixteenth commissioned Virginia-class fast attack submarine, and the sixth commissioned Virginia-class Block III submarine.


Virginia-class submarines are developed in blocks, with each block having slightly different specifications than other blocks.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

(US Navy photo)

The Indiana is 377 feet long, 34 feet wide, about 7,800 tons when submerged, and has a 140-person crew. It also has a top speed of about 28 mph.

Source: US Navy

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

(US Navy photo)

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Darryl Wood)

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Darryl Wood)

Here’s a close-up of the navigation computer.


One of the newest features on Virginia-class submarines are advanced periscopes, which are called photonics mast. They can be pulled up on any monitor in the submarine, and on the Indiana, are operated by XBOX controllers.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Darryl Wood)

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

(US Navy photo)

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Darryl Wood)

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Darryl Wood)

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Darryl Wood)

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Darryl Wood)

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

(US Navy photo)

youtu.be

Finally, watch the Indiana in motion below.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy authorizes two-piece swimsuits and other clothing items

The Navy has authorized a range of new clothing items, including two-piece swimsuits for male and female sailors, special pins to designate survivors and next-of-kin of fallen troops, and a thermal neck scarf for cold weather.

In a Navy administrative message Monday, officials announced that sailors have the option of wearing two pieces for their semi-annual physical readiness test, or PRT. But don’t show up in a bikini; Navy officials made clear that this regulation change is for sailors who want more coverage, not less.

Full torso coverage is still required for all swimsuits worn. The new guidance makes it possible for sailors to add a pair of swim shorts to a one-piece, or a rash-guard top to swim shorts based on preference or religious conviction. Also authorized is full-body swimwear, like the “burkini” wetsuit-style option popular with Muslim women.


Robert Carroll, the head of the Navy’s Uniform Matters Office, told Military.com that the change is the result of feedback from the fleet, coupled with the fact that existing swimwear guidance was ambiguous.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Benjamin Kittleson)

“We have sailors who have religious convictions, or religious concerns or beliefs,” he said. “Then you have people who just prefer a different level of modesty.”

The change will also help those, he said, who just want a greater level of warmth in the water.

Swimming is an optional alternative to running in the Navy’s current PRT.

Also newly authorized are special lapel pins, approved by Congress, as official designation for surviving family members of service members. The Gold Star Lapel Button, designed and created in 1947, is awarded by the government to surviving families of service members who were killed in action. The closely related Next of Kin Deceased Personnel Lapel Button was approved in 1973, specifically for family members of fallen service members from the Army Reserve or Army National Guard. The small round pins feature a gold star at the center.

Navy guidance specifies that these pins are approved only for optional wear with the service’s most formal uniforms: service dress and full dress.

Carroll said the decision to authorize the buttons followed a number of requests from the fleet.

Also approved for wear is a black neck gaiter, authorized during “extreme cold weather conditions,” according to Navy guidance. Sailors must procure their own all-black gaiters, and the item is authorized only with the cold-weather parka, Navy working uniform type II/III parka, pea coat, reefer and all-weather coat. The guidance comes out just ahead of the Army-Navy game this weekend. However, conditions at the U.S. Naval Academy are expected to be relatively balmy, at a rainy 53 degrees Fahrenheit, and likely do not merit the gaiter.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

Sailors swim in the Gulf of Aden during a swim call aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro)

When to wear the gaiter is a decision reserved for Navy regional commanders, Carroll said, who will promulgate the policy for their region.

Finally, the Navy is authorizing a new chief warrant officer insignia for acoustic technicians, which is approved for wear by all warrants with a 728X designator. The service redesignated submarine electronics technicians as acoustic technicians in 2017, reopening the field, which had been closed since 2011. The electronics technician insignia had depicted a helium atom.

Carroll said the new insignia will be a throwback to earlier Navy acoustic ratings, and feature a globe with a sea horse in the center and a trident emerging from it.

“They’re pretty excited about it,” Carroll said of the acoustic technician community.

In addition to new uniform items, the Navy announced it is redesigning two current items to improve the design. The summer white/service dress white maternity shirt will undergo redesign “to enhance appearance and functionality when worn,” officials said.

The new shirt, once complete, will include princess seams for fit, adjustable side tabs with three buttons, epaulettes and two hidden pockets in the side seams. The new shirt will also look more like the Navy’s service khaki and service uniform maternity shirts, with chest pockets removed. Additional details, including a timeline for the shirt’s release, will be announced in a future message, officials said.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

Sailors from the Royal New Zealand navy and U.S. Navy dive into the pool to start a 200-meter freestyle relay during a Rim of the Pacific Exercise international swim meet.

(Department of Defense photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

Also being redesigned is the black fleece liner for the Navy Working Uniform and cold-weather parka. Updates will include outer fabric that is resistant to rain and wind, an attached rank tab and side pockets with zip closures.

Officials continue to test the I-Boot 5, a next-generation work boot that improves on previous designs.

“The evaluation will continue through the end of calendar year 2019 to facilitate wear during cold weather conditions,” officials said in a release. “The completion of the I-Boot 5 evaluation, participant survey and final report to Navy leadership with recommendation is expected to occur by the first quarter of calendar year 2020.”

As for other recently rolled-out uniform items, Navy officials say previously announced mandatory uniform possession and wear dates have not changed.

Enlisted women in ranks E-1 to E-6 must adopt the “Crackerjacks” jumper-style service dress blue with white “Dixie cup” hat by Jan. 31, 2020; female officers and chief petty officers must own the choker-style service dress white coat by the same date; enlisted sailors E-1 through E-6 must have the service dress white with blue piping by Oct. 31, 2021; and all sailors must own the new Navy fitness suit by Sept. 30, 2021. The black cold-weather parka is also designated for mandatory possession by April 30, 2021, officials said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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How to bury a loved one at sea without the US Navy’s help

For many, it will come as a surprise that it’s so simple to bury a deceased loved one at sea, with little more than sail cloth and some weights. All you have to do is ensure you have all the necessary permits for transporting the human remains and a boat. 

When burying someone at sea, it’s important to note that a military burial beyond what you can provide amongst your family and friends (or chartered boat service) isn’t possible. You’ll need the Navy’s help to do that, but family won’t be allowed to be present.

Read: These are the Navy’s rules for being buried at sea

The first step is getting familiar with the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act, which affords a general permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for “dumping of certain materials that will have a minimal adverse environmental impact and are generally disposed of in small quantities.” 

This general permit allows for the transport and burial of human remains in the ocean under specific conditions. The remains have to be dumped at least three nautical miles from shore and you can dump things that won’t decompose along with them. These are things like plastic flowers and wreaths. 

You’ll need a permit to move the body to the boat (your funeral director can help with this part) and you’ll need to prepare the body for sea by either using a non-plastic casket or some kind of natural fiber wrapping affixed to a weight for easy sinking.

burial at sea
Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class John Bellino

If using a casket, a specific series of holes must be drilled so the box fills with water and offsets the buoyancy of the body. The casket must be wrapped with 5 steel bands or chains, four around the width of the casket and one wrapped lengthwise. Additional weight in sand or stone must be added so the entire casket weighs at least 300 pounds. 

In either case, remains must not be visible. 

The EPA also has some other, important regulations regarding civilian burials at sea. 

  • You cannot use a rocket or a balloon to transport the body. If using aircraft to dump the remains, the aircraft has to be able to land.
  • Funeral pyres or uncontrolled burning boats are not permitted by the MPRSA general permit, so viking funerals will require a special permit. 
  • The general permit applies to the ocean only. Lakes and other bodies of water are regulated by the states.

There is no form or application required for conducting your own burial at sea, but the EPA must be notified within 30 days of burial using the Burial at Sea Reporting Tool.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The UK will not block death penalty for ISIS fighters

The British government will not block the potential use of the death penalty in the case of two captured fighters of the extremist group Islamic State (IS) who could face trial in the United States, news reports say.

Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh are suspected of being the final two members of a IS foursome labelled “The Beatles” due to their British accents.

The two men, who were captured by Syrian Kurdish fighters in January 2018, were reportedly wanted for allegedly imprisoning, torturing and killing hostages.


They were captured by Syrian Kurdish fighters in January 2018.

Britain, which opposes the death penalty, has been in discussions with the United States about how and where the pair should face justice.

In a letter to the U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that was seen by the Daily Telegraph, British Home Secretary Sajid Javid said London will not seek “assurances” that the pair will not be executed.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

“I am of the view that there are strong reasons for not requiring a death penalty assurance in this specific case, so no such assurances will be sought,” Javid wrote in June 2018, according to a transcript of the letter published by the newspaper on July 23, 2018.

Amnesty International said the case “seriously jeopardizes the UK’s position as a strong advocate for the abolition of the death penalty.”

“At a time when the rest of the world is moving increasingly to abolition, this reported letter…marks a huge backward step,” Amnesty International UK’s head of advocacy Allan Hogarth said.

A Home Office spokesman said the government would not comment on leaked documents.

Mohammed Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John” became the most notorious of the four after appearing in videos showing the murder of Western and Japanese journalists and aid workers.

He is believed to have been killed in a U.S.-British missile strike in 2015.

Featured image: British Home Secretary Sajid Javid

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A Gold Star Wife finds new hope in her battle for her husband’s legacy

Barbara Allen relives her husband’s murder, every day. “I don’t want to be out here doing this. This is not fun for me, it’s exhausting. It’s been fourteen years of it,” she shared.

On June 7, 2005 Lt. Louis Allen and Cpt. Phillip Esposito were on an Army base in Iraq winding down after a long day. Allen’s husband had just deployed to Iraq and kissed her and their four sons goodbye 10 days earlier. He was playing the board game, Risk, with the Captain. A few minutes after they started, a claymore mine was set off outside their window. Grenades exploded shortly after the mine went off. They were both rushed to the hospital immediately but died of internal injuries the following day.

While military investigators initially thought the enemy was an insurgent who had set off a rocket or mortar, the discovery of the hand placed mine led them to other suspects. Their subsequent investigation found that the enemy – was from within.


Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

Photo courtesy of Barbara Allen

A staff sergeant within their company was soon charged with two counts of premeditated murder during the week both men were buried by their families. The widows of the men allegedly killed by the staff sergeant were flown to Kuwait a few months later for his Article 32 hearing. Nine witnesses testified and a general court martial for murder was recommended based on the evidence presented. In early 2006, after learning of the evidence against him, the staff sergeant accused offered up a guilty plea to avoid the death penalty.

It was rejected by the military.

Two years later on December 4, 2008, the accused staff sergeant was acquitted of both murders, despite a mountain of evidence that he had “fragged” the two officers. Allen wasn’t told until months later that he had entered a guilty plea and the accused staff sergeant was discharged from the Army. Honorably.

Many witnesses testified that the accused staff sergeant had pledged to “burn” and “frag” the captain. They also shared that he was seen smiling and laughing after their deaths. A supply sergeant even testified that she gave the accused ammunition, including a claymore mine. Despite all of that – it wasn’t enough to convince the jury.

Allen requested that the Senate Committee on Armed Services look into the case. They didn’t.

“If our trial had happened when social media was a thing, I think it would have gone completely differently. It fell through a gap and we can’t get it back. If we had the court of public opinion on our side, the country on our side, he’d get the Purple Heart,” said Allen.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

Photo courtesy of Barbara Allen

Allen was devastated that, in her words, the accused got away with murder and her husband was forgotten afterward. Her husband’s death was declared non-hostile, meaning the military states that he wasn’t killed by the enemy. This meant he wasn’t a candidate for the Purple Heart. She described the whole experience as hell on earth.

“Anyone who willfully kills two soldiers in a combat zone has aided and abetted the enemy. Therefore, is the enemy,” Allen said. “Even the weapon used had the words ‘front to an enemy.’ Flabbergasted, Allen asked, “What else do you have to do to be considered an enemy?” Allen didn’t understand how Ft. Hood victims could get awarded Purple Hearts, but her husband, who was murdered in a combat zone, isn’t eligible.

Allen believes that the Army must decide that they either made a mistake and charged the wrong person and her husband was killed by an insurgent enemy or they let a guilty man go. She reported that “people tended to get fired” when they helped her. Allen said they’ve gone as far as having a Medal of Honor recipient deliver the casefile to President Trump to plead for her husband to receive the Purple Heart, without success.

When asked how her boys feel about all of this, she began to cry. “This is their father, their dad, who’s been missing for their entire lives,” she said. “In the eyes of history he doesn’t exist. His future was taken already; you can’t take his legacy. The message is that any member of the military is expendable. If you die in a way that is embarrassing, we [the military] will erase you. That isn’t the military that I believe in or that he believed in.”

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

Allen achieved a master’s in criminal justice years after her husband was killed. She reported studying 12 other capital cases like her husband’s. She believes that if the FBI’s protocol for workplace violence had been followed by the military with the accused, her husband wouldn’t have been killed. “They deserved to be protected; nobody was trained. They believed that the uniform was a barrier to reporting,” she said.

This ruling is more than just an award to Allen and her family, she shared. “If the military said that if you willfully injure or kill another service member in a combat zone, let’s just start there, you are an enemy. Teach them about the warning signs. I can testify to what happens when you don’t. It would change things,” said Allen.

Today, Allen says she has a glimmer of hope once again. Her murdered husband’s case file for a Purple Heart is currently sitting on a desk in the Pentagon, awaiting review and the stroke of a pen.

Which way it goes remains to be seen.

Articles

This is what happens to the personal effects of fallen warriors

The months following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, would forever shape the way the military does business.


In an effort to provide some sense of comfort to the families of those who perished that September day, the US Army Human Resources Command established the Joint Personal Effects Depot at present day Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, in Arlington, Virginia.

Its close proximity to the Pentagon made Arlington the perfect area to account for and process personal items of fallen warriors, return them to the families, and help provide closure.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
Staff Sgt. Luis Quinones speaks to the media about inventory process April 14, 2011, at the new Joint Personal Effects Depot at Dover Air Force Base, Del. USAF photo by Roland Balik.

But as America’s resolve strengthened, the young men and women of this country took up arms to defend the freedoms of its citizens against an unconventional new enemy in a war against terror thousands of miles away.

With the possibility of a rising number of casualties stemming from this new war, America’s military was faced with a new challenge — how to care for its fallen?

The History

As the war on terror intensified, the need for an expanded personal effects facility soon became evident and the JPED was relocated from Arlington to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

Working out of old and sometimes dilapidated World War II era warehouses, workers at the JPED ran an assembly line operation without heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer until 2005, when the decision was made to consolidate the Joint Personal Effects Depot, along with the services’ mortuary, to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
Nelson Delgado, operations management specialist (right) and 1st Lt. Marcus Hull, summary court martial officer, both with the Joint Personal Effects Depot, review personal effects inventory paperwork in processing line number 3 June 29, 2012, at Dover Air Force Base. USAF photo by Roland Balik.

“I was assigned to the depot in Aberdeen as a mortuary affairs specialist with the Army Reserve and I can say it was less than ideal conditions to work in,” said Nelson Delgado, JPED operations management specialist and retired Army Reserve master sergeant.

“Back then, everything was moved from station to station,” he said. “It was cramped and there was too much room for mistakes. One day, General Schoomaker (retired Gen. Peter Schoomaker, 35th Chief of Staff of the US Army) showed up and asked us what we needed.

“That’s how we got to Dover.”

In March 2011, construction of the current 58,000 square-foot state-of-the art facility was finally completed by the Philadelphia District Corps of Engineers at a cost of $17.5 million. A few months later in May, the first personal effects processed there.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
The JPED building on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Army photo by Tim Boyle.

Staffed by a mix of active and Reserve component Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines, as well as a handful of Department of the Army Civilians and contractors, the JPED, along with the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations facility provides dignity, honor, and respect for the families left behind.

The Process

When Soldiers make the ultimate sacrifice in theater, their personal effects are inventoried, packed, and rushed to the JPED, usually within five days.

“If it comes through the front door, it has to be accounted for by us and sent to the family,” said Delgado. “We don’t throw anything away.”

“Sometimes, what might seem insignificant to you and me may, in fact, be very important to the families. We’ve actually had instances where families have called back asking for something like a gum wrapper that was given to the service member by a child,” he said.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
Nelson Delgado, Joint Personal Effects Depot operations management specialist, demonstrates operating one of two x-ray machines at the JPED located at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Oct. 24, 2017. Army photo by Master Sgt. Brian Hamilton.

As items arrive at the depot, they are carefully x-rayed and screened for unexploded ordnance in a blast-proof corridor before they are ever brought into the main facility.

From there, items are brought into an individual cage where they are inventoried and packed for shipment to the service member’s primary next of kin.

“All the preparations are done, from start to finish, in one single room,” Delgado said.

Also Read: How Marines honor their fallen heroes — on the battlefield and at home

“We ensure there are two Soldiers present in the cage at all times in addition to a summary court martial officer. This gives us a system of checks and balances and also reduces the risk of cross contamination of items,” he added.

Each cage is equipped with photographic equipment, washers and dryers, and cleaning materials. As items are inventoried, they are carefully inspected and then individually photographed. Soldiers go through great pains to ensure each item is soil-free and presentable for the family members.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
At the two-year anniversary of the creation of the Joint Personal Effects Depot at Dover Air Force Base, Del., the command continues to process fallen service members’ personal belongings with unparalleled dignity and respect. Pictured here, personnel from the JPED process the personal effects of someone who was killed in support of overseas contingency operations. Army photo by Tim Boyle.

“We want to make sure everything that the individual service member had with them in theater is returned to the family,” Delgado said. “What we don’t want to do is make a difficult situation worse.”

“If an item is soiled or bloodstained, we will stay here as long as it takes to get it clean so it can be returned. Besides memories, this is all the families have of their loved ones,” he said.

The Presentation

After items are cleaned and inventoried, they are carefully packaged into individual plastic foot-lockers.

Each item is pressed and folded. They are placed neatly in the containers, and wrapped tightly with several layers of packaging paper and bubble wrap. Smaller items, such as rings, watches or identification tags, are placed into small decorative pouches, inscribed with the service member’s individual branch of service.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
The entire process, from start to finish is done in one location to help eliminate items from becoming misplaced or cross contaminated with other service member’s personal items. Army photo by Master Sgt. Brian Hamilton.

Items such as Bibles, flags, or family photos are placed at the top of the first box, so that they are the first things the families see upon opening it.

“We emphasize box one, because that is usually the box the families will open first. But that doesn’t mean we neglect box two, or box six, or even box 10,” Delgado said. “We treat each box the same way because we really want the families to know we care about their loved one.”

“That’s why we take our time and make sure items are neat and presentable, not just stuff thrown in a box.”

After the items are finally packaged and sent to the transit room, Soldiers scour the cage one last time and sweep the floor before exiting. Great attention to detail is given to make sure everything is accounted for and nothing is overlooked.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
Items that move through the JPED are carefully cleaned, packaged, and sent to the families who have lost a loved one. Army photo by Master Sgt. Brian Hamilton.

The Connection

Soldiers at the JPED are meticulously screened for duty fitness by HRC’s Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Division before they are ever assigned there.

Assignments at the JPED can be emotionally taxing on the Soldiers working there.

Soldiers regularly attend resiliency training to help them cope with the tasks they are asked to perform. The JPED chaplain is as much there for them as he or she is for the grieving families attending dignified transfers.

“This is a job that not a lot of people want, or can do, but at the same time, this can be the most rewarding job you will ever do,” Delgado said.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
Nelson Delgado, Joint Personal Effects Depot operations management specialist, stands in cage one at the JPED located at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Oct. 24, 2017. Army photo by Master Sgt. Brian Hamilton.

“Taking care of the personal effects is the last part of the process. This is what helps bring some sense of closure to the families. The families don’t see what goes on here, but we get to know the service members and their loved ones by working here. We develop a closeness and connection with them,” he added.

For Delgado and others working at the JPED, that connection sometimes hits close to home.

“Sometimes you see kids as young as 19 years of age coming through here,” he said. “I have a 19-year-old kid at home. Sometimes it hits a little too close to home. I don’t know anyone working here that hasn’t cried at one time or another.

“I spent 23 of my 25-year Army Reserve career as mortuary affairs and I was blessed to get assigned to the JPED. This is our way of giving back to the families of the fallen. It’s an honor to do this.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 reasons why veteran characters would ruin horror flicks

In order for a horror film to work, you need to have relatable characters. The more easily the audience can put themselves in the shoes of the cast, the more real the terror. That’s why, when a horror film is geared towards a younger crowd, the characters are primarily teenagers who are made to be as average and generic as possible.

Of course, while veterans come from every walk of life, one thing they all have in common is that they aren’t average. We’re generally brash, crude, and perform well in environments that would freeze your average horror film character.


And to be fair, there have been horror films that feature characters with military backgrounds, like Predator. The problem here is that troops and vets would easily turn any horror film into an action film. In fact, the 2018 sequel to the Schwarzenegger classic seems to be embracing this action/horror dynamic of “vets versus monster.”

But here’s why vets wouldn’t make the best fit in most horror flicks:

We’re not easily scared

Veterans often have a desensitized “fight or flight” reflex. When vets are spooked, it’s rare for them to freeze in place or scream like children. They’re conditioned to hop right into fight mode.

If a twig snaps, vets look in that direction. When someone screams off in the distance, they’re not just going to shrug it off and continue their party in the middle of the woods.

We would organize survivors

Veterans instinctively take control of situations when everyone stands around confused. It doesn’t need to be a life-or-death situation, either. At a kid’s birthday party, for example, vets expertly knifehand their way into getting balloons inflated and cake cut.

Vets would identify who’s useful and smack some sense into the idiots that say, “let’s split up!”

We could make due with few resources

In horror films, survivors often run around looking for supplies. Most would probably settle for finding a pair of safety scissors that they would then inexplicably throw at the unkillable monster.

Meanwhile, the veteran has fashioned a ghillie suit using mud, sticks, and leaves and they’ve found the sturdiest club they could get their hands on — and set it on fire.

We’d probably be carrying

Chances are, the veteran probably doesn’t need to scavenge. The moment the idiot who went skinny-dipping starts screaming bloody murder, a veteran would chamber a round.

Unless the vet is fighting some supernatural force, the credits would start rolling shortly after the knife-wielding clown starts rushing them.

We know how to actually run and start cars

From the most macho grunt to the wimpiest supply guy, everyone has done Land Nav enough times to not trip on their own feet every ten seconds while running through the forest.

If the monster couldn’t be shot to death, the vet probably wouldn’t even bother and, instead, leave. Especially if the monster just comes at them at a walking pace…

We’ve secretly been preparing for this forever

Ask any veteran why they stockpiled arms and supplies and they may joke that it’s for the zombie apocalypse. The moment an actual zombie apocalypse happens, that cache is definitely coming in handy.

We also have at least seven different plans on what to do in every situation. Catching us completely off-guard isn’t a realistic plot point.

*Bonus* The downside to being a veteran in a horror film

But realistically our f*ck-off attitude would get us killed. The masked killer would probably show up, covered in blood, and we’d mock them for whatever reason. That’s maybe not the best idea…

MIGHTY HISTORY

The insanely lucky sub that changed naval warfare in one fight

U-boats were still in their infancy in 1914, and most naval officers looked down on the fleet. At best, they were considered defensive weapons that could help hold an enemy fleet away from the coasts. But then, on Sept. 22, 1914, a German U-boat saw a cluster of three British warships and managed to sink them all in under 90 minutes without suffering damage.


The September engagement took place while the war was less than two months old. The three British cruisers were old and considered unreliable. They were so fragile, in fact, that many naval leaders had argued they shouldn’t be assigned to the North Sea at all, but they were overruled. The three vessels and their escorts became known as the “Livebait Squadron.”

Despite the ships’ flaws, though, the crews did know how to mitigate their risk of submarine attack, mostly through zigzagging and posting lookouts to watch for periscopes or surfaced vessels, but they didn’t take those precautions.

The seas were rough, too rough for their destroyer escort, and so the British officers assumed they were too rough for submarines. This wasn’t entirely off base. Submarines rode close to the surface or even above it most of the time, and the water tossed around the boats quite easily. America’s future Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz, who spent a lot of time on submarines early in his career, would complain about how badly the boats were battered by the waves.

But for the crew members of the German boat U-9, it was just a cross they had to bear. It wasn’t like they could slip back to Germany every time the waves got bad. So, on September 22, they were still in their assigned zone, riding close to the surface and sucking up any pain, when the Livebait Squadron came into view.

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A painting depicts the HMS Aboukir sinking after being hit by the U-9 in 1914. The other two ships would sink within an hour.

(National Museum of the U.S. Navy)

And when they spotted the three British cruisers, none of them zigzagging to make their shot harder, they decided to go ahead and rob the Royal Navy of one of those big, important ships. The captain, Kapitänleutnan Otto Weddigen, ordered two torpedoes fired at the lead vessel, the HMS Aboukir.

One of them struck home, setting off a massive explosion that unquestionably doomed the ship. But no one had spotted the tell-tale stream of bubbles from the torpedo as it had raced to the ship in the rough seas, and so the ship’s captain just assumed he had hit a mine. He signaled to the other ships for assistance.

On the German U-boat, it must have looked like a gift from heaven. If the cruisers had realized they were under attack and set up to sink the U-boat, then the U-9 would have had to choose between bailing on the fight, diving for a few minutes or hours, and risk sinking in the engagement. But since the cruisers just lowered their lifeboats and didn’t prepare for combat, the U-9 could take another consequence-free swing at Livebait.

Weddigen fired next at the HMS Hogue, dooming that ship as well. By this point, the remaining ship, HMS Cressy understood it was under attack and deployed torpedo defense batteries and began to sail in a zigzag pattern, but it stayed in the area to try and rescue more sailors. This was a mistake.

At 7:20 and then 7:30, Weddigen fired torpedoes that sank it, and then watched it drop beneath the waves. Low on ammo and already successful beyond his wildest dreams, Weddigen turned for home.

On the surface, Dutch and English ships raced to save all the sailors they could, including 15-year-old Kit Wykeham-Musgrave of the HMS Aboukir. He had barely survived the suction of the first ship sinking, had been rescued by the crew of the Hogue and made it onboard right before that ship was sank, and then climbed onto the Cressy only to have it shot out from under him as well.

Almost 1,400 enlisted men and 62 officers would not be so lucky, drowning in the rough and cold water of the North Sea instead.

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The HMS Aboukir sinks after being hit by the German submarine U-9.

(Public domain)

The German sailors were greeted as heroes in their home port. The entire crew received Iron Crosses Second Class, and the captain was awarded that medal as well as the Iron Cross First Class. But in Britain, the people were furious and demanded that senior Navy leadership be held accountable.

For Weddigen, the success would be sweet. He received his medals from the Kaiser personally and wrote a memoir titled The First Submarine Blow is Struck. (His success on September 22, while revolutionary, was not actually the first “submarine blow” as both the German and British navies had already each lost a cruiser to the other side’s submarines.)

But he would not long enjoy his fame. While the U-9 would rack up 18 kills before retiring in 1916, Weddigen was soon re-assigned to U-boat 29. While attacking British ships in March 1915, the boat was spotted by the famous British battleship HMS Dreadnought which proceeded to ram and sink the German submarine, killing Weddigen.

(A final admin note: Weddigen claims in his memoirs to have fired only four torpedoes that day: one at the Aboukir, one at the Hogue, and two at the Cressy, all of which hit. This might have been true, but his memoirs reek of propaganda and were written in the late months of 1914 when his fame was peaking. Naval historians think it is more likely that he fired six and had four hits.)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch Russian-made Venezuelan aircraft ‘aggressively’ shadow US plane

United States government security officials announced that a Russian-built Venezuelan aircraft “aggressively” shadowed an American aircraft over the Caribbean sea.

The US Southern Command, which is the agency responsible for security cooperation and operations in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, tweeted to condemn the incident, which it said happened during an American mission that was monitoring for illegal trafficking.

“[Venezuela] SU-30 Flanker “aggressively shadowed” a U.S. EP-3 aircraft at an unsafe distance July 19, 2019, jeopardizing the crew & aircraft. The EP-3 was performing a multi-nationally recognized & approved mission in international airspace over [the Caribbean Sea.]”


The tweet also slammed Russian President Vladimir Putin for offering military assistance to the country’s far-left leader Nicolas Maduro. The US, in addition to most Latin American and European countries, recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s claim to be the rightful leader of Venezuela.

“This action demonstrates [Russia’s] irresponsible military support to Maduro’s illegitimate regime underscores Maduro’s recklessness irresponsible behavior, which undermines [the international] rule of law efforts to counter illicit trafficking.”

The US Southern Command reportedly said in a statement that the aircraft was “flying a mission in approved international airspace” when it “was approached in an unprofessional manner by the SU-30 that took off from an airfield 200 miles east of Caracas.”

‘The US routinely conducts multi-nationally recognized and approved detection and monitoring missions in the region to ensure the safety and security of our citizens and those of our partners,” the command added.

Venezuela has been home to widespread chaos and unrest after a US-backed bid by the Venezuelan opposition to remove Venezuelan President Maduro failed in April 2019 after senior Venezuelan government and military officials flaked on promises to switch sides and instead stood by the president.

The movement to oust Maduro had enjoyed widespread civilian support but previously failed to gain support from the military.

The effort came months after Guaidó declared himself interim president of Venezuela in January and urged the military to turn against Maduro.

President Donald Trump previously said on Twitter in early June 2019 that Russian forces had withdrawn from the country, though the country reportedly denied it discussed with the president withdrawing its defense personnel.

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

Articles

The difference between Air Force and Army hair expectations

Civilians might think of military hair regulations as one standard look (see: jarhead), but there’s actually some variance among the branches. The “high and tight” sported by soldiers and Marines is much too short for your average airman.

Just ask Air Force captain Mark Harper.


In 2005, Harper deployed to Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq as Officer In Charge of the Joint Combat Camera team. Though he deployed with the Air Force, it was a joint environment, so Harper found himself reporting to an Army colonel and supervising about 40 grunts.

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The first day he reported to Army HQ, those soldiers jumped on the chance to give him a hard time about his hair (which is probably a good thing — you only haze the people you like, right? Right?).

“I learned my schedule was intense and I wouldn’t be able to get someone else to cut it, but I wasn’t going to endure this mockery again, so I thought, ‘How hard can this be? I’m just going to cut it myself…'”

He lucked out — the Post Exchange sold Wahl clippers.

That night at 0200 he finally found some spare time to cut his hair.

Also read: These are the rules NATO allies have about growing beards

With no practical experience selecting clipper guards, Harper wasn’t exactly sure what he was doing, but the Wahl gear was pretty intuitive and he even managed to fade it on the sides.

“So I officially did it. I cut my own hair.”

He then walked proudly into the Air Force tent.

Check out the video below to see their reaction:

www.youtube.com

We Are The Mighty is proud to partner with Wahl, the leader in the professional and home grooming field.

MIGHTY MOVIES

How Carrie Fisher’s daughter helped play Princess Leia

In addition to playing a Resistance lieutenant, Carrie Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd had a special second role in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”

Lourd stepped in to play Princess Leia during the short flashback scene in “Episode IX.”

“Billie was playing her mother,” Industrial Lights & Magic visual effects supervisor Patrick Tubach told Yahoo Entertainment. “It was a poignant thing, and something that nobody took lightly — that she was willing to stand in for her mom.”


During the scene, a young Luke Skywalker, who is played by Mark Hamill, is training his sister to be a Jedi. At one point, both of them take off helmets to show their younger faces. For a few moments, you’re seeing Lourd combined with images of Fisher from “Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi.”

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Here’s a reference of how Leia looks in most of “Return of the Jedi.” The look is reminiscent of how we see her in the new film.

(Lucasfilm)

“If you’re going to have someone play [Fisher’s] part, it’s great that it’s [Billie] because there are a lot of similarities between them that we were able to draw from,” added Tubach. “The real challenge was just making the Leia footage we had to work with fit in that scene.”

The ILM team told Insider that bringing Fisher back was “a gigantic puzzle.” The team utilized previously unused footage from director J.J. Abrams’ “The Force Awakens” to help bring her to life.

“When you see Leia in ‘Episode IX,’ basically it’s a live-action element of her face with a completely digital character,” visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett told Insider.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

Read more:

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Are military parents stricter than civilian parents with their kids?

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.”
Jim Rohn

Discipline is the heart and soul of military life.


It makes the military run effectively and efficiently. If a young Soldier does something wrong, he will likely find himself doing pushups. If an Airman repeatedly misses formations, she may find herself performing extra duty. Discipline is not necessarily a punishment in the military, but rather a tool that builds character and teaches valuable and ultimately, lifesaving lessons.

Our children, especially in their teenage years, are like young servicemembers. They don’t always make the best choices, and at times, they rebel against authority by exerting their independence. When this happens, how do we discipline our children? How do we teach them right from wrong? Does the military discipline that is engrained in us spill over into how we discipline our children?

This article examines whether military parents are stricter than civilian parents with their children. While there is no conclusive answer to this question, there is evidence that our military backgrounds and experiences, both as servicemembers and spouses, filter into firm, even-handed discipline. Research has found that while servicemembers and military spouses may be stricter when disciplining their children than civilian parents, military children ultimately grow up into responsible, trustworthy, productive members of society.

So, why are we often stricter with our children? Military culture creates several characteristics that create stress and cause anxiety that may impact our parenting style, including frequent moves, forced separations including deployments, and regimented lifestyles.

Frequent moves

Frequent moves can impact parenting. A typical military family moves every three years. Moving often causes stressors and disruptions to our lives. It also creates unknowns. When we are not familiar with new areas, we are more protective of our children. We are more reluctant to allow them uninhibited freedom since we don’t know the area or the people. We are also typically not near our extended families, so we rely more heavily on each other. When we move, we are in essence starting over and need to find new friends to rely on. Before you move, reach out to people at your upcoming duty station and begin to make connections. We are all in the same situation, and we all have similar experiences. The longer we are in the military, the more likely we will reconnect with old friends at new duty stations. Reconnect before you get there to help ease the transition.

Deployments and other separations

Deployments and other separations, such as for training and schools, also contribute to stress and cause disruptions to military families. These stresses and disruptions may directly impact parenting. The military spouse suddenly finds himself or herself as the sole parent, described often as pulling double duty, meaning we take on the role of both parents during separations and deployments. Deployments also cause anxiety among spouses. We worry about our deployed servicemembers and deal with the unknowns of where our spouses are and what they are doing on a day-to-day basis. The longer the deployment, the more stress and anxiety we face.

Deployments also impact and change the role of military children. The deployment of a parent is a strong emotional event for a child, and it causes similar stresses and anxiety that military spouses face. Military children worry about the deployed parent, and this worry can cause distractions with schoolwork. During deployments, military children are required to step up and assume more responsibility around the house. This can cause tension and conflict between the parent and child. The additional stressors can impact parenting and cause a strained relationship.

Regimented lifestyles

The military is a regimented and disciplined lifestyle. The lifestyle permeates our home lives. A high percentage of military children consider their households as very disciplined with high expectations of conformity. This is not a negative, however, because research has shown that military children are more responsible and disciplined than their civilian counterparts.

So, what does all of this information mean? The bottom line is that while we may be stricter with our children than civilian parents are with their children, it is not usually in a negative or damaging way. To the contrary, the positives far outweigh any negative implications. What can we do, though, to minimize the stresses often associated with military life so it doesn’t hinder our relationship with our children? Are there things we can do to help lessen the stress and anxiety we face so it doesn’t negatively affect our parenting? Notice that I said “lessen,” because we aren’t going to eliminate it altogether. The biggest advantage we have is each other. Rely on your friends and fellow military spouses to help out when needed. Talk to each other and agree to watch the other’s kids for a few hours when you reach that boiling point and a much-needed break is required. We all need time to ourselves, so don’t be afraid to reach out to your fellow military spouses. We are all in this together, and we are all there for each other.

Prepare for separations before they occur. Sit down as a family and discuss pending deployments. Talk about the stress that the separation will cause. Let your children know that it is okay to worry and be scared, but also let them know that you are there for them when they need to talk. If your children are not coping well during a separation, reach out to health care professionals to speak with your children. This will help your children to develop coping mechanisms, and it will lessen your stress and anxiety in knowing that your children are effectively coping with separation. Finally, talk with your children about helping out more around the house during the deployment. Allow your children to help decide who will do what. When they are part of the decision-making process, they will be more willing participants and better helpers around the house.

Military life is hard, but it is also extremely rewarding. Our children are incredibly resilient, and together, there isn’t anything we can’t accomplish!

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

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