Soldiers’ Angels

May no soldier go unloved,

May no soldier walk alone,

May no soldier be forgotten,

Until they all come home.

 

Soldiers’ Angels

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

 

It is the time of year for giving – and so many families are looking for opportunities to give back or “pay it forward” within their communities. There are so many wonderful opportunities, from adopting a family to toy and coat drives. However, there is a group out there who dedicates their time and energy to helping deployed servicemen and women.

 

Soldiers’ Angels was founded in 2003 by Patti Patton-Bader. The Pasadena, CA native is the daughter of war Veteran LTC (ret) David Patton, so supporting the troops was a way of life. It was during her oldest son’s deployment in Iraq, however, that Patti identified a need to help. Staff Sergeant Brandon Varn was happily receiving his mom’s care packages when he commented that he was one of the few soldiers to enjoy such a treat. Patti gather neighborhood friends and worked together to send care packages to the entire platoon. As word traveled, Patti and her group received requests from across the globe.

 

More could be done to help. Patton-Bader recognized that Americans were ready and willing to help, just lacked the the channels to get their kindness into the hands of the soldiers who needed it most. Using technology, determination and the heart of a military mother and daughter, Patton-Bader built an online community of Angels who work diligently to fulfill the needs of deployed soldiers.

 

As word spread of Patton-Bader’s efforts, so did the number of businesses wanting to participate. So many businesses were looking to donate time, money, goods and services that Patton-Bader’s band of helpers needed to formerly reorganize as a 501(c)(3) in 2004. Over the past fifteen years, Soldiers’ Angels has grown and changed to adapt with the current military needs. As always, they match the availability of their volunteers with the needs of a solder.

 

While they have continued helping the deployed soldiers, Soldiers’ Angels have also spread their wings to include Veterans, wounded soldiers, families and more. The group, who was lead by Patti Patton-Bader until 2013, has won several awards and be recognized many times over. Some of their recognitions include:

 

  • Civilian Award for Humanitarian Service from the Department of the Army
  • George Washington Spirit Award from the Military Order of the Purple Heart
  • Microsoft Above and Beyond Extra Effort Award
  • James C. Van Zandt Citizenship Award from the VFW
  • The Spirit of Hope Award from the Secretary of Defense

 

 

The Red Cross Message

The Red Cross Message

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

 

The first time I heard the words “Red Cross Message”, I was in the middle of Army Boot Camp. Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri…summer of 1986. In that time before cell phones, that time before social media, it seems like it was easier to focus on our military jobs because we had fewer distractions. Without the technology that, these days, keeps us all up-to-date on the status of friends and family, it was easy to get caught off-guard with a bit of unexpected bad news. And bad news came on a regular basis, like the time when a drill sergeant broke it to one of my battle buddies that there was a death in his family and he needed to call home.

I know many of you are familiar with that message, from personal experience. The Red Cross message is basically the end product of one of the services that the American Red Cross provides to the United States military. When one of our service members has an emergency that may require leaving his or her duty station, whether stateside or deployed downrange, the Red Cross can be requested to independently verify the emergency. While the Red Cross does not authorize emergency leave, that independent verification enables the service member’s commander to make an educated decision regarding emergency leave and if transportation and/or financial assistance is needed.

One of the country’s oldest Congressionally-chartered Veterans Service Organizations, today’s American Red Cross serves as a critical line of communication between the U.S Armed Forces and their families. The iconic symbol of the organization, founded by Clara Barton in 1881, makes many of us recall the classic images of Red Cross nurses helping American soldiers and civilian war victims during World War I…but it does so much more. Still tasked by the federal government with providing services to members of the American Armed Forces and their families and disaster relief in the United States and around the world, Red Cross workers proudly carry on the tradition of serving those in the military community with the Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program. That program helps members of the military, veterans, and their families prepare for, cope with, and respond to, the challenges of military service.

The Red Cross manages its ‘force structure’ by Chapters & Regions, and each Service to the Armed Forces program offers up different events to its constituents. Here in the St. Louis area, the Service to the Armed Forces committee on which I volunteer prides itself on its outreach & how we hope to make a difference to those we serve. We provide Reconnection workshops, which are free and confidential events that help with reintegration; an annual Women Warriors Baby Shower, for expectant mothers from our military community; and a Holiday Mail for Heroes campaign every holiday season, an effort that provides our community with the opportunity to send messages of thanks and holiday cheer to military members, veterans, and their families.

When I was a young Field Artilleryman in the 1st Infantry Division, I was busy preparing for deployment, for combat. In those times when I was headed to the field or downrange – not really sure how long it would be until I spoke with one of my loved ones again – I remember making sure that my family knew how to contact the Red Cross for assistance, should something tragic happen.

In those days, it was a landline phone call to the nearest Red Cross chapter. These days, the American Red Cross Hero Care Center is available 7/24/365 days a year, and you can request assistance online or by phone. To initiate a request by phone for Red Cross emergency assistance for members of the military currently serving on active duty, call 1-877-272-7337 to speak to an Emergency Communications Specialist.

You can also start a request for services with a computer, smartphone, or tablet and track its progress from anywhere in the world using the Red Cross’ online self-service tool. To request assistance online, visit: http://www.redcross.org/get-help/military-families/emergency-communication, download the free Hero Care App, or text “GETHEROCARE” to 90999.

Every day, more than 300 military families request assistance through the Hero Care Network by either using the online self-service tool via computer, tablet, or cell phone, or by calling a Communication Specialist.

Whichever way you initiate that request for emergency assistance, please be prepared to provide information about the service member and the emergency (the Red Cross says to use the phone option if you don’t have all of the required information below):

Service member information

  •         Full legal name
  •         Rank/rating
  •         Branch of service (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard)
  •         Social Security number or Date of Birth
  •         Military unit address
  •         Information about the deployed unit and home base unit (for deployed service members only)

Information about the emergency

  •         Name and contact for the immediate family member experiencing the emergency (could be spouse, parent, child/grandchild, or grandparent)
  •         Nature of the emergency
  •         Where the emergency can be verified (hospital, doctors office, funeral home)

There are certain eligibility requirements to consider. Service members eligible to receive emergency communications regarding an immediate family member include: those on active duty in the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, or Coast Guard; activated members of the Guard and Reserve of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces; civilians employed by or under contract to the Department of Defense and stationed outside the Continental United States; cadets or midshipmen at a service academy; ROTC cadets on orders for training; or Merchant Marines aboard a U.S. Naval Ship.

It bears repeating that the American Red Cross does not authorize emergency leave for members of the United States military. Again, the role of the Red Cross is to independently verify the emergency, enabling the service member’s commander to make an educated decision regarding the granting of emergency leave. If transportation and/or financial assistance is needed, the Red Cross can help expedite access to emergency financial assistance via Military Aid Societies. These Aid Societies determine the financial assistance package that will be offered, and whether it will be in the form of a grant or a loan.

These days, I look in the mirror and realize that I’ve become the old man in the room. It’s been over 30 years since I first learned about the Red Cross & its “message” as a young Private in Boot Camp. It’s been over 20 years since I was a young(ish) Battery Commander on a long field exercise, a commander tasked with the authority to grant that emergency leave that my troops needed so. It’s been just over 10 years since I last received my own Red Cross message, one that I knew was coming due to the advent of technology and the constant contact I had with my wife during that deployment.

I’ve seen the tremendous positive impact that the American Red Cross has on our military community and now, as a retired Soldier, I get to ‘give back’ a little by volunteering with the local chapter’s Service to the Armed Forces committee. And, if you’re able, I encourage you to see how you can give back in your neck of the woods.

New VA Medical Center in Redding, CA Plans Underway

New VA Medical Center in Redding, CA Plans Underway

Just a few months after the existing VA medical center in Redding, CA was threatened by nearby wildfires, the VA has awarded a lease for a new medical facility. The new complex will rehome the two existing VA treatment facilities in Redding as well as increase the amount of space available for medical professionals. This new facility will serve more than 60,000 Veterans. In addition to all of the services currently provided, the new facility in Redding will have room for 17 new mental health providers, a mammography center and a second x-ray center.

 

The lease award in Redding is just one of thirteen major leases that have been awarded across the country.

 

“These awards are the next step in increasing access for our Veterans across the country,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “VA stands firm in ensuring our Veterans are treated in state-of-the-art facilities and continue to access the high quality of care VA is able to provide.”

 

Charleston, SC

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Houston, TX

Lincoln, Nebraska

Lubbock, Texas

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

New Port Richey, Florida

Phoenix, Arizona

Ponce, Puerto Rico

San Antonio, Texas

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Bakersfield, California

 

While timelines have not been provided for these projects, the VA is hopeful to have construction underway as quickly as possible.

 

Loan Benefits: How the VA Helps You

Loan Benefits: How the VA Helps You

Can you imagine getting a home loan without a down payment? How about avoiding PMI? Your VA Loan Benefit can make both of those home-buying pitfalls completely avoidable in many cases.

Veterans and active duty servicemembers are eligible to apply for VA Loan Benefits, which can make the home buying process easier and more affordable. In many cases, eligible homebuyers do not need to have a down payment. In contrast, FHA loans require 3.5% down payment and conventional loans are typical around 5%. This is a huge savings for the home buyer!

Another benefit to a VA Loan is the avoidance of mortgage insurance premiums. PMI is required in other loans. Conventional loans require PMI when the down payment is less than 20%. FHA Loans require PMI that have an annual cost in addition to the upfront charges. Avoiding the PMI provides a significant savings to the home buyer – and so does limiting the closing costs, another VA Loan perk. Sellers can be required to pay all of your closing costs – and up to 4% in concessions!

VA Loan Benefits will provide you the comfort of lower average interest rates than other lenders. There is no prepayment penalty on a VA loan, which means VA home buyers can pay off a loan early without any penalties or financial repercussions.

If a Veteran has already used their loan benefits, they may still be eligible for VA financing through “Second Tier Entitlement.” This allows Veterans to restore loan entitlement and buy homes again.

The VA Loan program has two different refinancing options for eligible homeowners – one for those with an existing VA Loan and another for those who have a conventional loan and wish to refinance into the VA Loan Program.

The VA Loan Program also tries to help protect its borrowers should difficult times arise. In the event of financial hardship, a VA Loan might be assumable by another party. There are also advocates to help Veterans and active duty servicemembers avoid foreclosure.

Your VA Loan doesn’t guarantee that your house will be perfect – no house is! The VA will appraise your intended property, but this is not an inspection. It is in your best interest as a potential homebuyer to have a full home inspection performed on any house you buy.

The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans

The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans

 

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

 

Small business ownership. Entrepreneurship. Being self-employed or a sole proprietor.  Call it what you will, but research indicates that veterans and their families are a bit more inclined to start a small business venture – and more apt to succeed at it – than our peers outside the military community. And although government-backed research shows that we’re slightly more successful at keeping our doors open than our colleagues without military experience, that fact doesn’t mean that small business isn’t risky. Just the opposite…small business is still a very risky proposition, and businesses in certain industries are riskier than others.

 

Why are we more successful at small business ownership? Perhaps it’s due in part to the same things that we in the military community have in our hip pocket that make us attractive members of an employer’s workforce…things like leadership training, attention to detail, and a conscious consideration of second- and third-order effects of the decisions we make. Perhaps it’s also because we’re good at finding ways to mitigate or minimize the risk that is inherent in small business…and some of those ways include recognizing and taking advantage of resources that exist to help us succeed, like the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV).

 

The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) is operated by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families  (IVMF) at Syracuse University. The EBV is a novel, one-of-a-kind initiative designed to leverage the skills, resources and infrastructure of higher education in order to offer cutting-edge, experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management. The targeted audience is post-9/11 veterans and their family members who are in early growth mode for their new business.

 

The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans opens the door to economic opportunity for veterans by developing their competencies in the many steps and activities associated with creating and sustaining an entrepreneurial venture. The program’s curriculum is designed to take participants through the steps and stages of venture creation, with a tailored emphasis on the unique challenges and opportunities associated with being a veteran business owner.

 

The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans program was founded at Syracuse University in 2007 and has since expanded to additional universities across the U.S. Those EBV-partnering schools include Texas A&M, Purdue University, UCLA, the University of Connecticut, Louisiana State University, The Florida State University, Cornell University, Saint Joseph’s University and the University of Missouri – with Syracuse University serving as national host of the consortium of schools. Most of the 2019 dates at these schools have yet to be announced, so check back at the IVMF website on a regular basis to find those upcoming dates at a school near you.

 

The entire Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans training program is offered without any cost to participating veterans, but participation is limited to those post-9/11. The program is delivered through a three-phased approach, providing premier training and support along the way:

 

Phase 1 is a 30-day instructor-led, online course focused on the basic skills of entrepreneurship and the language of small business. The curriculum is moderated by entrepreneurship faculty and graduate students from one of the partnering EBV Universities; during this phase, delegates work on the development of their own business concepts.

Phase 2 is a nine-day residency at an EBV university where students are exposed to over 30 accomplished entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship educators from across the U.S. The residency includes more than 80 hours of instruction in the “nuts and bolts” of business ownership. This particular phase is intense, and designed to both educate and motivate.

Phase 3 involves 12 months of support and mentorship delivered through the EBV Post Program Support, a robust, comprehensive network of mentors, resources and national partnerships.

The EBV is designed to open the door to business ownership for veterans by 1) developing them skills in the many steps and activities associated with launching and growing a small business, and by 2) helping them leverage programs and services for veterans and people with disabilities in a way that furthers their entrepreneurial dreams.

Other programs offered by IVMF in the same vein as EBV include Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families and EBV Accelerate. The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families (EBV-F) is an education and self-employment training program founded in 2010 and expanded to Florida State University in 2012. The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families program offers small business training for military spouses and family members, or a surviving spouse of a military member who gave his or her life in service to our country. The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families offers training tailored to military family members with caregiving responsibilities to launch and grow small businesses from home.

The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families program is designed to take advantage of the skills, resources and infrastructure of higher education to offer cutting-edge, experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management. The program leverages the flexibility inherent in small business ownership to provide a vocational path forward for military family members. The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families integrates training in entrepreneurship with caregiver and family issues, positioning participants to launch and grow a small business in a way that is complementary or enhancing to other family responsibilities. The EBV-F program operates on a rolling admissions process, so they are always accepting applications and will process them in the order they are received.  

 

Eligibility for participation in the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families program is limited to a first-degree family member (spouse, parent, sibling, or adult child) of a post-9/11 veteran with a service-connected disability; a first-degree family member (spouse, parent, sibling, or adult child) of active duty military (including National Guard and Reserve); or a surviving spouse or adult child of a service member who lost their life while serving in the military post-9/11. The program is broken down in three phases: Phase I is a 30-day online, instructor-led business fundamentals and research course; Phase II is a 9-day residential training at a partnering EBV university; and Phase III is ongoing support, focused on small business creation and growth. The entire Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veteran’ Families experience, including travel and lodging, is offered without any cost to participants.

 

EBV Accelerate is a boot camp-style program focused on growth that tackles head-on topics such as the financial, management, marketing, and strategic planning challenges that established businesses face. EBV Accelerate is a 3-phase program that gives veterans that already have a successful business the tools and coaching to propel their business to the next phase: that of sustainable growth. Topics include acquiring growth funding, rebranding for expansion, determining a sustainable growth rate, establishing partnerships, managing cash flow, and more.

 

Eligibility for participation in the EBV Accelerate program: open to all veteran business owners, as long as 50% or more ownership is maintained by the veteran; in business for 3 or more years (recommended; must have financials); must employ 5 or more full-time employees; and the veteran business owner must have served active duty with honorable discharge or general discharge under honorable conditions. Graduates of other IVMF programs are eligible. This program is also offered in three phases: Phase I consists of two weeks of online instruction focused on business analysis; Phase II is a three-day residency during which participants will create a personalized action plan for their business; and Phase III involves resources to support the growth of the business. (Notes for Phase II: Monday & Friday are Travel Days, and the three-day residency is from Tuesday-Thursday; travel to the location is at the candidate’s cost; lodging and meals are provided for the participant during the three-day residency; and all program learning materials will be provided at no cost to the participant.)

 

If you decide that one of these programs looks enticing, check out the application process here. Take it seriously, though…these are highly competitive programs and you’ll need to have your ducks in a row. It’s in your best interest to write complete and thorough responses for the personal statement section to help the admissions committee make an informed decision on your application. Additional paperwork is required to go along with your application:

 

…Documents required for the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) application include 2 Letters of Recommendation (must be addressed to EBV and speak specifically about your desire to join the program); an updated resume (military or civilian); and your DD214 Member 4 (showing dates of active duty, discharge status and with the SSN redacted) OR LES (Leave and Earnings Statement).

…Documents required for the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families application include 2 Letters of Recommendation; an updated resume; and the family member’s DD214 Member 4 (showing dates of active duty, discharge status and with the SSN redacted) OR LES (Leave and Earnings Statement).

…Documents required for the EBV Accelerate application include 2 Letters of Recommendation (1 from a client & 1 from someone like your banker, accountant, insurance agent, or lawyer); a current resume; your DD214 Member 4 (showing dates of active duty, discharge status and with the SSN redacted); and a self- or accountant-prepared Income Statement OR Profit & Loss Statement.

The Institute for Veterans and Military Families is the first interdisciplinary national institute in higher education focused on the social, economic, educational, and policy issues impacting veterans and their families post-service. Through a focus on veteran-facing programming, research and policy, employment and employer support, and community engagement, the institute provides in-depth analysis of the challenges facing the veteran community, captures best practices and serves as a forum to facilitate new partnerships and strong relationships between the individuals and organizations committed to making a difference for veterans and military families.

The Institute for Veterans and Military Families has provided programs and services to more than 100,000 veterans, service members, and their families since 2011, and to more than 20,000 in 2017 alone. Their family of programs includes EBV, EBV-Families, EBV Accelerate, Onward to Opportunity, America Serves, Boots to Business, V-Wise, Center of Excellence for Veteran Entrepreneurship, CVOB (Coalition for Veteran Owned Business), VetNet – The Veterans Network, and Boots to Business – Reboot.

If you find yourself in transition – from active duty, from a deployment, or from a W-2 job – and you decide that you might like to give small business ownership a try, I encourage you to take a closer look at organizations like the IVMF and programs like the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans. While you probably won’t be eligible for all opportunities like these out there, there’ll be others for which you’re suited. And there will be other organizations that are more local to you, or that have different eligibility guidelines, for which you do qualify.

Connect with a small business counselor at your local economic development center or at your closest Small Business Administration office. Put talented people on your ‘team’ and take advantage of resources created especially for members of the military community…like you and me.

 

TRICARE Open Season

TRICARE Open Season

 

Important information for all military: TRICARE Open Season, their annual open enrollment period, start today, November 12th. Between now and December 10th, there are a few things about your TRICARE coverage that you need to know.

 

  • Selections for 2019 health care coverage must be completed between now (November 12) and December 10.
  • You may use this time to select a new TRICARE Select or TRICARE Prime plan
  • Open season is when you can change your existing plan or enrollment to something different
  • If no changes are made, your 2018 TRICARE selections will carry over to 2019
  • This is the ONLY time to make changes throughout the year unless you have a QLE or Qualifying Life Event

 

Qualifying Life Events are major events that fall into two categories: Military changes or Family changes. Military changes include activation, deactivation, injured while active duty, moving, separating from active duty and retirement. Family changes includes marriage, divorce, birth of a child, adoption of a child, college aged children attending school, children becoming adults, becoming Medicare eligible, moving, experiencing a death in the family, loss or gain of alternate health insurance.

A Veterans Day Salute (2018)

A Veterans Day Salute (2018)

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing (Lieutenant Colonel, USA Retired)

Greetings, friends. As we commemorate this Veterans Day, it is an honor to be able to visit with you on the Military Connection platform. It is an honor to have worn the uniform of the US Army, as well. I was a Soldier by choice, but an American by the grace of God.

We gather in many places to salute our nation’s Veterans. On the anniversary of Armistice Day, we pause to remember the brave men and women who served, and sometimes died for, our country. We remember the other men & women we’ve served alongside, lifelong friends who have the common bond of enduring hardships, pain, and even loss, as we contributed to something we considered priceless – the defense of our country. I feel privileged and proud to be part of a group that has done so much for so many.

We remember our battalions, our companies, our ships…our bombers, our tanks, and our cannons. We remember our patrols, our deployments…our battles & our homecomings. We remember our friends, our crews, our units – our first haircut, the mess halls, guard duty – we remember voices – shouting, laughing…and the tears. We, the ones that have served this nation, have these images and sounds and feelings burned into our minds, hearts, and souls…

We remember the brave men and women who have served in places such as Antietam, Gettysburg, and San Juan Hill; in the trenches of France, the beaches of Normandy, the deserts of Africa; the jungles of the Philippines, Guam, Okinawa, or Vietnam; the hills of Korea, the sands of Kuwait, the villages of Iraq, and the mountains of Afghanistan. Wherever and whenever our men & women are called to serve, they go.

For those Veterans who have stood guard in peacetime… to those who have seen the terror, the horror and inhumanity of combat — and to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice – our Veterans have always been there, defending the Constitution of the United States of America. The Veterans of our nation have been safeguarding our liberties since before the American Revolution.

On Veterans Day, we remember those who sacrificed at home and overseas. Where it was once specifically a celebration of the silencing of the guns of World War One, Veterans Day now marks a day when nations around the world pause and observe – with solemn, silent pride – the heroism of those who have served, those who are currently serving, and those who died in our country’s service, in that war and in all others. It is not a celebration of victory, but rather, a celebration of those who made victory possible.  It’s a day we keep in our minds the brave men and women of this young nation — generations of them — who above all else believed in, and fought for, a set of ideals.   

Just as our Veterans chose to serve, I challenge & encourage all of you to volunteer your services to any number of endeavors…your school’s PTO, a local food pantry, or your church…the Little League or the high school feeder team’s Football Club. Service to country is very much like service to community.

Our communities are the fabric of our nation, and every one is a little different. From those communities, our Veterans bring those differences to the defense of our nation. Poor or wealthy, urban or rural…they bond together as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen. As our Nation’s sword and shield, our Veterans represent the strength and diversity of our nation.

This includes members of the Reserve Component – our Reservists & National Guardsmen. When serving in a traditional role, not federalized or deployed, these men and women are full-time members of the community. They work in your towns, their families attend your schools, and they commit themselves to the protection of your land and defense of your freedoms against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Today’s National Guardsmen and Reservists, from all branches of service, are able to transition from the workforce to the fighting force with speed, grace and resiliency.  In this time of what seems like persistent conflict, they have endured tour after tour in distant and difficult places. I deployed twice while my sons were in elementary school. I remember the heartbreak of leaving my wife and children, but I also vividly remember the joy of coming home after a long deployment.

Those of us that have worn the uniform typically have a variety of reasons for having done so. For many, it’s a sense of Duty-Honor-Country, a belief in freedom, and a faith in America’s future. I think that one of the reasons why I served is that, on occasion, I had the opportunity to be in the presence of greatness…visiting with a Tuskegee Airman at a Missouri Veterans Home, or watching history come alive at the airport at 0400 as WWII Veterans gathered for a trip to see our nation’s memorials in Washington, DC, a part of the Honor Flight network.

So, whether it’s chatting with Veterans from WWII or trading war stories with those fresh from today’s battlefields, sometimes I get to shake the hands of some real heroes. That’s just one of reasons why I served, and why I’m proud…I am proud to be an American; I am proud to be a Veteran.

On Veterans Day, be sure to pause and remember the many Americans who have served. The Veterans of today are writing the history books that you, your children and your children’s children will one day study.  

Thank you for taking the time to commemorate this special day in your own way. God bless our Troops, God bless our Veterans…and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

 

New Career Opportunity in Naval Aviation

New Career Opportunity in Naval Aviation

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

In an effort to improve aviator retention, the U.S. Navy has announced that it’s launching the Aviation Professional Flight Instructor (PFI) program, a move that will allow pilots and naval flight officers to remain in the Navy later in their careers, typically as flight instructors.

The program is intended to provide selected officers enhanced career flexibility, greater stability with assignments, and rewarding experiences training the Navy’s newest aviators. Shortages in the service’s pilot community appear to be driving the program, however, as the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps are all facing a pilot-retention crisis. The services complete with ample opportunities for jobs with commercial airliners that offer good pay, no risk of combat, and no at-sea deployments to take them away from their families. The Navy also increased bonuses available for certain officers earlier this year.

To be eligible for a spot, a pilot or naval flight officer must have completed or be currently serving in an operational or operational-training aviation department head assignment, have completed a flying tour in aviation production, have a projected rotation date in calendar year 2019, and have at least 36 months remaining before their statutory retirement date.

A naval administrative message, issued September 28, notes that this path is an alternative to the traditional sea/shore rotational career path associated with operational service and for officers who don’t wish to pursue command opportunities. The Navy is currently accepting applications from qualified aviators and flight officers for the first PFI board, scheduled for November 20. The program is slated to start sometime in calendar year 2019.

The Navy hopes the new PFI program will help it leverage enhanced fleet experiences among its ranks and address shortages of critical instructional skill sets of its current aviation professionals. Accepting a position as a navy Professional Flight Instructor will remove the officer from command consideration, but he or she would still be eligible for statutory promotion board consideration. Officers selected to become flight instructors can remain in the program until they choose to withdraw or retire, as long as they continue to meet applicable performance standards.

For program details, eligibility, and application procedures, read NAVADMIN 241/18 at www.npc.navy.mil or visit the Navy Personnel Command Aviation Bonus website at https://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/officer/Detailing/aviation/Pages/Professional-Flight-Instructor.aspx.

Veterans Day: Reasons to Observe

Veterans Day: Reasons to Observe

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

Veterans Day was originally coined as Armistice Day on November 11, 1919. It was a commemoration of the first anniversary of the end of World War 1. It didn’t take long for Congress to recognize the need to make this occasion and annual observance, and legislation was passed in 1926 to formalize that notion. Since then, we have used November 11th to celebrate our Veterans and remember their sacrifices.

My grandfather had served in WWII, but passed away before I had the chance to ask him to share his stories. I also spent most of my childhood in a time of peace. While the Catholic nuns had us practice air raid drills “just to be safe,” the closest I knew to conflict was Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1991. Even then, aside from yellow ribbons tied to my backpack straps, I really did not understand much about Veterans, soldiers and the sacrifices.

Fast forward to college, and my internship boss was getting married on November 11th. When she gave me the date, she said “yeah – Veterans Day.” Veterans Day? I didn’t question it, but instead looked up the date on my calendar. Sure enough – Veterans Day was a real, observed day on the calendar and I was completely ignorant to it! My only exposure to military anything was knowing a handful of ROTC boys on campus…and the one friend who was active duty and stationed in Italy. I didn’t know any Veterans or know of their stories. Over the next few years, I would begin to learn.

Earlier that year, JB joined the Marines. I met JB through my then boyfriend (who would eventually become my husband), Rich. JB was Rich’s very closest childhood friend. JB slept on the floor of Rich’s hospital room when Rich was in a meningitis-induced coma. JB was his brother from another mother and the bond seemed unbreakable. I met JB right before he left for bootcamp. It was important to Rich that I meet this key person in his life before he packed it up and headed out on his new journey. We met – and it was adoration at first sight.

JB embodied my mind’s vision of what a soldier should be. Strong, muscular – broad shoulders while maintaining kindness and compassion and a simplicity that made his personality so very appealing. With JB – what you saw was what you got. He was real. And he was joining the Marines.

We traveling north for his going away party, and Rich was uncharacteristically somber for most of our trip. No doubt that he had worries. His best friend, who had never ventured out of their home zip code, was embarking on an adventure that would no doubt change his very existence. There might have been some tears in his eyes when he gave JB one last hug before our departure from New Jersey – and our car ride was certainly filled with stories of when Rich and JB were boys.

I wrote to JB every day while he was at Paris Island. I mailed my letters once each week, and they were usually at least 15 pages long. I didn’t know him well – we had only met twice – but I felt the need to *do* something. I was too young to understand it at the time, but this was my introduction to loving someone in the military. The helplessness – the lack of communication. The constant praying. Upon his completion of boot camp, JB told me that it was my weekly diary that I mailed to him that helped push him through.

A few years later when Fox Company 2/1 was on the front line in the first wave of troops on the ground in Iraq, I resorted to my letter writing again. It was the only thing that seemed to help ease my anxiety surrounding the unknown about his deployment.

Fox Company 2/1 went 46 days without access to running water as they marched across the desert theater. We sent them candy and gum for them to distribute to the children they met. We sent them baby wipes and powder and travel deodorant. We wrote more letters. We collected newspapers. We sat at home and watched CNN and MSNBC incessantly. There was a photojournalist imbedded with their unit. We searched the newspaper for images. I will never forget Rich’s reaction to seeing JB’s hand in the newspaper. “It’s his hand! It’s his hand! I know that hand anywhere!” That soldier – covered head to toe with just his hand as the exception, was our proof that JB was still safe.

From the time he left for boot camp, we proudly displayed both the Stars & Stripes and the rich scarlet & gold of the Marine Corps flag. We wore our yellow ribbons and tied them to our trees. I prayed like I have never prayed before. We were fearful of the news yet still addicted to it. We worried. We sat side-by-side on the couch and stared at the TV.

We celebrated when we got the word he was coming home. Rich and I boarded a plane in July 2003 and headed to San Diego to see our soldier.

We stood on base at Camp Pendleton and waited. And waited. And waited. Rich and I were there with JB’s parents, sister and brother-in-law…and the tension of the waiting was getting to us all. I spent some time with a young woman and her baby girl. She wasn’t that much older than I and her daughter had been born while her husband served in Iraq. I was blessed and fortunate as I was with mom and baby when the helicopter carrying dad landed. I was there – just feet away – when the little family was reunited and that brave Marine met his baby girl for the first time.

Helicopters would land on the hill and soldiers would march down. The Raiders were not among them and as the day wore on, our heads and feet ached and our hearts just longed for “our” Marine. Finally, his bus arrived. We waited for him to check in his weapons and head down from the barracks. We cried. We breathed again – for the first time in so long. We held him, never wanting to let go. There were several times when I just took a step back to enjoy the beautiful emotion of the moment. 

Not long after, Rich and I were married. JB was one of our best men – he stood by our side with Rich’s brothers. He toasted us. He danced with me. He wore his dress blues – at our request – as we wanted everyone in attendance to be aware and in awe of his sacrifice.

His journey in the USMC wasn’t mine – but it taught me so very much. In those years, I learned a new level of respect for soldiers and Veterans. I better understood the multitude of sacrifices. Active duty isn’t like watching your kid go off to college – it’s more like saying goodbye in the hopes that you will both live to see tomorrow. It is being so proud to be an American that you are willing to lay your life on the line. It is seeing things and living experiences that change you. Permanently.

It has been 15 years since JB came home from Iraq. He and his time overseas are constantly on my mind. He has taught me so much. JB is now married with children, his active duty days may be long behind him, but he is and will always be a Marine who is true to the Corps.

I made the conscious decision to make sure my children grew up with a healthy respect for military – active duty and Veterans. This country has, in so many ways, become divided. I need them to know that Veterans should be honored because they have done what so many of us cannot do: they have stood in between us and the enemy and said “no – you can’t have them. You need to get through me first.”

We have done little things throughout their lives to make sure the lesson is heard and understood. They stand when they hear the National Anthem, even if it is playing on our TV in our living room. We have sent care packages to soldiers and letter to recovering men and women at Walter Reed. We have talked about and prayed for those who haven’t come home. Most importantly – they know to thank any soldier they can visually identify. LIving in Baltimore, we see men and women in fatigues often. They know to hold that door and say thank you, from the bottom of their hearts, because those fatigues represent so much.  

As a family, we are always looking for ways that we can serve the men and women who serve our country. As I was telling my children about my most recent discovery of Soldiers’ Angels and the Deployed Adoptions Team, they gave me a little lesson on Veterans Day and what they are doing to help support our troops. Their school has adopted a ship in the US Navy and is sending them thank you cards. 1500 thank you cards. My heart swelled as they told me about the notes they wrote and the drawings they were sending. They asked if they could send letters all year, and I told them I would find a way to make that happen.

I will never forget the feelings in my heart as I stood on Camp Pendleton all those years ago. I will never forget the fear and anxiety during JB’s deployment. I can’t imagine how those feelings would be magnified if it had been my spouse or my child that trudged through the desert sands, unable to contact his or her loved ones.

I spent the first 20 years of my life ignorant to the sacrifices made by strangers but in honor of my very existence. It matters not to these dedicated individuals whether I am a liberal hippie democrat or a conservative republican. The color of my skin or my religious beliefs are unimportant. The protect us all equally and without question. And for this, we should be grateful.

My Veterans Day sentiments and memories are dedicated to John A. Baker, JB. The Marine who opened my eyes and my mind to so many things. It was through his friendship that I learned an appreciation of our Military and it is to honor his service that I write this article. 

Military Tech Advancements: The Path to the Future

Military Tech Advancements: The Path to the Future

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

Warfare and military strategy have certainly changed. While militaries have faced conflict since the beginning of time, the techniques, tactics and weaponry are completely different. Even throughout the United States of America’s 242-year history, the face of the American soldier has gone from the farmer carrying the musket to sophisticated and technologically advanced specialists in the field. Desire and perseverance were the keys to military success in revolutionary America. In 2018, technology is key.

Our military drives our less well-known technological advancements. For example, the need

for wireless communication is prevalent for soldiers. Hands free technology is critical in an environment where your hands are needed for constant defense and protection. Can you imagine a world where your hands free communication device does not need to be in your ear? Sonitus Technologies is working on that very advancement!

The California-based company has paired up with the Department of Defense to create the Molar Mic – a wireless communication device that goes in your teeth! The Molar Mic (pictured below) looks like a traditional headset but instead of being worn externally on the ear, it clips to the back teeth – or molars – of the user.

A custom-made mouthpiece fits the user’s back teeth. The mouthpiece has a small microphone to pick up and transmit spoken details. There is a speaker-transducer in the mouthpiece as well to convert sound waves into the corresponding sound. Soldiers who wear the device will be able to hear necessary and critical communications through their teeth and jawbone!

Additionally, it is expected that the Molar Mic will allow troops to make radio calls as well. This completely eliminates the need for the cumbersome headset with microphone that soldiers have utilized in the past. The Molar Mic will cut down on some of the equipment weight that or soldiers carry while making communication more reliable and less subject to interruption. Weather, regional circumstance and impact can all cause such interruptions. Molar Mic uses the wearer’s body to shield from many of these and cut down on external noises and interference.  

Molar Mic is still in the development phase, but Sonitus has been contracted to finish the project.

Odds are good that you have see a drone in the skyline – whether it has been part of a military exercise or operation or commercial civilian use, drones have taken us all by storm in recent years. Drones actually got their start over thirty years ago.In the 1980s, the US military had select operations that helped to clearly identify the need for unmanned reconnaissance devices. These operations in Grenada, Lebanon and Libya prompted the Secretary of the Navy to push for the technology.

The initial need was a tall order: inexpensive to make and maintain, available on-call whenever needed, unmanned, capacity to assess battle damages… but despite the long list of requirements, there was a prototype developed, the Pioneer, and two different systems began testing in 1986. By the end of 1986, the battleship USS Iowa proudly had the very first military-grade drone on board.

The Pioneer made its way into the Marine Corps by 1987. Since then, drones have gotten far more advanced than military tacticians could have imagined in the 1980s. It was deployed on both land and sea in theaters that include Bosnia, Yugoslavia, Somalia, the Persian Gulf and more. The USMC Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadrons were critical in 2003’s Operation Iraqi Freedom. It has been publicly documented that more than one Iraqi insurgent has surrendered to the overhead drones, operated by nearby US Military.

Perhaps they knew that the overhead Pioneer, carrying an infrared camera, was just the first sign of incoming troops. Or perhaps they were under the impression that there was more than just a camera strapped to the belly of that Pioneer. Regardless, the byproduct was a small collection of Iraqi soldiers who had peacefully surrendered without the need for advanced weaponry.

Drones have since become even more commonplace both in the military theater and civilian play. We see drones, once exclusive to military use, everywhere from sports arenas to backyard barbeques. Although it has become a hobby and toy for many, with lighter and less expensive versions on the market, it is still a life-saving device that provides real-time, useful and accurate  information that is used by our military on a regular basis.

While we are on the subject of flying, the planned advancements for the larger winged vehicles designed for passenger transportation are, quite literally, out of this world.

Have you heard of the DARPA XS-1? The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency , or DARPA, Experimental Spaceplane program is the new name for the XS-1, a lower-maintenance spacecraft that would travel faster than sound. The Phantom Express is a joint collaboration between DARPA and Boeing, Co. The design specs for the Phantom Express includes an Aerojet Rocketdyne AR-22 engine. The AR-22 is powered by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.

Before takeoff, the Phantom Express will be loaded with up to 3,000 pounds of payload. Upon completion of its space mission, the Phantom Express will land on a runway, similar to that of a commercial plane. So what makes Phantom Express different than the shuttles that have been in use before now? The key differences is maintenance and turnaround time. The Phantom Express will be able to take off again within hours and be launched repetitively for up to 10 consecutive days.

Planes in space seem like the work of science fiction? It is far more of a fact. Testing on the Phantom Express is slated to begin in 2020.    

From out of this world to the skies above us – Northrop Grumman Corp is developing the B-21 Raider. The B-21 Raider is more advanced than its older counterpart, the B-2. The “21st Century’s First Bomber” should enter service by 2025 and is expected to replace the B-1, B-2 and B-52.

Northrup Grumman is keeping the details of this one under fairly tight wraps. The estimated cost of the project is unknown and rumors of its capabilities are unsubstantiated. What we do know is that the B-21 Raider will be able to deliver conventional long-range and thermonuclear weapons, intercept enemy plans and gather intelligence. The US Air Force Global Strike Command is planning on up to 200 of these bombers in service. It is rumored that the bomber will operate either with or without a pilot and that it will be able to strike any target in any location on the globe without refueling. These, of course, are just rumors and have not been confirmed by military officials.

From up in the air to under the sea, the stealth submarine of the future is the Columbia-class submarine. A nuclear fuel core keeps this baby moving – for up to 42 years without a single refueling. How do you make a submarine stealth?

The Columbia-class submarine literally stays under the sonar with the help of an electric motor. An electric drive is much quieter than its mechanical counterpart. The quieter propulsion allows the submarine to be more easily disguised from enemy sonar.

Construction is expected to begin in 2021 and she should enter service in 2031.

Stealthy destroyers with laser weaponry certainly sounds like a prop for a movie in the making. It’s not! The Future Surface Combatant (FSC) is in the works to replace the Zumwalt-class and Arleigh-Burke-class destroyers in about 12 years. The Zumwalt-class destroyer is already pretty incredible, so the features of the FSC will need to be incredibly advanced. Important improvement to note: the FSC is designed to be easier to upgrade. New weaponry can easily and affordably be swapped in and out. The vessel will also feature an electric drive system that can generate up to 58 megawatts of electrical power on-board.

Planes, bombers, submarines, destroyers…commands being given to your teeth – all of it is pretty incredible when you remember that less than 80 years ago, Navajo Code Talkers were this country’s “advanced” technology that assisted our Military in all of our WWII successes. The brilliance and perfection of the Navajo Code Talkers was unparallelled at the time. There have been many changes and advancements in the past 80 years, and just like communication has improved dramatically, so has our most basic of weaponry.

The weaponry of the future is hypersonic. Conventional and nuclear warheads that can travel at speeds greater than mach 8 – which is eight times the speed of sound. Development has begun on a hypersonic missile that can travel at speeds of mach 20. What is the advantage of traveling at 20 times the speed of sound?

If you are a nuclear warhead, that kind of speed makes it extremely difficult for your enemies to react, track, follow or destroy. Mach 20 makes detection nearly improbable and deflection impossible. Decreased reaction time means increased impact.

The US is playing catch up in this game as China and Russia have had hypersonic projectiles in development for some time.

We have made great technological leaps in very short periods of time. Our development is only contained by our imagination and the more the minds wander into the possibilities, the more varied our military advancements will be.

War isn’t pretty. Our weapons of the future being employed today may keep our soldiers out of the trenches, but the tools of the trade can intimidate our foreign neighbors and cause more unsettled feelings. These same neighbors have accelerated their own efforts to keep their militaries competitive.