29 October 2014

How Much Do You Know About Veterans With Disabilities?

How much do you really know about veterans with disabilities? Recent veterans have reported almost twice as many service-connected disabilities as all veterans historically. Why do you think that is? 

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

*These opinions belong to the writer and in no way reflect the views of the DoD or other departments of the US government.

27 October 2014

Leadership Defined: Intestinal Fortitude

Following my last post regarding leadership as an ever-evolving process, I feel the second most important attribute to being an effective leader is definitely doing a gut check, picking up the pieces, and moving forward no matter the cost. I could spend the entire blog explaining the trials and turbulence that I have been through in the past five months, but in the interest of not boring you, just know that what I have been through is not easily walked away from.

We always heard the Drill Sergeants, Tis, Drill Instructors, and what have you, “Pick your sack up, move forward, get some intestinal fortitude and drive on!” Mike Rowe did it for entertainment. We do it because someone’s life is on the line, an objective needs seizing, or the simple fact being that if WE do not accomplish this task, it does not get done. How many times, and be honest here, have you just wanted to throw in the towel and come up with a laundry list of explosives as to why something can’t get done? Or an activity so minute, but suddenly “way more important” than that lousy task, comes up? 

I’m throwing my jabs at the Spec 4 mafia, and making that sham shield shine. We were experts at it, and I am not going to deny that there have been times where I have been guilty of this stinking way of thinking.  Attitude is everything, yet without perspective, is that attitude worth it? The simple fact of the matter is someone in your sphere of influence, whether above or below you, is counting on you to get the job done right the first time without screw ups (though they will happen). 

NCOERs are a perfect example of this: it indirectly does not affect YOUR performance or evaluations, but it sure might screw that fellow E-5 out of a promotion when he could need it.  I am a firm believer of paying it forward. You take care of this guy when his medical bills are stacking up, he’s three months behind on a mortgage, and his car just blew a transmission. I can promise you, it will not be forgotten, and he will go miles for you when you are in a similar situation.

Bottom line: intestinal fortitude has nothing to do with you. We all know the body is capable of surpassing limits well beyond our comprehension. It might get your ass out of the firefight, but what about Joe, who just had his leg sliced at the knee? Are you going to be able to perform? Again, intestinal fortitude isn’t all about you, but more about how you’ll show it when it counts for others: when lives and duty depend on it, when a family needs someone home, a father needs to see his son, or a wife needs her family.

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

*These opinions belong to the writer and in no way reflect the views of the DoD or other departments of the US government.

24 October 2014

Military Misconceptions: The Bronze Star Medal

There are many awards that the military bestows on their service members but none hold more disdain than the Bronze Star. You will find resentment among the ranks for young officers in staff who receive this award while other soldiers are fighting on the front in the Global War on Terror. We often ask how this could happen, but it is not quite that simple.

The Bronze Star Medal was authorized in 1944 by President Roosevelt. There was no “V” device at the time of inception. The concept of the medal came from GEN George Marshall with the intent of awarding it to those who fought on the ground, particularly the infantry. He wrote that the infantry “lead miserable lives of extreme discomfort and are the ones who must close in personal combat with the enemy.” This led to the Bronze Star Medal being awarded, retroactively back to 1941, 395,380 times during WWII according to the Army Institute of Heraldry. The Bronze Star Medal was also awarded to any soldier with a Combat Infantry Badge or a Combat Medic Badge. It didn’t necessarily tie a single act or achievement beyond serving as an infantryman who fought during the war, thus making it a service award. 

The Bronze Star Medal was also awarded for acts of heroism during the war. A year after the medal was approved, the “V” device was introduced to designate a single act of heroism or valor from those who purely served in the infantry in combat during the war. Of the most notable soldiers who were awarded a Bronze Star Medal, twice, was Audie Murphy. Of his two Bronze Stars, one was for valor and one was for service. 

Moving to other wars after WWII, we saw 30,359 BSMs being awarded in Korea. At that time, the Army did not appear to track how many were awarded with valor. The first war to track the “V” device separately was Vietnam with 170,626 BSMs with valor and 549,343 for Achievement/Service. Now Operation Iraqi Freedom, from 2003 to 2010, saw 99,886 Bronze Star Medals awarded in OIF for Achievement/Service. In addition to those, there were only 2,459 awarded for valor. 

As we can see the Bronze Star Medal was not originally intended for a single act of heroism but for service in the while serving as an infantrymen in combat. Today that award has expanded to include all branches of the Army. If a logistics officer served in Iraq, he may be eligible for the BSM. It is counted among the highest honors one can obtain for service. With a very small quantity of Bronze Star Medals being awarded solely for a heroic act, one should not automatically assume that it is unjustifiably being awarded to soldiers that were not involved in direct action.

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

*These opinions belong to the writer and in no way reflect the views of the DoD or other departments of the US government.

21 October 2014

The Importance of an Advanced Degree to Active Duty Military and Veterans

DR. KATHLEEN SHRIVER and JODI BOUVIN, American Military University:

Real Life Example: Brandon Wilson, MBA grad (2013), PMF, and currently deployed.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs documented in a 2009 report that there were close to 600,000 veterans enrolled in educational programs. That number increased to slightly more than 900,000 in 2012. In our current political climate, across the board cuts in spending and a reduction in our military forces are inevitable. The sequestration in 2013 had an immediate impact on military students and veterans. The cutbacks required in 2014 (and beyond) are causing members of our military to consider educational options for their future. As the number of people in the general population who possess a bachelor’s degree increases, the requirement for an advanced degree, such as an MBA, has risen significantly.

The Air Force encourages its members to obtain a master’s degree to advance in their military career. Officers entering as military lawyers need a law degree. For commissioned officers, promotions may require a combination of a degree with training and experience.

An MBA can provide numerous opportunities for all military personnel. These opportunities can promote the learning of new concepts and ideas, collaborating with peers, examining new research, and integrating classwork into the workplace. There can be both personal rewards from learning new management practices and professional rewards from bringing new skills and credentials to the workplace.

In introduction forum posts for one of the business courses at AMU, one student pointed out that his main reason for getting an MBA is because it’s required to continue progressing in rank in the Air Force. Another student is anticipating that a balanced background of a bachelor’s degree in engineering, and a master’s degree in business management, may help him prepare for the competitiveness of the aerospace industry.

The MBA program at AMU covers proven business practices, strategic planning, operational management concepts, and budgeting—all useful skills for those who might be transitioning from a military to civilian career. For example, one AMU student will be returning to the private sector after more than 12 years of military service and is planning a new career in the finance field. Another has a few years before he will reach 20 years of military service and is planning a post-service career in business management. A third graduate, retired after more than 30 years of service in the Air Force, shared an interesting reason for returning for an MBA—to motivate his children to never stop achieving and to keep pace with the high-caliber people joining the ranks today. Whether it’s a personal goal or a career requirement, earning an MBA is an important learning experience as you prepare for your future inside the military our out.

Learn more about courses at American Military University.

Comment below or join the discussion here and connect within the military community.

About the Authors
Dr. Kathleen Shriver is an Associate Professor at AMU and has taught business and finance courses since 2010. Dr. Shriver has more than 30 years of experience in both the private and public sector, in the areas of business, management, and technology.

Jodi Bouvin is an AMU instructor and has been affiliated with the university for more than eight years. Jodi’s educational focus ties directly to the business programs and she serves as a resource for active duty, reserve, and veteran students.

Image Copyright: American Military University

20 October 2014

PTSD Stigma Still a Problem in Society and Military

It was a crisp and clean morning in Fairfax Virginia. I forced myself out of bed at the wee hours of the morning, strapped on my well-worn old combat boots, and sipped on my coffee on the way to the event. We arrived around 0800 as people milled around the registration booth. People were chipper despite the morning hours. Maybe it was the pleasant weather. Maybe it was the electricity that seemed to permeate through the air. The crowd was excited. They wore colored beads, photos of loved ones on banners, and cheered as the emcee announced how much money we raised. This vitality was a stark contrast to the event we were participating in. We were walking in support of suicide prevention. The pictures of smiling young faces were family members lost to suicide.

Though there was no stigma in the air that morning, as soon as the walk ended it felt that we returned back to a realm where suicide and mental illness bears the scarlet letter of shame. I have known three colleagues who felt there was no other way out. I knew them all personally, served with them in the Air Force, and was shocked at their choice. I tried to empathize why they thought death was the only release from this pain or if there were any warning signs I saw but ignored. But like so many of the survivors of suicide victims I was left with burning unanswered questions.

Suicide in nature is an absolute solution to a temporary problem. It is easy to state that without being in that suffering soul’s predicament where the pain is so overwhelming it clouds everything.  Mental illness is just that, an illness. But in many cultures it is viewed as a weakness and a pariah. It is that thing we whisper about and never dare to actually talk about. With the sad passing of Robin Williams there was a spark at a national level to talk about this devastating disease. But I believe it has passed the mainstream media and we are still left with the stigma. According to a recent Huffington Post article, Veterans account for 10 percent of the US population but account roughly to be one out of every 5 suicides in US. CNN calculated that every day 22 veterans commit suicide and our community outpaces every demographic for suicide.

I’m not debating the why or how of this escalating issue, but appalled that in this day and age anyone struggling with mental illness feels a stigma or bias to being treated. Whether that person is active duty, a veteran waiting for a mental illness appointment, or your coworker, no matter who you are—those who suffer from this disease are afraid of bias of others around them to be perceived as weak. Other diseases such as cancer, diabetes, nor heart diseases are not viewed this way. So why are depression, bi-polar, and other mental illnesses?

We are fighting a war on stigma. We are fighting a war to aid people to get the help they desperately need.  We are fighting a war so that everyone does not feel alone in their desperation. I am fighting so I will not have to add anymore friends to a rock to remember their life that was cut tragically short and possibly could have been avoided. I am fighting for VO, Ferg, and Omar and those who have survived them.

We learn how to identify the signs of depression in the military and how to point the individual in need in the right direction for help. But there is more the military can do to show service members with depression it’s okay to seek help.

How can we remove this stigma from our military and society? Does awareness have to go beyond introductory training programs? Maybe it has to be incorporated in our public school systems?

Below are links for you to help prevent suicide as well as signs and information on depression:

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

*These opinions belong to the writer and in no way reflect the views of the DoD or other departments of the US government.

19 October 2014

October 19: Top 5 Discussions


Service members talk about all kinds of military-related topics, ranging from the latest regulation changes to career advice. Check out this week’s Top 5 Discussions on RallyPoint:

Weigh in on the discussions and connect within the military community.

17 October 2014

Will Israel and Palestine Ever Get Along?


If you look back, Israel and Palestine have an extremely turbulent history that has caused devastation on both sides. If you were to ask if they will ever be at peace, based on the past, the answer would be no. Time and time again Israel and Palestine have gone back and forth, leaving a path of destruction and asking for other countries to help pick up the pieces.

At the Gaza Reconstruction Conference in Cairo, $5.4 billion was raised to aid in rebuilding the Gaza strip…again. Interestingly enough, no one from Israel attended. According to the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, Egyptian officials feared many Arab states would have canceled if they knew an Israeli attended. Want to know how much the U.S. pledged? $400 million by the year’s end.

The U.S. has a long-standing history of giving money to Israel, since WWII more than $121 billion has been given. Since the mid 1990s, the U.S. has given Palestine $5 billion dollars…not including the most recent pledge.

As we give them our money, what is the guarantee that what happened will not happen again next week? Next year? Many countries that participated in the conference pushed for peace talks to continue and for a long-standing peace to take place. There were some concerned that Israel and Palestine’s stand off will not last. They will then be asked again to donate money to rebuild a city that these two combatant countries destroyed.

America and various countries can plea for a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine, but if they do not want to keep it then should we continue to give them money to rebuild their cities? Will Israel and Palestine ever be able to break the cycle?

Comment below or join the discussion here and connect within the military community.

Image Copyright: AP

15 October 2014

Defense Secretary Lays Out National Security Threats of Global Warming


Climate change is now being looked at as a national security threat. Rising global temperatures, increasing sea levels and intensifying weather activities will challenge global stability, says Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The changes could even lead to food and water shortages, disease and clashes over refugees and resources.

On Monday, Hagel unveiled a “Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap” to several defense ministers at an international meeting in Peru. He stressed leaders inside and outside the military need to set aside the intense political debate over the issue. Hagel says our armed forces have to prepare for all possible threats to keep our country secure. This includes our military bracing for a global warming crisis that will cause sea levels to rise 12 to 18 inches over the next 20 to 50 years.

Flooding and erosion will threaten military installations’ infrastructure and training areas, including port facilities such as San Diego, Hawaii and Norfolk, Virginia. The number of humanitarian assistance missions will increase. Climate changes can create new health risks by expanding infectious disease zones and boosting health service demands. Bases in the West will have to consider new water management programs to handle droughts, as dust can ruin military equipment and increase equipment costs.

Hagel outlined a list of potential changes for the Defense Department, including how all branches will be affected:

Marine Corps: Rising sea levels could make it harder to mount amphibious landings.

Air Force: Changing weather patterns could make it more difficult to fly for investigation and surveillance missions.

Navy: New ship technology might be needed to maneuver in the Arctic icy waters, in facing new zones of competition as new fossil fuel and mineral deposits become accessible.

Army: Soldiers may need to help manage instability caused by flooding in densely populated coastal areas, where mass-migration creates chaos and a breeding ground for extremist groups.

National Guard: More severe weather, such as hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires, will cause serious damage that will require more support from members.

The Pentagon is assessing the vulnerability of more than 7,000 bases and installations around the world. As the assessment winds down, leaders are reviewing all budget plans, war game scenarios and off-the-shelf operational contingency plans to determine if revisions are needed in light of projected impact of global warming.

Can key decision-makers put aside their political differences and focus on preparing for climate changes? Given what Hagel has outlined, how will preparing for global warming threats affect you and your service?

Comment below or join the discussion here and connect within the military community.

13 October 2014

New US Military Equipment Doing More Than Boosting Technology


All service members and veterans can agree the United States military isn’t the best at keeping up with technology and implementing the latest and greatest. Lately, more focus has been put on new equipment that would help service members execute tasks and increase safety—with two examples being night vision goggles and combat vehicles.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is working on the next generation of night vision goggles. The goggles would be lighter, use more of the infrared spectrum and allow a soldier to share his view with his group digitally—all while holding a charge for 24 hours. Not only would the new goggles benefit the individual—switching in and out of night vision mode instantly, but they would make it easier for the group to work together—streaming video so all members can see what everyone else sees.

Incorporating high-tech advancements is certainly useful, but even the basic changes will really make a service member’s life easier. Just lightening the load of the goggles will save their necks. Right now, night vision goggles aren’t that heavy but the weight is unevenly distributed, and that causes problems such as pinched nerves, especially when the wearer is holding the same position for a long time. A survey of 88 aviators published in 2012 by the Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory said 58 percent of them complained of some type of neck pain, with night vision use identified as a key factor.

Another new technology coming out is a combat vehicle. A new breed of lightweight military vehicles is in the final production stages, with the first Dagor vehicle to be delivered to a U.S. special operations group in November. Polaris Industries Inc. developed Dagor in less than two years from scratch. At 4,500 pounds, the vehicle can be flown into combat by plane or helicopter, and it can transport nine service members.

Making a combat vehicle much lighter will help the military maneuver and relocate fairly easily. When compared to the Humvee, the Dagor’s design is better by leaps and bounds. Since the bottom of the vehicle has more angles and will not absorb the full force of explosions like Humvees do, the Dagor is much safer. As Humvees are phased out, these new lightweight vehicles can replace them.

Enhancing new capabilities of any military equipment is important, but basic adjustments such as decreasing headgear’s weight or designing the bottom of a vehicle to deflect force away make all the difference. Sometimes the best upgrades don’t necessarily come from new technology, but something being designed in a different way that could have been done years ago. The service members using the product need to be at the forefront of developers’ minds with technology upgrades.

What are other examples of equipment that could use basic upgrades? How can the military make upgrades faster?

Comment below or join the discussion here and connect within the military community.

12 October 2014

October 12: Top 5 Discussions


Service members talk about all kinds of military-related topics, ranging from the latest regulation changes to career advice. Check out this week’s Top 5 Discussions on RallyPoint:

Weigh in on the discussions and connect within the military community.