The Depot

A Life of Service

Hoosier David A. Flynn knew early on in his life that the open fields of the midwest would not be able to contain his wanderlust. Beyond the corn fields of Loogootee, Indiana there was a siren’s call; a call to service. The small-town charm that keeps many mid-westerners grounded to their identity would be unable to tether Flynn.

“I always knew from an early age that I wanted to be in the United States Marines,” Flynn said. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps while in college at Indiana State University in Terre Haute. He was commissioned through the Platoon Leaders Course and he attended Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia during the summer, continuing with his university studies in the fall and spring.

“If you pass the first session/summer you return and complete a second summer; then back to the university and upon graduation you are commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve,” Flynn said. “After that you go back to Quantico for about seven or eight months and attend the Basic School which all Marine lieutenants complete. After that you are sent to your follow-on school depending on assigned/chosen specialty.”

For Flynn, his assigned specialty was to serve as a Combat Engineer Officer and as a Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) officer. He served in engineer units with the Marine Air Wing and Marine Force Service Support Groups, but he also served in task organized and special forces MAGTF’s as well as with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). After 22 and half years, he retired as a lieutenant colonel only to continue serving the nation in forward areas all around the world as a contractor.

Like many military veterans who literally poured their blood, sweat and tears into serving on the many fronts of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), both as a military officer and later as a contractor, Flynn has opinions about how the wars have been managed, but overwhelmingly and without question, he is positive about the work he’s done during his military career and as a civilian, especially the work he did during the GWOT.

“9/11 was a serious wake up call for me and the country and the world in general, I think,” Flynn said. “For sure it inspired people to enlist and do other things in maybe a more patriotic way as it brought the country closer to the evil that the U.S. military and others deal with and train to deal with on a daily basis.”

After 9/11, Flynn was reassigned to the Marine Corps Training Assistance Group (MCTAG) as a brigade lead advisor to the Royal Saudi Marine Corps in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

“We assisted the Saudi Royal Marine Corps with training and planning and other subjects as well as worked with them on equipment that was sent to them under the Foreign Military Sales Program; things like Tow II missiles, 81mm mortars, A2 HMMWVs, upgraded .50 caliber machine guns and sights.”

Flynn was in Saudi Arabia when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. Not long after, Flynn was sent back to the states only to be reassigned back to the MCTAG which was putting together a team of U.S. advisors to help rebuild the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. A colonel that had worked with Flynn in Saudi Arabia requested Flynn to be the executive officer for the initial team of forty U.S. advisors. He deployed to Iraq in November 2003.

They would be charged with standing up an entire division, three brigades and nine battalions. Flynn was initially assigned to the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team (CMATT) which would later become Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq. He and his team were at Taji Military Training Base just a short flight from the International Zone in Baghdad. They were a part of an AST (Advisor Support Team), charged with training, equipping and mentoring nascent Iraqi security forces

“The generals and senior officers I worked for in all services were really top-notch,” Flynn said. “They gave you a very big job/order/assignment to accomplish and then set you to it. They used mission orders and let you do it. There is not a lot of written info on how to re-stand/reform a military organization after you just quickly defeated them and disbanded them so the playing field was wide open.”

Flynn was the deputy division advisor to start with, but after six months his colonel transferred back to the states and Flynn became the senior advisor for the 1st Iraqi Infantry Division. Flynn was leading three brigades, nine battalions and a division staff, as well as personnel at the Iraqi Ministry of Defense.

“We were training all the Iraqi military at that time as it had just really started up in a major way after the disbanding of the Iraqi military,” Flynn said. The Iraqi military had been disbanded by American administrators in Iraq and CMATT was charged with rebuilding Iraq’s forces.

“There were other advisors at first, that did not fall under CMATT as they were from units in areas where Iraqi units were at the start and they were training them and trying to integrate them into local defense in whatever area/bases/towns U.S. forces were operating/working,” Flynn said. “CMATT started to get all of them under a bigger umbrella to mirror up things so we did not have six different Iraqi armies.” CMATT standardized training, uniforms, policies, operations, equipment, pay and many other things.

“We had over 15,000 or so Iraqis come through training the almost two years I was involved in the program,” Flynn said. “We started out with one brigade headquarters and three battalions and it grew into a whole division; and then we started two more divisions. We also stood up, trained and equipped the 1st Iraqi Mechanized Brigade which consisted of a brigade headquarters, one tank battalion and two motorized rifle battalions.” A fete that was accomplished before the first Iraqi national elections in 2004.

“We used a lot of their old equipment; weapons, vehicles, tools,” Flynn said. “We issued new cammie uniforms, newer AKs and pistols and stuff that was being filtered in. We got a lot of tents, furniture, computers, weapons, basic gear and load bearing equipment and personal protection equipment from unit/base Defense Reutilization Management Offices and in old Iraqi bases and warehouses that were captured during the war.”

Flynn credits the supply and finance teams supporting the advisors for their “incredible work” tracking, accounting and managing so much diverse gear/equipment from so many sources. 

When Flynn and his men were due to rotate back, they were asked to stay on board and help stand up, train and equip the mechanize brigade. Flynn would end up staying in Iraq until April 2005.

 “I feel really good about my time in Iraq. It was a billet and assignment that allowed us to really work outside the box and be creative as we were doing a lot of things for the first time at this scale and we were the first bigger group,” Flynn said. He believes the way he and his men did the initial tasks in training, mentoring, teaching and providing different aspects of support were spot on. 

“I think people have to understand that this was a starting point and it was from scratch with people that were culturally different; different religions, norms and practices across everything they do and you had to try and strike a balance with that in some respects,” Flynn said. “Security was paramount as the insurgency was in full swing and growing so that took a lot of dedicated planning, training and thought. You could never let your guard down in any situation. Even with a little so called down time nothing changed with our security posture. We were operating by ourselves for the most part and after a few months we were not on U.S. bases and the Iraqis were all armed so it was not anything you took lightly.”  

Flynn did not only build an Army, he built relationships that have stood the test of time and violence. Many of the Iraqi officers and soldiers he trained still keep in touch with him.

“After I retired in early 2006 and started contract work, I was sent to Iraq by my company and worked there the next couple of years,” Flynn said. “We were rebuilding and building new Iraqi military bases and police stations as well as border posts and water wells throughout the country,” Flynn added. “With my contacts I was able to work security details and get support from Iraqi army and police units based on people I had helped train in areas we had formally operated.”

But Iraq was an immensely dangerous place and those contacts would be unable to keep Flynn from getting shot. Something he had avoided for more than 20 years in uniform. 

“When I was wounded in Iraq in 2006, I had only been out of the Marines for about 24 days,” Flynn said. “We were ambushed north of Baghdad in the Sunni Triangle in a town called Tarmiyah which was south of Balad along the way up route Orange.”

“As a contractor I served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa for GWOT. There was a lot of travel involved and a lot of time at numerous construction sites,” Flynn said. “In Afghanistan we worked primarily on new base construction for the Afghan Air Force that was standing up as well as work on future Afghan Army bases to include warehouses, maintenance sites and barracks. In Africa I worked all over the continent. We were building a counterterrorism facility/school/base in Gao, Mali when the Tuereg and ISIS/AQ uprising really took hold throughout Mali and led to a coup by their military while we were there. 

“I also worked in training the FARDC (Armed Forces Democratic Republic of the Congo) in the Democratic Republic of Congo at a jungle base camp,” Flynn said. “The U.S. was training battalions and we had built a post at an old Belgium base in the jungle near Kisangani.  We worked multiple tours in Mali, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, Mauritania, Senegal, Burundi, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Ethiopia, Niger, Rwanda and Djibouti as well on numerous missions for their countries.”

In Afghanistan, Flynn served as a contractor. He never deployed to Afghanistan as a Marine. He worked on larger construction contracts helping build Afghan military facility infrastructure in Kandahar, Kabul, Mazi-Al-Sharif and Jalalabad. He is plain-spoken about America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“It makes me sad, frustrated, angry, happy to have survived the whole of it and many other emotions,” Flynn said. “I think everyone knew in one way or another that things were not going to turn out in a good way. Nation building has never been nor never will be a U.S. military function. Sadly, many people in our government can’t see the forest for the trees in front of them and go haphazard into things with no real plan, more like wishes for a better tomorrow, and the reality on the ground is 180 degrees the opposite. 

“We keep doing it from the 1950s on to no real success. As a superpower we should know better. We really have or should have had some set goals and objectives as limited they may really be, go in let the military accomplish those and get out. Sadly enough, we are facing the same issues in Afghanistan now. I think our hearts and wanting to do certain things are in the right place but due to the actual lay of the land, the patience of the U.S. and its partners, the cost in so many areas to include lives of U.S. service men/women, the long term will to really go in and get it done by our government, the world, the U.N. and others; it is just not really there.”

For the past 12 years, Flynn has devoted much of his professional energy to working in Africa. He has worked on multiple construction projects, but also provided aid, equipment and supplies to various nations. He has also provided exercise support and training.

“There is so much going on in the world and as long as I feel that I am capable I will continue to assist where I can,” Flynn said. “As long as I feel able and feel like I have something to contribute I would like to keep going. There is no lack of places we could work and if we can make some baseline and deeper success in some of these places it should help them and us in the longer term.” 

Flynn is able to help bring some semblance of stability to an unstable world because his own world has a solid foundation. His wife of 38 years, Jan, is a teacher and together they raised four children, two boys, two girls, who have all grown and moved away after college. They are working throughout the country. 

 “Both of my daughters are married and have children of their own so I currently have four grandchildren, three girls and one boy to keep me busy with any down time,” Flynn jokes. “Lots of baseball, soccer, dance classes, camps, travel and so much swim time.” Flynn recognizes that without his family’s support, things would be much harder.

“My whole family has been supportive of this type of lifestyle,” Flynn admits. “With being married throughout my time in the Marine Corps and having our children grow up in the military they are all used to the deployments and issues that come with not being around as much as you would like. All of my children travel and have studied overseas and appreciate the bigger view of the world that they get to be exposed to.”

What makes Flynn a little different than other retired officers is that he doesn’t assume the common posture so many officers take as all-knowing, claiming how their dirty boot time was harder than what any future generation will endure.

“I think that like all U.S forces, they (future U.S. forces) will do well and get the job done no matter what the order or what the task,” Flynn said confidently. “We need to use our forces in ways that protect the American people, our country and way of life first. There are other missions but let’s remember and do the important one first.”

As for Marines, Flynn sees changes, but not in the Corps’ identity.  

“While current leadership has swung and given up a lot of our core capabilities, the Marines will always be the nation’s force that is ready to answer the call at the blink of an eye,” Flynn said. “We have U.S. Marines for one reason and that is to be America’s force in readiness. I think Marines will endure and always come out on top.”

As for his service in Iraq, Flynn looks back on it fondly and honestly.

“I am really proud of my service in Iraq and I am so proud of the women and men who served alongside of me,” Flynn said. “It was not easy and contrary to popular belief I can be hard on people at times. It was high stress and mission accomplishment was a must. There was no room for failure or the ability to adjust and work on quick mission orders and keep everyone safe. The soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, civilians, interpreters were all serious professionals. We had people from the guard, reserves of all forces, active components, retired/civilians and NATO countries all woven together in small groups doing monumental tasks with little support and writing up the training as they went along and came across a new ditch/hurdle. Nothing stopped these teams.” 

Steve Alvarez is an Iraq War veteran. He is the author of Selling War: A Critical Look at the Military's PR Machine published by the University of Nebraska Press (Potomac Books).

Fighter Pilot: What Do They Do?

When you hear the words “fighter pilot,” what image comes to mind? Is it the Thunderbirds or Blue Angels and their machine-like precision, or is it Tom Cruise living the rock star life in Top Gun; flying high performance jets, drinking beer, chasing women into bathrooms, singing in piano bars, playing volleyball and riding his crotch rocket?

The truth is while the life of a fighter pilot might seem very adventurous and full of fun, a lot of planning and preparation goes into being a fighter pilot. As the old saying goes, not everything is as it seems and Hollywood has certainly not helped. Sure, Top Gun helped military aviation recruitment, but there is a lot more to being a fighter pilot than just rocking cool sunglasses and a patch-covered jacket.

What is a fighter pilot?
By definition, a fighter pilot is a military aviator who flies tactical aircraft, normally jets, in order to engage in air-to-air or air-to-ground combat. A fighter pilot can also fly electronic warfare fighter aircraft.

The U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps all have fighter pilots that fly a variety of aircraft. Naval and Marine Corps aviators are trained to land on an aircraft carrier. A fighter pilot from those three branches of service receives training in dogfighting and in ground attack. Any fighter pilot, regardless of service, who kills five aircraft in aerial combat is considered an ace.

While the U.S. Army and U.S. Coast Guard do have pilots (U.S. Space Force does not operate aircraft at the moment), the pilots fly helicopters and fixed wing non-fighter jets and propeller aircraft.

A routine fighter pilot mission
There is a certain amount of rest a fighter pilot must get before they fly because most duty days for fighter pilots are at least 12 hours long when they are scheduled to fly. Much of the mission isn’t spent in the air, but on the ground.

According to Air Force fighter pilots, 90 percent of the job is preparation. They show up at their units and prepare for the flight by studying or examining mission boards so every fighter pilot is on the same sheet of music.

The mission will get briefed about two-and-a-half hours prior to takeoff. Mission briefs can take about an hour to complete depending on the complexity of the mission. Coordinates, weather and other particulars are covered.

A fighter pilot then will go to the aircrew flight equipment room to put on their gear. From there, they head out to the aircraft where they conduct preflight checks and talk with support staff about the aircraft. This can take about an hour or so.

Finally, they get in, fire up their aircraft and take off. Most flight missions are normally conducted to keep the fighter pilot proficient and to improve the skill of the fighter pilot.

A fighter pilot does not just go to flight school, learn to fly and then just fly when needed. In order to maintain his or her flight status, a fighter pilot must log requisite hours in the cockpit. Like most professions in the military, once earned, a fighter pilot must actively perform to keep his or her rating.

Upon returning from a mission, there is a mission debrief that can last for a couple of hours. By now, the fighter pilot has spent nearly half, if not more, of his or her time on the ground in pre- and post-mission meetings concerning the mission.

Non-flying stuff a fighter pilot does
When they aren’t flying, a fighter pilot will have additional or ancillary duties. A unit doesn’t just have air and maintenance crews. In order to function, there are many other functions and operations that need to be tended to by unit members.

For example, members of a flying unit will need to be evaluated on their performance. They will need orders to travel to training schools and they will be decorated for their service. Personnel functions are required of a fighter pilot. While a unit may have a human resources specialist, as an officer, a fighter pilot might have to evaluate and rate other junior members of the unit.

Public affairs officer (PAO) might also be an additional duty that a fighter pilot might fill. Maybe they won’t serve as the unit PAO, but they serve as a liaison for outreach and communications.

In addition, as an officer, there will be required training that a fighter pilot must attend in order to satisfy requirements from his or her service and the U.S. Department of Defense. A fighter pilot is trained not just on how to fly, but how to lead, manage resources and behave while in and out of uniform. Every branch of service has monthly, quarterly and yearly requirements for its personnel and a fighter pilot is not immune to this.

There are many roles in a flying unit that a fighter pilot can fill that are not related to flying, but in addition to being a fighter pilot, there are also aviation related roles that a fighter pilot can fill depending on the fighter pilot’s rank and tenure.

Other stuff a fighter pilot does
There are a lot of shoes to fill in a military unit and a fighter pilot has to carry the load just like everyone else. Professionally, as a military aviator, there are other aviation related roles that a fighter pilot must fill. Below are a few of them.

As a standardization/evaluation officer, a fighter pilot gives check rides to ensure pilots can fly their aircraft. After the flights, there is a lot of documentation to complete to stipulate if a pilot has passed or failed their check ride.

Most units have a safety officer and flying units are no different. A fighter pilot can be a safety officer which requires a lot of proactive defensive posturing to stay ahead of accidents.

A fighter pilot performing duties as a safety officer will keep tabs on what is going on force-wide with his or her aircraft and ensure other aviators are informed about any trends or issues impacting safe flight and operation. Corrective actions are taken to ensure a safe environment, conducting risk assessments and mitigating risk.

By nature, the job of a fighter pilot means mobility or the ability to get up and go somewhere else. A fighter pilot can also perform duties as a mobility/plans officer to ensure the readiness of the unit at all times.

This means a lot of planning. When the fighter pilot is done planning, they plan some more. Most plans officers are experts in overkill, planning for just about any outcome or eventuality to ensure a mission is successful if it is requested.

A life support officer is a fighter pilot responsible for equipment. This job is a critical role for a fighter pilot and it is usually an additional duty for a fighter pilot since most units have specialized officers or non-commissioned officers who manage a unit’s life support gear. This fighter pilot is responsible for gear that can save a pilot’s life; things like oxygen masks, helmets, parachutes, headsets, survival kits, and G-suits.

Imagine getting to an altitude where you need oxygen and your mask doesn’t work. That’s why a life support officer ensures that regular service and inspections are conducted and documented. All equipment must be in good, operational, working order.

A scheduling/training officer is a fighter pilot with an additional duty. This officer ensures that pilots are completing their required training, whether in the air or on the ground, as required by branch and military requirements. For a fighter pilot, this can be a robust duty requiring a lot of agility since many requirements might require the involvement of other moving parts. For example, a fighter pilot might be required to train in aerial refueling. This task not only involves the fighter pilot and his or her unit, but also pilots and tankers from another unit. Coordination can be complicated.

Lastly, a fighter pilot might also perform duties as a weapons or tactics officer. Weapons and tactics officers train pilots to execute in combat, whether in an aerial setting or air to ground.

A fighter pilot has an important role in the U.S. military. They kill aerial targets and destroy enemy targets on the ground using tactical aircraft. Just remember, they are U.S. military officers and therefore have a wide array of responsibilities not just as pilots, but as officers in their respective military branch and in the Department of Defense.

A fighter pilot does a lot more than just fly the world’s most advanced jets.

Military Spouse Appreciation Day: 5 Ways To Show Your Appreciation

Within the ranks, they are anointed with loving monikers: Household 6; Commander, Fort Livingroom; CINC Home, and other affectionate labels. They are military spouses and they are well known for being able to handle anything thrown at them. Raise the kids while their significant other is deployed? Check. Keep the home front running efficiently and effectively while holding down a career. Check. Make sacrifices daily for the good of my country? Check.

It is no wonder we have a Military Spouse Appreciation Day. Military Spouse Appreciation Day was created on May 23, 1984, when then-President Ronald Reagan made a proclamation to recognize the hard work done by military spouses every day. The eventful day is celebrated throughout the United States and on military installations worldwide. Today, Military Spouse Appreciation Day traditionally falls on the Friday before Mother’s Day.    

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate the military spouse in your life, here’s USAMM’s top five ways to show your appreciation on Military Spouse Appreciation Day.

1. Military Spouse Appreciation Day Party
A fun way to celebrate Military Spouse Appreciation Day is to invite over members of your unit and their spouses. This gives you an opportunity to make your military spouses queens/kings for a day. Whether you are active duty or in the National Guard or reserve, having a unit-level celebration can make Military Spouse Appreciation Day more fun and it enables you to get as granular as possible.

For example, inviting the entire company over to your house would likely be impractical, but maybe inviting the members of your squad, platoon or section is more manageable. Also, don’t forget that there are ample parks and open spaces where you can celebrate Military Spouse Appreciation Day in the great outdoors.

Spouses would relish the opportunity to socialize and interact with fellow military spouses and families, but just be sure that you are doing all the work. Help by manning the grill, play bartender or DJ, or be the entertainment committee for all the kids.

The point of the Military Spouse Appreciation Day party is to show appreciation to military spouses, not to make them cook, clean or chase kids. Cater to them and pickup the loads they might normally carry in a social setting. It’s their day after all.

2. Attain a personal goal
A great way to make Military Spouse Appreciation Day memorable is to help your military spouse attain a goal, or start on a path to achieve a goal. The mobile and sometimes transient nature of military service means that military spouses usually put their families first before themselves.

Military spouses, focused on supporting their loved one in uniform or raising their families, many times overlook their own needs for self care and sacrifice the attainment of personal and professional goals. Helping them do something for themselves on Military Spouse Appreciation Day is the perfect way to show them how important they are to you. Remember, they are nurturing everyone around them, but who is nurturing them?

Maybe your spouse has always wanted to earn a college degree. Encourage them to sign up for classes or to apply for acceptance on Military Spouse Appreciation Day. Does your spouse want to open a business? You can help them take steps to making that a reality on Military Spouse Appreciation Day. Or maybe they want to run a marathon or just read a book. The point is to identify something that is important to your military spouse and then ensure that steps are taken on Military Spouse Appreciation Day to make them happen.

Remember, this isn’t a fire-and-forget type of thing, some of these goals might require sustained support so be ready to support your spouse for the long haul as they chase these goals. They do it for you daily.

3.The gift of space
The life of a military spouse can be exciting, especially if you live overseas, but life can also drag on especially when dealing with day-to-day domestic life. Kids, commissary, bills, car repairs, home maintenance, laundry, career, you name it; it can get pretty mundane. When you add deployments to the mix, well, you get the idea.

One of the greatest gifts for Military Spouse Appreciation Day is the gift of time; alone. Some spouses might not want it, but for those who do, determine how much time they need; whether a few hours, days or weeks, and give them some space to get away from the kids (if you have them), their jobs (if they have one), you and the pressure of being a military spouse.

Remember, for those of you who have deployed, your spouse never got a day off if you have children. They were both parents in your absence. 

Simple things like visiting their family back home, a weekend at a spa or playing golf or even just some free time to do what they want is important and healthy for them and you. It doesn't have to break the bank, so work within your budget and if you have to burn some leave to make it happen, it is worth it.

4. Gifts of experience
Another way to show your appreciation on Military Spouse Appreciation Day is to give your military spouse the gift of an experience. As mentioned before, domestic life can be mundane, so if you’re airborne, why not give your spouse the opportunity to see what your professional life is like. Buy them a tandem skydive. If they’re not the adventurous type then maybe they’ve always wanted to go to a local ballet, musical or play?

Maybe they’ve had their eye on a particular restaurant that has a type of food they’ve always wanted to try or there might be a point of interest that you can take them to. The point is, gifts are great, but experiences stick to a person’s soul. Remember, it is about them. Start asking them a few months out, what is something they’ve always wanted to do but they’ve never had the chance. That way when Military Spouse Appreciation Day rolls around, you're ready.

5. Photos to music
Apps and software make creativity easy these days. Anyone can be a creative director without a lot of technical skills. With that in mind, an extraordinarily thoughtful way to recognize your spouse on Military Spouse Appreciation Day is to gather photos of your life together and set them to music.

It’s important to capture your entire lives together and maybe have music from when you first met, your first dance at your wedding, and then songs that have meant something to you over the years.

This can be a cumbersome process. Going through hundreds if not thousands of pictures can be time consuming, and finding the right songs to play and syncing them to the pictures can also take a lot of time and patience, but the reaction from your military spouse will be worth it and they are definitely worth the effort.

Above all, it will show them that they are truly appreciated on Military Spouse Appreciation Day. Remember that day in, day out, while you are working to support the nation, they are working to support you and they deserve as much as you can give them every day, but especially on Military Spouse Appreciation Day.

Military EDC: 10 Essentials To Build A Great EDC

Ask anyone what “EDC” means and you will get about 100 different answers and that’s because EDC, known as Everyday Carry, is personal and as individualized as people themselves. There is no correct answer.

Everyday Carry refers to what a person carries on their person each day to help them with any challenges and those things that may arise that are unexpected. These are items needed by an individual to function in their daily life. EDC for a doctor, let’s say, might be much different than the EDC of a ranch hand.

Along those lines, military EDC might be much different from branch to branch, and military EDC can also be influenced by whether or not a service member is deployed. Nonetheless, we’re going to take a stab at it.

Here’s USAMM’s 10 essential items for a great military EDC in no particular order. 

Military EDC Essential #1
If you’re in the military, you have a boss. Even the highest-ranking general officer in the U.S. military answers to someone, the president of the United States.

That said, most military personnel learn in basic training or at officer candidate school that it is important to always carry a pen and paper. This shows preparedness and professionalism.

It’s always important to be ready to copy, whether it is a directive from your staff sergeant, a part number for something you’re repairing, or a map grid for you to meet another squad, having the ability to jot stuff down is important. Many military members find small notebooks with pens or mechanical pencils useful. The notebooks are small enough to fit in their uniform pockets and the writing instruments can slide into any compartment in the uniform. Weatherproof notebooks are a plus.

Military EDC Essential #2
A knife or a multitool is a must have for any EDC. Opening boxes delivered to the unit? Bust out the knife and slice through that packing tape easily. Got a loose screw on a piece of protective equipment? Tighten up that sucker with your multitool.

This is one of the most important EDC items for a service person. Downrange or in the field, knives and multitools should be mandated, because of their utility, but they are not. Best part, most attach to your belt and are tucked away unnoticed until you need them.

Military EDC Essential #3
If you work a job that isn’t just during daylight hours, it’s probably a good investment to get a high-quality flashlight. Now, clearly, you don’t want some Paul Revere lantern or something overly heavy or large. Luckily, today’s illumination tools are high-powered and are tough enough to manage the rigors of most environments.

Most of the quality flashlights ideal for a military EDC have LED lights and are made of a non-corrosive metal. Some have added features like a compass or storage, and they also can be carried as part of your military EDC on your belt or in your pocket.

Military EDC Essential #4
A phone is a critical piece of a military EDC. In garrison, a phone can come in handy when you are out of the unit and you need to look up a regulation on the internet or reach out to a fellow soldier to talk about a particular unit matter. The camera can come in handy too to photograph something you are working on or to capture a unit event for social media.

In the field, most units do not allow phones for communications and they are not considered tactical comms. However, if you choose to take it, for whatever reason, ensure you bring along a solar panel charger to ensure your phone has enough battery to capture those embarrassing photos of your buddy.

Most phones and chargers can fit in a cargo pocket.

Military EDC Essential #5
Once long ago, there were these things called watches and everyone wore them so they could arrive to places on time. Today, they’ve been replaced by cell phones which display the time and they tell us the time anywhere in the world.

But watches are great for a military EDC because if we are ever without our phones, we know the time and that can matter for shiftwork and relief, reporting times of incidents, and for general awareness. It will also help you stay on time, arriving at meetings and appointments as expected.

We recommend a wristwatch since pocket watches can be cumbersome.

Military EDC Essential #6
Glasses, for those who have vision problems, can also be considered a critical piece of a military EDC. You won’t be able to read, write, observe, or perform most duties if you cannot see.

Whether they are your government issued “BC” (birth control) glasses or just over the counter readers, make sure they are included in your military EDC. Drop them in your pocket and go.

Military EDC Essential #7
Along the lines of glasses are sunglasses. If you work outside a lot or you are deployed or in the field, sunglasses are a must. Not only do sunglasses reduce glare, making it easier to see, but they also protect your eyes from getting sunburned. Not to mention, the squinting done by most while they are outside can lead to headaches and tired and sore eyes.

Depending on the brand, many of these glasses can fit in a uniform pocket. And some fulfill the requirement for eye protection when on the shooting range. Pew pew!

Military EDC Essential #8
Identification is a huge part of any military EDC. Most of us have been taught from day one in the ranks that our military identification stays on us at all times. It is important because on post, you need to show your ID, when not in uniform, to receive a haircut or shop at the post exchange. But did you know that if you’re in uniform, you are required to have the ID on your possession at all times?

A military ID will also help you gain access to military installations. Therefore, ensure that your information is updated in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) so you don’t run into any hiccups. Along those lines, keep your driver’s license on you when operating a motor vehicle. The same applies to operating government vehicles.

Carry your ID in a clip or in a wallet, but carry it.

Military EDC Essential #9
If there is a group of people who know long days it is those in the U.S. military. Those duty days can drag on and when there is a looming task, it can be hard to find the energy to keep going.

Keeping a light, high-quality snack in a cargo pocket is a great way to be prepared for anything that might pop up and force you to miss a meal. Beef jerky, protein bars, energy bars, fruit or anything that keeps your blood sugar up and provides good energy to your muscles is a good choice and should be a requirement for any military EDC.

Military EDC Essential #10
Last, but certainly not least, is our friend, good old H2O, water. Water is really good for you. It keeps you hydrated and keeps your body functioning properly.

If you’re working outside or in the field, or even worse, if you are forward deployed to one of the many desert environments the U.S. military has been known to frequent, hydration is a critical part of your life.

The military issues canteens that you can fill up and carry. If you’re not a fan of lugging around those old school canteens, then your water can become portable and go where you go if you fill a hydration system and wear it. Just ensure you comply with chain of command directives.

Lastly, you can also simply tuck a water bottle in one of your cargo pockets and drink, and refill it, as needed.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Firearms were intentionally not included in creating this list since most military installations do not allow service personnel to carry their personal firearms on post.

What Is A Blue Star Family? Everything You Need To Know

During times of war, if you’ve ever driven through an American neighborhood, you may have noticed some houses have small flags with a blue star hanging in a window. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Texas, New York, or California, the banners are all the same and they hang quietly, solemnly in house windows.

These Blue Star Banners can have one star or up to five and each blue star represents a loved one serving in the military during time of war. A home with a Blue Star Banner means that family is a Blue Star Family.

What is a Blue Star Family?
A Blue Star Family is the immediate family of a U.S. military member who is serving during war. They are authorized by the U.S. government to hang the Blue Star Banner from their residence for others to see.

What is a Blue Star Family history?
The Blue Star Banner was designed in 1917 by businessman and National Guard officer Capt. Robert L. Queisser. He had two sons serving in World War I and Queisser wanted to show his pride and support.

His original and patented design included a solitary blue star to indicate one family member was in military service and in conflict. Individuals who fly the Blue Star Banner are therefore considered Blue Star families.

What is a Blue Star Family eligibility?
According to a U.S. Congressional resolution from 2013, the “…Blue Star Service Flag is the official banner authorized by the Department of Defense for display by families who have members serving in the United States Armed Forces during any period of war or armed hostilities the Nation may be engaged in for the duration of such hostilities.”

Immediate family members are permitted to hang the Blue Star Banner prominently in support of their loved ones. Those people include:

  • Spouses
  • Parents
  • Children
  • Siblings
  • Stepparents
  • Stepchildren, stepsiblings, half-siblings
  • Adopted parents
  • Adopted children and adopted siblings of a United States service member.

What is a Blue Star Family technically?
Some people believe that a Blue Star family is anyone who fits the aforementioned criteria and has a service member in service on active duty or serving in the guard or reserve. Technically, since the Global War on Terrorism has not been formally ended, some families who serve in the military, but are not deployed, consider themselves military families since they have a loved one who is serving in the military during a time of war.

Others believe that the loved one has to be forward deployed, in a combat zone, in order for the family to be a Blue Star family.

Congress and Blue Star organizations do not stipulate that a service member must be forward deployed. They only state that the service member must service during time of war.

What is a Blue Star Family banner specifically?
The War Department during World War II issued specifications for the Blue Star Banner. They clearly outlined when the flag could be hung, by whom and they also issued restrictions on who could wear the lapel pin.

The Blue Star Banner must have an 8.5-inches by 14 inches white field with at least one blue star, and no more than five, sewn onto a red banner.

What is a Blue Star Family compared to a Gold Star Family?
As previously stated, a Blue Star Family is a military family with a loved one who is serving in the U.S. military during a time of conflict.

A Gold Star Family is a military family which has lost a loved one during war. If a Blue Star Family has a loved one that dies in combat, that blue star becomes a gold star to show that the family’s loved one was killed.

If the family has multiple service members in the ranks, and one dies, then the highest star on the banner becomes gold and the remaining blue stars are aligned underneath the gold star.

The gold star was approved by President Woodrow Wilson in 1918 at the urging of mothers who had family killed in war. The approval meant that mothers who lost a child in the war could wear a gold star on the traditional black mourning armband. That eventually led to placing a Gold Star on the Blue Star Banner indicating that the service member had died.

What is a Blue Star Family lapel pin?
The Blue Star lapel pin debuted during World War II for wear by family members of those serving in World War II. However, it was not until 1967 that formal guidance was issued by the U.S. Defense Department. The use of the banner and lapel pin was also codified in the U.S. Code.

What is a Blue Star Family non-profit?
There are numerous charities and non-profits that have “Blue Star” in their names. None are officially a part of the U.S. government, but some are chartered by the U.S. Congress and have existed since World War I, including some founded by Gold Star families.

Most of these organizations are open to military families who fit the eligibility to be a Blue Star Family. Many of these organizations help military families and raise awareness of Blue Star family sacrifices.

What is a Blue Star Family today?
The Blue Star movement has made a comeback. After World War II, a war-weary American public lost traction with the Blue Star program. It did not fall completely out of sight, but conflicts in Korea and Vietnam dampened a lot of public support.

During the Cold War, the program grew quiet, but after 9/11 there was a groundswell of support for U.S. military personnel and the Blue Star Banners made a comeback. Today, many families still fly the banners and in addition to lapel pins, there are also automotive decals and other items that can show the public the pride of a Blue Star Family.

What is a Blue Star Family in simple terms?
The families of those protecting America are Blue Star families. They deserve the nation’s respect and admiration.

How To Thank Someone For Their Military Service: 10 Ideas To Make A Difference

There’s a lot of talk these days about whether or not military personnel appreciate being thanked for their service. Like all things, it is an individual thing.

Some veterans, like Vietnam War veterans, might not have been embraced by Americans when they returned from the war. Many of them do not mind being thanked for their service because of the cold reception they may have gotten when they returned home from the war.

More recent veterans of the post 9/11 wars might feel differently. While there are exceptions, more recent military veterans are accustomed to being supported by the American public. At one point in the aftermath of 9/11 the U.S. Defense Department started a program, and website, called America Supports You. Thanking them might make them feel awkward.

In addition to a veteran’s political climate during his or her service, there are also personal values that come into play. Nonetheless, if you’re feeling as if you would like to express gratitude towards a veteran or military service member in your life, here are 10 ideas if you find yourself asking how to thank someone for their military service.

1. How to thank someone for their military service by hiring them
At some point in time, military personnel become veterans. Maybe they completed their military service obligation, retired, or separated from the service for other honorable reasons. Whatever the reason, everyone leaves the military at some point and many require a transition to another job in the civilian sector.

A common misconception about military veterans is that they might be too rigid or that they lack creativity. Many of today’s military members have served in a military that has been in constant war and the environments they have served in required agility, creativity and flexibility.

Many veterans are skilled leaders and they know how to get people to perform and they know how to manage expectations and objectives. They are confident in themselves and in those around them.

Hiring a veteran is a wonderful way to thank someone for their military service because it gives them an opportunity to transition from the ranks into the civilian sector. Hiring a veteran will prove to be a good investment because a company gains a motivated, eager, problem-solver who can think on their feet.

2. How to thank someone for their military service by shopping vet-owned
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are 2.4 million veteran-owned businesses in the United States and veteran-owned businesses employ roughly 5.8 million people.

Many veterans are proud of their service and will prominently share their military veteran status on company ads or social media. A great way to say thank you to a veteran for their military service is to patronize businesses that are veteran owned. Giving your business to a veteran-owned company sends ripples through the community and helps veterans support their families and their communities.

It is a nice way to show appreciation for those who have done so much for our country.

3. How to thank someone for their military service by donating to veteran causes
There are many organizations in need of financial donations to help the less fortunate in their communities. Veteran charities are no different, they simply serve the niche community of those who have served in the military.

A great way to thank someone for their military service is to donate to veteran causes. There are plenty of them to choose from; some focus on wounded veterans, homeless veterans and war veterans. Veterans are a cross section of American society and as such, many are susceptible to the many social issues that plague our society.

Some veterans are thrust into horrible circumstances because of their military service and there are military and veteran-centric causes to help them as well. In most cases you can donate cash or goods, but supporting veteran causes is a great way to say thanks.

4. How to thank someone for their military service by creating a shadow box
If you personally know someone who has served, they might appreciate a shadow box. The bulk of American veterans serve long enough to fulfill their contractual military service obligation and then they leave the ranks. Many do not retire from the military or make it a career.

In some cases, veterans simply don’t think about creating shadow boxes for themselves after they’ve been discharged. They are proud of their service, but most simply are too busy focusing on the transition into the civilian world to worry about whether or not to get a shadowbox.

If you are close to a veteran and have access to their DD Form 214, it can be easy to assemble a shadowbox online and order it. Having access to a veteran’s service records or actual awards and decorations can make things very easy. This is a very personal way to say thanks and these make great gifts on Veterans Day or during National Military Appreciation Month.

If you have a current military member in your life who is still serving and plans to make the military a career, purchasing a large shadowbox is a great way to say thanks so they can add to their box as their careers progress.

5. How to thank someone for their military service by listening
Veterans are living history and many have witnessed some of human history’s most memorable moments. Inviting veterans in your community to speak at a school for Veterans Day or Memorial Day is a touching way to say thanks for your service.

Many veterans are humbled by the opportunity to share their experiences. They don’t have to be war stories or tales of combat. A great majority of veterans have never seen war, but they still have amazing stories to tell. For example, some ferried presidents on Air Force or Marine One, and others maybe helped erect structures in the South Pole.

The key is to give them an opportunity to be heard. If you have a veteran at work, ask them to speak during a lunch-and-learn about their military service. The anecdotes will be great.

6. How to thank someone for their military service by giving of your time as a volunteer
There are numerous veteran-centric organizations that can use help. There are food banks that help military families experiencing food needs and there are organizations that help build customized homes for wounded veterans. It doesn’t take a lot of skill to pack food boxes or follow the instructions of a skilled tradesmen to move some wood from here to there. It does, however, take time.

Volunteering is a great way to thank someone for their military service. Time tends to be the most precious gift of all and helping by donating time doesn’t have to be a huge commitment.

Many organizations understand the time constraints facing adults and most won’t have you commit more than a handful of hours every month. This is also a great way to get your co-workers involved in community service project that might help a veteran.

7. How to thank someone for their military service by donating your expertise
If you’re a human-resources professional, veterans can use your help. You can review their resumes and offer tips or host workshops on interview skills. If you work with investments, offer workshops to veterans on where they should invest their money. If you’re a mechanic, free advice on how to make your car last will go a long way.

The point is, everyone has something to offer and they are knowledgeable about something. Sharing your expertise is a useful way to say thank you to someone for their military service. Posting an informative article or even just a simple post on professional networking social media sites or even just on social media can be helpful. Take advantage of Veterans Day or National Military Appreciation Month by using those hashtags and sharing your knowledge.

8. How to thank someone for their military service by being a mentor
Many veterans are used to having a mentor. First-term enlistees have squad or section leaders to turn to who help guide them on and off duty. When they leave the ranks, there is a mentorship void.

Mentoring a veteran is a great way to say thanks for your service. Maybe you are a third-year college student who knows his/her way around the college registration protocols or maybe you’re a co-worker who sees potential in a veteran, but they need a little guidance.

Stepping up and helping a veteran get acclimated is another way to show gratitude for those who have served. While veterans are resourceful, it doesn’t hurt to be inclusive and bring veterans into those circles where they might be underrepresented and where they can benefit from someone's knowledge.

9. How to thank someone for their military service at work
You don’t have to have military service in your background in order to help veterans. Most workplaces are rich with opportunities to help veterans transition from the ranks.

For example, maybe there is a former infantryman who wants to work in information technology (IT), but they cannot because they have no experience. Instead, they work as a customer service rep.

Helping create a training program where the veteran is allowed to train with IT a few hours per week can not only help retain a quality employee, the veteran, but it is a wonderful way to show appreciation for veterans at your workplace.

10. How to thank someone for their military service
Of course the simplest way to do it is to look them in the eye, say thank you for your service and shake their hands.

What Is A Seabee? The U.S. Navy's Construction Battalion

What is a Seabee?
The Naval Construction Force, better known as the Seabees, was born March 5, 1942. To meet the Navy’s need for construction of advanced bases in combat zones in World War II, Rear Admiral Ben Moreell, Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, requested specific authority to activate, organize, and man Navy construction units.

Since then, for more than 80 years, Seabees have been the Navy’s construction force, building bases and airfields, conducting underwater construction, and building roads, bridges, and other support facilities. They play a crucial role in supporting the fleet and combatant commands while carrying out the Navy’s maritime strategy.

What is a Seabee motto?
The founder of the Seabees, Moreell, gave the Seabees their motto, “Construimus, Batuimus,” which translates from Latin to English, “We build. We Fight.”

Given the nature of the Seabees mission, to come ashore in austere conditions and build something where there was nothing, the motto makes sense. But Seabees also developed a reputation for being fierce defenders of what they built which helped them define what is a Seabee.

What is a Seabee nickname?
The term “Seabee” is itself not an acronym, but the term Seabee comes from the first letters of the words that comprise the unit’s formal name, “Construction Battalion.” When abbreviated, the letters are “C” and “B” and given the Navy’s penchant for playing with words, the term Seabee was coined.

And the nickname would lead to the creation of one of the most iconic military mascots in U.S. military history.

What is a Seabee mascot?
In 1942, Frank Iafrate, a Navy enlisted clerk at the Naval Air Station Quonset Point, was approached by an officer who knew he had skill as a cartoonist. The officer asked Iafrate to create an insignia for a group of 250 men he was in charge of. The group was one of four new special teams of Navy men who were being trained by civilians in construction work and by Marines in military training. They were being referred to as Construction Battalion men.

These new units would be used to build forward bases and go ashore in the second wave after the Marines. Their primary task included building airstrips, docks, roads, and advance bases but they would also be trained in military defense and be ready to fight and defend what they had built.

When he asked himself, what is a Seabee, or “CB” mascot, Iafrate thought of a busy bee that works industriously and yet is capable of protecting his property when confronted by an enemy. He decided on a Navy white hat on an animated bee to make him strictly Navy; a hammer and wrench in his hands to show his construction abilities; and a machinegun held in his front “legs” to show his military muscle. Iafrate designed the bee with a serious look on his face to show determination.  

At the time the insignia was designed only for the First Naval Construction Battalion and not for an entire branch of the Navy. The new group also needed a name to go along with the new insignia. Iafrate thought the sketches of a bee in Navy gear reminded him of the sea and the main character was bee. Thus, a phonetic rendering of the initials “C” and “B” became "Seabees" that completed the final insignia.

The insignia, with the new name for the newly created Construction Battalions, was widely accepted and became the official seal of the Seabees. On March 5, 1942, the Chief of the Bureau of Navigation approved the designation of Construction Battalions as “Seabees” and the insignia was authorized to be put on major equipment.

What is a Seabee Insignia?
Iafrate’s design would not only become the symbol of the Seabees, but it would be adopted by the U.S. Navy as a branch insignia. Today, all Seabees wear the Seabee combat insignia created by Iafrate once they earn it.

The badge is worn on service uniforms and combat uniforms once earned, but the embroidered patch is worn on the combat uniform for those who have finished "A" school.

What is a Seabee internationally?
Seabees play an important role in sustaining global relationships. Seabees are forward deployed around the world to provide engineering and construction support while promoting regional stability and improving lives through engineering civic action projects in many countries.

What is a Seabee (CB) doing in the South Pole?
In 1956, Seabees helped the Navy build a research base on Antarctica. It was in use until 1975, a testament to the skill of the Seabees. It was eventually abandoned and demolished in 2010.

In 1975, the Seabees built a dome over the South Pole Station that covered and protected the buildings at the research facility until 2009.

What is a Seabee (CB) Medal of Honor history?
In June 1965, Marvin G. Shields was a Seabee constructing an Army Special Forces Camp at Dong Xoai. The camp started getting mortared and attacked by more than 2,000 Vietcong. By morning, the camp had fallen into enemy hands.

Shields had been wounded by mortar fire, but that did not prevent him from fighting alongside of the Green Berets. He would be wounded a second time by shrapnel and he was also shot in the jaw, but he helped evacuate wounded personnel.

Over the next four hours, Shields fought on and even helped a Special Forces officer knock out a Vietcong machinegun which was mowing down American and ally forces. The Americans had fallen back into a building and they were surrounded on all sides, defending themselves from the building. Shields and the SF officer attacked the machinegun with a rocket and destroyed it, but on the way back to the building, Shields was wounded for the third time, shot in both legs.

He was air evacuated from the camp with other wounded Seabees. He died during the evacuation.  

What is a Seabee? They are sailors with a long, distinguished legacy. They build. They fight.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Public information from the U.S. Navy was used to write this post.)

The Navy Cross: Five Facts About This Prestigious Medal

The Navy Cross was established by an act of Congress on February 4, 1919 and is presented to “any person who, while in the naval service of the United States, since the sixth day of April, nineteen hundred and seventeen, has distinguished, or who shall hereafter distinguish, himself by extraordinary heroism or distinguished service in the line of his profession, such heroism or service not being sufficient to justify the award of a medal of honor or a distinguished service medal.”

On August 7, 1942, Congress limited the Navy Cross to combat-only recognition and elevated its status to just below the Medal of Honor.  It is the second highest award for valor presented to members of the Navy.

Here are five facts you should know about the Navy’s second highest award for valor, the Navy Cross.

1. The Navy Cross was called the Distinguished Service Cross
James Earle Fraser is credited as the primary designer of the Distinguished Service Cross, as the Navy Cross was originally called. Fraser was also the designer of the World War I Victory Medal.

Variations have marked the evolution of the Navy Cross from 1919 to the present. The original medal was a three-part construction: the cross itself and the front and back medallions, which were struck separately and subsequently soldered together. Since World War II, however, the Navy Cross has been struck in one piece.

Today, the Navy Cross shows a sailing ship on waves surrounded by laurel leaves and berries on four corners. The flip side of the Navy Cross has crossed anchors and the letters “USN.” It hangs on a blue ribbon with a white stripe down the middle.

2. The Navy Cross was created to recognize sailors in World War I
As previously mentioned, the Navy Cross was created just a few months after the end of World War I. Up to that time, the Medal of Honor was the only medal awarded for valor.

In February 1919, the Navy, through Congress, established both the Navy Cross and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal to properly recognize the actions of those who served in World War I.

3. The Navy Cross was earned by a mess attendant
On December 7, 1941, Doris Miller, an African American mess attendant serving aboard the USS West Virginia, earned the Navy Cross for valor during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was the first black sailor to earn the award.

On the morning of the Pearl Harbor attacks, Miller was tending to his duties below deck when the ship’s alarm sounded. Miller went to his battle station, only to discover the area destroyed. In response, he ran to the ship’s deck and as the ship continued to come under fire, Miller carried several sailors to safety, including the ship’s captain.

Witnessing the attack, Miller decided to man a .50-caliber anti-aircraft machine gun on the deck of the West Virginia. He manned the gun until it ran out of ammunition, downing at least two Japanese planes and hitting several more.

It should be noted that Miller was never trained on the weapon and because he was black, he was limited to kitchen and waiter-type duties by the Navy. Miller was killed in the Battle of Makin two years later while aboard the Liscome Bay.

His Navy Cross citation reads: “For distinguished devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and disregard for his own personal safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. While at the side of his Captain on the bridge, Miller, despite enemy strafing and bombing and in the face of a serious fire, assisted in moving his Captain, who had been mortally wounded, to a place of greater safety, and later manned and operated a machine gun directed at enemy Japanese attacking aircraft until ordered to leave the bridge.”

4. The Navy Cross is hard earned
The Navy Cross may be awarded to any member of the U.S. Armed Forces while serving with the Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard (when a part of the Department of the Navy) who distinguishes themselves in action by extraordinary heroism not justifying an award of the Medal of Honor. The action must take place under one of three circumstances:

  • In combat action while engaged against an enemy of the United States; or,
  • In combat action while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or,
  • In combat action while serving with friendly foreign forces, who are engaged in armed conflict in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

The act(s) to be commended must be performed in the presence of great danger, or at great personal risk, and must be performed in such a manner as to render the individual's action(s) highly conspicuous among others of equal grade, rate, experience, or position of responsibility. An accumulation of minor acts of heroism does not justify an award of the Navy Cross.

5. The Navy Cross has been awarded 41 times since 9/11
Publicly, the U.S. Department of Defense recognizes that the Navy Cross has been earned by 41 individuals for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the number is likely higher given the covert nature of special operations.

Some of those special operations eventually became well known when they were shared in books written by Marcus Luttrell, a former Navy SEAL who fought in Afghanistan. Luttrell is also a Navy Cross recipient and his book was made into a movie, Lone Survivor, starring Mark Wahlberg.

Aubrey McDade, pictured second from left in the above picture, rescued three wounded Marines during a firefight in Iraq in 2004. Two Marines survived and McDade was presented the Navy Cross while he was a drill instructor in 2007.

The Navy Cross has been around for more than 100 years. It has been presented to thousands of recipients and sadly, many of them, did not survive and received the award posthumously. But the award stands as proof that all recipients earned the Navy Cross by highly conspicuous heroism while engaged against an enemy.

U.S. Naval Submarine Force: An Overview

The U.S. naval submarine force dates back to a failed attempt during the Revolutionary War to use a submersible to wage war. The “Turtle” was put into action against a British blockade and it failed and sank. Luckily, submariners and those who believe in naval submarine forces did not give up the ship.

Today, the U.S. naval submarine force, known as the “Silent Service” consists of three types of submarines: fast attack, ballistic missile and guided missile submarines. The naval submarine force, as of April 2022, is comprised 53 fast attack submarines, 14 ballistic-missile submarines and four guided-missile submarines. Naval submarine forces are also responsible for more than 50 percent of the U.S. military’s nuclear firepower.

Fast Attack (SSN)
Fast Attack submarines are designed to seek and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships, project power ashore with Tomahawk cruise missiles and special operation forces, carry out Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance missions, support battle group operations, and engage in mine warfare as part of the naval submarine force.

The U.S. Navy has three classes of SSNs in service. Los Angeles-class submarines are the backbone of the naval submarine force, with approximately forty now in commission. Thirty of those are equipped to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles. 

The Navy also has three Seawolf-class submarines. Commissioned July 19, 1997, Seawolf-class submarines are exceptionally quiet, fast, well-armed, and equipped with advanced sensors. The Seawolf class has eight torpedo tubes and can hold up to 50 weapons in its torpedo room as part of the naval submarine force.

The Virginia-class is the third type of naval submarine. The Navy continues to build the next-generation attack submarine with the Virginia-class as part of its naval submarine modernization. Nineteen Virginias have been commissioned to date and they will replace Los Angeles Class submarines as they retire. 

Ballistic Missile Submarines (SSBN)
Ballistic Missile submarines have provided strategic deterrence since the 1960s as part of the naval submarine force. Their primary mission is to provide the United States with its most survivable and enduring nuclear strike capability as part of the naval submarine force.

The Navy's ballistic missile submarines, often referred to as “boomers,” serve as an undetectable launch platform for intercontinental missiles. They are designed specifically for stealth and the precise delivery of nuclear warheads as part of the naval submarine force.

Each of the 14 Ohio-class SSBNs originally carried up to 24 submarine-launched ballistic missiles with multiple, independently-targeted warheads. However, under provisions of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, each submarine has had four of its missile tubes permanently deactivated and now carry a maximum of 20 missiles.

SSBNs are specifically designed for extended deterrent patrols. To decrease the amount of time required for replenishment and maintenance, Ohio-class submarines have three large-diameter logistics hatches that allow sailors to rapidly transfer supply pallets, equipment replacement modules and machinery components, thereby increasing their operational availability.

The Ohio-class design allows the submarines to operate for 15 or more years between major overhauls. On average, the submarines spend 77 days at sea followed by 35 days in-port for maintenance.

The Ohio-class SSBNs will be replaced by the Columbia class naval submarine ships.

Guided Missile Submarines (SSGN)
Ohio-Class guided-missile submarines provide the naval submarine force with unprecedented strike and special operation mission capabilities from a stealth, clandestine platform. Armed with tactical missiles and equipped with superior communications capabilities, SSGNs are capable of directly supporting combatant commander's strike and special operation forces (SOF) requirements.

The 1994 Nuclear Posture Review determined that the United States needed only 14 of its 18 SSBNs in its naval submarine force to meet the nation's strategic force needs. Therefore, the Navy decided to transform four Ohio-class submarines into conventional land attack and special operations platforms.

Combined, the four SSGNs represent more than half of the naval submarine force’s vertical launch payload capacity with each SSGN capable of carrying up to 154 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles.

The SSGNs have the capacity to host up to 66 SOF personnel at a time. Additional berthing was installed in the missile compartment to accommodate the added personnel, and other measures have been taken to extend the amount of time that the SOF forces can spend deployed aboard the SSGNs. The two forward most missile tubes were permanently converted to lock-out chambers that allow clandestine insertion and retrieval of SOF personnel.

During conversion, each SSGN received the Common Submarine Radio Room and two High-Data-Rate antennas for significantly enhanced communication capabilities. These additions allow each SSGN to serve as a forward-deployed, clandestine Small Combatant Joint Command Center as part of the naval submarine force.

The SSGN is a key element of the Navy's future fighting force. With its tremendous payload capacity, dual crew deployment concept, and inherent stealth, each SSGN brings mission flexibility and enhanced capabilities to the warfighter.

Submarine Warfare Insignia
On June 13, 1923, Captain E.J. King suggested to the Secretary of the Navy that a distinguishing device for qualified submariners be adopted. He submitted a pen-and-ink sketch showing a shield mounted on the beam ends of a submarine, with dolphins forward of, and abaft, the conning tower.

Over the next several months the Bureau of Navigation (now known as Naval Personnel Command) solicited additional designs from several sources. Some combined a submarine with a shark motif. Others showed submarines and dolphins, and still others used a shield design.

A Philadelphia firm, which had done work for the Navy in the field of Naval Academy class rings, was approached by the Bureau of Navigation with the request that it design a suitable badge. Two designs were submitted by the firm, and these were combined into a single design.

It was a bow view of a submarine, proceeding on the surface, with bow planes rigged for diving, flanked by dolphins in a horizontal position with their heads resting on the upper edge of the bow planes. Today, a similar design is used, a dolphin fish flanking the bow and conning tower of a submarine.

On March 20, 1924, the chief of the Bureau of Navigation recommended to the Secretary of the Navy that the design be adopted. The recommendation was accepted by the acting Secretary of the Navy in March 1924.

On Dec. 5, 2012, the first three female officers received their submariner's dolphins, making history as the first women to receive the qualification.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This post used public information from U.S. Navy submarine websites.)

Three Military Uniform Rules That Are Non-Negotiable

Uniformity is a word that is synonymous with military service. Objectives are more easily obtained and environments are more easily controlled when there is a set standard for compliance.

Uniforms make an individual a part of a larger organizational culture. The military services expect their members to comply to military uniform rules which govern wear and use of the military uniform, so it is no surprise that each branch of service has its own military uniform rules, or regulations, on how, when and where to wear the military uniform of each branch of service.

These basic uniform wear instructions are imparted on military recruits in their entry level induction training, whether it is basic training for enlisted or officer candidate school for officers and warrant officers. Everyone learns the fundamental military uniform rules, written and unwritten.

Here are three rules to help keep you guided just in case.

1. Threads are dead
One of the first assaults young recruits perform is on their own uniforms. Upon being issued, recruits are instructed to rid their uniforms of long threads. The reason for this military uniform rule is because long threads dangling from uniforms make military members look unkept and unprofessional. This is also an exercise in attention to detail.

Trainees attack their uniforms with nail clippers and a lighter, trimming and burning threads systematically starting at the top or bottom of their garment then working their way down until all threads are removed from buttons, along hems, pockets, cuffs, and anywhere else a fray or strand might attempt to make a service member look like a Private Snuffy.

Military uniform rules in this case, help the service member look more professional.

2. Check your patches
In the past, patches, service and name tapes were sewn on directly to the unform. There was no opportunity to make a mistake involving those uniform elements unless they were incorrectly sewn on from the start.

However, today’s combat uniforms, with their removable patches and tapes, create opportunities for military members, mostly in the Air Force and Army, to mistakenly place patches in the wrong places on their uniforms. Of all the military uniform rules to follow, this one is the one to pay the most attention to if you wear a uniform because it is easy to slip up and put something on the wrong side or in the wrong place.

Checking placement of military patches is the most important of the military uniform rules. The easiest way around it is to simply leave your patches on your uniform when you launder them. While some individuals state that this degrades the quality of the patch and its ability to grip the hook-and-loop fasteners, this is a great way to ensure you are following the military uniform rules of ensuring proper placement of patches.

3. Wear the right uniform
Generally speaking, there are basically three types of uniforms for military personnel to wear and they must be worn within military uniform rules. Knowing what to wear and when is easy, but at special events that clarity can get foggy.

Military uniform rules stipulate that the combat uniform is a working uniform. These uniforms are what used to be known as fatigues. They are normally worn daily in the work environment, including administrative settings, but much depends on the military uniform rules set by the organization of the military member. For example, at the Pentagon, the service dress uniform was normally worn, but after 9/11, military members there were told that the military uniform rules were changed and they were allowed the wear the combat uniform.

Military uniform rules state that most combat uniforms are comprised of a blouse top, pants, a belt, boots, a t-shirt and hat or cover. These uniforms are commonly camouflaged and have subdued name, rank and service tapes and insignia. These uniforms are also worn while in combat or in the field.

Service uniforms are also governed by military uniform rules. Like the combat uniform, they are an everyday uniform. Service uniforms, in comparison, are similar to business dress in the civilian sector. These uniforms tend to be worn by forward-facing personnel like recruiters, public affairs officers or individuals who have exposure externally.

The military uniform rules state that these uniforms are ordinarily made up of low quarter shoes, slacks, a collared shirt and even a tie if military uniform rules call for it. Ribbons which represent awards and decorations, can also be worn as can other insignia. Like other uniforms, a hat or cover is required when outdoors.

The most widely misinterpreted military uniform rules belong to the military dress uniforms. These uniforms are rarely worn because they are semi-formal and formal and equate to tuxedos in the civilian world. Service members get only a few opportunities to wear these each year.

“Mess” uniforms as they are known, have various military uniform rules like whether or not a cover is required. In some cases, military uniform rules state that no cover is required if the uniform is being worn at a certain time of day. In other cases, and locations, it is required.

There are various levels of formality and various colors of these uniforms. What is worn is dictated by the military uniform rules of the unit, the branch and the local policies.

Following these three basic rules will keep you out of trouble with eagle-eyed military leaders looking to make a uniform correction. When in doubt, always check with your chain of command, whether you are an officer or enlisted. Senior enlisted leaders in units are experts in uniform wear. Most of the time, they can be an invaluable resource to ensure you look your best, correctly.

When all else fails, read and learn the uniform regulations of your service. It is time well spent.