The SITREP: Army’s Zika Vax Shows Promise, Navy Week Schedule Set & More

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A team of U.S. Army researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research are developing a Zika vaccine that has induced a strong immune response in early trials. U.S. Army photo by Jonathan Thompson/WRAIR

From the military services and around the DoD, here’s your SITREP for Thursday, December 7, 2017.

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The SITREP: Army’s Zika Vax Shows Promise, Navy Week Schedule Set & More

How to Help Out Your Troops This Holiday Season

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By Katie Lange
Defense Media Activity

It’s the time of year when everyone’s in the giving spirit. Many Americans think about donating to a good cause during the holidays, and the Defense Department knows the public often wants to help out military families.

If you’re not sure how to donate or where to start, here are some great options.

Write letters or send cards to the troops:

Sending service members a letter and message of support is a great, simple idea. While the DoD can’t disclose the names or addresses of service members due to privacy and security concerns, many organizations collect letters and cards to include with their shipments to the troops. Here’s a list of some of them.

Many social media sites also offer people the opportunity to send greetings online.

Members of the 455th Expeditionary Medical Group decorated a table for Thanksgiving with placemats sent in care packages at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Decorations, cards and gifts are sent in care packages from family, friends and charities across the U.S. and help brighten the holidays for deployed service members. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Lasal

Donate an item or care package:

The DoD has also compiled a list of some organizations that send care packages to troops. Check them out here.

NOTE: You cannot donate funds or items directly to the DoD.

There’s also the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program, although those donations don’t necessarily go to military families.

Kelley Cargle packs a Treats 2 Troops care package with snacks Nov. 29, 2017, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mackenzie Richardson

Other ways to donate:

Within the DoD, there’s also the Combined Federal Campaign. It’s the world’s largest and most successful yearly workplace charity campaign. Pledges made by federal civilian and military donors support eligible nonprofit organizations that provide health and human service benefits all over the world.

The charities are reviewed yearly to make sure they’re actually providing the services they claim to be, and they’re also reviewed for public and financial accountability. The charities are required to disclose the percentage of funds spent on administrative and fundraising purposes, which helps people deciding who they want to donate to.

To find a local campaign in your area and to get a list of charities or pledge forms, click here.

Good luck, and have a wonderful holiday season!

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As Pearl Harbor Survivors Dwindle, Their Stories Remain Timeless

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By Katie Lange
Defense Media Activity

Dec. 7 marks the 76th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a sneak attack by the Japanese in 1941 that took many American lives and thrust the United States into World War II.

The “date which will live in infamy” is commemorated yearly across the entire nation, with many survivors and their families making the pilgrimage to Oahu, Hawaii, in remembrance. While the population of military and civilian survivors from that day has dwindled, their stories and bravery have not.

Ahead of last year’s massive 75th anniversary commemoration, we interviewed several Pearl Harbor survivors about their experiences that fateful day. All these years later, they remain just as fascinating.

Floyd Welch was a 19-year-old Navy electrician when the Japanese started bombing Pearl Harbor’s Battleship Row. His ship, the USS Maryland, was hit twice by torpedoes, which ripped holes in the hull below the water line.

While the damage was minimal, Welch knew he’d been lucky. Four of his colleagues died that day in compartments where the torpedoes hit, and he could have been one of them if it weren’t for a change in his duties.

Meanwhile, the Maryland was docked right beside the doomed USS Oklahoma, so Welch and his crewmates spent the rest of the day rescuing men who’d jumped off it. They also tried to cut holes through its hull to get to those who were still trapped.

Richard Schimmel was one of the first service members to know the Japanese were on their way. His friend and fellow radar tech, Joe McDonald, had told him that he saw something approaching on radar, but he couldn’t do anything about it. His superior told him to ignore it, so he did. And in the military, if your superior gives you orders, you follow them.

Shortly thereafter, the bombing of Pearl Harbor began.

Schimmel says a lot of what ifs came out of that day that bothered his friend for the rest of his life. And if they’d had time to set up more radar stations — a relatively new technology — the outcome may have been different.

View looking up Battleship Row on Dec. 7, 1941, after the Japanese attack. USS Arizona is in the center, burning furiously. To the left of her are USS Tennessee and the sunken USS West Virginia. Official U.S. Navy photo from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command

Melvin Heckman was assigned duties at Ford Island’s firehouse when all hell broke loose. He and his fellow sailors sped from hangar to hangar, dodging bombs that came within yards of them.

To get water to fight the fires, they ended up right beside the USS Arizona and watched in horror as it took four direct hits. Amazingly, they had the wherewithal to pull the few survivors out of the water – an awful and morbid scene.

“There was one man who asked for help. I reached and got his hand. I pulled him up, thinking I would take him up on the island, and when I got him out of the water, I looked, and nothing beneath his belly button was there. Everything was gone,” Heckman remembered. “I held him there for about two minutes until he passed away, and then I let him slide back into the water.”

Many military nurses also survived the attacks on Oahu, yet we don’t hear their stories as often. These women were pioneers of their time who faced stringent rules when they enlisted and took care of a lot of patients in the days following the attack.

Many of these women refused to share their stories with their families in the decades after the war, but a few finally did toward the end of their lives. They’re stories their families now share with the public to remind America of our lesser-known heroes of war.

More Pearl Harbor Content:

Pearl Harbor Wasn’t the Only Installation Attacked on Dec. 7
Many Lives Were Lost At Pearl Harbor. This Man’s Just Began
U.S., Japan Honor Fallen Vets in Whiskey-Pouring Ceremony

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As Pearl Harbor Survivors Dwindle, Their Stories Remain Timeless

The SITREP: Army Engineers Inspect Puerto Rico’s Schools, Navy/Marines Honor History & More

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Infrastructure Assessment mission manager Brandon Works, left, and Carl Sellers, Infrastructure Assessment Team training officer, assess a building at Escuela Luis T. Balinas in Caguas, Puerto Rico, Nov. 22, 2017. Photo by Elizabeth M Lockyear/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

From the military services and around the DoD, here’s your SITREP for Tuesday, December 5, 2017.

  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has assessed more than 1,100 schools in Puerto Rico to check for structural damage in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
  • The Navy recently authorized the posthumous award of a combat medal to a sailor who was present at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack in 1941.
  • The evolution of the Air Force Safety Center’s Airman Safety App reached an important milestone recently. The web-based tool provides a streamlined process for all airmen and their families to report base safety issues.
  • Marines.mil takes a closer look at the bond and rich history between the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps.

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The SITREP: Army Engineers Inspect Puerto Rico’s Schools, Navy/Marines Honor History & More

Ensign Earns MoH Leading Reload of Ship’s Battery at Pearl Harbor

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By Katie Lange
Defense Media Activity

This blog is part of a weekly series called “Medal of Honor Monday,” in which we’ll highlight one of the 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the U.S. military’s highest medal for valor. 

Ensign Herbert C. Jones. Navy photo

Later this week we’ll commemorate the 76th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which catapulted the U.S. into World War II. It was a day when many service members were lost, but many others became heroes. One of those men was Navy Ensign Herbert C. Jones.

Jones grew up in Los Angeles, California, and enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 1935 when he was 18. He was commissioned as an ensign before he joined the battleship USS California in 1940. That’s where he remained until Dec. 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked.

The California was moored with many other ships along Battleship Row, which was a prime target for the Japanese. In the first few minutes of the raid, the ship was hit by two torpedoes.

Jones had just relieved the junior officer of the deck and begun his duties when the attack started. When he realized a torpedo had damaged the mechanical hoists that load ammunition to the ship’s antiaircraft gun battery, he led a group of men on a mission to manually supply the ammo.

Jones and his men were on the third deck passing ammunition up ladders to the battery when a bomb exploded on the second deck. He was severely injured by the explosion, which plunged the third deck compartment the men were in into smoke-filled darkness.

The ship began to flood from all of the damage. When a large, drifting mass of burning oil from other ravaged ships threatened to set the California on fire, orders to abandon ship were called.

Two men tried to drag Jones out of the fire-filled compartment they were in, but he refused. He reportedly said to them, “Leave me alone! I’m done for. Get out of here before the magazines go off.”

USS California slowly sinking alongside Ford Island as a result of bomb and torpedo damage. USS Shaw and USS Nevada are burning in the distance. Navy photograph courtesy of the National Archives

The California eventually sank to the bottom of Pearl Harbor. It was raised several months later and was eventually repaired.

For his heroism, Jones posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions. He was one of 15 sailors who earned the nation’s highest honor at Pearl Harbor; only five of them survived the day.

Jones’ actions inspired the men around him, including troublemaking Marine Corps Pvt. Howard Haynes, who was awaiting a bad misconduct discharge and had been confined on the ship before attack. A remorseful Haynes later told one of his superiors that he was alive because of what Jones did.

“God, give me a chance to prove I’m worth it,” he said.

Jones was one of nearly 100 men from the USS California who died at Pearl Harbor. He is buried in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.

In 1943, the destroyer escort USS Herbert C. Jones was launched in his honor.

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Ensign Earns MoH Leading Reload of Ship’s Battery at Pearl Harbor

The SITREP: Hurricane Maria Efforts Continue, Marines Establish Tactical Center & More

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Petty Officer 3rd Class Ian Fenwick, a machinery technician with Coast Guard Atlantic Strike Team, arrives on scene for vessel removal operations in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Nov. 19, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Steenson

From the military services and around the DoD, here’s your SITREP for Thursday, November 30, 2017.

  • Joint Task Force – Bravo partnered with medical personnel to perform an ongoing pediatric nutritional assessment of three villages in Honduras.
  • The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain departed Subic Bay, Philippines aboard heavy lift transport vessel MV Treasure en route to Fleet Activities Yokosuka.
  • Marines establish tactical air direction center (TADC) at Camp Pendleton.
  • The Coast Guard, Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have established a unified command to organize salvage and removal operations for displaced, sunken and wrecked vessels throughout the island in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

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The SITREP: Hurricane Maria Efforts Continue, Marines Establish Tactical Center & More

TRICARE Is Changing. Here’s How It Affects You

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By Katie Lange
Defense Media Activity

Graphic: TRICARE logoHopefully you’ve heard by now that the Military Health System is rolling out TRICARE benefit reforms in January to improve health care delivery and enhance medical readiness.

More than 9.4 million beneficiaries worldwide will be affected by the changes that take effect Jan. 1. To take command of your health, here’s what you need to know and do to make sure you’re covered.

First Thing’s First:

What plans are changing?

TRICARE Select will replace TRICARE Standard and TRICARE Extra on Jan. 1.

Otherwise, all other TRICARE plans (TRICARE Prime or premium-based plans) will be rolled over, unless you change your coverage.

Do I have to do anything to make sure I get coverage in 2018?

If you’re currently enrolled for TRICARE coverage, you should transition to your respective plan, no problem.

If you want to enroll in a plan or change your coverage after Jan. 1, you will need to take action now to get into the plan of your choice.

I’m a new active-duty service member. How does this work for me?

You’re automatically enrolled in TRICARE Prime. If you live in remote areas of the U.S., you’ll be enrolled in TRICARE Prime Remote.

Your eligible family members:
If they live stateside, they’ll automatically be enrolled in TRICARE Prime if they live in a Prime Service Area. If they live outside of a PSA, they’ll be enrolled in TRICARE Select. Family members have up to 90 days to change their plans if they want to.
If your family is in the TRICARE Overseas Program, they’ll be enrolled in TRICARE Select. They also have 90 days to change their plans, if they’re command sponsored.

There’s currently an enrollment freeze:

Under TRICARE now, there are three regions: north, south and west. Those are being consolidated into two. The west will remain mostly as-is and will be managed by Health Net Federal Services LLC, while the north and south regions will become the east and will be managed by Humana Military.

What this means for you:

The enrollment process will be put on hold for a few weeks so beneficiary files can be transferred to those regional contractors. This enrollment freeze starts Dec. 1 and will last until the data transfer is complete.

Will I still have access to care during the freeze?

Yes. If your enrollment is pending during the freeze, be sure to save all pharmacy and health care receipts just in case you need to submit them to get reimbursed for any TRICARE-covered expenses once your enrollment gets processed.
If you have a problem accessing care while your enrollment is pending, contact your regional contractor. If you have a problem getting your medications during that time, contact Express Scripts.

What if I haven’t enrolled yet?

As of Nov. 20, the Beneficiary Web Enrollment website is unavailable through the duration of the enrollment freeze, so online applications are no longer an option; however, you can still enroll by phone and by mail through your regional contractor. BWE will be available again around Jan. 1.

For detailed instructions on how to submit your enrollment applications while BWE is down, visit TRICARE.mil/changes/enroll. In the right column toward the bottom under “Related Downloads,” click on “Take Command Enrollment Freeze.”
Your application will be processed once the enrollment freeze is complete.

Enrollment fees are changing, too:

The costs for TRICARE benefits will shift from a fiscal year period to a calendar year in 2018, making it more consistent with civilian health plans. This will affect you if you’re in a plan that has an enrollment fee that’s billed by the fiscal year, including retirees and their family members in TRICARE Prime, Retired Reserve, Reserve Select, Young Adults and the US Family Health plans.

What this means for you:

The fees have begun the transition from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, but there won’t be additional costs this year, even if you reach your catastrophic cap or deductible before Dec. 31. However, new deductible and catastrophic caps rules will apply to some costs in 2018.

If you make automatic payments: You’ll continue to pay your fees automatically past Jan. 1, unless you cancel your allotment.
If you use debit, credit or e-checks: If you’re in an area where your regional contractor has changed, you’ll need to update your payment method with them in December.

Read more about the new cost changes here

How to have a smooth transition:

Prepare for the changes:

Any other changes I should know about?

Explanation of Benefits will now be paperless. You will only be able to access them online unless you specifically request to get them by snail mail.

As we get closer to the New Year, more details about the changes will be released. So keep checking DoDLive.mil and DoD’s Facebook and Twitter pages to stay informed!

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TRICARE Is Changing. Here’s How It Affects You

The SITREP: ISIS Tunnel Destroyed, Air Force Preps for Power Outages & More

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Afghan special operations soldiers load a Mi-17 helicopter prior to an operation in summer 2017. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Enoch Fleites

From the military services and around the DoD, here’s your SITREP for Tuesday, November 28, 2017.

  • Afghan National Defense and Security Forces conducted a joint clearance operation targeting an ISIS-K tunnel network used for weapons and personnel resupply in Afghanistan.
  • The Ironhorse Brigade, stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, is at the National Training Center for a grueling, month-long rotation that is often described as the Super Bowl of Army training.
  • Air Force engineers prepare for power outages and plan backup generation exercises in freezing Alaskan temperatures.
  • Occupational therapist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center breaks the stigma of talking about sex and intimacy with wounded warriors.

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The SITREP: ISIS Tunnel Destroyed, Air Force Preps for Power Outages & More

American Indian MOH Recipient Showed Incredible Bravery During Korean War

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By Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jen S. Martinez,
Defense Media Activity

This blog is part of a weekly series called “Medal of Honor Monday,” in which we’ll highlight one of the 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the U.S. military’s highest medal for valor. 

North Dakota National Guard Master Sgt. Woodrow Keeble. Army National Guard photo

This week’s spotlight is on Army National Guard Master Sgt. Woodrow W. Keeble.

Keeble was born and raised on the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation and joined the North Dakota National Guard in 1941. He was on track to becoming a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox when his unit was called into active duty.

Keeble served with Company I, 164th Infantry Regiment – the first Army unit on Guadalcanal. This is where he earned the first of his four Purple Hearts, his first Bronze Star and a reputation as a ferocious fighter. The Marine units that fought with him were so impressed they submitted his name for a Navy Combat Citation.

“The safest place to be was right next to Woody,” said James Fenelon, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North and South Dakota, who fought with Keeble on Guadalcanal.

After World War II, Keeble returned home to North Dakota to teach at the Wahpeton Indian School, which he attended as a child.

He then volunteered to return to active duty in January 1951 when the 164th Infantry Regiment reactivated for the Korean War.

“Somebody has to teach these kids how to fight,” he said.

By mid-October, Keeble, a salty master sergeant, volunteered to take charge of three platoons after their officers and platoon leaders were wounded or killed in action. A week later, his actions to support his soldiers earned him a Distinguished Service Cross and would later earn him the Medal of Honor.

After seeing one of his platoons pinned down by enemy fire, Keeble single-handedly crawled through and overtook three fortified enemy machine gun positions with his machine gun and some grenades. The company successfully seized its objective and won the battle.

Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk (left), North Dakota adjutant general and Vern Skaug preview ND National Guard Master Sgt. Woodrow W. Keeble’s official “N.D. Rough Rider” portrait at the N.D. State Capitol on July 17, 2008. Keeble was awarded the “Rough Rider” award on July 23, 2008, after he received the Medal of Honor posthumously. Skaug painted this portrait along with 20 others for the capitol gallery. Photo by Bill Prokopyk

Keeble once again returned to North Dakota after the Korean War. After he lost a lung to tuberculosis, and later lost his wife to illness, he was forced to sell his medals to pay his medical bills. Despite his hardships, Keeble remained a kind-hearted, upbeat man, family and friends said.

Keeble passed away in 1982, leaving behind his children Earl, Russ, and Kathryn; and his second wife, Blossom.

After a long battle to upgrade his Distinguished Service Cross, Keeble’s family was finally granted their wish. President George W. Bush passed Keeble’s Medal of Honor to his children in a ceremony in March 2008, making Keeble the first member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate to earn the honor. He remains one of the most decorated soldiers in North Dakota history.

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8 Fascinating Takeaways from Fort Irwin’s ‘Soldier for a Day” Experience

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By Katie Lange
Defense Media Activity

“It’d be nice if youth were educated more about what the military does – the logistics and infrastructure. … They think the military is all about shooting guns, but that’s a very small part of it.”

That sounds like something a service member would say, right? But that actually came from a civilian who got to live life as a soldier for a day at Fort Irwin, California, the home of the Army’s National Training Center.

If you’ve been checking the Defense Department’s social media accounts (or read my previous blog), then you probably know that Fort Irwin recently hosted several business leaders and Hollywood executives to showcase just how extensively the military trains for deployments.

Most of the civilians invited had no expectations for the day. But after a ride on a Black Hawk helicopter, a dusty drive into the desert and an intense day of throwing smoke canisters, firing guns and running around in the “box,” as the NTC is affectionately called – let’s just say the respect they already had for the military increased a lot.

A group of business leaders pose at the Painted Rocks outside Fort Irwin during the 2017 Immersion Experience. DoD photo by Katie Lange

So what, exactly, were they doing, and what did they take away from it? Here are some of the most interesting parts of their immersion experience.

The “box” is sandwiched between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. And it’s huge.

When you mostly think of California, you think of palm trees, beaches, Silicon Valley and Hollywood – not brown, isolated desert. But that’s exactly where Fort Irwin is – it’s a military oasis, of sorts, in the Mojave Desert.

Fort Irwin proper, where military families work and live, is the smallest part of the post. It’s the training area – which takes up 1,200 square miles of desert – that accounts for its vast size. About 50,000 service members from all branches train every year on its unforgiving terrain.

The town of Razish, the largest of 12 “cities” inside the 1,200 square foot box that is the National Training Center in the Mojave Desert. DoD photo by Katie Lange

Sustaining the forces training in the “box” is an undertaking.

Rotating units spend about a month at Fort Irwin, and 14 of those days are spent in the box, where they live, train, eat and deal with unexpected problems just as if they were deployed. That means all meals, gasoline and equipment must be packed onto thousands of vehicles before they head out; it’s a massive hassle to come back for something they forgot.

“The logistics that go into running Fort Irwin astound me,” said private-for-the-day Vince Gilligan, the creator of the Emmy-winning show “Breaking Bad.” “Feeding and clothing [soldiers], and keeping all the tanks and Humvees and Bradley Fighting Vehicles up and running, and all the mechanics it must take – it puts Hollywood to shame, and we pride ourselves on the logistics of making a movie.”

There are 12 “cities” in the training area, complete with role players.

Civilians get a taste of what it’s like in a busy overseas market. It’s just one of the life-like situations that soldiers train for at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin. DoD photo by Katie Lange

Aside from endless mountains and desert, there are 12 cities with hundreds of buildings used for real-life simulations. The civilian soldiers spent the day at the largest simulated city, called Razish, where role players are brought in to simulate a busy town market. It’s so soldiers can be prepared to assimilate to their new surroundings and know how to deal with distractions.

Ansan Hanza worked as an interpreter at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq before coming to America in 2003. The Iraqi native spends a day or two a month in “the box” peddling jewelry to soldiers.

“We believe what we are doing here helps,” Hanza said of the role playing.

Just like being there! Razish is a simulated city at National Training Center/Fort Irwin. Business leaders immersed in one day of U.S. Army training see what soldiers experience in a deployed location. #KnowYourMil

Posted by U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) on Friday, November 17, 2017

Anything can – and does – happen in the box.

Units go into the box to fight a fictional enemy, but if you think they ever win, think again. The scenarios are designed for the 11th Armored Calvary Regiment (which calls this terrain home) to win. The “Blackhorse” soldiers play the bad guys in every scenario, and throw every possible problem at the training soldiers so they make mistakes and learn from their weaknesses here – not down range.

The visiting civilians watched 11th ACR soldiers raid a building, extract a high-value target and get him safely out of the area. The scenario involved Bradley fighting vehicles, M249s, M240Bs, smoke cans and real explosions.

“I didn’t realize just how in depth the training is for our Army soldiers,” said Alex Striler, the director of sales and marketing at Team Lucas, a Lucas Oil partnership program. “When you come here and see it firsthand, you really get an appreciation for the investment the military makes in its personnel.”

“I wasn’t expecting the degree of preparedness that they’ve been explaining to us, where it’s training for absolutely every environment,” said Glen Powell, an actor who most notably played John Glenn in “Hidden Figures.” “They’ve created an environment that simulates the most realistic aspects of war. … This is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.”

For the soldiers, showing instead of explaining their roles offers invaluable perspective.

“A lot of people just don’t know what we do, and this gives a small peek into it,” said Army Capt. Mark Lewis, who led that day’s scenario.

The civilians didn’t just watch – they got to do.

Next came the really fun part – when the civilians, including me, got tossed into the same scenario they just watched. This meant everyone had to first struggle their way into a heavy armored vest, flak jacket, helmets, gloves and goggles.

Blackhorse soldiers teach civilians how to clear a room during the 2017 Fort Irwin Immersion Experience. DoD photo by Katie Lange

From there, we stepped over sand, stones and old shell casings into the “attack” area, where we learned how to clear a room with some pretty hefty guns. Then the Blackhorse soldiers split us up in small groups, where we learned our individual roles.

On the soldiers’ cue, some civilians ran toward the target building amid a haze of smoke bombs, shooting blanks at the “enemy,” who was firing back. I followed another soldier up to a roof, where my civilian partner helped fend off that fire with an M240B. I tossed yet another smoke bomb to clear the way for our “soldiers” returning from the building they’d just breached.

Smoke hit our throat and eyes, and our ears were ringing from the heavy gunfire and explosions within feet of us. I had to squat on a roof for about 10 minutes, which wasn’t particularly easy when you’re wearing 30 pounds of gear. And did I mention the sand whipping our goggled eyes at about 37 miles per hour? There was that, too.

“It’s a sobering thing, because when you play video games or watch TV, it doesn’t seem as daunting and taxing physically, mentally and emotionally,” Gilligan said.

Everything is digitized.

While our performance wasn’t being judged, the real soldiers always are. After every mission, an after action review dissects all of their moves – which is easy since everything is digitized. The vests the soldiers wear can track each person’s movement and calculate when they were shot or injured (in case there’s a dispute over who hit who). So during an AAR, the units can watch their movements on tablets and see exactly what they did during the training.

Why bring in civilians? To show them military jobs can translate.

While some civilians were shooting M2’s and climbing into Abrams tanks, others sat down with the post’s leaders to chat about how soldiers’ jobs translate to the real world.

Actors Taylor John Smith and Glen Powell check out a Bradley Fighting Vehicle as part of the 2017 Fort Irwin Immersion Experience. DoD photo by Katie Lange

Aside from the DoD Transition Assistance Program and Soldier for Life, Fort Irwin Garrison Commander Army Col. Seth Krummrich said the Career Skills Program lets soldiers leave the Army temporarily to test out their post-military career ideas. That includes in nearby Hollywood, where a lot of logistics and sustainment skills can translate. Krummrich used a new partnership with NBC Universal as an example.

“We sat down with their HR team and said, ‘OK, who are you trying to hire? Let me translate what kind of soldier … could actually fill that with a skill experience match,’” he said. “That’s one of the one ways we can get you to hire a great veteran.”

And last, but not least….
MRE lessons are always fun!

For lunch, the civilians had what soldiers in the field have – the good ole meal ready to eat. Pretty much everyone needed a serious lesson from our military tutors, from getting the tough plastic brown bag open and figuring out what pouch goes where, to how the heating element works and how long the meal has to sit before it’s edible.

And then there’s the question of taste – are they good or bad??

At the end of the day, the newly minted privates hopped back on the Black Hawks and sailed into the sunset to go back to civilian life. It’s an experience they’ll never forget, and one we hope they share with as many people as possible!

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8 Fascinating Takeaways from Fort Irwin’s ‘Soldier for a Day” Experience