Young Fat Stupid Cops are Poor

 

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The standards to become a Law Enforcement officer are entirely too low. This is a problem in my opinion. The dangerous nature of the job makes it an unappealing one to most people who are qualified to do it. Although being higher in rank within the chain of command at any specific agency brings a more desired salary, the demanding schedule and workload of a rookie officer comes with sub-par wages and benefits. There is a clear correlation between standards and pay. There is a problem, at least locally, where departments are understaffed, because no one wants to be a cop. People don’t want to become a police officer because they don’t get paid enough, but I don’t know what to do about it.

 

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Maybe cops should get paid more. I’ve heard it said that military, law enforcement, teachers etc. should be paid like football players. Essentially swapping income between public servants/first responders and professional athletes. That would be dope. I’d love to make as much as Russell Westbrook, just cruising around arresting people. I’d get sued more often that’s for sure. Meth heads would be lining up to sue me for “violating their constitutional rights”. A more logical thing would just be to raise the pay in a way that is proper reciprocation for putting your life in danger. Maybe make all law enforcement a federal or state job with a pay scale like the GS (General Schedule). For sure needs to be a universal pay, regardless of location. I know cops who make $10/hr. and that is SAD. Those cops could get hurt or killed doing their job, obviously the chances are lower in less densely populated areas, but it doesn’t matter. The job we do is dangerous.

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Until the standards are raised to become a police officer the low pay will probably not change. Most police departments in the US have a minimum education requirement of a diploma or GED. I have a diploma and some college, and I sometimes still have trouble with constitutional law. Further education would obviously only help you in any career, but maybe the minimum requirement should be higher. As far as the fitness requirements those should absolutely be raised. In the state of Alabama the standard is a 1.5 mile run in 15:28 or faster, 22 push-ups in a minute, and 25 sit-ups in a minute. I am certain that my 3 year old niece could complete that with ease. There is also an agility portion of the test that involves; pushing a car, climbing a 6ft fence, walking on a balance beam, climbing through a window, and dragging a 165lb dummy. Most agencies don’t even test yearly to make sure that those standards are being kept up with after completing your certification. Some people think of cops as fat doughnut eating slobs who sit around and BS, only working when they are ruining your day by writing you a speeding ticket. I’ll tell you that there are absolutely some cops who fit that description perfectly. That will always be the case though, but the physical fitness part can be changed by raising the standards. Most agencies require a minimum age of 21 by the time you complete your POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training) certification. Maybe make that age 25? I became a police officer when I was 23 and will admit that I wasn’t mature enough for the job, but thanks to competent and caring supervisors I quickly changed.

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I don’t know how to change the standards, but they need to be higher that’s for sure. Until then I’ll keep doing my job, trying to affect change in people’s heart to do better, for less than desired wages.

 

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Guns + Mental Disorders = Our Problem

I realize that “being kind” and “mass shootings” have been common themes in my blogs here lately, and if that bores you, I’m sorry. I just think that they are important things to talk about. 

“Death is inevitable on this earth, live as long as the good lord will let you, and leave behind a legacy of love and kindness that will be cherished and remembered by all”

 

14 Nov. 2017 – Corning, CA – 6 dead 10 injured

12 Nov. 2017 – Atlanta, GA – 2 dead 2 injured

5 Nov. 2017 – Sutherland Springs, TX – 27 dead 20 injured

18 Oct. 2017 – Edgewood, MD – 3 dead 3 injured

1 Oct. 2017 – Las Vegas NV – 59 dead 441 injured

 

Mass acts of violence like shootings and just gun violence alone have unfortunately become normal in our world. So normal that I bet you didn’t even know the two above not in bold happened. I didn’t. Those are just 5 of the 46 “Mass Shootings”, according to this, to happen since the 1st of October this year. These horrible events have become so common that we’re almost numb to it. So numb that we just over look it with almost no emotion.

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I saw the above meme the other day on FB. It is an obvious shot at bleeding heart liberals with no knowledge of firearms who rant about gun control. My first reaction was “Awesome, I want that gun, sign me up”. My second reaction was “LOL stupid ass liberals”. My third thought was to share the post. Not until I “liked” it and looked at some comments did I realize that it was wrong in so many ways. I immediately felt queasy, and dirty, because I got amusement from it. It was terrible that I didn’t immediately feel bad about the shooting, but instead chuckled and said “badass”. Now I know most people who make these memes or share them or even like them don’t do it to make light of such a horrific thing. I surely don’t. It is just a true showing of how normal this is. And it’s sad.

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The people who died are gone and never coming back. The people injured will be scarred for life. The people close to both will be affected as well. Why do these things happen? Motive in most of these cases is left unfound because the person responsible either takes their own life, or leaves it up to a police officer or armed civilian. The surviving offenders rarely give an actual reason that is logically understood by anyone. People still give their theories though. The solution is almost always either; more strict gun control laws or better mental health care. The problem with this is that people are relying on the Government to fix it. These gunmen are and were citizens of the United States, in communities all around the country, and our neighbors. So, I guess I can understand people wanting the Governments help. I obviously don’t know the answer to the looming question, “What can be done about it?”. With that being said, I certainly don’t think the Government can be the cure-all and I think we as individual citizens in this country can do more.

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As far as gun control, gun prevalence levels generally have no net positive effect on total violence rates. A rise in homicide and gun assault rates increase gun prevalence. Gun control restrictions have no net effect on gun prevalence levels. Lastly, most gun control restrictions generally have a rising effect on violence rates. Simply put; people are gonna do what they want regardless of what rules or laws are put in place. Furthermore, Banning or criminalizing things has shown in many cases to create, or grow, an illegal, or “black”, market for those things. Illicit drugs are illegal in most states, yet they continue to be used and abused. Prohibition is a perfect example of what happens when something is criminalized, or in this example, made harder to obtain.

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I would suggest getting trained up on marksmanship with all weapons readily available for you to use. In addition, I think everyone should carry a weapon with them, legally and confidently, always. If guns scare you or you are unable to obtain one; learn a martial art. You would be surprised what you could do with your hands if you try. The point is; learn how to protect yourself and the people you care for by whatever means necessary.

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When it comes to mental health, I don’t know what people are expecting the Government to do about it. I am less than qualified to speak on it, but I’ll try. Often, the word “Evil” is used when describing these acts of violence. Evil is a word that has a religious connotation and is not scientific. Since I know that there are people who do not believe in any God or devil it is easier to say that the people who commit these awful acts have an absence of empathy. Which is exacerbated by negative environments, either parental or societal, and/or a genetic component. These are human conditions, mental disorders like; borderline personality disorder, narcissism, and psychopathology. People with Autism fall into the same category. With a lack of empathy one may do something as horrible as kill 30 people in a church, but in other cases it could simply be a difference in how the person views the world and nothing bad ever happens. I suggest reading “The Science of Evil on Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty” by Simon Baron-Cohen. At the very least it is an interesting book even if you don’t take anything from it. The point is that whatever mental disorder someone is suffering from, their environment greatly affects their actions and the diverse ways their condition makes them think. People who are in that person’s life not only can help, but also can hurt.

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It is always my opinion that a sound relationship with the Lord and savior, Jesus Christ is beneficial for all. This world is worse now, and people need help, more than ever before I’d say, and that’s been an ongoing theme for most of my life at least. We should spread love everywhere we go and act on kindness every chance we get. If you have a loved one who is going through something or has a mental disorder, it is your duty to help them however you can. Although you may not believe it, people want help. Before someone chooses to take their life or a number of others, in many instances, there are signs, and they reach out for help. Pay attention, look and listen for signs. In addition, eating healthy and having a consistent fitness routine is always helpful with general health and has been shown to help with anxiety, depression, and many other symptoms of mental disorders.

Life is small and fast, and the Government is a large and slow aspect of our world. Don’t solely rely on it to fix a problem that you could potentially change for the better.

Wanderlust, Kindness and Homelessness

This is a long story, but if you read it I feel like you may be glad you did, so buckle up.

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Last Thursday, November 9th, I was at work and got called for mutual aid just outside my jurisdiction. We responded to a man who threw a brick through a windshield and threatened a woman. When we arrived, he had already fled into the woods. Myself, Chief and Asst. Chief were on scene holding it down until the county units arrived. When they did, we went back in service and headed back to the city limits. On our way back, we came up on a man walking North on the side of Highway 167 carrying a heavy-duty trash bag and a back pack. He looked the same age as the man from the previous call, so I pulled in front of him and approached him with caution to ID him. The suspect from before was said to be armed with a knife and “all methed out” according to the person reporting the incident so, as with most situations involving people who could likely be under the influence of drugs, I was ready for anything.

 

 

When I asked the man for a driver’s license or state ID he very quietly informed me he had none. Sometimes when you’re identifying someone, for whatever reason, people don’t have their ID on them or anything to prove who they are. When this happens you get their name, DOB and social security number so you can call it to dispatch and make sure that they are who they say they are and don’t have any warrants. When I asked him for that information he advised me that his name was James Martin Lloyd and I’ll leave his birthday out of this, but he gave me it. He said that he didn’t know his social security number and that he had never had any form of identification because he has been homeless for most of his life. After calling what I had into dispatch nothing came back, from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Dispatch widened the search parameters while I contacted the deputy on scene to get a better description of the suspect in question. The homeless man, James, stood behind my car with the other two officers with me. After getting the description from the deputy and no positive results from dispatch I determined that after I had a look in his bags to make sure that he didn’t just change, I could let him go and go back to work. My chief waved me over to the side and said to take the man north just past our jurisdiction just to help along his journey. She gave me her credit card to buy him a meal at Hardees on our way out of town. After checking his bags and finding no clothes matching the description of the suspect, we loaded up in my car and went through the drive-thru where he ordered a mushroom swiss burger, fries, and a cherry coke. We barely exchanged 10 words during the ride, partly because he was very timid and soft spoken, but also because the cage in my patrol unit makes it hard to understand anything said from the other side.

 

 

When I got to the jurisdiction line I decided to go a bit further to the gas station up the road. We got out and I brought his food to a picnic table telling him to sit down and eat and I got his belongings and sat them next to him. I asked him if he needed anything and he was hesitant to tell me, so I went in and bought an assortment of water, snacks, potted meat, medicine, and a few Ziploc bags with my own money. I say my own money, not to brag, but because I didn’t clear it with my Chief to use hers and because I noticed something after the interaction. I noticed that I didn’t really check the prices on anything before buying it. I only spent like $36 so it’s not really a big deal but I realized after the fact that in most cases when I’m buying something for myself I always try to find the cheapest option, I am on a police officer’s salary after all. It was odd. I brought him the stuff i bought and sat down at the table and asked him if I could ask him some questions and talk or if he just wanted me to leave. He said okay, and we talked for about 15 minutes.

 

James is a slender, tall man around 34 years old. His skin was in terrible condition because of being in the sun all day and not having a place to clean up. He was wearing black shorts and a light blue t-shirt, had long hair and patchy facial hair, both lighter in color like a dirty blonde. He spoke with an accent that almost sounded British, but later told me that it was because of his teeth, they were in bad shape because of his situation. In his back pack he had a few items of clothing, socks and shirts, and a book that I didn’t get the title of. In the trash bag was trash and some half empty coke bottles and half eaten protein bars. It was apparent that he did not litter because of all the trash he had with him, which I thought was cool. Just as you wouldn’t throw trash on your bedroom floor, he doesn’t litter along his journey because the earth is his home. He seemed like a prideful man, didn’t ask for anything and was skeptical of accepting things from me and even hesitated when we offered him a ride. May be because he doesn’t trust police officers, but from the homeless people I’ve encountered they all are kind of prideful and don’t ask for help unless they need it. There is a difference between actual homeless people and begging pan-handlers.

 

He told me he was going to St. Louis and when I asked why, he said “St. Louis Good, Florida Bad”, which I found funny because Florida is a garbage place. The whole time I talked to him he spoke in short sentences, communicating like I would imagine an alien would. It was like talking to someone from another planet, probably because he doesn’t really interact with many people and it was apparent that he was a little nervous because I am a cop. He said he has been stopped a few times by law enforcement and hadn’t had a problem so that is good. He said he was coming from south of Ocala, Florida best he could remember and had been travelling for almost 3 weeks he thinks. I did some rough math and that averaged to somewhere between 20-25 miles a day. So, I asked him if he hitchhiked at all and he said every 2 or 3 days someone comes and offers him a ride, he said never purposely “thumbs it”, but he doesn’t always accept the offer. The conversation got a little deep when I asked him why he was homeless. I did not press him to speak to me, I assure you.

 

James said that at an early age, maybe 9 or 10 years old from what he can remember, he left home and never looked back. He said that his parents were abusive and that he remembers just leaving one day, with nothing but the clothes on his back. I was taken aback, I asked him how, how did he make it this long without either being picked up by some form of authority and put into the system through DHR or died because of the lack of any formal survival training, let alone just life skills. He said he learned. He said no one was around, and the forest was his home. My mind was blown. I asked him where he was born when I initially stopped him, to help dispatch with identifying him, and he said he had no idea. Unbelievable to me. After our conversation I told him to hold on and went to my car and got a flash light, pocket knife, old pair of boots and a boonie hat to give to him. I also wrote down my PO Box address, Email, and phone number on a piece of paper and folded it up with a business card and the rest of the cash in my wallet, put it in a Ziploc bag and told him to hold on to it. I told him to contact me if he ever got the opportunity, a post card, email, or phone call, anything. I said I’d love to hear from him along his journey if ever possible. He shook his head in agreement, we shook hands, and as I backed out to leave, he was throwing away the trash he had collected thus far in the trashcan at the gas station.

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This isn’t a story about how I did a great deed and should be praised for it. This is a story about how I was in the right place at the right time in the right circumstances to not only help a fellow human being, but to learn a little bit about myself. If I hadn’t been called to help the County I would have never been looking for a man in that area and even if passed James on the road later I probably wouldn’t have even stopped. Then, he would’ve just continued his journey along the road drifting from place to place just free as a bird. It made me think that if I took the time to follow a whim more often, stopping to talk to someone or doing something out of kindness, maybe it would be a good thing. I envy James in a way. That man has no responsibilities, no taxes or bills. He has no sense of time, just “walking in the sun and sleeping in the moon” according to him. He isn’t obsessed with trivial meaningless things like social media and what silly thing the president said on twitter. Call me crazy, and I realize that I am blessed to have what I have, but there is something appealing about wandering freely in nature. The only thing he must do is survive. He is living like our cavemen/hunter and gatherer ancestors did, working together to live another day without being mauled by a beast or starving to death. It made me think of all the recent mass shootings and acts of violence going on around in this country. Maybe that is what this world is missing, a common mindset of community and survival. Maybe we would stop killing each other and realize that we should care for our fellow mankind, regardless of their status or appearance, to live harmoniously and happy, and cure this sickness we most certainly have. Now I realize that he could just be a man running from something or a murderer that gave me a fake name and story to avoid prison, but I’m glad that I met James Martin Lloyd. It was a good thing. Hopefully he makes it to St. Louis and if I hear from him I’ll be sure to update you all.

Colin Kaepernick “Citizen of the Year”

Someone please explain to me how anyone is upset Colin Kaepernick was named “Citizen of the Year” by GQ magazine.

Between yesterday and today you’ve probably seen that GQ has Kaepernick on their cover and an article following talking about how he was named Citizen of the Year. A lot of people are unhappy about it. For the life of me I just can’t wrap my head around people’s emotions on this topic.

Yes, I’m aware of the comments Kaepernick has made. Yes, I’m aware of the kneeling he’s done, the clothes he’s worn and the trend he may have started. I’m also aware of the job he no longer has, the boycott of anything NFL and the struggling TV ratings. I’m also aware of the fact that he turned 18 in 2010 and has never registered to vote. He has never voted.

I’m aware of all of these things. Naturally, some people are going to agree with him and some people are going to disagree with him.

Here’s the way I look at it and it may not be the popular point of view. GQ magazine has named Kaepernick Citizen of the year over what could be hundreds of millions of candidates. Yes, we’ve seen the popular response which is “Why not JJ Watt? He raised 37 Million dollars for Hurricane Relief!” My answer is simply this. It’s GQ Magazine! This is not in any way, shape or form, going to have any effect on my life. I have never in my entire life read GQ Magazine. It’s like if the NRA decided to name Super Soaker 2000 water gun the “Gun of the Year”. Who cares? It’s a title awarded by a magazine company. GQ magazine sales are not what they once were. Add a little controversy, now everyone is talking about them. If you agree with the award then great! If you don’t, that’s also great! But what is not great, is the constant back and forth of who’s right and whose wrong.

We need to relax more. Our culture is too high strung. The media knows this and plays off of our feelings and emotions. Everyday, people around the world are going to have different views of different situations. People are DIFFERENT. That’s never going to change.

Sometimes in life, you’re going to get things your way and sometimes in life, things are not going to be the way you would want them. Accepting that fact will save you a lot of stress, pain and heartache.

One last thing. Be kind to one another.

Thank You for MY Service.

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Well the day is upon us again, where all the veterans on Facebook change their profile pictures to them, in their respective uniform, holding a machine gun (or spatula and tongs for our special 92G’s) or standing in formation or saluting. I’ll be honest, I’ve done it too.  I am no veteran though. At least by my own definition. There are better men that have done much more than I and deserve the veteran name. My time in the military was short and uneventful, but I am proud of it.

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I signed a contract in August of 2011 for the Army National Guard. My family had a pretty average ratio of people in the military, my father was in the Navy as well as both of his brothers, and my grandfather served in the Air Force. Plenty of other extended family as well, so it’s safe to say that I knew about the military. I considered joining active duty straight out of high school and I had a buddy who did the split option, where you go between your junior and senior year of high school for boot camp, and he made it look easy. I decided to go to community college instead, seeing if I could get a scholarship, which I did, and subsequently wasted both my time and their money. When I dropped out of community college I knew that I had to change my attitude and just my overall way of thinking. Two of my best friends, from high school and my brief stint in college, were in the National Guard and told me all about it and it seemed appealing to me.

 

Basic Training, or “OSUT” for me was 14 weeks in Ft. Benning, GA on sand-hill. Personally, it was physically demanding, I had never run more than a mile and had an addiction to carbohydrates. Mentally it was a breeze because I was accustomed to being yelled at by my pops, which I appreciate. As far as the being away from home part, I missed home but, it didn’t hinder my general mood or motivation from day to day. Looking back, I realize that it was easy compared to what I was told prior, and I hear its hella easier now. Sad. Anyways, I completed that and went to airborne school which I was booted from because of a shoulder injury I received during boot camp. So I flew back to ‘Bama and began training with my first duty station; 1st Squadron, 131st Cavalry Regiment, Troop C, LRS ABN Infantry (AL ARNG) in Geneva, Alabama.

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For those of you not familiar with the National Guard let me enlighten you; essentially, instead of being a full-time job, your duty is to “drill” once a month and during the summer time you go somewhere for 2 weeks, it’s called “AT” (annual training, often called anal training as a joke). Drills consist of 50% training and 50% sitting around talking about football, drunk stories, or guns waiting to go home. That training includes rucking, which is just walking at a fast pace in a tactical formation (sometimes) with a heavy bag on your back for several miles. We also trained with all kinds of firearms, most often the M-4 Carbine which is a shorter and lighter version of the M16A2 assault rifle chambered in 5.56x45mm. My MOS, the only one that matters, is 11B which is an Infantryman, so we also got to train with crew served weapons like the M240B and M249 which civilians mostly know as machine guns. We often stayed in the woods and did field training. Before my Squadron switched to Light Infantry, it was Calvary and I was in Charlie Troop, which was an Infantry LRS unit. We did reconnaissance and surveillance which I very much enjoyed. I did not think I would like it to begin with, I am a very loud and hyper person so when I was told I would have to travel 17 klicks and get buried in a hole to watch a bridge or building for 24 hours all while being completely silent and unseen, I scoffed. I did it though, because the army said so, and it turned out to be somewhat therapeutic. We trained in other ways as well including; combat lifesaving first aid, military vehicle operation, night operation, tactical maneuvers, room and building clearing, radio communications, land navigation, and many more.

There is a nickname for people in the National Guard, “weekend warrior”, its meant to be an insult I think. People in the military kind of look down on it in the mindset that if you’re not full-time you’re not good enough, or couldn’t cut it in an active duty unit. While that may be true with some NG units and some soldiers, it certainly isn’t the case for all. There are “shit bags” in both active duty and reserve/national guard components of the military. For the beginning part of my time in I could have been considered one of those people, I had sub-par PT scores and wasn’t invested the way I should’ve been. That changed, I reached the rank of Sergeant before getting out and that is because I began to take it seriously and became more responsible and disciplined. The National Guard is unique because you are a part-time soldier. On the civilian side you have a full-time job and responsibilities, then once a month and two weeks out of the summer you become a soldier. There are doctors, lawyers, cops, mechanics, EMT, personal trainers, truck drivers, lineman, and every other occupation you could imagine that serve in the National Guard. A lot of guys have families as well with an added responsibility of being a parent. Overseas deployments for the National Guard are less frequent than Active Duty of course, but as a state entity the guard can be activated by the governor for natural disasters all over as well. My first unit was activated for the tornadoes that hit Tuscaloosa and Birmingham in 2011 and provided relief after the fact. I’m not saying one is better than the other, I’m simply saying that they are both vital in this nation’s defense. I am proud to have served in the National Guard and will represent that “Nasty Girl/Weekend Warrior” name till the day I die.

While I was in, I was exposed to a vast assortment of people. That is one part of the military that I think many people over look. Without going on a 9,000+ word tangent about diversity and racial issues, which believe me I could, I’ll say that I am the person I am today mostly because of my experience in the military and the men I served with. I served with people from all walks of life that taught me about varying cultures and lifestyles that I will cherish and apply to my life forever. I met people that I hated and people that I loved. For all those people, I would have, and still will take a bullet, and I’m a better person because of it.

Overall, I enjoyed my time in the military. There certainly were times I wanted to quit and hated everyone and everything in my general vicinity. Like the time I was moving with my team during an AT in the woods of Eglin AFB for a 72-hour recon training mission. I wanna say it was my 2nd Annual Training with that unit. We were like 14K into a 24K movement, it was probably 175 degrees, and I was basically carrying an apartment in my ruck sack. I sucked down most of my food and water because I was a half-witted dough goat. Everyone else was in the same general mindset as I; “Screw this, I’m over it, I wanna go home, my feet hurt, I’m tired, hungry, thirsty, and if I had an actual grenade I would end this terrible misery”. That is probably an exaggeration looking back, but we were in “the suck” if you will. At a certain point in time I called it… I remember a mosquito or fly wouldn’t leave me TF alone and my straps on my ruck sack just couldn’t get comfortable. I broke. I would compare the beginning of my episode to an inaudible “Operation Meetinghouse”, the single most destructive bombing raid in human history. I started to spaz out violently, my being was filled with rage trying to escape like a freshly shaken bottle of champagne. I was on a recon mission, so I didn’t yell or make a sound because, sound discipline, duh. I imagine it was quite the show. At that point my Team Leader sharply whispered, “Cooke, what is your problem man?”. My reply was full of expletives, comparisons to hell, wishes for the sweet release of death and, by the account of others on my team, tears, which I can neither confirm or deny. After the dust settled, I was fine, don’t get me wrong I still wanted to eat a cheeseburger, drink a beer or serval, and go home, but I was finished with my toddler like tantrum. We decided as a team that it would be silly of us to continue seeing as everyone else was also black on ammo, water, food, and give a damn. It turned out that the grid points for our objectives given to us by our LT. were incorrect and the route we planned was 3x longer than everyone else’s because of that incompetent butter bar. That was the Army sometimes though; unnecessary tasks, planned by literal babies, through impossible terrain, in undesired conditions, carried out by grunts like myself.

Today I am thankful that I was lazy in college and quit, because if I hadn’t I probably wouldn’t have experienced the military and its many benefits. Without it I wouldn’t be the man I am today, and would probably be dead or in jail. I learned what it takes to be successful. I learned about compassion. I learned many skills and tactics that help me in my civilian job. I learned the importance of brotherhood and camaraderie. Finally, I learned about people, and today I’d like to say, to all you people, civilians and veterans alike; Thank you for my service.

Knees In The Breeze Part 1

Eight years ago this week I left my duty station of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for three weeks at Fort Benning to attend the US Army Airborne School. With Veterans Day around the corner, I thought now may be a good time to share this.

It was autumn in Georgia and I remember driving in seeing the sign saying “1st Battalion (Airborne), 507th Infantry Regiment, Fort Benning, Georgia”. I kept thinking, is this really happening? I’m going to have to jump from an airplane 5 times in the next three weeks. I was still relatively young, 24 at the time. I had just returned back to the states from my first 15 month deployment to Iraq.

I was there with another guy from my platoon. He was the only other person I knew out of about 200. Some people were just a few days out of basic training. They were enjoying their first few days of freedom. Not complete freedom, but they were allowed to have cellphones again and leave base at night and on the weekend. They had only been in the army just a few months. By this point, I had been in about 2.5 years. There were others who had been in longer who were hoping to graduate Airborne School to receive enough points for promotion or cross it off their career bucket list.

The first day of Airborne School started with a wake up at 0400 for everyone but me. I was randomly selected by one of the Black Hats for “fire watch” at 0300. Fire watch was really just guard duty. Black Hats are Airborne Instructors who wear a black hat with Airborne Wings on them. They are also addressed as Sergeant Airborne. So, I was tired and nervous but wasn’t given the opportunity to be cold because at 5am we started a PT test. Physical Training tests were administered before every school. They consisted of 2 minutes of push ups, 2 minutes of sit ups and a 2 mile run. If you didn’t do the required amount of push ups, sit ups, or run fast enough to pass the test, you were sent back to your unit. I promise you they were sent back to an unhappy platoon sergeant and squad leader who were expecting you to come back with wings, instead you came back a failure. The Airborne community, as it’s called, hold themselves to a higher standard than others. These are the people who have volunteered to train over and over again in hopes to jump behind enemy lines. They were better than everyone else and they let everyone else know it.

After the PT test we had 30 minutes to eat breakfast and get into our Army Combat Uniform. Don’t even think about eating the fruit loops that were available at breakfast. Toucan Sam had wings, we didn’t. That was said by the Black Hats every morning over and over again. Nothing was easy. Every time we entered the dinning area and our barracks area, and every time we left them, we had to do 10 pull ups and 10 push ups. This was said to work the “pull up muscles” that would be needed to pull on the parachute risers later in week 2. We did at least 100 pull ups and push ups a day easy and that’s not counting morning PT. There was also no walking. EVERYWHERE you went was at an Airborne shuffle. It’s not a run, but you’re not walking and don’t get caught walking.

The first few days consisted of physical training and practicing parachute landing falls or PLF for short. In the Army, literally everything has an acronym. PLFs were practiced first by jumping off small play forms to land on the balls of the feet, calf, thigh, butt and then that famous pull up muscle which was basically just your side and back. Each one of these places on the body was a point of contact to hit the ground. 5 points of contact. My favorite was when someone would screw up and a Black Hat would yell “Get your head out of your 4th point of contact!!” meaning get your head out of your ass. A PLF was nothing more than hitting the ground and rolling to distribute the blow to avoid injuries. That didn’t always work. There were plenty of injuries.

All day for the first week we practiced PLFs. We would practice in rock pits to help cushion the landings. We would start by practicing with no gear on. We were instructed to look up, pull down the imaginary parachute risers to our chest and then jump into the rock pit keeping our knees and feet together. Once that was mastered, we were put in a harness and would jump from a higher platform until that was mastered. It was made clear, jumping out of the airplane is easy. You’re just falling under a parachute. The hard part was the landing. When we weren’t doing PLFs we were being yelled at or doing PT.

Sergeant Airborne loves to run for PT. So we ran, a lot. We ran at an Airborne shuffle pace, all 200 of us together in formation. We would sing motivating cadence to take our mind off of running and to control breathing. Cadences that were said so many times I could never forget.

“C-130 rollin’ down the strip
64 Rangers on a one-way trip
Mission Top Secret, destination unknown
They don’t even know if they’re ever coming home
When my plane gets up so high
Paratroopers take to the skies

Stand up, hook up, shuffle to the door
My knees got weak and I hit the floor
Jumpmaster picked me up with ease
Tossed my knees into the breeze”

I remember getting back from a run and being in a mass formation of 200 people when one of the Black Hats yells “Cardwell!” “Who the hell is Cardwell?” I answered up, “Here Sergeant Airborne!” I had no idea what was going on. Sergeant Airborne approached with a smile. “I know your Platoon Sergeant back at Bragg. He just called me. I was his squad leader 10 years ago. We are going to have a fun two weeks together.” I knew that meant it was only going to be fun for one of us. Just my luck.

There’s so much more and it only gets better. Week 2 and 3 of Airborne School will be posted as Part 2. I’ll have it posted before Veterans Day. Stay with me.

Single Mother or Not?

Because I’m new to this whole blog thing I’m not sure if this is a blog or a rant. I suppose it could be both. Now I’m writing this understanding that this isn’t going to be a popular topic with some people. Some won’t agree. Some may be angered. A few may just see where I’m going with this.

This is something that bothers me, but is not my current situation and has nothing to do with me. It’s more common in women than with men. Still, I let it bother me anyway. That’s something I need to work on.

Marriages don’t always work out. In fact, the divorce ratio is 50/50 really. I always say 50% of marriages end in divorce, 50% of marriages end in death. There’s no good ending.

When there are kids involved in the divorce, let’s face it, they end up with the mother as the primary care giver, most of the time. Another popular option is true joint custody where the children are with the mother a week and the father a week. Splitting it all down the middle. Some divorcing parents come up with their own schedule.

Having been through a divorce, I understand the custody schedule from the court is a minimum schedule. It’s basically like saying “at a minimum if no one can agree to something better, then follow this schedule”. If you can’t agree on what time to exchange or where to exchange the kids, just look and see what the paper work says. If the mother/father that receives custody wants to share the children more than the minimum guideline then go ahead. There’s nothing stopping you but maybe your own pride and spite.

But here’s my point. Here’s what it’s all coming down to. If you are awarded primary custody, wether you are male or female, and your ex-spouse is in the children’s lives, supports financially, is involved in extracurricular activities, always has the children when it’s their turn, and doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing then you are NOT a single parent.

Nothing grinds my gears worse than seeing a post on Facebook, or hearing someone say they are a single mother or single father when in fact, they are not.

Women:

Does your child spend time with the father? Does he pay child support? Is he a good father just like he was when you were married? Is he teaching the child to play sports, ride a bike, how to read, how to be a good person, etc? If so, you are NOT a single mother. You are a single woman. There is a difference.

Men:

The same goes for you!

We have taken the single mother/single father phrase that has so much meaning behind it and just started throwing it around.

BREAKING NEWS: There are single women out there who haven’t received a dime and the fathers are 1500 miles away with no plans to ever return. Mothers who are working 2 jobs or more to provide. Mothers who are dedicated to their children knowing that the future of their children is 100% weighing on their shoulders. Mothers who have zero help raising a child. That, is a single mother. That is a person who has found themselves in the worst situation, fighting an unfair fight.

The term single mother or single father isn’t a term to be thrown around for attention, to gain pity or to throw shade, as the kids would say, towards your ex.

Mothers and Fathers, if you are feeling overwhelmed, if you feel like the kids are with you more so you have to do more laundry, more homework, more cooking… find a better way to make things work for you. Share the kids more. That doesn’t make you a single mother or a single father. You may just be a single woman or a single man.