Brigadier General Matt Barker, Texas Air National Guard

As Veterans, we identify as part of a special community of men and women who have volunteered to serve our great nation.  We further identify with the branch of service we chose, and even more specifically with our “tribe”—our “rate,” Military Occupational Specialty, or Air Force Specialty Code.  Every military specialty has unique training requirements, performance standards, and often history and customs surrounding the job.  For most of my 31 years in uniform, I held the AFSC 13B: USAF Air Battle Manager (ABM).  That defined my day to day duties, shaped my career, and gave me a front row seat for the interesting times we live in.

It’s been said that air traffic controllers use radar to keep airplanes separated, whereas the ABM uses radar to run them together.  That’s an oversimplification, but maybe a good start.  The Air Force uses ABM officers to orchestrate and execute the combat air campaign for the commander using tactics and technology.  I volunteered for the career field in 1996, when the Air Force was increasing school house throughput to bolster the ranks in this critical specialty.  I was attracted to the duty because unlike some other specialties, ABMs are in demand everywhere the Air Force fights.  ABMs must learn and appreciate the nuances of air-to-air combat, air-to-ground operations, electronic warfare, missile defense, search-and-rescue and a multitude of other airpower missions; only then deploy to support them around the world.

I reported to the 325th Training Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, near Panama City, Florida, in June 1997.  The location was perfect for the task at hand, as a primary location for fighter pilot training with weather and overwater airspace conducive to a rigorous flying schedule.  That dovetailed with the ABM syllabus: we’d be able to meet face to face with the pilots we were supporting to plan training missions and receive “constructive criticism” in person minutes after they landed.  The mobile radar equipment we trained on was identical to what the USAF deploys to operational theaters, just set up on a more permanent concrete pad with robust power and environmental control systems to ensure reliability in the Florida heat.

The course (at the time) ran nine months, not including survival school and water survival training I completed in the weeks prior.  We started out in the books, going from higher level command relationships and equipment before drilling down into very specific details about fighters, bombers, weapons, and automated command and control systems—those used by our forces and allies, and also those of potential adversaries.  Like me, many of my classmates had an affinity for military aircraft and devoured the material.  We did, however, have a few candidates that struggled, having been assigned to the career field without prior knowledge or even interest of the technical subjects we explored.  This would become more of a challenge as we progressed to radar control of rudimentary, then more complex air-to-air training engagements.  In fact, our class would eventually hit the “average” attrition rate, with four of our original twelve failing to meet performance standards and being reassigned to other career fields.

Most graduates at the time were assigned to the E-3 “Sentry” Airborne Warning and Control System, a 70s-vintage jet liner converted for the command and surveillance mission.  I was no exception, and reported to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City to begin my operational career on that storied airplane.  One thing I came to recognize and enjoy early on was the camaraderie, and sometimes hijinks, that come with the territory when your crew consists of up to 30 aviators with different backgrounds and perspectives.  The other thing I came to appreciate was the importance of the “big picture” that our eyes in the sky provided to pilots, as well as to commanders on the ground.  I saw this on my first operational deployment to Turkey, helping enforce the United Nations no-fly zones over Iraq, during a time when Saddam Hussein was still lobbing the occasional surface-to-air missile at our jets and being punished accordingly.

I cut my teeth as an ABM at Tinker and would go on to fly the E-8C Joint Stars and EC-130E airborne command posts supporting the Army on the ground (taking me back to the renewed action in Iraq and Afghanistan) and the much smaller RC-26B for the Texas National Guard, reconnoitering the impact of Hurricane Harvey and supporting counter-drug and border security missions.  I also got to command a ground radar squadron and work in our Air Operations Center in Germany, orchestrating the daily air campaigns in both Europe and Africa while getting graduate-level experience in a variety of joint mission areas.  As a one-star general, I’ve been privileged to still be flying and leading a battle staff of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines on the U.S. Strategic Command’s E-6B airborne command post and finding the same rewards in the “crew dog” life that I did as a much younger officer.  I still learn something new every time I step on the jet.

My time as an Air Battle Manager offered lasting memories: being airborne over Iraq during their first election day.  Watching 100 or more aircraft on my scope squaring off over the Nevada desert in the world’s largest air combat exercise, RED FLAG.  Seeing my name on the side of an airplane for the first time.  Seeing the sunrise behind the San Jacinto monument from 6,000 feet, and seeing destruction wrought by Harvey on the Texas coast in the same mission.  Most importantly: countless early morning briefings, long missions, and work hard/play hard deployments with some of the best people you could ever hope to serve with.  I’d do it all over again without hesitation.

Until next time, Stay Frosty and Hold the Line.

Brigadier General Matt Barker, Texas Air National Guard

I’d like to begin this new feature by thanking the Veterans’ Chamber for the opportunity to share some thoughts and reflections from my time in uniform, and also to thank our readers for your service or support to those who have served and their families.  Lifting up those who have sacrificed for our nation and way of life is noble work, and also very rewarding.  It brings to mind some of my earliest experiences as a young Air Force lieutenant and Base Honor Guard officer 31 years ago.

I arrived in Grand Forks North Dakota in the winter of 1992-93 and reported to the 447th Missile Squadron to begin 4 years’ duty as a Minuteman III missile launch officer.  I went out to the missile complex around six days a month for a 24 hour alert with my crew partner, and spent the rest of the month on training or administrative duties.  Additionally, I volunteered for our base Honor Guard, performing in ceremonies or funeral details all over eastern North Dakota, and as far away as Minneapolis, Minnesota (every Air Force base is responsible to support a larger geographic area to provide final honors when a veteran passes away).

Our Honor Guard was unique in that we had a saber drill team, performing fairly elaborate routines for the public and at base functions.  We trained new members with weighted wooden dowels before “graduating” them to actual swords which were flipped, thrown and spun within inches of our colleagues’ ears and noses.  I still have a small scar where I skewered myself in the side one afternoon at practice, hopefully serving as an example to the formation on the need for precision and attention to detail!

We took pride in our performances for visiting dignitaries, and put a lot of work into our routines, but we took far more pride in the solemn work of funeral duty.  As our readers know, there is a special connection between veterans that manifests itself most profoundly in the ceremony where we lay a warrior to rest.  A mistake during a base ceremony was unfortunate, but a mistake during a funeral detail was unforgivable.  The family of the departed deserved perfection on that day, and that’s exactly the standard we aimed for.  From the arrival graveside to the last notes of Taps and the presentation of our flag to the bereaved (containing in its folds three shell casings from the rifle salute), we understood that we were representing our entire service as the final impression that our brother or sister-in-arms’ loved ones might have of the military, in our case the United States Air Force.

We learned what we could about the patriot we were helping honor, but usually there wasn’t much information.  A young NCO gone too soon or a “Greatest Generation” veteran who passed after a long, prosperous life, it didn’t matter to us.  They were each heroes.  We were almost always overwhelmed by grateful family members afterwards, often inviting the team for a meal, which we politely declined.  We’d be surrounded in short order by the other veterans in these small towns, shaking our hands and relishing for those short moments the opportunity to reconnect with their own experiences and younger days in uniform.  Then it was back in the van for a couple hours’ drive back home.  Packed in tight with our rifles and other gear there was the usual good-natured ribbing and joking after the inevitable fast food stop, which would wane as the miles went by.  Those miles afforded ample time for reflection on the life we’d just honored and the connection to something larger that we’d just witnessed and reinforced.  It’s been said that the folded flag presented on behalf of a grateful nation is the heaviest weight a service member will carry in their military career.  Taking a knee and looking into a widow’s eyes in a remote graveyard on the Dakota prairie, I don’t think I’d dispute it.  I’m glad for the opportunity to share a bit, and hope you’re still finding connections to fellow vets and reflecting on the experiences that shaped you.

Until next time, Stay Frosty and Hold the Line.

Three Factors to Consider When Choosing a Career

On average, we spend around a third of our waking ours at work. As a result, it’s crucial to consider the type of career path, work, and industry in which we’d like to invest so much of our time. It’s important that you select a career you think you will enjoy years down the line. It should pique your curiosity, match your skillset, and give you a sense of purpose.

If you’re not sure which career you want, continue reading to learn about some of the most important factors to consider while making your decision.

Personality 

Two of the most crucial aspects to consider are your personality and the level of enjoyment you want to get out of your job. Extroverted people generally enjoy interacting with others often and find fulfillment in careers that require social interaction, while introverts are the opposite.

To find your dream job, you’ll need to sit down and understand yourself. You’ll be surprised to find out things you didn’t even know about yourself before! Ultimately, this will help you determine the type of career you would like to pursue. Consider joining an online bootcamp and explore what skills you have to make a career out of. 

Lifestyle

When deciding on a career, another key element to consider is your ideal lifestyle. Many individuals aspire to be wealthy, live in a beautiful home, and drive a luxurious car. If this resonates with you, consider your lifestyle when making a decision. There is nothing wrong with wanting to work in a high-paying job. You should think about what you’re willing to give up in exchange for that money. 

Do you want to be a part of a vibrant social scene? Do you enjoy working long hours? Are you willing to put your happiness on hold to achieve success? There’s no denying that salary impacts productivity, but consider how it compares to your lifestyle choices. If you’re a laid-back or introverted person, a sales profession with hundreds of client interactions every week might not be for you.

Here’s the thing about jobs and pay: if you’re good at what you do, you’ll soon be earning as much as those in higher-paying fields. You will rise through the ranks faster if you have a job you enjoy. As you advance in your career, your compensation will increase. Advancing your career is easy when you obtain higher education and job training, such as a relevant online degree

Job Market 

While it is now the least essential criteria on our list, the job market used to be the most important factor for a long time. It was even thought to be the only consideration by some. After all, what’s the sense of pursuing a job in a crowded field?

In this view, it is reasonable to select a career path among the options offered. The only issue is that job demand fluctuates quite frequently. Every year, countries publish a list of the greatest jobs or most sought-after professions, like the BLS Fastest Growing Occupations list. A few examples of tech jobs in demand in the coming years include web developers, software engineers, and digital marketers. 

Going over the other factors first, making a list of career alternatives, and seeing what the job market offers in this area is a great approach to use. For example, let’s say you’ve reduced your employment options to finance and accountancy. You’ve determined that you’re likely to excel at either of them based on your personality, experiences, and values, among other factors. Next, look into which jobs in these industries are in high demand and are better paying.

Conclusion 

There are numerous other factors to consider while deciding on a career, but they will almost always fall under one of these major categories. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to finding the ideal job.

If you start a job and realize you don’t like it, take what you’ve learned and use it to improve and refine your plan. Don’t worry; plenty of people change jobs frequently and still advance in their professions.

How to make a will online free

In all our lives comes a time when we feel we ought to make a will. Be it that we are at the end of the journey or that we’ve simply become aware of our mortality, making a will is an excellent way to ensure that things will be in order after we pass on. But, making a will can seem like a daunting task. You need to go through the trouble of outlying it and hire a lawyer to help you. Luckily, there is a more straightforward option. Here is how to make a will online free.

Make a will online free

We created our site solely to enable people to create free online wills. As we feel that making a will shouldn’t be a luxury but an essential commodity, we’ve made the process intuitive and straightforward. To clarify, we will use this article as an essential guide. If you go through it with due care, we are certain you will have no trouble creating your free online will. Please visit our FAQ page or contact us directly if you run into any trouble.

Basic details

When you set out to make a will online free you will first have to input your basic info. That includes your Full Name, your Prefered Name (optional), and your email address. Our system will recognize you according to these basic details for the rest of the process. So, make sure you get them right.

You must input your gender and birth date on the next screen. We use gender data to make demographic analytics and, hopefully, improve our services. Your birth date is an essential part of your legal data. In most states, you cannot make a free online will if you are not at least 21. That is also why providing an address of your permanent residence is essential, as different states have different laws regarding online wills. If you own property in the U.S. but don’t live here, we advise you to add the address where you have the most property. Providing your phone number is optional.

The next screen will require you to choose a marital status. That is a legal aspect and not a romantic one. So, even if you have lived with a significant other for years but don’t have official registration, you should consider yourself single for the will. You will also need to estimate the total value of your assets. That is solely to aid in outlining the necessary documents.

Nominees

In the next section, you need to outline whether or not you have children. Adopted children do count.

After that, you need to specify whether you would like to include your pets in your will. Keep in mind that, from a legal standpoint, pets are seen as property. Therefore, you cannot bequeath any gifts to them. But, you can outline financial aid to a person who will care for your pet.

Residuary

You can aid charity organizations, non-profit organizations, or social movements in the residuary section. If you feel that a particular organization is doing good for the world, and you wish to help them, this is where you can donate.

The next step is to choose who will be the primary beneficiaries of your residual estate. These individuals will be first in line to inherit your property once you are gone. For each individual (or organization), you will have to enter your full name. And the percentage of your residual estate that they stand to inherit. Remember that the residual estate remains after all the gifts, debts, taxes, and specific requests have been settled.

Once you finish, you will need to outline a second beneficiary. The beneficiary will inherit your residual estate if your first beneficiary does not survive you. Remember you should set a residuary beneficiary after you’ve listed the primary and secondary ones.

After you’ve entered the residuary distribution data, we will ask you to review it. As you can imagine, this data is essential, so you should read it thoroughly before proceeding.

Gifts

The next section asks if you wish to leave gifts for specific individuals. If you don’t want to leave any gifts, you can skip the entire section by clicking on “Save & Continue.” If you do, you will have to outline what kind of property you wish to leave and to whom. We advise that you also consider transportation costs. While you can find expert help with any task and many top movers to choose from while moving in Washington, DC, you should consider transportation beforehand.

Funeral

Seeing that you are outlining your will, it is only natural to outline your funeral requests. But, while your funeral executor will have access to these documents, know that they are not legally binding. You can choose where you will be buried and who will attend your funeral. You can even outline what the funeral service will be like in detail.

Provisions

In this section, you will outline who will be the executor of your will. As the name suggests, your executor will ensure your will is executed. Therefore, we advise you to carefully consider who you will pick for yours. You can choose a lawyer as your executor, but this is unnecessary. People often choose an executor that is a trustworthy and responsible family member. If they stand to inherit a decent percentage of your property, they will likely take good care of it and ensure that your wishes are met. Nevertheless, you should talk with your executor candidates and ensure you pick the right one for the job.

We also give you the option of picking a digital executor. That person will take care of your digital assets if you have them. By default, the executor you choose is also your digital executor. But, if you wish, you can choose someone else.

Another option you can choose is the no-contest clause. That entails that if a person challenges your will, they inherit nothing.

Review

What follows are straightforward answers to some basic questions and a final review. As such, we will assume that you’ve finished the process and managed to make a will online free. So, congrats! Again, contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

Meta: If you want to know how to make a will online free, here is our step-by-step guide to help you make the best will.

Image used:

https://pixabay.com/photos/laptop-autumn-internet-bench-4551026/

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