Archive for the ‘Profession of Arms’ Category

Army Leaders Gather for Annual Stryker Leader’s Summit

Monday, January 30th, 2023

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — U.S. Army leaders and Stryker industry experts and gathered at Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s American Lake Conference Center, Jan. 9-10, 2023, for the annual Stryker Leader’s Summit. The two-day event gave attendees the opportunity to discuss modernization and readiness for Stryker units throughout the Army.

The summit brought together Army leaders from various Stryker units, DoD civilians, and industry professionals. Static displays and demonstrations gave attendees an up-close look at the latest Stryker technologies and concepts.

“It’s important for us to take a day like today to understand where we’re going and what the way forward is for the Stryker,” said Lt. Gen. Xavier Brunson, commanding general of America’s First Corps. “I know that the answers are here in this room right now.”

Association of the United States Army President, retired Gen. Robert B. Brown, former commander of the United States Pacific, kicked off the summit with opening remarks. He spoke about his time in Stryker Brigade Combat Teams (SBCT) and the modernization of SBCTs and Strykers since then.

“It’s a critical time going from modular brigade centric, to division centric, and really a return to [training for] full scale combat operations,” said Brown. “Despite all the buzzwords, all of the misunderstanding out there, there’s no question that multi-domain operations is the future.”

“The Stryker brigades are the only infantry-centric medium brigades in the Army,” Brown explained. “They have tremendous capability, enhanced lethality, mobility and networked mission command.”

The summit emphasized the Army’s 2030 Force Structure Initiatives and included key discussion on SBCT modernization and Stryker improvements. Leaders in attendance also discussed challenges, lessons learned and ways to maintain and improve readiness.

Guests in attendance also had the opportunity to observe some of the latest technology and Strykers. One of the Strykers being showcased was the Double V-Hull A1, which is equipped with 30mm weapons and an unmanned auto-cannon.

“The actual lessons will be learned from those on the ground closest to the problem,” Brown said. “They will come up with what future fight looks like.”

While the summit encouraged Stryker stakeholders to discuss updates and changes to the SBCT, members acknowledged that the Army’s number one priority, its people, are critical to the decision-making process.

“We’ve got to figure this out,” said Brunson. “And that innovation is going to come from deep down in our formations. It’s going to come from each unit,”

“We’re going to change or revolutionize the things that we have to do,” said Brunson.

Story by SPC Karleshia Gater

Photos by SGT Joshua Oh

Squad Leaders Gain New Insight Through Army Course

Tuesday, January 24th, 2023

As Soldiers progress through the ranks in the Army, their level of responsibility increases to include leadership roles. Part of the process involves learning how to be an effective leader and mentor while balancing ongoing demands.

To better prepare for their role as a squad leader, four Soldiers with the “This is My Squad” Leader Panel attended the Squad Leader Development Course and the Counseling Enhancement Workshop at Fort Eustis, Virginia, to learn the necessary skills to enhance the performance of their squads.

Sgt. Maj. Of the Army Michael A. Grinston worked with the Army Resilience Directorate to advance this initiative as part of the SLDC course to allow squad leaders to reflect critically on their leadership style and to learn to employ evidence-based leadership skills.

“Sergeants and staff sergeants are entering the phase right now where they are either emulating a leader or trying to figure out how they can develop their own leadership style,” said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Barin, Ready and Resilient Training Division, Army Resilience Directorate. “This course provides junior NCOs the ability to understand what their leadership style looks like and how to leverage their values to realize it.”

Based on Army doctrine, the two-day course for sergeants and staff sergeants is designed to equip squad leaders with evidence-based skills and strategies for effective leadership to use in a range of situations.

“We started the course by identifying our leadership styles and how we can improve them,” said Staff Sgt. Jova Silva, plans and operations noncommissioned officer with Joint Task Force- National Capitol Region, U.S. Army Military District of Washington, Provost Marshal Protection Directorate. “We had several scenarios throughout the course where we’d have to identify certain aspects like thinking traps, different ways to approach the situation and how to address them.”

The course of instruction is provided by performance experts who are civilian contractors with graduate degrees in sports psychology, industrial/organizational psychology, social psychology or related fields. Instructors are also certified through the American Association of Sports Psychologists and start teaching once they have been integrated into their local Army communities.

“We want to make sure the instructors can meet squad leaders where they are and communicate with them in their own language,” Barin said.

During the course, squad leaders examined Army Doctrine Publication 6-22 and research from the fields of human performance, organizational psychology, and positive psychology to highlight the impact and importance of squad-level leadership behaviors. In addition, students assessed their abilities to lead and evaluated their characters as defined in ADP 6-22 to determine whether they aligned with the leadership philosophy they wanted to create.

In addition to SLDC, Soldiers participated in the Counseling Enhancement Workshop, which took place over three days, to teach squad leaders how to effectively conduct a counseling session using communication techniques in Army Technical Publication 6-22.1. The class was peer-to-peer led, and instructor-facilitated with built-in scenarios where students acted out the roles of counselor and counselee.

“The workshop breaks the institutionalized way of counseling and gets out of the ‘template, copy and paste’ way of doing things,” said Barin. “It teaches students how to properly communicate, have those hard and rewarding conversations, and record them properly.”

For Staff Sgt. Winifred Collette, supply noncommissioned officer with the 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade, the workshop was essential to help her look at counseling more humanely versus just following the regulation and policy.

“This class helped me realize that although we have a mission, we need to think about the humane aspect of the Soldiers standing to our left and right,” Collette said. “The mission will always be there, but the way we treat the people who accomplish it might determine how long we have them to rely on.”

According to assessments completed by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research’s Research Transition Office, feedback from Soldiers who have gone through the course has been positive, with more than four out of five NCOs reporting the curriculum being well organized, important and beneficial.

“Junior leaders who complete the SLDC training leave with a better understanding of themselves as Army leaders,” said Dr. Ian Gutierrez, research psychologist with the WRAIR Research Transition Office. “Among those who received SLDC, the proportion of NCOs who agreed that they had a leadership philosophy and a mission statement increased by more than 30% from pre-training assessment to the final follow-up assessment, highlighting that the training not only prompted squad leaders to develop their own Army-aligned leadership philosophy during the course, but that they retained the benefits of this exercise two months following the training.”

ARD and WRAIR continue to refine the course curriculum based on iterative evaluations and direct feedback from Soldiers to produce a training experience that has a meaningful impact on junior Army leaders.

“It is important to ensure that Soldiers’ crowded training schedules are being filled with trainings that directly contribute to their ability to lead others, develop themselves and their fellow Soldiers, and achieve Army goals,” Gutierrez said. “We believe that this model of Army curriculum development for training in readiness and resilience will continue to yield successful outcomes in the years ahead.”

The SLDC course is available through ARD R2 Performance Centers at 32 Army installations. Any camp, post or station without an R2PC can submit a request for a mobile training team to come to their location.

The course is recommended for sergeants who have spent more than one year time-in-grade, and staff sergeants within their first year of promotion.

For more information, go to

By Josephine Pride

WEPTAC 2023: Solving Enterprise-Level Challenges

Monday, January 23rd, 2023


U.S. and international combat air forces senior leaders participated in the Weapons and Tactics Conference and C2 Summit at Nellis Air Force Base, Jan. 2-13.

WEPTAC is Air Combat Command’s annual pinnacle of tactics and warfare with a charge to accelerate the modernization and development of solutions for the joint employment of forces across the range of Air Force core warfighting functions.

“There is a common saying of ‘As goes Nellis, so goes the Air Force,” said Maj. Gen. David Lyons, ACC director of operations, in a speech to an audience of nearly 1,400 U.S. and allied service members. “The primary focus of WEPTAC is the National Defense Strategy and therefore the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. We are here at the nexus of airpower to advise and shape our nation’s warfighting prowess.”

Gen. Ken Wilsbach, Pacific Air Forces commander, gave the keynote address to this year’s summit and WEPTAC attendees, emphasizing a need for constant forward motion with innovation as a requirement for mission success.

“Innovation will be the key to ultimately winning the next fight,” Wilsbach said. “Improvements in innovation talked about at previous years’ WEPTACs can be seen in PACAF today.”

Lyons added that while focus on emerging technologies and processes like the Advanced Battle Management System are critical to the Air Force maintaining competitive advantage in the Indo-Pacific, effective employment of warfighting constants like mobility and logistics capabilities also remain vital to success in conflict in the region.

“Do not wish away logistics. There is no room for error when we look at the tyranny of distance in the Pacific,” Lyons said. “You cannot overlook tanker plans, logistics and sustainment, weapons, communications and mission-type orders. Think about and talk about these things, including swap-out plans, rejoin plans from disparate locations, and comm-out mission planning – there is nothing we can’t tackle when we put our minds to it.”

Along with the tyranny of distance in the Pacific, fiscal and political constraints limit the establishment of new enduring air bases. To address these challenges, the Air Force introduced Agile Combat Employment, or ACE: a proactive and reactive operational scheme of maneuver executed within threat timelines to increase survivability while generating air-combat power.

“ACE will expand the envelope in the next fight; it will be a highly contested environment,” Wilsbach said. “ACE needs to be exercised in every squadron, every day.”

The National Defense Strategy states that to enable our military advantage in the air domain for the long term. We must shift away from legacy platforms and weapons systems that are decreasing in relevance today and will be irrelevant in the future.

Addressing the Air and Space Force senior leaders in the audience, Lyons highlighted the multi-disciplinary specialists conducting WEPTAC’s various working groups.

“We have provided you experts of multiple disciplines to inform your solutions and outputs across multiple programs and resources to provide tangible, feasible decisions to support our conclusions,” he noted.

WEPTAC’s scope and purpose brings the future faster and accelerates change in the United States Air Force. In its 23rd year, WEPTAC continues to provide feedback from warfighters directly to general officers and decision-makers that lead to substantive enhancements and improvements across the Joint Force, both from tactics development and science and technology advancement recommendations.

Wilsbach concluded his speech with a straightforward charge, “It’s not going to be easy, but we must put in the work. No shortcuts.”

Story by Michael J. Hasenauer, Nellis Air Force Base Public Affairs

Photo by Airman 1st Class Josey Blades

Blast From The Past – Jim Schatz – 9 Known Truths

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023

I last posted this in 2018. A lot has gone on regarding small arms since then. It’s worth a review to consider Jim Schatz’ thoughts on the subject of small arms. The man was a visionary.

Jim Schatz passed away in March 2017. For those you who didn’t know him, he served his country as a paratrooper and later, became a legend in the small arms industry. Every year, he’d stand up in from of his peers and government and remind them that the emporer was naked. Fortunately, his briefing slides are still available, although missing the context of his passion.

I originally shared Jim Schatz’ “9 Known Truths” concerning small arms right after he passed. Since then ‘Lethality’ has become the cause du jour and DoD, led by the Army, is ankle deep in a transition to a new caliber and family of small arms for its Close Combat Forces, called Next Generation Squad Weapon. It’s a 6.8 caliber capability (once again, NOT 6.8 SPC for those of you who believe what read on other websites) consisting of Carbine and SAW replacements.

The “9 Known Truths” is based on Jim Schatz’ experience in the Small Arms industry. Consider them now that we’ve seen DoD’s path forward.

9 Known Truths
General Thoughts on Modern Warfare and Small Arms Technology
1 The asymmetric threat, unencumbered by “western” doctrine and politics, exploits our capability gaps faster than we can react within our cumbersome infrastructure.

2 Kinetic Energy (KE) kill mechanisms (launched bullets, fragments) have been and remain state-of-the-art weapons technology since the 15th century. That will not change anytime soon so we should embrace and improve on it.

3 Man-portable “directed energy” technology is decades away. One cannot “schedule a break through”, regardless of what the sci fi writers and S&T community developers espouse.

4 For the ground combatant, pH and pI/K has not been markedly improved by so-called “Leap Ahead” or “Revolutionary” technology and “Star Wars” S&T projects, yet $B’s have been spent on unrealistic and undelivered promises.

5 Desired Target Effects (direct hits or effective target suppression) depends on aiming and launch “hold proficiency” (marksmanship) be it used for semi, burst or full auto KE fire, air-bursting engagements via accurate lasing, XM25 or “TrackingPoint”-style FS/FCS, or even directed energy “pulses”.

6 Repeatable First Shot hits/kills will never be readily accomplished due to the many “hold” and error factors beyond the control of the operator. Immediate through-optic BDA and rapid adjusted follow-on shots offer the greatest chance of improved target effects, BUT the equipment must provide that core capability to the trained operator.

7 Snipers as “force multipliers” exploit magnified optics, superior weapons, sights and ammunition to increase pH & PI/K at all ranges, especially those beyond assault rifle range. Rifleman can/should leverage that capability by employing affordable “paradigm shifting” precision enablers.

8 Training is paramount to effectiveness BUT advanced hardware enables advanced training and employment.

9 Incremental, available and emerging (and affordable) advancements in small arms, sighting and ammunition technologies offer the greatest return on investment and are waiting to be exploited.

You can read the briefing this came from here.

WV Guard Hosts Irregular Warfare Planning Conference with Special Operations, Allied Partners

Monday, December 26th, 2022

The West Virginia National Guard’s Ridge Runner Irregular Warfare program hosted an initial exercise planning conference Dec. 5-7, 2022, at Camp Dawson with participants from nine organizations representing U.S. Army special operations forces, psychological operations, civil affairs, U.S. Marine Corps Advisor Company A, and the Polish Territorial Defense Forces.

Ridge Runner is a West Virginia Army National Guard training program that provides various National Guard, active duty, and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allied nation’s armed forces training and experience in irregular and asymmetrical warfare tactics and operations.

In June 2023, Ridge Runner will be hosting its first validation exercise for 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group. The goal of the exercise will be to provide U.S. Special Operations Command with the premier Irregular Warfare Training Center capable of simulating the most complex special warfare multi-domain environments to exercise and validate special operations forces and to support joint force commanders worldwide.

Partner nation forces from across Europe will participate and train alongside the 5-19th SFG during the exercise, which will be held throughout West Virginia.

“This is my first experience with Ridge Runner and the same for our company,” stated U.S. Army Master Sgt. Cody (name withheld for privacy purposes). “Our battalion commander has outlined key tasks that he wants us to accomplish, especially in the irregular warfare realm and getting that foundation for operating with partner nations that we will see downrange is key. We don’t get a lot of opportunities to train with our partners stateside unless we are participating in a collective training. This is my first time dealing with a non-Combat Training Center exercise that has a lot of resources and it’s great to see the relationships being built at this level that will grow into a product that will be beneficial to what we need [during deployment]. It’s truly invaluable to us.”

During the planning conference, attendees refined scenarios, scope, logistics, timelines and training lanes to meet key objectives for the 5-19th SFG and partner nations who will be participating in the exercise.

According to West Virginia National Guard Sergeant Major Jason Smith, deputy director of the Ridge Runner program, West Virginia is the perfect location for training exercises of this type.

“West Virginia is an almost mirror image to the overall terrain and climate throughout Eastern Europe,” he stated. “Hosting the Ridge Runner program here makes perfect sense, allowing U.S. troops the opportunity to operate together with our allies and share in their expertise in as close an environment as possible to our real-world missions. Providing this type of experience prior to deployments will be invaluable moving forward, allowing our operators to validate their training and giving them the very best opportunities to be successful while in theatre.”

Along with various U.S. military participation, members of the Polish Territorial Defense Forces (POL TDF), or Wojska Obrony Terytorialnej (WOT), traveled to West Virginia to participate in the planning with the purpose of having an element of the POL TDF take part in the June 2023 exercise.

“This has been one of the best relationships the POL TDF has ever established with a partner nation,” stated 2nd Lt. Marek Zaluski, executive officer for the POL TDF. “We did not know coming here in 2019 [for Ridge Runner] and building this relationship how real life would verify it. Here we are 10 months into the invasion of our neighbor (Ukraine), and we are getting ready to prevent such things from happening within the NATO territories. We are grateful and proud to be working with the West Virginia National Guard, the 19th SFG and the entire National Guard and U.S. armed forces family on such an important endeavor.”

The PTDF took part in exercise Ridge Runner in 2019 alongside the Latvian Zemmessardze where each nation’s Soldiers learned irregular and unconventional warfare tactics from West Virginia’s 2nd Battalion, 19th SFG (Airborne).

Partner nation participation in the Ridge Runner program is coordinated through the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program, which links states and territories with partner countries around the world to foster mutual interests, establish long-term relations, enhance U.S. national security interests, and promote political stability.

Additional planning conferences will be held in the coming months to finalize all aspects of the exercise prior to April 2023.

Story by Maj Holli Nelson, West Virginia National Guard

US Navy – New Boot Design and NWU Fleece Wear Rules Announced in Extensive Uniform Update

Wednesday, December 21st, 2022

ARLINGTON, Va. – A new boot option for Sailors is expected to be available in Navy Exchange Uniform Shops as soon as January, according to an extensive uniform update released in NAVADMIN 285/22 . The update also announces seven uniform policy improvements while introducing details of five additional uniform initiatives now underway.

The update also announces seven uniform policy improvements while introducing details of five additional uniform initiatives now underway.

“The following uniform and grooming policy updates are intended to reduce out-of-pocket expenses, simplify sea bag requirements, and to announce design changes of uniform components and breast insignia,” Vice Adm. Richard J. Cheeseman, the chief of naval personnel, wrote in the message.

Here’s a look at the highlights:

I-Boot 5

The Navy’s latest in working uniform footwear, in development for the past four years, became operational Oct. 1 when issue started at Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Ill.

The I-Boot 5 is a lightweight safety boot with a full inner lining and steel toes. Its smooth outer leather uppers will be available in either black or brown. 

Wearing the boot is approved for nearly every Navy environment, including flight decks at all commands afloat and ashore. The boot should be available in January 2023 at Navy Exchange Uniform Shops. 

Existing Navy Working Uniform boots and the I-Boot 4 remain authorized for wear as long as they are serviceable. Other approved optional boots are also still authorized for wear. A complete list is available in the Navy Uniform Regulations.

Black Cold Weather Parka

Also, effective immediately, the black cold weather parka (CWP) can be worn with the NWU Type III when wearing camouflage isn’t a mission requirement.

However, wear is only authorized ashore in non-operational and non-industrial environments. That’s because the CWP material isn’t strong enough to withstand use in industrial or operational environments, which will cause premature wear and tear and shorten its wear life.

The NWU Type III parka is still authorized, and the expansion of CWP wear is in addition to its intended purpose as an outer garment for wear with service and service dress uniforms.

Alternate PT Uniform Fitness Suit

Now approved is an alternate version of the existing Navy’s fitness suit jacket and pants. While retaining the design and color of the standard fitness suit, the new version has no reflective piping.

According to the message, the new version should be available at your local Navy Exchange Uniform Center in November 2022. Sailors should wear a reflective belt or vest when wearing the physical training uniform outdoors while working out during reduced visibility hours.

Naval Security Force Insignia

The Navy is phasing out the four-digit, alpha-numeric serial number on Navy Security Force (NSF) Identification (ID) Badges. Effective immediately, a new badge will be issued. It is identical to the original, except where the serial number was at the base of the badge now has a black engraved star instead.

NSF metal badges with the serial number design are still authorized for wear until the Sailor is honorably discharged or retired. The new NSF metal identification badges will be available for command purchase; details and stock numbers are in the NAVADMIN.

Qualifying Sailors can now wear the newly approved Navy Security Force Qualification Breast Insignia, expected in Navy Exchange Uniform Shops soon.

The award of the insignia is through the Navy Security Force Qualification Program, which was approved earlier this year in NAVADMIN 094/22 on April 13. The qualification program is only open to active and reserve Sailors in the Master-at-Arms rating and Navy Security Force Officers.

Dinner Dress Blue and White Jacket

Lieutenant commanders will no longer be mandated to have the Dinner Dress Blue and White uniforms. That requirement is changed, only requiring O-5 through O-10 officers to have the uniform. It remains optional for pay grades E-1 through O-4.

Female Uniform Updates

For women, the earring policy now allows optional wear of silver, white and yellow gold, white pearl and colorless diamond earrings with all uniforms for both officers and enlisted.

Earring manner of wear and authorized size while in uniform remains the same as outlined in the Navy Uniform Regulations. However, earring wear may be restricted by the commanding officer if they present a foreign object debris hazard.

The belted white skirt is now authorized for optional wear with the officer and chief petty officer Summer White and Service Dress White uniforms, along with the unbelted white skirt, which remains optional.

Women can also look forward to a redesigned Maternity Service Dress Blue Coat, expected to be available sometime in 2023. Design improvements include adjustable side tabs to align with all current maternity uniform tops.

Also under development are two new over-blouse concepts for the female officer and chief petty officer Summer White and Service Dress Blue uniforms, respectively. Initial designs are currently under development.

Size Standardization Underway

The Chief of Naval Personnel, Navy Exchange Service Command and Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility are carrying out a collaborative effort to improve the design and fit of male and female Sailor uniforms through standardization of sizes.

The plan expects to give a better fit of uniforms to today’s population, reducing the need for alterations beyond typical hemming. The effort’s current focus is on female slacks, skirts, shirts and blouses. 

More details are available in the NAVADMIN. More uniform information is available on the Navy Uniform Matters Website.

The Navy Uniform Matters Office welcomes feedback and recommendations from Sailors about uniform and grooming policies via the MyNavy UNIFORMS App or MyNavy Portal. Once signed into MNP, select Professional Resources, then choose Navy U.S. Uniforms and “Ask the Chiefs.”

From Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Mark D. Faram, Chief of Naval Personnel public affairs

Marines Update Female Hair Style Guidance

Monday, November 28th, 2022

Based on the final results of Uniform Board 220 and released in MARADMINS Number 615/22, the Marine Corps has authorized the following hair styles for female Marines:

Short hair length for female Marines.  Per CMC decision, twists are authorized for short hair (in all uniforms).

Medium hair length for female Marines.  Per CMC decision, medium length hair is defined as hair that does not extend beyond 2 inches below the base of the collar’s lower edge; however hair length must not obscure the collar rank insignia.  One unsecured half ponytail or up to two unsecured half braids (unsecured in this context is defined as hair on the crest / crown of the head is pulled back into a ponytail or braid(s) and the rest of the hair is left to fall naturally) that provides a neat and professional military appearance are authorized for medium hair length with the MCCUUs, flight suit, or physical training (PT) uniforms only.  Half ponytails / braids must be secured over the crest of the head but no lower than the crown of the head with a ponytail holder that is consistent with the hair color, and cannot extend beyond 2 inches below the base of the collar’s lower edge or interfere with the proper wear of any headgear. 

Long hair length for female Marines.  Per CMC decision, long hair is defined as hair that extends beyond 2 inches below the base of the collar’s lower edge.  When styled, long hair will be secured up so that it does not extend beyond 2 inches below the base of the collar’s lower edge, except when authorized in the physical training uniform.

There is no requirement to have tightly pulled back or slicked back hair at any length.

As always, Marine Corps Uniform Board information is available at

Indigenous Airman Celebrates Being Among First to Receive Religious Hair Accommodation

Sunday, November 13th, 2022


For most, the days and hours leading up to their basic military training departure are filled with excitement and anticipation for what’s to come in the next four to six years. For others, the feelings are tainted with fear and anxiety.

For Connor Crawn, the day before he shipped off to boot camp was one of the worst in his life.

The 18-year-old graduated high school only six months earlier as the class of 2020, eager to enlist in the U.S. Air Force but curious about whether he could keep his hair long in accordance with his Kanien’kehà:ka faith.

When Crawn decided to speak to a recruiter his dark, neatly braided hair draped straight down the length of his spine.

For the Kanien’kehà:ka, Crawn explained, keeping the hair long reflects spiritual strength, protection and resilience. Certain styles, like braids, signify even greater strength.

His recruiter took the steps necessary to request a religious accommodation and Crawn went through military entrance processing successfully, but his BMT departure date continued to get pushed as he waited for an answer about his hair.

“I was at the point where I couldn’t wait any longer,” Crawn described of the hurry-up-and-wait process. “I had to get out of my situation.”

Crawn agreed to cut his hair if it meant getting an earlier departure date. He kept his hair long until the last minute, hoping approval would arrive at the last-minute to spare him from the trauma of severing his symbolic strength. He waited, fruitlessly, until the day before he left for BMT.

“My dad and I cut our braids together,” Crawn began, eyes saddening. “I wish I never had to go through that. I felt like a part of me died when I lost my braid.”

Now officially branded as an Airman, the next chapter in Crawn’s life began: BMT and technical training simply became two obstacles to overcome before the fight for accommodation resumed.

In July of 2021, Crawn was stationed at the 341st Missile Wing as part of the security forces group. Before he was even assigned a flight, his priority was visiting the base chapel to begin the request process all over again.

Capt. Trevor Wilson, one of the chaplains on duty at the time of Crawn’s visit, cemented himself as an ally and quickly went to work figuring out the requirements of a process that, just one month earlier, had been introduced to the Department of the Air Force.

The duo spent hours together during that first meeting, poring over instructions, regulations and guidelines for a reality Crawn hoped would soon come to fruition.

My dad and I cut our braids together. I wish I never had to go through that. I felt like a part of me died when I lost my braid.

Airman 1st Class Connor Crawn

According to the process for religious accommodation, as lined out in the DAF Instruction 52-201, the timeline from request to approval was supposed to take no longer than 60 days. Considering the overwhelming number of religious requests being vetted at that time due to COVID-19 pandemic, though, goalposts had to be moved and Crawn’s request would not be approved until October of 2022.

“I knew it was going to take longer than expected,” Crawn explained. “But as the time dragged on, my hope started to waver a little bit. After a year passed, people used to joke that it would be the end of my contract before I heard anything—and honestly, that’s what I was beginning to expect.”

Though the timeline dragged on like a heavy-burdened traveler, Crawn’s case was carefully corralled through coordination by Wilson.

“I know how hard his leadership and the wing worked to get his package up,” Wilson shared. “I had to ensure his request would not get lost or overlooked in the bulk of all that [COVID-19] paperwork. I regularly followed up and tracked his request, because part of my role as the chaplain is to be an advocate.”

Nearly halfway into his contract is when Crawn finally received the good news that he could grow his hair out in accordance with his faith. For him, this was not just a personal win, but a Department of the Air Force-wide win for all his native brothers.

With the approved accommodation, Crawn was authorized to abide by female standards in DAFI 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance.

“It was incredible,” he chuckled. “I mean, I thought I was dreaming for the next few days. I kept thinking I would wake up and learn it wasn’t real.”

Crawn’s excitement did not end with reception of the news; immediately after learning about the approved accommodation, the first thing he did was call his family to share. Then, he decided to share with the world.

“My first thought after calling my family was, ‘I gotta let other native men know that it’s possible,’” Crawn eagerly said, grin widening to meet the corners of his eyes. “I could not find a single person who received a religious accommodation like mine as I was going through the process, so I wanted to put the information out there. It wasn’t until I made a TikTok video about it that I began to hear from other people.”

Crawn’s video went viral, sparking an important conversation for U.S. military members and those interested in joining. His statement served as a spark of hope for a demographic who, previously, was uncertain that their organization would be true to their word.

Through DAFI 52-201, Religious Freedom in the Department of the Air Force, the DAF maintains an environment in which members can realize their highest potential. For Crawn, this environment was established when he felt that the leadership around him was willing to fight for something he cared about deeply.

Our Airmen chose us once; the environment we create must encourage them to choose us again.”

Col. Barry Little

Wilson, spearhead for Crawn’s request, felt pride knowing other Airmen would be encouraged to use their voice to be a beacon of change.

“Crawn chose to speak up, to ask for something he believed in, to place trust in the process, and it worked,” Wilson enthused. “The Air Force cannot help if Airmen’s needs are not communicated, and if you share your concerns and requests professionally, you can often get the results you need.”

Col. Barry Little, 341st MW commander, praised Crawn’s dedication as an example of the direction that the total force needs to continue moving toward.

“There has never been a time where what our Airmen do for this country has been so important,” Little said. “Creating an environment of dignity and respect is critical to winning the strategic competition for talent. Our Airmen chose us once; the environment we create must encourage them to choose us again.”

Little’s message, targeted to leaders, is partnered by Crawn’s sentiments to fellow Airmen looking for motivation in times where they may feel defeated by bureaucracy.

“I think it’s all about the person and how much they fight from the start,” he encouraged. “I think that [attitude] really shows your leadership and the people around you how dedicated you are. I never gave up; I never shut up about it to anyone who asked.”

Two years into his career, Airman 1st Class Connor Crawn has some time before needing to decide which direction he prefers the next chapters of his life to go in. Currently, he serves as a convoy team leader with the 341st Missile Security Operations Squadron, and with a recent win in his back pocket, he is optimistic about a future in uniform.

“I might as well stay in, now that I’m able to grow my hair,” Crawn chuckled. “I’m definitely considering it. It’s incredible being able to express my heritage in uniform.”

For more information on diversity and inclusion efforts across the DAF, please visit here.

Story by SSgt Elora J. McCutcheon, 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs

Some photos by A1C May A. Bowers