Book review: The Ascendant satisfies

Standard

the-ascendant-by-drew-chapman

First, the pacing. Good. Fast paced. This book had the right balance of plot, action, and switching between long scenes with our main character friends in the U.S. and shorter scenes with minor characters abroad.

The characters are colorful. Even if they feel like TV characters. There’s the title character, Garrett Reilly, a brilliant jerk who hates the military but ends up drafted. There’s another soldier who wants to die for his country but can’t get deployed because of a medical condition so he has to be a stateside desk analyst. There’s the beautiful but tough-as-nails love interest with leadership chops. Plus others, they make up a band of quirky geniuses who must unite to save the world.

From whom? With a clever twist, the novel has a wag-the-dog scenario but it’s precipitated by the China, not the U.S. The China scenes are handled a bit better than I would have expected. Especially being written by somebody without a foreign affairs or national security background.

But the U.S. government isn’t blameless in this book either. Garrett’s brother was killed in action, but the details of his death were covered up by the military. And even though the government recruits and trains Garrett, elements of the government turn on him. When he doesn’t answer their questions, they waterboard him. A bit sudden and extreme? Yes, and it doesn’t quite work. It’s the weakest and most paranoid part of the book.

Three out of five stars.

A quick summary which is a spoiler appears below/after the jump. Continue reading

Advertisements

USAA branch comes to Buckhead

Standard

USAA Financial Service Center

USAA, the well-respected financial institution that serves members of the military, veterans, and dependents, is opening a service center in Atlanta.  The bank typically serves its customers only by phone or online.  This strategy has allowed USAA to offer high interest rates on savings and checking accounts, low fees, and low car insurance premiums.

At the new branch, customers will be able to buy car insurance, open an account, make deposits or withdrawals, and get help with financial planning and military transitions like changing duty stations, deploying, or retiring.

The Atlanta USAA Financial Center will open on March 28.  It will be located at the corner of Peachtree and West Paces Ferry in Two Buckhead Plaza (near Chops):

Two Buckhead Plaza
3050 Peachtree Road, Suite 150
Atlanta, GA 30305

I’ve been a USAA member for years but have never had the opportunity to meet with them face-to-face.  This will be a great service option for military families in the Atlanta area!

How to sell your military skills to a civilian employer

Standard

Job Search

The book Job Search by Lt. Col. (Ret.) David G. Henderson provides good tips on the transition from the military to civilian employment. In Chapter 1, Henderson encourages readers to think about–and actually write down–what skills they have, what job preferences they have, and what goals they have. It may sound hokey, but it is a useful exercise that will prompt you to learn something about yourself.

The subtitle, “Marketing Your Military Experience,” refers to translating your military skills to a civilian hiring manager. This includes how to describe your experience and strengths on resumes. The book also includes smaller, practical tips; for example, avoid using military acronyms and don’t wear military dress shoes in civilian interviews.

The book is also helpful as a general employment guide with thoughtful suggestions on how to search for jobs and how to improve your resume. Henderson’s guidance is relevant to anybody seeking a second career or making a mid-life jump from one field to a very different field, because that’s essentially what military retirees are doing.

I read the 5th edition which was published in 2009. Even though the Internet had already been around for a long time then, the descriptions of online job searches in this book are quite dated. There are good resources listed for job searching, career assistance, and veteran support services, but some of the resources seem dated as well. The appendices are a bit too long and redundant bordering on fluff, but those pages can be skipped or skimmed.

This book is written from the point of view of a personnel officer attempting to help a servicemember who is within six months from retirement. However, I think it would be useful to veterans even several years after they have separated or retired from the military. Spend a few bucks to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward during a career transition!

New Israeli drone provides air rescue

Standard

air-mule

Unmanned aerial vehicles can play a role in medical evacuation of wounded troops and search-and-rescue missions.  This would be especially useful in areas that helicopters can’t reach.  From Daily Dot Tech with a tip of the hat to Barry Roskin Blake:

This ambulance drone can carry two people out of dangerous situations
By AJ Dellinger
Jan 22, 2016

When it comes to military conflicts, drones are best known for killing. But the AirMule is built for saving lives, and it recently completed its first successful flight.

The autonomous vehicle, built by the Israeli company Tactical Robotics, serves as an airborne ambulance. The unmanned craft, which can take off and land vertically, can travel to terrain unsafe for human rescue personnel—like a battlefield.

The AirMule is designed to carry two people at a time and can lift nearly 1,000 pounds and travel over 30 miles. A single engine powers the drone, and the rotors are entirely internal. Its design presents opportunities for emergency rescue craft and cargo-carrying vehicles.

The AirMule test run occurred at a facility in Megiddo, Israel, after the Israeli Civil Aviation Authority cleared the company for unmanned flight. Future tests, including demonstrations of its cargo-carrying capacity and beyond-line-of-sight flights, are planned for later in 2016.

Thanks to its internal rotors, the AirMule is capable of traversing areas unreachable by emergency vehicles and helicopters. Because of this design, the drone can get closer to structures and navigate tight confines…

Company aims to help veterans get published

Standard

If you know a military veteran who is trying to become a published author, tell them to check out BooksbyVeterans.  The publishing services company helps veterans navigate their options in the publishing world.  BooksbyVeterans is operated under Graybeard Books, which also does works to bring military writing to the market.

Bouhammer.com, a military issues blog, says that “as someone who knows many veteran authors and knows a lot more who would like to be authors but they aren’t sure how to start in order to tell their story, this is great news.”

BooksbyVeterans and Graybeard offer a free appraisal.  They appear to offer self-publishing and agent-based services.  As competitive as the publishing world is, veterans can use every advantage available.