5 Min Read

"He Did What?"

"Yeah, you know Trump put a travel ban on all travel from Europe to the US?" I snapped my head to the left towards my battle buddy while entering our vehicle to head to work. "No, when did this happen?" He responds with "Last night, it's all over the news." We were nine and a half hours ahead of Washington D.C., so the news was already old. "Wow, this is getting serious."

Introduction At Arm's Length.

When I first heard about the virus, now known as COVID-19 or the novel coronavirus, I was horrified. The media's portrayal of it would have you believe that the world was coming to an end thanks to China. Scenes from 1995's Outbreak came to mind, and I wondered how this would affect my friends and family. We weren't being educated on what the virus actually was, how it's spread, or how to prevent it, rather we received round-the-clock news telling us how many people died and where it might hit next. On the flip side, our leadership made it seem like no big deal –– a flash in the pan.

Local medical professionals here rolled their eyes at the notion that it would even spread this far. In my mind, if my doctor is giving me that type of cavalier response then we have nothing to really worry about. Being deployed already comes with the extra stressors of being away from loved ones, longer work hours, and the constant threat from the Taliban and other insurgent groups, the last thing you want to add to that list is an illness. So I did a little prayer for those infected while watching the news cover the COVID-19 every hour on the hour... not anxiety-inducing at all!

The ban was so blindsiding and immediate, like a rug being pulled from under our feet; we didn't know how to respond.

We watched everyone's favorite European travel destination, Italy, get hammered, the NBA had to take a knee, meanwhile, our Commander in Chief didn't instill any type of confidence that, as a nation, we would be okay.

"What changed?" I silently asked myself, heading into work. Based on my 12 years of experience working in the Human Resources field, I've come to expect that we are the hub of information; when situations like this occur people always look to the personnel section for the latest and greatest information. So I was not surprised to find my inbox full of questions, comments, and concerns.

I took a full hour to read over reports and news feeds to get a clear understanding of what was really going on and how it could potentially affect us, I had no real idea. All we could do really was speculate on the fact that we could not fly through Europe as it was basically shut down, so I called my immediate leadership, headquarters, and the travel agency, but everyone was waiting on guidance from the very top –– a way forward. The ban was so blindsiding and immediate, like a rug being pulled from under our feet; we didn't know how to respond.

Cause And Effect

When traveling from the Middle East back stateside, we routinely stop through any one of the European countries. This pit stop allows the planes to refuel and the Soldiers to grab a snack, stretch, and prepare themselves for the eight-plus hour flight back home. When the travel ban came, all those types of movements stopped.

I can only speak on my unit specifically, I have a handful of personnel who were on their way to return home to their loved ones after completing their combat tour. But now they're all being held at transition stations for unknown amounts of time.

Imagine you were only supposed to be out for work on a mission for 3 days… now you're out for 17.

One of my coworkers was at the airport's gate, ready to board a plane on his way back to Afghanistan, but he was told at the last minute he would not be able to travel because they had planned on flying through Germany.

I have a close friend who was trying to go home for their mid-tour leave, the time off you earn during your deployment so you can recharge and relax from the fight, to see his wife and daughter only to have his flight canceled. They had plans to celebrate their ten year anniversary in the Dominican Republic. Canceled.

Caught In The Middle

Just like the United States and most other countries, we have started to shut down facilities, meetings are either canceled or conducted over video teleconference, and access to highly populated areas is no longer permitted. We've been told to maintain a healthy distance from each other. Currently, there are 21 cases in Afghanistan, the number in the city where I work is currently unclear. However, we recently got word that some of our government contractors have been affected by the virus and since then things have gotten dicey. Our medical clinics are taking precautions mandating a 14-day quarantine for those flying into our specific location regardless of where they come from, adding another puzzle to the piece.

Imagine you were only supposed to be out for work on a mission for 3 days… now you're out for 17. On top of that, your team was expecting you to be back because you're the expert in your specific field. This puts weight on our entire organization, hindering our group's capacity to fulfill and complete our missions.

As military members, we are taught to remain resilient in times of challenge and adversary: "Adapt and overcome." Those individuals who are caught up in this mess, understand and appreciate the precautions set forth by those trying to handle this unexpectedly dire situation.

Being deployed already comes with the extra stressors of being away from loved ones, longer work hours, and the constant threat from the Taliban and other insurgent groups, the last thing you want to add to that list is an illness.

This not an article about an injustice we are facing. This is not a cry for help that we are being treated in any way unfairly. We've grown accustomed to strife. In some ways, this means we are more prepared for the restrictions and adversity that the entire world is now facing due to COVID-19.

I am simply one voice –– a vanity point from which many people do not typically see or know anything about. All I wish is that my brothers and sisters in arms stay knowledgeable about the facts, take realistic precautions, maintain calm, and remain optimistic!

How to Learn Much More From the Books You Read

It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.

Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.

Read with a Purpose

Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.

Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.


When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.


Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.

Speed Read

You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.

Quality Reading

Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.

Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.


If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.

Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.