Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

2:20 p.m. on February 20, 2020, is not a time Nikki James Zellner will soon forget.


Zellner received an emergency notification from the daycare her two sons, Ronan and Owen, attend in Virginia Beach, where the Navy family is stationed. The facility alerted parents to come pick up their children due to a carbon monoxide leak.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

“When we arrived, the children and staff had been evacuated and I was starting to hear stories related to what was going on behind the scenes,” she said. “The one that gave me the biggest pause was that a teacher’s husband had to bring in a detector because the teachers and students were getting sick after hours of symptoms, and there was no detector on site, because there was no Virginia law requiring them to be.”

At that moment, the narrative for Zellner went from “this happened to my child” to “I’m not going to let this happen to anyone else’s child.”

She started by communicating directly with the daycare, asking direct questions, and refusing to jump to conclusions.

“While waiting for their feedback, I got busy researching,” Zellner explained. “I learned that carbon monoxide (CO) detectors weren’t required in Virginia schools, regardless of if they had a source for CO on-site (common sources are fuel-fired sources like furnaces, HVAC systems, kitchen appliances), if the school was built prior to 2015. It wasn’t part of the state code – and in Virginia, it wouldn’t be retrofitted to existing unless legislation was passed to make it apply.”

But Zellner’s research also uncovered a scary reality nationwide.

“Only five states require CO detectors in educational facilities like daycares, public schools, private schools and any place where children are taken care of,” she said. “How many kids and educators aren’t being protected because people just assume carbon monoxide detectors are on site?”

Zellner’s first points of contact were Senators, Representatives and Delegates that represent Virginia and her district. Then, she spoke to the Director of State Building Codes at the Department of Housing and Community Development to make sure she had a firm understanding exactly of the law and when it applied.

“I also started a petition making folks aware of the situation,” she shared. “Within three days, we had 1,000 signatures. Within the week, we had a breaking news story and a commitment from one of the Delegates to work with us on possibly introducing legislation in the 2021 session.”

To date, Zellner’s petition has more than 1,200 signatures, and her determination landed her on the front page of the Sunday edition of Virginia’s leading newspaper.
Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

“There’s this strange feeling that comes over you when you know that you’re the person that’s supposed to do something,” Zellner emphasized. “That you have the means to do something, and you have the unique perspective to tell the story on why something needs to change. I have a background in media relations and content development, I know how to investigate and ask direct questions, I know how to navigate the political landscape after working in a nonprofit and I’m not afraid to put myself in the line of fire and make a ruckus about it. These are our children. These are our educators. It’s too big of a risk. I feel compelled to raise awareness about it – I can’t explain it any other way. All stakeholders are accountable for solving this – hopefully before it upgrades from close call to tragedy.”

What inspires you about the military community?

The most inspiring thing to me about the military community is their ability to problem solve any situation. What’s today’s mission? How can we help each other? What’s our end goal? This isn’t just the service members – these are the wives, the mil-kids, the support givers – it truly is a community of givers. And it’s up to each member of the community to give more than they take – and I think that really sets the military community apart.

What piece of advice would you give to fellow military spouses?

The biggest piece of advice I have for military spouses is to share your stories. Get comfortable talking about the uncomfortable. Humanize your experiences and make those connections. If we as a group want people to understand our lives, we have to share our lives not just inside but outside of the military community.

What is your life motto?

“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re going to stay silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”

If you could pick one song as the theme song of your life, what would it be and why?

‘No Hard Feelings’ by The Avett Brothers. The Avett Brothers have some of the most honest music out there – and this one just really hits home for me. For me, it’s really about forgiving and being forgiven – and just being able to distinguish what’s important and what’s not so you can live a meaningful life. I think it’s my theme song because even after some really impossible hardships, I’m still able to take gifts from those moments instead of just pain.

What’s your superpower?

I have a fierce love for my people. I will turn superhuman when it comes to their needs – regardless of how much time I have or what’s going on in my life. If you’re someone I trust and love, I will spring into action for you in the biggest way possible.

Articles

These new changes to the USMC physical fitness program are effective immediately

The Marine Corps has announced today that revisions have been made to its physical fitness program, to include the Physical Fitness Test (PFT), Combat Fitness Test (CFT), and the Body Composition Program (BCP). Changes to BCP will take effect immediately, while PFT and CFT changes will be implemented starting Jan. 1, 2017.


The PFT changes are among the most profound since 1972 and the changes to the CFT standards are the first since its inception in 2009.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner
Revisions have been made to the U.S. Marine Corps physical fitness program, to include the Physical Fitness Test (PFT), Combat Fitness Test (CFT) and the Body Composition Program (BCP). All final changes to BCP will take effect as of January 2017.

“Last November we began a comprehensive review of physical fitness and body composition standards,” said Gen. Robert B. Neller, the 37th Commandant of the Marine Corps. “Subsequent efforts focused on developing a physical fitness program that incentivizes behavior toward an end state of a healthy and fit force able to better answer the call in any clime and place.”

Immediate changes to the BCP include an increase in the height and weight standards for females, better equipment for determining height and weight for all Marines and the BCP waiver authority will be passed from the deputy commandant of Manpower and Reserve Affairs to the first general officer in a Marine’s chain of command.

The Marine Corps has taken physical performance into consideration when considering BCP. Marines scoring 285 and higher on both the PFT and CFT will now be exempt from height and weight standards. Marines who score between 250 and 284 will have their maximum body fat percentage increased by one percent.

So for example if a Marine has a maximum body fat percentage [of] 19 percent, with a score between 250 and 284 on both the PFT and CFT, he or she will be allowed to go up to 20 percent body fat.

Changes to the PFT include a pull-up/push-up hybrid for both males and females. This eliminates the option for the flex arm hang for females starting in January.

Although Marines can earn points by doing either of the exercises, the maximum amount of points a Marine can earn doing push-ups is 70 points versus 100 if they chose to do pull-ups. This means the highest PFT score a Marine can earn if they chose to do push-ups is 270. The primary benefits of incorporating the pull-up/push-up option for all Marines is that it incentivizes Marines to improve their pull-ups while ensuring gains of upper body strength across the force.

Marines will also have to complete more crunches for maximum score on their next PFT, with scoring being age and gender normed. There will be a slight adjustment to the three-mile run for Marines in high age brackets, too. The PFT and CFT age brackets will change from four age groups to eight. The new groups are as follows: 17-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40, 41-45, 46-50, and 51+.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner
U.S. Marines perform a combat fitness test. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Marnell)

Changes to the CFT will consist of adjusted scoring for all three events to correspond with the eight age brackets. The most drastic change will be with the ammo can lifts (ACL) where male Marines age 31-35 will have to complete 120 ACLs for a perfect score vice 97, and female Marines age 26-30 will have to complete 75 ACLs for a perfect score vice 63.

Another change to the CFT is all Marines will perform five push-ups instead of three push-ups during the maneuver under fire portion of the test.

“The new PFT and CFT standards raise the bar on physical fitness for all Marines,” said Maj. Gen. James W. Lukeman, commanding general, Training and Education Command. “Marines today are stronger, faster, and fitter than ever and these changes reflect that. Bigger and stronger often means heavier, so tying performance on the PFT and CFT to changes to the Body Composition Program are improvements that we think the Marines will appreciate. In the end, it’s all about improving the readiness and combat effectiveness of our Corps and the physical fitness of every Marine contributes to that.”

Related: Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years

TECOM will monitor the effects of these adjustments for two years and then adjust if required to ensure the standards contribute to the effectiveness of the force.

Additional details, including the new PFT/CFT scoring tables, physical fitness training recommendations and BCP adjustments are available at: https://fitness.usmc.mil. Follow-on MARADMINS and instructional products will further address details of the changes and the associated Marine Corps Orders will be updated accordingly.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Captain Marvel explains where she’s been in first ‘Avengers: Endgame’ clip

On April 8, 2019, Marvel previewed the first clip from “Avengers: Endgame” on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

The video begins with Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), realizing that Thanos has used the stones again.

Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), jumps in to insist they team up and “get him” and use the stones “to bring everyone back.” She says it’ll be different this time because now, she’s involved.

James Rhodes, aka War Machine (Don Cheadle), gets annoyed and asks Captain Marvel to explain where she’s been all this time.

“There are a lot of other planets in the universe,” she responds. “And unfortunately, they didn’t have you guys.”

Bruce Banner, aka Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), seems very apprehensive about the plan, but what else is new?

Watch the scene below. The clip begins at 2:51.


Lists

7 Marvel Cinematic Universe movies to watch before ‘Infinity War’

Not planning a two-day Marvel Cinematic Universe marathon right before seeing “Avengers: Infinity War?”

Nobody has time for that.

To accommodate fans who want to freshen up their knowledge, we collected a list of the most essential MCU movies to watch right before you see “Infinity War,” which is scheduled for release April 27, 2018.

From “Captain America: The First Avenger” to “Thor: Ragnarok,” here are the 8 MCU movies you need to catch up on.

(To see where to watch, check this list of where to stream all 18 movies in the MCU.)

Here’s 7 MCU movies to watch before seeing “Infinity War”:

1.”Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011)

In addition to debuting Captain America, this movie introduces us to the Infinity Stones, setting up the story years before “Infinity War.” The film’s villain, Red Skull, is trying to gain the power of the Tesseract, which contains the blue Space Stone.

2. “The Avengers” (2012)

In “The Avengers,” Loki is working for Thanos. He makes a failed attempt to get the Tesseract and take over Earth. It’s also an introduction to the Avengers team, and Mark Ruffalo’s version of the Hulk. In 2012, this movie felt like the biggest movie of all time, but now it feels so small.

3. “Captain America: Civil War” (2016)

“Civil War” is important because it divides the team right before “Infinity War.” It’s also essentially an Avengers movie. Captain America and his friends are now on the run from the law because of what happens in this movie, so it will be interesting to see how a team that is so divided sets aside their differences and comes together.

“Civil War” is available to stream on Netflix.

4. “Doctor Strange” (2016)

Doctor Strange will play a pretty prominent role in “Infinity War” since he has the Time Stone, which Thanos needs to achieve his goal of wiping out half the universe. “Doctor Strange” is a really good movie, and it will help you better understand Strange’s complicated and cool powers.

“Doctor Strange” is available to stream on Netflix.

5. “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017)

“Ragnarok” — which is a weird, fun action-comedy that defies all action movie laws in the best way — directly sets up “Infinity War,” so you absolutely have to see it. If you don’t, you’ll be very confused. The film focuses on Thor and Loki’s complicated relationship, which could be important in “Infinity War,” depending on where Loki’s loyalties lie.

6. “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014), “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (2017)

Since Thanos, the primary villain in “Infinity War,” is the father of two Guardians of the Galaxy, these films are worth revisiting to get an idea of how Gamora and Nebula feel about their dad. They don’t like him, but it’s complicated. This dynamic could play a huge role in “Infinity War.”

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is available to stream on Netflix.

7. “Black Panther”

You’ve seen the trailers. There’s clearly a huge battle scene in “Infinity War” that takes place in Wakanda, and it looks like some of the characters from the movie will make an appearance. You’ll have to go to a theater to see “Black Panther,” since the DVD and Blu-ray release isn’t until May 8, 2018, but it’s worth it.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

10 free educational websites for kids

The American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommends that we limit our kids’ screen time. But the screens powers can be used for GOOD! Especially when it comes to learning. And now that our country is in a national public emergency with COVID-19, parents are scrambling for ideas of how to keep kids stimulated educationally while schools are closed.


One solution is MORE screen time!

Kids nowadays have the world at their fingertips and they are a lot more tech savvy than we’d expect them to be. But military kids seem to have a head start on this tech because many of them are born miles away from extended family. Sometimes the only connection is putting an iPad in their face and letting the grandparents, aunt, uncles, cousins and friends fawn over them.

So if you’re looking for healthy, FREE ways to fill your kids day pull out the iPads and tablets…WE GOT YOU!

Here are 10 free educational websites for kids:

PBS Kids – In lieu of schools being closed, you can sign up to get daily activities for kids to play and learn at home.

Make Me Genius – K-7 students can click on their grade to get cool facts and watch educational videos on their level. You can also subscribe to their Youtube channel for more videos.

Cool Math – This can be a challenging subject, but this site has games and practice tools for 1st grade to high school.

Fun Fonix – Check this site out for free printable worksheets and workbooks. They also have games available.

ABCya – Complete with learning games and apps for kid’s grades k-6+.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

live.staticflickr.com

Khan Academy – A nonprofit that has a mission to provide a free, world-class education to anyone. Receive free online courses, lessons and practice.

Funbrain – Get games, videos and books here for your kids

Fuel the Brain – Filled with educational games and resources. Including interactives and printables!

Smithsonian Learning Lab – Explore many resources here. You can also watch videos in history, art and culture, and the sciences.

Seussville – Who doesn’t want to play games and learn from the Cat in the Hat? The website also has a link specifically for parents! You have to put in your date of birth to verify. Then you have access to crafts, recipes, guides, printables and much more!

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

live.staticflickr.com

If you have tried any of these leave a comment of how you like it. Also, feel free to add to this list in the comments. We could all use as much help as possible right now.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of August 16th

The Air Force was recently considering a new strategy to its PT tests. In a nutshell, it’s going to give any airmen who might fail a PT test a “mulligan” and list the test as a diagnostic instead of a record test. It may possibly be allowed for an airman to list a failed test as off-the-books, but that part isn’t set in stone.

The Air Force was surprisingly serious (to the other troops who use phrases like “Chair Force”) about failed PT tests and other branches also have a practice test system in place. But I can’t help but point out the bad optics on this one.

I mean, I get it. Any notion that the Air Force might someday consider being a fraction more lenient in comparison to the other branches or older vets will cause outrage. On the other hand, I know I would have killed for something like that back in my lower enlisted days…


Anyways, here are some memes while I ponder how much weight I’ve gained since getting out of the Army…

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

​(Meme via Private News Network)

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

(Meme via On The Minute Memes)

True story: I had an E-6 MP live in the apartment next to me off-base…

You know the type, the kind that called in a “noise violation” for my TV being “too loud.” Seeing him get an eviction notice was one of the happiest days of my life in the Army.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

(Meme by Call for Fire)

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

(Meme via Not CID)

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner
Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

(Meme via Victor Alpha Clothing)

Articles

This cockpit video shows the moment two Navy Tomcats shot down Libyan MiGs

One of the more constant sources of action for the United States Navy in the 1980s was the Gulf of Sidra.


On three occasions, “freedom of navigation” exercises turned into violent encounters, an operational risk that all such exercises have. The 1989 incident where two F-14 Tomcats from VF-32, based on board the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) is very notable – especially since the radio communications and some of the camera footage was released at the time.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

In 1981, two Su-22 Fitters had fired on a pair of Tomcats. The F-14s turned around and blasted the Fitters out of the sky. Five years later, the Navy saw several combat engagements with Libyan navy assets and surface-to-air missile sites.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

In the 1989 incident, the Tomcats made five turns to try to avoid combat, according to TheAviationist.com. The Floggers insisted, and ultimately, the Tomcat crews didn’t wait for hostile fire.

Like Han Solo at the Mos Eisley cantina, they shot first.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner
An air-to-air right side view of a Soviet MiG-23 Flogger-G aircraft with an AA-7 Apex air-to-air missile attached to the outer wing pylon and an AA-8 Aphid air-to-air missile on the inner wing pylon. (From Soviet Military Power 1985)

So, here is the full video of the incident – from the time contact was acquired to when the two Floggers went down.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army’s new Infantry Squad Vehicle is based on the Chevy Colorado

On June 29, 2020, the U.S. Army selected GM’s submission for the new Infantry Squad Vehicle. Beating out submissions from a joint Oshkosh Defense-Flyer Defense team and an SAIC-Polaris partnership, GM has been awarded a $214M contract to build 649 of the new ISVs over the next five years. Additionally, the Army has already been approved to acquire 2,065 of the new trucks over the next decade.

In 2003, GM sold its defense division to General Dynamics for $1.1B. In 2017, GM saw renewed opportunity in adapting its civilian vehicles for the defense market and created the subsidiary GM Defense. In 2019, GM Defense became a finalist in the Army’s Infantry Squad Vehicle procurement competition along with the two aforementioned teams. The three teams were given $1M to build two prototypes of their proposed vehicle which were tested and evaluated at Aberdeen Test Center, Maryland and Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

(Left to right) SAIC-Polaris DAGOR, Oshkosh-Flyer Defense GMV, and GM Defense ISV concepts (Photo from NationalDefenseMagazine.org)

Contract specifications called for the ISV to weigh no more than 5,000, carry nine soldiers and their gear at highway speeds in extreme conditions both on and off-road, capable of being slung under a UH-60 Blackhawk, and fit inside of a CH-47 Chinook. To meet these requirements, GM Defense based its design on the popular Chevrolet Colorado and its ZR2 and ZR2 Bison variants.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

Chevy’s popular midsize truck, the Colorado ZR2 (Photo by Chevrolet)

The ISV is powered by a 2.8L 4-cylinder Duramax diesel engine that produces “significantly more power than the Colorado ZR2 known for delivering 186 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque,” mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission according to the GM Defense ISV product sheet.

Overall, the ISV retains much of the DNA of the Colorado variants it is based on, featuring 70% off-the-shelf components. “The chassis — which is the frame, the suspension, driveline, engine, transmission, transfer case, axles, brakes — all of that hardware comes from the Colorado ZR2,” said GM Defense Chief Engineer Mark Dickens. “Somebody could walk into a Chevy dealership and purchase those parts.”

Per the Army’s specifications, the ISV seats nine soldiers: two in the front, three in the second row, two rear-facing seats in a third row, and two outward-facing seats in a fourth row. Gear is stowed between the third and fourth rows, strapped to webbing that acts as the roof over the roll cage cabin, or slung from the roll cage itself.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

The ISV on display at the 2019 SEMA Show (Photo from GMAuthority.com)

In addition to the Army contract, GM Defense President David Albritton told Detroit Free Press that, “[The ISV] platform can be used for international sales to other militaries, other government agencies like Border Patrol, the Marine Corps, Air Force and Special Forces,” since future variants, “would be a totally different design.”

The ISV follows a trend that the military is setting of purchasing readily-available commercial technology for tactical use. On June 5, 2020, Polaris was awarded a 9M contract to supply USSOCOM with its MRZR Alpha Light Tactical All Terrain Vehicle. The LT-ATV is a redesigned Polaris RZR that has been in use with the Army’s light infantry units like the 82nd Airborne Division and 10th Mountain Division.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

10th Mountain LT-ATVs (left) alongside a Humvee and an LMTV flanked by 2 M-ATVs

(Photo by author)

MIGHTY CULTURE

The US Navy is learning about Arctic operations from the Canadians

The US Navy’s Arctic muscles have atrophied over the years, so the service is working to relearn how to operate in this increasingly competitive space.

One way the Navy is doing that is by working with US allies and partners with the necessary knowledge and skills, picking their brains on how best to operate in this unforgiving environment.

Lt. Samuel Brinson, a US Navy surface warfare officer who took part in an exchange program aboard the Canadian frigate HMCS Ville de Quebec as it conducted Arctic operations, recently talked to Insider about his experiences.


Although he declined to say exactly where he went, Brinson said that he “didn’t know anyone who had been as far north” as he traveled on his Arctic mission.

The US Navy’s 2nd Fleet was reactivated last summer to defend US interests in the North Atlantic and Arctic waterways, as great power rivals like Russia and even China are becoming increasingly active in these spaces.

But there’s a learning curve.

“2nd Fleet is a newly-established fleet, and we just haven’t been operating in the Arctic as a navy much recently,” Brinson told Insider.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

HMCS Ville de Quebec.

“We need to get up there. We need to practice operating. We need to practice operating with our allies. We need to get up there and experience it for ourselves as much as possible.”

That’s exactly what he did. He went on a one-month fact-finding mission in the Arctic.

Brinson, who had previously deployed to the 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operations (Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf), was approached by 2nd Fleet for this opportunity, which involved reporting on how the Canadian navy carries out its activities in the Arctic effectively.

“The most striking difference [between the Arctic and other deployment locations] is how remote it is,” he explained to Insider. “There are just not many towns. You go forever without seeing other ships. You go forever without seeing other establishments. The distance is a lot further between the places we were operating than it looks on a map.”

From an operations perspective, that makes logistics a bit more difficult. “The biggest challenge for going into the Arctic is logistics,” Brinson said.

“You have to have a plan where you are going and really think about where you are going to get fuel, where you are going to get food, and if you need to send people or get people from the ship, how and where you are going to do that. Everything is pretty far apart.”

“You don’t have a lot of refueling points, resupply stations,” he added. “When you get up into the Arctic, there is not really anything there, and if someone had to come get you, like if they had to send tugs to come get us, it was going to take days, like lots of days.”

The emptiness of the Arctic isn’t just a problem from a resupply standpoint. It also creates navigational problems.

“Because it’s less developed up there, it’s also been less charted,” Brinson told Insider. “We spent a lot of time switching between electronic charts, paper charts, you know, Canadian charts, Norwegian charts, etc. to navigate around where we were going. You have to use whichever chart was most complete and most up to date.”

“There’s a lot of headway that could be made on that in the future,” he added. “The more we operate up there, the more we know that, but before we send ships in to some of these places, we probably need to just survey it first.”

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

Views of a U.S.-Canada joint mission to map the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean in 2011.

(Public domain)

There’s also frigid temperatures and ice to worry about.

Brinson, a native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was in the Arctic in August, a warmer period when the daytime highs were in the low 30s. “It was cold to me, but [the Canadians] all thought I was being silly,” he said.

In the spring, fall, or winter, the temperatures are much lower, and there is a risk of getting iced in while at port. “Right now, you pretty much only want to be up there June, July, August, and then as it starts getting into September, it starts getting too cold,” Brinson told Insider.

Even though the temperatures were higher when Brinson was there, ice was still a bit of problem. “There is enough around that you need to be extra careful, especially if it’s nighttime or foggy. There were icebergs that were bigger than the ship,” he said.

“If you were to hit something like that, it’s a huge problem,” Brinson added, recalling that he saw a polar bear roaming about on one of the icebergs with plenty of room to move around.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

Polar bear and two cubs.

(NOAA)

From the Canadians, Brinson learned how to deal with cold temperatures and ice, how to keep your water supply from freezing, which side to pass an iceberg on if there are pieces coming off it, and how to sail through an ice flow, among other things.

“Working with partners like Canada is key because they’ve never stopped operating up there,” he said. “They know things like that.”

Brinson told Insider that the US Navy has fallen behind and lost a step when it comes to Arctic operations. “What we need to do is just get back to doing it,” he said. “We need to start getting the level of knowledge back.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What it looks like when Marines fire their biggest guns

Last year, the Australian Army hosted one of its largest military exercises with participants from the U.S. Marine Corps and the French military working side-by-side with Australian forces. The three militaries practiced how to work with each other as well as how to best incorporate the strengths of each force.

And that gives us a perfect chance to watch the highly mobile, flexible and lethal Marine artilleryman at work.


For warfighting exercise Koolendong, the 3rd Battalion, 11 Marines brought out their “Triple Sevens.” These are M777 howitzers which fire 155mm shells. An M777 is capable of sending a 103-pound shell to a target almost 14 miles away and of hitting that target within 54 yards thanks to a GPS-guided fuze.

An extended-range version of the round can go almost 23 miles at maximum range.

But of course, the rounds and the howitzers are only as good as the artillerymen manning them, and the Marines in the video above prove themselves quite capable of using their weapon to maximum effect.

While other troops sometimes make fun of artillerymen with accusations that they’re too weak to walk all the way to the target or too dumb for other work, the fact is that artillery requires a crap-ton of math, even more upper body strength, and an insane level of attention to detail.

And that need for strength and attention to detail only gets greater the larger the gun is. And if artillery is king of the battle, the M777 is a roided-out king who could wrestle a lion.

There’s a Marine who ferries ammunition from the truck or ammo supply point to the weapon, which requires a quick movement of dozens of yards while carrying over 100 pounds every time he does it.

There are two Marines who work together to ram the round from its staged position into the breech, something that is accomplished with a massive, heavy tool that they sprint against.

There’s the gunner who’s trying to make sure his weapon is perfectly aimed after each shot, even though it settles into the dirt differently after every firing. The tiniest mistake in his measurements could send the round hundreds of yards off target.

And while the crew is firing at its sustained rate, of two rounds per minute, it can be tough. But their max firing rate is five rounds per minute, meaning that they have to repeat their physically and mentally challenging jobs every twelve seconds without fail. To see what that looks like, check out the video at top if you haven’t already.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why Sweden is low-key one of the greatest superpowers

Imagine you’re playing a game of Risk. While everyone else is busy squabbling with their neighbors, you take each turn to quietly bolster your army. You sit back and build up while making friends with the right people so you can focus on your own military. This has been Sweden’s plan for the last two hundred years.


Now, Sweden doesn’t compete when it comes to military expenditure — they’re near the bottom of the list for developed nations. The entirety of their troops, active, guard, and paramilitary, could fit inside a single arena in Stockholm. And they’ve even made non-alignment pacts during every major conflict in modern history, so battle-hardened leaders are hard to come by.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner
Despite this, they’re strong allies with all NATO nations and they’ve sent many military observers to Afghanistan as apart of the ISAF.
(Photo by Pfc. Han-byeol Kim)

Sweden’s strength comes from their mastery of technology. Particularly, in three key elements of warfare: speed, surveillance, and stealth.

One of their greatest military advances is the Saab Gripen JAS 39E, a state-of-the-art aircraft that is much cheaper than its peers. The Gripen has mastered super-cruise flight, which is the ability to fly at supersonic speeds without the use of afterburners. It is also equipped with one of the world’s leading active electronically scanned array systems and will soon lead the world in combining aircraft with electronic warfare capabilities.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner
Vikings in the air. Great. Just what the world needed.
(Swedish Armed Forces)

But their advanced technology doesn’t start and end with the Gripens. The next keystone of their arsenal is the unbelievable advancements they’ve made in drone technology, culminating in the SKELDAR UAV helicopter. It can carry a 40kg payload and remain in the air for up to 6 hours, which is amazing its size and cost.

The sleek rotary wing design for a UAV also gives it much more control over the battlefield when compared fixed wing aircraft. Once the SKELDAR locks onto a target, it won’t ever let it out of its sights.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner
At only 4 meters in length, it’s can go undetected when it’s a kilometer in the air.
(Swedish Armed Forces)

As impressive as these are, Sweden’s biggest military boast is their war-games victory over the US Navy in 2005 when the HMS Gotland “defeated” the USS Ronald Reagan. The HMS Gotland, and all other attack submarines in the Gotland-class, are the stealthiest submarines in the ocean. This is because it was designed entirely to counter means of detection.

It’s the only submarine class to use air-independent propulsion by way of the Stirling engine. Its passive sonar system is so advanced that it can detect which nationality an unknown ship belongs to simply by identifying the operating frequency of the alternating current used in its power systems. It does all of this while remaining completely undetectable to the might of even the United States Navy.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner
It’s cool though. Sweden’s Navy is a strong ally.
(Photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Michael Moriatis)

MIGHTY SPORTS

How adaptive surfing is saving the lives of veterans

Missing: One leg

Description: Orange, red and black with tire tread and pictures of palm trees, surfers and marching soldiers. If found, please return to Dana Cummings, no questions asked.

Cummings, a Marine Corps veteran, is bummed about the missing leg, but said it’s par for the course for adaptive surfing with one leg in San Diego.

“No, it’s still MIA,” he said. “Still out there floating somewhere. I built another one out of some parts I have and still have to glue the tread on. I lost one in Long Bay 10 years ago. Three weeks later it washed up two miles down the beach. Maybe someone in Tijuana will find this leg.”


That won’t stop him from bringing his organization, AmpSurf, to the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic, Sept. 15 to 20, 2019, in San Diego. More than 150 veterans with various disabilities from across the U.S. will travel to California for a week of adaptive adventure sports and lessons in sailing, surfing, kayaking, pickleball, and cycling.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

Dana Cummings lost his prosthetic leg while surfing a couple weeks ago in San Diego, but that won’t stop him and AmpSurf from coming to this year’s National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic.

Cummings and AmpSurf will take many of those veterans out for the first time in their lives on the water and teach them how to catch a wave.

“This is the thing. Not trying to make world-class surfers out of these guys and women. Not trying to make them adaptive surf champs. We just want to focus on their abilities. We don’t focus on what you can’t do. To get that rush of riding the wave, the sensation of feeling that wave, it helps these veterans get more active.

“Everybody else out there may focus on the disability. When I walk down the street, people can’t help but stare at the leg. But through surfing, we are focusing on their abilities. I don’t care if you don’t surf again after that, but hopefully people go home and realize they surfed for this one week, they can do anything.”

Cummings never surfed when he had two legs. He served in the Marine Corps from 1989 to 1995, including a tour in Desert Storm. While driving his family in a Volkswagen bus in 2002, a vehicle in front of him slammed on the brakes to make a U-turn. Cummings whipped his vehicle to the side and took the brunt of the impact, crushing his legs.

“I remember the first prosthetist asked me, ‘What do you want to do?’ And I told him I wanted to surf. And he said, ‘That’s probably not going to happen. You have to be realistic.’

“And I was like, ‘F you!’

“I got on my laptop, found another guy who told me he’d help me make it happen. I was surfing a week after I got out of the hospital. Those first two waves I caught l was laying down, but just happy to be there. The next time, I was able to stand up for two seconds.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

Jason Wheeler rides a wave in on a handstand. He said surfing helps make him whole again.

“Now I can ride a long board forever. If I can do this, a fat, little farm guy from Maine, anybody can do this.”

Cummings discovered something else in the surf, too. It was like magic pill for his post-traumatic stress and other issues from the war.

“Surfing is my therapy,” he said. “I used to be on all these medications for depression, anxiety and PTSD. I don’t take any of them anymore. I surf. I surf almost every day. And I can tell, when things are going haywire, I have to go get in that bottle. And thank God VA realizes surfing is therapy. It’s natural.

“Mentally, physically, spiritually, it does all that.”

Since that day he took his first surfboard out, Cummings went on to start his organization that now has chapters in California, New York and New England, with another one starting in Oregon.

“We’ll take anyone out — veterans, blind, kids, anyone with disabilities. It’s funny, I kind of chuckle at it sometimes. I just got back from Oregon and was washing out these wet suits and I never imagined this.”

Changing minds, saving lives

After one event, he sent a survey to participants. A Navy veteran wrote back and said she was thinking of killing herself only days earlier, but AmpSurf changed her mind.

Jamil-Anne Linton said she was in such a deep depression with PTSD that she saw no way out.

“I was extremely suicidal,” she said. “But being out in the water, I didn’t have that fear. It helped me focus. The first time I was catching that wave, I got this feeling of humility, but also a feeling like I was on top of the world. And I love that feeling.”

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

Dana Cummings said his organization has taught veterans, children and others with disabilities to surf, such as Rumi Walsh — the daughter of a veteran — who lost one of her arms.

Now she’s paying it forward. She went back to school to become a registered nurse and is working with mental health patients. She also continues to surf every week with Cummings and spread the word about his program.

“On a day I’m extremely stressed,” she said, “I go out on the water.”

“I can do it again”

AmpSurf made the difference, too, for Army veteran Jason Wheeler. He was injured while parachuting out of a Blackhawk helicopter during a training exercise, eventually losing both legs above the knee. The collision with the ground caused sight damage and he’s also legally blind.

“I had never even surfed before then,” Wheeler said. “But you get this energy from the water. You get that one solid wave. You know, you have good days and bad days, and you don’t know what it’s going to be. Surfing is just a like a day. When you wipe out, you say, ‘I can do it again.’

“It gives us a way of focusing on the abilities we can do. When you think about the negativity, it’s going to drown you, and that’s why we have so many suicides. Or you can surf and become whole. We’re all whole, we’re just like Rubik’s Cubes, just broken apart. Some of us just need to be put back together to become beautiful art.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Should we change the name of Army bases named after Confederate generals?

With Confederate statues coming down across the nation, it’s time to ask: Should we change the name of Army bases named after Confederate Generals?

I think it’s a good discussion for us to have as a nation and an Army. When we can assess the problem and make rational decisions, I trust the Army leadership to make the best decision for our force and nation. We may not all agree on that or those decisions, but one of the greatest parts of America is civil discourse. It’s not difficult to see the pain these names may cause or why the current names don’t matter.


I’ve been to countries where they’ve torn down statues and changed names, erasing history without dialogue. There were many more significant issues, but none of those places have peace and prosperity. A statue or name change alone will not change society or bring a land of opportunity. When not done correctly, it divides people. However, this is an opportunity to do something right for the current and future generations.

We can have discussions and study our Civil War for years. There are a few undeniable conclusions. The Confederates attempted to succeed from the Union and the score was Union – 1, Confederates – 0. The Confederates implicitly or tacitly endorsed slavery of people based upon the color of their skin. We can learn from these difficult times in our nation’s history, so as not to repeat them. We should not honor these generals that fought against their country and therefore the right to own slaves.

In my 20-plus year military career, I never once cared about a base’s name, let alone whether the name of a general inspired me. What motivated me were the units that called those bases home. The famed 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne, 10th Mountain Division and United States Army Special Forces — these and other storied units are what inspired me. We stand on the shoulders of giants. I’d read about these units in books and watched them in movies. The unit lineage is what mattered to me, and I’m willing to bet most of those I served with would agree.

I also didn’t care that they were named after famous generals. They didn’t inspire me or give me a sense of pride. Truthfully no generals, living or dead, ever inspired me. I had the privilege to work with some of the finest generals of our time. I have immense respect for these men and what I learned from them is invaluable. However, I wouldn’t say I was inspired. Why, you might ask? These generals are so removed from the fight that I find it hard to gain inspiration. Those that inspired me were leaders closer to us out conducting missions in the dirt, and my brothers and sisters that I served with.

I will not lose sleep if we change the names of our bases to Fort Tomato or Fort Pine Tree. I hope that we make these decisions with a thorough process. If Army leadership is considering such a process, I do have some excellent suggestions. Medal of Honor recipient, MSG Roy P. Benavidez, Fort Benavidez. Commander of the Tuskegee airmen, General Benjamin O. Davis, Fort Davis. The list of worthy American soldiers is much longer than the number of bases.

The truth is, we are hurting as a country. If this can help our nation heal, I’m all for it. It’s absurd not to have the discussion. Let’s reinvigorate patriotism and pride in our Army. We can run major marketing campaigns sharing the stories of these worthy soldiers. We can all be proud to say “I’m reporting to” or “served at” Fort (insert great American name).

I leave you with only one question: Will you be part of the discussion with me?

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