Me as 'vibe coordinator' and other stories from military transition hell - We Are The Mighty
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Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell


After a three-year absence, I returned to the big city a cliché, another down-and-out veteran with no job and nowhere to live. A local nonprofit helped me find a studio apartment, but a job proved more elusive.

I designed my résumé using whatever software was on my Mac. Thanks to the post-9/11 GI Bill, I was able to attend college after the military, so in the education section I proudly listed my bachelor’s degree and the fact that I’m currently enrolled in grad school, pursuing an MFA in creative writing. For work experience, I listed my military highlights: “Responsible for the accountability and maintenance of all assigned equipment,” Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, and Army Commendation Medal. I even mentioned that I was honorably discharged. I left off the small detail about how the Department of Veterans Affairs has clinically diagnosed me with PTSD. Who cares?

With my résumé complete, I went on Craigslist and scrolled through the admin/office jobs, applying to every single one. Moments later, my phone rang. A lady said she liked my résumé and that her tech company was looking to hire a veteran for an open position, which she described as 30 hours per week of light office duties. The job title was “culture coordinator,” and they needed to hire someone ASAP because the incumbent was taking time off to go to art school.

Related: Watch Colby Buzzell’s most intense gunfight in this short animated video

When she asked if I knew what a culture coordinator was, I told her no. She explained it was someone in charge of getting snacks for everyone, keeping the game room and lounge up to par, and scheduling company happy hours and other “super-fun team activities.”

I bullshitted her about how I had plenty of experience with all of this in the military. In the army, I said, they had us do group activities such as close-quarters hand-to-hand combat training whereby we beat the shit out of each other; road marches that felt like prep for the Bataan Death March; and six-mile unit-formation runs at six o’clock in the fucking morning that we did while singing cadences. All of this, theoretically, helped build esprit de corps. This office job would be easy.

My friend Janie has worked in tech for years. She knew exactly what a culture coordinator was and laughed when I told her I was interested. They had several such coordinators where she worked, although they called them “vibe coordinators” or the “vibe team.” Most tech companies are fighting talent wars, with many employees staying only a year, if that, before defecting to another company. So, to save money on recruiting costs — and to minimize damage to morale — these companies staff vibe coordinators to make sure employees are happy and never want to leave.

One of Janie’s good friends is a vibe coordinator. She told me all about how there’s this one vegan girl in her office who constantly sends mean emails complaining about the lunches, snacks, treats, etc. — how they’re not providing enough vegan options for after-work snack time and how there was cheese in the salad at lunch.

“I was reminded of my kids’ daycare center while walking past bean bags, ping-pong tables, a bike shop, PlayStations, and even a drum set with guitars casually placed around it.”

I got a flashback from basic training. One time, while MREs (meals ready to eat) were being handed out, a private raised his hand and said, “Excuse me, drill sergeant? I can’t eat this. I’m a vegetarian.” And before this private asked whether he could switch to a vegetarian MRE, which do exist, the drill sergeant answered, “Well, I guess you don’t eat, then.”

God, I miss the military.

Janie told me about another time when someone emailed the vibe team to complain about being sunburned through the window in their office (which I’m not sure is even possible). Another time, some remote employees in North Carolina filed a request to “set up a webcam so we can all experience the company party.”

I tried to imagine how I would handle this.

To the vegan girl, I’d say, “Fine. You don’t like it; you don’t eat it. Problem solved.” The guy getting sunburned? Fuck him. I’d throw him a bottle of sunblock. The person wanting a webcam to view the office party? Yeah, sure, log onto www.gofuckyourself.com. The password is getthefuckouttahere.

I’d be perfect for this job.

Janie invited me to her office so I could meet their vibe team and ask whatever questions I had. It was a cavernous space with a contemporary open-floor plan. I was reminded of my kids’ daycare center while walking past bean bags, ping-pong tables, a bike shop, PlayStations, and even a drum set with guitars casually placed around it. We passed by several employees, many of whom appeared to be cleaned-up versions of bike messengers, while others resembled adult incarnations of those shy geeks you went to high school with, kids who were in the band, the academic decathlon, or the model UN (which Janie had been in). When I stumbled across a room containing nothing more than a hammock, Janie said it was one of many break rooms where she sometimes slept off a hangover.

In the office’s open kitchen, I met three members of the vibe team. All were female; all wore leggings; all were cute and around my age; and all were frantically chopping fruits and vegetables, laying out a dessert tray, and arranging plates of finger foods loaded with various local cheeses, charcuterie, and gourmet crackers. This was happening in front of a fridge fully stocked with an insane assortment of craft beer, bottles of which a couple of techies were casually drinking mid-afternoon. One member of the team told me all about how she coordinated weekly yoga classes and periodically brought in cooking teachers because people there loved anything and everything “foodie.” I took notes in my journal. My idea of fine dining is a super burrito at El Farolito.

Janie advised me not to dress like a square at my own interview, because this would give the company the wrong impression. Dress “casual,” she said. I didn’t have time to drop 100 pounds or grow a beard, and I thought wearing fake glasses was pushing it, so I wore new Vans, Levis, and a long-sleeve, collared shirt from Ben Sherman.

I arrived punctually on the day of my interview. A receptionist didn’t greet me — an iPad did. It was cemented by the front door, and after a couple of minutes violently pressing the buttons, I gave up and banged on the door. Nobody answered. I made a phone call. Minutes later, a woman ushered me into a conference room and told me to wait. On the whiteboard was a bunch of stuff that looked like hieroglyphics. Through the window I could see people at their desks in the open-floor plan, one guy sporting a tank top and surf shorts. A few minutes later, the woman returned with the office’s current culture coordinator (who had stylish hair and a fun-looking dress). After telling me about the position and how everyone got along and loved to do group activities together, the woman asked if I’d be comfortable coordinating a game of hopscotch.

Let me pause for a biographical note: I was a 240 gunner in the army. I loved to go out on combat missions wearing gratuitous amounts of 7.62 ammunition. My job in Iraq, which I was trained to do, was pull the trigger when necessary. I worked with a gun team. I had an assistant gunner assigned to me who carried binoculars and whose job was to point out targets. I had an ammo bearer who carried a tripod and extra boxes of ammunition.

I couldn’t remember the last time I played hopscotch; in fact, I couldn’t remember how to play hopscotch, but of course I told her I had no problem Googling how that particular game worked. I could lead a damn good game of hopscotch if that’s what was needed to boost morale. A mantra pounded into my skull in the army was, “You don’t have to like it. You just have to do it.”

After this I was asked a series of questions about why I was perfect for the job. Again, with a smile — which physically hurt my face, because I hardly ever smile — I told them I loved people, I loved working with people, and I loved interacting with people. Making sure other people are happy makes me happy, I said. It makes life fulfilling.

I had come prepared with a list of fun group activities, such as boxing lessons at the gym I go to on Polk Street and happy-hour events at the 21 Club. I offered to bring in my old battalion commander to give motivational speeches, and I even offered to set up a company Twitter account where I’d Tweet stuff throughout the day like, “Hey guys! Come and get it! There’s some kick-ass dim sum in the break room popping off right now!” Or “Stick around after work today because we’ve got some Girl Scouts coming in with bomb-ass cookies to peddle!” A Twitter feed would show other tech companies just how much fun we were having.

I never got around to sharing these ideas, because the woman abruptly ended the interview and said their CEO was on vacation. We’ll call to schedule a follow-up, she told me.

I left the interview in defeat, sure I’d never hear from her again, but a couple of days later she called to schedule a follow-up. They said they liked me and that they liked my answers; I couldn’t believe it.

This time, I met with the CEO. He was about my age and dressed as if he was wearing laundry left on the floor the night before. He started the interview by thanking me for my service and said he was looking to give thanks by hiring a veteran. I knew this was bullshit — he was just looking for a tax break — but I nodded and smiled.

I expressed to this guy how there was nothing in life I wanted more than this job. Which was true. This job would have been one of the best things that happened to me. I remember when I told my mental health physician at the VA how I sometimes stayed in my room alone for days staring blankly at the wall, thinking, “What’s the point?” She advised me to get out and talk to other people, say hi to the cashier at the grocery store, ask how their day was going. Or, if nothing else, I should force myself to hang out in coffee shops and participate in group activities that didn’t include dive bars and alcohol. This job would be perfect for me because I’d be forced to socialize with people all fucking day. I had to have it.

A couple of days after this interview, I received an email from HR that read, “Thank you, but we’ve decided to go in a different direction with this position.” I understood, but for a while I always wondered, what if?

Now that I work a job where an app on my phone tells me to pick up people and drive them from point A to point B, I no longer think about that job. During my drives, I’ve realized a couple of things about the city. One is that we’re all vibe coordinators. You either work in tech, talk about tech, cater to tech, or, like me, you drive tech around town. It’s about keeping the vibe right. After all, if they’re happy, you’re happy.

Right?

Colby Buzzell an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran and the author of the books, My War: Killing Time in Iraq, Lost in America: A Dead-End Journey, and Thank You For Being Expendable Other Experiences (forthcoming from Byliner).  Check him out at http://www.colbybuzzell.com.

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The cover story that helped the CIA pull off one of the Cold War’s most epic heists

 


With the use of a massive ship and a cover story involving billionaire Howard Hughes, the CIA pulled off one of the most epic heists of the Cold War during the 1970s.

The story begins in 1968, with the sinking of a Soviet submarine. In September of that year, the nuclear-armed K-129 and all of its crew sank 16,500 feet to the bottom of the Pacific ocean. The Soviets conducted an unsuccessful search over the next two months — and that’s where the CIA comes in.

Via PRI:

After the Soviet Navy failed to pinpoint the location of the wreckage, the US Navy found it. So the CIA decided to raise it off the seabed. They called this mission “Project Azorian,” and its details have been an official secret for decades. It took three years for retired CIA employee David Sharp to get permission to publish in 2012 his account of the mission and his role.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
The K-129

Onboard the sub were live nukes, secret documents, electronics, and cryptography equipment that could help the Americans crack Soviet codes, according to Maritime Reporter. But the CIA couldn’t just build a massive recovery ship emblazoned with “US Navy” on its side and get to work in the middle of the Pacific. The Soviets would be very suspicious.

Long before the CIA concocted the fake movie “Argo” to rescue hostages in Iran, it brilliantly bullsh–ted the Soviets with the help of an eccentric billionaire. The agency approached Howard Hughes, and recruited his help in providing the cover story: The ship, called the Glomar Explorer, would be conducting marine research “at extreme ocean depths and mining manganese nodules lying on the sea bottom. The ship would have the requisite stability and power to perform the task at hand,” according to the CIA’s account of the operation.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell

The massive 618-foot-long ship took four years to build, and was incredibly complicated. Meanwhile, Hughes was talking up the mining effort in the press, enjoying headlines like “SECRET PLAN: HUGHES TO MINE OCEAN FLOOR.”

While Moscow had no idea what was going on, in August 1974 the Explorer wrapped its mechanical claw around the K-129 and began raising it up from its three-mile depth. Unfortunately, the operation did not go exactly as planned: As it neared 9,000 feet below the surface, the claw failed and a large part of K-129 broke apart and fell, according to PRI. But the CIA still managed to bring up the ship’s bow, with the bodies of six Russian sailors.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell

The CIA could have given it another try (and planned on it) if it had time to build a new claw, except the secret operation was exposed in the press shortly after Hughes’ L.A. headquarters had a break-in. The thieves had stolen a number of secret documents, one of which linked Hughes, Glomar, and the CIA. The Los Angeles Times broke the story in 1975.

There’s are a few interesting post-scripts to the story. The bodies of the Russian sailors were buried at sea in a secret ceremony, video of which was later shared with the Soviets in 1992 as a gesture of goodwill. And the Glomar Explorer was later bought by TransOcean and converted for deepwater oil drilling, though it’s soon headed to the scrapyard after 40 years of service.

But perhaps most famously, the incident highlighted the CIA’s standard “Glomar Response,” an incredible non-answer that has annoyed everyone from average Joes to journalists alike: “We can neither confirm or deny the existence of such an operation.”

NOW: Researchers unveiled cloaking technology that the US military has been waiting for

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7 things you need in your bug out bag when sh** gets real

When the time comes to get out of the house and hit the road for a few days to reach a safe place, what do you take with you? What if you lived in Washington D.C. and need to get to your cousin’s house in Charleston, West Virginia, among the throngs of frightened masses choking the roadways and buying up all the supplies during a natural disaster? A simple answer is a bug out bag.


Bug out bags are just what the name implies — bags you and your family can grab at a moment’s notice and bug out of the area. A bug out bag can get you through a few days by itself, but it’s a temporary means to an end. The water and food will eventually run out so you have to pack one in a methodical manner that meets your expectations and criteria. When prepping bags, it’s important to keep in mind a few things:

What is the threat? What are you running from? Where are you running to?

What is the environment? A bug out bag for a family living in the Everglades is not going to look much like a bug out bag for a family living in Anchorage. Determine what it is you need the most of — water, heat, food, etc?

How much can you and your family carry? If you’re a big guy and can carry a lot, then by all means find a large rucksack and maximize it. But if you have kids (who should all be carrying their own bags), take their capabilities into account and pack accordingly.

Be redundant. That old cliché “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is very true of bug out bags. Let’s say you and your family are crossing a stream and one bag gets lost down river. If that bag had the only Epi Pen for your allergic son, you’ve just made your situation worse.

I have three kids and packed each of them a bag according to how much they can carry and what they would need to survive in the Northern Virginia area for 5 days with no assistance. Our area has a lot of natural water sources, so I’m not overly concerned with finding water. All three bags have the following basics:

1. Water

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
The human body cannot survive without water! Keep this primary directive in mind. Water packets are great for the short term, but you will need to find a water source as soon as possible. My bags all have 5 purified water packets, a folding water bottle, and water purification tablets so I can fill a bottle, disinfect it, and drink fairly quickly. I also have a Life Straw in each bag so we can drink from any source on the go.

2. Five days of meals

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell

For food preparation, I have included a small folding stove, a canteen cup, and 2 cans of camp fuel or heat tabs is great for boiling water for freeze dried meals.

One set of steel utensils or a multi-use eating tool is a must.

3. Fire making materials

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
Redundancy is key here. It’s easy to carry several forms of fire making materials without overloading the pack. Wise Fire Starter, fire sticks, butane lighters, and flint are all fairly lightweight.

4. Items to keep you warm and dry

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
Everyone needs to stay warm and dry. Chemically activated hand and body warmers, gloves, a ski cap, an emergency blanket, and a folding poncho are easy to find and relatively small.

5. Light

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
Have a mix of direct light (flashlights, head lamps) and marking lights (chem lights). A powerful handheld flashlight can also act as a blinder for animals and humans. Pack an extra set of batteries for whatever light you choose. Several companies make flashlights that don’t need batteries.

6. First aid kit

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
Each bag has a small, basic first aid kit with bandages, alcohol wipes, gauze, and other basic items. I also put one trauma pack and a snake bite kit in each bag.

Make sure you include basic meds and specific meds for each particular person. Each bag has a travel container of Neosporin, Advil, Tylenol, Benadryl, Orajel, Blistex, Dayquil, Nyquil, Gold Bond, insect wipes, sun block, and a protective mask. One of my sons requires an inhaler and an Epi Pen, as well.

Hygiene is more important than you think. Besides fighting off bacteria and infections, a basic cleaning can raise your morale. Each bag should have a small travel pack of toothpaste, toothbrush, body wash, baby wipes, tissues, a cloth, and hand sanitizer. Add other items as needed.

7. Tools and Weapons

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
A Gerber or other multi tool is a must as is a good pocket knife. I like to pack a small shovel, a tree saw, a fishing kit, and a Mace gun with extra cartridges. I also have a multi-use bracelet on the outside of the bag with a compass, cord and flint.

A few more miscellaneous things:

Toss in a whistle with a compass, a deck of cards, a notepad, a signal mirror, a signal flag, a NIOSH approved face mask, and a watch that doesn’t need a battery. A small survival manual is a good idea if you can find one.

Include three pairs of underwear and socks per person. If you can fit a change of clothes, do so.

As for basic communications, everyone has a cell phone nowadays, which is good and bad. They provide immediate communications, but the networks they rely on can be knocked out easily. Backup comms are a must. A simple battery operated radio with a limited range in each bag provides short range comms and most importantly, can help avoid family members getting separated.

I keep an IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) on the outside of my ruck so it can be accessed easily. If I’m injured, I want my kids to be able to get to it and treat me without having to dig through the ruck. I also keep my ammo on the outside for easy access.

I carry a small tent and, just to be safe, I put an extra set of my son’s prescription meds in my ruck. I keep my ruck in the car because I’d rather have it with me at work and on vacations than sitting in my basement where it doesn’t do anyone any good. Also, if I find myself in a survival situation (snowstorm, car failure, zombie apocalypse, etc) I’m ready.

There are a lot of companies that sell pre-packed bug out bags that are a great start, but I encourage you to customize them to your situation and environment. I highly recommend my friend Tim Kennedy’s Sheepdog Response website.

Stay ready!

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Hawaii just released a guide on how to survive a nuclear attack from North Korea

Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency released an ominous statement on how to survive and proceed in the event of a nuclear attack.


Citizens of Hawaii are advised to look out for emergency sirens, alerts, wireless notifications, or flashes of “brilliant white light” that will indicate that a nuclear detonation is incoming or underway.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

From there, the agency instructs citizens to get indoors, stay indoors, and stay tuned via radio as “cell phone, television, radio, and internet services will be severely disrupted or unavailable.” Instead, expect only local radio stations to survive and function.

If indoors, citizens should avoid windows. If driving, citizens should pull off the road to allow emergency vehicles access to population centers. Once inside, Hawaiians should not leave home until instructed to or for two full weeks, as dangerous nuclear fallout could sicken or kill them.

Read the full release below:

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
Courtesy of Hawaii Emergency Management Agency

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This whiskey is a WWII victory, distilled

…I was goin’ over the Cork and Kerry Mountains…

Musha rain dum a doo, dum a da…
There’s whiskey in the jar, oh
— Thin Lizzy, Whiskey in the Jar

Whiskey is a mountain spirit. After a cold day on the slopes, are you thirsting for a Cosmo? A margarita? Nope. And we’re not even offering rum as an option. In the mountains, you long for an end-of-day bourbon, scotch, or rye to light your insides on fire. It’s tradition and it’s awesome.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
You… ( Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
…complete me. ( Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

In Vail, Colo, there’s another mountain spirit that has to be reckoned with and unlike whiskey, it’s 100 percent military. It’s the legacy of the Army’s venerable 10th Mountain Division, the special alpine tactical force that trained at nearby Camp Hale during WWII.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
Men of the 10th Mountain Division. Not a cocktail in sight.

Spirits, however, are made to blend. It’s tradition and it’s awesome.

Now, almost 75 years after 10th Mountain defeated the Germans in Italy, a Vail whiskey distillery is honoring the Division by taking its name. In the tradition of service, 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits Co. is distinguishing itself as an ardent supporter of area veterans.

Sensing the makings of a 90-proof military food story, Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl made the trek out to the Colorado mountains to meet the founders of the 10th Mountain Whiskey over two fingers of their best bourbon.

The distillery was founded by Christian Avignon, the grandson of an 86th Mountain Infantry Regiment medic, and his friend and fellow Colorado ski obsessive, Ryan Thompson. Together, they made it their mission to honor the 10th, whose veterans are responsible not only for key victories against the Nazis, but also for the establishment and leadership of so many of America’s great mountain institutions.

The Northern Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), the Sierra Club, the Peace Corps chapter in Nepal, even the famous ski resorts at Vail and Aspen, all count 10th Mountain Division vets among their founding leadership. A storied fighting force inspires a whiskey maker determined to give back. It’s a potent cocktail of tradition, patriotism, and mountaineering that will absolutely warm your insides on a cold day.

Watch more Meals Ready To Eat:

Army food will make you feel the feels

This is what happens when you run your kitchen like a platoon

This is what it means to be American in Guam

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Russia trolled the US military with its largest military exercise since the Cold War

Just hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin met with U.S. President Joe Biden for the first time since Biden won the Oval Office in 2020, Russian ships conducted the country’s largest military exercises since it was called the Soviet Union – off the coast of Hawaii. 

The exercises were so large, it sent the U.S. Air Force scrambling to intercept fighters off the U.S. West Coast. 

The Russian Navy was operating in the Pacific Ocean some 300-500 miles west of the Hawaiian Islands, in an exercise that included Tupolev long-range bombers, surface vessels and anti-submarine forces. If there were submarines in the area, their presence wasn’t apparent. 

From Hawaii, the USAF scrambled F-22 Raptors from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, though the Air Force says the long-range bombers did not enter the Air Defense Identification Zone and weren’t intercepted by the stealth fighters. 

This all took place just before the two world leaders were scheduled to meet for the first time in Geneva, a dozen or so time zones away. Word of the exercises was released by the Russian Ministry of Defence. 

Tensions between the Russian Federation and the United States have been high in recent days, mostly over the buildup of Russian forces along its border with Ukraine, where Russia has been fueling an extended insurgency in the Western area of the country. 

In 2014, the Russia military suddenly seized and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, an action that caused its expulsion from the G-7 nations and force the United States to place economic sanctions on the country and some of its leadership 

Most recently, President Biden was asked if he considered Vladimir Putin, the de facto ruler of Russia and a former KGB agent a “killer,” to which the President replied, “I do.” 

“I believe he has, in the past, essentially acknowledged that he was — that there were certain things that he would do or did do,” Biden told a group of reporters on June 14, 2021. “But it’s not — I don’t think it matters a whole lot in terms of this next meeting we’re about to have.”

Putin recalled Russia’s ambassador to the United States in response. The U.S. recalled its ambassador the next month. 

Biden attempted to send two U.S. warships to the Black Sea in a gesture of support for Ukraine, but called it off in April 2021. Instead, he put more economic sanctions on Russian officials, more than 36 in all. He also expelled 10 Russian diplomats from the United States. 

Putin and Biden met for three hours on June 16, 2021, their first meeting as leaders of their respective countries. They agreed to restart nuclear arms reduction talks and exchange ambassadors once more, though no timeline was agreed to. Biden did warn Putin that there would be consequences for cyberattacks, human rights violations and election meddling, according to The Hill

That same report noted that although the two leaders disagreed on many points, the tensions between the two sides never boiled over to outright aggression. 

Putin is unlikely to concede anything to the United States. The Russian government is still expected to jail opponents and dissidents like Alexei Navalny. It will also likely continue its campaign of cyberattacks, political interference and the routine executions of former Soviet agents abroad.

Featured photo: An F-22 fighter intercepted a Russian “Bear” Tu-95 bomber off Alaska in 2019. Citing U.S. defense officials, CBS said the United States scrambled the F-22s from Hawaii on Sunday in response to Russian bomber flights, but the aircraft did not enter the Air Defense Identification Zone and were not intercepted. NORAD photo

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Sgt. Stubby, the heroic war dog, is getting his own movie

First World War hero Sgt. Stubby, a Boston Terrier who fought in the trenches with the American 26th Infantry Division and was credited with saving many of their lives, is the titular character and focus of a new animated movie hitting screens in 2018.


“Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero” is coming from Fun Academy Motion Pictures and tells the story of the amazing canine and his main soldier, Cpl. Robert Conroy.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell

The two met as the Connecticut 1st and 2nd infantry regiments were mustering and drilling in Camp Yale, Connecticut. Stubby wandered up to the training soldiers and began marching with them. Neither Connecticut regiment could muster the required 1,000 soldiers to form their unit, so they bonded together into the 102nd Infantry Regiment.

Then-Pvt. Robert Conroy assumed responsibility for Stubby and smuggled him onto the SS Minnesota with the 102nd. Stubby served predominantly as a mascot when the unit arrived in France, but began to take a more active role as a sentry.

He began by helping keep sentries awake during duty but soldiers later noticed that Stubby would often react to incoming artillery or gas attacks before the danger was obvious to humans. The doughboys began trusting the dog’s actions and taking shelter themselves when he did.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
Stubby on the watch.

Stubby took part in the 102nd raid against the German town of Schieprey and was wounded by a grenade blast.

He remained at the front and later caught a German spy attempting to slip into the American lines in the Argonne Forest. Stubby held the spy until humans could complete the capture.

Despite the grenade wounds and damage from multiple gas attacks, Stubby continued to serve until the end of the war and was once again smuggled across the ocean. Back in America, he rose to prominence as a celebrity.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
(Photo: Public Domain)

He was made a lifetime member of the American Legion, Red Cross, and YMCA. The YMCA even put him on a three bones a day salary in exchange for his assistance recruiting members. General of the Armies John J. Pershing, former commander of all U.S. forces in Europe, personally pinned a medal on Stubby’s vest.

That vest has been well decorated with awards, some granted during the war and some, like the gold medal presented by Pershing, were granted after the war.

Stubby continued to live with Conroy until he died in the veteran’s arms in 1926.

Stubby’s new movie features top-tier talent. Academy Award nominees Helena Bonham Carter and Gérard Depardieu will both voice characters. Conroy will be played by Logan Lerman, the actor who played the new guy in the tank crew in “Fury.”

(h/t Military Times)

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This is how the remains of a WWII hero made it home after 75 years

A New York military aviation researcher got more than she bargained for on a dream trip to a battle-scarred South Pacific island — the chance to help solve the mystery of an American soldier listed as missing in action from World War II.


Donna Esposito, who works at the Empire State Aerosciences Museum in upstate Glenville, visited Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands this spring and was approached by a local man who knew of WWII dog tags and bones found along a nearby jungle trail. The man asked if Esposito could help find relatives of the man named on the tags: Pfc. Dale W. Ross.

After she returned home, Esposito found that Ross had nieces and nephews still living in Ashland, Oregon. A niece and a nephew accompanied Esposito on her late July return to Guadalcanal, where they were given his dog tags and a bag containing the skeletal remains.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
Marines rest in this field during the Guadalcanal campaign. (Photo under Public Domain.)

Although it’s not certain yet the remains are the missing soldier’s, the nephew who made the Guadalcanal trip is confident they will be a match.

“It’s Uncle Dale. I have no doubt,” said Dale W. Ross, who was named after his relative.

The elder Ross, a North Dakota native whose family moved to southern Oregon, was the third of four brothers who fought in WWII. Assigned to the Army’s 25th Infantry Division, he was listed as MIA in January 1943, during the final weeks of the Guadalcanal campaign. He was last seen in an area that saw heavy fighting around a Japanese-held hilltop.

When the Japanese evacuated Guadalcanal three weeks later, it was the first major land victory in the Allies’ island-hopping campaign in the Pacific.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
Members from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency transfer a case of unidentified remains believed to be military personnel onto a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules airplane to be transferred to Oahu from the Solomon Islands, Aug. 9, 2017. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle.)

Ross’ relatives handed the remains — about four dozen bones, including rib bones — to a team from the Pentagon agency that identifies American MIAs found on foreign battlefields. On August 7, the 75th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Guadalcanal, an American honor guard carried a flag-draped coffin containing the bones onto a US Coast Guard aircraft.

The Pentagon said the remains were taken to Hawaii for DNA testing.

“Until a complete and thorough analysis of the remains is done by our lab, we are unable to comment on the specific case associated to the turnover,” said Maj. Jessie Romero of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

The other three Ross brothers made it back home, including the oldest, Charles, who served aboard a Navy PT boat in the Solomons and visited Guadalcanal in the vain attempt to learn about his brother Dale’s fate.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
Gen. Robert B. Neller lays a wreath during the 75th Anniversary of the Battle for Guadalcanal ceremony. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.)

Ross’ niece and nephew made their trip last month with Esposito and Justin Taylan, founder of Pacific Wrecks, a New York-based nonprofit involved in the search for American MIAs from WWII. They met the family whose 8-year-old son found the dog tags and remains. They also were taken to the spot on a slope in the jungle where the discovery was made.

“I never met this man, but I was a little emotional,” Ross, 71, said of the experience.

For Esposito, 45, finding evidence that could solve a lingering mystery in an American family’s military history is the most meaningful thing she’s ever done in her life.

“I can’t believe this has all happened,” she said. “It has been an amazing journey.”

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Army veteran and filmmaker shows a different side of war in “Day One”

Any time someone sets out to make a war film, he or she risks getting swept up into the action, the combat, the inherent drama that comes with the subject. The truly great war movies recognize the smaller elements, the ironies and subtleties of life during conflicts. Day One, a short film from U.S. Army veteran turned filmmaker Henry Hughes, is such a movie.


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Hughes at the 42d student Academy Awards

“We’re not having a lot of success in getting telling the soldier experience story,” says Hughes, an American Film Institute alum. “I don’t think we’ve changed much how we look at war and the stories that come out of it. Troops are portrayed as either victims or heroes. We still think war is ironic, that we go in and we’re surprised by the things that we find in war. Maybe there’s some bad things about it, and we’re like ‘oh that’s a surprise!’ But it’s not a surprise. War is a very mixed bag, but it can be spiritual and it can be fun and it can be dangerous and it can be morally wrong at times and it can also be one of the things you’re most proud of because you do some really good things.”

Day One is based on Hughes’ own experience with his translator while he was an infantry officer in 173d Airborne Brigade Combat Team. The movie follows a new female translator’s first day accompanying a U.S. Army unit as it searches for a local terrorist in Afghanistan. Her job brings up brutal complexities as gender and religious barriers emerge with lives hanging in the balance.

“Having a female interpreter definitely changed my perspective of fighting, particularly having been on two deployments,” Hughes says. “The first time, it feels very new and romantic and exciting. The second time, you aren’t seeing a lot of impact in the way you would like and so you start wondering if you’re doing the right thing. In this instance, I had this Afghan-American woman with me at all times, and she was the person I communicated with locals to and she had access to the Afghan women in a way that I have never had before.”

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell

“In my first deployment we didn’t even look at the women,” Hughes continues. “I remember that was a thing we did as a company. When we were on a trail and a woman came by, we would clear the trail, turn out, and allow them to walk by. Now all of a sudden, I mean I’m not face to face with these women but my interpreter would tell me she just spoke with a woman that would give us a very different perspective from what we would usually get. It’s interesting in that way.”

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell

Hughes’ Army perspective spans more than just his time as an Army officer. He was also a military brat, following his dad with the rest of the family, living in Germany and Texas. As an officer in the 173d, he went to Airborne and Ranger School, Armor School, and Scout Leaders Course to prepare for his time in Afghanistan during 2007 and 2008 and then again in 2010.

I’m very interested in exploring the military stuff because it is such a hyperbolic life.” He says. “Things are just so condensed and so strange and powerful. It’s like the meaning of life is life hangs in balance sometimes. You get that moment in the military and most people don’t ever work in those types of absolutes.” 

Hughes has always been the artistic type. He went to a high school that had a TV studio, which inspired the creative side of his personality. He’s also come to believe that the military is the perfect place to start a filmmaking career.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell

“You take so many lessons from your military experience and apply them into filmmaking because it is so team-oriented and team-based. The ability to communicate and draft up a single clear mission or objective. Those skills that I learned as a young officer are paying massive dividends now, being creative.” 

Hughes also believes a good storyteller must step out of his or her comfort zone to empathize with the characters and relate them to the audience.

“With trying to express yourself artistically, you have to be a little bit more vulnerable. ‘What is actually at play here,’ as opposed to ‘How do I accomplish this?’ I think you have to be a little bit more introspective whereas in the military, we’re very external and action-driven. It’s just analysis but we all do tons of analysis in the military too. I think it’s a good thing.”

Watch ‘Day One’ here.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell

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Miami VA uses virtual reality to treat PTSD

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
VAntage Point Contributor


The invisible scars of combat can make reintegration to civilian life a challenging transition for some combat Veterans, especially for those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. For South Florida Veterans, a new technology combined with traditional treatments may hold the secret for a successful post-military life.

Mental health providers at the Miami VA Healthcare System are now offering a virtual reality (VR) treatment option for Veterans with PTSD. Combining VR with traditional treatments, such as prolonged exposure therapy, providers can help Veterans change how they perceive and respond to the symptoms of PTSD, which typically cause depression, isolation and anxiety.

“Avoidance, hyper vigilance and re-experiencing are symptoms of PTSD that result from memories of trauma,” said Dr. Pamela Slone-Fama, Miami VA posttraumatic stress clinical team staff psychologist. “By using a recovery model approach, prolonged exposure therapy and virtual reality, most of our patients who complete this treatment don’t experience the same level of stress and intensity when faced with painful memories. Prolonged exposure therapy is what makes this approach to PTSD recovery so effective.”

In conventional prolonged exposure therapy, patients are gradually exposed to events they avoid because of trauma, and providers directly control the stimuli – which can be adjusted based on patients’ responses and individual needs. One of the benefits of using VR in PTSD treatment is providers can control the virtual combat landscapes, sounds and even smells.

What happens during PTSD VR sessions?

Before the first VR session, providers talk with their patients about the benefits of using exposure therapy and VR to treat PTSD. If patients choose to participate, VR sessions begin during the third visit. Before beginning the session, patients are connected to the VR machine – which consists of a headset with video goggles, plastic M-4 rifle, remote to control a virtual humvee and a chair.

“Patients begin the session by recounting their traumatic memories in the present tense, while we document responses, anxiety levels and memories,” Dr. Slone-Fama said. “As patients are recounting, we can see what they are seeing on our screens and try to simulate the landscapes, sounds and smells they are describing.”

While repeatedly recounting their memories, patients also describe how they are feeling. Depending on how far along a patient is in his/her treatment, sessions can run anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes. Even though the VR session is an important piece of the therapy, the post session also has an important role in the recovery process.

“After VR sessions, we work with the patient on processing what just happened,” Dr. Slone-Fama said. “This part of the therapy helps patients understand the events that happened to them and allows them to process the entire memory. VR sessions can be intense, so before wrapping up we always make sure the patients are ok to leave. Safety is always important.”

Common Misconceptions about PTSD

While PTSD can be a serious condition, its symptoms are what cause Veterans to develop low self-esteem and unhealthy, unrealistic beliefs about themselves, according to Dr. Camille Gonzalez, Miami VA posttraumatic stress clinical team staff psychologist. She said Veterans living with PTSD frequently blame themselves for the trauma and feel hopeless.

“It’s common for Veterans with PTSD to feel as though they are permanently damaged,” Dr. Gonzalez said. “We try to help Veterans understand it’s not their fault they experienced these events. Once they realize PTSD is a result of something that happened to them, the recovery process can begin. Even though Veterans will always remember what happened to them, therapy can help them decrease the negative impacts of those memories.”

How to get help

Veterans living with PTSD don’t have to suffer alone. Veterans with PTSD can find help and support through the National Center for PTSD and their local VA health care facility.

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The MOAB hails from Florida, and these folks are proud of it

The Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb — known colloquially as the MOAB, or “Mother of All Bombs” — was born and raised at Eglin Air Force Base.


On April 6, the enormous weapon was used for the first time in combat, dropped in Afghanistan by an MC-130 from the Air Force Special Operations Command headquartered at Hurlburt Field. While the Air Force would not confirm if the aircraft was connected to Hurlburt, the bomb’s local roots run deep.

On March 11, 2003, the Air Research Laboratory at Eglin performed the first test detonation of a 21,000-pound MOAB over Range B-70 north of Wynnhaven Beach, Florida. Residents reported feeling shock waves and hearing loud noises miles away from the drop site.

“My dog shook for 15 minutes,” Santa Rosa County resident Stephanie McBride told the Daily News at the time. “The house, a little bit.”

With tensions with Iraq at a fever pitch (the United States would invade that country just nine days later) the military-friendly Emerald Coast embraced the concept — and the name — of the nation’s largest non-nuclear bomb.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
The GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, or MOAB, moments before it detonates during a test on March 11, 2013. On April 13, 2017, it was used in combat for the first time. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The day of the blast, Nancy Benaquis and Greg Haymore at MannaTee’s Castle in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.,  designed a MOAB T-shirt complete with a mushroom cloud and the words, “We tested the big one!” At $9.98 each, the shirts sold briskly.

“We sold one to a man who told us he worked on the bomb,” Haymore told the Daily News in May 2003.

In 2005, local chef Chris Shrunk created a different kind of MOAB — the “Mother of All Burgers” — and in 2011 local gamers were excited to see the MOAB featured in that year’s version of the “Call of Duty” video game.

Eglin’s Air Force Research Laboratory Munitions Directorate developed the massive bomb in less than three months. The Prototype Munition Fabrication Facility produced the precision guided munitions, and the base’s 46th Test Wing tested them.

“What makes Eglin particularly valuable is that it can do research, development, and testing all in one place,” local economist David Goetsch said. “The base was able to turn around that bomb in a very short time frame because they had all three capabilities.”

On May 20, 2004, the 14th (and final) MOAB to be produced was put on display at the Air Force Armament Museum. On April 13, mere hours after the bomb detonated, visitors to the museum gathered around the exhibit to take photos and selfies in front of the famous weapon.

“Bombs, and the scientists and researchers who produce them, are an important part of our community’s economy,” Goetsch added. “Air Force leaders have a bias toward aircraft, but they’re just fancy airliners if they don’t have weapons.”

“At Eglin, we make weapons.”

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz weighed in on April 13 on the decision to use the MOAB.

“President Trump’s decision to drop the GBU-43 shows his deep commitment to eradicating ISIS worldwide,” said Gaetz, whose congressional district includes Eglin.

“This message was part of his campaign, and eliminating ISIS is critical to the long-term security of the United States. The president’s actions also send a clear message that we will no longer tolerate attacks on our troops — and that those who do so can expect a swift and strong response.”

“As Northwest Floridians, we are proud to train the most lethal warfighters and to test the most advanced weaponry in the world,” Gaetz added. “The president’s decision highlights our military’s need for expanded testing facilities — in particular, the Gulf Test Range south of Eglin Air Force Base.”

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World War II veteran reuniting with his girlfriend after 70 years

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
Image: gofundme


Norwood Thomas was a young American soldier during WWII when he met Joyce Morris in England. In the chaos of the war, they lost touch. But the story doesn’t end there.

Thomas, now living in Virginia Beach, and Morris, now living in Australia, found each other online and had their first date in 70 years over Skype.

“They laughed like teenagers,” The Virginian-Pilot reported. “At the end of their two-hour video reunion, [Thomas] told [Morris], his wartime girlfriend, that he’d love to reunite in person someday – said he wanted to give her “a little squeeze” after more than 70 years apart.”

After The Virginian-Pilot broke the Skype story two months ago, a gofundme page was created. It quickly raised more than $7,500 from more than 300 people to reunite the two. The page’s creator froze donations after Air New Zealand, who’s a big supporter of this love story, waived the ticket fee. Instead, the money will be used to cover additional travel expenses during Thomas’s trip next month.

Looks like they’ll be having that happily ever after, after all.

Watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dObrivREne8

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Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence

President Barack Obama commuted the majority of WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence on Tuesday, with only three days left in office.


Manning was convicted of violating the Espionage Act, among other charges, in 2013 after she stole secret documents from a computer system she had access to while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq and leaked them to WikiLeaks in 2010.

She received a 35-year sentence for the leak and has served seven years in Fort Leavenworth. She will now be freed in five months, on May 17.

Manning, a transgender woman, has attempted suicide twice while in prison.

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, said last week that he’d agree to be extradited to the US if Obama grants clemency to Manning.

The US has threatened to prosecute Assange over the 2010 leak. Assange has been holed up at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, to avoid extradition to Sweden where he has been accused of sexual assault.

Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, told The New York Times on Tuesday that there’s a “pretty stark difference” between Manning’s case and that of former government employee Edward Snowden.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
Chelsea Manning | via Twitter

“Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing,” Earnest said. “Mr. Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary, and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy.”

Snowden declared his support for Manning on Twitter.

“In five more months, you will be free. Thank you for what you did for everyone, Chelsea. Stay strong a while longer!” Snowden tweeted.

The president has not granted clemency to Snowden.

Obama pardoned 64 other people on Tuesday and shortened the sentences of 209 prisoners. Over his two terms, Obama has commuted the sentences of 1,385 people and granted 212 pardons.

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