Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water - We Are The Mighty
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Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water

Just one day after Nate Boyer entered the Guinness World Record book for the longest football long snap, former Texas Longhorn, Seattle Seahawk, and U.S. Army Green Beret Nate Boyer embarks on a mission to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with disabled veteran Blake Watson to help 10,000 people gain access to clean water.


Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
Nate Boyer

The charity is called Waterboys. It was started by Chris Long, a former defensive end for the Rams who rallied NFL players to digging clean water wells in Tanzania,” Boyer says. “His initial goal was to find thirty-two players from thirty-two teams and to have thirty-two wells dug.”

The effort now has 21 NFL players involved, including the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, the Steelers’ Lawrence Timmons, and the Eagles’ Sam Bradford, who currently has raised the most money for the campaign.

“Chris went out there a couple years ago and did Kilimanjaro himself,” Boyer recalls. “But he was leaving and he felt like he wanted to do more for those people. They walk five miles a day for clean water for their villages; they can cook and drink water and try to live healthy.”

Tanzania is currently suffering from a devastating water crisis. In a country where one-third of the land is semi-arid, access to clean, sanitary water is a daily struggle. Many of the country’s current wells are dug near toxic drainage systems and are contaminated by runoff. Water-borne illnesses, such as malaria and cholera, account for over half of the diseases affecting the population.

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
Aid agencies struggle to build clean water wells like this UN-built well in Tanzania. (UN photo)

“Long went out there last year and dedicated the first clean water well” says Boyer. “It’s pretty cool because the people, they come out of the woodwork for this thing. It’s a huge deal to them.”

That’s what brings Boyer to Kilimanjaro. When Long recruited him for the charity, Boyer was at the gym, working a stair climber machine, on the “Kilimanjaro” setting. Boyer spoke with Dave Vobora, who runs Dallas, Texas’ Performance Vault Inc., a sports performance training center for elite athletes and U.S. Special Forces.

“I told him I’m doing this climb and asked if he had anybody in mind that would be a good counterpart,” Boyer said. “I wanted to go with a guy who was going to spend the next four months working towards this goal and grinding. He’s like, ‘I got just the guy.'”

Vobora linked Boyer up with Marine veteran Blake Watson, a single leg amputee. During Watson’s first deployment he accidentally knelt down onto an IED. Watson lost his leg and his pulse rate went to zero on the helicopter during the flight to the hospital, but the medics were able to resuscitate him.

“I approached Blake and started explaining what we were doing, what I wanted to do with him and why,” Boyer remembers. “I talked about the clean water wells and before I could even finish my pitch he was like, ‘I’m in, dude. I’m in.’ He was excited about was not only the challenge and the climb and all that but what we would be doing for those people.”

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
Watson training for Kilimanjaro

Blake struggled for three years with dependency, depression, and thoughts of suicide. With the help of others and his Marine mindset, he pulled himself out of a rut, started training again, and got back in shape. Got involved at this gym called Adaptive Training Foundation in Dallas, also run by Vobora. A gym for adaptive athletes, many of them amputees. They all have a goal they’re pursuing.

“It’s not just, ‘I want to work out. I want to get in shape,'” Boyer says. “It’s like, ‘I want to go climb Kilimanjaro,’ or ‘I want to be on the Paralympic bobsled team.’

Those wounded warriors led Boyer to another goal. The clean water initiative is important, but for Nate Boyer and Blake Watson, it’s also about inspiring veterans and current service members who might be struggling back home.

“We’re people of service. Whether we joined because we had no other options or because we wanted to serve our country, at the end of the day, we became men and women of service. If we don’t have that element in our life moving forward, working towards a mission, something bigger than us, then it’s really easy to get lost and feel like you’re never going to do anything as important as what you did when you served. That’s the impetus behind this whole thing.”

To help Boyer and Watson raise money and awareness for the people of Tanzania and American wounded warriors donate here. Donations will go toward digging more clean water wells for the people of an important U.S. friend and ally.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS forces now declared defeated in Iraq and Syria

Iraqi Prime Minister Hadir Al-Abadi declared military victory over the Islamic State in Iraq on November 21, just hours after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that Iranian-backed forces had driven the terror group out of Syria.


ISIS’s last Iraqi town of Rawa fell on November 17, and Abadi only awaits the clearing of a patch of desert along Iraq’s border with Syria to declare final victory. Iran posted pictures of one its most famous military leaders in a Syrian border town, indicating Iranian-backed forces had driven the terror group out of the country.

Combine, the two statements from the two leaders amount to long-awaited news: ISIS’s territory in Iraq and Syria is gone; the terror group has been defeated.

Iraqi, Kurdish, Syrian, Iranian, Afghani, Lebanese, and scores of other fighters gave their lives over more than three years since ISIS declared its caliphate, or sovereign territory, to be ruled under a brutal interpretation of Islam in the summer of 2014.

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
Image from VOA.

The rise and fall of ISIS

Initially, ISIS swept up large swaths of Iraq and neighboring Syria with a surprising military prowess and a potent brand of Sunni extremism, but on Tuesday those nations officially reclaimed their territory.

The US and 67 other nations from around the world formed a coalition to train, equip, and provide air support for the regional forces that confronted ISIS, mostly in Iraq. The US also supported Syrian forces fighting to defeat ISIS. Russia stepped in in late 2015 to provide air support for the Syrian government and allied Iranian militias, mainly backing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad against rebels threatening his rule, but also targeting some ISIS territory.

At its height, ISIS launched international terror attacks in Paris, London, Brussels, and across Asia. But its capability for carrying out such attacks has been hamstrung by the relentless assault on its home territory.

Read Also: ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

“If we can keep them declining and moving they have less time to sit and prepare,” for attacks, Elaine Duke, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, said of terror groups in London last month.

In the span of just three years, ISIS went from attracting thousands of foreign fighters to its anti-Western cause and plotting devastating terror attacks all over the world, to surrendering en masse in their own territory.

Threat from ISIS remains

But ISIS still controls territory in as many as a dozen other nations, as Libya, Afghanistan, the Philippines, and much of Africa battle their own ISIS cells or ISIS-linked terror groups.

The threat of ISIS remains far from over. Beside the many ISIS cells around the world — as well as ISIS’ continued online presence — fighters from the terror group spread around the region and have threatened to return.

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
ISIS militants loaded into buses who fled Lebanon in a peace deal with Hezbollah. (Screengrab from YouTube UNB News)

In the late days of the US-backed assault on Raqqa, ISIS’ Syrian capital, forces partnered with the US allowed thousands of ISIS fighters to flee the city with weapons and ammunition. The fighters, many of them foreign-born, swore to smuggle themselves across borders and commit terror attacks around the world.

Meanwhile, neither Iraq or Syria can count themselves as whole even with the territory reclaimed. In Iraq, the Kurdish minority in the country’s northeast voted to break away from Iraq. In Syria, the six-year long civil war continues with only a shaky vision of an end in sight.

Additionally, the preoccupation of the Syrian military with fighting its civil war in the western part of the country left a vacuum for Iranian forces to move in and fight ISIS in the east. It’s likely an ISIS-free Syria will feature more Iranian influence, which will unsettle Tehran’s regional rivals in Israel and Saudi Arabia.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Japan just lost an F-35; here’s what happens if Russia/China find it first

Japan’s military reported on April 9, 2019, that it lost contact with an F-35 stealth jet some 84 miles off the east coast of Aomori prefecture, Japan, in the Pacific and that the hunt was on for the pilot and the downed plane.

But if Russia or China — which both maintain a heavy naval presence in the region — find the plane first, the future of US airpower could be over before it started.

“Bottom line is that it would not be good” for the future of US airpower if Japan or the US don’t quickly recover the jet, retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula told Business Insider.


“There is no price too high in this world for China and Russia to pay to get Japan’s missing F-35, if they can. Big deal,” Tom Moore, an expert on Russia and weapons proliferation, tweeted.

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water

(Lockheed Martin)

The hunt for F-35 tech is on

Basically, if Russia or China, perhaps using their advanced and stealthy submarines to probe the ocean floor, first found the jet, they would gain a treasure trove of secrets about the most expensive weapons system in the history of the world.

The F-35 crash in the Pacific represents the first-ever opportunity for Russia and China to hunt for one of these planes in the wild because the jet has crashed only once before, and that time was on US soil.

Reverse engineering the technology could allow Russia and China to build their own versions of the jet, up to a point.

“The usefulness for Russia or China of recovering some or all of the wreckage would depend on how much damage the aircraft sustained upon hitting the water,” Justin Bronk, a combat-aviation expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.

“The general shape of the jet is well-known, as are its performance characteristics so not much to gain there but parts of radar and other sensors would be prime targets for recover and testing/even attempts at reverse engineering,” he added.

Russia specifically operates a fleet of shadowy submarines meant for very deep dives and research. The US and Japan have advanced maritime capabilities to search for the fallen jet but mostly rely on two of the US’s aging rescue and salvage ships and on large nuclear submarines, which may not be ideal for the rescue mission.

As of now, all anyone knows is where the F-35 was last seen flying. It could have continued on for miles, and currents may have dragged it miles farther. In short, the entire region has a chance at brushing up against some piece of it.

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water

What Russia and China stand to gain

Russia and China know what an F-35 looks like. There’s even some evidence China stole plans for the F-35. But even with an F-35 in its hands, the two countries still lack the advanced manufacturing know-how held in the US.

Just having some composite material used in the F-35’s jet engines wouldn’t necessarily allow China to create the materials at will. Just measuring the characteristics of the fuselage wouldn’t necessarily allow Russia to reliably manufacture airframes like the F-35’s on its own.

The F-35’s stealth and performance represent a tiny portion of its worth to the US military. The rest lies in the networking, sensor fusion, and secure communications.

There, according to Bronk, the jet stands a chance against prying eyes.

“Samples or the ‘fibre mat’ stealth coating would be sought after,” Bronk said. “But the jet’s all-important software and programming would likely be hard to reconstruct given not only the likely damage from the crash and salt water in Pacific but also the way that the jet’s sensitive systems are designed to be very hard to decipher and reverse engineer to make it more suitable for export.”

Despite the US’s best efforts, Russia or China salvaging any part of the F-35 represents a US security nightmare.

“Both China and Russia have excellent reconstruction/reverse engineering/copying skills, particularly the Chinese as they are masters at it,” Deptula said.

Bronk and Deptula both agreed that in Moscow, Washington, Beijing, and Tokyo, the race is now on to find the fallen F-35 to either protect or undermine its future as the lynchpin of US and allied airpower.

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

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This is the multi-million dollar dance of the ‘Yellow Shirts’

Flight deck operations on an aircraft carrier have often been compared to a ballet. Sailors at work on a flight deck wear an assortment of colored jerseys to specify their job. The yellow shirt is one of the most coveted.


After watching how the flight deck operates for a while, it is clear the yellow shirts are in charge of the big dance, and those jerseys are worn by aviation boatswain’s mates.

 

The aviation boatswain’s mates who work on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz are directly responsible for the handling and maneuvering of aircraft as well as the safety of all personnel during flight operations. Any mistake or lack of better judgment can cause damage to equipment or injury to personnel on the flight deck.

 

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
USMC photo by Sgt. Christopher Q. Stone.

 

“At first being a yellow shirt was scary, but now that I have some confidence, I would say there is a sense of pride,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Melanie Cluck, an aviation boatswain’s mate. “On the flight deck, we are not only responsible for directing aircraft, but also for directing people. Normally, anyone who needs guidance on the flight deck looks for a yellow shirt. Safety of all the personnel on deck is a big part of our job as well. So we don’t only need to know our job, but everyone else’s as well.”

Blue Shirts 

Before donning the sought-after yellow jersey, aviation boatswain’s mates wear blue jerseys to indicate that they are in a more junior status. These sailors are normally newer airmen who have yet to acquire all of the necessary qualifications. Their main responsibilities during flight operations include chocking and chaining, running elevators, and tractor operation.

“Being a blue shirt is hard work, but it makes you tough,” said Seaman Michael Lothrop. “It’s hot up there right now, and we work long days, but you have to be on alert at all times and ready to get the job done whenever you are needed.”

 

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ian Kinkead

 

Blue shirts are normally covered in grease and always carrying something heavy, whether it be a chain, tractor bar, or chock. They play a big part in the maneuvering of aircraft on the flight deck because they do most of the hands-on work. During their time wearing blue, they learn the ins and outs of properly directing aircraft, which helps build the foundation of a high-performance yellow shirt.

The job requires attention to detail and an extreme amount of knowledge to be performed well. The training and the number of hours a sailor needs to put in to become a yellow shirt is impressive.

“There are two main qualifications you get as a blue shirt, but from there, it’s all about if your chain of command sees you have the initiative to take on being a yellow shirt,” Cluck said.

Earning the Yellow Shirt

 

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Benjamin Crossley

Sailors must qualify as flight deck observers and learn directing and handling in addition to the qualifications all sailors are required to attain when they report to Nimitz. The requirements take roughly 12 weeks to complete. Sailors then take a written and oral test administered by the flight deck leading petty officer, assistant LPO, and any other yellow-shirt-qualified chief petty officers or first class petty officers who decide to attend.

Once sailors earn the right to wear the yellow jersey on the flight deck, they enter an apprenticeship period called “under inspection.” This means they need an experienced yellow shirt to help them along the way toward becoming an expert at their new job on the flight deck.

UI yellow shirts are always accompanied by a seasoned mentor who is observing every signal and decision they make.

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Fenaroli

“It’s a case-by-case basis on how long the UI process takes,” Cluck said. “The process is just there to make sure you fully understand what you are doing on the flight deck. It’s extensive work to say the least, but it helps you build character. The goal of the process is just to build you up to be the great yellow shirt you are supposed to be.”

Yellow shirts have to communicate through hand signals with pilots and other personnel working on the flight deck to safely move aircraft onto the catapults and off of the landing area.

“You have to be able to really get control of your aircraft and understand the pilot,” Cluck said. “It’s a gut feeling that you develop during your training. If you feel you need to slow the aircraft down, you can, and you start to learn when exactly to turn it. We have hundreds of hand signals we can use to take control of the aircraft on deck. The people in the pilot seats are officers, so you have to be professional, and every motion you make has to be crisp and precise to prevent accidents.”

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Sheldon Rowley

The working environment of a yellow shirt is unlike anywhere else on the ship. The yellow shirt locker, or crew area, is on Nimitz’ flight deck. The tight-knit group of men and women spends their time out of the scorching heat joking, laughing, and preparing to launch multi-million dollar aircraft into the sky. It is here where the instructors of the world’s most dangerous ballet reside. It is here where the yellow shirts dwell, mentally preparing themselves to launch aircraft as their ship sits at the tip of the spear.

Articles

8 resume-writing tips for veterans

I recently spoke with a recruiter from my current company and he mentioned the wide gap in quality of resumes he received from veteran applicants.


Here are eight tips to bolster your transition success. You do not need to take it as gospel, but these tips work:

1) Do not lie, omit, or embellish.

I once read honesty is being truthful with others while integrity is being truthful with yourself. Integrity and honesty are paramount in a resume. Do not say you were the Battalion Operations Officer when you were only the Assistant. The difference is large and will come out in the interview.

Do not omit certain military additional duties either. Unit Movement Officer, for example, is a powerful resume bullet, especially if you’re applying for positions in logistics, supply chain, or purchasing.

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
DOD Photo by Cpl. Shawn Valosin

2) Do not de-militarize your resume.

We cannot bridge the military-civilian divide if we diminish what we’ve done during service. People going from Wall Street to manufacturing do not change their previous official positions on a resume, so you should not either.

You were not a “Mid-level Logistics Coordinator” — I “logistics coordinate” every time I do a DITY move. Sheesh. You were a “Battalion Logistics Officer (S-4),” responsible for millions dollars worth of equipment, travel funding, and other logistics needs for a high operational tempo military unit of 500-800 people.

Put quantifiable performance measures (e.g. coordinated redeployment of 800 people and associated equipment without loss; received a commendation for the exceptional performance of my team) and any recruiter will see the worthiness of your work. The interviewer will ask pointed questions so you can showcase your talents and they will learn more about the military rank structure and terminology.

3) Do showcase your talents.

If you briefed the Under Secretary of the Army or a General Officer, put that down. Your yearly efficiency reports are replete with this information. Try this format: Cause (redeployment), Action (coordinated), Effect (no loss), Reward (commendation).

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
DoD photo by John Snyder

4) Do review your resume and have someone else review it.

Bad grammar, misspelled words, or omitted words are resume killers. Use spell check on the computer, then print it out and go to town with a red-ink pen. This is the type of stuff a mentor is more than willing to do for you.

5) Do put your awards down, especially valor awards or awards for long-term meritorious service.

Simply put: Bronze Star with Valor device = Yes

MacArthur Leadership Award = Yes

Army Service Ribbon = No.

Items like a Physical Fitness Award or the Mechanics Badge should be left off unless they are relevant to the job you are seeking.

6) Do not list specific military skills, unless you’re applying for certain contracting, federal, or law enforcement jobs.

Simply put, again: CDL or foreign language proficiency = Yes

HMMWV training or marksmanship badges = No.

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
Army photo by Sgt. Steve Peterson

7) Do list your references in this way: one superior, one peer, and one subordinate.

Imagine the power of a corporate recruiter finding that your Battalion Commander, the captain you shared a hallway with, and one of your NCOs all speak highly of you.

The combination of their views can speak wonders. Let it work for you. It shows you are a good employee, a team player, and a leader all at once. If you can only list two, list the superior and the subordinate.

8) Do make your resume a living document.

Customize it as needed for various jobs, and highlight different points accordingly. “Leadership in a high-stress environment” creates a stable framework to delve deeper into what you have accomplished. Focus on tangible, specific, quantifiable, and consistent results.

Do not think for a second that your military service will not get you the job you want. Leadership under high-stress situations comes in many forms, in training and in combat. Sell yourself. Win.

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump signs executive order invoking Defense Production Act

On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed an executive order to address the national shortages of vital resources to combat the novel coronavirus or COVID-19. Within this executive order, he invoked rights under the Defense Production Act of 1950. So, what is it?


The Defense Production Act was enacted on Sept. 8, 1950, by President Harry Truman, during the beginning of the Korean War. The premise of it was to create a way for the president to gain a measure of control within the civilian economy in the name of defending the nation. This was largely due to concerns about equipment and supplies during the Korean war. This act gave the president the ability to enforce things in the name of national security.
Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water

The act was created during the Korean War, mainly due to the lessons of World War II. It was during WWII that we saw a massive mobilization of the country to support the war efforts. This act ensured that President Truman could do the same without issue.

The act gives the president the broad authority to mandate that industries increase production of vital resources. It also allows the control of prices and wages. Other authorities included in the act involve the ability to settle labor disputes, real estate credit, and the ability to control contracts given to private organizations. When this act is invoked, the administration is required to submit an annual report to Congress.

With COVID-19 causing resource scarcity amid the pandemic, it was expected that President Trump would take this action.

The Center for Disease Control has been continually encouraging people to practice social distancing to prevent widespread critical cases. Without these measures, the results would be catastrophic, as we are seeing with the deaths mounting daily in Italy. One week ago, on March 12, 2020, the positive cases of COVID-19 were 1,663 for the United States.

It’s now over 10,000 cases with every U.S. state reporting incidents.

As the number of cases of COVID-19 continues to rise, concern has been increasing within the medical community. This is because, as a nation, we do not currently have the equipment to sustain critical patients nor the resources to treat them. The powers within this act will allow the president to swiftly order the production of more personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and other vital resources to combat COVID-19.

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water

It is anticipated that President Trump will quickly utilize the powers within the Defense Production Act to obtain “health and medical resources needed to respond to the spread of COVID-19,” according to his executive order. He utilized this act once before in 2017 to provide specific technology within the space industrial base.

The Defense Production Act has been amended a number of times over the years. It now contains language that allows control in areas related to homeland security or emergency relief efforts. Many presidents have utilized this act throughout the last seventy years during times of need for increased defense capabilities or for emergency response.

With this act, companies are absolutely required to prioritize contracts from the government and accept them, all in the name of national security or emergency.
MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how the military gets ready to deploy anywhere in the world in 18 hours

Typically, troops get their orders to deploy many months in advance. In times of stability, you’re looking at twelve months gone and then twelve months at home. Everyone in the unit has ample time to get their ducks in a row before heading off to war.

But when sh*t hits the fan, the United States Armed Forces can gear up entire brigade-sized elements of troops and put boots on the ground in just under eighteen hours.

Now, getting troops ready to go isn’t the hard part — troops usually keep a rucksack packed and a rifle on standby in the arms room. It’s the logistical nightmare that comes with transporting all of the required gear that makes this feat truly impressive.


Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water

At any moment, the Currahee are ready to drop in like it was D-Day all over again.

(U.S. Army photo by Major Kamil Sztalkoper)

In the Army, brigades that are officially ready to deploy are called Division Ready Brigades. In the Marine Corps, they’re called Marine Expeditionary Units. To be certified as one of these units, there are several requirements, including pre-deployment training, gear staging, and mountains of paperwork.

The 506th Regimental Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, KY, earned “reactionary force” status in 2007 and, impressively, has maintained it ever since.

“The purpose of the division ready brigade is to quickly move Soldiers and equipment to support emergency situations requiring DoD support,” said Col. Thomas Vail, the then-506th RCT commander told the Fort Campbell Courier. “We are well prepared for this task in terms of leadership, Soldier discipline, and staff expertise. The 506th RCT has conducted rehearsals and back briefs just like any combat mission tasked to the brigade.”

They earned this by staging a mock deployment to get everyone, including their gear and vehicles, ready to go to Fort Irwin’s National Training Center. All vehicles needed to be staged, all artillery guns needed to be prepped, and all connexes had to be packed with everything they’d need within 72 hours of landing.

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water

These Marines are always on call… Ready to be tagged in.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman)

To remain ready, some units have pre-staged gear that they never touch. As you can imagine, having and stashing gear only to be used for rapid deployment requires cash — which, unfortunately, isn’t in excess for many units.

The Marines, however, have always been known for doing more with less. In this case, they do this by keeping their Marines on a fifteen month cycle: they spend nine months training stateside and six months aboard a Navy vessel offshore.

They strategically place their Marines on the Naval vessels nearest to where they expect to be fighting and stay ready to hop onto landing crafts at any moment. The Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit take this one step further by remaining permanently forward-deployed out of Okinawa.

Maj. Jacob R. Godby, the 31st MEU assistant operations officer, said,

“The size of our AO requires us to train for a wide variety of missions which requires an extensive range of equipment and the best trained Marines anywhere. In Okinawa, we have the resources and training grounds that allow us to train for almost any mission we could be tasked with. MEUEX allows us to begin putting the pieces together as we move closer to embarking for our next patrol.”

It’s a logistical headache, but it’s a challenge that only the most intense units have been able to successfully pull off. If there’s crisis in need of the U.S. Armed Forces, these guys can be there within the day, letting other troops bring in the rest of the gear after them to establish a more permanent presence.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics

Whether she’d posted a personal-best time or suffered a collision on the track, Emily Sweeney would flash her trademark smile to fans, media, or anyone who watched her compete. Even when sliding during frigid winter storms in challenging conditions, the New York National Guard Soldier kept smiling.


But for six months during the winter and spring of 2014, that bright-eyed grin couldn’t hide bitter disappointment.

A charismatic Olympic hopeful, Sweeney had entered the 2013 World Cup season as a favorite to make the 2014 Winter Games. When Sweeney lost the final spot on the 2014 U.S. Luge Team, missing the Olympics for the second time, she shut herself off from the sport to which she had dedicated most of her life.

“It’s something that I’ve wanted for so long and it’s something that’s very tangible for me,” said Sweeney, who in December, finally qualified to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

For Sweeney, the road to PyeongChang could be described as anything but easy.

Tough matchup hits close to home

Photos and murals of past Olympians adorn the walls of the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center. Medals of previous Olympic greats in bobsled, figure skating, and luge sit encased in the facility’s trophy room.

Some former Olympic competitors still work at the facility, including former silver medalist Gordy Sheer, Team USA’s director of marketing and sponsorship. Sweeney, like other Olympic hopefuls, spent much of her youth here.

As a seven year old, Emily idolized her older sister, Megan, who competed in the luge program at the junior levels. She later joined the USA Luge program herself, after participating in a “slider search” in Rhode Island at age 10. Her sister remained a hero to her.

“I wouldn’t be here or be the person I am today without her,” Emily said. “I was really pushed by Megan from early on because I saw the potential of what I could be through her and that was really inspiring to me.”

After she turned 16, Sweeney showcased tremendous speed on luge tracks across the globe. And she demonstrated enormous potential in the sport in her first year competing.

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
Sgt. Emily Sweeney (left) is congratulated by her sister, Megan, after qualifying for the 2018 Winter Games in luge women’s singles Dec. 16 at Lake Placid, New York. Emily missed making the 2010 Games in Vancouver after losing to Megan in a race off. Emily Sweeney makes her Olympic debut next month in PyeongChang, South Korea. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jennily Leon)

During the 2009 World Cup season, Sweeney began competing at a higher level. She built her luge resume by nabbing Norton Junior World Champion honors and earning bronze medals at the Junior World Cup in Winterberg, Germany and a gold medal at Park City, Utah.

And during the 2009 season, Emily began to beat her older sister and some of her national team peers during practice runs and some competitions. During one World Cup competition in Park City, Utah, she called her parents with concerns about competing with her sister and hero.

“She was very upset,” said Sweeney’s mother, Sue. “She was worried that she was going to beat Megan in the race and it would be the end of Megan’s (Olympic bid).”

Dreams of the Olympics, of course, had always been on her sister’s mind, and her own as well.

“I’ve always wanted that moment of walking in on opening ceremonies,” said Sweeney. “That is the epitome of what I want … to walk in with my whole team and have ‘USA’ on our backs.”

Later that year, during the final World Cup competition in Lillehammer, the final two spots for the 2010 Olympic team came down to two competitors. Both wore the name “Sweeney” on their uniforms.

Also Read: This Army athlete was awarded the same Olympic silver medal twice

Jarred by the prospect of beating her idol, the sisters made a pact to leave everything on the floor on their next competition.

Emily went on to lose to her sister in a race off at the Olympiacenter in Norway, falling by two tenths of a second. Due to a medical waiver, another team member took the final spot for the 2010 Vancouver team, while Emily remained on stand-by as an Olympic alternate. Emily still traveled to British Columbia to cheer on her sister from the stands.

“Going to the Olympics and watching her was difficult,” Emily said. “I’m glad I went, I’m glad I supported her. I wouldn’t have changed that for the world. But it was tough standing on the other side of the track watching my dream happen.”

After she missed a shot at Vancouver, Emily would make a life decision that would set the foundation for life after luge.

An athlete and a soldier

Jack Sweeney, Emily’s grandfather, had long been an inspiration in Emily’s life. While she would prepare meals for him, he’d relay stories to her about his days in the Navy. Emily said her grandfather instilled in her a sense of pride for her country and also inspired her to join the Army National Guard.

Joining the military sparked a change in Emily. She often took a leadership role during basic combat trainng at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. She did the same during her advanced individual training there, where she learned to be a military policeman. She even graduated with honors from the Army’s military police school.

Once in the Army, Emily also opted to join the World Class Athlete Program.

“I thought it was a great avenue of opportunity,” Emily said of her decision to join the Army. “I knew I wanted to continue being an athlete, but I didn’t want to only be an athlete. I wanted something else to pursue beyond my athletic career.”

After joining the Guard, Emily became more of a leader for USA Luge as well, not only competing for the program, but also helping the program identify and recruit talented youth to the sport during talent searches.

Sochi slips away

Around Thanksgiving 2013, Sweeney knew it. Her parents, as they checked at the World Cup standings online also knew: Emily would not be competing at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
Sgt. Emily Sweeney waves to the crowd at the Lake Placid Olympic Center Dec. 16. Sweeney qualified for her first Olympics Dec. 14 and will join fellow Army World Class Athletes Taylor Morris and Matt Mortensen in PyeongChang, South Korea. (U.S. Army photo by Joe Lacdan)

A season that began with promise, instead led to complications with her sled, dealing with minor injuries and slower finish times on the World Cup circuit.

After her final races had finished for 2013, Sweeney sat in her hotel room. Her boyfriend, Italian luge team member Dominik Fischnaller, brought her a cup of her favorite ice cream.

And then for six months, Sweeney walked away from the sport to which she had dedicated a great chunk of her childhood. Instead of weight training and spending hours on the track, Sweeney removed herself from any luge or exercise activities. Instead, she retreated to her home in Lake Placid and contemplated her future in the sport.

“I went from being an Olympic hopeful, training at 100 percent,” Emily said, “to just stopping everything.

“I was really at a point where I said, ‘What’s the point?’ What’s the point of doing this if I’m not getting the results I’m wanting?’ It took a while, I closed myself off.”

She began working as a waitress and hostess at local restaurants. And while she’d visit her ailing grandfather in neighboring Saranac Lake, she mostly cut herself off from family and dealt with struggles the best way she knew: internally.

“We lost her for a while,” Sue said. “It was tough. She didn’t even watch the (2014 Winter) Games.”

“Emily had to refine her sliding and her motivation,” Megan said. “It took her a long time. But I think that’s normal when you have a dream and become so disappointed … It was very, very tough because she knows she’s good.”

The Army gets her rolling

In May 2014, Emily remained withdrawn from the luge community. It would be just the wakeup call she needed to get back on track with her sport.

She received orders to attend Warrior Leader Course (now the Basic Leader Course) that spring at Fort Dix, New Jersey. During the month-long course, she took tests on her leadership skills, land navigation and various drills to prepare to become a noncommissioned officer .

After giving up her strict luge-related training routine and regular exercising, Emily had lost muscle mass. She’d dropped 20 pounds from her 5-foot-5-inch frame. As a result, for the first time since enlisting in the Guard, she failed to score a 300 on her Army Physical Fitness Test.

“(WLC) kind of pulled me out,” said Sweeney. “It gave me a schedule that I had to adhere to again. I kind of got back into the military mode and then after that I got back into my training.”

Shortly after graduating WLC, Sweeney resumed luge-related activities. She began lifting weights again, and changed her routine, and began working out at JEKL gym in Plainville, Connecticut. There Sweeney took part in grueling gymnastics-based training to strengthen her core muscles using various gymnastics apparatus pieces including rings, the high bar and parallel bars.

“It definitely put me in my place pretty quickly,” Sweeney said.

The old Emily had returned, away from the luge track too. She began reconnecting with friends. She spoke with family members more often.

And that familiar smile came back.

“Everybody always kids her about her smile — she always has a big smile on her face,” said her mother, Sue. “But it’s true — it’s part of who she is. Once you start to see her smile coming back, you know she’s starting to feel much more like herself.”

In December 2015, during World Cup competition on their home track in Lake Placid, Sweeney and teammates Erin Hamlin and Summer Britcher swept the field. It marked the first time the U.S. women knocked out the dominant German team.

“We’re more of a force to be reckoned with now,” Sweeney said.

During a fall, Sweeney suffered injury to her wrist that required surgery in 2016, proving to be a minor setback. But she bounced back to stellar marks in 2017.

“The (wrist) injury really didn’t worry me,” USA Luge coach Bill Tavares said. “For her it was all mental. When I knew that she was mentally strong coming into this year then there was no worry on my part.”

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
Sgt. Emily Sweeney receives congratulations after competing in a sprint run race Dec. 16 at the Lake Placid Olympic Center. Sweeney qualified for her first Olympics after not making the 2010 and 2014 teams. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jennily Leon)

Hitting her stride

The 4,242-foot luge course in Winterberg, Germany presents a daunting challenge to competitive lugers. Those who accept its challenge must enter the course’s labyrinth in near-perfect form. In November, Sweeney and her USA teammates traveled to Winterberg to face the mighty German team that built an Olympic juggernaut on this course.

At the track’s midpoint, a turn drops competitors into the labyrinth where sled speeds multiply.

After placing second earlier in the World Cup competition at on this track, mishaps on one of her runs sent Sweeney tumbling out of contention and she thought she missed her chance to clinch an Olympic berth.

But then she bounced back later that day to take her first World Cup gold in the sprint race, upsetting 2014 Olympic champion, Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger, on her home course. Instead, her shot at an Olympic berth would have to wait.

Also Read: These 5 military drills would be amazing Olympic events

When dealing with the difficult highs and lows of competing against the best in the world, she turned to Grandpa Sweeney. Emily said her grandfather helped keep her grounded and objective while remaining committed to her family and country.

“He’s probably a big part of her personality,” Sue said. “He’s always been one of her best friends. And she’s looked to him for advice.”

As Sweeney begins final preparations for the Winter Games, she will do so with a heavy heart. Jack Sweeney passed away at age 88 on Jan. 3. Emily said her grandfather helped keep her grounded and objective while remaining committed to her family and country.

Olympian at last

Sweeney learned that she had reached the pinnacle of her career unceremoniously — not by an announcement on the track, or from posting a career-best time — but in a text.

Dec. 14, after having dinner with her parents and returning to the Lake Placid training facility, Sweeney received a message from her mother, Sue.

“See you in PyeongChang,” the text read.

Sweeney’s mother had been tracking the Nation’s Cup live stream on her phone. The Nation’s Cup was a pre-qualifying event for the World Cup later that week. Had Raychel Germaine qualified for the World Cup, she could have potentially knocked Emily out of Olympic competition. But she didn’t, and the final Olympic women’s luge slot went to Emily.

 

(The U.S. Army | YouTube)

“It was just a peaceful moment,” Sweeney said, “I was stunned.”

She received congratulations from Fischnaller, her boyfriend of eight years. Then came a flood of 30 messages and well wishes from family, friends and teammates.

“I’m really happy for her,” teammate Summer Britcher said. “I know how hard she works. I’m very happy that she’s met this goal and I’m really excited to compete alongside her in (32) days.”

Sweeney will join 2014 Bronze medalist Hamlin and Britcher on the USA roster in PyeongChang in February. The impact of reaching her dream did not hit her until after finishing World Cup competition in the women’s sprint race Dec. 16, Sue Sweeney said.

A heavy snow blanketed Lake Placid’s Mount Van Hoevenberg Dec. 16, and athletes faced a wind chill so bitter that exposed fingers and toes could feel like frozen blocks of ice. During the women’s sprint race, Sweeney posted an efficient run in these slick conditions, but a mishap at turn seven hurt her final time, eventually knocking her out of sprint qualification. Unfazed, she posted a better time in her second run.

The weight of realizing her Olympic dream began to creep in. Still clad in her helmet and orange and blue leotard, Sweeney waved to her 80 supporters, family and friends. And once more she flashed her wide grin.

“Emily’s missed two Olympic teams very narrowly,” Sheer said. “In 2014 … that was a real tough one for her. It takes a certain type of person to be able to bounce back from something like that and to be able to keep fighting and I give her all the credit in the world.”

Then after 15 minutes of speaking with local and national media members, Sweeney locked arms with her older sister, rosy-cheeked from the stinging wind chill. Standing amid swirling snowflakes, Megan whispered into her younger sister’s ear:

“I’m so proud of you,” Megan said.

Next stop: South Korea

When Emily dons the USA colors at PyeongChang next month, she knows he will be representing more than herself. She will also represent WCAP, the National Guard and the U.S. Army. Sweeney, who currently ranks eighth in the International Luge Federation women’s singles, will join fellow WCAP athletes Matt Mortensen in men’s doubles and singles competitor Taylor Morris.

At 24, the Olympics will wrap Sweeney’s fourteenth year in the sport and she plans to bring home a medal for her team.

“Going to the Olympics isn’t enough for me,” Sweeney said “I want to go to the Olympics and do something. So it’s not over — the work isn’t over.”

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Army Soldier reflects on Black History Month: ‘Black history is American history’

CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo — On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, U.S. Army Reserve Capt. Cassian Nuñez delivered a speech to a small room of Soldiers at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, in honor of the U.S. civil rights leader. The attending group held ranks ranging from junior enlisted all the way colonel.

During his speech, Nuñez told the story of a lesser-known man named Walter Reuther. Reuther was white, and a powerful civil rights ally who, among many other feats, helped organize the March on Washington and stood by King as he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.

He wanted the Soldiers listening to remember that progress for African American rights was and is still accomplished by working together.

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water

Long before Nuñez found himself deployed to support a NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo and giving this speech, he was spending time at the beach or the mall in southern California, where he grew up. He was raised in Rancho Cucamonga, a foothill suburb of Los Angeles, and attended Los Osos High School. It was here that Nuñez became involved in several extracurriculars, including student government, Model United Nations and Future Business Leaders of America.

The FBLA helped spark his passion for financial literacy and later motivated him to become a budget program analyst with the 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support) based out of Atlanta, Georgia.

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water

“A majority of my friends were in the FBLA,” said Nuñez. “We talked about the stock market all the time. From 13 years old to now, I was surrounded by people who non-stop talked about finance.”

Racial issues and economic hardship often compound each other and overlap. When Nuñez moved to Savannah, Georgia, to attend college, he observed this firsthand. Compared to his hometown, which he described as racially diverse and generally inclusive, Savannah’s racial atmosphere was totally different.

“In California, you have disparities based on income,” said Nuñez. “Rich people, regardless of their race, live in one area and poor people live in another area. But in Savannah, I saw poor white people live over here and poor Black people live over there. That was very different to see people who don’t have anything couldn’t even live together.”

At a young age, it was shocking for him to see this segregation, and at times, he was the target of racist behavior. But as he got older, Nuñez came to accept that people are shaped by their environments.

His younger sisters’ school textbooks in Georgia, for example, look completely different than the textbooks he used in California. He believes many racial and financial issues that persist in the U.S. can be tied to differences in K-12 education curriculum across the country.

“It’s just a totally different education campaign,” said Nuñez. “So instead of victimizing myself, I took it as an opportunity to educate people. In the K-12 system, we’re not taught what money is or how to use it properly. You have very smart people who can perform brain surgery but can’t balance their checkbook. Why is that?”

One way Nuñez helps educate others is by passing on his knowledge of financial responsibility to friends, family and his fellow Soldiers. His biggest inspiration is Robert Kiyasaki, an American businessman and author.

On a previous 2018 deployment to Kuwait, Nuñez would often swap investing and real estate advice with his boss and read Kiyosaki’s financial philosophies. That consistent exchange of ideas and strong mentorship, followed by his ability to use that information after deployment, has helped Nuñez build a profitable real estate business.

“I was able to do a lot more because of the decisions I made in those nine months,” said Nuñez. “That’s one of the things I’m most proud of. Not just the ability to take in information, but to act on it and enjoy the fruits of that labor.”

The mentorship Nuñez has received from his senior leaders is something he encourages all Soldiers to seek out during their military careers. As we celebrate Black History Month, coming together to talk about life experiences is one way the Army can continue working toward a diverse, inclusive environment that’s representative of the Soldiers who serve in it.

“While people can’t do a potluck or a play to celebrate because of COVID-19,” said Nuñez, “they can reflect on the fact that Black history is really American history.”

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This guy’s stupid mistake won us the American Revolution

According to legend, a few actually reputable sources, the entire course of the American Revolution could have been different if one German colonel had just been way better at prioritizing (and for those of you who may be a little rusty on your American Revolution skillz, a number of German soldiers fought for Britain during the war, thus the reason for a German colonel being at the center of this tale).


Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
Painting: Battle of Trenton by Charles McBarron

The story goes that George Washington planned to cross the Delaware River under the cloak of night to sneak attack 1,500 German troops in the very early hours of December 26, 1776. The Germans had way more soldiers, so  Washington’s only advantage would be the element of surprise.

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
Painting: George Washington Crossing The Delaware by Emmanuel Leutze

However, the thing about crossing an icy river in the dark in the middle of winter is that it takes forever, and Washington’s men were nowhere near where they thought they’d be by morning. They thus had to march towards the Germans in daylight. One local loyalist saw them coming, and frantically ran towards the German camp to warn Colonel Johann Rall.

Rumor has it that Rall was in the middle of a card game and refused to stop playing to listen to the English-speaking loyalist. The loyalist left him a note written in English that said something to the effect of “YOU’RE ABOUT TO BE ATTACKED, BRO,” but Rall was apparently too lazy to go find a translator to read it to him. Washington attacked, won the pivotal Battle of Trenton, and the rest is history.

Meanwhile, Rall was killed that day, and its said that the unread note was found in his pocket. So let this be a lesson to us all: always read early morning messages from frantic English-speaking loyalists.

Also at HistoryBuff.com:

Ancient Romans Tried to Trap Tigers … with Mirrors?

We Need to Talk About the Bonkers Toys in this 1955 Christmas Catalog

How the Hero of Hanukkah Influenced Generations of Christian Warfare

Quiz: How Well Do You Know the French Revolution?

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The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)


Lt. Col. Allison Black, commander of the 319th Special Operations Squadron, became the first woman in her special ops navigator field. Now younger generations of airmen can take the same path while embarking on their own journey in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force video // Jimmy D. Shea)

Under the cover of night, then-1st Lt. Allison Black left her tent in Uzbekistan to walk to a preflight brief. Hours later, she’d be making history.

On this November night in 2001, the United States was hoping to bring to justice those responsible for the attacks two months earlier in New York City and Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon.

Flying over the skies of Afghanistan, Black, who is now a lieutenant colonel and the commander of the 319th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida, was the navigator on the AC-130H Spectre. As the navigator, she was charged with several duties, one of which was to be the single voice communicating from the aircraft to troops on the ground.

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
AC-130U Gunship(U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock)

As the gunship fired everything it had upon the Taliban, expending 400 40 mm rounds and 100 105 mm rounds, the Northern Alliance leader, Gen. Abdurrashid Dostum (often referred in the media and around camp fires as “Dostum the Taliban killer”) heard Black’s voice communicating to the joint terminal attack controller on the ground to better understand where rounds need to be fired.

“He heard my voice and asked the special ops guys ‘Is that a woman?’ and they said ‘Yeah, it is,'” Black recalled. “He couldn’t believe it. So he’s laughing and says, ‘America is so determined, they’ve brought their women to kill Taliban.’ He calls the guys we’re shooting and says ‘You guys need to surrender now. American women are killing you … you need to surrender now.'”

The morning after that first mission, those remaining Taliban members surrendered.

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
Lt. Col. Allison Black, commander, 319th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida. (Photo by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

“My first combat mission began the collapse of Taliban in the north,” said Black, who became the first female to be awarded the Air Force Combat Action Medal.

This operation would have looked different in 1992.

Challenge accepted

When Black joined the Air Force in 1992, females weren’t allowed to fly combat missions. That didn’t change until 1993, as the Air Force opened all but less than 1 percent of career fields to women, with the remainder scheduled to open up by early 2016.

At just over 5 feet tall, the Long Island, New York, native seeks and embraces challenges and doesn’t play for second place — a mindset that led her to the Air Force.

“The Air Force seemed to be the hardest service to get into. That got my attention,” Black said. Arriving at basic military training as an enlisted Airman, she was guaranteed a job in the medical career field. But her plans changed when a survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist briefed Black’s flight on his career field and challenged the group of trainees to join SERE.

“I didn’t know how to chop down a tree, didn’t know how to kill a rabbit, didn’t know how to set a snare, but I was willing,” Black said. “It sounded challenging.”

After more than four years as a SERE instructor, including time as an arctic survival instructor, Black wanted another challenge.

Upon finishing her degree, Black earned a commission as a second lieutenant and headed off to become a navigator — a career field available on several airframes, including bombers and fighters.

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
U.S. Air Force pilot and co-pilot from the 73rd Special Operations Squadron (Photo by: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cory D. Payne)

There was just one airframe Black wanted: the gunship — specifically, the AC-130H gunship — so she could be on the main flight deck with the pilot, right in the thick of things.

But becoming an Airman, a SERE specialist, an officer and a navigator wasn’t enough — she wanted to join the elite Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC).

“It was exciting. It’s special operations command. You’re in a small force, asked to do tough missions — missions that operate in the gray,” Black said.

Black didn’t realize it at the time, but when she arrived at the 16th Special Operations Squadron, then stationed at Hurlburt Field, she became the first female navigator in that unit and on the AC-130H.

“The thought of being the first was the furthest thing on my mind,” she said. “At that time, I was so focused on being really good at my job and not letting any naysayers get in my way.”

Not only was the milestone the furthest thing from her mind, but it was also something she didn’t want to be on anyone else’s mind either.

“I wasn’t trying to change anyone’s opinion on whether I should or shouldn’t be in a job,” Black said. “I wanted to be an asset. I wanted to be sought after. I wanted to be really good at what I did. I didn’t want to come in second; I wanted to be first.”

Each person defines success differently.

Black doesn’t define success by the medals on her chest or the oak sleeves on her shoulders.

“By not trying to make a statement, I think I found success. I didn’t have an agenda. I didn’t join the Air Force, I didn’t join SERE, and I didn’t join AFSOC to prove that women can do a job,” Black said. “I joined all those things because of the challenge and the career field and the sexy mission. And I just happen to be a woman doing it. And, fortunately, because of my successes, it brought more visibility to ‘Hey, it doesn’t matter if it’s a guy or a girl.'”

Paying it forward

“It wasn’t until years later … when I’d have young female or male Airmen tell me that my story was inspiring, that hearing what I was able to do in AFSOC gave them the confidence to raise their hands and go forward. It was humbling,” Black said.

Black remembers vividly a point in her career where it was clear that she needed to pay it forward.

After a speech to members from base, a female senior airman approached her and referenced the part of the presentation when Black said it has been possible to mother children while also being an Airman. The senior airman was about to get out of the Air Force because she didn’t have anyone telling her the same thing.

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
AC-130U Gunship(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

“She’s a senior master sergeant now, and we still keep in contact,” Black said.

Seeing these tangible results from telling her story, Black began to reach out even more.

“It’s second and third order effect that just at the virtue of me doing my job, it highlighted that women can succeed. It highlighted the opportunity for women: ‘Hey you’re going to be accepted. They’re going to respect what you bring to the fight,'” Black said.

When she arrived at AFSOC, she didn’t have a cadre of female navigators to offer her mentorship. What she did have were those she refers to as her everything: her husband, Ryan, who was also a SERE instructor, and a supply of male mentors who were all willing to help a teammate grow, regardless of which bathroom stall they use.

“All of the gentlemen I’ve worked for have equipped me with the skills to be a good leader. They gave me that opportunity to shine and to step up,” she said. “You’re judged on game day. You can practice every day of the week, but it’s what you do on Sunday that counts. And I don’t believe in ‘Everyone gets a trophy.”

A new generation

When Black joined the Air Force in 1992, her options looked a lot different than they do for female Airmen today. However, because of her success and the success of many others like her, there are more options in the Air Force for females than in any other service.

This success gave people like 1st Lt. Margaret Courtney many options and paths to walk — or even fly.

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
1st Lt. Margaret Courtney (Photo by: Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

Just over two years ago, Courtney had the world on a string, with options in droves. The Baylor University graduate, who majored in neuroscience, managed to pass the Law School Admission Test while working at a mental health institution helping to rehabilitate individuals with drug dependencies. Her potential career paths were in no way limited.

But she wanted more. She wanted a bigger challenge even than graduating with a neuroscience degree and going to law school.

After talking to recruiters from three different branches of the military, and after pinging several friends and family members, Courtney noticed a trend.

“It’s funny — everyone who wasn’t in the Air Force recommended the Air Force,” Courtney said.

After commissioning as an officer and going through training to become a navigator, Courtney faced a decision — what airframe did she want to work on for the remainder of her Air Force career?

“I remember going through (navigator) training, and there are several airframes that require (combat systems officers). You’re going through those aircraft and imagining your life three to 10 years down the road,” Courtney said. “How different would my life look if I joined this community or that community?”

The number of opportunities the Air Force has given Courtney caught her off guard.

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

“It’s not too bad to be in your young 20’s and have basically limitless possibilities laid out in front of you. I’m like ‘Goodness gracious, let me look into it all,'” Courtney said. “I feel like I’m hitting this whole job and career at the sweet spot. I’ve had plenty of people ahead of me pave the way.”

Knowing what’s ahead for Courtney, Black is excited, and almost proud of the options female Airmen now have.

“It’s exciting — hearing about Lieutenant Courtney,” Black said. “I can’t help but to reflect on when I was a lieutenant and how excited I was to come to the mission, then, after 9/11, to go and fight. I’m excited for her, because I know she’s going to find the reward.”

Black doesn’t just see the past and the present, but the future keeps her motivation high, knowing the possibilities now out there for females in the Air Force.

“The success is that we don’t hear about it because they’re blended in,” said Black said of current female aircrew members. “They’re just people doing great things – male and female. That’s success.”

When Black arrived at Hurlburt in 2000, she was wide-eyed and ready to take on the world. She saw a fork in the road and committed to a direction, not knowing the path. Now that she’s traveled that path, she feels she has a responsibility to people like Courtney and other female Airmen.

“She doesn’t know what she doesn’t know,” said Black of Courtney, who’s even more wide-eyed than the prior-enlisted Black was at this stage in her AFSOC career. “That’s where people like me come in. Lt. Col. Megan Ripple is the director of (operations) at the 4th Special Operations Squadron. We arrived here at Hurlburt together. We are taking the initiative to reach out to these women to prepare them for deployment, to teach them all the things we didn’t know.”

Considering Courtney’s only job up until this point has been to learn and receive training, she’s growing more and more excited to fly this new path.

“I’m still trying to figure out how everything works,” said Courtney, who was recently assigned to the 4th SOS. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t wait to actually partake in it, and do what I’ve been training for. They want you to learn, they want you to train; they want to set you up for success. No one really cares where you’ve come from, what your rank is. They care about how much work you put into your job every day. If you’re competent and put forth the work, you get rewarded.”

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock

Though there are some years between Black and Courtney, they noted a common mentality present when they joined the AFSOC community.

“I haven’t noticed if anyone cares about me being a girl or not,” Courtney said. “They care about how good you are at what you do, and if you care or not, and if you take pride in your work.”

Letting your work speak for itself is a welcome reality for Courtney.

“It’s definitely a relief that you’re judged based on the quality of your work, and nothing else,” Courtney said, pointing out that the impact of the mission is way too important to care about the irrelevant. “AFSOC is pretty open about it. The game we play is life or death.”

NOW: ‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history

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Navy upgrades 8 valor awards for SEALs

On Jan. 13, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus presented eight Navy Crosses and eight Silver Stars to active-duty and former members of East and West Coast Naval Special Warfare Commands at a ceremony in Virginia Beach, Virginia.


One Navy Cross and one Silver Star were presented posthumously, including an upgrade from a Silver Star to a Navy Cross for SEAL Charles Keating, IV, who was killed during an ambush in northern Iraq while assisting anti-ISIS Peshmerga forces.

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U.S. Navy file photo of Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Charles Keating IV, 31, of San Diego. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

The upgrade for Keating was first reported by Stars and Stripes.

“Today we honor some of our nation’s finest heroes, not just for their individual acts of courage and bravery in the face of danger, but for the everyday selflessness that they and their peers demonstrate,” Mabus said. “This generation of Sailors, and particularly those serving as part of our Naval Special Warfare team, is an extraordinary group of men and women who have given so much to our country.”

These awards were upgrades to previously awarded medals for valor in combat and upgraded as a result of the Department of the Navy’s Post 9/11 Valor Awards Review Panel. This panel reviewed award nominations from combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to ensure members were appropriately recognized for acts of valor.

The Navy did not disclose the names of the SEALs whose awards were upgraded.

According to Keating’s Silver Star citation, he lead Peshmerga fighters in repelling an assault by 100 ISIS fighters, including intercepting a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device with sniper fire and rockets. Keating’s actions occurred in March 2016, two months before he was killed.

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
A group of U.S. Navy SEALs clear a room during a no-light live-fire drill near San Diego. Naval Special Warfare reservists from a Combat Service Support unit attached to a West Coast-based Sea, Air, Land (SEAL) Team conducted a field training exercise based on principles from the expeditionary warfare community. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Stevenson/Released)

“Although today we recognize these individuals for their heroism and valor in combat, we are also honoring the Sailors and Marines who fought beside them and those who are still in the fight,” Mabus said.

The Department of the Navy reviewed more than 300 valor awards and the review was completed Nov. 15.

The Navy Cross, the U.S. Navy’s second highest decoration, is awarded for extraordinary heroism while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States. The act must be performed in the presence of great danger or at great personal risk.

The Silver Star is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States, while engaged in military operations with a friendly force. It is the fourth highest military honor that can be awarded to a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and the third highest award for valor.

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Gear porn: This suppressor is not for the faint of heart

Liberty Suppressors has released a new silencer for those of you who want to go large and do it quietly. And when we say large, we mean it.


Introducing the Goliath for .458 SOCOM.

The Goliath was probably named for the big-assed Philistine from Gath, though it could be someone’s nickname from chubbybunnie.com. Rated for supersonic ammunition, it’s intended to suppress the noise you make when you’d normally be going loud with the modern descendent of the old Trapdoor Springfield bullet.

It’s 10 inches long, 2 inches in diameter, and built with a titanium core and tube. It dresses out at just 20 ounces.

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
The Liberty Cans multi-cal family. (Photo: Liberty Cans)

Liberty says the Goliath meters at a “…mere 132.2 [decibels] (including First Round Pop) providing an average sound reduction of over 21 [decibels].” We haven’t tested it ourselves — at least not yet — but since we’re fans of the .458 round and shooting suppressed, we reckon it’s worth a further look.

Liberty sez, and we quote,  “The Goliath is not for the faint of heart! Created for the mighty 458 SOCOM, this silencer not only stands up to the size of its name, but also the size of it’s caliber. But don’t think this giant is a clumsy oaf. With an end cap and core made of Grade 5 titanium and a tube made from Grade 9 titanium, the Goliath is a heavyweight hitter in a featherweight class.”

This weight savings really comes in to play when perched on the end of a hog hunter’s rifle of choice. Taming both the noise as well as the recoil of the 458 cartridge, the Goliath keeps you after game all night, instead of home early with tired shoulders and ears. When it comes to 458 SOCOM, it pays to have a giant on your side.”

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water
All hail Goliath. (Liberty Cans)

MSRP on the Goliath (the silencer, not anybody on Chubby Bunnie) is $999.

Liberty Suppressors is a family owned business based in the Peach State, last of the original Thirteen Colonies. They’re known for their work with monolithic core silencers, offering cans from calibers from .22LR to .300 Ultra Mag.

You can find ’em online at libertycans.net, should you be so inclined.

You can watch a great Liberty Cans gear porn flick here.

Here are the specs (you’re welcome):

Goliath .458 SOCOM: 450gr Sub-Sonic in an 11 in. AR-15, Baseline unsuppressed 163.1dB. Suppressed shot 1, 137.3 db. Shot 2, 130.5 dB; Shot 3 131.5 dB, Shot 4 130.6 dB, and Shot 5 is 130.9dB.

Caliber: 458 SOCOM

Length: 10″

Diameter: 2″

Material: Titanium tube, core, and rear cap / Stainless Steel Thread Inserts

Weight: 20 OZ.

Approx. DB Overall: 132.2 dB (including First Round Pop)

Approx. DB Reduction: 31 – 33 dB

Finish: C-Series Cerakote

Mounting Type: Direct Thread, 5/8-24 and 5/8-32 Inserts Included

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