16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters - We Are The Mighty
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16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters

When natural disaster strikes at home or abroad, America usually sends its military to aid in rescue and recovery. Engineers, search and rescue, and logistics specialists pour into the area to save as many people as quickly as possible.


Here are 17 photos that show what that’s like.

1. Troops are rushed to the area, usually via cargo aircraft.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris

2. In the crucial first hours, disaster survivors can be rescued from collapsed or flooded structures. Engineers carefully shore up crumbling buildings and cut through obstacles.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Tania Reid

3. During hurricanes and tsunamis, there’s a good chance some survivors will have been swept to sea. Trained swimmers work to extract them.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Krystal Ardrey

4. Survivors are transported to safe areas in military aircraft and vehicles.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Blackwell

5. When possible, the Navy sends its hospital ships to the disaster zone. The USNS Mercy and USNS comfort are floating hospitals with capacity for 1,000 patients each.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Blackwell

6. Field hospitals are set up to receive and treat the injured or sick after the disaster.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Justyn M. Freeman

7. As survivors are being evacuated to care facilities, equipment, food, and other necessities surge in.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
Photo: US Air Force Master Sgt. Roy A. Santana

8. If the local transportation network has been damaged, the U.S. military finds workarounds. Here, a group of Air Force combat controllers direct air traffic at Toussaint L’Ouverture Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti after the 2010 earthquake there knocked out the control tower.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios

9. As supplies come in, they are moved overland to shelters and distribution centers.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
Photo: US Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago

10. Sometimes, engineers have to prevent additional damage from aftershocks or continuing flooding.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
Photo: US Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago

11. The engineers can operate 24-hours-a-day to get ahead of rising water.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
Photo: US Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago

12. Sandbags and materials can be dropped into place by helicopters, vehicles, or carried in by troops.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
Photo: US Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago

13. When helicopters are used, the crew chief directs the pilots in order to get the materials in the right spot.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
Photo: US Air National Guard Airman Megan Floyd

14. Clearing roads allows for more vehicles to move supplies and evacuees.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit

15. If invited by local government officials, troops will help patrol disaster areas.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
Photo: US Army National Guard Sgt. Brian Calhoun

16. As the situation begins to stabilize, the military will assist with clean up as well. Eventually, they’ll be released back to their normal missions.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Stefanie Pupkiewicz

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7 important rules for the troops who support special operators

While I still have a few years left, I am on the tail end of my military career. I have been fortunate enough to spend most of my time in uniform supporting Special Operations Forces. I have done a wide range of work. I’ve done everything from working out of safe houses to sitting behind a desk doing policy work to ensure the guys down range were covered. Because nothing happens without paperwork.


During my time I have learned a lot about the community and what it takes to do well in it. Over the years, I have made mistakes and I have reached milestones, and both situations taught me valuable lessons along the way. If I had to pass on knowledge to a new support personnel, these are the things I would tell my potential future replacements:

1)  Know your place, and be proud of it.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
USMC photo by Sgt. Brian Kester

When you very first get to the community, don’t overestimate your worth. I have seen more than a few well-qualified support personnel get fired from SF commands because they forgot they weren’t Operators. If an SF command has taken the time to screen you, hire you, and then provide you additional training based on your MOS/Rate it’s because they needed your specific skillset, and they considered you ahead of your peers. Be proud of that, because it means the SOF community needed your skillset in order for them to accomplish the mission.

And don’t treat your conventional counterparts like sh–. You may very well need them one day. In fact, you probably will.

2)  The Q Course doesn’t produce seasoned SF Operators.

I realize that statement should be fairly obvious, but coming into the community, I didn’t quite grasp that. I assumed all Operators were seasoned Veterans and were professional at everything they did. I also assumed that all the support personnel were seasoned as well.   It took me years to fully understand that an Operator has to grow into that seasoned and professional warrior.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Bertha A. Flores

At some point you will inevitably hear something like, “What do you know, you’re not an Operator!” You need to remember several things when you run into this. First, check yourself, and make sure you didn’t just put your foot in your mouth. If you didn’t, and you are confident about what you are talking about, don’t back down (remember, you were hired for your specific skillset).

The next thing is you need to remember is to not take it personally. And finally, you need to consider if this is an Operator who has been around and understands the role of the support folks, or if this is a new Operator that still learning what role you play in helping accomplish their mission.

This may have been my hardest lesson at the early stages of my career.       

3)  Find someone senior and make them your mentor.

There is always that one support person. The one that has been in the command forever, and almost seems bitter about it, yet the leadership always comes to them for advice. The Operators don’t give them a hard time when they need something from them, because they’ve proven their worth time and time again.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
DoD photo by Steven Stover

More than likely, they’ve been there since they were a junior NCO, and is now a senior NCO complete with the crusty attitude. Get on their good side and make them your mentor (whether they know it or not). There is a reason they has been there forever and a reason they have survived. Find out what it took, and imitate their work ethics. But maybe not the attitude, not yet anyway. Get some years in first and earn your “crustiness.”

4)  Always put the mission first.

Like any of us in uniform, we all want to advance. We want more responsibility and we want to take on leadership roles. At some point, you will face a decision where you have to make a choice between the mission and something administrative pertaining to your career, or someone else’s.

One of my favorite mentors gave me this piece of advice: “Always put the mission first and everything else will fall into place”. What he essentially meant was that if I was doing what I was supposed to do, the senior leadership would recognize it and take care of me when the time came.

5)  Bad news doesn’t get better with time.

This applies to all communities but I think this really hits home in the SOF community. If you mess up, don’t try to hide it, fix it on the sly, and hope no one notices. Own your mistake, tell the people you need to tell. It’s okay to make mistakes. Learn from it and move on with it.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
US Navy Admiral William McRaven. USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Williams

As Admiral McRaven moved through the SOF commands, one of the things he used to put out to the mid-level leadership was for them to allow their people to make mistakes. He said he didn’t want his people to be too afraid to take chances for fear of being punished if they failed. If you find something innovative, don’t be afraid to try new things. Just make sure you have a good plan and that you communicate with your teammates.

6)  Your rank doesn’t make your idea better.

One of my favorite things about the SOF community is that good ideas usually don’t wear rank. Listen to your people! If your junior folks have an idea, it may be worth listening to. It may not, but take the time to listen. That one time you do it and it works, you may make a huge impact on your troops’ morale.

And finally:

7)  Always be in good shape.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
USAF photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald

You ever see that one fat support person that all the Operators asked for advice from? No? That’s because it never happened. Your primary concern should be your job and how well you do it, and your secondary concern should be your physical shape. No Operator wants to hear from a fat, out-of-breath body.

If you can’t take care of yourself, how can they have any faith you will take care of them as they head out the door? I’m not saying you need to be a triathlete or even keep up with the Operators at the gym, but I am saying that the Operators need to feel comfortable that you can keep up if or when they take you out of the wire.

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This crazy-looking scooter can actually blow up a tank

In the 1950s France, in the midst of dealing with insurgencies in its colonies in Algeria and Indochina, recognized a military need for easily transportable artillery that could quickly be deployed to the front lines. It happened upon one very novel solution: a militarized Vespa scooter with a built-in armor-piercing gun.


The Vespa 150 TAP, built by French Vespa licensee ACMA, was designed expressly to be used with the French airborne special forces, the Troupes Aéro Portées (TAP).

The Vespa TAP was designed to be airdropped into a military theater fully assembled and ready for immediate action. This high level of mobility made the TAP the perfect anti-guerilla weapon, since enemy irregulars could appear at a moment’s notice even in remote locations.

Outfitted with an M20 recoilless rifle, the TAP proved more than capable of destroying makeshift fortifications used by guerrillas in Algeria and Indochina. The M20 was designed as an anti-tank recoilless rifle that was outfitted with a high-explosive anti-tank warhead. Under ideal circumstances, the rifle could penetrate 100mm of armor from 7,000 yards away.

The M20 outfitted on the Vespa was never actually meant to be fired while the vehicle was in motion. Instead, the Vespa frame functioned as a way of transporting the artillery to the front line. Once there, the rifle would be removed from the Vespa and placed on a tripod for accurate firing.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
Photo: Youtube.com

Remarkably, aside for a slight overhaul of the engine, plus the inclusion of the rifle and ammunition mounts, the standard Vespa and the TAP were designed almost identically. The TAP had a strengthened frame and lower gearing, but besides that it drives just as any Vespa would.

About 500 total TAPs were produced throughout the 1950s.

However ingenious the TAP was, the vehicle was never used outside of the French military during engagements in Algeria and French Indochina.

Here’s a video of a TAP being driven.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07GXqdsdE6M

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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Here’s what Mattis has to say about his loyalty to the White House

Secretary of Defense James Mattis dismissed murmurings Aug. 31 of an ideological divide between himself and President Donald Trump.


During a press briefing at the Pentagon, Mattis recalled the now-viral “hold the line” speech he gave in front of US service members in Jordan in August, in which some of his comments about division in the US were construed as an ethical separation from Trump.

During the Aug. 31 briefing, Mattis elaborated on the intended meaning behind his words, which he said were influenced by Trump’s recent speech on Afghanistan.

“If you’ll remember, the first, I don’t know, three, four, five, six paragraphs was about America coming together,” Mattis said. “And so, fresh in my mind a couple hours later, and I used that theme to say that, you know, we’ve got to come back together, get that fundamental friendliness. You guys — military guys, you hold the line as our country comes back together.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters

“I’m using the president’s thoughts, and they thought that I was distancing from the president,” Mattis continued. “So I mean, it shows how ludicrous this really is.”

“I mean, I’m not trying to make fun of the people who write along those lines,” Mattis said of the narrative that he was distancing himself from Trump. “I think this is more someone’s rather rich imagination,” he said.

Theories of a divide between Trump and other White House officials — most notably Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the National Economic Council director Gary Cohn — have spread as Trump continues to baffle critics and supporters following his administration’s response to the deadly Charlottesville, Virginia, rally and continued provocations from North Korea.

During an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Tillerson fueled rumors of a White House rift when he was asked whether anyone doubted Trump’s values. “The president speaks for himself,” he responded.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis enters Michie Stadium before the 2017 graduation ceremony at West Point. Army photo by Michelle Eberhart.

Cohn took a more direct approach, publicly criticizing Trump’s response to the Charlottesville protests and saying the White House “must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning” white nationalist and white supremacist groups.

Mattis expressed confidence that divisiveness in the US was not a threat to the military’s unity in the field.

“The way our military is organized, the leaders — and by leaders, I mean the sergeants and the gunnery sergeants, the chief petty officers, the lieutenants, the captains — there is such a cohesion to the US military,” Mattis said. “There’s a reason this is a national jewel, this US military. It’s a national jewel. And that almost insulates it in a very proud way from something like we saw in Charlottesville.”

“That’s not to say it’s not a concern, because this lack of a fundamental friendliness among all of us, something I think the president brought up very well in those opening paragraphs of the Afghanistan speech … I agree a hundred percent with the way the president characterized that,” Mattis said.

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This is the rifle Vasily Zaytsev used to wage a one-man war in ‘Enemy at the Gates’

First used by the Russians in 1891, the Mosin-Nagant was modified from a standard service weapon to a sniper rifle in the 1930s. This five-shot, bolt-action rifle was a highly effective killing tool on the battlefield because of its sturdy construction and accuracy.


The Mosin-Nagant rifle typically weighs in at 8.8 pounds and has a muzzle velocity of nearly 3,000 feet per second — but the rifle is only as good as the man or woman who pulls its trigger.

During the Battle of Stalingrad, talented Russians snipers used the Mosin-Nagant PU version to wreak plenty of havoc against their Nazi adversaries. One of those talented sharpshooters was none other than the Soviet hero himself, Vasily Zaytsev.

Related: The 6 best Hollywood sniper shots ever

Zaytsev’s remarkable story was brought to life in 2001’s feature film “Enemy at the  Gates” starring Jude Law.  As a young boy, he learned his expert marksmanship skills while hunting game and tracking wolves near his home in desolate Siberia.

In 1937, Zaytsev was recruited into the Red Army, volunteered to be transferred to the front lines and waged a one-man war against the Nazis and reportedly killed 250 enemy troops with his Mosin-Nagant.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
The Hero of the Soviet Union Vasily Zaitsev (left)

Reportedly, Zaitsev was involved in a historical sniper duel with Maj. Konig, the former head of the German Army’s sniper school. During an afternoon of stalking one another, Zaitsev scored a righteous kill shot eliminating the German sniper from the war — using his famous Mosin-Nagant.

Roughly, 17 million Mosin–Nagant were produced during War World II, and its devastating 7.62 x 54R round is still used today in several Russian-made weapons.

Also Read: These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

Check out Lightning War 1941’s video to see this effective sniper rifle in action for yourself.

YouTube, LightningWar1941

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America’s Patton tanks saw combat from Korea to Desert Storm

For over 40 years, some variant of the Patton family of tanks served America. From the mountains of Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, and through the deserts of the Middle East Patton tanks bested America’s enemies time and again.


In 1950, the first Patton tank, the M46, entered service. The M46 was originally based on the WWII M26 Pershing heavy tank. However, after extensive redesigns and improvements, it received its own designation and a new namesake — Gen. George S. Patton, a hero of WWII.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
A Marine checks his tank after taking Howitzer hits. (Dept. of Defense photo)

The M46 was armed with a 90mm main gun, a .50 caliber machine gun, and two .30 caliber machine guns, one mounted coaxially, the other forward-firing in the hull.

The arrival of the Patton into service was just in time as in June of that year North Korea, armed with formidable Russian T34 tanks, rolled across the 38th Parallel into South Korea. Fighting alongside WWII-era M4 Shermans and the M26 Pershings it was meant to replace, the M46 would see heavy combat in Korea.

Also read: This is what makes tankers so deadly

The first M46 tanks landed inside the Pusan Perimeter in August 1950 as part of the 6th Tank Battalion. They would prove critical in the defense. More M46s landed at Inchon with the 1st Marine Division’s 1st Tank Battalion.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
Pro tip: the paint doesn’t need to be realistic if your enemy is superstitious. (U.S. Army photo)

In an attempt at psychological warfare, the tankers of the 24th Infantry Division’s 6th Tank Battalion painted tiger faces on their tanks thinking it would demoralize their superstitious Chinese adversaries.

By mid-1951 the Patton tanks had replaced all M26 Pershings in service in Korea. However, the M46’s own shortcomings had already led to the development of a replacement — the M47 Patton.

Though the M47 was introduced in 1952, it would be too late for it to see combat in Korea. However, the M47 was important because even though it shared design features and components with the M46 Patton, it was considered America’s first all-new tank design since WWII.

The M47, though, was just an interim design while engineers completed work on its successor, the M48 Patton. The M47 would never see combat but the M48 would be a workhorse of American and allied armored units.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters

Like its predecessors, the M48 also mounted a 90mm main gun; it was the last tank to do so, but had significant improvements in armor and performance.

The M48 was also introduced too late to see combat in Korea, but just over a decade later the Marines would take it to Vietnam. Soon, Army units were bringing their own Pattons to the fight.

Due to the nature of the conflict, the M48s did not often have the chance to go toe-to-toe with North Vietnamese armor. One of the few instances of tank combat came during the NVA assault on the Ben Het Camp where elements of the 1st Battalion, 69th Armored Regiment were stationed. The American Pattons easily defeated the NVA’s PT-76 tanks and BTR-50 APCs.

More often than not though, the M48s were relegated to infantry support — a role they excelled at. The Patton’s ruggedness allowed it to absorb a good amount of damage and its 90mm main gun was a welcome addition against dug-in enemies. A favorite of the troops was the Patton’s canister rounds, which acted like a giant shotgun through the jungle, cutting down man and tree alike.

A number of M48s were also converted to M67 “Zippo” tanks that mounted flamethrowers for dealing with stubborn Vietcong and NVA soldiers.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
An M67 throwing flames. No big deal. (U.S. Army photo)

The Patton was also one of the few vehicles that could withstand the landmines that were employed against American forces. As such, it was often used as a route clearance vehicle to “sniff out” the explosive devices.

While the M48 was slogging it out in Vietnam, the next in line of the Patton family of tanks was coming into service with the American military: the M60 Patton, the M48s eventual replacement.

The M60 was the final tank in the Patton family line and America’s first Main Battle Tank. It mounted a modern 105mm main gun, a .50 caliber machine gun for the commander, and a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun.

The M60 also was the basis for the M60 Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge and the M728 Combat Engineer Vehicle, both of which were deployed to Vietnam alongside the M48s.

The M60 itself would not be deployed to Vietnam, but would be a mainstay of American armored formations, particularly in Europe.

One of the more interesting developments of the M60 Patton was the M60A2. Derisively known as the “Starship” because of its overly complex technology, the M60A2 mounted the same 152mm gun/missile system as the M551 Sheridan. A redesigned turret and an abundance of new technology gave the A2 variation a distinct look. However, the design was an overall disappointment and it was quickly retired.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
An M60A2 tank driving off an amphibious landing craft. (U.S. Army photo)

Despite entering service some 30 years’ prior, the M60 Patton would not see significant combat until the end of its service history during the Persian Gulf War. Outfitting Marine tank battalions, the M60s performed admirably.

The Marines’ M60s spearheaded the assault to liberate Kuwait. In the fighting for Kuwait City, the M60 bested its original rival, the Soviet T62, time and again while sustaining only one tank lost to combat and no casualties. Marines manning Patton tanks destroyed over 100 Iraqi tanks and numerous other vehicles in the fighting.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
Marines from Company D, 2nd Tank Battalion, drive their M-60A1 main battle tank over a sand berm on Hill 231 while rehearsing their role as part of Task Force Breach Alpha during Operation Desert Storm. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Shortly after the Gulf War the M60 Patton was retired from combat service in favor of the new M1 Abrams. The last Pattons would return to Germany, the final resting place of their namesake, where they acted as OPFOR at the Combat Maneuver Training Center in Hohenfels before they too were retired in 2005.

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This is how a US destroyer dodged 2 missiles off the Yemen coast

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) was targeted by two missiles believed to have been fired by Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen Oct. 9. Both missiles missed the 9,200-ton vessel and landed harmlessly in the waters of the Red Sea.


The latest near miss comes eight days after HSV-2 Swift was attacked and hit by at least two RPGs. The U.S. Navy reported that the Mason used “onboard defensive measures” as soon as the first missile was launched.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
The Arleigh Burke Class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) was targeted by two missiles fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. Alexander Delgado/Released)

While the Mason carries a variety of weapons to address incoming aircraft and missiles — including the RIM-66 SM-2 Standard Missile, the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM), the Mk 45 Mod 4 5-inch gun, and the Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS), which take out the incoming aerial threats physically, or achieving a “hard kill” — the Navy says the ship used so-called “soft kill” systems to avoid a hit.

Soft kill systems work by fooling the inbound threat and getting it to hit where the targeted vessel isn’t.

The Mason has two such spoofing systems on board, the AN/SLQ-32 electronic countermeasures suite, and the Mk 36 Super RBOC chaff system. The AN/SLQ-32 electronic countermeasures suite is on virtually every Navy surface ship. The system works by jamming radar seekers of anti-ship missiles, causing them to either pursue phantom targets or by reducing the effective range of the seeker, enabling the ship to evade the missile.

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The Mk 36 Super RBOC system usually works with the AN/SLQ-32, and works by firing rockets that dispense chaff (essentially aluminum foil), creating false targets to confuse the seeker of an incoming missile. These “foil packets,” to use Chappy Sinclair’s term from the original Iron Eagle, were first used in World War II to confuse German radar.

Chaff was heavily used by the Royal Navy during the Falklands War. In one incident, a British frigate successfully decoyed a missile using chaff, but the missile then locked on to the Atlantic Conveyor, sinking the merchant vessel, which was carrying helicopters to reinforce the British forces trying to re-take the Falklands from Argentina.

The Mason was one of three vessels sent to assist HSV-2 Swift after the 1 October attack that damaged the vessel and started fires. Houthi rebels, surrogates for the Iranian regime, claimed to have sunk the vessel. Iran has been known to export anti-ship missiles like the Noor (a knock-off of the C-802 anti-ship missile). One exported missile damaged the Israeli corvette Hanit during the 2006 Lebanon War.

Yemen has been a risky place for U.S. vessels in the past. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Cole was damaged while refueling in Aden in October 2000. Despite having a 40×60-foot hole punched in her hull, the Cole returned to active service.

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Marine and M*A*S*H Star Mike Farrell reflects on his career in Hollywood and how the Corps influenced his life

Former Marine Mike Farrell has enjoyed a long career in the movie industry much attributed to his work ethic, abilities and the values learned in the Marines. Farrell joined the Corps in 1957 and served initially in the infantry as a rifleman. He then transitioned over to acting post his time in the Marines where he found success across many famous TV shows at the time such as Lassie, The Monkees, Combat!, Bonanza and Bannacek. His career took off with the role of Captain B.J. Hunnicutt on M*A*S*H starting in season four of the show. He continued working in TV and eventually formed a production company with producer Marvin Minoff to make motion pictures. One of Farrell-Minoff’s most known productions is Patch Adams, starring Robin Williams.

Farrell was born in Minnesota, but his family moved to Los Angeles when he was a child. He grew up in West Hollywood in the 40s and 50s. He shared, “It was an interesting place to grow up at the time.” Farrell said he is “a fortunate recipient of things other kids may not have had, including a mother and a father at home.” His father was a big, tough man who worked hard to support the family. Though he has fond memories of childhood, he also recognizes that he was a “frightened child,” due to his father’s rough manner and hard drinking, which weighed on the family.

When asked his values, Farrell said, “You told the truth and you stay out of trouble by minding the rules, whatever they are.” He said, “…if you pay attention and don’t cross any forbidden lines then you were fine. I was very careful about where the lines were.” His parents were strict Catholics and took the family to Mass every Sunday. He attended public school where he and his brother mixed with people of other belief systems, which was good, he said, for them. He recalled, “Being good was defined by others to me, and I was trying to figure how to stay within the lines.” Frustrated, he found difficulty growing emotionally given the strictures at home.

Jamie Farr, Loretta Swit, David Ogden Stiers, Harry Morgan, Mike Farrell, Alan Alda, and William Christopher in publicity portrait for the film ‘M*A*S*H’, Circa 1978. (Photo by 20th Century-Fox TV/Getty Images)

He became a Marine for two reasons. He was “smitten” with the Marines from a very young age. And so was Pat, his best friend from grade school through high school and into married life. So they joined together. Farrell remembers, “I was alive during World War II, but it was a distant reality for me. I remember coming home, getting out of my Dad’s car in 1945 when we heard on the radio the war was over.” He recalled, “…my mother having plastic coupon-coins to go shopping during the war…we were told we couldn’t get bubble gum because rubber needed to be saved for the war effort,” and laughed at the memory.

He mowed lawns to earn money and delivered papers after purchasing a used bike. He sold papers on the corner. He always had to chip in so the family had enough to get by on. His mother took him and his brother to buy clothes at the “old store” which was probably a Good Will or a Salvation Army store. He was ashamed and embarrassed at having to wear used clothes. He remembers selling papers on the corner in Beverly Hills “…when a girl from high school drove by with her mother and saw me. Boy, was I embarrassed.”

Farrell with the great actor Anthony Quinn in The Man and the City. Photo courtesy of IMDB.com.

Farrell described his father as “John Wayne” and shared he was, “big, handsome, popular, smart and I now know he was frustrated because he didn’t have an education, but he was a really smart man.” He believes his father’s tough manner stemmed from his lack of education. He describes his parents as distant and “tough” people made so by their experience of The Great Depression. He stated, “There was not a lot of touching or embracing in our family.”

He said, “My friend Pat became close to our family because he didn’t have much of a connection to his family. He bonded with us and went to church with us.” Farrell touches on his admiration for the Corps with, “Pat and I thought the Marines were just the best. We thought the Marines were the toughest, the most elite and we looked up to John Wayne in the Sands of Iwo Jima.” He didn’t understand the politics of the 40s and 50s and he shared, “We just loved the Marines.” He and Pat went to see the Jack Webb film The D.I. in the 50s as well. Once graduated from high school, they both knew they were going to be drafted so they decided to join the Corps. He stated, “We both went down and signed up at the (Marine) reserve unit in Chavez Ravine.” This unit is now gone and the reserve unit building is used for training by the LAFD.

The Sands of Iwo Jima poster from 1949. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Theatrical poster for The DI from 1957. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Farrell stated, “Unfortunately, we thought we would stay together. We went in together but were put in separate platoons at MCRD. We didn’t see a lot of each other during Bootcamp.”  They then came out into different units in Infantry Training Regiment (ITR). Pat had signed up for a six-month program and Farrell signed up for a two-year program. Farrell had three DIs: Technical Sergeant Kelly (E-7 at the time) was the senior DI and SSg Reyes and Cpl Stark were the other two instructors. Farrell believes Kelley identified with him and Reyes favored another recruit named Moreno.

During Bootcamp, Farrell became ill with the flu and was sent to the infirmary. This was at a critical time in boot camp. He thought he would be set back and not get the chance to graduate with his platoon. He was afraid of leaving Platoon 374 and being placed back in a later platoon of recruits. He said, “I was miserable about the idea of being set back.” Then he was awakened one morning in the infirmary by Corporal Stark, who said, “How are you doing? Kelly wants you back.” Farrell was thrilled “beyond words to hear that.” He described Kelly, “He saw something in me that made him not want to lose me and that made me want to try harder to be the Marine that he (Kelly) thought I could be.” He considers this a great lesson from the Corps.

Robin Williams in the film Patch Adams which Farrell produced. Photo courtesy of Popsugar.com.

While at MCRD Farrell went to Camp Matthews for rifle training, which was before the Corps started taking recruits to Camp Pendleton to qualify on the rifle. After that, Farrell said a fellow recruit, who was known to be rough around the edges, threatened his life. Farrell stated, “I had been in fights before and when someone says they are ‘going to kill you, you take it as talk.” But the next morning during a snap inspection live rounds were found in that recruit’s footlocker. He had stolen them from Camp Matthews. The inspection thankfully stopped anything from happening, but the incident stays with Farrell and opened his eyes to the world.

Boot camp continued. Increasingly, Farrell and Moreno, the platoon’s left and right guide, were pitted against each other. The two were being considered to be named the Honor Man of the platoon. Ultimately, Farrell got lucky, he said and was named the Honor Man of the platoon. He stated of graduating as Honor Man, “Marching in my dress blues was quite a thing.”

Farrell confided, “I wanted to be stationed in Camp Pendleton so I said I wanted to just be a  rifleman. I thought I could outsmart them.” He thought if he was a grunt at Camp Pendleton, he could go home on weekends and, “strut around in my uniform.” But after the Infantry Training Regiment (ITR) he was surprised to be assigned to the 3D Marine Division in Okinawa.

Farrell during his time on the TV show Providence. Photo courtesy of Memorabletv.com.

Aboard the USS Gaffney on the way to Okinawa, he recalls an alert came in to prepare to go to a different station. He shared, “We had to wait for a possible change in orders and a change in destination. We stood guard on ship and periodically swabbed the deck as well.” An all-clear was sent and they continued to Okinawa. He was glad, he said because he later learned they had almost been sent to French Indochina, later known to America as Vietnam.

In Okinawa, he was sent to typing school by the Corps to become the company clerk for an Ontos Battalion at Camp Hansen, then a tent camp. He stated, “I am sure things have changed at the camp by now. But then it was like living in ‘the swamp’,” where “the swamp” is the nickname for the camp he later served at 20th Century Fox for the show M*A*S*H.

Ontos, officially the Rifle, Multiple 106 mm, Self-propelled, M50, was a U.S. light armored tracked anti-tank vehicle developed in the 1950s. Photo and information courtesy of Wikipedia.

Farrell’s work as an author. Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.

On liberty in Okinawa, he went to the Kadena Air Base because “The Air Force had everything on base. They had a malt shop, a motion picture theater. It was surprising how well the flyboys had it over there.” We laughed at the luxuries of the Air Force when compared to the thriftiness of the Corps.

Farrell said, “I had developed an issue with my foot during ITR and got orders to go from Okinawa to the US Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan.” He fondly recalls his time in Yokosuka where he spent time with a fellow Marine. He and the Marine went out on liberty and traveled around the country. But he talks about his return, “When we got back to the ward there was tension that I could sense. I later understood that the issue had to do with my friend Tyus, a black man. In 1957/58 our friendship was not looked upon happily. This even though President Truman had desegregated the military ten years prior.” It troubled him that there was still a sense of it being inappropriate for a black and a white Marine to spend time together.

Farrell with his wife and actress Shelley Fabares. Photo courtesy of Charitybuzz.com.

The Corps then decided to send him back to the Naval Hospital at Coronado to work guard detail. His final place was being sent back to MCRD for discharge for having “flat feet”.

Farrell states, “There is a sense of pride attached to being a Marine…you can’t avoid having that sense of pride because they just beat the crap out of you in order to make you what you need to be.” He was invited by a Force Recon Marine while on the way to Okinawa to join their unit. He declined the offer after thinking about it for a couple of days. He states, “I wonder about that Marine and you hear about all of the special ops these days where Force Recon is still a part of the Corps.” He does touch on how he became lifelong friends with fellow Marines, one of which was stationed at MCAS El Toro that he met at the US Naval Hospital Balboa. “I have made some lifelong friends through the Corps because of the shared experience.” Farrell helped fellow veterans as well when he took a car to a friend from Los Angeles that was stationed in the Army at Fort Bragg, NC. The soldier’s parents wanted Farrell to take it to NC, so he did. On the trip he drove along a southern route through the US in 1959 where he witnessed, “real nasty segregation….that was a mind-blowing experience.”

Farrell still has high praise of his service. “My proudest achievement of my time in the Corps was graduating as the Honor Man of my platoon. I still have the Dress Blues hanging in my closet. I weigh the same as when I got out of bootcamp so I probably can still fit in them.” He further elaborated, “Completing the Marine Corps boot camp itself is a hell of an accomplishment.”

Farrell rough housing with fellow actor Alan Alda on the set of M*A*S*H. Photo courtesy of Pinterest.com.

He is grateful to have had such a great career in Hollywood where he has worked with many storied actors. Farrell hears from people every day from autograph requests to even more deeply meaningful connections. Some people talk about the inspiration they got from the show and its meaning. He said, “It is really thrilling to hear from people and how deeply they are touched by the shows.” He is proud of having worked with the great actor Anthony Quinn for a year on the TV show  The Man and the City. Farrell has high praise for having worked with Broderick Crawford on The Interns as well. Crawford was an Oscar-winning actor and known for his talents; however, he had an alcohol problem.

Farrell (back center) with the cast of The Interns with Broderick Crawford (bottom center). Photo courtesy of Famousfix.com.

A few years before working together on The Interns, Farrell had been working with a halfway house in LA that dealt with people living with various issues. On the show he confronted Crawford. “I confronted him about his drinking and said ‘you are not doing the show any good or yourself any good. We need to find a way to temper it if not control it so we can get the work done.’” Farrell shared that, “He was phenomenal… he thanked me…we did the show for a year and every New Year’s Day after that until he passed away he called and thanked me.” He was deeply touched by Crawford’s continued contact. .

Farrell has been a part of many Human Rights campaigns. He is deeply grateful for the opportunities his association with M*A*S*H has provided.

Farrell met the famous Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams on a person-to-person diplomacy trip to the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s.  The group initially stopped in Helsinki, Finland, for orientation before going into the USSR. He saw a man wearing a clown suit and a rubber nose at the meeting. He initially thought the man was from “Pluto”. A woman in the group made a show of her belief in the power of crystals. She stood at the front with a bag of them and urged people to take a crystal that resonated with them, suggesting they hold it near their heart and find someone in the Soviet Union to give it to. Farrell said it sounded to him a bit looney. The clown-suited man then got up, said he was a doctor and said, “he believed in clowning and that laughter is the best medicine.” The man then took out a bag and did what the woman had done, saying he believed in the power of rubber noses. He held out a bag of rubber noses and urged everyone to pick a rubber nose they resonated with. The “clown” turned out to be Dr. Patch Adams. Farrell said, “I fell in love with the man and we became great friends.”

Robin Williams (left) with the real-life Dr. Hunter Doherty “Patch” Adams. Photo courtesy of Pinterest.

On their way to the Soviet Union our train was stopped by Russian troops. The train was searched by armed men from the USSR. Outside of the train he saw Patch Adams giving rubber noses to the Russian troops. Farrell laughed and stated, “I knew that this guy was going to change the world.” Farrell and Adams became very close friends while in the USSR. A few years later Adams contacted Farrell about how he had written a book and movie studio executives were looking to make his book into a film. Adams wanted Farrell to produce the film because he trusted him. Through a Hollywood connection Farrell took on the project and went to a studio with it. Farrell is happy that the film made a lot of people laugh and helped get Patch Adams noticed, however he wishes it would have had more depth and focused on Adams’ heart. Patch was grateful to Farrell and thanked him for his work on the film. Farrell is appreciative of Robin Williams’ work as Patch and considers him a, “wonderfully talented person and…a really deeply sweet, good man.” 

Farrell (center right) with Bill Lerach (far left), Shelley Fabares (left) and Michelle Lerach (right) in La Jolla for a Justice That Works Initiative of 2016. Photo courtesy of SDnews.com.

Farrell believes deeply in the inherent decency of all people. He learned discipline and a lot about life through his experience in the Corps. He said, “The Marines gave me the sense of capability that comes from surviving the circumstances they put you in.” He believes stories like those shown in An Officer and Gentleman in which Louis Gossett Jr. plays the part of a DI should be top of the list for veterans and Marines. These stories touch on the camaraderie, discipline and merits of service. Farrell shared he, “…is most proud of his children. And he’s happy his career has given him the ability to touch people’s hearts.”

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ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

Members of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made up of an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters, inspect the Tabqa dam on March 27, 2017, which has been recently partially recaptured, as part of their battle for the jihadists’ stronghold in nearby Raqa.


Clashes raged around a key northern Syrian town on Tuesday after the Islamic State group launched a counter-attack to fend off a U.S.-backed advance near the jihadists’ stronghold Raqa.

Backed by air power from an international coalition bombing, the Syrian Democratic Forces are laying the groundwork for an assault on the heart of the jihadists’ so-called “caliphate.”

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ISIS has a history of targeting Kurds and their allies. (Dept. of Defense photo)

A key part of the campaign is the battle for the ISIS-held town of Tabqa on the Euphrates River, as well as the adjacent dam and military airport.

The SDF seized the Tabqa airbase late Sunday and began pushing north towards the town itself, but ISIS fighters doubled down on their defenses on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“The fighting is a result of ISIS launching a counter-offensive to exhaust the Syrian Democratic Forces around the Tabqa military airport,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

He said the SDF was working to “consolidate its positions” near the airport ahead of a final push for the town.

SDF fighters are also bearing down on the Tabqa dam after capturing its northern entrance on Friday from ISIS fighters.

The fight around the structure has been backed by forces from the US-led coalition, with American-made armoured vehicles bearing the markings of the U.S. Marine Corps seen moving along a nearby road.

An AFP correspondent at the dam on Tuesday said it was generally quiet around the dam itself, despite the occasional ISIS-fired mortar that landed in SDF-controlled parts of the riverbank.

Airplanes could be heard humming above as SDF forces patrolled the northern entrance of the structure.

On Tuesday, coalition forces could be seen standing near military vehicles less than one mile from the dam, their mortar rounds casually stacked nearby.

After a brief pause in fighting on Monday to allow technicians to enter the dam complex, SDF fighters resumed their operations around the structure, said spokeswoman Jihan Sheikh Ahmed.

“ISIS amassed its fighters and attacked our forces in the area, which forced us to respond and resume the operations to liberate the dam,” she said.

Earlier this year, the United Nations raised concern about the prospect of damage to the dam in fighting, warning that water levels — which put pressure on the structure — were already high.

ISIS has also issued warnings through its propaganda agency Amaq that the dam “is threatened with collapse at any moment because of American strikes and a large rise in water levels”.

On Tuesday, technicians accompanied by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent could be seen examining the dam to assess whether water levels had risen in recent days.

“The explosions and the clashes are threatening the dam, and we ask for all sides to distance themselves from it,” said Ismail Jassem, an engineer from the SDF-controlled Tishreen Dam in neighbouring Aleppo province.

“The water levels are acceptable now. We came to open up one of the gates to relieve the pressure,” he told AFP.

The SDF launched its offensive for Raqa city in November 2016, seizing around two thirds of the surrounding province, according to the Britain-based Observatory.

At their closest point, the forces are just five miles from Raqa city, to the northeast.

But they are mostly further away, between ten to fifteen miles from Raqa.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of source on the ground in Syria, said ISIS had deployed around 900 fighters from Raqa city to various fronts in the wider province.

“Fighting is raging on every front around the city of Raqa, accompanied by non-stop air strikes,” Abdel Rahman said.

Syria’s conflict began with protests against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011 but has turned into a brutal war pitting government forces, jihadists, rebels, and Kurds against each other.

UN-mediated talks between government and rebel representatives continued Tuesday in Geneva, aimed at bringing an end to the war that has killed 320,000 people.

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Pentagon reportedly considering sending ground troops into Syria

The Defense Department is considering recommending the US send ground troops into Syria to fight the terrorist group ISIS, according to a source who spoke to CNN.


“It’s possible that you may see conventional forces hit the ground in Syria for some period of time,” a defense official told CNN.

There are currently hundreds of US troops in Syria offering training and assistance to US-backed local forces there. But conventional forces would likely be on the ground in larger numbers, according to CNN.

Related: General claims 60,000 ISIS fighters have been killed

CNN reported last month that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was taking control of a Pentagon review to determine which options the Defense Department would present to President Donald Trump on the fight against ISIS.

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U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Joel Salgado

The defense official CNN cites in Wednesday’s report stressed that any decision on Syria would ultimately be up to Trump.

Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute and an expert on Syria, said he’s “not surprised” to see that the US is considering ground troops in Syria to fight ISIS.

“Fits Trump desire for a rapid victory + withdrawal,” he tweeted.

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This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”

“Forward, the Light Brigade! ‘Charge for the guns!’ he said: Into the valley of Death. Rode the six hundred.”

This was part of Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poem about how much of a cluster f*** the Battle of Balaclava truly ended up being. It is also the subject of Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper.”


The song directly states, “And as I lay forgotten and alone. Without a tear I draw my parting groan,” as a tribute to unnamed troops who were killed that day. In the many years that have since passed, letters have been discovered of first hand testimony of the ill-fated battle.

From 1853-1856, French, British, and Ottoman forces fought against the Russian Empire in the Crimean War. Conflict began after the Russians occupied Ottoman territory in modern day Romania. Within this war, the most infamous battle was at Balaclava where “The Charge of the Light Brigade” took place.

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(Photo via Wikimedia)

Under the command of Maj. General James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, the light cavalry brigade consisted of roughly 670 men. Lord Raglan, the Commander of the British forces, intended to prevent Russian troops from maintaining their guns on Ottoman positions.

 

Related: The story of ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ makes your officers look pretty smart

There are many historical discrepancies on who ordered the actual charge, but the fact remains: the cavalrymen charged directly into enemy cannons, killing roughly a sixth of brigade and another sixth wounded, totaling 271 casualties.

It was later discovered that the Russians numbered 5,240 strong.

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Officer of the 17th Lancers (Painting via Cranston Fine Arts)

An unknown officer of the 17th Lancers wrote in a recently discovered letter, “We all knew the thing was desperate before we started, and it was even worse than we thought. However there was no hesitation, down our fellows went at a gallop — through a fire in front and on both flanks, which emptied our saddles and knocked over our horses by scores. I do not think that one man flinched in the whole Brigade — though every one allows that so hot a fire was hardly ever seen.”

The loyalty of the British cavalry became well respected. The London Gazette wrote of the charge weeks after. While the commanders became despised, the troops were revered for their courage in the face of certain death.

Private Pearson of the 4th Light Dragoons wrote to his parents, “I shall never forget the 25th of October — shells, bullets, cannonballs, and swords kept flying around us. Dear Mother, every time I think of my poor comrades it makes my blood run cold, to think how we had to gallop over the poor wounded fellows lying on the field of battle, with anxious looks for assistance — what a sickening scene!”

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(Photo by Roger Fenton via Wikimedia)

Roger Fenton is regarded as one of the first war photographers and was present at the charge. Fenton refused to photograph dead or wounded as to not upset Victorian Era sensibilities, but he did capture troops and many moments after.

This photo that J. Paul Getty Museum called “one of the most well-known images of war” shows the aftermath of cannonballs that littered the landscape. The photograph titled “Valley of the Shadow of Death” has been on exhibition with the over 300 other images of the Crimean War

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(Photo by Roger Fenton via Library of Congress)

Today, the Light Brigade is remembered in the song “The Trooper.” Bruce Dickinson frequently on tour wears the British “red coat” smock as he waves a war-torn Union Jack. There has never been a more appropriate time to form a wall of death in the mosh pit.

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters
(Photo via Wikimedia)

Check out Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper” here, in all its glory:

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3 examples of how battlecruisers sucked in a fight

There are some battlecruisers that might have lasted for a bit, but all too often, battlecruisers had a very short combat career — usually ending in a spectacular fashion.


They had originally been designed to carry a set of big guns to blast apart enemy cruisers, but they also had a very high top speed, so they could outrun anything that could give them a fair fight.

The Royal Navy was familiar with battlecruisers blowing up when hit. They saw it happen at Jutland and the Denmark Strait. But Japan had its own bad experience with battlecruisers. Here are three case studies.

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HIJMS Akagi (US Navy photo)

1. HIJMS Akagi

Okay, technically, this is an aircraft carrier, but she was converted from a battle cruiser. Akagi was impressive – ww2db.com notes she displaced 36,500 tons and was over 850 feet long. She carried as many as 90 planes.

She went down because of one bomb. Granted, it was a 1,000-pound bomb, but it was still just one conventional bomb.

According to the book “Shattered Sword” by Jon Parshall and Anthony Tully, that bomb (plus the presence of aircraft being armed and fueled) lead to catastrophic fires that eventually forced Isoroku Yamamoto to order his old command to be scuttled.

Akagi had packed a powerful punch in six months of combat – including credit for wrecking the battleship USS Oklahoma (BB 37) and damaging the USS West Virginia (BB 48). But she proved to have a glass jaw.

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Battlecruiser HIJMS Hiei at Saesbo in 1926. She was sunk in 1942. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

2. HIJMS Hiei

On paper, the HIJMS Hiei (along with her sister ship HIJMS Kirishima) should have torn through Daniel Callaghan’s force at Guadalcanal like a kid through Christmas presents. They were two of the four Kongo-class battlecruisers, and brought the biggest guns to the fight.

But instead, it was Dan Callaghan who triumphed that night (at the cost of his life). As for Hiei? She took an 8-inch armor-piercing shell in the steering compartment, and was left a cripple. The next morning, planes from Henderson Field finished her off.

Crippled by a cruiser, then sunk by planes from the airfield she was supposed to bombard, makes Hiei a classic loser.

Her sister, Kirishima, didn’t fare much better. She went toe-to-toe with the USS Washington (BB 56) two nights later, and was reduced to a wreck before she was scuttled.

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Two views of HIJMS Kongo as she looked in 1944, the year she was sunk by USS Sealion (SS 315). (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

3. HIJMS Kongo

The lead Kongo-class battlecruiser lasted longer, mostly because during World War II, carriers were rightly seen as the more valuable targets. But when the USS Sealion (SS 315), commanded by Lt. Cdr. Eli Thomas Reich, got her in its sights, Kongo ended up as just another battlecruiser statistic.

Here sources disagree on how many hits she took. Anthony Tully notes at CombinedFleet.com that the Kongo took at least two hits, leading to an eventual capsizing and explosion.

Rear Adm. Samuel Eliot Morison said in the “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II” that a single hit lead to the explosive end of Kongo.

So, there you have it. Three more reasons why battlecruisers are losers — provided by the Japanese Navy.

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This county has the most vets in the USA. Here’s how two women are serving them all.

Despite most public assumptions, Los Angeles County leads the nation with the highest concentration of military veterans calling it home. The female veteran-led Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative (LAVC), stands ready to serve them.

According to their website, LAVC is a structured network of public, private and government agencies working together to reduce suffering and improve the lives of veterans, service members and military families in LA County. Along with the collaborative efforts of 300 organizations and resources housed under LAVC, the initiative is working towards policy changes that could further positively impact veterans. 

The foundation or backbone for the LAVC is Southern California Grantmakers, which has programming led by two female veterans determined to change the landscape for veterans as they transition or find themselves in need of support. 

Directing LAVC is Air Force Reserves Master Sgt. Aimee Pila-Bravo. But her passion for serving veterans goes beyond her connection as a military service member herself. It started after watching her brother, a Marine, struggle and not receive the help he needed. He eventually attempted to commit suicide while still on active duty.

“There were a lot of incarcerations and hospitalizations and he had a lot of problems that weren’t being addressed,” Bravo explained. Inspired by a social worker that was finally able to help her brother, she decided to become one herself. 

After leaving active service for the reserves to earn her master’s degree in social work, she knew she wanted to impact the lives of those who serve and have served.

“If someone could help my brother through that process then I want to be able to do it for others,” Bravo said. “I just recognize that there is a lot of help that needs to be given. I would prefer that they get that help while they are still in, before they get to us.”

Life after leaving active duty service is a shock to many veterans, with the added confusion of where to go and what’s available, Bravo said. Although each branch offers a class before the member begins terminal leave, she said it leaves many more confused than when they started. LAVC aims to make it as seamless as possible to set them up for success. 

Cristina Garcia is the Director for the Veteran Peer Access Network, which is part of Southern California Grantmakers, as well. The program connects county departments, non-profits, the VA and LA City programs, making navigation simpler for the veteran. It is led by veterans for veterans, giving them a battle buddy as they begin their journey after the military. 

A 24-year veteran of the United States Army, Garcia ended her career in the California Army National Guard working in diversity and immigration, retiring as a 1st Sgt. Her role at the end of her career would create a drive and purpose to continue to find ways to ensure all veterans received the care and resources they needed. 

“It really gave me a sense of worth and satisfaction to help those soldiers, families and the community,” Garcia explained. 

That drive and passion for service led her new role and she hasn’t looked back since. “We, as veterans, we know what’s out there. We get it, but when you hit those bumps and there’s no one to help, you kind of go into a downward spiral from there. That’s why this program is so low barrier,” Garcia said. 

Bravo echoed that sentiment but also knows that what they are doing is only the beginning of what’s needed to truly support veterans. “It’s a great start but it isn’t enough. It won’t be enough until we champion for change within the military itself,” she said. “It’s something that we need to work on and it’s a conversation that just can’t stop.”

Another unique point about LAVC is that the organization works with all veterans regardless of discharge and their families, making them standout as a valuable resource and initiative. “That’s why the program is so important and needed here in Los Angeles County,” Garcia said. 

For an area like LA that has such a large concentration of veterans, Bravo and Garcia hope to set the standard for programming elsewhere in the country. With the Veterans Administration backlogged with needs and the recent uptick in service member and veteran suicides, initiatives like LAVC are an important piece of the solution.

Both women said they are proud of where the program is going and grateful to all of the organizations joining forces to serve and make a difference. 

“We are here to inform, educate and make sure we give them that warm hug like – come here,” Bravo said. “It’s not ‘poor veteran’ either. Instead, it’s we know it’s going to be hard but that’s okay. We’re here.”

To learn more about LAVC, click here.


Feature image courtesy of LAVC’s Facebook page

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