This is why deployed Marines don't eat Charms candy - We Are The Mighty
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This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

They don’t even put Charms in MREs anymore. Because if everyone is just going to chuck the candy out the Humvee window, that’s just a gross waste of high-fructose corn syrup.


This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy
And that is candy corn’s job.

Those who aren’t new to the service and have ever deployed with Marines probably saw the same scene at some point. Hungry Marines pour into their MREs and take out their favorite parts and toss the rest into the MRE box (a process known as ratf*cking). Let’s face it, some MRE parts are definitely better than others.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy
Look, I like wheat snack bread, and I don’t need jalapeno cheese spread to eat it.

No matter what an individual’s tastes were, one item was always discarded: the Charms candy. The reason for that was a mixture of superstition and because the younger guys knew someone would slap the candy out of their hands or out of their mouths for the cardinal sin of even opening the wrapper.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy
The look you get when the smell of Charms fills the humvee. (HBO)

The simplest answer is that Marines grow up in the Corps learning that Charms are just plain bad luck. Whether it was learned from saltier Marines or experienced firsthand, those things might as well be pure evil.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

Eating Charms is like begging for the world’s largest thunderstorm to rain down on you and your platoon – even in the desert. Or they might set off a roadside bomb. Some think you’ll get mortared just for opening an MRE with Charms in it – unless you bury it.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy
Some troops have been known to donate them to the more persistent local children – at high velocity. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Grant Okubo)

The luck varied as much as the flavors did. As Sgt. Kenneth Wilson told Agence France-Presse just before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, a lemon-flavored Charm could cause a vehicle breakdown. The green ones were the ones that brought the rain. Raspberry meant certain death.

You might as well be eating apricots.

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ISIS is so worried about the coming Mosul invasion they’re cutting off the Internet

A top Pentagon spokesman said Aug. 3 that U.S. and coalition pressure against the ISIS stronghold in Mosul, Iraq, has taken such a toll on militant commanders that they’ve cut off most communications from the city, including Internet access for civilians there.


Army Col. Chris Garver, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve which is battling ISIS in Syria, Iraq and Libya, told reporters that morale among the ISIS fighters and the civilians being held in Iraq’s second largest city is cracking.

“We know that [ISIS] has started cutting off Internet access and really access to the outside world for the citizens inside Mosul,” Garver said. “We know that they’re afraid that Iraqi citizens inside Mosul are going to communicate with the Iraqi Security Forces.”

“We’ve seen that fear in ISIS in Ramadi, and in Fallujah and we’re seeing those indicators inside Mosul as well,” he added.

It’s so bad, Garver said, that ISIS leaders are ordering the execution of local militant commanders in Mosul for “lack of success or failure on the battlefield.”

The crumbling situation for rebel forces inside Mosul comes as U.S., Iraqi and Syrian Democratic forces continue to squeeze ISIS in the east of Iraq and to the north in Syria, with nearly half of the critical junction town of Manjib, Syria, taken from ISIS and troops flowing into the newly recaptured Q-West airfield near Mosul.

Top defense officials have hinted the assault on Mosul could launch as soon as the fall and could deal a crushing blow to ISIS worldwide.

“We know that [ISIS] considers Mosul one of the two capitals of the so-called caliphate … and clearly all eyes are focused on Iraq,” Garver said. “So not only would it be a significant physical loss, but the loss of prestige … their reputation as they try to manage it is going to take a big hit when Mosul does fall.”

Garver added that commanders believe there are about 5,000 ISIS fighters in Mosul, with the net tight enough that only small numbers of fighters can get in but not convoy-loads of them.

“At the heyday we saw 2,000 foreign fighters a month coming through Syria,” Garver said. “Now we have estimates of between 200 and 500.”

As Iraqi forces build out the Q-West airfield to support troops there, the noose will tighten around the city and the takedown will begin, Garver added.

 

MIGHTY FIT

Processed foods aren’t evil, your brain is just dumb

Everyone other than the likes of the Nabisco executive board agrees that processed foods are bad for you. But why exactly are they pinned as the food version of Lucifer by modern popular health gurus?

Do they cause disease?

Do they have mind control chemicals in them?

Or,

Are they simply a misunderstood solution to a problem we no longer have as a society?


This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

Yes MREs are processed… Did I even need to point that out?

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Erick Requadt)

Why are our brains dumb?

We are mentally weak when it comes to unnaturally delicious foods.

Think about it in this context:

In Ye Olde Cave Man Days, food tasted terrible.

Fruit and veggies were fibrous and bitter, and animals were fast and difficult to catch.

Whenever they were caught, they were lean and not that delicious; they were, after all, eating the same fibrous foods as our ancestors.

If a food was delicious, it was a sign that it was calorie-dense, because it was loaded with either lots of fat or sugar. That food was devoured quickly, because it would provide much more energy than the foods on the typical menu.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

If you’re gonna eat it, at least get it in your mouth!

(Photo by Luísa Schetinger on Unsplash)

Processed food isn’t the devil. Eating too much is.

Some research suggests that processed foods cause obesity, hypertension, high blood pressure, and cancer. But the poison probably isn’t the food itself. It’s the dose.

Too many processed foods lead to the above issues because it’s so easy to overeat them.

For instance: in order to get the same number of calories as a 16 ounce package of Oreos, you would need to eat roughly 250 ounces of broccoli. That’s over 15 pounds of broccoli! I’m pretty sure that’s physically impossible.

We usually only fill our gas tanks to the amount they can hold. What if instead of stopping there, I popped the hood of my car and sprayed gas all over the engine and other vehicular unmentionables? What if I then opened the driver’s side door and shot some gas into the passenger compartment of the car?

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

She is not going to have a happy tummy after that meal.

(Photo by frankie cordoba on Unsplash)

Do you think that there may be some negative side effects of over-fueling my vehicle in this way? Might my car develop type 2 car diabetes?

This is exactly what we do to our cells when we over-eat consistently. Our mitochondria (cellular engines) can no longer hold all of the energy inputs from the food we eat, just like the gas tank couldn’t hold any more fuel. Our mitochondria overflow and fuel spills out everywhere.

This is how we get fat and sick. This is also how you cause irreparable damage to the interior of your car.

Certain foods may be more prone to this phenomenon, like ultra-processed hyper-palatable foods. It is, in theory, possible with any food though.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

There were no trees growing donuts 15,000 years ago…

(Photo by Lidya Nada on Unsplash)

Food doesn’t just taste better now, it’s prettier too

Some reports say up to 60% of national caloric intake is ultra-processed.

It’s a no brainer as to why we are the fattest humans to ever inhabit planet earth.

Most ultra-processed foods are designed to taste amazing so that we want more of them.

Fat + Sugar + Salt + Attractive Colors + The Perfect Shape = Hyper-palatable Impossible To Resist Foods.

That math adds up to constant overeating which has led to the multiple health epidemics we are experiencing today.

In the wake of food industrialization after WWII, we realized that we can make more food, faster, and better tasting than ever before. Who would say no to that?

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

Don’t do it! You have so much to live for!

(Photo by Ethan Sexton on Unsplash)

Blinded by dollar signs, food companies raced to make the best tasting foods they could, profiting off of its addictiveness. In fact, it has similar effects on our gray matter as opioids.

Here we are more than 60 years after this process started trying to clean up the mess. We easily overeat hyper-palatable foods, and our bodies try to hide the extra energy, but there is nowhere reasonable for it to go in a timely manner. This causes our health to take a dive.

What initially started as a way to ensure people never starve like they did during the Great Depression turned out to be profitable. So profitable that the health of the nation became a secondary concern of food companies. They became slaves to the bottom line.

Food companies became so good at convincing our dumb caveman brains to buy their products that we are now experiencing a great depression of a whole different degree. A great Individual depression when we look at our naked bodies in the mirror.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy
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Here’s what happened 6 other times US embassies were attacked

The 2012 attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya wasn’t the first time such an outpost was stormed by locals. It wasn’t even the first time one was attacked in Benghazi. The Foreign Service of the United States isn’t all handshakes, ribbon cuttings, and talk. The people dedicated to improving relations with other countries while advancing U.S. foreign policy inherently put themselves at risk.


This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy
Photo: 13 Hours/Paramount Pictures

U.S. Diplomatic posts had been attacked with varying tactics and varying success before the infamous assault in Benghazi. Here’s how six others went down:

1. 1900 – Peking (Beijing), China

Anti-foreign, anti-Christian sentiment combined with severe drought in China led to armed violence against foreigners in the country as well as a general uprising against all external forces. The militias were called “Boxers” in English.  The Qing Empress Dowager Cixi supported the uprising as the Boxers converged on Beijing in full force, declaring war on all foreign powers. Five hundred diplomats, foreign civilians, and Christians barricaded themselves inside the two-square-mile Foreign Legation Quarter in the Chinese capital. The Boxers laid siege to the diplomatic area as German and U.S. Marine defenders kept them at bay, even under intense artillery fire.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy
Eight-Nation Alliance Soldiers (U.S. Army Center of Military History)

A 20,000-man relief army from eight nations invaded China. Japan, Russia, the British Empire, France, the U.S., Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary. The army marched 100 miles fro Tianjin to the capital in just over two weeks. British, Russian, Japanese, and French troops fought the Chinese Boxers at the city walls, trying to breach the gate. The Americans attempted to scale the walls instead of assaulting a fortified gate. Indian and Sikh troops from the British contingent were the first to break the siege of the Foreign Legation. Fifty-five of the almost 500 besieged were killed.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy
The U.S. Army in Beijing — then called Peking (U.S. Army Center of Military History)

2. 1927 – Nanking, China

Nationalist revolutionaries captured Nanking from a Chinese warlord in 1927, over a decade after the fall of Imperial China. These revolutionaries consisted of Chinese citizens and some Chinese Communists, but was mostly made op of the National Revolutionary Army (NRA), who would later be a U.S. ally against the Japanese in World War II. When the NRA captured Nanking, enraged Chinese fighters and citizens rioted and looted foreigners homes and attacked the American, British, and Japanese consulates.

The British sent eight warships led by the aptly-named HMS Vindictive while the U.S. Navy sent five destroyers of its own up the Yangtze River to relieve the foreign citizens and evacuate them. Every time the ships steamed into the city, they came under attack.The American and British sailors returned fire with overwhelming force, silencing the Chinese guns each time. Only one British and one American sailor were killed.

3. 1967 -Benghazi, Libya

Two years before Qaddafi’s coup toppled the regime of the Elderly King Idris I, the people of Libya were still fiercely proud of their Arab nationalism. At the onset of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Egyptian propaganda convinced the locals of Benghazi U.S. Navy planes were assisting Israel in their pre-emptive strikes against Egyptian airfields and other military targets. Outraged, thousands of Egyptian migrant workers and local mobs attacked the U.S.Embassy in Benghazi, overwhelming a Libyan military detachment the government dispatched to quell the uprising. The Embassy staff held the mob back with ax handles, rifle butts, and tear gas, even after the building was set on fire.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy
Benghazi in 1967 (Library of Congress)

The British tried numerous times to break through the mob to rescue the battered Americans, who stayed on the roof, trying to destroy classified material throughout the day. Eventually a British armored column managed to break through and extract the Americans. They also helped hundreds of Americans trapped in the area of the city by protecting them inside the British camp. The British moved the Americans to an airfield where they were extracted by the U.S. Air Force cargo planes.

4. 1968 – Saigon, South Vietnam

In 1967, during the Vietnam War, the United States turned over the defense of Saigon to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). By 1968, the U.S. Embassy in the capital at Saigon was defended by four Vietnamese police posts, with two U.S. Army military policemen at the entrance gate, two U.S. Marines in a guard post, with a third Marine on the roof of the embassy. On the night of January 31, 1968, 19 Viet Cong sappers open fire on the MPs at the gate, SP4 Charles L. Daniel and Pvt. 1st Class William E.  Sebast, who returned fire and secured the gate. The VC then blew a hole in the perimeter wall. The first two VC fighters through the wall were killed by the Army guards, but Sebast and Daniel were killed by their attackers. The Vietnamese policemen abandoned their posts when the first shots were fired.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy
The hole the VC blew in the Saigon Embassy wall (U.S. Army photo)

Inside, the Marines locked down the Embassy and started shooting into the breached wall. Inside the Embassy, the three Marines, two Vietnamese, and six American civilians jocked up and prepared for the VC assault. Meanwhile, Marines in their barracks five blocks away proceeded to the Embassy asa quick reaction force, but met with heavy resistance from the VC inside. As dawn broke, Military Policemen shot the locks off the gates and drove through it in a jeeps as MPs and Marines stormed the grounds. The 101st Airborne landed by helicopter on the roof and cleared the building.

5. 1979 – Islamabad, Pakistan

The Masjid al-Haram, or Great Mosque of Mecca, the holiest site in the Islamic religion, was itself taken over by Islamic fundamentalists. These terrorists believed their leader was the Mahdi, the redeemer of the Islamic faith, and called on the overthrow of the Saudi regime. Naturally, this caused ripples of outrage throughout the Islamic world. Radio reports varied, but some in Pakistan erroneously suggested the United States was responsible, began climbing the walls and trying to pull them down.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy
The U.S. embassy in Islamabad burning (Library of Congress)

The staff retreated to the secure communication vault as the embassy was burned down around them. They locked themselves in the building until nightfall, when a Marine snuck out the back door. The Marine found the entire Embassy empty and so the 140 people quietly escaped the grounds. A similar event happened at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya at the same time, for the same reason.

6. 1979 – Tehran, Iran

When the Shah of Iran abdicated the throne in 1979, he jetted around the world from place to place, searching for a country who would grant him asylum. Unbeknownst to much of the world, the Shah was also suffering from terminal cancer. In an act of compassion, U.S. President Jimmy Carter allowed the Shah to enter the U.S. for treatment. The people of Iran saw this act as complicity with a brutal regime and worried the U.S. was setting the stage to reinstall the Shah’s dictatorial regime once more, as they had done in 1953.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy
The American Embassy in Iran being overrun in 1979 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Tehran Embassy had been taken over on February 4th and held for three hours before the Foreign Ministry of the new government of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini convinced the attacker to give it back within three hours. On November 4th, students at the University of Tehran  planned and stormed the embassy again and would hold hostages for 444 days. The Iranian government used the hostages to secure passage of its Constitution and other Khomeini-era reforms, and hold parliamentary elections. A U.S. military attempt to rescue the hostages the next year failed miserably in the deserts of Iran.

See Also: This deadly failure in the Iranian desert lives in hostage rescue mission infamy

After the 1979 Embassy takeover, U.S. diplomatic posts worldwide were subjected to mortars, RPGs, and vehicle-borne improvised explosives. but a U.S. ambassador hadn’t been killed by in the course of duty since armed Islamic extremists in Kabul, Afghanistan killed Ambassador Adolph Dubs in 1979. That all changed in September 2012 when an armed militia stormed a diplomatic compound in Benghazi and killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

(The story  of the six government security contractors (also U.S. military veterans) who came to the rescue of the compound where Stevens was killed can be seen in Paramount Pictures’ adaptation of 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, in theaters Friday, January 15th.)

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

3 things Veterans should know about VA’s new electronic health record

VA is implementing its new electronic health record (EHR) system on Oct. 24 at initial sites in the Pacific Northwest. The implementation improves how clinicians store and manage patient information, including visits, test results, prescriptions and more. This will also mean some changes to how Veterans access their own health data online if their VA facility has changed to the new EHR.

Veterans who receive care at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Spokane, Washington, and its community-based outpatient clinics in Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint, Idaho; Libby, Montana; and Wenatchee, Washington, will be the first in the nation to use VA’s new electronic health record and patient portal, My VA Health. As a complementary tool to VA’s existing My HealtheVet patient portal, My VA Health will allow Veterans to manage their appointments, prescription refills, medical records and communication with health care providers online.


Since full implementation of VA’s new EHR is expected to occur over a 10-year period ending in 2028, most Veterans will not see immediate changes to how they view their medical records online. VA will continue to support its current EHR systems, including My HealtheVet, throughout the transition period to ensure there is no interruption to the accessibility and delivery of care. Veterans can expect to learn more as their local facilities prepare to migrate to the new EHR.

In the meantime, here are three key things Veterans should know about VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) program and My VA Health.

What is VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization program, and how does it impact Veterans?

EHRM is an effort to unite VA, the Department of Defense (DOD), the U.S. Coast Guard and community care providers on a single interoperable health information platform. This modernized system will allow VA to continue providing a world-class health care experience for Veterans across all VA facilities.

The new system will replace the department’s current electronic health record, known as the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), with a commercial, off-the-shelf solution developed by Cerner Corp.

The new EHR will create a paperless transition from receiving care as a service member through DOD to receiving care as a Veteran through VA. It will also support providers’ clinical decision-making by increasing their ability to make connections between a Veteran’s time on active duty and potential health issues later in life.

When will Veterans start using My VA Health?

Veterans will begin using the new My VA Health capabilities, accessible via VA.gov or My HealtheVet, when their local VA medical center or clinic transitions to the new EHR. Until then, Veterans will use only the existing My HealtheVet portal, which is also accessible via VA.gov. Mann-Grandstaff VAMC and its clinics are the first facilities introducing My VA Health to their patients.

Once My VA Health launches at a site, Veterans will be able use their current credentials to sign in to either My VA Health or My HealtheVet. This will ensure Veterans who have received care at more than one VA site have access to all of their records. For example, Veterans who receive care at Mann-Grandstaff VAMC and its four clinics will use My VA Health to manage their care from those sites and My HealtheVet to manage their health care from other VA and community sites. Historical records, including prior secure messages, will remain available on My HealtheVet.

Meanwhile, VA is working to make VA.gov the single place where Veterans can go for their health needs, so navigation between the two portals is not necessary. VA will provide resources to walk Veterans through these changes as EHRM deployment reaches their facilities.

How will Veterans at Mann-Grandstaff and its associated clinics access the patient portal?

Veterans will sign in as they do today, either through My HealtheVet or VA.gov, using any of the following accounts:

  • Premium DS Logon account
  • Premium My HealtheVet account
  • Verifiedme account

Once logged in, Veterans will be directed to My VA Health regarding care received at Mann-Grandstaff and its clinics and to My HealtheVet regarding care received at other VA locations. Veterans with basic or advanced My HealtheVet accounts can upgrade to a premium account using this guide.

Additionally, Veterans who receive care at Mann-Grandstaff VAMC and its associated clinics can visit this page for more information on My VA Health ahead of its introduction Oct. 24.

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

Articles

The Coast Guard is using this drone to nab drug smugglers

ABOARD THE COAST GUARD CUTTER STRATTON, in the eastern Pacific Ocean — The drone is loaded onto a catapult on the flight deck. From a control room, a technician revs the motor until the go-ahead is given to press the red button. Then the ScanEagle lifts off with a whoosh and, true to its lofty name, soars majestically over the wide blue sea.


The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Stratton is steaming more than 500 miles south of the Guatemala-El Salvador border, along the biggest narcotics smuggling corridor in the world.

Its mission: intercept vessels hauling cocaine bound for America’s cities.

It is a monumental task that has grown even larger in the past few years because of a boom in coca production in Colombia. But the Coast Guard is bringing more intelligence and technology to bear.

Deep within the 418-foot Stratton, which is based in Alameda, California, specialists crunch data from radar, infrared video, helicopter sorties and now the Boeing-made ScanEagle, which was deployed aboard the Coast Guard cutter for the first time during this three-month mission.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy
PACIFIC OCEAN — Petty Officer 3rd Class John Cartwright, a Coast Guard Cutter Stratton crewmember, releases the Unmanned Aerial Surveillance aircraft Scan Eagle during a demonstration approximately 150 miles off the Pacific Coast, Aug. 12, 2012. The Scan Eagle is being tested for capabilities that will create a reliable reconnaissance system for all 11 Coast Guard missions. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Luke Clayton.

“In the earlier days, when you wouldn’t see or catch anything, we used to pat ourselves on our back and say we must’ve deterred them,” said Adm. Paul Zukunft, commandant of the Coast Guard, with more than four decades at sea. “Now rarely 72 hours go by when you don’t have an event or we send a ship down there that doesn’t come back with multiple interdictions.”

The Associated Press spent two weeks in February and March aboard the Stratton, the most advanced ship in the Coast Guard fleet, as 100-plus crew members patrolled the eastern Pacific, through which about 70 percent of the cocaine consumed in the U.S. passes.

With three to five Coast Guard cutters covering 6 million square miles — from the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico to the eastern Pacific Ocean — it’s like having a few police cars watch over the entire lower 48 states.

Just after lunch on the second day of deployment, the Stratton’s PA system starts piping out acronyms. A TOI, or target of interest, has been detected by the ScanEagle with the support of aircraft radar, and a go-fast boat slides down a rear ramp into the blue waters to begin the chase.

In just a few minutes it catches up with a fishing boat, called a panga, with two outboard motors.

Sometimes smugglers frantically dump their cargo over the side or try to make a run for it, forcing their pursuers to fire warning shots or shoot out their engines. But this time, the boat’s crewmen, some of them barefoot, offer no resistance.

The four suspected smugglers sit handcuffed as a Coast Guardsman takes out some vials to conduct a chemical test. The results come back positive for cocaine, and the two Colombians and two Ecuadoreans are put aboard the cutter.

Hidden in the bales of cocaine is a GPS tracking device in a condom, a sure sign the drug bosses behind the shipment knew right away it didn’t reach its destination.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy
PACIFIC OCEAN — The Unmanned Aerial Surveillance aircraft Scan Eagle watches the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton from afar during a demonstration approximately 150 miles off the Pacific Coast, Aug. 12, 2012. The Scan Eagle is being tested for capabilities that will create a reliable reconnaissance system for all 11 Coast Guard missions. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

At sunset, the Stratton’s crew proudly poses for a picture with the haul while a black plume rises above the sea where the boat was set ablaze by the Coast Guard. A few hours later, the Stratton fires its cannon and sinks the vessel.

The next morning the ever-rising Narcometer in the on-board newsletter reflects the size of the bust: 700 kilograms (over 1,500 pounds) of pure cocaine with a wholesale value of $21 million. On the streets in the U.S., it could be worth more than five times that.

The Stratton’s biggest bust — a Coast Guard record — came in 2015, when it found more than 16,000 pounds of cocaine worth $225 million before the smuggling craft, a hard-to-detect semi-submersible vessel, sank with some of its cargo still aboard.

As good as the Coast Guard gets, its victories seem doomed to be short-lived. That’s because hundreds of miles to the south, in the jungles of Colombia, there’s a bumper harvest taking place. And Colombia is virtually the only source of cocaine smuggled by sea in small vessels.

That, along with better technology, may help explain why the Coast Guard has been coming back with ever-larger hauls. It set a record in 2016, seizing more than 240 tons of cocaine with a wholesale value of $5.9 billion and arresting 585 smugglers.

Last year, the amount of land devoted to coca cultivation in Colombia climbed 18 percent to an estimated 188,000 hectares (465,000 acres), according to a White House report. That is more coca production than at any time since the U.S. in 1999 began investing billions in an anti-narcotics strategy known as Plan Colombia.

“What we know here out at sea is that the business has been really good in the last couple of years,” said Capt. Nathan Moore, the Stratton’s skipper.

The surge is being driven in part by Colombia’s decision in 2015 to suspend aerial spraying of crop-destroying herbicides because of health concerns.

At the same time, there was a rush among peasant farmers to start growing coca so they could take advantage of generous payments to switch to legal crops being offered as part of a peace deal between the government and Colombia’s rebels.

Thus far, 55,000 families have signed pledges to rip up 48,000 hectares of coca in exchange for as much as $12,000 over two years. The government is also expanding manual eradication of coca, a slower and far more dangerous task, with the goal of destroying 50,000 hectares this year alone.

But many experts are skeptical that poor farmers will renounce coca growing, especially as criminal gangs fill the void left by the retreating rebels. Also, a successful drug run can net each smuggler a small fortune that makes it well worth the risk of a long prison sentence for many.

Such dynamics help explain why, despite the Coast Guard’s technological superiority, four drug-running boats are thought to get through for every one caught, Zukunft said.

Those taken into custody for smuggling are put in white hazmat suits, given health exams and then led into a converted helicopter hangar aboard the Stratton, where they are shackled to the floor and issued a wool blanket, toiletries and a cot or a foam mat. Eventually they are flown to the U.S. and prosecuted at American expense.

The alternative would be to seek prosecution in Central American countries such as Honduras, where the vast majority of crimes go unpunished.

More than a dozen nations in Central and South America have essentially outsourced their drug-interdiction efforts to the U.S.

“Imagine you’re out at Ocean City, Maryland, and then out of nowhere comes this foreign helicopter and it starts peppering a U.S. recreational boat with automatic machine gun fire and sniper fire. We would say it’s an act of war,” Zukunft said.

“But that’s the faith and confidence these countries have in the U.S. and our Coast Guard.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi

There are plenty of things in our everyday life that directly result from some bottom-basement strange experiments. Take, for example, the internet, GPS, and even robots who do mundane housework chores.

For every one of those successes, though, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has funded, there are so many more strange failures. From outer space to the human brain, DARPA funds research aimed at keeping our military on the cutting edge of technology. But that doesn’t mean that its experiments are always successful.


But that’s part of its charm and, some say, part of its success. DARPA can exist outside of bureaucratic red tape to explore, experiment, and innovate. It isn’t subject to the same rules as all the other federal agencies that you might think of in terms of innovation, which ultimately means that it has fewer restrictions in play. That allows its inventors, designers, engineers, and scientists to really push limits.

Adding to that, DARPA doesn’t really have a budget. Well, there’s a loose one that’s generally reviewed annually just like all other government agencies, but its overall financial limitations are very few. That allows the agency to pour lots of money into strange and unusual projects in the hopes they’ll pay off. When you’re not worried about funding getting cut off, it’s a lot easier to see promise in zany innovation. As the military’s venture capitalists, DARPA is all about finding the next best thing.

But in its 62 years, there have been plenty of times when the innovation just fell flat. Sure, high risk makes for high reward, but that doesn’t always mean these innovations have practical uses.

Houses that repair themselves

Something that sounds straight out of a sci-fi movie, for sure. DARPA’s Engineering Living Materials program aims to create building materials that can be grown anywhere in the world and repair themselves when damaged. 3D tech helps make this research plan a reality, but DARPA still has a way to go.

Lab-grown blood

This program could have a seriously beneficial impact on transfusable blood available for wounded service members, not to mention the rest of the world. It might also help reduce the risk of transmission during a transfusion. Blood pharming takes red cells from cell sources in a lab and then grows them. DARPA’s Blood Pharming program drastically reduces the cost associated with growing RBCs, but the project still needs more development.

Mechanical elephants + robotic infantry mules 

Who needs a tank when you can have a lab-created elephant? At least, that’s what DARPA thought back in the 1960s when it began researching vehicles that would allow troops and equipment to move more freely in the dense jungles of Vietnam. Naturally, DARPA looked toward elephants since nothing says limber and agile like a thousand-pound animal. What started as a quest for a mechanical elephant led DARPA researchers down a strange path that ultimately ended in transporting heavy loads using servo-actuated legs. Fun fact: the director of DARPA didn’t even know about the project until it was in its final stages of research. He shut it down immediately, hoping that Congress wouldn’t hear of it and cut funding.

Fifty years later, DARPA was at it again – this time trying to create robotic infantry mules that would offset the heavy lifting challenges that can seriously affect troop health and morale. Currently, DARPA is working with a Boston-based robotics company to fine-tune its Legged Squad Support System, which is capable of carrying up to 400 pounds. The LSSS is designed to deploy with an infantry unit and be able to go on the same terrain as the squad without slowing down the mission.

Since its founding, DARPA continues to think outside the box. Of course, not every idea is golden, but that’s just part of innovation. If any of these ideas ever get out of the board room and really into the field, the next generation of soldiers will really have something to write home about.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Venezuela threatens White House ‘stained with blood’

The beleaguered Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro refused to call new elections in response to demands from several European countries.

He also warned that the US presidency would be “stained with blood” if President Donald Trump goes ahead with plans to intervene.

European Union countries including Austria, Britain, France, Germany, and Spain told Maduro to call fresh elections by Feb. 3, 2019, or else they would formally recognize Maduro’s opponent, Juan Guaidó, as Venezuela’s interim president.


Guaidó, the National Assembly president, declared himself the country’s interim president in January 2019. Critics of Maduro have accused him of vote-rigging in last May’s presidential election and say his presidency, which started Jan. 10, 2019, is unconstitutional and fraudulent.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Tens of thousands of people have been protesting Maduro over the past month. Maduro has presided over one of the worst economic crises, leading to hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Venezuela.

Maduro rejected the European countries’ call on Feb. 3, 2019, the day of the deadline, telling the Spanish TV channel La Sexta that “we don’t accept ultimatums from anyone.”

“It’s as if I told the European Union that I give it a few days to recognize the Republic of Catalonia,” he added, referring to the Spanish region of Catalonia’s failed attempt to break away from Spain in October 2017.

Catalonia’s regional president, Carles Puigdemont, declared autonomy from Spain after a contested referendum, and Madrid’s Constitutional Court canceled the independence bid the next month. Spanish authorities have since arrested and detained some of Puigdemont’s allies.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

Catalonia’s regional president, Carles Puigdemont.

Britain, Denmark, France, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden formally recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president on Monday in response to Maduro’s refusal to organize new elections, Sky News reported.

‘Stop, stop, Donald Trump!’

Maduro on Feb. 3, 2019, also warned that Trump’s presidency would be “stained with blood” if Trump decided to intervene in Venezuela.

Trump, who backs Guaidó as interim president, on Feb. 3, 2019, said that sending troops to Venezuela was “an option.”

In response, Maduro threatened the possibility of his country descending into widespread violence.

When La Sexta asked whether the political turmoil could end in civil war, Maduro said, “Nobody can answer now with certainty.”

“Everything depends on the level of madness and aggressiveness of the northern empire,” he said, referring to the US.

He also told La Sexta that “thousands of innocent Venezuelans may end up paying with their lives … if the US empire attacks the country.”

Venezuela’s Maduro ‘leaves voicemail’ for rival Guaidó

www.youtube.com

“Stop, stop, Donald Trump!” Maduro said. “You are making mistakes that are going to stain your hands with blood, and you are going to leave the presidency stained with blood. Stop!”

He added: “Or is it that you are going to repeat a Vietnam in Latin America?”

Maduro also warned Guaidó to “stop this coup-mongering strategy and stop simulating a presidency in which nobody elected him.”

Guaidó argued in The New York Times last week that his interim presidency was not a “self-proclamation” because the Venezuelan Constitution says that “if at the outset of a new term there is no elected head of state” he becomes interim president.

He said that since Maduro’s reelection was not legitimate, that condition has been fulfilled.

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

Articles

This WWII vet inspired almost every comic strip in your Sunday funnies

In the cartooning world, Peanuts is the gold standard – the bar of humor and longevity every comic strip hopes to achieve. But even a great like Peanuts creator Charles M. Schultz has his heroes. Schultz went into the Army during WWII, and although his service wasn’t glamorous, he slogged through the mud like every other GI.


Schultz wasn’t a wartime correspondent, but his hero, Bill Mauldin, was. Because many WWII-era troops in Europe experienced hardships similar to Schultz’ – the mud and privation among others – it was no surprise that Mauldin’s comic lampooning of the situation (and not the war) caught on with the guys on the ground.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

Mauldin became the hero for many GIs like Schultz fighting in Europe, but it was Schultz who honored Mauldin every Veteran’s Day by dressing Snoopy in his service blues to quaff a few root beers at Bill Mauldin’s place.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

William Henry “Bill” Mauldin was a cartoonist and the creator of Willie Joe, the most beloved comic strip ever to come out of the war. It was featured in Stars and Stripes and read by just about every GI in the European Theater. Willie Joe was a single panel comic (think The Far Side and Ziggy) featuring two every day Joes living the daily life of troops fighting the Nazis. Before making it to Stars and Stripes Mauldin, “the fighting cartoonist,” was on the ground in Europe. He landed on the beaches of Sicily in 1943. This dedication to authenticity gave his work the realism with which every American soldier could relate.

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Fighting Cartoonist Sgt. Mauldin at work.

His sketches appeared in his division paper before he became a full-fledged combat correspondent. He preferred to draw ideas from experience and stayed close to the front, to the Willies and Joes fighting the war. He was even on the sharp end of German mortars, wounded at Monte Cassino in 1943, which only lent more authenticity to Willie Joe. 

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

There was one soldier who was less than a fan of Mauldin’s (to put it mildly). General George S. Patton frequently complained to Supreme Allied Headquarters about the cartoon and the cartoonist. He believed the unkempt appearances of Willie and Joe were a disgrace to the Army and subverted discipline. Patton repeatedly called for Mauldin’s dismissal, but luckily for Mauldin and the troops in Europe (and anyone who appreciates humor), the fighting cartoonist was protected from on high by General Dwight D. Eisenhower himself. Mauldin c to skewer anything and everything in his cartoons.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

Eventually, Willie Joe became so popular that stateside newspapers began to feature the duo in regular publications. Civilians not only loved the comic, but it helped them understand the everyday struggles faced by troops fighting the war (at least the ones in Europe).

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

In 1945, Mauldin’s work earned him a Legion of Merit and the Pulitzer Prize. Willie Joe would grace the cover of Time magazine as Mauldin published a collection of 600 comics in a book called “Up Front.” The book was an instant best-seller. He kept writing comics right up until VE-Day.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

After the war, Mauldin continued work as a writer and cartoonist, eventually going to the Chicago Sun-Times as a staff member. He won another Pulitzer in 1961 and penned more than one cartoon, including one on November 22, 1963. When he heard about Kennedy’s death, he rushed back to work and drew this iconic panel, depicting President Lincoln (with hair like Kennedy’s) mourning the loss.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

Mauldin sketched Willie and Joe only a few times after the war. His work influenced many of the famous cartoonists of the 20th century, including Charles M. Schultz, who always referred to Mauldin as his hero. In fact, the last time Mauldin ever drew the dogface duo, they appeared in a Peanuts strip with Snoopy.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

Bill Mauldin died in 2003 and the loss was felt (and depicted) by cartoonists all over the United States, a testament to the lasting memory of  the fearless “Fighting Cartoonist.”

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Sergeant Major of the Army shares his reading list

Recently, I spoke with the Sergeant Major of the Army about COVID-19 and the challenges and opportunities we are facing right now as an Army and a Nation. He highlighted that now is the time to reassess our goals and set new ones.

One of your goals might be to read a book or two during this time. Goals are important and they are even more important now, as we all deal with the necessary restrictions to stop the spread.


We spoke again this week and he shared his reading list with me. He found that reading has helped him grow professionally and as a person. SMA Grinston also shared that reading helps him take a mental break from the day-to-day stressors of life. He even says that if he wasn’t a reader, he wouldn’t be the Sergeant Major of the Army.

You will notice that most of the books on this list aren’t about military battles or written by people in the Army for people in the Army. For the SMA, he likes to read about things outside the military to get new and fresh ideas. We both hope you find something on here that interests you.

The Reading List – in the SMA’s words:

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1. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard M. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

This is a controversial book –which is one of the reasons I like it. I read it when I was the FORSCOM Sergeant Major and it’s about choice architecture and how small changes to our environment can make a big difference. For example, the authors discuss an elementary school that placed food in different locations in the cafeteria to “nudge” the kids to make healthier choices…and it worked.

Since reading this book, I look at how I can make small changes to the placement of things in my personal life or in the Army to make it better.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

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2. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek

I read this book as a brigade or division sergeant major, and it reminded me that sometimes in the Army we jump to the end first. When we ask our soldiers to do something, we focus on the how or the what and forget to explain the why.

Our enlisted Soldiers are smart, and when you explain the why to them, it increases their commitment to the mission. Sometimes, there isn’t enough time to explain why we are doing something, especially in the middle of a firefight, but most of the time we can. And as leaders, this is where we need to start.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

media.defense.gov

3. The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness by Jeff Olson and John David Mann

After I was nominated Sergeant Major of the Army, people asked me for the keys to my professional success. I struggled to answer this question until the commander of the Old Guard recommended this book. Slight Edge helped me define for others how to be successful in the Army and how I got to where I’m at today.

The authors of this book look at what happens when you do something that no one else is willing to do and continue to do it over a long period of time. I’ve been in the Army for 32 years and every morning I wake up and do physical fitness. I read books for self-development. Doing those small things over time, year after year, made a difference in the long run. It’s about developing the discipline and commitment over a long period of time to achieve your goals.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

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4. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

I think I was a Platoon Sergeant or Sergeant First Class when I read this book. Malcolm Gladwell discusses how it’s not only innate abilities that make people successful, other factors play a major role too –like timing.

One of the examples he uses in the book is Bill Gates. Growing up, Bill Gates had access to a computer early in his life which afforded him the opportunity to get 10,000 hours of practice with programming. Yes, he was born in the right place at the right time, but he also took advantage of the opportunity to make himself better.

This book has helped me focus on looking at the opportunities within assignments. I remember when I was nominated to be the brigade sergeant major of an infantry brigade. That job gave me the requisite skills and opened doors that led me down a path to where I am today. We all have the opportunity to be an outlier if we have the right mindset.

5. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

Since reading Mindset, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t reference or think about it. She writes about two mindsets: Growth vs. Fixed. A growth mindset says that even though I’m not good at a certain skill, I can learn and get better over time. With a fixed mindset, we don’t even try because we think we can’t grow beyond our current skill set. This line of thinking becomes more dangerous the higher in rank and position that leaders go in the Army.

6. Becoming a Resonant Leader: Develop Your Emotional Intelligence, Renew Your Relationships, Sustain Your Effectiveness by Annie McKee

I read this one as a corps sergeant major and this is probably my all-time favorite leadership book. Have you ever worked for someone and knew they weren’t listening to anything you said? As leaders, our level of emotional intelligence has a major impact on the morale of our Soldiers. We have to listen to our people and be mindful and show empathy.

This book made me a better leader, sergeant major, and follower. I started paying more attention to my own mindfulness.

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7. Winning by Jack Welch

I read this one around the time I was a sergeant first class or first sergeant and it taught me about the importance of managing talent. Welch writes that the top 5% of any organization needs to be identified and properly managed. He also writes that there is a large population of strong performers that will never be the top 5%, but are also important to the organization. He discusses how to identify, manage, and motivate both groups.

8. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

This is the hardest book to read on this list. It took me a while to get through but I found it beneficial to understand the psychology of decision-making. I gained a much greater understanding and appreciation for how the mind works.

It’s difficult to read, but it helps us better understand how the mind works. If you like sociology and psychology books, this is a great starting place. The higher I go in position in the Army, the more I realize how important it is to understand human behavior. I have a greater appreciation now for how logic and emotion work together in the decision-making process and I know I’m a better leader and person for it.

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9. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein

I read this one when I was a staff sergeant. I remember my battalion commander making all the officers read it and I wanted to learn something alongside them.

This was another controversial book when it was written. Heinlein uses science fiction to talk about what it means to be a citizen; he addresses the need for corrective training and several other issues that we see playing out today. This book is a fun read and makes for a great discussion between leaders in a unit.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

media.defense.gov

10. Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer

I read this one when I was a brigade sergeant major. It’s a thick one so if you decide to tackle it, it might take you awhile. I like Once an Eagle because it covers an entire career of an individual, his commitment to the Army, and the lessons he learns along the way. I found that when I read it, I put myself in the shoes of the main character and reflected on my own career.

Start today

During our interview, Grinston said he hopes you will want to read and take the opportunity now to start the habit of reading for professional development.

“I know life is difficult right now for a lot of people. But we will get through this.”

popular

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

Professions throughout the world all have their own unique terminology. Although the U.S. military is a unique organization, in this respect, it works in the same way. We’ve coined terms and created acronyms for just about anything you can imagine.


But what’s more interesting than the terms themselves is the original of each. While some terms have a clear origin, how others began is clouded in mystery. Military terms are sometimes seen as mildly derogatory, such as the term “boot,” or, in this case, “POG,” which means “Person Other than Grunt.”

So, where did the term “POG” come from? Well, we’re glad you asked.

Related: 5 ways to skate in Marine Corps boot camp

The term comes from the word “pogue,” which is Gaelic for “kiss.”

It was started by disgruntled Navy sailors of Irish descent who served during the American Civil War. They were upset that others, would never leave shore, would get to stay home and get all the kisses from the ladies while they were out fighting.

 

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Sailors always seemed to get the cute nurses back in the day…

Then, Marines caught wind of the term, adopted it, and began using it themselves to describe anyone who wasn’t involved in any type of combat. The term eventually found its way into the Army.

Also Read: 5 reasons why Luke Skywalker was operator AF

The Air Force doesn’t typically use this term since they’re all pogues — for the most part.

As time progressed, the term became associated with any non-combat military occupational specialties and, eventually, it was shortened to the acronym “POG.”

It’s since been classified as a derogatory term, and its usage is frowned upon by those in leadership positions — especially if they’re POGs.

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Although every Marine is a rifleman, not every Marine is an infantryman. Some are POGs. (Image via U.S. Department of Defense)

If someone tries telling you that the word is spelled “pogue,” they’re wrong. It’s “POG,” and you should refer them this article right away before commanding them to do some push-ups.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Military marriage in one word…impossible

Military Marriage Day will be celebrated for the first time August 14th! In preparation of the holiday, I looked for a word to sum up military marriage. I knew my limited perspective couldn’t possibly take on the task alone, so I reached out to a vibrant military spouse group on Facebook to find my answer. Surely I’d see a pattern of responses that would lead to that one magic word I was looking for. Maybe it would be a short word like fun or more interesting words like amorous or idyllic. I posted my prompt asking, “How would you describe your military marriage in one word? Bonus if you add a gif.” Once it posted I closed my phone and finished making dinner for my littles.

Hopeful to get some great feedback, I opened my phone to see 600 comments and many more rolling in. Success! This is just what I needed. Surely there will be a clear outcome with a few outliers of course. I started scrolling fully expecting gifs of hugging teddy bears or Fez from That ’70s Show drawing a heart with his figures while mouthing “I Love You,” you know the ones. That was until I read the comments that busted the bubble of a one-sided reality filled with hot air and laughing gas, which clearly had me in this delusional state. My rose colored glasses cracked and all I could say was, DANG!


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For perspective, the spouses who responded are roughly between 20 and 46 years old. Some have been married for over a decade while others are still in their honeymoon of under a year of marital bliss. This beautiful array of perspective was the reality check I needed. The truth is that there was no one word to describe military marriage. Although the majority of military spouses are women married to men, the military is not a monolith. We have male military spouses that are married to women as well as a growing LGBTQIA population meaning that everyone brings a different word to the conversation. On top of that, each branch, rank, career field, and current event experienced within a couple’s marriage will determine the challenges faced or encounters they’ll walk through. That one single word became more and more impossible to reach as I scrolled.

I did see some themes, which I believe gives a good array of what military marriage really is. Nearly everyone responded using a gif. Below is a breakdown of the groupings of words the milspouses shared.

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10% – Confused/Mixed Emotion

I love this population that posted the confused gifs. I’m leading with them as not only because they were the smallest percentage, but mostly because they were the most honest. The perplexed faces of Ice Cube, Bill Cosby and other celebrities were popular in this group along with bipolar expressions like Anne Hathaway using a fan to transition her facial expression from happy to sad. This group alone shows that there is not one word for our relationships.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

15% – On the Down Side

Lonely, sad, patiently or impatiently waiting. These are the gifs that showed the reality of the down side of military marriage. A popular gif was the character Oleg of Compare the Meerkat’s. Oleg’s sweet yet sad face outstretched hands had a caption of “Come Back.” A sucker punch to the gut of emotion I felt as a young spouse counting down yet another deployment. Others used SpongeBob or Pikachu to relay their feelings of grief due to separation.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

17% – Illusion or Adventure

Rollercoaster rides, circus acts, and oblivious characters sitting calmly amongst chaos was a common description for military marriage. Although most are referring to military life in general, it definitely tells the story of how military marriages endure. The crowd favorite was a cartoon gif of a room on fire while the dog calmly sips coffee from a mug with a captain that says, “That is fine.” The clip comes from a 2013 webcomic called On Fire, but is a humorous depiction of the fires that surround military marriages as we try to maintain an illusion of an unbothered attitude.

28% – Letting Off Steam 

From actress New York of Flavor of Love rubbing her temples to Stitch of the Disney movie Lilo Stich scratching his eyes out, this majority was not afraid to show some frustration. Gifs depicting chaos through dumpster fires, disasters and screaming let loose the realities of the stress that military couples deal with. Marriage takes work and is definitely not a simple cake walk. It takes intentionality and overcoming obstacles thrown at you from different directions. The emotion shared in these posts were real.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

30% – Positive Vibes

I was relieved to see that the highest percentage of responses were in a range of positivity. Everything from a simple “okay,” thumbs up or Finding Nemo’s Dory singing “Just Keep Swimming” to dynamic duo gifs like Batman flapping Superman’s cape as if he were flying, hand holding and romantic gifs for grownups eyes only.

In the end, love wins!

A gif is worth a thousand words and the fact that I was looking for just one made it an impossible task. Many responses were sent in humor, yet there is a lot of truth in those pictures of sadness, anger, and lack of desire to acknowledge troubling realities. Military marriage is complex and filled with highs and lows. Those who expressed love and excitement where not the overwhelming majority, which tells me that there is some work to do in our relationships. I may have been searching for one word to describe military marriage for Military Marriage Day, yet what I discovered is all the more reason why our couples need a reason to celebrate.

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


MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the Air Force is on a mission to fix its uniforms

The U.S. Air Force for months has been working to redesign gear and flight suits used by female pilots after many years of ill-fitting equipment.

But why stop there? It’s also updating current flight suit and gear designs to improve comfort and ease of wear, according to officials working on the project. At the same time, officials want to streamline and expedite the process of shipping these uniforms and support gear anywhere across the world to meet a unit’s requirement.

Since his tenure in the Air Force, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has called for improved, better-fitting uniforms — not only for comfort, but also for safety.


“We have women performing in every combat mission, and we owe it to them to have gear that fits, is suited for a woman’s frame and can be [worn] for hours on end,” Goldfein told reporters at a Defense Writers Group in Washington, D.C. last year.

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Capt. Lauren Kram, assigned to the 13th Bomb Squadron, poses for a portrait on Feb. 19, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

Officials have been eager to create and field uniforms and flight equipment with better fit and performance, and make them more readily available for female aircrew, said Maj. Saily Rodriguez, the female fitment program manager for the human systems program office.

The problem for decades has been limited sizes, which has resulted in female airmen tailoring their own flight suits, or just wearing a suit too tight or too loose.

Rodriguez and her team have been tasked to “specifically … look at how the female body is shaped,” with a goal of “tailoring that flight suit to be able to accommodate the female shape,” she said in an interview with Military.com Thursday.

The project was launched within the Air Force Lifecycle Management Center, with Rodriguez focused on the female perspective for better-fitted uniforms and gear.

“Everything that touches an aircrew member’s body, we manage in the program office,” she said. That includes everything from flight vests; G-suits, which prevents the loss of consciousness during high levels of acceleration or gravity pressure; helmets; boots; and intricate gear such as bladder relief apparatus.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

Participants of the Female Flight Equipment Workshop demonstrate the issues women face with the current survival vests at AFWERX Vegas, Las Vegas, Jan. 30, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)


Some improvements have been made already. In November 2018, the service began delivering upgraded Aircrew Mission Extender Devices, also known as AMXDmax, for bladder relief. The device collects urine in a cup for men and a pad for women, and can hold 1.7 quarts of urine, according to the service. The Air Force said it had expected to deliver roughly 2,000 to crews service-wide by the end of this month.

Beyond female flight equipment, the office is gearing up for improved uniforms and devices for all.

“We’re going to be adding on what’s called the ‘combat-ready airman,'” Rodriguez said, “which is going to look at more roles than just aircrew members to ensure that those airmen, men and women, are being outfitted in standardized uniforms as well, that suit their need to be able to properly do their duties they’re assigned.”

Officials are still defining what a ‘combat-ready airman’ is, but the term eventually will “encompass the larger Air Force” beyond aviators, she said. As an example, work has begun on better-fitting vests for female security forces airmen.

“It all comes down to making sure that airmen have gear that they can use and … perform their missions,” Rodriguez said.

Getting uniforms Amazon-quick

On the shipment management side, leaders are using the Battlefield Airmen Rapid Resource Replenishment System, or BARS, a central equipment hub that sorts various gear and can ship the clothing directly to airmen across the globe.

The system was created to quickly field resources to deployed airmen, such as Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) airmen, pararescue and special tactics operations in Air Force Special Operations Command, said Todd Depoy, the special warfare branch chief for the special operations forces and personnel recovery division within Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. Gear ranges from scuba gear to climbing equipment, Depoy said.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

An HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter, assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron, flies during training on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Feb. 22, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Kevin Tanenbaum)

“BARS is a cloud-based software program … with [an additional] inventory control,” Depoy told Military.com. The program has been around a little over a year, he added.

The internal system, created and hosted by Amazon, gives individuals the authority to head to a computer and mark what they need and have it shipped over — with the proper military approvals, Depoy said.

“There is a checkpoint, but if they need something, they can go in and order it, and those items are on the shelf,” he said.

The items are stored and managed by the Air Force at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana.

Unlike in years past where it could take months to get gear overseas, it now takes between a few days and a few weeks, depending on the location, Depoy said.

The goal now is to speed up the existing process for men’s gear, and implement a similar one for female flight suits.

“BARS is an existing system, but I’m currently adding our ACC female aviators into the system,” said Shaunn Hummel, the aircrew flight equipment program analyst at Air Combat Command’s A3TO training and operations office.

Lately, Hummel has been working to add female flight suits, jackets, boots and glove to the list of available gear in the system. His job is to work with the Defense Logistics Agency to appropriately stock facilities so airmen can access items via BARS.

In September 2018, ACC made a bulk buy of roughly id=”listicle-2635292502″ million worth of these items, Hummel said.

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

Capt. Christine Durham (left), Pilot Training Next instructor pilot, gives a briefing to her students prior to a training mission at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Austin, Texas, Feb. 5, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)

“We’re working with DLA to try and decrease the lead time and increase productivity for the manufacturing of these suits,” Hummel said April 16, 2019. Female flight suits “are not manufactured all the time until there is a consistent demand of them.”

Hummel explained there are 110 different flight suits — between the “women” category, for curvier women, and the “misses” category, for those with slimmer builds — and they also have different zipper configurations.

Zippers have been a problem for men as well as women. Very tall or very short airmen may find their zippers ill-placed to relieve themselves conveniently, the service said in a recent release.

“We’re making sure we’re using data … to assess what are the sizes we need to get women outfitted” by cross-referencing stockpiles through the various offices, Rodriguez added.

Right now, the teams are working together to get more feedback on how the programs are working, and what else could be done to improve standard gear to keep pilots and aircrew safe in flight.

The service has held several collaborative “Female Flight Equipment Workshops,” the release said.

Rodriguez said it wants more airmen speaking up.

“We have an effort underway looking at how we can streamline feedback from the user … so that we can use it when we’re looking for improvements in the future,” she said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.