Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen - We Are The Mighty
Asperiores odit

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen

Standing in front of a projector that displays the remains of a deceased man, an Army Reserve instructor is not explaining to his 11 students the gruesomeness of what happened to the man, but the proper way to effectively serve in a unique and honorable job as a mortuary affairs specialist.

“Being in mortuary affairs isn’t easy because I know everybody can’t deal with remains,” said Staff Sgt. Luis Garcia, the lead instructor for the Mortuary Affairs Specialist Course held at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, May 12-28, 2018.


“The thing about our job is take those heroes and do all the preparation and help with the valuable effects,” said Garcia, who is assigned to the 5th Multifunctional Battalion, 94th Training Division – Force Sustainment, 80th Training Command (Total Army School System).

The mortuary affairs course falls under the command and control of the 94th Training Division, and the 94th Training Division supports the 80th Training Command’s mission of more than 2,700 instructors providing essential training to Army Reserve, National Guard and Active Duty Soldiers.

“When you are dealing with the remains, you are thinking of the families and focused on treating the fallen hero with the utmost respect and dignity,” said Garcia. “It’s an honor to be here and to instruct because this job is like no other.”

Garcia’s students will graduate and move on to serve as combat-ready leaders in their units, but a few received first-hand experience shortly after switching to this military occupational specialty in 2017, and helped when Hurricane Maria hit land.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Brian Hamilton)

“One day I’m learning at the morgue. Then I graduate from the mortuary affairs reclass course, and one day later I’m at the morgue again. This time I’m helping them because of the hurricane,” said Sgt. Pedro Cruz, assigned to the 311th Quartermaster Company. “We were working over there every day. I’m doing things I won’t do on deployment because as I hear, ‘you don’t work with remains every day on deployments.'”

Sgt. Adrian Roman-Perez, also assigned 311th Quartermaster Company, was another student who stepped out of the classroom and put what he learned to use shortly after the class ended.

“I worked alongside our instructor because we had to provide support to the morgue,” Roman-Perez said. “It wasn’t that the hurricane happened; it was about the aftermath after it happened.”

“In the Army, we train as we fight but you can’t do that in this job,” said Roman. “Most of the time, you are dealing with a mannequin and never have the opportunity to experience remains or have your body have that kind of stress.”

“For me it was kind of useful and it will be useful on my deployment because it helped prepare me for what is coming up,” Roman-Perez said. “That type of stressful situation helped me and taught me how to cope with it.”

According to Staff Sgt. Izander Estrada, a soldier assigned to 5th Battalion and helping Garcia with the mortuary affairs course, said that Hurricane Maria left a lasting impression not only on the students, but the instructors and staff at the organization.

“There were no trees, and it was so quiet,” he said. “You didn’t hear cars or birds or anything. It was completely quiet. It was a surreal experience.”

“It was a lot of stuff that if you’re not here, living there it’s impossible to understand or to explain,” he added. “Seeing people not having water and electricity, you start think about how important things are and that you take them for granted. Like when the air conditioning is always on, that’s electricity that you’re using.”

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
Sgt. Axel Ayala and Sgt. Carolina Ortega, both students attending the Mortuary Affairs Specialist Course, work together to set up one side of the Mobile Integrated Remains Collection Systems.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Emily Anderson)

Despite dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Estrada was one of several individuals tasked with ensuring the future courses at the schoolhouse could still happen.

“This area had buildings actually demolished because of Maria,” he said. “This was September and we had to demonstrate that we could conduct the next class in February.”

The staff at the 5th Battalion worked with the 94th Training Division, the 80th Training Command and Fort Buchanan to secure a building, equipment, power and so on to ensure the next course could take place.

Eight months later classes are still steadily scheduled through the rest of the year, and staff and students are working hard to show why mortuary affairs is a crucial piece of the Army Reserve.

“One of the things I’m grateful for in the class is that I’ve been able to know the instructors and know how they work aside from them instructing,” said Roman. “I can ensure you, they are people that know their job. They know what they are doing, and they know their material and are experienced instructors.”

Both Cruz and Roman-Perez agreed that this job specialty is one that many may not consider, but is worth doing and instructing, if given the opportunity.

“I’ve thought about being an instructor. It is not an easy task but it’s a rewarding one you’ve got the ability to mold soldiers and help them, tell them the proper way of doing stuff, prevent them from slacking and taking up bad habits,” said Roman Perez.

“Mortuary affairs is not for everyone. I will say if new soldiers decide to join mortuary affairs, they will not regret it, ever,” said Cruz. “Maybe they’ll stay there forever because I don’t know if it’s just me, but I really love this MOS. It makes me feel like I’m really doing something for my nation.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

Asperiores odit

Special operators are hunting Osama bin Laden’s son in ‘kill or capture’ mission

Osama bin Laden’s 28-year-old son Hamza is being hunted in a “kill or capture” mission by Joint Coalition Special Operations Unit which includes UK special forces, according to British media reports.


Hamza has become active as an al-Qaeda propagandist since his father’s death at the hands of US special forces in May 2011.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
Former President Barack Obama and members of the national security team receive updates on Operation Neptune’s Spear, a target and kill operation against Osama bin Laden in the White House Situation Room, May 1, 2011 (White House photo)

“A Joint Coalition Special Operations Unit, including 40 SAS soldiers, have reportedly been flown in to Syria on a covert mission to find Hamza and his gang,” The Mirrror reported.

“He is now considered in the top 10 ‘high-value’ targets being hunted by Coalition forces deployed on Operation Shader.”

The United States added Hamza bin Laden to its terrorist blacklist in January.

The US Treasury estimates that he was born in 1989 in the Saudi city of Jeddah. His mother was Khairiah Sabar, one of the Al-Qaeda founder’s three wives.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
Army photo by Sgt. Jeffrey Alexander

Last year, the fifth anniversary of the death of the man who ordered the 9/11 attacks on the United States, experts began to note his son’s increasing prominence in the movement. The State Department has designated him a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist,” freezing any assets he holds in areas under US jurisdiction.

Experts believe Hamza is preparing to take over the leadership of al-Qaeda and exploit ISIS defeats in Syria and Iraq to unify the global militant movement under the banner of al-Qaeda.

Asperiores odit

Pacific War Diary

During World War II, the United States Marines played a central role in the battle for the islands of the Pacific. Marine Corps veteran Bill Swanson was often in the first wave to hit the beach in many of these brutal campaigns. In this episode, he paints a vivid picture of what it was like to fight in the “living hell” of these steaming jungles and swamps.  He shares his experiences on Bougainville, Guam and Iwo Jima, battling a hidden and determined enemy.

Asperiores odit

5 of the worst things about standing in a ceremonial formation

In the military, there isn’t much that matches the pride of standing in a ceremonial formation. There you are, in front of a respectable crowd. Your dress uniform is perfectly pressed, your medals are shining bright, and the weather is outstanding — what the hell could go wrong?

Well, since there are many elements to a military ceremony, from the posting and retiring of the Colors to several long-form speeches, things usually run a lot longer than you’d expect — that’s when these happen .


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Needing to pee

As you can imagine, it takes a minute to prepare everyone to march out in formation. Everyone needs to be accounted for before stepping off. You’ll be out there in the sun, so it’s essential that you drink plenty of clear fluids. Unfortunately, there’s a fine line between being hydrated and being a bit too hydrated.

Suddenly, halfway through the proceedings, your full bladder tells your brain that you need to hit the head. Guess what? The ceremony won’t pause so one troop can take a leak. So, good luck holding it in until the end.

Passing the f*ck out

Service members are trained to properly move into the position of attention, hold the pose, and move out of it in a smooth, choreographed motion. We’re taught how to stand at that position for prolonged periods of time by keeping our knees slightly bent and wiggling our toes — even still, many end up passing out.

Most of us have passed out for one reason or another in our lifetimes, but doing it in front of a big crowd is super embarrassing.

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Overthinking

Most people aren’t born to entertain a crowd. When you suddenly become the subject of a crowd’s direct attention, you may start to overanalyze the little things, leading to dumb mistakes. How fast are you supposed to snap up a salute? Wait — do I start out on my right foot or my left?

It happens.

Getting the shakes

When standing in the same position for too long, people get tired and, to compensate, end up shifting their weight to find some type of relief. Although this might be subtle individually, when you’re up against a backdrop of stone-still troops, the movement sticks out.

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Losing track of time

Since ceremonies can last a long time and they can be pretty dull, our minds will wander. Because we’re thinking of something else, we tend to lose track of time, which can lead to making a stupid mistake, like snapping into parade rest at the wrong moment.

Asperiores odit

The US just clobbered a bunch of ISIS militants in Libya

Six US air strikes on an ISIL desert camp in Libya killed 17 fighters and destroyed three vehicles, the first American attack in Libya since President Donald Trump took office in January.


US Africa Command said in a statement on Sept. 24 that strikes on Sept. 22 targeted a camp 240km southeast of Sirte, a city that was once the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant stronghold in Libya.

The camp was used to move fighters in and out of Libya, plot attacks, and store weapons, the statement said.

“ISIS and al-Qaeda have taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Libya to establish sanctuaries for plotting, inspiring, and directing terror attacks,” it said, using another acronym for ISIL.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
USAF Senior Airman Cory D. Payne

The strikes were carried out in coordination with Libya’s Government of National Accord, it added.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the air raids were carried out by armed drones.

The last-known US strike in Libya was on Jan. 19, a day before Trump’s inauguration, when more than 80 ISIL fighters, some believed to be plotting attacks in Europe, died in US air strikes on camps outside Sirte.

That attack was led by two B-2 bombers, which dropped about 100 precision-guided munitions on the camps.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit. USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Cody H. Ramirez

Jonathan Cristol of the World Policy Institute told Al Jazeera it is somewhat surprising that it took the Trump administration this long to act militarily in Libya compared to his predecessor, Barack Obama, who ramped up air strikes in his final few months as president.

“I think [Trump] has been not as eager to get into a fight in Libya, but he will listen to what the military says. I think we will probably see more strikes,” said Cristol.

“It really represents a target of opportunity where it can be done with little risk to the US. But I certainly don’t anticipate boots on the ground or a broader escalation even if one might become warranted.”

ISIL took over Sirte in early 2015, turning it into its most important base outside the Middle East and attracting large numbers of foreign fighters to the city. The group imposed its hard-line rule on residents and extended its control along about 250km of Libya’s Mediterranean coastline.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
ISIS patrol the streets of Raqqa, Syria. Image from Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently.

But it struggled to keep a footing elsewhere in Libya and was forced out of Sirte by last December after a six-month campaign led by brigades from the western city of Misrata and backed by US air strikes.

ISIL has shifted to desert valleys and inland hills southeast of Tripoli as it seeks to exploit Libya’s political divisions after their defeat in Sirte.

The United Nations launched a roadmap on Sept. 20 for a renewed international effort to break a political stalemate in Libya and end the turmoil that followed the country’s 2011 uprising.

The UN-backed Government of National Accord established under a December 2015 deal never fully materialised in Tripoli, leaving Libya with three competing governments aligned with rival armed alliances.

Asperiores odit

Here’s what it looks like when paratroopers seize an airfield

Every once in a while, America finds they desperately need an airfield in someone else’s territory. When there are no forces nearby to seize said airfield, U.S. paratroopers climb into cargo aircraft by the hundreds and get ready to beat down some defending forces. Here’s how that happens:


1. The units grab their gear and rush to waiting planes.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Smith

Units on different missions will have different minimum timelines, but airborne response forces pride themselves on attacking anywhere in the world in 24 hours or less.

2. Most missions are “heavy drops” where vehicles, artillery, and other large equipment are dropped with the soldiers.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Smith

3. The heavy equipment will generally be deployed first.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Annette B. Andrews

4. Once the equipment is out, the paratroopers will begin raining from the sky.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Mike Pryor

5. The soldiers maneuver their chutes to avoid hazards on the drop zone and then execute “parachute landing falls” when they reach the ground.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
Photo: US Army

6. Once they reach the drop zone, troops mass as quickly as possible so they can begin maneuvering on the enemy. Chem lights, reflective panels, and other markers are used by leaders to show troops where to congregate.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
Photo: US Army Spc. Cody A. Thompson

7. These points have to be defended from the enemy forces near the drop zone.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Mike Pryor

8. Artillery units will try to mass on their howitzers so crews can prepare them to fire.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Annette B. Andrews

9. Soldiers with radios must immediately get them up and running so leaders can coordinate the assault before an enemy counterattack materializes.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
Photo: US Army Spc. Cody A. Thompson

10. Units check in with the ground commander on the radio or by signaling. The commanders will map out where their forces are in relation to the objectives, sometimes changing the attack plan if forces landed in the wrong spots.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
Photo: US Army Spc. Cody A. Thompson

11. As the infantry begins their attack, artillery soldiers hurriedly prepare their ammunition to fire.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Love

12. The artillery will fire in support of the infantry, striking enemies on the airfield and any enemy reinforcements approaching the objective. Typically, they will try to avoid striking the airstrip itself to prevent damage to it.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Annette B. Andrews

13. If the howitzers find they landed too close to an enemy position or an enemy counterattack is drawing close, they’ll begin firing “high-angle” shots. These will land nearby, killing enemies in close proximity to the guns.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Love

14. When helicopters are in range to support, they and other aircraft will destroy troop concentrations and heavy vehicles that are a threat to the infantry.

15. Of course, the infantry units also rain steel on the enemy. Mortarmen are part of the maneuver force, moving up to the enemy forces and striking them with high explosives.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
Photo: US Army

16. Some of the infantrymen on the ground will also have grenade launchers. M230 and M320 grenade launchers can be attached to the infantryman’s rifle. The M320 can also be carried as a separate weapon.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
Photo: US Army

17. The infantry will clear the buildings and the area surrounding the airfield to ensure no defenders are left.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Mike Pryor

18. Once the airstrip is secure, the ground forces will call for reinforcements to begin landing. This could consist of anything from additional airborne infantry to heavy armored units with M1 Abrams.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
Photo: flickr/Josh Beasley

19. If the main airstrip is damaged or cannot accommodate all the aircraft needed for the mission, engineers will cut out dirt “forward landing strips” for the C-130s so reinforcements can continue pouring in.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brian E. Christiansen

NOW: Here’s what an Army medic does in the critical minutes after a soldier is wounded

OR: These 7 photos show how Marines take a beach

Asperiores odit

This is how Singapore could strong-arm China

If you believe some reports, or breathless commentators, China is becoming an unstoppable naval juggernaut in the Pacific region. That may be somewhat overstated. Yes, China’s navy has become far more modern in the last ten years, but ironically, a country that is the size of the entire Washington D.C. metropolitan area (District of Columbia, Arlington County, Fairfax County, Alexandria, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County) could bring it to its knees.


Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
A 428th Fighter Squadron crew chief member marshals an F-15SG fighter in front of the Republic of Singapore squadron May 6, 2009. The unit includes approximately 180 active duty and 130 support personnel as part of a long-standing partnership with the United States to train Singaporean aircrews. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Renishia Richardson)

Singapore is so small, about 25 percent of its combat planes are based in the United States due to a lack of space for training. In absolute terms, Singapore’s navy is small, with six frigates, six second-hand Swedish submarines, and six guided-missile patrol boats (plus a host of smaller combatants) according to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
RSS Archer prior to its re-launch. (Kockums AB photo by Peter Nilsson)

China’s just in the South China Sea fleet is much larger, and the Luyang-class destroyers outclass Singapore’s Formidable-class frigates. Yet, Singapore has one very big advantage in any conflict – and it’s best summed up in that real-estate maxim: Location, location, location.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
This map shows Singapore’s strategic location between Malaysia and Indonesia. (CIA map)

Singapore controls the Strait of Malacca, the most critical maritime chokepoint on the Pacific Rim. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) had a notable collision with a merchant ship near this choke point, which contributed to the Pacific fleet’s commander being passed over for a promotion.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
A Singaporean F-16D Fighting Falcon with the 425th Fighter Training Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo)

While a lot of merchant traffic goes through this chokepoint – so called because those who control it can choke the trade of other countries – the most important are supertankers. With its diesel-electric submarines and frigates, combined with modern F-15 and F-16 fighters, Singapore can shut down traffic in the Strait of Malacca.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
The Republic of Singapore Navy missile corvette RSS Vengeance launches two Barak missiles during a missile exercise in support of the Singapore phase of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT). The two missiles successfully shot down two U.S. Navy BQM-74E aerial drones, launched from the dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46). (U.S. Navy photo)

China may be a high-tech power, but one resource it doesn’t have a lot of is oil. Cut off the oil supply, and the People’s Liberation Army Navy isn’t going anywhere. Nor will the People’s Liberation Army Air Force or the People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force. That is how tiny Singapore could put a stranglehold on China. It’s all about location – and Singapore has prime geo-political real estate.

Asperiores odit

This is the fictional country the Russians are training to fight

Russia is sending what NATO thinks is thousands of troops into Belarus – and the transatlantic alliance is worried the Russians may not leave. The move would pose a counter to the recent movement of NATO forces into the area, including former Soviet states Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania, and Poland.


Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
Russian troops form to move on the fictional enemy Veishnoriya.

Every four years, the Russian military conducts its Zapad military exercise with neighboring Belarus. In the exercise, three “aggressor countries” (Veishnoriya, Vesbaria, and Lubenia) attack Belarus. Veishnoriya, according to legend, is located in the western part of Belarus; Vesbaria is on the territory of Lithuania and Latvia; Lubenia in Lithuania and Poland. The two intervening countries are pro-Western client states.

The Russian and Belorussian response, they claim, is purely defensive. The Russians say it emulates a terrorist threat with external support – that support comes from the West, which the Russian military will move to counter.

Just as Americans embrace the fictional countries the U.S. military uses to train its troops, fictional Twitter and Facebook accounts representing Veishnoriya’s various official ministries have popped up around the war games. There are even fictional seals, flags, and histories surrounding the fictional country. You can even apply for a Veishnoriyan passport.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen

One Facebook discussion boasted that Veishnoriya has never lost a war, while detractors say, “It’s not Vesbaria, it’s not Lubenia. Volodya, your soldiers will be torn to pieces!”

An estimated three thousand to 100,000 Russian troops are involved (depending on who you ask), along with the Russian 1st Guard Tank Army. It’s an exercise they’ve been running every four years since the 1970s, except for the decade or so after the fall of the Soviet Union.

NATO experts believe the game represents what Moscow thinks is a scenario most likely to come from Western efforts to undermine the Russian sphere of influence.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
Russian tanks align for Zapad exercises every four years.

If the war game did have upwards of 100,000 troops and tanks, the Russians would be required to report the exercise and submit to having foreign observers monitor the exercise, according to the Vienna Document, a 2011 security agreement.

The Russians say it involves just 12,700 troops, 300 shy of the number that would trigger the Vienna agreement. But even if the West isn’t able to observe the exercise, they can still monitor Russian troop movements, something experts say will give NATO a good idea of just how capable the Russian military can be.

Asperiores odit

Battle of the Bulge

Toward the end of December 1944 it was clear the Germans were losing WWII. Low on fuel, munitions and morale, the ability of the rogue nation was slipping by the hour. Still with 6,000,000 men under arms, Hitler burned with a passion for one more mad drive into the Allied lines. In December, 1944 with the Russians closing in from the east and the Allies chipping away at the western front, the Nazis made their move. 600,000 Germans in 29 divisions with 11 armored panzer divisions, surged into the Allied front. The stage was set for total Allied defeat, but Hitler had failed to calculate the most important element of all. He could count the thousands of guns, the tons of munitions and the hundreds of tanks, but he could never grasp the unfailing courage and valor of the American fighting man.

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Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen

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Brain surgery to bear hugs: One wounded warrior’s story

Born with a birth defect causing seizures, battling anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and facing divorce and separation from a child can be a lot for anyone to handle, but with a community of support, things can get better.

For retired Air Force Capt. Rob Hufford, no statement could ring truer. From an all-time low to bear-hugging England’s Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, while in Australia to compete in the Invictus Games, things are looking up for Hufford.

“I researched the effect of lingering hugs,” Hufford said. “Psychotherapist Virginia Satir said four hugs a day for maintenance, eight hugs a day for survival, and 12 hugs a day for growth.”


After graduating the Air Force Academy in 2006, Hufford became a civil engineering officer and, over the next nine years, was stationed in four locations and deployed to Iraq twice.

It was during this time that Hufford’s life seemed to fall apart and things began to spiral. He reached the limit on the medicine he could take for his condition, which was a good and bad thing.

The drugs were causing anxiety and anger, but without them, his physical activity was limited until surgery. His outlook became bleak.

In January of 2013, he had a temporal lobectomy to remove a piece of his brain.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen

Retired Capt. Lawrence “Rob” Hufford yells triumphantly after lifting 418 pounds, setting a personal best in the heavyweight category of power-lifting at the 2018 Invictus Games.

“It was about the size of a tube of Chapstick,” Hufford said.

In 2015, the secretary of the Air Force decided that he should be medically retired. In 2016, his marriage fell apart and he became geographically separated from his son.

Keeping a positive attitude while coping with everything was a constant struggle.

His lifeline came in the form of friend, Dana Lyon, Air Force Academy javelin and strength conditioning coach. She had noticed that Hufford was a shell of what he once was and pushed him to become involved with the Air Force Wounded Warrior program.

In June of 2017, he attended Offutt Air Force Base’s AFW2 Caregivers, Adaptive Sports, Resiliency, Empowerment and Transition event. Hufford was able to share his stories with others who were suffering and got to know himself better.

“I could finally see the effects that denial issues and my illnesses had had on my relationships with other people,” Hufford said. “It was a turning point in my life.”

It was also during the CARE event that he heard about the Warrior Games. He applied for the winter trials at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and was one of 40 selectees and 10 alternates to participate in the games at the Air Force Academy.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen

Team Air Force athlete Capt. Rob Hufford looks at the scoreboard after competing in the rowing competition during the Department of Defense Warrior Games at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 9, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.)

The next thing he knew, he was invited to participate in the Invictus Games in Sydney, Australia. The event, created by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, in 2014, was inspired by the Warrior Games created by the U.S. Department of Defense in 2010.

Hufford said he was honored to see Prince Harry during the sailing event. He called out to the prince to inform him that he could expect to receive a hug when he met him again.The Duke decided that there was no better time than the present and accommodated him with a big bear hug.

As Hufford continues to compete in Wounded Warrior programs, he has also made an effort to pay it forward. He works with Omaha organizations that help to identify what he calls “invisibly wounded” individuals throughout the community.

His efforts don’t go unnoticed.

“Rob is always the person there supporting everyone else regardless of what he is going through,” said Marsha Gonzales, Warrior Care Support branch chief.

Impressed by his attitude, Gonzales assisted Hufford in returning to Air Force employment.

He is currently the lead engineer for the upcoming Offutt AFB runway restoration project and the Omaha Lincoln Airfields due to kick off in 2019.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Asperiores odit

Congress could overturn the 9/11 law authorizing ever-expanding war

A Navy SEAL, killed alongside civilians in a January raid on a village in Yemen. Another SEAL, killed while accompanying Somali forces on a May raid. And now four Army soldiers, dead in an ambush this month in Niger.


These US combat deaths — along with those of about 10 service members killed this year in Afghanistan and Iraq — underscore how a law passed shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks has been stretched to permit open-ended warfare against Islamic militant groups scattered across the Muslim world.

Also read: It looks like there’s going to be a GWOT memorial after all

The law, commonly called the AUMF, on its face provided congressional authorization to use military force only against nations, groups, or individuals responsible for the attacks. But while the specific enemy lawmakers were thinking about in September 2001 was the original al-Qaeda and its Taliban host in Afghanistan, three presidents of both parties have since invoked the 9/11 war authority to justify battle against Islamic militants in many other places.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
A US Army Special Forces weapons sergeant observes as a Nigerien soldier bounds forward while practicing buddy team movement drills during Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 11, 2017. Army photo by Spc. Zayid Ballesteros.

On Oct. 30, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as lawmakers renew a debate over whether they should update and replace that law, revitalizing Congress’ constitutionally assigned role of making fundamental decisions about going to war.

But even as President Donald Trump’s administration moves to ease some Obama-era constraints on counter-terrorism operations, political obstacles to reaching a consensus on new parameters for a war authorization law look more daunting than ever.

Related: 6 surprising things that are against the laws of war

Previous efforts collapsed under disagreements between lawmakers opposed to restricting the executive branch’s interpretation of its wartime powers and those unwilling to vote for a new blank check for a forever war. Among the disputes: whether a replacement should have an expiration date, constrain the use of ground forces, limit the war’s geographic scope, and permit the government to start attacking other militant groups merely associated with the major enemies it would name.

Army mortuary affairs is a solemn duty to honor the fallen
Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn, left) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz). Photos from Wikimedia Commons.

Adding to the political headwinds, two of the Republican lawmakers most interested in drafting a new war authorization law are lame ducks and estranged from the White House: Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who has proposed a new war authorization bill with Sen. Tim Kaine, D- Va. Both Republican senators, who have announced that they will not seek re-election, have publicly denounced Trump in recent weeks as dangerously unfit to be the commander in chief.

But as the 9/11 war enters its 17th year, questions about the scope and limits of presidential war-making powers are taking on new urgency.

Trump is giving the Pentagon and the CIA broader latitude to pursue counter-terrorism drone strikes and commando raids away from traditional battlefields. Two government officials said Trump had recently signed his new rules for such kill-or-capture counter-terrorism operations, without major changes to an inter-agency agreement first described last month by The New York Times.