The Air Force just launched a podcast - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force just launched a podcast

The inaugural Airman Podcast for the At Altitude channel features a conversation with Dr. Will Roper, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

As the Air Force’s Service Acquisition Executive, Dr. Roper is responsible for and oversees Air Force research, development and acquisition activities totaling an annual budget in excess of $40 billion for more than 465 acquisition programs.


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In this position, Dr. Roper serves as the principal advisor to the secretary and chief of staff of the Air Force for research and development, test, production and modernization efforts within the Air Force.

In the interview from early in 2019, Dr. Roper discusses how reforming the acquisition process is foundation to building the Air Force we need to maintain dominance in the battlespace today and tomorrow.

Listen to At Altitude Podcasts here.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the ‘deadliest recruit’ ever to pass through Parris Island

On Thursday, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island issued a press release identifying Marine Recruit Austin Farrell as the deadliest recruit ever to pass through the Corps’ infamously difficult rifle qualification course. Farrell grew up building and shooting rifles with his father, and when it came time to qualify on his M16A4 service rifle, the young recruit managed a near-perfect score of 248 out of a maximum possible 250 points on Table One.

“I grew up with a rifle in my hand; from the time I was six I was shooting and building firearms with my dad, he was the one that introduced me to shooting, and when I got to Parris Island, what he taught me was the reason I shot like I did,” said Farrell.

The Marine Corps is renown for its approach to training each and every Marine to serve as a rifleman prior to going on to attend follow-on schools for one’s intended occupational specialty. As a result, Table One of the Marine Corps’ Rifle Qualification Course is widely recognized as the most difficult basic rifle course anywhere in the America’s Armed Forces.

All Marines, regardless of ultimate occupation, must master engaging targets from the standing, kneeling, and prone positions at ranges extending as far as 500 yards. In recent years, the Corps has shifted to utilizing RCOs, or Rifle Combat Optics, which aid in accuracy, but still require a firm grasp of marksmanship fundamentals in order to pass.

While no other military branch expects all of its members to be deadly at such long distances, for Farrell, 500 yards wasn’t all that far at all. While new to the Corps, this young shooter is no stranger to long-distance shooting.

“I would go out to a family friend’s range five days a week and practice shooting from distances of up to a mile, it’s a great pastime and teaches you lessons that stay with you past the range.”
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Recruit Austin Ferrell with Kilo Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion fires his M16A4 Service Rifle during the Table One course of fire on Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island S.C. July 30, 2020. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shane Manson)

As all recruits come to learn, being a good shooter isn’t just about nailing the physical aspects of stabilizing yourself, acquiring good sight picture, and practicing trigger control along with your breathing. Being a good shooter is as much a mental activity as it is a physical one. As Farrell points out, being accurate at a distance is about getting your head in the right the place. Of course, getting relaxed and staying relaxed is one thing… doing it during Recruit Training is another.

“Practice before I got here was definitely a big part of it, but getting into a relaxed state of mind is what helped me shoot… after I shot a 248 everyone was congratulating me, but when I got back to the squad bay my drill instructors gave me a hard time for dropping those two points,” Farell laughed.
The Air Force just launched a podcast

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shane Manson)

The young recruit is expected to graduate from Recruit Training on September 4, 2020 and while it’s safe to say most parents are proud to see their sons and daughters earn the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, Farrell’s father George is already celebrating his son’s success.

“I’m so proud of him, no matter what I’m proud of him but this is above what I expected,” said George. “I always told him to strive to be number one, and the fact that he was able to accomplish that is just a testament to his hard work.”

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

David Bellavia, who received the nation’s highest military honor June 25, 2019, for his heroic actions in Iraq, offered rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment at the Pentagon on June 24, 2019, revealing the thoughts and emotions that flooded his brain as he charged into a house filled with insurgents in Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004.

Former Staff Sergeant Bellavia and his team were clearing houses in support of Operation Phantom Fury. In one house, insurgents ambushed his squad, pinning them down. Bellavia rushed inside the house to provide suppressing cover fire so that his fellow soldiers could exit the building safely.

Ret. Sgt. First Class Colin Fitts told reporters that had it not been for Bellavia, he probably wouldn’t be here today.


After Bellavia and his squad got out, a Bradley fighting vehicle hit the war-torn house hard, but not hard enough to eliminate the threat. It was necessary for someone to head inside and clear the building of insurgents, who were armed with rocket-propelled grenades, among other weapons.

“David Bellavia had to go back into a darkened, nightmare of a house where he knew there were at least five or six suicidal jihadis waiting,” Michael Ware, an embedded reporter who was with the staff sergeant and personally witnessed the Medal of Honor moment, told press at the Pentagon.

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Engagements on the first floor.

(U.S. Army)

Supported by one fellow soldier inside and three outside, Bellavia re-entered the house, fighting room-to-room, killing four insurgents and mortally wounding a fifth in the fierce fight.

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Engagements on the second floor.

(U.S. Army)

“A lot of things go through your mind. Some are very rational. Some are completely irrational,” Bellavia explained. “The first thing you’re thinking about you’re scared, you’re life is on the line. The second thing you’re thinking is you’re angry. How dare anyone try to hurt us. How dare anyone try to step up against the US military.”

“You’re angry. You’re scared,” he said, telling reporters that it’s a certain kind of peer pressure that keeps you moving forward. “When you’re peer is asking for help … it’s easy. Peer pressure might make you smoke cigarettes at 13. But, peer pressure can also make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. It’s about who your peers are.”

Bellavia talked a little about the house he cleared, and it sounded horrific. He explained that the scenes when he first entered and when he re-entered the house were very different due to the extreme redecorating the Bradley fighting vehicle did prior to his re-entry.

“The water had ruptured. All of the plumbing inside. Fallujah had been abandoned for months. So, that water was very unpleasant. It assaulted your senses,” he revealed, adding that there were propane tanks lying about, broken mirrors, makeshift bunkers, and insurgents hopped up on experimental drugs in the dark.

“It was tough. The mind is playing tricks on you,” he said, “You don’t know if you are firing at the same individual or if this is a new individual. A person gets dropped, then they disappear.”

Bellavia said he “thought it was a real possibility” that he wouldn’t make it out.

Bellavia is the first living Iraq War veteran to receive the Medal of Honor, an upgrade of the Silver Star he initially received, for “conspicuous gallantry” during his time in the Army. Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon June 24, 2019, he said that this honor “represents many different people,” including many who never came home.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

A woman completed Special Forces training; these operators have some thoughts

On July 9, a female National Guard soldier became the first woman to graduate from U.S. Army Special Forces training since Capt. Katie Wilder did so in 1980, earning the coveted Green Beret. The woman, whose identity the Army is withholding for personnel security purposes, joins more than a dozen women who have completed elite schools that were only available to men until the Pentagon opened all combat jobs, including special operations positions, to women in 2016.


Coffee or Die spoke with several men who served in special operations units alongside women in combat to get their thoughts on the historic event.

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Special Forces soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) conduct an AAR after Counter Improvised Explosive Device training at Panzer Local Training area near Stuttgart, Germany, June. 10, 2020. Photo by Patrik Orcutt/U.S. Army.

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Luke Ryan, right, served as a team leader with 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan/Coffee or Die.

Retired Army Master Sergeant Jariko Denman served with the 75th Ranger Regiment for 16 years.

“In Afghanistan, women in Cultural Support Teams (CSTs) attached to us and other special operations forces, including Green Berets and [U.S. Navy] SEALs. CSTs were enablers, just like explosive ordnance disposal techs or others whose specialties we needed to support our missions.

“On my last four deployments as a task force senior enlisted advisor, we had CSTs with us, so I’ve been in firefights with women, chasing down bad guys alongside them. There was never a case in my experience of women weighing us down. I can’t say that for every other enabler who attached to us. Women coming into that job realized they were going into that hyperkinetic environment, and they brought their ‘A’ game. They knew they could not be a weak link, so they came in shape, and they were very successful.

“For any leader building a team, we know the team isn’t as strong if everybody looks and thinks the same. You want a diversity of skills and backgrounds because that diversity reflects your needs. High-performing individuals who have vastly different life experiences are an asset in SOF.

“As long as we maintain the same SOF qualification standards for everyone, I think women in SOF are just as capable as men, and I’m glad to see more women joining our ranks and getting the same special designations men have always had the opportunity to attain.”

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Joe and Shannon Kent with their sons. Photo courtesy of Joe Kent/Coffee or Die.

Luke Ryan served as an Army Ranger and team leader with 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

“I was on the mission where Captain Jenny Moreno was killed in action in October 2013. She was a nurse by trade but was attached to my Ranger platoon as a Cultural Support Team (CST) member. When she saw that several of my Ranger buddies had been seriously wounded, she moved to help them without regard for her own safety. She was killed in the process. That kind of selfless bravery is something I will never forget. I hold her in the same high regard as I hold my Ranger brethren who were killed doing the same thing.

“Women have already been fighting in special operations components for years. That part isn’t new. They were attached to our unit for my four deployments, and I will never doubt the ability of a woman to be courageous and effective on the battlefield. Moreno didn’t have a Ranger scroll, but in my opinion, she earned one. If I see her in the next life, I’ll give her mine.

“As far as integrating into traditional special operations units, I’ve seen the courage of women in SOF tested on the battlefield, and I’m in full support of it. As long as standards are maintained, allowing women in SOF will be a non-issue.”

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Rob Garnett in Eastern Afghanistan on his last deployment in 2010. Photo courtesy of Rob Garnett/One More Wave.

Retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Joe Kent served as a Ranger and Special Forces operator. His wife, Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent, was killed while serving on a special operations task force in the fight against ISIS in 2019.

“My wife trained as an Arabic linguist and signals intelligence collector. In Iraq, special operations forces relied heavily on intelligence professionals who had to work with local Iraqis to develop informants and gather intelligence for our missions. Iraqi women often had intelligence we needed, and women like Shannon stepped up to provide a capability that none of us had. Her contributions gave us a more complete picture of whatever situation we were heading into, which was invaluable.

“As years went on, Shannon gained more and more trust in the SOF community, and her performance in special operations opened doors for other intelligence professionals to try out for special operations forces.

“Anyone who has served alongside women in special operations should know it was just a matter of time before a woman would wear the Green Beret and Special Forces long tab.

“As Americans, our country has decided we’re going to have this all-volunteer force, so we get the military that shows up and volunteers to go fight. Plenty of women have fought and died, and to say they can’t go be combat arms or special operators is wrong. My wife was good enough to die alongside SEALs and operators on her fifth deployment but not have the same opportunity to prove herself in SOF qualification courses? That’s ridiculous.

“I’m very glad the ban on women serving in combat arms and special operations was lifted, and my hat’s off to the woman who completed Special Forces qualification.”

The Air Force just launched a podcast

Nolan Peterson has covered conflict around the world. Photo courtesy of Nolan Peterson/Coffee or Die.

Rob Garnett served as a Navy SEAL for almost 23 years.

“In Baghdad in 2003, I was waiting with an Iraqi Interpreter at one of the entrances to the Green Zone to escort an Iraqi National inside. As vehicles moved through the ‘s curves’ of the base access point, we heard the guards start shouting ‘Stop!’ at a small car approaching the gate. When the vehicle didn’t stop, the soldier standing next to me began firing at the approaching vehicle, and I began to fire as well. The vehicle slowly came to a stop after the driver was killed. As the soldiers moved to inspect the vehicle, they found the trunk was full of 155 rounds made into an IED.

“When I walked over to the soldier who had first engaged the vehicle to say ‘great job,’ I realized this person was not a soldier but an airman, as well as a female. I remember joking with her and saying, ‘No females in combat, right?’ She just smiled and said, ‘Fuck off.’ She told me she didn’t plan on letting anyone inside that wasn’t supposed to be there.

“From my perspective, we aren’t getting female commandos in SOF now; we are getting MORE commandos. We can engage with more of the population when we include females in SOF operations, and I feel like most folks wouldn’t be as concerned about someone’s gender but more about a new team member’s performance.

“I would guess the soldier who completed SF training doesn’t want to be known as the first female SF soldier; she just wants to be a commando like everyone else.”

Nolan Peterson is a former Air Force special operations pilot who served with the 34th Special Operations Squadron. 

“On my first deployment to Afghanistan, I served alongside a woman pilot whose impact I’ll never forget. On a long night mission, orbiting above a Taliban compound, helping good guys kill bad guys, I was pretty stressed and anxious. My greatest fear was I’d screw up somehow and get Americans hurt, or worse.

“They measure a pilot’s worth in hours flown because experience matters most. And, lucky for me, I was copilot to a woman who had years of combat experience. She had actually been one of my instructor pilots and played a big role in training me, and I was able to do my job that night in spite of the nervousness — thanks in no small part to the steady leadership and proficient skills of my pilot. It’s easy to do your job well when you’ve got a good example to follow.

“As we left station and started flying back to Bagram, we could see meteors streaking overhead through our night-vision goggles. Then the sun began to peak over the Hindu Kush.

“‘Pretty cool, isn’t it?’ I remember her saying. Then, as if granted permission, I suddenly stopped being so afraid of screwing up and took a moment to appreciate that, yes, this was, in fact, pretty damn cool. Then she told me I’d done well that night and had turned out to be a fine pilot. She was confident I’d go on and make her proud. Since she’d played a key role in training me, my performance was a reflection on her too. That small compliment she gave me was worth more than any medal.

“More than anything, on that debut deployment I’d wanted to prove myself to the people who’d mattered most — that’s to say, the people who’d been to war before me. And that pilot had been to war a lot. Hell, she’d spent most of the best years of her life either in war zones or training for them. She was a warrior, a professional, a mentor, and a damn good pilot. And getting her stamp of approval was one of my proudest moments.

“So when it comes to the recent news of a woman graduating the Special Forces Qualification Course, I think it’s long overdue. Women have been serving in combat and in special operations forces for years. They volunteer for the same risks, assume the same responsibilities and have had to uphold the same standards as their male counterparts. Once the bullets are flying, all that matters is that you’re good at your job. And without a doubt, to make it through the Green Beret selection process, that woman has clearly proven herself to be among the best of the best.”

Disclosure: Nolan Peterson is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die; Luke Ryan is an associate editor, and Jariko Denman is a contributing writer.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 people general officers should have in their entourage

All senior officers, but especially generals and admirals, have entourages that exist solely to ensure that the general is as effective and safe as possible. They do everything from managing the general’s calendar to grabbing his dry cleaning. But in addition to their stated duties, the entourage can grease the wheels of command.

Here are 6 people generals should always have in their entourage, whether they want them or not:


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“A colonel lifting iron” is the closest thing I could find to an iron colonel, so here you go.

(U.S. Army Sgt. Erik Warren)

Iron colonel is a key component of any entourage

An “iron colonel” is a colonel with little hope or ambition to advance to a general officer. They’re key to military innovation and all general officers should be connected at the hip to one.

There are two major things you’ll need the iron colonel to do: First, they’re there to intercept all sorts of traffic that’s addressed to the general but not really worth their time. More importantly, they’re needed to shoot down all sorts of “good ideas” originating from the general and the staff that would hamper brigade commanders and below.

See, iron colonels are no slouches. They may not be destined to wear stars, but they’ve nearly always commanded brigades in the past and they did well. They have decades of military experience, but they don’t have much reason to fear pissing people off. So, if the general proposes something insane, like pushing machine guns to all the squads — even the human admin office, it’s this colonel who calls the general on his crap. The perfect entourage addition.

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An Army specialist who is definitely practicing land nav and not just waiting for the photographer to leave so he can trade points data with his buddy.

(U.S. Army)

E-4 Mafia/Lance Corporal Underground liaison

Officers don’t love the junior-enlisted networks for obvious reasons. They’re often known for helping members dodge work and dodge official punishment.

But they can also be super useful additions to the entourage, for the general or admiral who inspires the junior service members. A member of the underground can explain any weirdness from headquarters directly to the other junior guys in billeting. They can also create shortcuts through the bureaucracy and, best of all, do drug deals on behalf of the staff.

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An Army specialist reaches for a training grenade in a competition. These aren’t nearly as valuable as a rare ink cartridge.

(U.S. Army National Guard Spc. Alan Royalty)

Drug dealers as part of the entourage? 

Not literal drug dealers, of course. The personnel who conduct off-the-books exchanges in order to get needed resources while giving up the unit’s surplus are known as “drug dealers.” This can be the exchange of anything from ink cartridges to range time to borrowing another units’ NCOs.

These types of troops can be amazingly useful for a headquarters. Rare resources, like the ink or replacement parts for plotters (the massive printers that produce maps), are hard to come by and harder to stockpile. So, if you suddenly need resources like that, you need a drug deal — and that means a drug dealer.

(Note: The Navy sometimes call this “comshaw.” Same thing, older term.)

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Filling out forms accurately and honestly is important, but sometimes you have to help someone out with a little Skillcraft assist.

(U.S. Navy)

Gun decker

“Gun decking” is a Navy term for filling out forms with made-up information, usually to fulfill a mandatory but arbitrary requirement. This is similar to the Army saying that someone “Skillcrafted” the test — that they used a standard-issue pen to make it look like something was done.

This is obviously dishonest — and, on some occasions, it’s technically a crime — but it’s sometimes essential in the bureaucracy. Need to get a soldier to school before deployment, but they haven’t been able to get to the range in the last few weeks? Well, someone has to gun deck or Skillcraft the paperwork (assuming that you’re sure they could actually succeed at the range given a chance; don’t use this to get bad troops into good schools). We could use a few gun deckers in civilian life, too.

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Soldiers share a meal and, likely, gossip. Having a couple of lower enlisted people advocating for you in the rumor mills can be essential.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)

PNN Reporter/Scuttlebutt master

One of the best soldiers a general officer can have working on their behalf is a credible Private News Network reporter. This reporter can be anybody known around the rumor mill for having accurate info, and any general NEEDs one of these in their entourage. Like the E-4 Mafia or Lance Corporal Underground rep, this troop can relay what is happening in the headquarters accurately to people who usually only get the information a few degrees removed.

But, more importantly, they can intercept and counter incorrect rumors flowing through the scuttlebutt or PNN. Generals often have to deal with rumors about their decision making flying around their unit. Having someone in their entourage who rubs shoulders with the rest of the junior enlisted and accurately relays what’s going on can keep everyone marching on the same foot.

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(Editor’s note: There’s no evidence that this guy is a FNG. It’s just an illustrative photo. But he was the FNG at one point, so screw ‘im)

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kenny Nunez)

FNG

Finally, every general officer should include a f*cking new guy somewhere in their entourage and check in with them from time to time. Obviously, this guy will typically be somewhere on the periphery instead of in a key position — maybe a comms guy who helps with the radio or a security guy.

But having someone who hasn’t yet consumed too much of the unit’s Kool-Aid allows the general or, more likely, the iron colonel to get an idea of how the headquarter’s decision making seems to an outsider — a needed perspective in a headquarters that might otherwise trip into a cult of personality around a charismatic or talented general.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of January 4th

Looks like it’s about time to get back to the grind, guys. Grab that razor and shave off that poor excuse for a block-leave beard because Uncle Sam is about to get his dues again. You got all the warm and fuzzies from telling your family and friends you’re in the military, but now it’s time to do actual military stuff again.

On the bright side, next week is going to be lazy. While you’re slugging through the motor pool, know that you’re not alone —your chain of command is in the same boat. They just can’t show it since, ya know, burdens of leadership and all.

Oh? You thought the 100% accountability urinalysis was to “ensure good order and discipline?” Hell no. Your NCOs want to get out of PT just as much as you do.

Here’re some memes to help bring you back into the military mindset:


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(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

The Air Force just launched a podcast

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

The Air Force just launched a podcast

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

The Air Force just launched a podcast

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

The Air Force just launched a podcast

(Meme via Dad Jokes)

The Air Force just launched a podcast

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

The Air Force just launched a podcast

(Meme via PT Belt Nation)

The Air Force just launched a podcast

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

The Air Force just launched a podcast

(Meme via Do You Even Comm, Bro?)

The Air Force just launched a podcast

(Meme via Private News Network)

The Air Force just launched a podcast

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

The Air Force just launched a podcast

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

The Air Force just launched a podcast

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

MIGHTY CULTURE

VA centers are using tai chi to promote healing and mental clarity

Pan flute music like an old-time kung fu movie drifts serenely through the recreation room of the Milwaukee VA’s Spinal Cord Injury Center. Zibin Guo talks of swaying breezes, mountain streams, and the peaceful but powerful force of nature.

“Still… like a mountain,” he says. “Flow… like water.”

The group follows his every move from their chairs, pivoting wheels as he turns on foot. This new twist on an ancient martial art, Guo says, will play a big role in the modern-day treatment of pain and post-traumatic stress, even cutting down on opioids and other painkillers.

The three-day wheelchair tai chi seminar for health care workers from the Milwaukee and Madison VA Medical Centers; Appleton, Wisconsin, Clinic; and community hospitals, is part of Guo’s nationwide tour to teach more instructors, collect data and prove tai chi works.


Guo, a medical anthropologist from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, has received more than 0,000 from the Adaptive Sports Grant Program, and has already traveled to 24 VA medical centers. He hopes to get to 24 more by next year.

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Zibin Guo

(YouTube)

The grant program, managed by the National Veterans Sports Program and Special Events Office, provides million annually to support studies and adaptive sports for disabled veterans. Guo said his goal is to promote a way to rethink western rehabilitative medicine, based on bodily functions of eastern philosophy.

“There is a mental clarity that comes from tai chi, which then creates physical benefits for the whole body,” he said.

“For some people,” he added, “this can be psychological. If someone is in a wheelchair, they may see themselves as disabled and are labeled that way. When you are labeled as disabled, you become disabled.

“Wheelchair tai chi transforms the idea of the wheelchair into something else. Now, it’s no longer just for transporting from one place to another. You use it to create power and beauty, integrating the chair movements with tai chi.”

Guo said some VAs have already learned the healing benefits while others are just starting to add tai chi to their repertoire.

“Especially now as VA is building up its Whole Health program nationwide, I hope we are going to see more of these types of offerings,” he said.

Milwaukee was one of the first VAs to offer tai chi. Its polytrauma department started it in 2012 with another grant from the Adaptive Sports Program. Guo’s techniques provided a different perspective, said Dr. Judith Kosasih, lead physician in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

“I knew when we started this seven years ago it was going to be valuable, and I believe in it,” she said. “Right now, we teach tai chi fundamentals, but he gives us a completely different perspective, with more movement, even in a wheelchair.”

Kosasih first started tai chi in Milwaukee, believing it would help with Parkinson’s Disease and pain.

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Zibin Guo leads health care workers through one of his tai chi routines. He first taught the group standing up and then in wheelchairs. Guo believes regular tai chi can significantly help treat post-traumatic stress and reduce the use of painkillers.

“The practice helps you relax, helps you sleep better. When you sleep better, you will feel better,” she said. “I guarantee it improves endurance, balance, memory, and you will be able to stand longer. It gives our veterans skills and empowers them to develop this and get better.”

It’s also a gateway to health for those who can’t afford other sports.

Guo said: “Paralympics and wheelchair rugby and basketball is great but think about how much just one of those chairs costs. The average person doesn’t have a chance. One percent can get the specialized chair and 99 percent can’t. Wheelchair tai chi gives people self-empowerment. You don’t need a special chair.

“There are so many physical benefits,” he added. “A lot of studies have already demonstrated that the nature of the movements is so unique, and the circular motion creates powerful circulation in the body. It’s not just the blood, but the energy, and that treats a wide range of problems without drugs — it treats pain, it treats headaches. There are so many benefits.”

Besides teaching others how to teach the class, he is asking them to compile data to prove his point. He pointed to one veteran in Tennessee, who said she used tai chi to drastically cut down on painkillers.

Zarita Croney, an Afghanistan veteran, suffered from post-traumatic stress, three bulging discs, one eroded disc and intermittent paralysis, plus a host of other issues.

“I had to have a huge purse just for all my meds. You’d look inside and see nothing but pill bottles.” While still in the military, she said she cycled through an array of pain medications. “I’d have to lay in bed for three hours, just waiting for the medicine to work,” she said.

Croney spiraled into depression until she reached out to the Tennessee Valley Health Care System for mental health. Her VA recommended recreation therapy, including the tai chi Guo promotes.

Mind and Machine

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“The first time in tai chi, they had to wheel me there in a wheelchair,” she said. “The first few visits, I couldn’t get through the whole class. Then I start getting more range of motion. My instructor said, ‘Even if you can’t do it, see yourself doing it in your mind.’ And as you go along, your body does catch up with what the mind is doing.

“I went from visiting the emergency room at least once a month to get shot up with morphine, to walking with a cane, and sometimes without the cane. I’ve cut out about three-fourths of the pills I was on,” she said. “With all these things, it’s a battle every day, but tai chi gave me the foundation.”

Guo says this is nothing new to him.

“Pain symptoms are very complex and not just physical. The symptoms of stress, tension, or anger and bad emotions, that creates chemicals in the brain that stimulate pain,” he said. “Tai chi not only relaxes, it promotes healing.”

Leanne Young, a recreation therapist from the San Francisco VA Health Care System, said she is excited to see tai chi and other eastern philosophies gain more acceptance, because it plays into what she and other therapists have been doing for years.

“This is definitely time for this,” she said. “I think most people want to see evidence-based practice and data. They want to see research. Many things recreation therapists have done — not just tai chi, but in general — hasn’t always been recognized because there isn’t always research that supports the benefits.

“I really feel tai chi is a whole mind-body thing, and that really works. Your brain ends up telling your body what to do. It’s mindfulness, and to me, it’s a state of mind which affects your body and your pain reduction.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

9 signs your command doesn’t want you to reenlist

It’s time. You’re entering your reenlistment window. Now you have to decide whether to stay in or get out, whether to take incentives, like bonuses and assignment of choice, or opt to get out and accept release from the UCMJ. So you go to all of your bold leaders and ask them, “should I stay or should I go?” and they all get sorta dodgy.

Well, sorry to break it to you, mate. If they’re doing any of these nine things, they probably want to give you a polite end of service of award and boot you like a cheap soccer ball.


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Don’t you want to go here? Instead of to the field with us? …Please?

(John Phelan, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Your squad leader keeps leaving community college pamphlets on top of your reenlistment paperwork

“Hey man, the world needs more HVAC repair technicians, medical equipment repairers, and computer support specialists,” they tell you. “Here are some nice pamphlets about schools near your hometown. Be sure to look at all your options when you’re looking at your reenlistment options.”

All your options. Including getting out. Maybe just look at most of your options. Specifically, look at your getting-out options.”

Hey, at least you have the G.I. Bill. Hint, hint.

The career counselor just can’t fit you into his schedule

Seriously, this guy’s whole job is showing people their reenlistment options but, for you, he’s happy to show anything else. You only see him when he’s at some mandatory unit event — never in his office. When you try to set an appointment up, it always turns out that he has a parachute jump that morning or a dental appointment that afternoon.

If the career counselor is ghosting you, it’s not a good sign.

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All your squadmates, all talking about all the things you could be doing in the civilian world.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Kristoffer Sibbaluca)

Everyone likes to list things civilians don’t have to deal with, loudly, and only in your presence

Did you know that no one measures the distance between an engineer’s nameplate and his pocket flap? And that, in most workplaces, you can wear whatever shirt you want? Grow your beard as long as you want? Work out or not in the morning, according entirely to your own whims and goals?

Of course you do, because that’s all your unit talks about in your presence. They also tell you about how civilian employers ask you if you want to travel before sending you around the world, how you can decide for yourself where to live, and how you can change jobs to whatever you want, whenever you want.

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“Yeah, go work over there. No, further. Little further. Alright, climb into the barrel and stay there.”

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Hughes)

You’re always assigned to the most remote detail

Meanwhile, all these hints are accompanied by serious isolation at work. If someone has to guard ammo at a far-flung training area, it’ll definitely be you. Three-man detail for the motor pool while everyone else is at the armory? Yup, you know who’s on it.

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Yay, night mortars. Let me guess who is guarding the site when it’s not in use.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Arturo Guzman)

You get the overnight detail every time

Same deal. Your name comes up on the list for charge of quarters duty way more than random chance could account for, and your “special skills” don’t actually make you the logical choice for watching the stereo equipment set out for the change of command ceremony.

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“Look, this unit has a puppy. Wouldn’t you be so much happier over there?”

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Felicia Jagdatt)

Constant reminders that other units need people and maybe you could reenlist for one of them if you really have to

When you can press someone into talking about your reenlistment, they’re full of advice about how other units are run differently and how maybe you’ll enjoy yourself in a different kind of unit… preferably one on the other coast — or another continent. Yeah, you definitely seem like you’d enjoy an Arctic posting.

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“Huh. Weird. Is that your reenlistment paperwork on the target? Our bad.”

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brianna Saville)

Your reenlistment packet keeps getting left in the trash, fire, range, etc.

You finally get the paperwork drawn up and now you just have to decide whether to sign it — except that it’s in the trash now, for some reason. You retrieve it, but find it in the fire. You re-print it just to find that someone stapled it to silhouettes that were taken to the range.

Surely it’s a series of mistakes. Surely.

Your chain of command flies your high school ex in for the weekend

Well, the stick hasn’t worked, so they pull out the carrot. Specifically, someone looked up your ex on Facebook, flew them out to your base, and finally, finally, granted you a mileage pass so you could go to the beach. It was just sort of odd that you didn’t request one this time.

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Maybe you’re too fat? Here, have a popsicle.

(U.S. Army Sgt. Edward Garibay)

Alright, fine, we’ll just start paperwork

Huh, that didn’t make you want to go home either, huh? Alright, fine. There’s got to be something you’ve done that’ll justify a bar to reenlistment. What are your most recent tape test results?

Remember that this is all in fun. The U.S. military actually needs most of you guys to stick around, and wants the rest of you to be super successful in the civilian world. If you have a friend who would find this funny, tag ’em. But if you’re getting out, make sure to build a plan.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How troops could get to keep destroyed gear as a memento

That shrapnel-scarred flak jacket or battle-blasted Kevlar might not have much use to the military by the time they’re turned in to an equipment issue facility for reset following a deployment.

But for the service member who wore them and lived to tell the tale, the items’ value just might be immeasurable.

A small provision in the fiscal 2019 defense budget bill aims to make it easier for the military to donate protective gear deemed no longer fit for military use to the service members who wore it during combat and other military operations.


The provision, first reported by Army Times, would grant formal permission to the military to do something that has from time to time been done informally — presenting old gear to the troops it protected as a keepsake — and tacitly acknowledges that the equipment these troops wear tells a story of its own.

“The Secretary of a military department may award to a member of the armed forces… and to any veteran formerly under the jurisdiction of the Secretary, demilitarized personal protective equipment (PPE) of the member or veteran that was damaged in combat or otherwise during the deployment of the member or veteran,” the provision reads. “The award of equipment under this section shall be without cost to the member or veteran concerned.”

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Lance Cpl. Bradley A. Snipes stands with the helmet that saved his life. During a mission with his platoon, Snipes was shot in the head by an enemy sniper. The only thing that saved his life was the Kevlar helmet he wore.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jerad W. Alexander)

The stories of troops whose lives have been saved because their Kevlar helmets stopped an enemy bullet have become a genre of their own in reports from the battlefield. Photos showing Marines and soldiers mugging with shredded helmets highlight the importance of the stories these protective items tell.

One Marine Corps news release from 2005 recounts how Lance Cpl. Bradley Snipes, an anti-tank assaultman with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, was hit squarely in the head by a sniper round during a deployment to Iraq. He came away uninjured, thanks to his Kevlar.

“I was really surprised. It’s supposed to be able to stop a 7.62mm round at long distances. Well, it did,” he told a Marine combat correspondent at the time. “The gear works, don’t doubt it. This is proof.”

The story added that Snipes wanted to petition to keep his helmet as a memento. It’s not clear from the story or follow-on reports if he was given the chance to do so.

“I want to put it in a case with a plaque that says, ‘The little bullet that couldn’t,'” he said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Gifts helped POWs escape during WWII…. and 12 other crazy Christmas facts

Christmas has been around for over two millennia. Two thousand years is plenty of time for funky traditions, tall tales and strange stories to pop up. Hallucinating reindeer?  Carols in outer space? Illicit Christmas dinners? Which tales are true? Keep reading to separate Christmas facts from festive fiction. Some may surprise you. 

  1. Gaining a pound just from Christmas dinner is totally possible.

    Technically, you can gain almost two over the course of the day without breaking a sweat. Just add up an indulgent breakfast with all-day appetizers, honey-baked ham, buttery mashed potatoes, rolls, and pie, and you’re already getting up there. Cocktails add even more, and eggnog? The average 8 oz cup has about 343 calories. And who has just one? According to Associated British Foods, the average person eats more than 7,000 calories on Christmas day. 
  1. Santa’s signature style was shaped by the Civil War and Coca-Cola.

    Originally, Santa resembled a saint. Then, a political cartoonist named Thomas Nast drew him to drum up support for the Union. Santa suddenly became a lot more cheerful looking, and a lot more American. About three decades later, Coca-Cola decided to step up their holiday ad game. They hired an artist named Haddon Sundblom to design Santa-themed print ads, which painted the chubbiest, most wholesome version of Santa yet
  1. Beware…Christmastime is peak breakup season.

To be more specific, two weeks before Christmas is the most frequent period for couples to split. A couple of weeks post-Valentine’s day is another popular time, as is spring break. While the Facebook data didn’t define why, it’s safe to say that our relationship expectations often rise over the holidays, as do our odds of disappointment. Sigh. On the upside, Christmas Day was the least popular breakup day. If you make it that far, you’re probably in the clear! 

  1. “Xmas” doesn’t take the Christ out of Christmas. 


Some Christians worry that the abbreviation “Xmas” removes the religious significance from the holiday, but a quick lesson in Greek should relieve any concerns. The letter X is the first letter of the Greek spelling of the word Christos, aka Christ. That said, not everyone who celebrates Christmas is Christian. The holiday represents warmth, generosity, and gratitude, and that’s a wonderful reason to celebrate the season too!

  1. Jingle Bells was the first song played in outer space.

    A few days before Christmas in 1965, astronauts Wally Schirra and Tom Stafford decided to pull a clever prank on Mission Control. They were aboard Gemini 6 when they called in with a concerning report; an “unidentified flying object” was traveling from north to south, potentially entering Earth’s atmosphere. The broadcast was interrupted by the sound of sleigh bells and the tune of “Jingle Bells” played on Wally’s harmonica. Mission Control wasn’t amused, but Santa probably was. 
  1. Mistletoe was originally a symbol of fertility.

    The Druids believed the holiday weed was an aphrodisiac. While this one’s more myth than fact, if someone invites you to meet under the mistletoe, kiss with caution! Why people thought mistletoe was so *ahem* invigorating remains a mystery, especially considering the word’s roots; the Germanic version of the word means “poop on a twig”. Really adds to the ambiance, don’t you think? 
  1.  “Jingle Bells” was written for Thanksgiving, not Christmas.

    Written by James Lord Pierpont in 1857, the song was originally written to be performed in the school’s Sunday school class around Thanksgiving. It was called “One Horse Open Sleigh”, and it wasn’t about Santa or Christmas at all. It was about the famous local sleigh races, and with talk of picking up girls and living while you’re young, the original was considered risque!
  1. Decorating can be dangerous.

    When you’re putting up last-minute lights, do yourself a favor and have someone hold the ladder. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that holiday decorating accidents account to over 14,000 trips to the ER each year, all in the span of two months. 
  1. For awhile, Christmas was illegal.

    Puritans settled in Boston quite early on, and they weren’t huge fans of Christmas celebrations. From 1659-1681, it was actually forbidden by law, with fines doled out to rogue carolers. Even a century later, Christmas wasn’t all that popular. After the American Revolution in 1789, Congress even held its first session on Christmas. It remained nondescript for some time, not earning federal holiday status until June 28th, 1870
  1. Santa has an official Canadian postal code.

    Where do letters to Santa go? Canadians have quite the reputation for being good-natured and kind, and they definitely live up to the hype at Christmastime. Canadian Post Office workers started replying to letters themselves, and eventually they gave Santa an official address: Santa Claus, North Pole, HOH OHO, Canada. While it’s been tough to keep up, the Santa Letter-Writing Program there does its best to respond to as many letters from kids as humanly (or elfishly?) possible. 
  1. Tinsel used to be pricy and poisonous.

    Invented in Germany in 1610, tinsel was originally made of actual silver. It was considered an item of luxury, but it was also a bit dangerous. It often contained lead, leading to widespread bans on its production. Today, it’s much cheaper and made of harmless plastic. Just don’t let the cat eat it and you’re good. 
  1. Were flying reindeer actually on shrooms?

    Probably not, but one scholar named R. Gordon Wasson thought they might have been. Reindeer in Siberia used to consume Amanita muscaria mushrooms, supposedly leading them to hallucinate and leap about. He believed this was the root of the flying reindeer myth. While other scholars agreed there may be a connection, there’s little proof. “Flying” reindeer became a popular pop culture origin story nevertheless.
  2. Christmas gifts helped POWs escape during WWII.

    This one sounds fake, but it’s not. The US Playing Card Company teamed up with Allied intelligence agencies for a noble cause: helping allied prisoners of war reach safety. They created decks of cards as “Christmas gifts”, but the cards came with a secret. Some of them could be peeled apart when wet, unveiling detailed escape routes. The map decks were a closely-kept secret for years after the war ended, but they likely helped more than one prisoner get home safely. What Christmas gift could be better than that? 
MIGHTY CULTURE

No, you don’t need to shave your beard to prevent coronavirus

All around the world, countless men may suddenly believe they just got a free pass to bring back the Burt Reynolds stache or the Sugar Ray/Smash Mouth soul patch. Shaving-off our full beards and replacing those with smaller, more compact facial hair will help halt the spread of coronavirus, right? Wrong. A widely circulated infographic from the CDC is not about preventing coronavirus, and, has nothing to do with the effectiveness of conventional face masks. Here’s what’s really going on.


This week, the internet exploded when a 2017 CDC infographic started making the rounds. Naturally, because the infographic resurfaced around the same time that the CDC sent out very real warnings about how to prepare for the coronavirus, unsuspecting readers of the internet linked the two things. But, the truth is, this 2017 infographic is about using a respirator with facial hair, not a conventional face mask. (Which, by the way, if you aren’t sick, you don’t need anyway.) If you look closely at the graphic (after you look at all the different names for beards) you’ll notice in the fine print this was created in conjunction with OSHA, and is in fact, from 2017. (2017 is even in filename of the PDF when you go download it!)

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In fact, in its FAQ about the coronavirus, the CDC statement is: “the CDC does not recommend the routine use of respirators outside of workplace settings.”

So, get excited about this funny 2017 infographic all you want. Just maybe remember it was created by the CDC for workplaces in which employees routinely use actual respirators on a day-to-day basis. It literally has nothing to do with coronavirus or how you put a surgical mask on your face. A surgical mask, by definition, does not need the face seal that this infographic is talking about. Only respirators require that seal. If you shave and put on a respirator, and you’re not sick and don’t need a respirator at your job, you’re just doing some Breaking Bad cosplay. Which, fair enough!

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So, if you feel so moved, widdle your full beard down to a Van Dyke or soul patch, go for it! Just don’t expect us to start singing “I Just Want To Fly” again. And, certainly don’t congratulate yourself for saving the world.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what would happen if China attacked the US

Experts at the cutting edge of simulated warfare have spoken: China would handily defeat the US military in the Pacific with quick bursts of missile fired at air bases.

The exact phrasing was that the US was getting “its ass handed to it” in those simulations, Breaking Defense reported the RAND analyst David Ochmanek as saying earlier in March 2019.

“In every case I know of,” Robert Work, a former deputy secretary of defense, said, “the F-35 rules the sky when it’s in the sky, but it gets killed on the ground in large numbers.”


Against China, which has emerged as the US’s most formidable rival, this problem becomes more acute. China’s vast, mountainous territory gives it millions of square miles in which to hide its extensive fleet of mobile long-, medium-, and short-range missiles.

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An F-35 is much more capable than the jet shown on the left, but on a runway, the F-35 is just a more expensive target.

(US Navy)

In the opening minutes of a battle against the US, Beijing could unleash a barrage of missiles that would nail US forces in Guam, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and possibly Australia. With China’s growing anti-ship capability, even US aircraft carriers in the region would likely come under intense fire.

For the US, this would be the feared attack in which F-35s and F-22s, fifth-generation aircraft and envy of the world, are blown apart in their hangars, runways are cratered, and ships are sunk in ports.

The remaining US forces in this case would be insufficient to back down China’s air and sea forces, which could then easily scoop up a prize such as Taiwan.

Additionally, the US can’t counter many of China’s most relevant missile systems because of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty it signed with Russia, which prohibits missiles with ranges between 310 miles and 3,400 miles — the type it would need to hold Chinese targets at equal risk. (The US is withdrawing from that treaty.)

So given China’s clear advantage in missile forces and the great incentive to knock out the best military with a sucker punch, why doesn’t it try?

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The ranges of Chinese ballistic and cruise missiles, air-defense systems, and warships.

(Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments)

Politics

China could light up much of the Pacific with a blistering salvo of missiles and do great harm to US ships and planes, but they likely won’t because it would start World War III.

China wouldn’t just be attacking the US. It would be attacking Japan and South Korea at a minimum. Whatever advantage China gained by kicking off a fight this way would have to balance against a combined response from the US and its allies.

The US is aware of the sucker-punch problem. In the event that tensions rise enough that a strike is likely, the US would simply spread its forces out among its bases and harden important structures, such as hangars, so they could absorb more punishment from missiles.

Potential targets China needed to strike would multiply, and the deployment of electronic and physical decoys would further complicate things for Beijing. For US ships at sea, the use of electronic decoys and onboard missile defenses would demand China throw tremendous numbers of missiles at the platforms, increasing the cost of such a strike.

Key US military bases will also have ballistic-missile defenses, which could blunt the attack somewhat.

The US also monitors the skies for ballistic missiles, which would give it some warning time. Alert units could scramble their aircraft and be bearing down on China’s airspace just after the first missiles hit.

Justin Bronk, a military-aviation expert at the Royal United Service Institute, pointed out at the institute’s Combat Air Survivability conference that when the US hit Syria’s Al Shayrat air base with 58 cruise missiles, planes were taking off from the base again within 24 hours.

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A US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)

Payback is a … consideration

Missiles brigades that just fired and revealed their positions would be sitting ducks for retaliation by the US or its allies.

Japan, which will soon have 100 F-35s, some of which will be tied into US Navy targeting networks, would jump into the fight swiftly.

China would have to mobilize a tremendous number of aircraft and naval assets to address that retaliatory strike. That mobilization, in addition to the preparations for the initial strike, may tip Beijing’s hand, telegraphing the sucker punch and blunting its damage on US forces.

While China’s missile forces pose a huge threat to the US, one punch isn’t enough to knock out the world’s best military, but it is enough to wake it up.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Pararescuemen stay sharp while training off the coast of Italy

Two boats idled together in the Adriatic Sea just off the coast of Northern Italy, battered mercilessly by the waves as eight pairs of eyes searched the sky. The silence stretched for long moments, a hint of anticipation on the cool sea breeze before a radio crackled to life.

There would be three jumpers in five minutes, transmitted the radio. The information was passed between the occupants of both boats as they caught first sight of the approaching aircraft.

Members of the 57th Rescue Squadron participated in over-water parachute training. July 9, 2019, with a dozen pararescuemen aboard a C-130J Super Hercules from the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, as eight more awaited their descent from below.


First out of the aircraft was a rigged alternate method zodiac, or RAMZ, an inflatable, motorized boat that the jumpers used once they made it to the water. As they worked on setting up their vehicle, the members in the support boats began pulling in the discarded parachutes to be repaired if necessary and reused in the future.

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Pararescueman assigned to the 57th Rescue Squadron parachutes into the ocean during over-water parachute training off the coast of Italy, July 9, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kelsey Tucker)

The 57th RQS participates in jump training at least once a quarter, over both land and sea, to keep their skills and knowledge sharp in case they are ever needed in an emergency. The training not only benefits the pararescuemen, but requires harmonization with the squadron’s support agencies and even other bases – in this case, the C-130 and its crew.

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Pararescuemen assigned to the 57th Rescue Squadron prepare a rigged alternate method zodiac vessel during over-water parachute training off the coast of Italy, July 9, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kelsey Tucker)

“Just for us to do this training, it requires so much coordination from our support shops,” said Capt. Jordan, a combat rescue officer with the 57th RQS. “Just on the water we have boat drivers, people pulling in chutes and medical personnel. We are super grateful to have an amazing combat mission support section.”

Jumping on land is far different than jumping into the ocean, and carries different challenges – not only for the jumpers themselves but also for the support personnel down below.

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Pararescuemen assigned to the 57th Rescue Squadron prepare a rigged alternate method zodiac during over-water parachute training off the coast of Italy, July 9, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kelsey Tucker)

“On land, all you really have to worry about is another aircraft coming into your airspace,” said Staff Sgt. Jared, a 57th RQS aircrew flight equipment technician and drop zone control officer. “On water, you have to worry about boats, airplanes and that you’re constantly moving. You have to go where the jumpers go, and then reset, come back to your position and get ready for the next jumpers.”

Through successful support and coordination, the 57th RQS was able to carry out the required training needed in order to remain proficient in their job, providing day or night personnel recovery operations in any condition, during peace or war.

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