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MIGHTY CULTURE

US Navy’s oldest nuclear-powered attack sub completes final deployment

The US Navy’s oldest nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine wrapped up its final deployment Sept. 8, 2019, after sailing around the world.

Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia completed a seven-month, around-the-world deployment when it returned to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, the Navy said on Sept. 9, 2019.


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The USS Olympia returns home following a seven-month deployment.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Amanda Gray)

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The crew of the USS Olympia returns home from a seven-month deployment.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael B. Zingaro)

The powerful sub “completed her final deployment after 35 years of service, circumnavigating the globe in seven months starting from Oahu, Hawaii, transiting through the Panama Canal, Strait of Gibraltar and Suez Canal,” Cmdr. Benjamin Selph, the sub’s commanding officer, said.

Selph said the sub and its crew worked visited various allies and partners during the deployment, at times engaging other navies, such as the British Royal Navy. “We joined the crew of HMS Talent in a day of barbeque and friendly sports competitions of soccer, football and volleyball,” he explained.

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The crew of the USS Olympia moors in Hawaii following a seven-month deployment.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael B. Zingaro)

Selph said that “sailing around the world in our country’s oldest serving nuclear-powered Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine is a testament to the durability and design of the submarine but also the tenacity and ‘fight on’ spirit of the crew.”

Master Chief Electronics Technician (Radio) Arturo Placencia, Olympia’s chief-of-the-boat, said the boat and its crew “performed with excellence,” adding that “for everyone onboard, this was the first time we completed a circumnavigation of the globe.”

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Sailors assigned to the USS Olympia load a Mark 48 torpedo from the pier in Souda Bay, Greece, July 10, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelly M. Agee)

The War Zone, a defense publication, tracked the Olympia’s travels from Hawaii to the Western Pacific and through the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and the Suez Canal. The sub then conducted operations in the Mediterranean before heading to the Atlantic, passing through the Panama Canal, and sailing through the Eastern Pacific to Pearl Harbor.

Source: The War Zone

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USS Olympia returns home following a seven-month deployment.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Amanda Gray)

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Sailors load a Harpoon anti-ship cruise missile aboard the USS Olympia as part of the biannual RIMPAC maritime exercise.

(U.S. Navy photo)

Even in the final years of its more than three decades of service, the Olympia remained a symbol of US undersea power. For example, last summer, it became the first US sub in 20 years to fire a Harpoon sub-launched anti-ship cruise missile. The US military is building this capability as it confronts great power rivals with capable surface fleets.

Source: Submarine Force Pacific

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Electronics Technician (Nuclear) 1st Class Todd Bolen hugs his girlfriend at Olympia’s homecoming.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael B. Zingaro)

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Cmdr. Travis Zettel, commander of the USS Bremerton, left, hands the Rear Adm. Richard O’Kane cribbage board to Cmdr. Benjamin J. Selph, commander of the USS Olympia, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Lee)

In Navy tradition, a lucky cribbage board belonging to Cmdr. Richard O’Kane, who was dealt an incredible winning hand before his Gato-class sub, USS Wahoo, sank two Japanese freighters in 1943, was passed from the USS Bremerton to the Olympia when the latter became the oldest fast-attack sub. Before it is decommissioned, the Olympia will pass the board to another sub, reportedly the USS Chicago.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Wet-hulled Arabica is not your typical Vietnamese coffee

As the second largest world coffee exporter — behind Brazil — Vietnam exports 25 million 60-kilogram bags of coffee per year. While 95 percent of this is the Vietnamese Robusta bean, only 5 percent of the coffee grown and exported in Vietnam is the original Arabica bean introduced by the French during colonization. With the rise of specialty coffee in Vietnam and worldwide, the demand for the more expensive — and more desirable — Arabica bean is getting stronger. The push for high-quality coffee is greater than ever, and it’s beginning to take the Vietnamese coffee industry by storm.


Black Rifle Coffee Company’s latest Exclusive Coffee Subscription roast is a full-bodied, wet-hulled Vietnamese Arabica with a smoky aroma; tasting notes of tobacco, spice, and Mexican vanilla; and soft acidity.

Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.

As Robusta beans are less fragrant, more bitter, and have a higher caffeine content than Arabica beans, they are ideal for instant coffee. In fact, the first coffee processing plant in Vietnam was established in 1950 to manufacture instant coffee using Robusta beans.

Even though Robusta beans dominate the coffee fields of Vietnam, there remains a strong underbelly of coffee growers who produce high-quality specialty Arabica beans. Arabica coffee trees grow shorter than their Robusta cousins and require a higher elevation. This limits their spread across Vietnam, finding roots only in the northwestern part of the country and the central highlands in the south.

Cantimor is the most common type of Arabica grown in Vietnam, though this hardy bean isn’t a true Arabica bean. The Robusta-Arabica hybrid isn’t well-known for producing a high-quality cup of coffee. Other types of Arabica grown in Vietnam are of the Bourbon and Mocha varieties, or Moka in Vietnamese.

In Vietnam, coffee beans are generally harvested using a strip-harvesting method. This involves stripping a coffee tree of all its cherries, both ripe and unripe. This is the normal practice for Robusta beans and results in a lower-quality coffee.

Arabica beans require a more selective method of harvesting, which involves continually harvesting only the ripest cherries and leaving the unripe cherries to fully develop. This labor-intensive process requires coffee farmers to pick through their coffee trees every few days to select the beans at their ripest.

After harvesting, Robusta beans are processed using a drying method that spreads the cherries out in the sun for up to two weeks. While this can produce high quality coffee, it requires vigilant watch and exceptionally dry sunny weather.

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Black Rifle Coffee Company’s latest Exclusive Coffee Subscription roast is a full-bodied, wet-hulled Vietnamese Arabica with a smoky aroma; tasting notes of tobacco, spice, and Mexican vanilla; and soft acidity.

Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.

Arabica coffee is processed using the wet-hull method. Instead of immediately drying the cherries in the sun, the cherries are soaked and rubbed in order to remove skin and pulpy flesh from the bean. Sometimes this is done using a hand-cranked pulper, similar to a meat grinder. The beans are then submerged in water with a fermentation enzyme that helps to rid the beans of any remaining pulp.

After fermenting overnight, beans are rinsed to reveal a clean layer of parchment covering the bean. These parchment-coated beans are dried in the sun for up to a week before being run through a wet-huller. This machine vibrates powerfully to jostle the beans, providing the friction needed to separate the wet parchment from the coffee bean. The intense vibrations can sometimes cause the soft beans to split at the end, resembling a “goat’s nail.”

Once through the wet-hulling process, the beans are spread out to dry in the sun. The beans are raked consistently throughout the day but kept bagged at night to continue fermentation. Without the protective layer of parchment, wet-hulled coffee dries quickly and achieves the ideal moisture content in less than a week.

Only the best beans make it into the Vietnamese Arabica elite coffee. Beans are sorted using sieves of different sizes, then they are sorted again based on various characteristics such as foreign matter, moisture content, color, and wholeness. In Vietnam, it is popular for the Arabica beans to be dark roasted in butter, brewed strong, and served with sweetened condensed milk.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Church of Scientology has its own paramilitary Navy

Imagine a priesthood where they wear uniforms like the Navy’s, are disciplined like Marines, do as much real work to advance a mission as any nonner in the Air Force, and are worked like Army privates with none of the pay and benefits. If that sounds appealing, you’re ready for Scientology’s Sea Org, a paramilitary “fraternal organization” comprised of the most devoted Scientology has to offer.


 

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The Few. The Vowed. The Sea Org.

 

With a reported 6,000 members, the Sea Org is Scientology’s version of a religious order. The symbol of two palm fronds around a star is supposedly the emblem of the Galactic Confederacy seventy-five million years ago. Led by the space lord Xenu, the Galactic Confederacy killed a bunch of people with hydrogen bombs in a volcano. Or something. Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but so do a lot of religions if you think about it. We’re not here to make fun of religion, we’re here to talk about this particular one’s Xenu-damned Navy.

 

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And before the commenters start in on me for not believing the same things they do, lets get some perspective.

Origin Story

Where would any service be without its creation story? The wild blue yonder, the halls of Montezuma, Valley Forge, Custer’s Ranks, Last night on shore, drinking to the foam and all that. No service is complete without its mythology. Keep in mind, the Sea Org is only twenty years younger than the Air Force and probably richer, since Scientology isn’t developing a trillion dollar fighter that ignites on takeoff.

The Sea Org began in 1967 when founder L. Ron Hubbard (or LRH to his followers), science fiction writer and Navy veteran (like his father) who served during World War II, launched his own private naval force and declared himself commodore. The Church of Scientology was founded just 13 years prior, and Hubbard staffed his ships with volunteer Scientologists, reportedly looking for buried treasure from one of LRH’s previous lifetimes.

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Physical fitness was clearly not a central tenet of his new Navy.

Scientology defector Janis Grady, a former Sea Org member, told the New Yorker, “I was on the bridge with him, sailing past Greek islands. There were crosses lining one island. He told me that under each cross is buried treasure.” Hubbard commanded four ships, the Diana, Athena, Apollo, and Excalibur for eight years, cruising the Mediterranean, either existing on a diet of a lot of drugs, evading UK taxes, or looking for a safe haven for his beliefs, depending on who you ask.

Recruiting

The Sea Org actively seeks young, able-bodied individuals to fill its ranks. In her book Troublemaker, actress Leah Remini, who was born into Scientology, notes she was recruited into the Sea Org at age thirteen. According to Remini, Scientologists consider minors to be spiritual beings responsible for their own condition in life and can make decisions for themselves. As a result, many don’t go to traditional schools and instead attend Scientology schools. This might not be so bad, if a Sea Org member could retire after doing their twenty, but they don’t. Ever. Retire at all.

 

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999,999,983 years and a wake up!

Sea Org members don’t do just twenty years. Remember how incensed some people in basic training were complaining how their recruiters lied to them? Sea Org recruiters at least have the decency to tell you the truth when you sign a billion-year enlistment contract. Since Sea Org members are expected to reincarnate, they owe all their next lives to the Sea Org for the next billion years. Way to Blue Falcon your future selves. I hope the reenlistment bonus is worth it.

Basic Training

Trainees are sent to the Estates Project Force, or EPF, at a dumpy motel in Clearwater, Florida (called “Flag”), doing 12 hours of manual labor a day and two and a half hours of Scientology study until they complete the courses. They eat rice and beans or liquid eggs every day.

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How’s that chow sound now, trainee?

Leah Remini recalled having to steal food because she wasn’t fed enough. Twenty years later, she would admit it in a “transgression session” (which is way less fun than it sounds), and was voluntold to repay three months of custard and hamburgers to the tune of $40,000 so she could level up. So just like Uncle Sam, when you owe Scientology, they take what you owe them without mercy. It’s called a “Freeloader’s Debt.” Nothing beats a Leave and Earnings Statement (or LES — a military pay stub) with fifty cents on it.

Imagine spending three months cleaning and managing a Days Inn you don’t own with people you hate while going to night school the rest of the time and being forced to do things like “scrubbing a dumpster with a toothbrush till late at night,” then “getting up at six to do laundry.”

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Dumpsters? That sounds so hard.

 

With the exception of Sea Org pay being a far cry from E-1 pay (around $50 a week), Sea Org basic training may still sound a little familiar, except it sometimes never ends. One defector describes the order as “pseduo-military butlers.

But seriously, the only reason it isn’t slavery is because they volunteered. For a billion years. The good news is there are plenty of ranks to move up to. It’s unclear just how one moves up in rank, except for the obvious Scientology method of paying a ton of money for the privilege.

Culture

Remini, like many others, say they joined the Sea Org to help “clear the planet.” Or save the world. They’re young and idealistic. They believe LRH has secrets to save the world and the Sea Org is central to those secrets and they really want to help you. They come in to the Sea Org and start learning right away. Unlike the real Navy, no one ever gets to become a “salty” NCO.

 

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But if the Sea Org has “boot as f*ck” recruits, this is one of them.

Since members of the Sea Org get very little in the way of education and are entirely devoted to the Church and its functions, those who leave (or “blow”) find themselves unable to manage even the most basic of adult tasks, like keeping a job or paying their bills. Many have little to no formal education or skills with which to get a job in the first place.

In her book, Remini reminisced about playing pranks on other Sea Org members. I wonder if they ever sent a recruit out to get a box of grid squares, to get some prop wash, or to find Shelly Miscavige.

 

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They’re fighting for A SANE PLANET, PEOPLE

Sea Org Members are not allowed to have premarital sex. They can marry but if they want to have kids, they have to leave the Sea Org, because if LRH wanted you to have a family, he would have issued you one.

They have medals

In 2004, Tom Cruise was awarded the Freedom Medal of Valor, which sounds stupid the first time you hear it. And also the second.

They have their own slang and acronyms

Scientology doesn’t have POGs, but they have their own version of it. According to Remini, Tom Cruise was once served a chipped tea cup. His response: “‘You served me tea in a chipped mug? Do you know who gets served with a mug that’s chipped? F*cking DBs.” DB, in Scientology parlance, means Degraded Being, Someone so infested with Body Thetans, evil spirits, as to be unauditable or insane.

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Cruise’s ex-wife Nicole Kidman, and now Remini, along with many others, and probably myself now too, are called SPs, or Suppressive Persons, which is funny because in the actual military, if being openly hostile to the service or to the people with whom you serve gets you declared a social outcast, then everyone in the military would have to ignore each other for the next billion years.

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This is how they see themselves. (In a weird way, you have to respect the only guy who decided to wear enlisted stripes in the back row, all the way to the right.)

The Sea Org developed its own acronyms over the years, you know, to keep things simple. There are thing like: KSW – Keeping Scientology Working, LRH – L. Ron Hubbard, PTS – Potential Trouble Source, COB – Chairman of the Board (David Miscavige), RPF – Rehabilitation Project Force, MAA – Master at Arms, etc.

For example, if an EPF member messes up bad enough, the MAA will send them to RPF, where they’ll do MEST (Matter, Energy, Space, and Time) work. Did you find that sentence confusing? That’s what you sound like to civilians.

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The RPF  is a punitive re-education camp for spiritual rehabilitation. Like cleaning grease traps. Hallelujah!

The Fleet

The only ship left in Scientology’s fleet is the Freewinds, an asbestos-ridden heap anchored at Curacao, causing irreparable environmental damage. Unfortunately for the locals there, the Freewinds is the only place a Scientologist can learn Operating Thetan Level VIII, the highest operating level. This is where you can reportedly drop thoughts into people’s heads and talk to plants and animals.

 

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It turns out most of the modern Sea Org doesn’t even serve on the ocean. When researching their training regimen, “sailing” or “seamanship” or “ships” never really came up. The only time “water” appears is when the Sea Org is trying to discipline people, they throw them into the ocean. That’s esprit de corps right there.

So, potential Sea Org cadet, until we meet once more, here’s wishing you a happy voyage home… Now go clean my toilet and get me a new coffee mug, you f*cking DB, before I have you sent to Gold Base so fast you’ll wish the COB would just RPF you to death.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of December 7th

The beginning of December is a wonderful time in the military. We all get to watch those from the southern states lose their minds as they watch a little dusting of snow settle on the pavement, nobody’s sure if it’s time to switch over to winter PT uniforms, and troops express extreme pride in their respective branches with the Army-Navy Game on the horizon.

All the while, everyone starts mentally clocking out because block leave is quickly approaching and no one wants to do sh*t until then. It’s a sweet, sweet waiting game.

So, here’re some memes to enjoy as you’re sitting around the training room, just waiting to finally take your happy ass home.


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(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

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(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

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(Meme via Uniform Humor)

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(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

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(Meme by Ranger Up)

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(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

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(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

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(Meme via Army as F*ck)

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(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

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(Meme by WATM)

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(Meme via Pop Smoke)

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(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

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(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Vietnam Veterans Memorial – why listing the names of the fallen matters

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated on November 10, 1982, with 57,939 names. Since then, more names have been added. Currently, there are 58,282 names listed. Ten new names were engraved in 2020, including the name of a Marine corporal whose 2006 death was determined to be the result of wounds received in action in 1967. 

Listing the names of the fallen matters for all the obvious reasons and the way returning veterans were treated in the US after coming home from war. The memorial is dedicated to honoring the courage, sacrifice, and devotion to duty and country of all who served in one of the most divisive wars in US history.  

The memorial was built without using any government funds

After watching the movie The Deer Hunter, Jan C. Scruggs, a wounded Vietnam War veteran, and advocate, stepped up his efforts to create a war memorial to honor those who died in Vietnam. He donated $2,800 of his own money to form the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund in 1979.

By 1981, that fund had grown to $8.4 million, thanks in part to celebrities helping out with fundraising. All donations for the memorial came from the private sector, even though many politicians expressed their support in funding the site. Congress passed legislation to reserve three acres in the northwest corner of the National Mall for the monument. 

What happens to items left at the memorial?

Items are gathered by park staff. Non-perishable items are archived in a storage facility. Tens of thousands of items have been left at the memorial since its opening. These so-called artifacts include letters, POW/MIA bracelets, photographs, military insignia, and religious items. Someone once left a motorcycle. Rangers from the National Park Service collect items every day. Except for unaltered US flags and perishable items, all artifacts are sent to a storage facility in Maryland. The facility isn’t open to the public, but sometimes certain memorial artifacts are put on view as part of traveling exhibits. A virtual collection can be seen at www.vvmf.org/items.

How are the names arranged on the wall?

(National Park Service)

The names are arranged chronologically by date of casualty. The first names appear at the center of the wall at the top of panel 1E. The panels are filled like pages of a journal listing the men and women’s names as they fell. Upon reaching the farthest east end of the memorial at panel 70E, the pattern continues from the far west end of the memorial at panel 70W, continuing back to the center at panel 1W. In this manner, the memorial evokes a theme of closure or completion; the first are with the last.

All of the names have been read out five separate times

As part of the Wall’s 30th commemoration in 2012, all 58,282 named were read out loud just before Veterans Day. This was done five times – in 1982, 1992, 2002, 2007, and 2012. Volunteers, Vietnam veterans, family members of the deceased, and employees from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund read the names. In 2012, the team began reading on a Wednesday afternoon and didn’t finish until Saturday night. 

How can I find a name on the memorial?

Printed registries available at the memorial are organized alphabetically by last name. Electronic registries available online or accessible by park staff in the information kiosk at the memorial allow users to search by several data including first name, last name, branch of service, rank, date of birth, date of casualty, state, and/or city where they enlisted. 

Registry entries include a panel number and row number corresponding to its location in the memorial. Panel numbers are engraved in the memorial at the bottom of each panel. For row number, count down from the highest row on the panel. Each row contains five names (six where a name has been added since the wall was originally installed).

MIGHTY CULTURE

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

As the United States approaches the 20-year mark of the war on terror, the country continues to lose her service members. But we aren’t losing the vast majority of them to combat with the enemy. Instead, accidents and suicide are inflicting most of the devastation.


In 2019, a Congressional report compiled the data from 2006 through 2019. The results determined that 12,116 of the 16,652 killed in service during that period didn’t die from combat related causes. That’s 73% who weren’t lost due to fighting an enemy during war but instead – most died accidentally or by suicide.

Since 2015, the non-combat related deaths have been outpacing those lost while fighting. According to the Defense Reauthorization Act of 2019, in 2017, almost four times the amount of combat related deaths were attributed to training accidents. The number has continued to grow, causing alarm within the military and government.

These accidental deaths are often attributed to training and safety insufficiencies.

The increasing numbers led many members of the Armed Services Committee to state that America is “at a crisis point.” The committee’s 2019 proposal for funding addressed rebuilding the military so that its members can safely meet the needs of present and future threats to the country. That same proposal called for more training, equipment repair and increased readiness on land, at sea and in the air.
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But some of the battles they will face are within their own minds.

Since 2004, the suicide rates for the military have increased substantially. Tragically, 23.2% of all service member deaths from 2006 to 2019 were labeled by the Department of Defense as “self-inflicted.” In 2019, the Air Force’s numbers were trending so high that their Chief of Staff called for a resiliency and suicide prevention stand down, which was unprecedented.

A 2019 historical study within the Army painted a picture for the increased numbers. The data within the study demonstrated that there was a decrease in suicides for the Army during the active combat of the U.S. Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II and the Korean War. But beginning with the Vietnam War, the numbers changed and continued to climb. By 2012, the rates of suicide within the military surpassed the rates of suicide within the civilian world.

Accidental deaths and increasing suicide rates highlight the increased danger that America’s troops encounter a long way from the battlefield. Ensuring that those who raise their right hand to defend this country have effective and safe training environments with working equipment is vital. Their mental health support should also be continual and ongoing, with the stigma of seeking help eradicated from the top down. We owe them all of this – and so much more.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Warrior shares why he stayed in the Army after injury

Taking care of others, and showing love and appreciation for others, is a core reason why retired Maj. Dennis “DJ” Skelton chose to stay in the Army. He continued to serve for 21 years, even after suffering grievous wounds during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004.

Skelton told his story to a large crowd of soldiers, veterans, and Army civilians during the “Why We Serve” ceremony hosted by the Army’s chief information officer/G-6, Sept. 5. During the event, 30 young men and women from the Baltimore and Richmond areas raised their right hand to take the Oath of Enlistment.

“I was kind of a punk kid growing up in a small farming community in South Dakota,” he said. “I barely graduated high school and had absolutely no discipline whatsoever, which is why I had a hard time holding down a job.”


Shortly after getting expelled from the University of South Dakota, Skelton eventually found his way to an Army recruiting office. A year later he was sent to training at Monterey, California, to learn Chinese at the Defense Language Institute.

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Retired Maj. Dennis “DJ” Skelton shared his story to a large crowd of soldiers, veterans, and Army civilians during a “Why We Serve” ceremony, Sept. 5, 2019.

(Courtesy photo Maj. Dennis DJ Skelton)

At one point, two officers pulled Skelton aside and asked him, “‘Why are you here?'” Skelton looked up and couldn’t answer the question, he said.

Instead of turning Skelton away, the two officers decided to take an opportunity to encourage the young private. They encouraged him to become an Army officer.

“That was the first time in my life that I had been pulled aside by someone that looked at me from a distance and chose to spend some extra time with someone they did not know. They saw something in me that I didn’t see,” Skelton said.

Skelton eventually made it to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. After graduation, he moved to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. Not long after his arrival, he was told to prepare for a deployment in Iraq.

“I remember sitting on the tarmac waiting for the plane to load up,” he said. “No one in my unit has ever [deployed] before. I remember standing in front of my platoon — naive — and I looked at those family members and said, “‘I promise you this: I will bring all of your sons and daughters home.'”

Two months later, Skelton was wounded and in a coma. One of his soldiers, “went through a volley of fire to drag my body through the kill zone,” during a battle in Fallujah, Skelton said emotionally.

Battling for his life, Skelton was flown back for treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland.

“This is 2004, and there was no Warrior Transition Unit. West Point professors, [and] enlisted soldiers that I served with found out that I was wounded and showed up at the hospital. They would cook food every night and delivered it to my parents, sister, and loved ones, because I couldn’t do that,” he said with sorrow.

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Retired Maj. Dennis “DJ” Skelton discusses why he chose to stay in the Army after suffering grievous wounds during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004, during a “Why We Serve” ceremony at Fort Belvoir, Va., Sept. 5, 2019.

(Army CIO G6 photo)

A year later, Skelton was out of the hospital, and the Army was quick to start his medical evaluation board process. It was one thing to be injured, but the feeling of rejection and being told he no longer provided value to the Army felt worse, he said.

Skelton eventually convinced the Army to let him stay as he spent the next six years bouncing through various assignments.

“For six years, I did what everyone told me to do: ‘Be resilient.’ And for six years … what I learned is that I hate the word resilient more than any other word in the English language.”

To others, resilience is the measurement of time that it takes to get back to normal, Skelton added.

“For six years, I tried to get back to the point where I had two eyes [and] two limbs so I could go hunting, climbing, and fishing. That was a source of happiness. I want to go back to a time when I was not peppered with shrapnel so that I can look handsome again,” said Skelton, with sadness in his voice.

“The reality is we can’t; these negative things that happen to us are now forever part of us,” he said.

It took time, but Skelton eventually saw his injury as a source of his strength. Through it all, he recognized that each person brings value and worth to a team or organization, he said.

So to answer the question, ‘Why do I serve?’ I made a promise on a tarmac that I bring my soldiers home,” he said.

“Even though it took six years, I finally made my way back into the infantry. And even though it wasn’t [my same] platoon, I got to command the same company in which I was a platoon leader,” he said. “Some of my privates were now my NCOs. And I got to bring them back home.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam – part one

Richard Rice did two tours in the Vietnam War and went on to have the kind of 30 year career in Special Forces that spanned every major conflict and mission of his generation. And in 2017, he went back to Vietnam for the first time since “Vietnam.”

In this episode, Rich visits the Maison Centrale in Hanoi aka “The Hanoi Hilton.”

I could feel Rich going back in time – planning how his MACV-SOG team could rescue the POW’s trapped behind these walls some 45 years ago.

The approach was beautiful. Wide sidewalks around a lake with a floating ancient temple, past a white tulip garden down a tree-lined street full of Sunday revelers and coffee shops and the excitement of abandon. It felt like Paris.


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We turned a corner and then became now deep in our guts and the prison doors were wide open, the scrolled Maison Centrale almost luring us in. We’d been all over Vietnam to date, retracing so many of Rich’s steps of yesteryears and yet here, in this moment, his tension was my tension and we felt trapped. We were just standing there on a sidewalk in front of the Hanoi Hilton beneath the high-rises and the rooftop bars, surrounded by the din of motorbikes and indifference.

There’s nowhere to go, really, if you just want to stand there and feel what it feels like to remember something you wish you could have done, but never did. Five minutes, ten minutes, I can’t remember. But there we stayed. I had a few beers in my ruck and we cracked them open and began another journey back to 2018.

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Rich looked around and said, “You know, I’m gonna chalk this up to an impossible mission. I would have happily volunteered to try to get our guys out, but this is impossible.” And he shook his head once and took a deep breath and his consolation prize was seeing it with his own two eyes.

It’s the only time I’ve ever heard him say the word impossible.

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We raised a toast to those who had sacrificed so much inside those walls, and beyond.

The doors were still open but we didn’t want to go in, but we didn’t want to leave. We took a few pictures, Rich said he couldn’t believe he was standing in front of the Hanoi Hilton, drinking a beer. “Of all the things I ever thought I’d do in life, I never thought I’d be doing this. This is crazy.”

And then there was a family next to us and their young boy, whose shirt said “If I was a bird, I know who I’d shit on,” and he kept making peace signs and goofy faces, just like my son does back home. How do you not laugh?

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The mom said with a big smile, “Are you from America?”
Rich said, “Yes ma’am we are. Are you from here?”

“Yes, Hanoi,” she said, pointing to the ground we were standing on.

So many worlds collided in that moment, and all of them were better for it. It was never and will never be the time to forget, but it was time to move on, to close a circle. A couple pictures with our new friends, one final toast to the fallen, and we were on our way.

A few years back, Rich and I had an immediate connection because we both served in Special Forces. But we became friends as we experienced Vietnam together – the kind of friends you can count on one hand how many you’ll have in your whole life, if you’re lucky.

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He did two tours in the war and went on to have the kind of 30 year career in Special Forces that spanned every major conflict and mission of his generation. A lot of people would call him a hero, a warrior, an American badass, the list goes on.

But all he ever wanted to do was serve America honorably, and earn the respect of the men to his left and right. And he describes himself as lucky to be alive, and then he smiles and says nobody owes him a damn thing. So if you meet him, just call him Rich.

Also read: After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Diabetes education and training

When someone has diabetes, there’s a constant stream of questions. Did you check your blood sugar? Are you exercising and keeping a good diet? Do you have your insulin handy?

Mary Julius, a program manager for the diabetes self-management education and training at Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, wants to help educate veterans and their families about how to self-manage diabetes.


Julius broke down the differences between Type I and Type II diabetes.

  • Persons with Type I diabetes produce little or no insulin.
  • Persons with Type II diabetes make insulin but there is a resistance to the insulin.

According to Julius, diabetes awareness and education are increasingly important for veterans and their families; “25% of veterans receiving VA care have been diagnosed with diabetes.” Without awareness and education, people diagnosed with diabetes put their health at risk. Thus, veterans who have been diagnosed with diabetes should work closely with their primary provider, but, she emphasizes, veterans and their family also need the tools and education to apply self-management techniques.

Finally, Julius shares how VA has been working on creating a virtual medical learning center for veterans and their families to learn more about diabetes and related topics. Veterans and their families can access this learning site at VAVMC.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Honoring the warrior spirit: The National American Indian Veterans Memorial

“We may have been a conquered people, but we were not a defeated people, and our warriors will always rise to the call of battle.” – Hopi leader

“The Native American Veterans Memorial is for healing,” monument designer, Cheyenne and Arapaho citizen, peace chief, and Vietnam veteran, Harvey Pratt said.  In addition to serving with the 3rd Marine Division in 1963, Pratt worked in law enforcement over 50 years. His career consisted of being a renowned forensic artist and he is now a multimedia artist inspired by his heritage. When asked why he and so many Indians voluntarily join the military, Pratt explained their warrior tradition of defending their people and homeland, despite the history of oppression by the U.S. government.

Designer Harvey Pratt

“God gave this land to the Indians first and so this is Indian country and will always be Indian country. Our blood is spilled all over this country and world, fighting for this country. We will always fight for this land.” Pratt described the design, stating not only could his great-grandfather, Edmund Guerrier, a Sand Creek massacre survivor, recognize its symbolism, so could his children, grandchildren and every member of America’s 573 tribes. 

Located at the entrance of the National American Indian Museum in D.C. and surrounded by gardens, a paved, lit path will lead visitors to a large stainless-steel circle mounted on a stone drum fountain. The symbolism of a drum’s beat, reverberating through the rippling water, will be a call for healing across the land. And on ceremonial occasions, the circle’s base will ignite in flame.

Pratt explained how the round design is timeless and in sync with the other features of the memorial, symbolizing the cycle of life and death and nature’s connection with everything. He detailed how the site will also include four benches for visitors to sit and reflect. And spaced according to the four cardinal directions, four lances will point skyward with feathers in the four battle colors of white, yellow, red, and black, as well as battle streamers. 

Veterans, family members, tribal leaders, and visitors will have the opportunity to tie their own prayer cloths to these lances. 

He concluded, “Although the memorial is for American Indians, ‘war mothers,’ and their families, all vets are welcome to come feel the power and strength and to feel blessed.” Dr. Herman Viola, historian, curator emeritus at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and senior advisor for this memorial, explained the significance of the monument, with Indians serving since the Revolutionary War at a greater percentage than any other ethnic or racial group – currently almost 19 percent.

Viola described their history of service. American Indians are “fiercely patriotic,” he said. They have been at “the forefront of our nation’s military conflicts despite the fact that until WWII many tribal people were not citizens and could not vote in their own country.” For example, “Though not liable for the draft during the Great War, of the “10,000 Native Americans who served in the Army and the 2,000 who served in the Navy… three out of four were volunteers.” And “World War II witnessed an even more remarkable wave of American Indian patriotism… All told, 10 percent of the country’s Native population of 350,000.” This included one third of able-bodied men, ages 18-50, as well as 800 women. 

“In fact, had all eligible Americans in the United States enlisted in the same proportion as did tribal people there would have been no need for a draft,” Viola said. “It is an exemplary record of military service that continues to this day.” Viola ended by relaying the words of a Hopi leader speaking on the importance of appreciating the sacrifices made by Indians and their families. He said “The fact American Indians are fighting for this great country of ours needs to be recognized. We may have been a conquered people, but we were not a defeated people, and our warriors will always rise to the call of battle.’” 

A virtual dedication took place Nov. 11, 2020: https://americanindian.si.edu/nnavm/

MIGHTY CULTURE

13 hilarious memes for the next time you need to mock an airman

Look, airmen are technically people. That’s why we can’t slap a fence around the Air Force, call it a zoo, and call the day done. Especially since we need a few of them to fly close-air support and whatever else it is that they do. So, the boys in blue tiger stripes are going to keep wandering around, quoting Nietzsche (even if they are finally getting rid of those stripes).


If you are forced to interact with one of them, here are some pics you can drop on the ground and escape while they argue the semantics or parse the meaning of it:
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(funnyjunk.com)

Remember: They’re more trained for large airbases than small unit tactics.

Keep them inside and they won’t rub their coffee grounds into their helmet like that.

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(memeguy.com)

All that fancy radar and signals intercept equipment, and this is what we get.

This does, however, really make me want to get into meteorology.

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(tumblr.com)

In her defense, she’s probably well schooled in PowerPoint.

You’re probably gonna have to just carry her out of combat, Sgt. Joe.

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(tumblr.com)

Must suck to be forced to use that internet for so much targeting and so little streaming.

Do it for Khaleesi, airmen.

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(imgflip.com)

There is a rumor that the Air Force has a shortage of elbow grease.

That poor Marine probably doesn’t even know that the task is never getting done by that junior airman.

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(memesboy.com)

Airmen are so prissy about teeth extractions and medical care.

They probably use anesthetic and hand sanitizer, too.

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(citationslist.com)

Most airmen don’t embody the “whole airman concept.”

Though, in their defense, they don’t all look like they ate a whole airman.

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(Aviation Memes)

Shouldn’t the plane get its bombs at home and drop them while they’re out?

Oh crap, now I’m parsing the memes like some sort of over-educated airman.

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(Air Force AMN/NCO/SNCO)

President calls for Space Force. Air Force subsumes Space Force concept. Airmen check Stargate IDs.

Would be the coolest gate guard duty in the universe, though. Might even see some three-breasted women or something.

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(Reddit)

To be fair, airmen aren’t the only folks who will fall to their own forms.

All Department of Defense forms are ridiculously horrible.

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(quoteswell.com)

 I could use a snack. And a nap.

Crap. Does the Air Force really have snack time? This is backfiring. I want to be an airman now. AIR POWER!

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(RallyPoint)

Seriously, why can Gru never get his slides right?

There’s no way an Air Force version of Gru would struggle with slides, though.

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(Valhalla Wear)

The Air Force version of Uber Eats is abysmal.

Worldwide delivery, but the deliveries might not be on time, complete, or structurally sound.

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.

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