This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

The Thousand Islands Region in upstate New York is famous for the Saint Lawrence River seaway, impressive castles, gorgeous summers, and the salad dressing named for the region. Aside from the dressing, the region’s best-known features bear quite a bit of resemblance to the Moselle and Rhine River regions in Germany, which are famed for their beauty and wineries. One Army officer took notice of the similarities during his time in the service and decided to recreate the winery scene of the German river regions in the North Country.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene
(Thousand Islands Winery)

Steve Conaway joined the Army straight out of high school in 1981. He rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant before commissioning as an officer. His service in the Air Defense Artillery branch took him to bases across the United States, Greece, and Germany. When Conaway was posted to Fort Drum, NY, he discovered the Saint Lawrence River and the Thousand Islands Region. “The Saint Lawrence River reminded me of the rivers in Germany,” Conaway recalled. “The castles and the river were very similar.” During his five years in Germany, Conaway had become passionate about Riesling and, in 1999, had the idea to start a winery in the Thousand Islands and began conducting market research.

Through the course of his research, Conaway discovered that there were no wineries in the Thousand Islands Region. He contacted New York grape experts at Cornell University who informed him that grapes had never been grown in the Thousand Islands Region and could not be grown there because of the cold climate. Undeterred, Conaway continued his research and, using the limited power of the early internet, found that cold-hardy grapes were being grown by wineries across the border in Quebec. In 2001, then-Captain Conaway took a road trip to Canada to meet with the farmers and learn the trade. The Canadian farmers showed him how to nurse the grapes through the frost of winter and introduced him to a variety of cold-hardy grapes that could survive temperatures as low as -30˚ F.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene
The winery produces 23 varieties of wine (Thousand Islands Winery)

Before Conaway could put the newfound knowledge to use, his winery plans were interrupted by the events of 9/11. In response, Conaway deployed with the 10th Mountain Division in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The deployment took him to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan before he eventually arrived in Afghanistan. Now working as a contracting officer, Conaway helped to establish the initial coalition forces contracting footprint across all three countries including the first establishments at the former Soviet airbase at Bagram. However, perhaps his most important establishment was taking place back in the states.

With the help of his wife Erika, Conaway purchased an old dairy farm in Alexandria Bay, NY while he was deployed. Fittingly, the farm had previously been owned by a famed Riverboat Captain and an Army Reserves Captain, making Conaway the third Captain to own the farm. Upon returning from deployment in 2002, Conaway and his wife set to work converting the dairy farm to a winery. It took one year to get the winery going.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene
Capt. Steve Conaway and Sfc. Derrick Whitington in Afghanistan in 2001 (Steve Conaway)

In 2003, the same year that Conaway retired from the Army as a Major, the Thousand Islands Winery had one part-time employee and sold and produced 1,100 gallons of wine. The first four years saw the winery operating at a loss. “I bought the farm with houses, boat storage, and tenants,” Conaway said. “I had my military retirement income. So, I never counted on the winery to make any money initially.” Luckily, the fifth year of operation saw the winery turn a profit and it has turned a profit every year since.

The first year of operation, all of the winery’s sales were local. “I sold every bottle at retail out of the front door,” Conaway said. As the winery expanded, Conaway began distribution in liquor stores throughout New York State. In 2010, Thousand Islands Winery expanded into other states as well. Online sales have helped to expand distribution, but so has the Army.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene
Conaway takes great pride his product (Steve Conaway)

The 10th Mountain Division maintains two Brigade Combat Teams at Fort Drum, NY and one at Fort Polk, LA. Oftentimes, soldiers that have been stationed at one will eventually find themselves posted to the other. Thanks to a partnership with the 10th Mountain Division Association, Thousand Islands Winery wines made their way down south to Fort Polk where they can be found in the Class Six. In 2020, the Thousand Islands Winery had 65 employees in the summertime, including employees in Louisiana, and produced and sold over 75,000 gallons of wine. This year also saw the winery enter an agreement with Republic National Distribution Company as operations expanded into Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Georgia.

Since 2007, the Thousand Islands Winery has received 168 medals in wine competitions throughout the country. Despite the doubt that many people had about the Conaways and their winery, the Thousand Islands Winery has thrived. “I didn’t know anything about private industry,” Conaway said about starting the business. “I got out of the Army and failure wasn’t an option.” Using the skills he had acquired throughout his 22 ½ years in the Army, Conaway was able to apply planning considerations like safety, hazmat, personnel structure, and organizational charts to the winery. “I encourage soldiers to fall back on the stuff they did while they were in the military,” Conaway said. “I always tell them, ‘If you want to be an entrepreneur when you get out of the military, everything you’re already doing translates into the civilian workforce.’”

Following Conaway’s success, other wineries have opened up in the Thousand Islands Region. In hopes of encouraging the industry to grow, the Thousand Islands Winery offers its services and nearly two decades of experience to other individuals and wineries in the form of specialized vineyard services. As the winery and the region grow, Conaway continues to serve as a leader in the Thousand Islands by applying the skills and knowledge he acquired in the Army to his business.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This viral letter from Santa helps military, first responder parents

When Stephanie Lynn found out that her husband had to work on Christmas, she came up with a way for her family to still celebrate the holiday together. In a letter from Santa that’s going viral, the mom explains to kids of military and first responder families that Christmas will be happening on a different day this year.

“I know sometimes your mom or dad can’t be home on Christmas Day because they’re working — keeping us safe and healthy,” the letter, which Lynn shared to Facebook on Dec. 11, 2018, reads. “I want your whole family to have a very special Christmas morning — together.”


Santa goes on to explain that he and the elves have set up special delivery days for the kids, from Dec. 23 to 27, 2018 (Lynn and husband Brent will be celebrating with her kids on the morning of the 24th, she says). There’s also an “other” option for families who aren’t able to be together during Christmas week.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

“Always remember, Christmas isn’t about a box on the calendar, but the feeling we keep in our hearts,” Santa writes. “Thank you for being such great children, and sharing your moms and dads with us all when we need them the most.”

Lynn’s letter is receiving a lot of attention on social media, with almost 42,000 shares so far and over 7,100 likes, as parents in similar situations understand the struggle of “juggling shift work… on-call hours, deployments, TDYs, etc.”

Even NORAD, the popular Santa tracker, is spreading the word about Mr. Claus’ special deliveries, noting that while they do not report on them, those days are “no less special than the date of December 24.”

Because of the letter’s popularity, Lynn has since created other versions (the original was just for military and first responders) for medical professionals, pilots and flight crews, divorced families and just general use. “Merry Christmas- whatever day that may be for your family!” she writes.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How this Marine Corps sniper took one of the toughest shots of his life

US military snipers have to be able to make the hard shots, the seemingly impossible shots. They have to be able to push themselves and their weapons.

Staff Sgt. Hunter Bernius, a veteran Marine Corps scout sniper who runs an advanced urban sniper training course, walked INSIDER through his most technically difficult shot — he fired a bullet into a target roughly 2.3 kilometers (1.4 miles) away with a .50 caliber sniper rifle.

The longest confirmed kill shot was taken by a Canadian special forces sniper, who shot an ISIS militant dead at 3,540 meters, or 2.2 miles, in Iraq in 2017. The previous record was held by British sniper Craig Harrison, who shot and killed a Taliban insurgent from 2,475 meters away.


“There are definitely people out there who have done amazing things,” US Army First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran sniper and instructor at the sniper school at Fort Benning, Georgia, told INSIDER. “Anything is possible.”

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Weapons Company scout sniper and Lufkin, Texas, native Hunter Bernius takes a shooting position during field training at an undisclosed location.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tommy Huynh)

Snipers are trained to scout the movements of enemy forces often from very exposed positions, and are also used to target enemy leaders and to pin down their forces. These dangerous missions require they become masters of concealment, as well as skilled sharpshooters.

While 2,300 meters may not be a record, it is still a very hard shot to make.

‘Hard math’

US military snipers typically operate at ranges between 600 and 1,200 meters. At extreme ranges, the Marine is pushing his weapon past its limits. The M107 semi-automatic long range sniper rifles used by the Marine Corps can fire accurately out to only about 2,000 meters.

“Shooting on the ground can be easy, especially when you are shooting 600 meters in or 1,000 meters in. That’s almost second nature,” Bernius explained. “But, when you are extending it to the extremes, beyond the capability of the weapon system, you have all kinds of different things to consider.”

At those longer ranges, a sniper has to rely a lot more on “hard math” than just shooter instinct.

Bernius, a Texas native who has deployed to Iraq and other locations across the Middle East, made his most technically difficult shot as a student in the advanced sniper course, a training program for Marine Corps sharpshooters who have already successfully completed basic sniper training.

“When I came through as a student at the course I am running now, my partner and I were shooting at a target at approximately 2,300 meters,” Bernius explained. “We did in fact hit it, but it took approximately 20-25 minutes of planning, thinking of everything we needed to do with calculations, with the readings.”

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Sgt. Hunter G. Bernius shoots at a target placed in the water from a UH-1Y Huey during an aerial sniper exercise.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Chance Haworth)

At that distance, it takes the bullet roughly six to eight seconds to reach the target, which means there is a whole lot of time for any number of external factors to affect where it lands.

“You have all kinds of considerations,” Bernius told INSIDER, explaining that snipers have to think about “the rotation of the earth, which direction you are facing, wind at not just your muzzle but at 2,300 meters, at 1,000 meters, you name it.”

Direction and rotation of the earth are considerations that most people might not realize come into play.

Which direction the sniper is facing can affect the way the sun hits the scope, possibly distorting the image inside the scope and throwing off the shot. It also determines how the rotation of the planet affects the bullet, which may hit higher or lower depending on the sniper’s position.

“This is only for extreme long range, shots over 2,000 meters,” Bernius explained.

Other possible considerations include the temperature, the humidity, the time of day, whether or not the sniper is shooting over a body of water (it can create a mirage), the shape of the bullet, and spin drift of the round.

“We ended up hitting it,” Bernius said. “That, to me, was probably the most technically difficult shot.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Defectors living openly in US happens ‘far more often than people would think’

A former Russian official whose background matches descriptions of a high-level CIA spy hurriedly extracted from Russia has been living openly outside Washington, DC, under his own name.

According to documents from a 2017 real-estate purchase reviewed by Insider, Oleg Smolenkov bought a house in the DC area in 2018 for $925,000.

Intelligence sources told Insider that such a situation — a former agent living under his own name — was less unusual than it might at first appear, partly because of precedent and the unique personality type of high-level sources.


Smolenkov was named in Russian media Sep. 10, 2019, as a possible identity of the extracted spy. Reuters and the BBC were among Western outlets to also report the name.

A spokesman for the Kremlin said Smolenkov had worked for the Russian state but reportedly dismissed reports that a high-level spy had been extracted as “pulp fiction.”

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Smolenkov was named in the wake of reports by The New York Times and CNN that described an unnamed Russian official who worked for the CIA for decades before fleeing to the US in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.

The descriptions from Russia of Smolenkov’s work for the Kremlin, the timing of his disappearance in 2017, and his presence in the suburbs of Washington, DC, appear to match the reports.

When an NBC News reporter knocked on the door of the Smolenkov house Sep. 9, 2019, he was intercepted by unidentified men asking what he was doing.

Two former FBI officials told NBC News that they thought the man in Virginia was the intelligence asset.

That asset is reported to have supplied critical information that helped shape the US government’s understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The asset’s identity remains unconfirmed. Among assets in a similar position, however, the practice of living openly in a Western country under a real name would not be unusual, according to a former US Drug Enforcement Agency agent who regularly ran intelligence and drug-cartel sources.

“Not shocking at all to those of us who have been there,” said the former member of the DEA’s special-operations division, which handles high-level investigations and sources.

“A guy like Smolenkov spent decades working his way to the top of the Russian government and succeeded while also being an asset for the CIA,” the source said. He asked for anonymity to protect former sources and assets around the world.

“That level of political success at the same time he knew every day for decades he could be revealed and arrested usually requires a special level of ego and appetite for risk,” the source said.

“So it’s not shocking that the first reports said he turned down a chance in 2016 to escape before being convinced by the media coverage that he finally had to go in 2017. Getting him to give up that level of status inside his own homeland along with the status he secretly held with the CIA … it’s a powerful combination.”

Three other former intelligence agents contacted by Insider were less willing to talk about the story, which immediately grabbed the attention of the media and intelligence circles Sep. 9, 2019.

But all three noted that Russian intelligence assets tended to keep their identities intact after defection despite usual pleas from their handlers to adopt fake names and go into hiding.

All three noted that the Russian defectors Sergei Skripal and Alexander Litvinenko lived openly in the UK after fleeing Russia and continued to consult for intelligence services and private companies under their own names.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Footage of Sergei Skripal’s 2006 trial.

(Sky News)

Both men were poisoned in cases where UK has blamed the Russian state.

Skripal and his daughter narrowly survived a nerve-agent poisoning in 2018, while Litvinenko died in 2006 after drinking tea laced with radioactive poison.

“It’s unlikely that someone with the level of ambition to rise that high in the Kremlin while working as an agent for the Americans would want to easily drop the social status that came with both sides of their double life,” the former DEA agent said.

“And it gets even harder to convince them they’re actually threatened and need to go into deep witness-protection programs if they have families that probably didn’t know they were working for another country on the side.

“Then you add that these are people rather used to risk and living off their wits and so ego plays a huge role.”

When asked how often high-level defectors refused to completely abandon their old life and identity, the former DEA agent said “far more often than people would think.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Pacific senior enlisted leaders meet for historic Red Flag-Alaska

Red Flag-Alaska 19-2, a Pacific Air Forces-directed exercise that allows U.S. forces to train with coalition partners in a simulated combat environment — is underway at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson through June 22, 2019.

Approximately 2,000 personnel are flying, maintaining and supporting more than 85 aircraft from more than a dozen units during this iteration of Red Flag-Alaska. The majority of participating aircraft are based at, and flying from, JB Elmendorf-Richardson and Eielson Air Force Base.

In addition to the U.S., airmen from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, South Korean Air Force and Royal Thai Air Force are all working alongside one another, building relationships, fostering communication and sharing tactics, techniques and procedures.


Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright visited JB Elmendorf-Richardson during the exercise to engage with airmen and leaders of all participating countries.

“Any time we come together in a training environment like this, we get really good and realistic training opportunities with our partner nations,” Wright said. “I think opportunities like Red Flag are extremely important for us to get those repetitions in with our allies.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, Ra Young-Chang, chief master sergeant of the South Korean Air Force, and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson senior enlisted leaders are briefed before an F-22 Raptor jet engine test cell function check at JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, June 10, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jonathan Valdes)

“I encourage all participants to take advantage of these opportunities where you get to work at a tactical level with our Indo-Pacific and our European counterparts because you never know how those relationships might pay off one day.”

Following his own advice, Wright extended invitations to his senior enlisted leader counterparts from throughout the Pacific, marking the first time all four senior enlisted leaders from the U.S., Japan, South Korea and Thailand gathered in the same location.

“Instability is on the rise in the Indo-Pacific area of operations, so it’s extremely important for all allied nations in the region to sharpen our skills and strengthen our ability to work together to preserve the peace and stability of this very important region,” said Warrant Officer Masahiro Yokota, Japan Air Self-Defense Force senior enlisted advisor.

This iteration of RF-A, which began June 6, 2019, provides joint offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support and large-force employment training.

“I feel pleased, delighted and honored to have the opportunity to join in Red Flag and the senior leaders activities here at (JB Elmendorf-Richardson),” Royal Thai Air Force Flight Sgt. First Class Likhid Deeraksah said. “I think it’s a great opportunity to learn about different cultures and the ways of doing things in Korea, Japan and the United States. I’m excited to take some of these ideas back to our work centers in Thailand.”

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

An A-10 Thunderbolt pilot from the 25th Fighter Squadron, Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, performs pre-flight checks at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, June 10, 2019. The 25th FS is participating in Exercise Red Flag-Alaska 19-2, a large-scale training exercise, with units and allied nation’s’ air forces from around the Pacific.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stefan Alvarez)

All Red Flag-Alaska exercises take place over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex over central Alaska. The entire airspace is made up of extensive military operations areas, special-use airspace and ranges, for a total airspace of more than 67,000 square miles.

Red Flag-Alaska exercises, which provide unique opportunities to integrate various forces in realistic threat environments, date back to 1975, when the exercise was held at Clark Air Base in the Philippines and called exercise Cope Thunder.

Red Flag-Alaska executes the world’s premier tactical joint and coalition air combat employment exercise, designed to replicate the stresses warfighters must face during their first eight to 10 combat sorties. Red Flag-Alaska has the assets, range and support structure to train to joint and combined warfighting doctrine against realistic and robust enemy integrated threat systems, under safe and controlled conditions.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 13th Fighter Squadron, Misawa Air Base, Japan, taxis at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, June 10, 2019. The 13th FS is participating in Exercise Red Flag-Alaska 19-2, a large-scale training exercise, with units and allied nation”s air forces from around the Pacific.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stefan Alvarez)

Wright offered a message to RF-A global airmen about how important their contributions are to the long-term advancement of the nations of the Indo-Pacific region.

“Come here, work hard, have a good time and enjoy the fruits of your labor, particularly when it comes to training and relationships. When our airmen get to work side by side with their counterparts, the long-term impact is that we’re going to be better and we’ll be ready for any scenario.”

Since its inception, thousands of service members from all U.S. military branches, as well as the armed services of countries from around the globe, have taken part in Red Flag-Alaska.

“This beautiful blue planet will lose its luster if we do not give it our all to protect and preserve it,” Yokota said. “Now, let us bring our strengths together to protect and preserve that beauty.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Tips for embracing new culture with an OCONUS Move

Moving OCONUS (outside contiguous United States) can be one of your biggest duty station changes yet. From overseas options, to Hawaii, Alaska, or other U.S. territories like Guam, there is no shortage of far away — and fun — bases. In fact, some are so sought after that some military families chase them their entire career.

And when considering all the fun that’s to be had, it’s no surprise as to why. New experiences, varied climates, interesting fruits and veggies — and that’s only the beginning!


But that’s also why, once getting one of these coveted OCONUS moves, you should take full advantage of all they have to offer. Embrace the culture, the food, and everything in between for a unique, life-altering experience for the entire family.

As military families, we are given the unique opportunity to live in different places, and to take what we’ve learned with us to create more-rounded, better understanding people. Use the opportunity to move and grow in your favor by embracing change whole-heartedly.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Ask the Locals

Obviously one of the best places to get insider info is from those who’ve been there the longest. They will not only know the best spots and events, but they’ll have insider info you can follow. Take their tips to heart for better overall experiences, and an idea of when and where to be for all things local.

Be friendly with the natives from day one for a fully immersed experience in your new culture and all it has to offer. After all, you never know what life-changing event they might introduce you to!

Try Everything Twice

One bad experience could be a fluke; to get a better understanding of an event, it’s best to give everything a second chance. Doing so will give you better insight toward food or local traditions. However, if you simply don’t like the event, a do-over is enough to call it quits.

Don’t avoid an experience, even if it sounds strange. Consider embracing all that comes your way, and to give it a second chance… even when not completely reaching your expectations.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Eat All the Foods

Do it! Try them. Order them. Ask restaurant workers what they recommend and if you can sample. You’ll never know what new foods you might be exposed to, and testing them out is the only way to learn if you might have a new favorite.

How often will you have the chance to eat such exotic dishes? When outside of a restaurant, ask others what they’ve had there and loved. Explore food markets and grocery stores, or even locals’ dishes if invited to eat.

Don’t Say No

This is the easiest thing to plan for, yet the hardest thing to do. When planning an OCONUS move, make up your mind to try anything and everything. Go do all the things. All of them. When something sounds foreign or strange to us, it’s so easy to stop the situation in its tracks. Saying no or simply planning on not going keeps you from the strangeness of it all, sure. But it also prevents you from learning something you didn’t know, from testing a new food to learning a new skill.

You never know what might come your way, or what you might readily enjoy! Embracing a new culture from the very get-go is the only way you can find new interests and be a good steward of your country and culture toward others.

Are you looking forward to an OCONUS move? What are you looking forward to trying most?

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why a ‘senior lance corporal’ is absolutely a thing

Lance corporal is the most common rank in the Marine Corps. It’s the upper-most junior-enlisted Marine; the last step before becoming an NCO. It’s at this rank that you truly learn the responsibilities that come with being an NCO — and it’s when you start to shoulder those responsibilities. But Marines can be lance corporals straight out of boot camp. But how can someone with no experience possibly be ready to lead others Marines? This is why we created an unofficial rank — “senior lance corporal.”

Lifers everywhere will tell you that there’s no such thing. They’ll say something along the lines of, “being a senior was a high school thing and it ought to remain there.” But the truth is that there are very valid reasons for the distinctive title.

No matter your reason for stating otherwise, one thing’s for sure: senior lance corporals exist. This is why.


This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

This Lance Corporal still has a lot to learn.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Catie Massey)

The “junior” lance corporal

The “junior” lance corporal is the guy who picked up rank during boot camp because they were an Eagle Scout or some sh*t. Regardless, they didn’t earn real Marine Corps experience while waiting for that rank. Hell, the only experience they have in the Marine Corps is with marching — which is important, sure, but there’s a lot more to being a Marine than marching.

There are exceptions, of course. You could have spent time in the service prior to deciding that whatever branch you were in was a group of weaklings compared to the Marines. In that case, you do have experience, but this is pretty rare. The majority of “junior” lance corporals haven’t led Marines yet — not really, anyway — nor have they been to any leadership courses.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

They spent a lot of time doing things by the book, which isn’t typically how things go in a real unit.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

They spent their time learning the basics which, if we’re being honest, are great building blocks, but your unit’s standard operating procedure may render a lot of what you learned basically useless.

Anyone who’s reached NCO before their first term and has led Marines knows that you can’t trust a junior lance corporal to clean their room the right way on their first attempt. How could that lance corporal possibly be the same as the one who went through leadership and/or advanced schools and has a deployment under their belt? Hint: It’s not.

Enter the “senior” lance corporal.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

These guys have been around a minute.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

The “senior” lance corporal

When a junior Marine gets to their unit, even if they’re a lance corporal, this is the guy they refer to as “lance corporal.” The junior will quickly come to understand that, while they may hold the same rank, they are not the same. The difference, in fact, is rather large.

A senior lance corporal has been on a deployment. Regardless of whether that deployment was into combat or not, that lance corporal has real leadership experience. They went to a foreign country and they were responsible for leading Marines to success. Then, before you got to the unit, they went to leadership schools. These Marines have a lot more experience than a greenhorn fresh out of boot camp.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

So ask yourself, are you treating your Marines a certain way based on experience — or rank?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo Cpl. Aaron Patterson)

Realistically, there are plenty of senior lance corporals that don’t give a f*ck anymore. But for every one of those, there are ten who strive to be good Marines and great leaders. To diminish their hard work and reduce them to the same level as some fresh boot does nothing but destroy their spirit.

The fact is, a “senior” lance corporal could be a squad leader — a job that is meant to be held by a sergeant, but is more commonly held by a corporal. You could not take a “junior” lance corporal and say the same. The difference is clear.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out this crazy impressive Marine Corps Air Station made of LEGO bricks

I was made aware of the stunning video below by my son Lorenzo, who’s a big LEGO fan. The footage has just been posted by the “Beyond the Brick” Youtube channel and shows the crazy cool MCAS Marine Corps Air Station that Paul Thomas put on display at Bricks by the Bay 2019, an annual gathering of LEGO builders, enthusiasts and fans held in Santa Clara in mid-July.

The LEGO diorama was inspired by Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms but it’s (obviously) not a replica: it is a fictional representation of a U.S. Marine Corps base with aircraft and vehicles that you could find at an MCAS. Thomas created the 10 x 7.5 feet diorama in modules (since his garage could not accommodate it all) in about 6 months.


This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Another view of the Marine Corps Air Station by Paul Thomas.

(Screenshot from Beyond the Brick’s YT video)

Along with F-35B Lightning II jets, there are MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, CH-53E Super Stallion and AH-1Z Viper helicopters as well as a rotating radar, a security checkpoint at the gate of the base, hangars used for inspection and maintenance activities, various vehicles and much more.

Pretty impressive, isn’t it?

US Marines Air Base in LEGO | Bricks by the Bay 2019

www.youtube.com

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons to plant your Victory Garden

America didn’t just call on the troops to wage war, she called upon all her people to fight food shortage and a depression with gardens — “Victory gardens” — to be specific. In the early 1940s, when food rationing came into place, everyday Americans were turning up their yards to produce not just enough food for their families, but for their neighbors as well.

It’s safe to say a worldwide pandemic has given us cause to unearth the history of Victory Gardens and take the matter of a potential food shortage into our own, capable hands.

Here’s a thing or two you need to know about how to raise your shovels as your grandparents or great grandparents did long ago.


Canned food was limited 

Canned food was rationed both to preserve tin for military use but also to decrease the strain on food transportation. Reducing “food miles” with sustainable urban agriculture was exactly how families and friends stayed supplied with fresh produce. Put down the can of lima beans you’re never going to eat and pick up some seeds instead.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

The know-how

Victory gardens were pushed at a national level, and informational pamphlets (pre-internet) were distributed. Community committees were organized to both assist newcomers and inform neighbors of what was being grown and where. Luckily for us, there’s a whole internet full of information, and local agricultural extensions to call, ensuring social distancing is still met.

So easy a child could do it 

Children participated in gardening both out of necessity and to ensure all that good food knowledge didn’t go to waste. Need something for your kids to do? Let them tend to your budding garden at home; it’s a delicious form of education.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

It doesn’t take a farm

The average American lawn has more than enough space to grow everything your family needs and more. Learning what plants like to cohabitate in the soil will maximize your growing potential.

Never forget 

How to rely on ourselves has been a skill lost to the “lazy” days of supermarkets stocked to the brim with internationally-grown produce. It may have taken a pandemic, but re-educating America on how to fend for themselves needs to be a skillset we value once again. We need to pass down precious knowledge of food and to become aware once again of the immense value food has in our lives.

Great things have happened throughout history during times of struggle. Every single one of us has the opportunity to make this world better, stronger and more resilient than ever before.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out the Thunderbird’s stunning photo shoot

The Frontiers and Flight air show was held at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas in early September 2018. The crowd was treated to demonstrations of 70 military and civilian aircraft, including B-2 stealth bombers, A-10 Warthogs, KC-135 Stratotankers, and more.

The air show also included a demonstration of six F-16 Thunderbirds.

After the show, the Thunderbirds flew back home to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, soaring over Lake Powell reservoir near the Grand Canyon in Arizona along the way.

And the pictures are stunning.

Check them out below.


This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

The Thunderbirds fly over the Glen Canyon Dam in Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Thunderbirds fly in formation over Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Thunderbirds soar over Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

The squadron flies F-16Cs and F-16Ds with unique red, white and blue paint jobs.

Read more about the specifications of F-16Cs and F-16Ds here

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Thunderbirds leave contrails behind while flying over Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

But when the Thunderbirds were first activated, they flew F-84s. The squadron then switched to F-100s, and then several others, before adopting the F-16 in 1992.

More specifically, the Thunderbirds first flew F-84F Thunder jets, which were combat-fighter bombers that flew missions during the Korean War.

F-100 Super Sabres, which the Thunderbirds switched to in 1956, were the world’s first supersonic fighter jets.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Thunderbirds fly over a river in Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

US Air Force Thunderbirds conduct a photo op over Lake Powell while returning from McConnell Air Force Base, Sept. 10, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

Thunderbird demonstrations involve about 30 different maneuvers using one or more F-16s.

Read more about their maneuvers here.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Thunderbirds fly in delta formation over Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

They also fly in several different formations, including the delta formation below.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Community works together to bring Veterans Day parade to patients

Veterans lined the halls of the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center Nov. 8, 2019 to watch the first ever Inpatient Veterans Parade. The parade is the result of one VA employee’s vision and the patriotic spirit of a community.

The Muskogee High School R.O.T.C. color guard led the way through Primary Care and inpatient wards. The parade also included members of the community and “mini” floats decorated by VA staff.

Honor, the facility dog, acted as grand marshal while parade participants handed out candy, hats and other treats to veterans.


Twenty-five organizations and VA services joined in the event. Muskogee High School provided a marching band, cheerleaders and football players. Korean War veterans, the American Red Cross and over 80 students from the Sadler Arts Academy also participated.

Seeing Color Guard was emotional

Veteran Billy Fuller became emotional when he saw the color guard.

“I really liked the parade,” said Fuller. “I was in the Air Force and seeing the colors and hearing the songs just takes me back. Thank you for doing this for us.”

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

VA staff from the Intensive Care Unit were one of 25 hospital services and community organizations that participated in the parade.

Sadler students passed out cards and thanked veterans for their service while the band, cheer squad and football players brought the music and patriotic spirit that echoed throughout the facility.

Air Force veteran Merle Smith and Terry Hood were all smiles as the parade passed through the Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit.

“I think this is the greatest thing in the world,” said Smith. “All these young kids bringing cards and thanking veterans. It was just really something special.”

Hood agreed, but added with a big smile, “The candy was my favorite part.”

Volunteer specialist had idea for parade

The idea for the parade came about a year ago when inpatients expressed their disappointment at not being able to attend Veterans Day activities. As a result, Voluntary Service specialist Shantel McJunkins thought of how VA could bring the parade to veterans.

“It was important to me that we bring the parade to the VA this year to celebrate and honor our veterans who are not able to attend Veterans Day parades in their community,” said McJunkins. “It was such a joy to see their faces light up as the parade went through the hospital.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘What happens if you refuse to shower’ & other dumb questions

“What happens to a recruit in the military if they refuse to take a shower during basic training?”

U.S. Army vet Jennifer Campbell doesn’t even flinch about this one: “Oh, you gotta smother them with a blanket.”

I wasn’t sure what this meant, but thankfully Green Beret Chase Millsap elaborated: “If you refuse to take a shower, your friends are going to force you to take a shower.” And if anyone is still confused by this, Air Force vet Mark Harper makes it very clear: “They bring the soap to you. It’s called a blanket party. Lotta fun.”


This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Ohhhhhhhh. Now I get it.

I love this question because it’s the first time I’ve ever seen U.S. Army vet Rosario Eléna get effing angry. I was scared. And delighted.

Moving on!

“How do you break up with a woman who was a marksman in the U.S. Army. I’m not a fan of guns all around me.”

Campbell is really getting the hang of answering these dumb questions: “I would do it from at least 400 yards away. She’s a marksman, not a sharpshooter, so you should probably be alright.”

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Hint: That’s the smile of a woman who can definitely take you in a fight.

“Would a modern soldier with Spartan-level training be significantly more effective than the average modern soldier in special forces?”

Let Millsap hook you up with a little dose of history here, okay? “Spartans, at the age of seven, were ripped from their mothers and sent to the agoge, where they were taught to lie, cheat, steal, bribe, and even sing, so they could become the best warriors in all of Greece.”

Other vets had answers that weren’t exactly helpful but were nonetheless important, like U.S. Navy Vet August Dannehl, who started doing impersonations from the 300 film, or Eléna who just weighed in on the fact that the soldiers would be sexier if they were Spartan.

¯_(ツ)_/¯

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Wait, is that Leonidas or Jarred Taylor?

“How would one go about buying a naval ship like a destroyer or a frigate? And how much would it be?”

“You know, Craigslist has a lot of hidden gems,” offers U.S. Marine Jen Brofer. She’s not wrong.

Dear question-asker, wherever you are, if you want to buy a Navy ship, now is the time. All of your dreams are coming true! The United States government is currently auctioning off a Halter Marine Logistic Support Vessel for id=”listicle-2639200274″,000,000.

I guessed -25, so I wasn’t too far off, and that’s something I’ll always be proud of.

“How can I prepare for joining the United States Marine Corps?”

Let’s see if you can pick out the Marines and the non-Marines in these answers:

–Pull-ups

–Have your parents yell at you for no reason

–Start wearing really little shorts

–Pick up a backpack, put your entire room in it, and start walking around for days

–Running, just keep running

–Eat every meal in four minutes or less

–Get a fistful of crayons and start coming up with recipes

–Stay awake for long periods of time for absolutely no reason

–Shower with a lot of people

–Empty your head

Zing!! It’s fun to make fun of other branches!
This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Don’t miss our other installments right here:

Vets answer dumb military questions – part one

Vets answer dumb military questions – part two

Vets answer EVEN MOAR dumb military questions

How to get posted at Area 51′ other dumb military questions answered

What do snipers think when they miss’ other dumb military questions

Can fireworks be used as anti-air weapons? Dumb military questions part 7

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 easy-to-miss things your spouse needs to do before deployment

Hey, I get it: When you’re preparing for deployment, the last thing you want is a honey-do list from your spouse. You have your own gear to take care of, paperwork to complete, and stuff to pack. Your spouse, on the other hand, will be at home during the months that you’re away. Can’t some of their to-do list wait until you’re gone? After all, they’ll have the whole deployment to take care of it. What’s the rush, right?

Here’s the deal: Just as you must prepare your gear and put your things in order to prepare for your deployment, your spouse has to get the house and the family ready for their own “mission.” It’s pretty much guaranteed that as soon as you walk out the door, something’s going to go wrong: the car will break down, appliances will leak, or the dog will get sick. If you don’t help your spouse prepare for those emergencies, then they won’t be fully equipped to handle their mission. You wouldn’t send troops off to train without first arranging logistics and ammo. In the same way, you have to take care of some logistical details at home before you deploy and leave your spouse as the only adult responsible for the entire household. There are several things you can review with your spouse to make everyone’s deployment go more smoothly.

Don’t skip these mission-essential pre-deployment tasks with your spouse.


This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene
(U.S. Air Force photo by Gina Randall)

1. Paperwork

There’s a reason your CO keeps hounding you to complete your Power of Attorney, Will, and other documents — they’re actually really important! Without a Power of Attorney, your spouse will basically be treated like a second-class citizen on base. They won’t be able to renew or replace an ID card if they lose it while you’re away. They can’t change the lease, buy or sell a vehicle, or handle any banking problems that might arise. If you have children, it’s important that your spouse completes a Family Care Plan so that someone is designated to take care of the kids if your spouse ends up in the hospital from a car accident. Take the time to discuss this paperwork with your spouse so they won’t struggle during unexpected deployment situations.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

(Photo by Staff Sgt. April Davis)

2. Comm check

You may not know exactly what communication options you’ll have during deployment, but discuss your expectations with your spouse so you can both get on the same page. How will you handle the time difference? Will you try to call when early in the morning or in the evening? How often will you try to call, message, or video? What’s the protocol if one of you misses a call or doesn’t answer in time? Finally, make sure your spouse knows how to send a Red Cross message. If there’s a family emergency, the Red Cross can contact you even when you don’t have internet access. If your spouse knows how to get to the Red Cross website, it will take the weight off their shoulders during a major emergency.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Leanna Litsch)

3. Discuss car maintenance

Have you ever returned from deployment only to discover that your car has a dead battery and flat tires? Save yourselves the cost and trouble with some simple preventative maintenance. If you’re typically the one responsible for vehicle maintenance, remind your spouse when to do an oil change and how often to get the tires rotated. If your vehicle will sit unused during the deployment, ask your spouse to start the engine and let it idle at least once a week. This will prevent the battery from dying. If they occasionally drive it around the block and park it in a different position, that’ll help prevent flat tires.

4. Review home maintenance

If you’re renting or living on base, just make sure your spouse knows how to contact maintenance or the landlord. If you own your home, things get more complicated. Walk through the house together and discuss areas of regular or seasonal maintenance. Air filters should get changed monthly. Gutters should be cleaned in Fall. Discuss outdoor chores, like lawn maintenance and snow removal. Your spouse should know the location of the breaker box and water shut-off valves, in case the dreaded “Deployment Curse” visits your house.

5. Adjust the household budget

You and your spouse both need to understand how the deployment will affect your family’s income, and then adjust accordingly. If you are making more money during deployment, how will you save or spend the extra? Will it go toward paying down debts? Or will you save up for a post-deployment vacation? Sometimes, deployments reduce the household budget. You might have to pay for food and Internet at your deployed location. Your spouse may decrease their work hours or register for a class. They may have additional costs for childcare or lawn maintenance. It’s better to discuss these changes and your intended budget before deployment so you aren’t both accusing each other of mismanaging money!

6. Write down your passwords

You wouldn’t send your team on a mission without clear instructions and the best equipment, right? Then don’t expect your spouse to manage the bills and your account memberships without passwords! Log into any banking or bill payment website you use, and write down your login name and password. Do the same for your gaming accounts, renewable memberships, etc. It’s likely that something will need to be suspended, renewed, or canceled during your deployment. Writing down the passwords will make it possible for your spouse to do that for you.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Having these pre-deployment conversations now may not be easy or fun, but it’s definitely important to help your spouse feel squared away before deployment. This will reduce deployment stress for both of you, help your deployment communication go smoothly, and get you both prepared for your respective, upcoming missions.

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