Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check

In the military, we had such a strong bond with those with whom we served. From day one in uniform, we had a battle buddy by our side. The closeness we had with our brothers and sisters is not something for those that didn’t serve to easily understand. Would your current co-workers pull ticks out for you from near your anus? Yeah, that actually happened to me … Thanks Mac, that’s what we call close! Do you think the people you work with now would run into gunfire for you?

We leave that family and often, many feel alone. This feeling is natural because being out of uniform is different from still serving. However, it’s what every veteran goes through as they leave their service. We may not talk about it at parties, but it’s as real as anything else in the world. This feeling can’t be ignored, but must be addressed.


It’s no secret that we have a suicide problem in the U.S. and even more profound in our veteran community. It’s a sad reality that we’ve lost more to suicide — over 108,000 — than combat during the Global War on Terror. Most of us know a brother or sister who’s taken their life after losing their personal battle at home. We can never eliminate the crisis, but we can certainly limit the amount who are overcome by their demons.

According to Stop Soldier Suicide, a nonprofit focused on reducing the number of service members and veterans lost to suicide, veterans are at a 50 percent higher risk of suicide than those who didn’t serve. By 2030, the number of veteran suicides will be 23 times higher than post 9/11 combat deaths. There has been a 93 percent increase in the suicide rate of male veterans aged 18 to 34.

I applaud people bringing attention to the issue through different methods. It may be doing 22 pushups a day, talking about why they served for 21 days or, I’ve also seen other messages and posts on social media raising awareness about the problem. We know there’s a problem, but I’m more for doing what Non-Commissioned Officers always do: Identify the problem, develop solutions and implement change.

Let’s be more proactive.

While serving, we saw our teammates every day. We were able to witness signs that they may be struggling. Being around each other so much, we could see if their behaviors changed, if they were down, if they showed the signs of depression and if they needed help. These checks are more difficult when we’re out of the military.

One of my favorite quotes: “You don’t need to have a patch on your arm to have honor.” – LT Kaffee at the end of A Few Good Men.

I’m challenging you to do one thing: pick up the phone and call someone you served with. Check on them. Ask them how they’re doing and listen. This is not a time to bullshit around the topic – ask them if they’re doing ok. How are they handling being out of uniform? Bring up the fact that it’s different and you feel the difference, too. We know how to accomplish tough tasks — this should be easier because of the love we have for those we served with. Have a real talk, reconnect and you may help someone suffering silently.

It’s not easy for people to acknowledge they’re having problems; generally, it’s not our veteran way. It’s not a disorder and we’re not broken. If we look out for each other and remove the stigma, we can mitigate the risks. Let’s show our love for our brothers and sisters. If you need help, reach out. And, reach out to others and do a buddy check.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective

It is my staunch belief that warriors are born and not created. In the case of either you can trace back through your past to your first ever action that made you realize — though not likely back then at the time — that you were destined to take the warrior’s or the leader’s path through life.


I came up through Army infantry at 19 years old gravely afraid of heights, a condition that kept me from becoming a paratrooper, the gateway training to the elite forces. After two years in the infantry, I was ready to jump even without a parachute if that was what it took to get me out of that horror show.

I made it into the Green Berets only to be met with great disappointment, as in those years between wars I felt we were more of an in-case-of-war-break-glass unit with peacetime ambition and an equally disappointing budget. The thought of going to war with my Green Beret A-Team scared me to the extent that I ran arms-flailing to the Delta Force, where I immediately faded into anonymity by a sea of raw talent and sheer badassery. I was home.

But even after arriving at the unit, which requires one of the toughest selections on the planet, I came to realize that the essence of my warrior spirit had been with me all along. I can finally go back to the very early days of my own basic army training and identify an event that has stayed with me for so many years. Finally, I think I understand what it meant and why the simple memory has remained close to my heart for so many decades.

Search as I have for hints of warrior potential during my coming of military status in basic training, I’m put finally in mind of a trivial incident that remains to impress me still today. I have thought of it often in attempts to make sense of it. Since it is mine, I shall own the interpretation.

It was during my own Infantry Basic Training in Sand Hill Georgia, where my platoon and I were waiting in the pine woods for a couple of hours between training events. At times like those, there was nothing to do but notice and complain about how hot it was, and it was plenty hot.

We boys huddled under the shade of an awning in our steel helmets. In that year I learned that shade was indeed only a state of mind, and had little physical impact on the Georgia swelter; where a boundary blocked the direct sun’s rays, the humidity served to usher the heat around obstacles, presenting it to who would cower. “We” huddle and bitched and complained and moaned, making it all the worse. I quickly grew annoyed with the negative attitude of the group to the extent that I, but for slight, sniped at them verbally.

The “group” — my group: the hayseed from under the Bible Belt who spoke maybe just a little too fondly of his female cousin, the guy who came in for college; he already had one semester and constantly wanted everyone to know that by saying things like: “Yeah, but that doesn’t detract from or minimize the context of what I’m saying,” the fellow who was given the choice by a judge of either the Army or jail, the black man whose dad and grandad were both in the Army before him, the white dude who felt a patriotic debt to the country but really had no clue what that meant, the Chicano who wanted something different out of life… anything other than what he was living at the time.

And then there was — OMG! — that Asian fellow who during a group debate on race and equality announced to the group: “If there is a man here who can sh*t with his pants on, let him stand now and show it!” As God as my witness, he did say that. I resigned to the notion that he was trying for something along the lines of “We all put on our trousers one leg at a time.”

I suffered too from the heat, but the urge to bellow seemed so futile, only adding to the misery. Knowing no better, I decided to remove myself from the crowd, so I stood and stepped some fifty feet away in direct view of the blazing sun. There I squatted in the muddy sand and hung my head and thought:

“The heat is bad, but it’s better than being in the shade with the pity patrol. Bad means there is a worse; there is even a worse than this… somewhere. This too is bearable. All things, no matter the intensity, are always bearable. Here, I’m setting an example for all my platoon — see me here, guys? It’s not so bad!”

Indeed remarks wafted over:

“What the hell’s the idiot doing?”

“He can’t last out there like that.”

“Someone needs to go get him; he’s delirious, he is.”

“Yeah, holy crap, man!”

You see, now no longer were they absconded in their own misery; they were submersed in mine. I had taken their suffering away, even if for this brief bout of minutes. “I complained because I had no shoes, and then I saw a man who had no feet.” Bad begets worse, and even worse is tolerable.

I think by wanting to be alone I had only drawn attention to myself… but it was done, and now I would give them a show. This is how we deal with the pain. This is how we stand up and take it… how we shake it off and defy it! This is how a much grander force within us makes a thing like the Georgia swelter such an insignificant trifle — “pour it on, Blythe! Fire your weapon!”

From the nose of my drooped head, beads of sweat were queued up and falling in serial. I decided that I would count off 100 of them before I went back to the shade. When 100 beads had fallen, I decided that I would let yet another 100 fall before I relented… then another 100, followed by another then another concatenation of 100.

After 500 had fallen, I stood and removed my helmet. I shook my face wildly, like a dog shakes off pool water upon exit. I wiped my face with my sleeves as I trudged back to the shade and the group. I remarked as I squatted back down:

“Yep… it’s a real scorcher out there today, brothers.”

And there was nothing but silence and a man who reached out his canteen my way, which I graciously declined.

Sometimes we imagine the Earth was gifted with us, to just be us, our mystical, magical, wonderful selves. Other times we might wonder if the planet might get along just swimmingly without us. Ask ten people if they “march to the beat of a different drum,” and you will get ten affirmative answers every time. Now watch when the different drumsticks start their cadence how many stand, step out, and march… and keep marching until 500 beads of their sweat have rolled from their nose and hit the ground.

As I have searched and debated over the years to answer the question are warriors born or made, I often think back to the quote from Heraclitus nearly 2,000 years ago,

“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.” (Heraclitus c. 535 – c. 475 BCE)

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

Aliens have had a constant home in the minds of sci-fi enthusiasts and space nerds. The concept of extraterrestrial contact has been the centerpiece of many great movies, books, and games. Inevitably, if you’re talking about the arrival of an alien life form, the conversation turns itself toward a single question: How would Earth defend against an alien invasion?

Yes, Earth is home to the United States Marines, but we certainly can’t rely on a fighting force using broken, outdated equipment to take on a technologically superior race that has figured out faster-than-light travel. But just because we’re outgunned doesn’t mean we’ll ultimately fail.


That’s where The Infographics Show comes in. Not only have they created a solid defense strategy, they’ve also broken it down into three phases — a whole two phases shy of your brand new lieutenant’s plan to raid a single compound. The best part is, their plan revolves around something we’ve learned from history — if you don’t have the tech to fight even, just fight dirty.

Here’s how they break it down:

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check
Would you believe that these expensive pieces of technology can be destroyed by an object as small as a paint chip?
(NASA)

Phase 1 — Using space debris

Essentially, a piece of space debris as small as a screw could destroy non-shielded spacecraft just coming out of light-speed to enter Earth’s orbit. We could send missiles to destroy our own satellites to create a shield of debris around the planet, which will either destroy a large amount of alien spacecraft or, at the very least, hinder their ability to enter orbit, which would buy us enough time to prepare for the second phase.

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check
Give ’em the ol’ razzle dazzle.
(U.S. Army)

Phase 2 — Attack during entry

When a shuttle re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it experiences heat of up to 21,140 degrees Fahrenheit due to friction with the air. The extreme heat and thermal energy disrupts many communications devices and on-board sensors.

If an alien spacecraft experiences those same effects, the moment of entry into our atmosphere would be a great time to use a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, intercepting incoming spacecraft that, without sensors, would be difficult to see coming.

Then, we prepare for phase three.

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check
This wouldn’t be our first choice if our aim is to survive.
(U.S. Department of Defense)

Phase 3, Option 1 — Nukes

If the invading aliens are anything like us, they’re probably coming to Earth to colonize it. In that case, we could prepare all of our nuclear weapons and hold our own planet hostage.

If these aliens are, in fact, hostile and wish to cleanse the planet of our filthiness, then we threaten to detonate the nukes, which would render the planet uninhabitable and many of our resources unusable.

Take that, alien scum!

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Phase 3, Option 2 — Guerrilla warfare

If our invaders are coming from a distant planet, light years away, their continued siege might prove very costly. After all, interstellar logistics are probably pretty complex. So, humans could resort to making life on Earth as nightmarish as possible by operating as small, guerrilla outfits.

It’d be something like the Vietnam War. Over time, the cost of war may eclipse any potential rewards, and the aliens will withdraw… hopefully.

Want more details? Check out the video below!

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

More than 250 new Virginia Beach City Public School (VBCPS) secondary teachers (those who teach children between the ages of 11 and 18) and school counselors participated in scenario-based training at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, Aug. 22- 23, 2018, which afforded them a unique opportunity to learn about and experience firsthand some of the challenges military families face during a permanent change of station (PCS) move.

The training, titled “The PCS Challenge – Building Empathy for Transitioning Students,” engaged the participants by simulating a military PCS move in an effort to help them better understand the lives of military families and helped to generate empathy toward transitioning military-affiliated students. Local Hampton Roads installation school liaison officers (SLOs) provided intrinsic value and credibility to the training by ensuring the information presented was both timely and relevant with regard to military policies, culture and trends. Throughout the scenarios, the SLOs donned the hats of detailers, Fleet and Family representatives, and various school staff members to test the mettle of the participants. They also provided feedback and expertise in their respective areas to assist the participants when questions or issues came up.


Each participant was given a family assignment and an initial duty station to start. Some were given the role of the service member, others played the role of a spouse, a child, or multiple children if applicable. Of the family units that had multiple children, a least one of those children had special needs and were enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), which is a mandatory enrollment program that works with other military and civilian agencies to provide comprehensive and coordinated community support, housing, educational, medical, and personnel services to families with special needs.

The training scenarios included military acronyms and jargon, emotional stages of the PCS cycle, a duty station wish list or “dream sheet,” receiving orders for the service member and/or connecting with the Fleet Family Support Center for the spouse, doing a pack out and deciding what items could be taken with the family to the new duty station based on rate/rank and the weight of household goods allotted, choosing specific housing to meet the needs of the family, and deregistering and registering a child/children in a new school. Like a real PCS move, each choice made along the way by the participants caused a potential impact on the service member, the family unit as a whole, and ultimately the child(ren).

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check

Karen Phillips, a School Liaison Officer for Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, plays the role of a detailer for simulated military service members during a scenario exercise as part of The PCS Challenge ” Building Empathy for Transitioning Students training that was offered by the Military Support Program for Virginia Beach Public Schools at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, Aug. 23, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by David Todd)

One of the biggest obstacles military families face during a PCS move is not having enough time to prepare, especially when faced with the various items required by the school districts for student enrollment. The training scenarios amplified the stress levels by giving the participants a very short period of time to make major family life decisions.

“Because this training was interactive and simulated, each participant actually became a member of a military family,” explained Debbie Patch, the Regional School Liaison Officer who assisted VBCPS with the training. “Each participant was given characteristics with their new military family role and each participant played their role accordingly. The groups made ‘family’ decisions based on their unique situation. It is my hope that this training provided the participants with an experience that will give them a greater awareness of the unique challenges military students face as a result of their parent’s service to our country. I believe that once someone has experienced this training, there can be no doubt that all military children ‘serve too.'”

Although many of the participants did not have a background of working with military families, some were military spouses new to the area and were able to offer some hands-on experience to help their peers.

“Their life experiences make it real for the people in their group,” said Karen Phillips, the SLO for Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek who was one of four SLOs in attendance to assist VBCPS and the teachers during the training. “They are not just hearing from us [SLOs], they are hearing it from people with experience who are sitting right there at the table with them.”

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check

Participants discuss their pack out and family housing selection during a scenario exercise as part of The PCS Challenge ” Building Empathy for Transitioning Students training that was offered by the Military Support Program for Virginia Beach Public Schools at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, Aug. 23, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by David Todd)

The training was originally developed by Army SLOs that work for Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County, Virginia. The collaborative team of SLOs and VBCPS personnel were fortunate to see the training delivered to Northern Virginia school personnel last year and were eager to bring the PCS Challenge to Virginia Beach Schools.

“The ‘PCS Challenge’ was a collaboration that began between Virginia Beach City Public Schools, the Navy Regional Mid-Atlantic School Liaison Officer, and the VBCPS SLOs,” said Natalie Meiggs, the Coordinator of Military Support Programs for Virginia Beach City Public Schools. “An area of support for transitioning military students was identified through a needs assessment that was conducted from a Department of Defense Education Activity [DoDEA] grant called ‘Project GRIT.'”

The basic session of the PCS Challenge took approximately 80 hours to develop and the content in each session is tailored to meet the audience. The sessions range from one to two hours depending on the complexity of the scenarios and the number and type of participants in attendance. Overall, more than 300 hours have been devoted to developing and crafting the program.

Meiggs explained that approximately 25 percent of the school division’s student population is comprised of active duty, military-dependent youth, and noted that VBCPS is committed to providing support, resources and enrichment programs to enhance the educational experiences of those children and their families.

“Our military-connected students transition about every three years,” she explained “So they could possibly attend six to nine schools in their K-12 educational career.”

“The goal of the PCS Challenge training for teachers is to help them understand more about military life and build empathy about the moving process,” said Phillips. “After participating in this interactive session, teachers will better understand the challenges military families face when having to PCS and be inspired to assist in making the transition smoother for their students.”

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check

Debbie Patch, the Regional School Liaison Officer, helps to hand out family assignment packages to participants during The PCS Challenge ” Building Empathy for Transitioning Students training offered by the Military Support Program for Virginia Beach Public Schools at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, Aug. 23, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by David Todd)

VBCPS has further demonstrated their commitment to military families by collaborating with SLOs on various other projects, including “Art of Being a Military Child,” military volunteer opportunities and Navy birthday school outreach, the Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story oyster restoration project, and the 5th Grade STEM LAB Learning Day field trip at NAS Oceana, among others.

Meiggs said she always looks for new ways to improve the training and values the feedback she receives during each session, but emphasizes that military families should contact their respective SLOs prior to PCSing to help navigate the nuisances of school districts and ease the school enrollment process.

“I want to continuously learn from the participants each time the PCS Challenge is completed,” she said. “I am always learning how the training can be improved to increase understanding of the military culture and how I can improve my own practice of supporting our military families. The PCS Challenge is adapted to meet the needs of the audience each time it is delivered.”

Patch said the training is also beneficial for SLOs, who work directly with military families and schools across the Hampton Roads area during the school year, as well as during summer and winter breaks.

“The SLOs work daily with families who face real educational challenges as they move from state to state, and city to city,” she said. “Each state and city have different educational policies and procedures that must be navigated by military families. SLOs have been able to ensure that this training emphasizes to educators that military families’ frame of reference is the previous school’s policies and experiences. Enabling local teachers to understand this mindset helps them to better understand military families and how to support them.”

In addition to the recent training, VBCPS and SLOs have offered similar training to military family life counselors; as well as coordinators, directors, administrators, school counselors, teachers, and leadership teams throughout VBCPS since its inception. Similar training is scheduled to be offered to Chesapeake Public School’s elementary school counselors in September 2018, with secondary school counselors training scheduled later in the year.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Being able to fly by the seat of your pants is still an important skill for a fighter pilot. Although modern fighters have an incredible array of sensors that feed them real-time information out to the horizon, a good pilot still listens to how the aircraft is talking to them. 

When aircraft were introduced in the early 20th century, most of them had limited–if any–instruments. Pilots flew them based on feel. Because the seat is the primary contact point between man and machine, the term seat of your pants was coined, although in actuality it encompasses all the senses a pilot experience during a flight. 

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check
Cockpit of a World War I era Fokker D.VII (U.S. Air Force photo)

The buffet approaching a stall, the increase in sound as you go faster, the G-forces on the body during a turn—these are all indicators of how the aircraft is flying. But the question remains, with millions of lines of code providing updates on every conceivable parameter, why is it still important to use this basic way of flying in a modern fighter?

As humans we read information sequentially, that is, we can only read one piece of information at a time before moving onto the next. When flying, the order in which we read this information is called our crosscheck. By understating what the aircraft is doing without looking at a dial, or Heads up Display (or even a quick glance in our augmented-reality helmet for the F-35), we can instead focus on something else. This is useful in basic flying; however, it becomes critical when flying and employing the complex weapon systems onboard our aircraft.

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check
This F-15A cockpit is certainly dated, but it offers a decent representation of just how much information pilots have to track while flying combat operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

In a single-seat multi-role fighter there is always more to do than what you’re capable of. For example, during an Air Combat Maneuvering (ACM) engagement—which is you and a wingman versus multiple adversaries—you’re expected to maintain deconfliction from several aircraft while maneuvering to kill the adversary, all while maintaining situational awareness of additional threats and monitoring your fuel and weapons state—no easy task with closure rates often over 1,000 knots (1200 mph). 

By freeing up your crosscheck to focus on these other tasks, you increase your lethality on the battlefield. What’s difficult is that these dozens of variables change in importance based on the phase of flight, as well as the conditions you’re flying in.

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check
The streamlined cockpit display in an F-35. Even with all this data fusion, F-35 pilots still need to know how to fly by the seat of their pants. (Lockheed Martin photo)

For instance, when flying in the weather, you can no longer fly by seat of the pants, but instead must spend the extra time looking at you instruments. By not being able to see the horizon due to being in the clouds, it’s easy to get disoriented and start dive towards the ground even through your body feels like it’s flying straight-and-level.

Knowing when to trust your seat of the pants feeling versus when to focus on your instruments is one of the most important skills for a fighter pilot to master. It’s a perishable skill that needs to be constantly refined. However, when dialed in properly, it’s amazing how much data a pilot can ingest at once. 

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Special Forces combat divers explore reservoirs beneath NORAD’s mountain complex

Recently, a Combat Diver Special Forces team had the opportunity to make a special dive inside a mountain base used by the Space Force.

A 10th Special Forces Group dive team went into the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, in Colorado, and dived to access the Complex’s reservoirs.

The Cheyenne Mountain Complex is a Space Force base that houses several capabilities, ranging from electronic surveillance to missile defense to aerospace operations. In addition, the Complex serves as the alternate headquarters for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Air Force Space Command and U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), which are headquartered nearby at Peterson Air Force Base.

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check
(USAF photo)

The Complex is designed to operate independently from outside help, so the condition of its reservoirs has to be perfect.

“They originally contracted with a civilian company to get this done,” said the 10th Special Forces Group’s Dive Life Support Maintenance Facility’s officer in charge in a press release. “My brother, an Air Force Logistical Officer tasked to the Space Force, recommended they get in contact with (us) to do it for free.”

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check
Members of the 10th Special Forces Operational Detachment – Alpha prepare to submerge in one of the Cheyenne Mountain Complex’s reservoirs Nov 5, 2020. This opportunity provides hands on training for the 10th SFOD (A) while providing CMAFS the assessments of their reservoirs necessary to maintain operations. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Angela Walter)

The Cheyenne Mountain Complex has three reservoirs with water for different purposes, such as cooling generators and expelling exhaust.

The Special Forces dive team accessed the structural integrity of the reservoirs to ensure that they didn’t need maintenance.

“Dive operations don’t happen very often in special forces,” added the Special Forces officer. “This was a good chance for us to go out and showcase our capabilities as a legitimate maritime force within (Special Operations Command) to actually do a real world mission. It’s not infiltrating into enemy country or territory, but it was a chance for us to show everyone that we do have this capability and it’s important to keep the capability within the Special Forces community.”

Green Berets operate in Special Forces Operational Detachment Alphas (ODA), 12-man teams, and specialize in Unconventional warfare and foreign internal defense, among other tasks.

There are four types of ODAs in each Special Forces Group that specialize in different insertion methods. There are dive teams, who specialize in maritime and underwater operations; there are mobility teams, who operate several different vehicle platforms; there are military freefall teams, who master high altitude high opening (HAHO) and high altitude low opening (HALO) parachuting; and there are mountain teams, who specialize in alpine and arctic warfare.

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check
Students from the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School push an inflatable boat from an MH-47 over Patton Water Drop Zone during helocast training as part of the Special Forces Combat Diver Qualification Course at Flemming Key, Trumbo Point Annex, NAS Key West. (U.S. Army photo illustration by K. Kassens)

The 10th SFG dive teams are cold-water dive teams, meaning that they specialize in cold-weather maritime special operations. Their focus on cold-weather operations stems from the 10th SFG’s area of responsibility, which is Europe.  

The last years have been hard on the Special Forces combat diver capability. The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, where the opportunities for underwater operations are limited, meant that the combat diver capability was somewhat shunned. Dive teams had to fight tooth and nail for basic funding, and training opportunities were few and far between. Indeed, some dive teams were hard-pressed to maintain their dive status, which requires a few dives per year.

Despite the drawdown from the wars in the Middle East, dive teams across the Special Forces Regiment are still experiencing difficulties. To be sure, the situation varies from Group to Group, but a common thread regardless of unit is the lack of understanding, and thus of appreciating, the capability’s potential.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why fake soldiers at Checkpoint Charlie got the boot from Berlin

The fake Cold War-era GIs will no longer be crowding the guardhouse recreation in Berlin where the actual Checkpoint Charlie once stood. In the years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, a group of actors stood dressed in faux-American uniforms to take photos with tourists for a voluntary donation – except it wasn’t voluntary. Now the German government stepped in to give them the boot.


The public order office in the central district of Mitte says the actors began to shake tourists down for money, harassing passersby and demanding fees for photos of them and the wooden Checkpoint Charlie guard hut. The soldiers demanded as much as €4 for anyone taking a photo and could pick up as much as €5,000 on a good day. But then the fake troops tried to shake down the wrong “tourist” – a Berlin cop. That’s not all.

One or more of the 10 in the acting troupe who work(ed) the checkpoint site for the past 17 years stand accused of verbally abusing and physically intimidating tourists who don’t volunteer any cash for taking photos. The troupe’s behavior found its way to the public order office, who quickly informed the actors a special permit has been required for the past 17 years, one they did not have. They were told to pack it up and go home.

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check

The reverse side of the Checkpoint guard shack.

(Blake Stilwell)

Checkpoint Charlie has long been a tourist destination since even before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was the only crossing point in a divided Berlin for Allied citizens who desired to visit East Germany and come back. Tourists who couldn’t cross the wall would sit in nearby Cafe Adler, whose view over the wall would accompany a cup of coffee and a slice of cake. The original Checkpoint Charlie guard shack is in the Allied Museum in Berlin, The metal one in the street is a recreation erected in the 1980s.

Critics of the move – namely, the actors involved – say the government of Mitte kicking the fake troops out is part of a plan to rebrand Berlin’s history, a process of “de-Disneyfication” of the tragic history of Cold War-era Berlin. Checkpoint Charlie is just one more tourist site where locals hawk cheap souvenirs and chunks of concrete claiming to be from the real Berlin Wall.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection

When talking about the do’s and don’ts of taking on the Special Operations Assessment and Selection courses that the military has to offer, there are a ton of opinions out there, and I feel, a lot of misconceptions as well. This is particularly true when it comes to being the “Grey Man,” which is a common name people use to describe an operator who can blend seamlessly into their environment.

I’ve been asked about this countless times in emails. One of the more common questions I receive from prospective candidates is always about trying to blend in at Assessment and Selection — being the Grey Man. I spoke with someone just in the past few weeks about this very subject. 

There is no shortage of people who will tell you being the Grey Man is important, some of them will be Special Operations Selection cadre members. So, respectively, I’ll disagree. Overall, unless you’re an intelligence professional trained at blending in and being invisible, I will stick with my original advice and say in the majority of instances, it isn’t a smart thing to do. I will explain why below, but first, my caveat:

Yes, there are times when you absolutely, positively need to be the guy people standing in front of you are going to look right past while giving their “attention” to someone else.

The first one is if you are in SERE School (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape). The last thing you want at SERE is to stand out in any way. Standing out to the guard force in the POW camp usually means you’re going to withstand some “corrective measures.” 

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check
(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker)

Being the biggest member of the prisoners or the most senior guy in the SERE Class is not a good way to be the grey man. The SRO (Senior Ranking Officer) is always singled out for real or perceived rules infractions….you get the idea. Once you get through the Selection process and into the training pipeline, you’ll get to experience SERE up close and personal and all of your questions will be answered.

The second example of when it’s a good time to be a “grey man” is when you’re doing some kind of undercover intelligence work. Then you want to blend into your surroundings. If someone saw you walking down a busy street in an urban environment, you don’t want to raise an alarm among surveillance operatives watching for that type of operation. 

This has a lot to do with demeanor, dress, mannerisms, and movement. Special Forces has a training program that teaches all of this and much more. But the course and the acronym associated with it will come after your training is complete and you move on to the operational units and get some experience under your belt.

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check
(Sgt. 1st Class Jacob Connor)

So, we’re back to the 800-lb gorilla in the room, and the question is, “Why not be the grey man during Selection?” You will see blog posts from people, message boards, and social media posts all telling candidates “Be the grey man” or something remotely similar. I see it all the time. So why is it actually a bad idea? 

As a former Selection cadre member, I’ll let you in on my perceptions: Trying to be the Grey Man just may put a huge bulls-eye on your forehead.  

As I mentioned above, most people aren’t trained properly to be a grey man. And if it appears to the Selection cadre that you are trying to blend into the background, that isn’t a good thing. To the cadre members, it appears like you’re trying to “ghost” through events (as we called it during my time there). And if a guy is going to ghost during Selection, then he certainly will on a team. 

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check
If you’re “ghosting,” you aren’t carrying your weight within the team. (U.S. Army photo)

Back in the day, when I had the night duty during a course, one of the other cadre members and I would wander around the candidates’ barracks at night with no berets, just being the “grey men” of the cadre. We wanted to hear the chatter of the class and see how well or not-so-well they were holding up. 

These conversations would sometimes be quite telling, especially during team week. More than once, we heard candidates who passed their patrol (the criteria has since changed, thank you LTC Brian Decker) talk about coasting through the last few events to make it through the long-range movement. Bad idea.

Then there were the others, guys who passed their patrol and were volunteering to help out the next day’s guys who would be in the barrel and under the microscope. More than once we heard conversations similar to this:

“Hey bud, whatever happens, tomorrow, put me on lashings, I’m really good at that, and that’s one thing you won’t have to worry about.”

That’s the guy I want on my team. He’s not done yet, he’s looking out for his teammates. He’s going to get high marks on his peer reports. 

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check
(Special Forces Assessment, U.S. Army photo)

Special Operations isn’t looking for cookie-cutter robots. We understand that everyone is different and there are certainly guys who are characters. You’ll undoubtedly have some in your class. 

That’s why my advice is always, “be yourself.” When I was there, our cadre was made up of the most eclectic group of people that I’ve ever worked with. There was never a dull moment and every NCO, although vastly different, respected who each one of us was. And we all got along because we had the humility to understand that every person brings some unique element to the table.

If you’re a rah-rah type of guy, then be that guy. If you are a quiet, lead by example type of guy, that’s fine…be him. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Sometimes the characters of the class would lift everyone around him. All of the cadre members had those types of guys in their own classes, and they know how valuable they are to keeping up class morale, and for team-building. 

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check
(U.S. Army photo)

My own class in the SFQC (Special Forces Qualification Course) had a tremendous NCO who we called “CPT Camouflage” during Land Nav. He would wear some outlandish get-up; PT Shorts hiked way too high, jungle boots, with a poncho pulled over his head like a cape with eye holes cut out. He’d run through the woodline offering the craziest encouragement to “lost Land Nav Students everywhere.” As dumb as it sounds, our class loved it. And after a day or so, the cadre would ask if “Captain Camouflage” had any words for the class after we’d return from the day’s or night’s navigation practice.

I recently recorded a podcast with Mike Sarraille, a Navy SEAL officer who has written a book on Special Operations leadership and how civilian companies should incorporate the lessons of Selection and Assessment into their hiring process. 

Mike was a successful Marine NCO with Recon before becoming an officer. During BUDs training to become a SEAL, the other members of his class naturally gravitated toward Mike because of his experience, military bearing, and demeanor. That’s who he is. If he tried to blend into the background, the SEAL instructors would have seen right through that and he would have never passed or gone on to become the officer he was. 

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check
Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUDS) candidates cover themselves in sand during surf passage on Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Russell/Released)

Of course, “be yourself” has to be tempered with a bit of common sense. Don’t be overly argumentative with the cadre… even if you know that you may be right when receiving a critique. That will have the exact opposite effect of your intentions.  Don’t be a “Spotlight Ranger” either — those types never last long as they’ll get peered out quickly (failed by peer reviews). And please spare your war stories about leading an attack with the 18th Mess Kit Repair Unit in Iraq or someplace else. Nobody cares about that or is interested. 

Remember you are always being evaluated and assessed. This is a time for the cadre to see if you have the core attributes that make Special Operations troops the best in the world. Selection is the time where you begin building the reputation that will follow throughout your Special Operations career. And as big as it has grown, it is still a small community. Selection is the first step in the process of showing you belong in the Regiment. 

Trying to do so by blending in the background isn’t the way to do it. Be yourself, try to excel at everything, and remember, some of your fellow candidates may be better at some things than you are. That won’t change once you get to an operational unit. 

”Do the best you can.” (Yes you’ll hear that again.)

Photo courtesy: US Army

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force begins investing billions in adversary air training

The U.S. Air Force has officially kicked off its adversary air contract initiative by awarding seven companies a total of $6.4 billion to outsource its assault and combat training.

The service on Oct. 18, 2019, issued the collective, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract to Air USA Inc.; Airborne Tactical Advantage Company LLC, known as ATAC, a subset of Textron Airborne Solutions; Blue Air Training; Coastal Defense; Draken International; Tactical Air Support, known as TacAir; and Top Aces Corp. for Air Combat Command’s aggressor training, according to a Defense Department announcement.

“Contractors will provide complete contracted air support services for realistic and challenging advanced adversary air threats and close-air support threats,” the Defense Department said.


The Air Force for years has looked for a helping hand to fill the enemy, “red air” gap, which would in turn allow for more of its active-duty combat forces to attain air-to-air training on the friendly, or “blue air,” side.

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check

Draken International’s L-159E.

The training comes down to a battle of simulated attacks for the purpose of enhancing tactics and techniques should pilots find themselves in an aerial dogfight, or having to stave off the enemy. The simulated flights would also include close-air support to enhance Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) training for ground operators.

During the onset of the fighter pilot shortage in 2016, Air Force officials signaled a renewed interest in contracting the work, a cheaper alternative than depleting the service’s budget for training and flight hours to act as the enemy.

“In a perfect world, we’d have the resources to maintain the aggressor squadrons that we used to have and kind of do it in house with modernized threats,” Gen. Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, told reporters during the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in 2017. “In the world we’re living in now, we’re limited in personnel and end strength.

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check

Two French F-1 Mirages prepare to taxi and take off from Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson)

“If we can bring on some contract red air, then not only do we get some dedicated people to train against, we also reduce the amount of time that our crews are spending at a zero-sum budget for flight hours pretending to be somebody else instead of training for their primary skills,” he added.

A number of the red air companies have been expanding their aggressor fleets. For example, Draken currently has A-4 Skyhawks and L-159 “Honey Badgers” and recently purchased Dassault Mirage F1s and Atlas Cheetah fighters to add to its inventory. In 2017, ATAC bought upgraded F1 fighters from France; the company flew its first Mirage in August.

The training will be performed at “multiple locations across the Combat Air Force (CAF),” the DoD said. The Air Force has estimated that roughly 40,000 to 50,000 hours of flight time is needed to support aggressor air at a dozen bases across the U.S.

The Air Force will use fiscal 2020 operations and maintenance (OM) funds in the amount of .8 million toward the effort, set to run through October 2024, the announcement states.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 times the National Guard saved the day

On Dec. 13, 1636, the National Guard was officially formed, combining militia regiments from Massachusetts into one organized unit. The Massachusetts National Guard — pictured above at its first muster in the spring of 1637 — has the four oldest units in the US Army: 181st Infantry Regiment, 182nd Cavalry Regiment, 101st Field Artillery Regiment, and the 101st Engineer Battalion. Since the National Guard’s inception, these citizen soldiers continue to serve the nation’s call. 

On the National Guard’s 384th birthday, we put together a list of four times it has saved the day.

The 30th “Old Hickory” Division

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check
An M8 reconnaissance armored car of the 30th Infantry Division rolls through the streets of Kinzweiler, Nov. 21, 1944. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Fast-forward 281 years from its birth to 1917. The entire National Guard was drafted into the US Army for service in World War I. This meant 17 divisions were off to Europe for the first time in the nation’s history. Among the most famous and battle hardened was the 30th “Old Hickory” Division, aptly named in honor of general and former President Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson. He had ties to North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, the three states from which the initial draftees were pulled. 

The Old Hickory Division earned more Medals of Honor — 12 — than any other division during the war. They were called other names out of respect for their ferocity in combat, including “The Workhorse of the Western Front” and “Roosevelt’s SS Troops,” the latter coinage by the German High Command. 

In World War II, the men who made up the Old Hickory Division lived up to their name, serving 282 total days on the battlefield. The division had 3,435 soldiers killed in action and 12,960 wounded. They received six Medals of Honor, 65 Distinguished Service Crosses, 1,718 Silver Stars, 6,319 Bronze Stars, and 20,000 Purple Hearts. Some soldiers received the Purple Heart more than once.

The Guard Tanks of World War II

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check
Staff Sgt. Emil Morello’s M3 Stuart smashing into a roadblock toward an Imperial Japanese Army anti-tank gun, in a painting by Don Millsap. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The first tank-to-tank combat was fought by the 192nd Tank Battalion in the Philippines in 1941. First Lt. Benjamin Morin was the first tank commander to engage enemy forces in World War II. The battle was not a victorious one, as his M3 Stuart Tank was disabled and caught fire, forcing him and his men to surrender to the Japanese. He went on to endure three and a half years as a prisoner of war.

The Guard tanks of the 192nd Tank Battalion were later asked to hold their position for six hours to cover the retreat of forces to Bataan. They held the position for three days. There were 596 soldiers who answered the call of duty, and among them 325 were killed in combat, executed, died in POW camps, or were killed by American submarines aboard unmarked “Hell Ships” tasked with transporting POWs. The 194th Tank Battalion also saw action in the Philippines. Staff Sgt. Emil C. Morello earned the Silver Star for ramming his tank over an enemy roadblock, destroying a Japanese weapon position, and firing his main gun until his tank was disabled. His crew pretended to be dead and escaped on foot, only to be killed or captured in Bataan, where the rest of the battalion forces would later surrender. 

The Air National Guard

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check
In Paktia Province, Afghanistan, March 4, 2002, Tech Sgt. Keary Miller of the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, Kentucky Air National Guard, not only managed to drag a wounded helicopter pilot to safety at Takur Ghar, but also orchestrated the establishment of multiple casualty collection points. This painting by Keith Rocco depicts the events of the Battle of Takur Ghar. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

When the US military must move heaven and earth in response to a crisis, they call the Air National Guard. Even before the unit was officially established alongside the Air Force in 1947, it was involved in the Border War between the US and Mexico. The 1st Aero Company, New York National Guard, mobilized in 1916 to provide assistance. The Air National Guard has earned a proud reputation, both in combat and for disaster relief.   

Master Sgt. Keary Miller, a pararescueman assigned to the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, was first awarded the Silver Star for bravery in the 17-hour gunfight during the Battle of Takur Ghar in Afghanistan. He provided lifesaving aid to a wounded helicopter pilot and set up multiple casualty collection points for Army Rangers on that snowy mountaintop in 2002. He also distributed ammunition to his teammates while under heavy enemy fire. In recent years, this battle has come under the microscope of the Defense Department to properly award these airmen, Rangers, and SEALs for their heroism that day. Miller’s Silver Star was upgraded to the Air Force Cross; John Chapman, an Air Force combat controller, and Britt Slabinsky, a Navy SEAL, each received the Medal of Honor.

In the midst of the Global War on Terror, the Air National Guard also responded to international and domestic crises such as the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. These are a few notable exploits, but the Air Guard has long provided aid and support as well as rescued countless victims in distress. The 210th Rescue Squadron of the Alaska Air National Guard, famously known as the “Guardians of the North,” are one of the busiest search and rescue units in the world.

The National Guard in 2020

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check
An Army National Guard UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter waits on the tarmac in heavy smoke at the Aurora State Airport, near Aurora, Oregon, on Sept. 9, 2020. Photo courtesy of Maj. Leslie Reed, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs.

We may not think of this immediately because we are currently living through it, but the National Guard has saved the day countless times this year. They remain on the front lines to provide aid during the current pandemic, entering the battle against COVID-19 in March. The Tennessee National Guard flew 500,000 swabs to Memphis to resupply COVID-19 test kits, and the New York National Guard helped with distribution of food in hard-hit areas. 

They have also deployed to suppress wildfires in the Pacific Northwest. In September, a 1,000-member force was sent to Oregon to give assistance. California National Guard aircrew members responsible for rescuing 242 people from the Creek Fire were each awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism. They flew in Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters on three daring flights to carry the trapped campers to safety. 

In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic and the wildfires in 2020, the National Guard has also served to support public safety amid the civil unrest across the country, including in Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd. The year isn’t over yet, but the National Guard is equipped to handle any problem that may arise with the same professionalism and dedication it has exhibited thus far.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How Army’s mascot came to be

On December 2, 1899, Colonel Gonzalez Bingham woke up with a smile. As the quartermaster of the Schuylkill Arsenal in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he had plans to attend the first Army Navy Game to be played in that city. Adding to the excitement and anticipation of a big game was the fact that the Army-Navy Game had not been played in six years. President Grover Cleveland decided to halt the game when fights broke out after the 1893 game, believing that the interservice rivalry had gotten out of control. Slowly, over the next few years, support for resuming the game grew, and it was decided to renew the tradition on December 2, 1899 at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, one of the few places with a stadium large enough to handle the expected crowds. 

When the big day arrived, everyone was on their best behavior. Army and Navy sent bands down Philadelphia’s Market Street prior to the game. Debutantes, city officials, old Civil War veterans and cabinet officers up from Washington, DC made their way to the stadium. It was the biggest day in sports the nation had seen, and tickets had long ago sold out. 

What fans did not know was that Bingham had a secret. A big one! He had been scheming and planning for weeks to do something to delight the crowd, rally the cadets, and inspire the team. Colonel Gonzalez Bingham was about to introduce the very first Army Mule as the mascot of West Point. Up until the 1899 game, Army had never had a mascot. Worse yet, Navy had for several years adopted a goat as their mascot. In fact, legend has it that the first Navy Goat was actually a pet goat “borrowed” from the backyard of a West Point faculty member by a Navy fan and dragged off to the game, which was the first Army-Navy Game played on the West Point Plain. While the details have been lost and history has turned to legend, all West Pointers know that the story fits everything they know about Navy, so the tale must be a stone-cold fact! West Point grads might feel some lingering outrage from the theft of a goat on the grounds of West Point, but then again they also have to question the wisdom of any Army officer who selects a goat as a pet, so it’s best to leave the story for another time. 

Getting back to Bingham’s insightful brilliance in December 1899 and the Army Mule, that story actually begins much earlier with Bingham’s father, Judson Bingham, Class of 1854. Upon graduation, Judson Bingham worked his way up as a quartermaster and found himself in support of Major General Ulysses S. Grant, Class of 1843, and Major General William T. Sherman, Class of 1840, during the Civil War. In fact, it was the efforts of quartermasters like Judson Bingham that largely allowed Grant to take the audacious gamble of slipping loose from his supply chain, floating down the Mississippi, and successfully attacking Vicksburg. It was one of the brilliant campaigns of the Civil War, but to be successful, Grant depended upon the abilities of inspired quartermasters to feed and supply an Army that was living off local supplies once traditional supply lines had been cut. Later in the war, Sherman would adopt a similar strategy in his famous march through Georgia. Sherman also relied on Judson Bingham for managing the complex supply lines. And what did Judson Bingham rely upon? 

Mules! 

Mules could carry large loads and could live on most any fodder. As Sherman’s quartermaster, Judson Bingham used them with great effect, and his ability to supply and sustain large armies operating far away from traditional supply lines was brilliant. Interestingly enough, one of Judson Bingham’s greatest challenges was to keep his mules from being captured by the Confederate raiders led by one of his classmates, Major General J. E. B. Stuart of the Confederate Cavalry. 

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check

Without any doubt, Judson Bingham owed much of his success to the effective use of mules. Grant certainly knew it, and he felt a great admiration for mules and would often intervene when he saw anyone mistreat a mule. Sherman did too. Long after the Civil War was over, when Sherman was serving as Commanding General of the U.S. Army, he got word that a favorite mule that had served with distinction was about to be sold off. Sherman forwarded the information to Robert Todd Lincoln (President Abraham Lincoln’s son), the Secretary of War, who quickly responded with the following message: “The Quartermaster’s department will be charged with ingratitude if that mule is sold or the maintenance of it is thrown on the charitable officers of the post. I advise he be kept in the Department, fed, and maintained until death.” 

Judson Bingham retired as a brigadier general and had a son, Gonzalez Bingham, who also joined the Army and went into the Quartermaster Corps. The young Bingham would have heard the many stories about the effective use of mules in Civil War campaigns, and he also knew that his father loved West Point (Judson Bingham is buried in the West Point Cemetery). Like his father, Bingham also had a successful career in the Army. In 1899, he oversaw the sprawling Schuylkill Arsenal, which functioned as the Quartermaster Center for the Army. 

And so, on December 2, 1899, fortune smiled on West Point, because Gonzalez Bingham was the right guy at the right place, at the right time. He had heard his father talk about the great service of mules in the Civil War. He also knew that his dad loved West Point and had almost certainly heard the shameful story of the filched Navy Goat. Best of all, Bingham was willing and able to take initiative. He knew that Army had never had a mascot and was about to change all that. 

Bingham’s job as a quartermaster put him in the perfect place to commandeer one of the many mules that served the Schuylkill Arsenal. His selection was a big mule that pulled an ice wagon. Based on his color, the mule went by the name “Big White.” The next inspiration of genius came from Bingham’s wife, Nettie, whom he had met while serving in the West. Nettie was the daughter of an Army officer serving at the same post on the western frontier as then Lieutenant Bingham and she knew that if a thing is to be done in the Army, it best be done well. 

It was Nettie who came up with the idea to fully outfit the mule in the proper attire. Under her guidance, a special “uniform” was fashioned in the cadet colors of black, gray, and gold. Nettie also organized a group to attach silk ribbons to Big White’s tail, and when they had finished the mule was escorted into Philadelphia’s Franklin Field. Cadets and other Army fans went wild! 

The next day newspapers noted that the mule “carried the West Point colors with an air of mulish superiority to anything in his vicinity.” 

Big White not only warmed the crowd and inspired the cadets, but also helped Army overcome a Navy team that was heavily favored to win the game. Navy had a much better record, and few thought Army had much of a chance. But immediately after the arrival of Army’s first Mule, the game was never in doubt, and Army went on to a convincing 17-5 win, having never trailed in the game. 

When the game was over, Nettie Bingham had hoped to salvage the silk ribbons she had bought, along with the cadet uniform that she had pieced together, but the first Army mascot was such a sensation that fans literally tore the mule’s uniform apart trying to grab a piece as a souvenir. From those humble beginnings in 1899, the Army Mule has served as the official West Point mascot. He fulfilled his duty to the Army with honor by securing a win over Navy. Then, he gave up his uniform and returned to civilian service, hauling ice to help build and grow our country. Mules would continue to serve as the Army mascot following the 1899 game, but they were just loaned or rented for game day: West Point would not have a fully enlisted Army Mule with dedicated duties until the 1930s. Bingham continued to serve with distinction and had a son, Colonel Sidney Bingham, Class of 1912, who taught history and English at West Point. Sidney Bingham’s son, Sidney Bingham Jr., also attended West Point and graduated in 1940. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroic action leading the 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment at Normandy on D-Day, 

June 6, 1944. 

As learned from this origin story, Army’s mascot is not some cartoonish figure nor a random animal typical of other college mascots. Nor was he shamefully purloined from someone’s backyard. Instead, our mascot is a warrior that was selected because of great service to the nation, a battle-tested beast called upon to do hard things, in hard times, and that did so with distinction. 

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check

Mules have earned the honor of serving as Army’s mascot, and the Army Mule is a living example of Duty, Honor, Country. 

This piece was originally featured in the West Point Association of Graduates Winter Magazine and was submitted by the author for WATM’s republish.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

U.S. Air Forces in Europe Fire Academy members, assigned to the 435th Construction and Training Squadron, hosted a burn training during a USAFE NATO Firefighter Partnership course, Oct. 5, 2018, on Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

“The participants did extremely well,” said 1st Lt. Justin Domingo, 435th Contingency Response Support Squadron air advisor. “Most participants are already experienced firefighters so they generally have no issues.”


This training enhances interoperability with Latvian and Lithuanian air forces firefighters and ensures all forces are qualified, trained, and knowledgeable rescue personnel.

“This is the third firefighting training course this year that we’ve hosted,” Domingo said. “We look forward to continuing these events in order to maintain the relationships we’ve built while developing our goal of NATO interoperability.”

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check

Latvian and Lithuanian air forces firefighters extinguish mock fires during a U.S. Air Forces in Europe NATO Firefighter Partnership course on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 10, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Devin M. Rumbaugh)

Approximately 20 NATO ally firefighters participated in the five-day course focused on crash and fire procedure familiarization, enabling partner nations to work together in any situation.

“The NATO allies are always ready for a challenge and bring a lot of motivation and energy to every situation whether it’s just a classroom discussion or hands-on training,” said Staff Sgt. Germane White, 435th CTS fire rescue and contingency training instructor.

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Frank Butler, 435th Construction and Training Squadron fire rescue and contingency training instructor, waits for a simulation to begin during a U.S. Air Forces in Europe NATO Firefighter Partnership course on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 10, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Devin M. Rumbaugh)

Students learned firefighting tactics such as nozzle operations, hose advancement, forcible entry, search and rescue operations, and confined space rescue.

“I feel honored to be an instructor for our NATO allies. They bring so much to the table and its monumental being able to instruct and help them with certain tactics they may not be familiar with.”

U.S. aircraft are present throughout Europe and at any given time an emergency can arise. By conducting this training, the instructors are prepping NATO allies for contingency operations and humanitarian missions.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 things that you think will sober you up but won’t

For some people, there’s nothing like the taste of a loaded bagel and the caffeinated buzz of an extra-large coffee after a night of drinking. Others would rather stick to gulping down bottles of water and popping ibuprofen as soon as they wake up to ward off symptoms of a hangover.

But here’s the thing: While there are a handful of quick-fix “tricks” said to sober you up fast after a night of drinking, most of the so-called “tried and true” methods don’t actually work. The only true way to sober up after a cocktail or five, is to, unfortunately, wait it out.

Ergo, if you thought these things would sober you up in a hurry, they won’t.


Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check

(Photo by Christopher Flowers)

1. Greasy meals won’t rebalance your blood sugar levels

If your go-to breakfast after a night of drinking is bacon, egg, and cheese on a bagel, or order of french fries dipped in a chocolate shake, here’s some bad news.

If you’re going to treat yourself to a slice of pizza or to-go burrito, the right time to do so is actually prior to drinking, Alexis Halpern, MD, emergency medicine physician at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center told Refinery 29. Heavier meals make it so that the body has to spend more time and energy breaking up the food, Halpern explained, meaning the alcohol you drink after the fact will take longer to settle into your bloodstream.

However just because junk food is definitely heartier than, say, a salad, that doesn’t necessarily mean before a night of drinking you shouldn’t at least try to work in some nutritious options.

“If you give your body back the things that it needs and the things that it loses when you drink, you’re going to feel better no matter what,” Halpern said, so foods that are high in protein, zinc, vitamin B, potassium, and even foods that have a high water content are great options.

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check

(Flickr/Rachel Johnson)

2. Sugary sports drinks aren’t super helpful, either

Samir Zakhari, Ph.D., director of the Division of Metabolism and Health Effects at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism told Men’s Health that even though your body loses electrolytes when you drink, there’s really no dire need to replenish them ASAP post-partying.

But if you’re not the type of person who enjoys drinking a ton of water, and is willing to spend a little extra cash, Robert Glatter, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health, told INSIDER that Pedialyte helps “replenish lost electrolytes including sodium, potassium as well as keep your blood sugar level up, since heavy alcohol consumption could lead to low blood sugar, known as hypoglycemia.”

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check

3. Painkillers can cause an upset stomach when mixed with lingering alcohol in the body

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH), mixing alcohol with painkillers can lead to a variety of symptoms, but the severity of these symptoms depends on the type of medication you take.

Oftentimes people will pop a pill after a night of drinking to nurse a hangover headache, but according to the NIH, many pain relievers can cause “stomach upset, bleeding and ulcers, liver damage (acetaminophen), and/or rapid heartbeat.”

Before mixing alcohol with any medicine (or taking them right after drinking), it’s important to do your research and speak with a medical professional.

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check

(Photo by Tyler Nix)

4. Coffee will make you even more dehydrated

How your body responds to caffeine after a night of drinking will ultimately depend on how much you regularly drink it sober.

If you’re a routine coffee drinker, Grace Derocha, a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and certified health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, told INSIDER drinking about 24 oz of coffee can help avoid withdrawal symptoms.

However, if you’re not a routine coffee drinker, downing a large cup or two of the stuff could worse or cause headache, and may also lead to increased dehydration as coffee is a mild diuretic.

In the Channel 4 program Food Unwrapped, Tony Moss, a professor of addictive behavior science at London South Bank University, reiterated this point and said that coffee will not help you sober up.

“We know from wider research that coffee isn’t an antidote to alcohol,” he said. “Taking coffee is a stimulant that will reverse that feeling of being slightly tired as your blood alcohol is coming down. The only thing that’s going to sober you up in that respect is a bit of time.”

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check

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5. Too much protein can lead to headaches

If you only eat foods high in protein, without including any complex carbohydrates, Derocha said this will “negatively affects an already low blood sugar level,” leading to “a headache or make an existing headache worse.”

Rather than clinging to one food group to sober you up, Derocha told INSIDER it’s important to eat well-balanced, healthy meals after consuming alcohol, as your body needs a slew of nutrients that work together to help it recover.

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check

(Photo by John Fornander)

6. Cold showers slow down the sobering process

Cold showers might wake you up, but they won’t sober you up. Think of it this way: In order to sober up, your body needs to relax. Dousing yourself in cold water accomplishes the exact opposite.

Dr. Niket Sonpal, a New York-based internist, gastroenterologist, and an adjunct professor at Touro College told INSIDER cold showers “raise your awareness and alertness by shocking your body with ice-cold water sending signals to your brain to wake up.” When this happens, he explained, your brain and body become stressed, making you feel worse.

“Instead, take a shower with warm water and relax,” he said. “Your body will need to run its process to process all the alcohol in your bloodstream.”

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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