How China's special forces stack up against the US's special operators - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Over the last two decades, special-operations forces have become the go-to choice for policymakers and military leaders around the world.

The successes of US and coalition special-operations units in the Global War on Terror (GWOT) and in Syria against ISIS have showcased the importance and utility of small teams of highly trained troops.

While the US and its allies have been fighting in the Middle East, the Chinese military has been paying close attention, especially to US special operations. As a result, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is increasingly investing resources in its own special-operations forces.

So with everyone gearing up for great power competition, how do Chinese special operations measure up against the US’s and what are the biggest difference between the two?

US special operators

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators
US Army Special Forces members perform an airborne operation near Mont Saint Michel in France, May 18, 2019.

US special-operations units can be divided into unofficial tiers.

Delta Force and SEAL Team 6 would be at the top (Tier 1), followed by the 75th Ranger Regiment, Night Stalkers, MARSOC, and SEAL and Boat Teams (Tier 2), and then the Special Forces Groups (Tier 3). Air Commandos are harder to categorize since they most often augment other units rather than deploy as teams.

It’s important to note that these tiers have more to do with mission sets and funding than with the quality of the troops.

For example, SEAL Team 6 is part of the National Mission Force (the Pentagon’s first responders, in layman’s terms) and has far more money to spend and resources to use than a “vanilla” SEAL team, but both are manned by SEALs.

Chinese special operators

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators
China navy Jiaolong, or “Sea Dragon” commandos during an exercise.

Irregular warfare and special operations have been part of Chinese military culture since the time of Sun Tzu, whose writings highlighted the value of specialized individuals and units in warfare.

However, modern Chinese special operations are fairly new. The first unit, the Special Reconnaissance Group, was established in 1988. In the late 1990s, as part of PLA’s modernization, seven Special Operations Groups of between 1,000 to 2,000 men were created.

Now there is one special-operations brigade-size unit in each of the five theater commands, which are a rough equivalent of the US’s combatant commands.

In addition, there are numerous smaller special-operations units of varying size in the other branches. The Chinese Navy, Air Force, and Rocket Force (the branch responsible for China’s nuclear and conventional missiles) each have a dedicated special-operations unit.

The Navy’s Jiaolong (Sea Dragons) is probably the most famous Chinese special-operations unit after it successfully recaptured a ship from pirates in the Gulf of Aden and assisted the evacuation of civilians from war-torn Yemen, which became the subject of a Chinese propaganda movie.

All in all, China has between 20,000 and 40,000 special-operations troops of varying quality.

Crucially, Chinese special-operations units have more than doubled in number in the last two decades, showing that Chinese leaders are paying close attention to the high-reward, low-cost characteristics of special-operations units.

Both special but not the same

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators
Chinese Navy Special Forces, or “Jiaolong Commando,” repel onto a ship during an exercise.

Since the early 2000s, the PLA has undergone a drastic modernization and professionalization process, transitioning from a mainly conscript force to a smaller, mostly volunteer military, though conscription remains as a policy.

The new force’s main aim is to fight short wars against regional adversaries while having a technological advantage.

Chinese special-operations units, and the PLA as a whole, have gained from that modernization and learned from the example provided by Western special-operations units over the past 60 years, but Chinese forces are still untested in combat.

On the other hand, US special-operations units have amassed an astounding level of combat experience in the last two decades. It’s not uncommon to have operators with double-digit combat deployments and hundreds of real-world operations under their belts.

Chinese special-operations units are also regionally focused and lack a centralized command like the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM). This could limit their effectiveness and hurt interoperability.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators
A member of the “Jiaolong Commando.”

Moreover, Chinese special-operations units lack the dedicated aviation and maritime assets that American commandos have, namely the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Special Boat Teams, SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams, and the Air Force’s Special Operations Squadrons.

Without specialized insertion platforms, the utility of Chinese commandos is limited and their geographic scope localized. However, according to the US Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO), the PLA is establishing aviation brigades that might resolve some of these asset shortcomings.

Additionally, there is a difference in mission sets.

Chinese special-operations units focus on direct action, special reconnaissance, and counterterrorism. Unlike US commandos, they don’t conduct unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, counterinsurgency, hostage rescue, civil affairs, and psychological operations.

In a nutshell, in terms of mission sets, Chinese commandos are closer to World War II special-operations units than to modern US special operations. It’s not that they aren’t capable, but their scope is more limited, a reflection of the PLA’s strategic priorities.

People first

But perhaps the biggest and most important difference is the people.

“Humans are more important than hardware,” is one of the five US special-operations “Truths.” Western special operators take pride in their independence and out-of-the-box thinking, which is encouraged if not expected by their leaders.

Units like Delta Force, the SEAL Teams, the Special Forces Groups, and allied units like the Special Air Service (SAS) excel because of their noncommissioned officers. When planning operations, it’s these NCOs who come up with the ideas and approach. Ironically, the British SAS have titled this enlisted-driven process “the Chinese Parliament.”

Conversely, elements of Chinese military culture, in particular the use of conscripts as well as differing views on unit cohesion, pose a significant barrier to small-team independence.

Allegiance to and scrutiny by the Communist Party complicates things further and adds another level of bureaucracy.

China is used to stealing and copying military technology and concepts, which is believed to be behind Beijing’s advances in fighter jets and other weapons. But when it comes to special-operations units, these cultural aspects aren’t easy to mimic.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Team TORN gives back to the community with ‘hands-on’ charity event

We recently had the chance to attend a veterans’ charity event with a new non-profit upstart. We’ve previously covered the Team TORN training facility in Issue 37 and on RECOIL TV. Now they’ve started an organization for wounded veterans they’re calling the TORN Warriors Foundation. The owners of Team TORN are both veterans with decades of service to this country who were looking for a way to give back to their brothers and sisters in uniform.

Earlier this year, President Trump awarded the Purple Heart to Marine Corps Master Sergeant Clint Trial. Clint lost both of his legs in an IED blast while serving in Afghanistan. The award ceremony went viral on social media specifically because it was all but deliberately ignored by mainstream media. Despite the ability of news moguls to pick and choose what they think is worthy of people’s attention, Clint’s family continues to persevere in the face of grave adversity. We had the chance to meet him, as well as a tight-knit group of other vets, at the event Team TORN hosted at their training facility.


How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

The goal of TORN Warriors is to help wounded veterans recover and rehabilitate through outdoor activities to include shooting and off-road driving. Their school-house is uniquely set up to provide these opportunities in-house, and we were honored to be asked to assist with the effort.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Held over a three-day weekend, TORN Warriors’ inaugural event started on Friday night with a social call at the TORN Team House. We got the chance to speak with Team TORN owners and reps from some of the companies who pitched in to make this event possible, including gear manufacturer First Spear and Black Rifle Coffee. The mastermind of the Work Play Obsession podcast and MMA fighter Kelsey DeSantis were also present. The veterans themselves, including several combat amputees, got the chance to mingle with this network of supporters and tell their stories. We all got a brief overview of the Team TORN facility and had the chance to watch MSgt Trial take a few laps in the TORN Racing off-road rig. He will be riding shotgun in this rig for the Best In The Desert Vegas to Reno off-road race, Aug.16-18, 2019.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Saturday morning we were up bright and early for range day. We started on the flat range, running a whole slew of different pistols and carbines, allowing the vets and their supporters to run guns side-by-side. We love a good reason to shoot guns just as much as anyone, but we were also able to capture a moment that encapsulates not only the TORN Warriors mindset, but the crux of what makes the veteran community — and those who support them — so special. Watching veterans literally hold each other up so that they can succeed is what organizations like this are all about. The range session ended with a shoot-off between the wounded vets, with the winner taking home a new Springfield XDm.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

After lunch, we went back out to the range. This time we were shooting longer-range targets from platforms, with combat vets both shooting and coaching to make sure everyone achieved repeat hits on steel out to nearly 500 yards. As part of the fundraising effort, TORN Warriors sold raffle tickets for a table full of prizes including everything from hoodies to custom pistols, some of which were handmade by veterans themselves. The drawing was live-streamed on the foundation’s social media, with all winning tickets being drawn straight from a prosthetic leg belonging to one of the vets on site.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Sunday morning had as back behind a long gun, running the Team TORN “Giffy Challenge” course. This rifle course is named in honor of fallen Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jonathan Gifford, who was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for actions in Afghanistan. This is a true run-and-gun course, with shooters having to navigate point-to-point across a high-altitude course of fire stretching over 7000 feet in elevation. There are no flat spots or shooting platforms. Every shot must be taken from field conditions against steel targets hidden in thick brush. While the course is often shot as a man-on-man exercise, we ran it in teams that once again paired vets with sponsors and supporters. The capstone event, after lunch, was a 20+ mile off-road ride that put us all on dirt bikes or in ATVs across open country.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

All in all, this was a fantastic experience and a true grassroots effort on the part of TORN Warriors. Their entire focus is going hands-on to help those among the veteran community who need it most. But make no mistake, those who are able to donate or support the effort absolutely have a place at the table here. Whether you are a veteran or a supporter of our nation’s defenders, TORN Warriors wants to get you involved in the action. If you are interested in trying to find a way to give back, please consider the TORN Warriors Foundation as a place to start. We know there are beaucoup organizations out there with similar missions, but the level of personal attention that this charity gives to both the veterans they serve and the companies who support them makes them worth a hard look.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why Motor Pool Mondays are more important than troops realize

Every Monday morning in the United States Army, companies gather around their battalion motor pool to conduct maintenance on their vehicles. On paper, the NCOs have the drivers of each and every vehicle perform a PMCS, or preventive maintenance checks and services, to find any deficiencies in their Humvee or LMTV. In reality, the lower-enlisted often just pop open the hood, check to see if it has windshield-wiper fluid, and sit inside to “test” the air conditioning.

Not to rat anyone out or anything — because basically everyone with the rank of specialist does it — but there’s a legitimate reason the chain of command keeps it on the schedule each week, and it’s not to kill time until the gut truck arrives.


How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

It’s then on the mechanics to handle the serious problems. And trust me, mechanics are rarely sitting on their asses waiting for new vehicles to fix. They’ve got a lot of actual issues to worry about.

The biggest reason why the troops need to conduct a PMCS is to help the mechanics in the unit determine which vehicles need repairs. A platoon of mechanics can’t honestly be expected to monitor and address each and every fault across a 200-plus vehicle motor pool. Sharing the responsibility among all troops in the battalion means that more attention can be given to the problems that need them.

If there is a deficiency found within a vehicle, then it can be brought to the mechanics. If it’s something simple, like low fluid levels, the mechanics can just give the troops the tools they need to handle the minor things.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

If it’s leaking, well, at least let the mechanic know before you make a made dash for the gut truck.

(Meme via Vet Humor)

Say a vehicle does eventually break down (which it will — thank the lowest bidder), the mechanics are the ones taking the ass-chewing. Sure, whoever was assigned that vehicle may catch a little crap, but the the mechanic is also taking their lashing — all because someone else skimmed through the checklist and said it was “fine.” So, if you don’t want to blue falcon your fellow soldier, do your part.

Having a vehicle deadline is terrible — but having a vehicle break down in the middle of the road is much worse. If you want to be certain that the vehicle is operational, you should probably give it a test drive around the motor pool to check the engine and brakes. If you can’t take it out for a spin, there are a number of major issues that you can see just by opening the hood and kicking the tires.

Even if you’re strongly opposed to putting in extra effort, the two costliest defects can be found just by looking around the vehicle. If you’re going to sham, at least check to see if there are any fluids leaking or if the tires are filled.

MIGHTY CULTURE

America’s Got Talent is collaborating with We Are The Mighty to give you a special chance to audition

Calling all singers, dancers, performers and musicians! If you’ve ever thought about auditioning for AGT, now’s the time! This year, America’s Got Talent auditions are going virtual. We know our military community has lots of talent and are ecstatic to offer an audition opportunity for WATM readers, veterans, military spouses, and active duty service members. 

Not sure if you have what it takes? Check out this list of military community members who made it pretty far. Take a look at their auditions  to help you prepare yours.  

(America’s Got Talent)

Season 3

Daniel Jens is a native of Milwaukee. He joined the Army after 9/11 and deployed to Iraq in 2006 with the 1st Cavalry Division. He auditioned for Season 3 with Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be,” while playing the guitar. Despite forgetting the song’s lyrics during the Vegas Round, Jens advanced to the Top 40 Quarterfinal, where he sang The Police’s “Every Breath You Take.” Jens was eliminated in Part 1 of the Semifinals after performing Lonestar’s “I’m Already There.” 

(America’s Got Talent)

Season 8

American Military Wives Choir, previously known as Homefire, helped give military spouses a voice through music. Their first single, “The Promise,” was commissioned by famed Producer David Foster and written by Charlie Midnight (“Living In America”), Jay Landers (head of A&R for Universal Music) and Bernie Herms (writer and producer for Natalie Grant).

The group came together after rigorous and quick casting at the request of Foster, who had a performance scheduled at the Kennedy Center and wanted to include a choir of military wives. Foster contacted CAMMO (The Center For Military Music Opportunities), and they quickly answered the call with an exhaustive search. The day after they met – and with only one rehearsal – these spouses found themselves on the Kennedy Center stage with Jewel, Chaka Khan and Chris Botti as the finale to a star-studded show of David Foster and Friends.

AWM auditioned for season 8 with a choral version of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” The group made it to Week 2 Semifinals but didn’t receive enough votes to be sent to the finals. 

(America’s Got Talent)

Season 12 

In the Stairwell was formed in 2004 by a group of freshmen at the Air Force Academy. Because of their rigorous coursework and other duties, the group could only sing “in the stairwell” – which is how the group got their name. The a cappella group was featured on Season 12. Now an official club at the Air Force Academy, cadets have dedicated time to practice each week. In the Stairwell’s audition was One Direction’s “Drag Me Down.” The judge’s reactions to the audition were mixed, but ultimately the group got enough yes votes to move forward in the competition. The group was cut in Week 2 of the semifinals

(America’s Got Talent)

Season 14

Voices of Service were a vocal group act from Season 14 of AGT. They finished the competition in 5th place overall and returned to AGT: The Champions 2, where they were unfortunately eliminated in the primaries. Voices of Service includes Master Sgt. Caleb Green, Staff Sgt. Ron Henry, Sgt. Maj. Christal Rheams, and Sergeant First Class Jason Hanna. Voices of Service represents the diversity and excellence within our military and veteran communities and is an inspiring example for the nation that they serve, have served and continue to service through music. They have performed at the Canadian Embassy, American Legion Convention, the Joining Forces event at Vice President Joe Biden’s home, and many more. Check out their audition video to get some ideas of what the judges might be looking for this season. 

A special submissions portal has been created for all WATM readers and will go live November 10. Be sure to follow our Facebook page to see FAQs and get the live link! Casting producers will be reviewing these submissions to select the right person to appear in a live remote virtual audition and the chance to participate in Season 16 of this hit show. 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Is it actually important to stay conscious when injured?


Mandy R. asks: In movies they always act like it’s important for a person to stay conscious when they’ve been seriously injured. Does that really help someone live?

We’ve all seen movie scenes where someone is seriously injured and slowly drifting in and out of consciousness. Someone else there will inevitably yell something like, “Stay with me DAMMIT!!!” It’s even sometimes explicitly stated that it’s important for the person to stay awake to keep the Grim Reaper away. Towards this end, the person with them may even be shown to slap the person in the face and/or shake them in an attempt to keep them conscious. This all brings us to the question of the hour — will staying conscious provide any benefit to someone who is seriously injured as depicted almost universally by Hollywood?

Well, no, not really.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

In fact, unconsciousness may even mildly help in some cases. For example, one study, Tightly coupled brain activity and cerebral ATP metabolic rate, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, showed when rats were intentionally knocked out, they produced about 50% fewer ATP molecules. (ATP being the energy that cells use to perform all their vital functions.) The net result of all of this was about a 66% reduction in energy requirements by the brain — potentially a very good thing if your body is already low on the necessary resources to keep on keeping on.

That said, there is one caveat here — being awake while you’re potentially succumbing to your demise can be very helpful for a medical provider in some cases. Namely, if it’s not obvious what’s wrong with you, you being able to communicate the cause of your situation, the specifics of the pain you’re in, or any pertinent history of the problem will help them more easily figuring out the best way to treat you as rapidly as possible, which may make all the difference.

However, other than those benefits, when it comes to staying alive, being conscious isn’t a requirement in any way. Further, your level of consciousness and the change in it actually guides how an emergency provider will treat you, via the Glasgow Coma Scale.

First published by neurosurgery professors Graham Teasdale and Bryan Jennett in 1974 from the University of Glasgow, the scale is used to describe how impaired someone’s consciousness actually is. It assesses a patient according to three general criteria: four parts for eye-opening, five parts for verbal response, and six parts for motor response.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators
Giphy

As an example, we have the commonly known phrase in emergency medicine “A GCS less than 8, intubate”. This basically just means that if your score is less than 8, your chance of maintaining your own airway for breathing is so low that it is recommended, and generally an extremely good idea, to stick a tube into the patient’s trachea and take over breathing for them.

Should someone have a score of 14 (confused, but otherwise normal), then all of the sudden have a score of 9 (the level at which Hollywood would have you slapping them incessantly), this would indicate a significant thing just happened and the provider will need to re-evaluate the treatment strategy and confirm or disprove what they think is going on.

Now, given that understanding the vast number of things that can cause someone to become unconscious will only illustrate one of them by putting you all into an incredibly deep sleep, let’s instead just talk about the high level generalities of the two main causes of unconsciousness pertinent to the topic at hand. When someone is potentially dying, it’s because of one of two things — traumatic injury or medical issue.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Photo by Tomás Del Coro)

Looking at the source of most Hollywood movie plot-line unconsciousness, trauma, the two main things that will make you become unresponsive are exsanguination (bleeding out) and traumatic brain injury.

In the former case, if you were able to stay awake when bleeding to death, you simply would naturally — slapping or shaking not needed, nor beneficial. Why? Anytime you’re seriously injured you’re naturally going to have your sympathetic nervous system releasing epinephrine, nor-epinephrine, and dopamine. These hormones will do things like increase your heart rate and constrict your blood vessels and pupils. This results in the greatest amount of blood flow to your brain possible given the circumstances.

Along with this, whether conscious or not, your baroreceptors also continue doing their thing. Residing in an area of your carotid sinus (the beginning of your internal carotid artery) and in the arch of your aortic artery, these handy little mechanoreceptors sense a change in blood pressure and cause the body to react accordingly. Too high a pressure and it will inhibit your fight or flight nervous system (sympathetic). This allows acetylcholine, the main neurotransmitter for your rest and digest nervous system (parasympathetic) to slow down your body’s heart rate and dilate its blood vessels, thereby decreasing your blood pressure.

On the flip side, if they sense too little pressure, like when your precious blood volume is being spilled onto the ground, it will stimulate your sympathetic nervous system to increase its heart rate and constrict blood vessels, raising your blood pressure.

Thus, slapping that person in the face and yelling at them to “Stay with from the light!!!”, will likely only see the medical professionals who arrive slap you in the face for potentially further injuring someone who is already barely clinging to life. That’s not to mention that while you were doing that, you were not doing what you should have been doing — applying direct pressure on the area of bleeding, which is easier and requires far less pressure than you might think to stop the bleeding, even for arterial bleeds.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators
Giphy

And it’s not like direct pressure is rocket surgery. It involves simply taking your hand (hopefully gloved, or with some sort of barrier device to prevent the spread of disease) and placing it directly over the wound. Apply enough force to stop the bleeding. Even in the worst types of bleeding, you won’t need more than 3-4 pounds per square inch or about 27 kPa.

You should also have tried to immobilize any body part that looks out of place, so as not to have its movement cause any more damage. Thus, shaking or slapping the individual in a vain attempt to keep them conscious for… reasons we guess… is a bit counterproductive.

Moving on, should the cause of the unconsciousness be a traumatic brain injury (TBI), like a concussion or a bleed in the brain, slapping the person will at best do nothing and may well serve to make the injury worse. Further, shaking or slapping someone with a TBI also comes with the potential risk of damaging their spinal cord.

Moving on to medical reasons for an altered level of consciousness, the causes are vast and can be difficult to nail down. There isn’t always an obvious reason like in trauma where you might see the bullet holes or the bones sticking out of the skin. In fact, there are so many that emergency medical providers use handy little acronyms like AEIOU-TIPS to make sure they’re thinking about all the potential causes when they’re treating you.

  • A= things like alcohol and acidosis.
  • E=things like epilepsy, electrolyte abnormalities and encephalopathies.
  • I= infection (infection being the #1 cause of altered mental status in the elderly).
  • O=things like overdose or oxygen deficiency.
  • U= things like underdosing of medications or uremia.
  • T=trauma or tumors.
  • I= insulin problems like in the case of diabetes.
  • P= things like poisons or psychosis
  • S= things like stroke or shock.

In any of these cases and so many more, the only thing forcing the person to stay awake will do is allow them to give a better history on what is potentially causing their problem. This can be incredibly helpful at speeding up optimal treatment. But it isn’t specifically going to help reverse the actual issue as is usually depicted in cinema, nor is your shaking or slapping going to aid at keeping them conscious anyway. Just like in trauma, in all of these cases, the body already has compensatory mechanisms in place that will keep the person conscious if it can.

In the end, knowing a person’s body is already doing everything it can to stay away from the light, maybe instead of slapping them, just remember — direct pressure, immobilization, call for emergency medical aid, and, when all else fails, just lean down, smile, and say, “Look at me. We’re gonna be okay. You can rest now…” And maybe throw in a “I love you 3,000” just for good measure. You never know, it might just be your last chance to say it.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

7 ways Navy SEALs overcome sleep deprivation

Growing evidence suggests that poor sleep habits harm our health, our relationships, and even our jobs. So if you’re having trouble sleeping, then it’s time to get back to the basics — military style.

Special operators, who are sent on the US military’s most dangerous assignments, must sleep when they can and often face extreme sleep deprivation to complete their missions. Whether you’re a new parent, have a stressful job, or are dealing with a difficult situation, there’s a lot you can learn from these elite operators.


To get a sense of how to sleep like a champ in the worst situations, we pored over sleep techniques for special operators and interviewed a former Navy SEAL who trains pro athletes, firefighters, and police tactical teams on how they maximize their performance.

“There’s not a harder job out there than being a mom or dad, working or stay at home,” said Adam La Reau, who spent 12 years as a Navy SEAL and is a cofounder of O2X Human Performance, a company that trains and advises groups from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Boston Fire Department. “There’s definitely a sleep debt that could occur over time.”

Small tweaks to your routine — what La Reau called “1% changes” in a March 19, 2019 phone interview — will make a huge difference to your sleep.

These are the basics of sleep boot camp. Know these before you nod off.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

An airman catches some zzz’s on a C-17 Globemaster flight.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

Have a presleep game plan.

“It’s like a warm-up routine you do for a work out,” La Reau said. He then ticked off a list of do-nots: eat within two hours before bed, stare at bright lights, or start playing “Fortnite.”

During this time, La Reau suggests activities that will calm your nerves, maybe reading, meditation, listening to music, or dimming the lights.

Definitely: turn off your electronics.

TV watchers, e-tablet readers, “Fortnight” gamers — “They’re getting crushed with light,” La Reau, whose O2X team includes a half-dozen sleep scientists. “And that’s just going to disrupt their circadian rhythm, it’s going to trick your body into thinking it’s day and your body should be up.”

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

La Reau recommends writing a daily list to help you mentally prepare for the next day.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

Put together a list or a reminder of what you need to do the next day.

We all have a lot going on, especially new parents. La Reau says you need to tackle that head-on.

In the hours before bed, put together a list or reminder of what you need to do the next day.

“Every time I go home, I have a list of what I need to do the next day … I feel like I’m prepared when I wake up in the morning,” La Reau said. “I know exactly what I’m going to do, and I sleep better at night for it.”

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Aerobic exercise boosts the amount of rejuvenating deep sleep you receive, according to researchers at the John Hopkins Center for Sleep.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

Exercise is important, but do it well before bedtime.

Obviously. These are Navy SEALs.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

The Navy SEALs’ Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training is notoriously exhausting.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

Sleep when you can.

One military sleep manual advises special operators to use the lulls in combat to nap. “Uninterrupted sleep for as little as 10 minutes may partially recover alertness,” the Naval Health Research Center report said.

A nap can boost your energy but don’t zonk out too close to your bedtime, La Reau said.

“Naps are really helpful, and any sleep is better than no sleep at all,” La Reau said. “When the baby takes a nap, that could be a good time for you to take a nap.”

Just think of it as a lull in combat.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Set yourself up for nighttime right.

(US Army photo by Scott T. Sturkol)

Get a high-quality mattress, black-out shades, and a white-noise machine.

“The bedroom should be a sanctuary for sleeping and relaxation and recovery, it’s not to be used as an accessory or a work station,” La Reau said.

He suggests black-out shades, a white-noise machine, and a quality mattress.

“Sleeping on a high-quality mattress is the best investment you’ll ever make,” he said.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Light from devices such as your phone can delay the release of the hormone melatonin, which regulates when you’re tired.

(Photo illustration by Senior Airman Destinee Sweeney)

Put away that phone. Seriously.

It’s not just because of that blue light, either. It’s about stress. You want to use the two hours before bed to relax and unwind — not get yourself worried.

“If you’re going to check your email and you realize you have 10 emails — that doesn’t help you be very settled at night,” La Reau said.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Recognize when you’re exhausted and ask others to help you.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

Sleep can be a team sport.

An exhausted parent needs to recognize it and call in reinforcements: friends, family, or their partner.

“I think there’s opportunities to have those open and honest conversations,” La Reau said. “Be like, ‘You know, I’ve got a huge meeting tomorrow, I’m on a long period of travel, I’ve got a lot going on,’ or someone’s just completely exhausted.”

“‘Let me take care of all issues that come up with the kids tonight.'”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

General mandates daily routine after seeing sloppy, unshaven Marines

After becoming exasperated with evidence of low discipline and sloppy appearances, a two-star general overseeing most East Coast-based ground combat Marines has fired off a policy letter mandating when troops must wake up, clean, and eat each day.

The April 16 policy letter, signed by Maj. Gen. David Furness, commanding general of 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, expresses concern that the Marines within the division have let their standards slide.

“In my travels with the Sergeant Major and Command Master Chief throughout the Division spaces, I have noticed a significant decline in the basic discipline of our warriors,” Furness wrote. “Because the 2nd Marine Division has the majority of personnel assigned to Camp Lejeune, we will take ownership of this problem and FIX IT immediately.”


How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Staff Sgt. Christian Fuentes motivates recruits with Company F, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, as he moves down the rows during the senior drill instructor inspection at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Aug. 23, 2013.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Benjamin E. Woodle)

2nd Marine Division is one of three active-duty Marine divisions worldwide and is made up of some 20,000 troops.

The division public affairs office confirmed that a policy letter had been disseminated.

Furness wrote that he has seen Marines and sailors with 2nd Marine Division walking around with long hair, “nonexistent or poor shaves,” worn-out boots and inappropriate civilian attire.

“There are weeds growing around our buildings and work spaces and trash everywhere but the dumpsters where it belongs,” he wrote. “These are just a few examples of the lack of discipline seen across the board that will not be tolerated in this Division any longer.”

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Recruits of India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, conduct pull-ups during a physical training event at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Dec. 28.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Angelica I. Annastas)

He detailed a 24-hour “basic daily routine” that he said he expects every single Marine and sailor in the division to follow, beginning with division-wide reveille every morning at 5:30 a.m.

From 5:35 to 6 a.m., troops are expected to conduct hygiene activities and room clean-up, leaving “blinds half-mast,” according to the order. Physical training and barracks common area clean-up will follow from 6 to 8 a.m. Mandatory platoon or company formations and inspections will happen from 8 to 8:15 before the workday begins. Troops are allowed an hour to eat from noon to 1 p.m. and then must wrap up the day with another formation, from 4:30 to 4:45 p.m.

Furness appealed to the troops’ identity as Marines in asking them to embrace the regimented schedule.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Marines with India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, wait to march onto Peatross Parade Deck during a graduation ceremony aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., April 13, 2012. The graduation ceremony consisted of five platoons from India Company.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Aneshea Yee)

“Part of what makes us different from our sister services and American society is the regimentation of our daily lives,” he wrote. “Adherence to orders and standards helps foster mutual trust in one another and produces the attention to detail required to be effective when called upon to fight as our nation’s 911 Force.”

First Lt. Thomas Kleiber, a division spokesman, said the letter essentially reinforces practices that are already in place.

“Obviously, the letter is an internal document and commanders reserve the right to direct their units as they see fit,” Kleiber told Military.com. “Commanders have the authority and responsibility to direct their units in the way that it feels appropriate and promotes mission accomplishment. I don’t think this order is unusual in its attempt to accomplish that.”

It’s not immediately clear how the daily routine will apply to Marines who live off-base or outside the barracks, although Furness does note that unit leaders will be able to modify the routine based on obligations. It’s also not fully clear whether the routine applies only to weekdays, although it appears to. What is clear is that there are stiff consequences for Marines who don’t fall in line.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Marines with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin form up around Brig. Gen. John Frewen, 1st Brigade commanding general and senior Australian Defence Force officer for Robertson Barracks, to listen to him speak about expectations with the rotation, April 11.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Scott Reel/Released)

“Any dissenters can answer to myself, the Division [sergeant major] or the [command master chief] and will be dealt with accordingly. Can each of you live up to the mantra of ‘If I was accused of being a Marine/Sailor today, would there be enough evidence to convict me?'” Furness wrote. “At this time across our force I believe the answer for many is no, and it needs to be corrected immediately.”

While it’s fairly uncommon for a senior military official to get involved in the minutia of troops’ daily routines, it’s not without precedent.

In 2013, Army Command Sgt. Major Dale Perez, the senior enlisted soldier at the Army National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, fired off a sharply worded Facebook post aimed at troops and family members on base, particularly those who shopped at the commissary, demanding they clean up after themselves.

“Take your garbage and shop off post if you can’t pick up after yourself,” he wrote.

Furness, who took command of 2nd Marine Division last August, is a career infantry officer who joined the Marine Corps in 1987 after graduating from the Virginia Military Institute. He has led Marines on deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and his awards include two Bronze Stars with combat distinguishing device, according to his official military biography.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with comment from 2nd Marine Division.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Could Russia invade Eastern Europe and win?

The folks over at The Infographics Show have asked a question that’s come up repeatedly over the last few years: If NATO and Russia actually get into a full-on war, could Russia successfully invade Eastern Europe and hold it for its own use or use it as a bargaining chip for greater power at the peace table?


Can Russia Invade Europe?

www.youtube.com

(Jump to 6:30 in the video to skip the intro and political discussions and go straight to the potential military campaigns.)

For countries that were part of the U.S.S.R., this can be a true, existential threat. Ukraine used the be the heart of Russia’s shipbuilding industry, but most of the country doesn’t want to return to Russian rule. And Estonia first earned its independence in 1918, but then spent decades under Nazi and Soviet rule during and after World War II. It’s not exactly nostalgic for that period.

And with Russia becoming even more aggressive than it was in the already-tense last few years, countries both inside and outside of NATO are looking westward for strength and comfort.

So, if Russia goes from seizing Ukrainian ships on the Sea of Azov to seizing cities in Lithuania and Latvia, what happens next?

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

On a rural highway in northern Estonia, a pilot flies an A-10 Thunderbolt II from Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, while practicing austere landings and take offs during the Exercise Saber Strike 18 on June 7, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. David Kujawa)

In their video above, The Infographics Show postulates that Russia will attempt to seize Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia before invading Finland, Sweden, and Norway. NATO has openly practiced for just this scenario, but Russia would enjoy large advantages in the early days of such a conflict.

While the U.S. military is much larger and more technologically capable than Russia’s, it would take weeks or months to build sufficient strength in Europe for NATO to seize back the territory if Russia was successful in its early drives. In the meantime, Russia would build up its defenses in seized territory, just like it did when it grabbed Crimea from Ukraine.

The real question at this point becomes one of political will and nuclear brinkmanship. Crimea is part of Ukraine, which is not a member of NATO, so fighting a resurgent Russia for it would’ve required a lot of political will from nations that weren’t obligated to protect it.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

American and European tanks wait for their turn to compete in Operation Iron Tomahawk, a shoot-off between tank crews in Latvia.

(U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Haynes)

Fighting for Estonia, on the other hand, is a requirement for NATO, but it still takes a lot of political will to send American tankers to Europe. And Russia may seek the peace table right as NATO builds sufficient combat power, offering to give back territory in some countries if it can keep what it’s already gained.

See the video above to see how one situation, an invasion of Eastern Europe and the Baltics, in which Russia seeks to gain some territory and then end the fighting.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials

In the aftermath, and from the ashes of Dec. 7, 1941, which propelled the United States into World War II, rose a new call and opportunity to serve in the Navy, the Naval Construction Battalions. Today, they are known as Seabees.

At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Navy used civilian contractors to construct and support bases and other locations. However, with an increasing need to be able to defend and resist against military attacks, civilians could no longer be used. According to the Seabee Museum and Memorial Park, under international law it was illegal to arm civilians and have them resist the enemy. “If they did they could be executed as guerrillas.” On Jan. 5, 1942, Rear Adm. Ben Moreell received approval to organize the Naval Construction Force. In a matter of days, the first naval construction unit deployed.


Today, with seven rates ranging from Builder (BU) to Engineering Aide (EA) to Utilitiesman (UT), Seabees are a fully-functioning construction crew. They are strategically placed, ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, and able to build, erect and salvage in various types of environments. Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 303 Detachment Pearl Harbor is one such unit.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Construction Electrician 3rd Class Mitchell Labree, a Sailor assigned to Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303 detachment Hawaii, measures a wooden beam in order to build a shipping crate for a piece of steel salvaged from the USS Arizona.

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

CBMU 303 Detachment Pearl Harbor has the unique opportunity to assist and service the land from which they were birthed. One of their current projects is assisting Jim Neuman, History and Heritage Outreach Manager at Commander Navy Region Hawaii, and his team with the USS Arizona Relics Program.

“The USS Arizona Relics Program was born in 1995 when Congress authorized the Navy to move pieces of the wreckage out to educational institutions and not-for-profit organizations,” said Neuman.

The program is currently focusing on a part of the Arizona that was removed in the 1950’s due to corrosion and safety concerns. Before its removal it acted as a foundation for a makeshift platform where visitors to the Arizona could stand and where ceremonies could be conducted. It was a precursor to the white memorial structure known and visited today.

The Seabees and Neuman have taken on the responsibility to cut sections of the previously removed portion of the Arizona and ship them to various approved locations.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Steelworker 3rd Class Cameron Fields, crew leader at Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303 detachment Hawaii, cuts a piece of steel salvaged from the USS Arizona.

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

“Mostly people come to us. We have a lot of Pearl Harbor survivors that know about this [effort],” said Neuman. “They will reach out to local museums and share what they would like to see. As long as you are a legitimate educational institution or not-for-profit and the piece will be on public display, you can acquire a piece.”

A sentiment both the Seabees and Neuman have in common is the need to share a piece of history with others.

“Because of the amount of time [the section] has been out here, we want to make sure we get as much of it out to the public as possible,” said Neuman. “It doesn’t help for it to sit here and no one get a chance to see it.”

Builder 1st Class Christian Guzman, attached to CBMU 303 Detachment Pearl Harbor, who has helped lead the Seabees in this project, appreciates the opportunity for he and his team to recover sections for the public worldwide.

“We have a special tie to Pearl Harbor and World War II because that’s how we began. It is of historical significance that we, as Seabees, are able to work on the USS Arizona,” said Guzman.

Neuman explained that the Seabees were the obvious choice when considering how to satisfy the different request through the program.

“It is Navy history, Navy legacy, so it made sense that if we were going to have somebody actually cutting pieces of the [Arizona] wreckage we should have the Seabees do it,” said Neuman. “Because of their legacy, what they do historically and their mission, they have enthusiastically embraced it, which I really appreciate.”

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Steelworker 3rd Class Cameron Fields, crew leader at Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303 detachment Hawaii, cuts a piece of steel salvaged from the USS Arizona.

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

To date, the Seabees of CBMU 303 Detachment Pearl Harbor have completed three phases of the project. Those phases consisted of cutting and shipping out various sized pieces to: Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in Arizona, the Panhandle War Memorial in Texas, and the World War II Foundation in Rhode Island.

They are currently working on phase four which will be shipped to the Imperial War Museum in London, England.

“Britain was an ally in World War II. When the Empire of Japan surrendered on Sept. 2, 1945, on the USS Missouri, they didn’t only surrender to the U.S. they surrendered to the allies as well. They all signed the document so I’m thrilled that the museum sees the significance,” said Neuman. “They want to tell the whole story of World War II, not just the part they played. Visitors to the museum will be able to see part of the USS Arizona, and I think that’s great.”

The Seabees and Neuman will continue to partner together, work on the removed section of the Arizona and ship pieces out until there is nothing left.

The Seabees are proud to be a part of this undertaking as well as other jobs they execute around the island of Oahu.

“We have a whole spectrum of skill sets. This project only showcases a snippet of our diverse capabilities,” stated Guzman.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 reasons that soldiers get jealous of airmen

Fine, we’ll admit it. Soldiers do sometimes get jealous of airmen. Not because of their warfighting prowess, which is acceptable at best. And not because of their uniforms — oh, you’re finally switching out those ridiculous stripes for OCPs? Congrats.

No, in addition to them getting respect and fair treatment from their leadership, they also get all the perks. You know, like these six things:


How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Air Force food. Fresh ingredients. Healthy options. Disgusting.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Emily Kenney)

Quality food

It’s common knowledge that the best food on a joint Army-Air Force base is almost always in the Air Force dining facility. And, when the Air Force runs a major terminal on a base, they’ll often have a 24-hour DFAC. They can often eat better at 3 a.m. than the Army can during a standard meal.

All so a bunch of paper-pushers and wrench-turners (and the occasional pilot) are happy.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

An Air Force barracks in Germany. Snotty bastards.

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Joshua Joseph Magbanua)

Awesome barracks

Actually, they don’t even call them “barracks” anymore. Officially, airmen live in “dorms” now, some of which have theater and game rooms, and most of which have free WiFi. Meanwhile, the Army usually has access to internet, but there’s usually only one option on base, and you can bet that geographic monopoly limits their give-a-damn when people complain.

So, yeah, single life in one service is demonstrably better than the other. So much so that the Air Force offers…

…money for living in Army conditions

Yeah, the Air Force gives their dudes’ money if they have to reside in “unfit quarters” — which applies to airmen in Army living spaces. This author trained in a multi-service school run by the Army. The Air Force got the best barracks at the school, but were the only service that got money every month for having to live in such decrepit conditions.

Decrepit conditions that the other four branches just had to deal with.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

These airmen are travelling to Germany. Notice how they’re happy? Wish the Army had that.

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Lindsey Watson-Kirwin)

Actual international travel

Sure, Marines and Navy get to travel the world, too, but the Air Force gets preferred slots during Space-A travel, getting first dibs on open seats anywhere that an Air Force plane is already flying. And their bases are truly international, with lots of slots open across the planet. Folks who get a job on an airplane could see a few countries in a single week.

But the Army has relatively few international bases, and it takes a spot of luck to actually get a billet in Korea, Germany, Italy, or somewhere else cool. Most soldiers will train stateside, deploy to the Middle East and Africa, rinse and repeat.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

These guys aren’t even holding rifles. Disgusting.

(U.S. Air Force Kemberly Groue)

Training and experience that translates to the civilian world

The Air Force is basically a corporation, and their training and job duties reflect that fact. While the Army is busy focusing on warfighting skills, like land nav and rifle marksmanship, the Air Force focuses on things employers care about, like professional conduct in office jobs, air control towers, and terminals.

CEOs don’t care if a soldier can shoot the wings off of a fly, because that’s not something businesses do. But they do care whether you can write an email without calling anyone f*cker. Too bad, soldiers.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Ryan Hall at the Community College of the Air Force. Yes. The Air Force has its own college.

(U.S. Air Force)

Community college built into the service

Ugh, but the worst is that whole Community-College-of-the-Air-Force thing. Yes, it’s an actual community college. And yes, it helps airmen get actual degrees — usually associate degrees in applied sciences. Army training gets you, at best, some elective credits in a real degree program.

But the Air Force kids get actual college credits and a whole community college to help them turn those credits into degrees.

Oh, well. At least all the branches get the G.I. Bill.

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

The ultimate list of military song playlists

For many people, music is a form of therapy. A song can help you get through tough times, great times, or just get you through the day. So we’ve put together the ultimate list of music playlists that are perfect for those in the military. Whether you’re child just left for basic training, your spouse deployed, or you’re just looking for some great patriotic music – here are some of the perfect military song playlists.


In Honor of Our Fallen Protectors – Memorial Day Tribute

Memorial Day is often times misinterpreted as a celebratory holiday, but for many it’s a very solemn day filled with heavy hearts. While Memorial Day marks the unofficial to summer and a season of fun, this is a great military song playlist to remind us all the importance of Memorial Day and those that made the ultimate sacrifice.

Country Music 101: The Military

If you love country music and you love the USA, then both of these playlists are for you. Both playlists feature a mix of oldies and new songs that are sure to bring out the red, white, and blue in you.

4th of July Party

Summer is practically here which means outdoor bbqs, late night bonfires, and enjoying the outdoors. This playlist is perfect for a laid back relaxed day in the sun with a mix all of different genres from pop, country, alternative, and rock.

Tacticool

Looking for the perfect playlist to hit the gym with? Whether you’re preparing for military basic training or looking to keep up your physical fitness this playlist is sure to get you in the mindset for ultimate strength building. This playlist features rock and alternative music.

Letters From Home

Writing letters to someone at basic training? This military song playlist will give you all the feels as you write letters to your recruit.

Basic Training Graduation

Graduation ceremonies might be canceled, but that doesn’t mean you have to pass on celebrating your new service member’s accomplishment. This playlist is the perfect mix of songs to get you in the celebration mood.

Looking for more playlists? Spotify is a great place to browse.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

One hundred seventy-four miles may sound like a lot of ground to cover in one week, but to Lisa Hallett it’s minuscule compared to the 174 women who lost their lives in overseas combat since Sept. 11, 2001.

“I think women in service show an uncommon courage,” said Hallett, co-founder and executive director of wear blue: run to remember — a nonprofit dedicated to honoring the sacrifice of U.S. military members. “Their willingness to step into a man’s world, lead with conviction and have an impact on the success of our armed forces — I’m so in awe of that bravery.”

In conjunction with Women’s History Month and the 399,458 current-serving military women, Hallett and wear blue’s staff launched the inaugural Piestewa Challenge — a worldwide collective effort to pay tribute to the nation’s 174 fallen women. Kicking off Tuesday, March 23, the challenge invites groups of four to eight people to jointly run, walk, swim, kayak, bike or any other motion in completing 174 total team miles by March 30.

“Any movement counts!” Hallett said. “There is so much we can’t control in our lives, especially right now, but we can always do something intentional for ourselves, our communities and these women.”

The Piestewa Challenge is named after Army Spc. Lori Piestewa, the first Native American service member to be killed in combat on foreign soil and the first military woman to be killed in Iraq. March 23, the day the challenge launches, is the 18th anniversary of her passing in Nasiriyah. The symbolic starting line begins near Piestewa Peak in Arizona and ends 174 miles later — a location not far from Piestewa’s hometown of Tuba City on Navajo Nation.

Anyone — man, woman or child — can participate in any location. Hallett, herself a Gold Star wife after losing her husband John in Afghanistan in 2009, recommends joining the challenge not to check off another item on a to-do list, but as “a gift to ourselves and each other.”

“Here is a really simple way we can come together and connect as a military family,” she said. “When we remember the past, say these women’s names, we show the present how we will care for each other in the good and the bad in the future.”

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

The Piestewa Challenge is free and has already registered more than 1,500 athletes, although Hallett, an ultramarathon runner and Ironman participant, hopes for 5,000. Participants can join teams with names like “Hot Steppers” and “Wild Wicked Women” and log miles through Racery, a virtual race platform. Registration is available online.

The challenge is more than just lonely exercising. Athletes can begin the 174 miles with the “Piestewa Challenge National Circle of Remembrance” online Tuesday morning. The virtual ceremony will specifically honor Piestewa with a blessing from the Hopi people, her tribe, as well as reading aloud the 173 names of her fallen sisters. Additionally, wear blue will send emails throughout the week, each containing stories of soldiers, airmen, Marines, and sailors killed over the last two decades.

Many of the women’s family members are playing active roles in the challenge.

“It means so much that their loved one is not forgotten and that they do not remember alone,” Hallett said. “These women’s families have, in many ways, carried the weight of their service, and there is so much inspiration in witnessing each family’s courage and how they persevere.”

Hallett and her staff will be running on team “Run, Honor, Belong.” With each mile, she says, they will be thinking of each woman in the club of 174.

“This is an opportunity for the nation to turn the words, ‘Thank you for your service’ into tangible, meaningful action,” she said. “We’re going to carry with intention their legacies in our steps.”

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

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