Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

While deployed to East Africa as a member of the 4th Combat Camera Squadron, US Air Force Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg sought to create a unique illustration series inspired by his time in the region. Looking around the combat camera office, he found an old box of Meals, Ready to Eat. He mined the MREs for their instant coffee packets and used the supplies in the pack to mix up his “paint.”

“Coffee works pretty similar to watercolor,” Lundborg said. “It uses a value system to get different tones, so you just saturate the water more or less to achieve the tones you want.”


Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

Air Force Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg works on MRE-coffee paintings in 2019 outside his combat camera unit’s headquarters in East Africa. Photo courtesy of Corban Lundborg

Lundborg said he started experimenting with how the coffee took to paper and ink, and after some time, he came up with a series of works inspired by his environment and experiences in East Africa.

Most of the paintings are scenes or equipment Lundborg used or traveled in. He painted some of the aircraft that flew him to and from different locations and missions and gifted the works to members of the aviation units. Among his subjects were a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, a lion, a Nikon film camera, a skull, and a calligraphed “Merry Christmas” card.

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

Lundborg painted this “Merry Christmas” card in December 2018 and sent a photograph of the piece home to his mom and dad in Minneapolis. He later gave the original away in a raffle at an art party at Amp Rehearsal in Hollywood. Photo courtesy of Corban Lundborg

The sepia tones of the paintings and their ragged, burnt edges tell a story of the conflict and the creative necessity from which they were born. Central to the works is Lundborg’s impulse to create and the austere conditions that inspired him to experiment with a new medium.

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been drawing on stuff and making art,” said the Minneapolis native. “I think just about every day of the week, I’m doing something creative. I try not to go a day without doing some kind of art.”

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

Lundborg gifted this painting of an HH-60 Pave Hawk to the aviation squadron that supported operations during his East Africa deployment. Photo courtesy of Corban Lundborg

Lundborg said his parents were supportive of his artistic inclinations and creative adventures. He started out as a graffiti artist back in Minneapolis.

“I was kind of an angsty teen and was always looking to get into trouble,” he said. “I kind of ran with a bad group of friends and got into some legal trouble for vandalism and other minor crimes. The military provided the means I was looking for to get out of the city.”

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

Lundborg surrounded by his work at Amp Rehearsal in Hollywood, where he was commissioned to paint works throughout the building. Photo courtesy of Corban Lundborg

As a young airman working in supply and logistics, Lundborg was assigned to Osan Air Base in South Korea. He found his way into a tattoo apprenticeship and picked up another means of artistic expression.

“When I got to Korea and got the apprenticeship, the Korean artists took me in and showed me what art life was all about,” he said. “I started doing tattoos for other service members in the dorms overseas. These days, I mostly just kind of tattoo myself.”

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

Lundborg works on a Bob Marley mural at Amp Rehearsal in November 2019. Photo courtesy of Corban Lundborg

After a year in Korea, he was sent to Aviano Air Base in Italy, where he spent his days “counting aircraft screws, doing inventories, snowboarding in the Alps every weekend, and hitting all the major cities in Europe.”

After four years in an active-duty job he didn’t care for, Lundborg transferred to the Air Force Reserves and went home to Minneapolis, where he attended the Minneapolis College of Art and Design for a year before dropping out.

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

A lion and a Nikon film camera were among Lundborg’s subjects. Photo courtesy of Corban Lundborg

“In college I discovered I don’t really like art theory and history,” he said. “I just like making art, and I still consider myself mostly self-taught.”

When a slot for a photographer opened up on his reserve base, Lundborg jumped at the chance to retrain into a new specialty. After six months of on-the-job training, the Air Force sent Lundborg to the Basic Photojournalist Course at the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Maryland, in 2015.

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

Lundborg exits a C-130 during his deployment to East Africa in January 2019. Photo courtesy of Corban Lundborg

He was later assigned to the 4th Combat Camera Squadron and deployed to East Africa in 2018 for eight months.

“I took a few brushes with me, but I had to get everything else from the accessory packets in the MREs,” he said of his time in Africa. “I used the plastic spoon to mix the coffee and hold some grounds, and I used matches to burn the edges of the paper and TP to clean the brushes.”

Lundborg self-produced a video of himself working on the MRE-coffee paintings.

CALM Collective | MRE

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He said he picked up a cheap set of watercolors and taught himself to paint with the medium while living in South Africa a few years before his deployment to the continent.

He tends to pick up new mediums with relative ease and excels in whatever creative endeavors he pursues. He earned recognition as Air Force Reserve Photographer of the Year three years in a row, and was selected as Air Force Photographer of the year in 2018.

Acrylic and spray paint are his favorite media, and he often uses them together interchangeably.

A prolific creator, Lundborg is looking ahead to a bright future of doing what he loves. He plans to expand his work in cinema and film production.

“Ideally, I would like to produce, direct, and shoot films,” he said. “But painting is something I will do until the day I die.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons the married service member is just as much a “dependa” as the spouse

The word “Dependa” has often been a derogatory label put on military spouses. The word itself insinuates that they sit on the couch all day collecting the benefits while their service member works hard and risks their lives for this country’s freedoms. There’s an even uglier way of saying that word but that term doesn’t deserve a discussion.

Guess what? The married military member themselves are just as much a “Dependa” as their spouse is. You read that right – turns out in a marriage, it’s supposed to be that way.


The role of a soldier, guardsman, Marine, sailor, airman, or coastie is simple: mission first. The needs of the military will always come before their spouse, children, and really – anything important in their life. This is something that the military family is well aware of and accepts as a part of the military life.

Often the spouse will hear things like, “well, you knew what you signed up for.” Yes, the military spouse is well aware of the sacrifice that comes along with marrying their uniformed service member. But are you?

While the military member is off following orders and doing Uncle Sam’s bidding – the spouse is left with the full weight of managing the home, finances, and carrying the roles of being both parents to the children left behind, waiting. Both depend on each other to make it work – and that’s how it should be. Here are 5 reasons why servicemembers depend on their spouses:

Deployment

When a married service member deploys, they typically leave behind not only a spouse but children as well. While the service member is off focusing on their mission, for many months on end, life at home doesn’t stop just because they are gone. It’s just taken care of by the spouse. Without the home front being handled by the spouse, the service member cannot remain mission-ready or deploy.

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

Even when they are home, they aren’t really home

Just because a service member isn’t currently deployed doesn’t mean they are completely present for the family. Between training exercises, TDY’s, and the needs of the service, they are never really guaranteed to be home and of help to the military spouse. Military spouses face a 24% unemployment rate due to a number of factors like frequent moves but also lack of childcare. Did you know 72% of military spouses cannot find reliable childcare for their children?

The PCS struggle is real

The military family will move every 2-3 years, that’s a given. While the military member is busy doing check-outs and ins – the spouse is typically handling all of the things that come along with moving.

  • Organizing for the PCS
  • Researching the new duty station area for best places to live, work (if they can even find employment), and good schools for the children
  • Gathering copies of all the medical records
  • Finding new providers for the family
  • School enrollment
  • Unpacking and starting a whole new life, again
Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

Blanchella Casey, supervisory librarian, reads the book, “Big Smelly Bear” to preschool children at the library as part of Robins Air Force Base’ summer programming.

U.S. Air Force

Unit support

Many of the support programs for the military are run off the backs of volunteers – the military spouses, to be exact. The Family Readiness Group (Army and Navy), Key Spouse (Air Force) program, or the Ombudsman (Coast Guard) programs are all dependent on the unpaid time of the military spouse. These programs all serve the same purpose – to serve the unit and support families.

Caregiving

More than 2.5 million United States service members have been deployed overseas since 9/11. Service to this country comes with a lot of personal sacrifice for the military member. Half of them are married, many with children. They leave a lot behind all in the name of freedom. It comes at a heavy price. That service to the country affects every aspect of their lives – including their mental health. Their spouse becomes their secret keeper, counselor, and advocate. 33% of military members and veterans depend on their spouse to be their caregiver.

The military spouse serves their family, community, and are the backbone of support for their military member to have the ability to focus on being mission ready. They are both a “Dependa” to each other and cannot be truly successful without the other’s support – and that’s okay.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to make good coffee in bad places, according to Evan Hafer

Making coffee isn’t strictly relegated to your kitchen or the local coffee shop. People around the world find ways to enjoy a hot brew in high-altitude mountains to the middle of the ocean, and everywhere in-between. A good cup of coffee can make inhospitable conditions more tolerable, but the quality in your cup often suffers without the trappings of your home coffee kit.

Evan Hafer, the CEO of Black Rifle Coffee Company, found a way to make great coffee in one of the most extreme environments on earth: war.


Hafer served as both a U.S. Army Special Forces non-commissioned officer (NCO) and a contractor for the CIA, with assignments that took him to combat zones around the world. Even during the invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003, he found a way to grind and brew his daily dose of caffeine — without sacrificing quality.

Coffee or Die Magazine caught up with Hafer recently to find out about his battle-tested methods for making good coffee in bad places.

It’s Who We Are: Evan Hafer

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Take good coffee beans with you.

During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Hafer took premium coffee with him, and his fellow Special Forces teammates often woke up to the sound of a coffee grinder on the back of their gun truck. “I think we were probably the only ODA to take whole bean, good coffee with us. In the mornings, we would always start the day by grinding fresh coffee,” Hafer said. He recommends finding single-origin, high-altitude beans — he prefers Panamanian or Colombian.

Roast your own beans.

By 2006, Hafer was deploying with the CIA but was surprised to find that the coffee options left a bit to be desired: “You’d think the agency, especially with their kind of gucci reputation, would have amazing coffee. But they didn’t.” So he started roasting in his garage and bringing a duffel bag’s worth of beans overseas with him for his 60-day deployments.

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

Hafer while deployed.

(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)

A french press is good, but pour over is better.

“I did the french press for a long time, until I had broken so many,” Hafer said. “I eventually found a double-walled, stainless steel one and went through quite a few of those because people would literally steal them, they were in such high demand.” These days, Hafer doesn’t leave home without a custom travel pour-over system that he invented that is much more compact than a french press and has simple, durable components.

How to Make Coffee with BRCC Collapsible Pour Over Coffee Device

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Know the boiling point for the altitude you’ll be at.

You typically want your water to be about 200 degrees Fahrenheit before pouring it over the ground coffee, but deciphering water temperature might seem tricky if you don’t have a thermometer. “I know roughly what temperature water is going to boil at based on the elevation; it’s either going to boil faster or slower,” Hafer said. “You don’t have to put a thermometer in it because you’ll know exactly what the temperature is based on the boiling point.” When planning your next trip, go to omnicalculator.com to quickly find the boiling point for your intended elevation.

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

Hafer while deployed.

(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)

Get the right coffee-to-water ratio.

According to Hafer, you want approximately a 1:16 ratio of coffee to water. This roughly breaks down to 1 tablespoon of ground coffee for every one cup of coffee (8 ounces). “I know that by eye because I’ve been doing it for so many years. It’s what you do every day [at home] that will allow you to master making coffee in the field,” Hafer said. “All that skill translates to when you’re in shitty places.”

Don’t be intimidated by the process.

As much as the science and logistics of making a great cup of coffee might deter the average person from going through the effort in austere environments, Hafer emphasized that it’s all very doable — and will only take 10 minutes of your time. “At the end of the day, if you have a hand grinder or maybe you’ve pre-ground some coffee, you got an indestructible pour-over and a means to boil water, you’re gonna make a great cup of coffee.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Special Operations hand-to-hand combat in Vietnam

During the Vietnam War, it became very clear that the U.S. military needed to revise its hand-to-hand training. This was particularly apparent amongst SOF units, especially Army Special Forces, Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRPs), Navy SEALs, and Recon Marines since these units were often sent in small teams deep into enemy territory for extended periods of time.

These types of missions required not just CQB, but silent, quick killing techniques, typically with the knife, garrote, or bare hands. But, again, training remained the “flavor of the month” and it was dependent upon traditional Asian martial arts systems and trial and error lessons learned through field operations. Illustrating that, SF veteran Joe Lenhart said in the 1960s, “In SF if you were around the Hawaiians, you had the opportunity to learn some good MA.”


Lenhart’s comment is a testament to three things: First, the need to tap martial arts talents within units and amongst the ranks, even in SF. Second, the underlying ignorance of, or unfamiliarity with, established Army hand-to-hand training and programming. And third, the richness of Hawaiian martial arts culture, which was due mostly to the Japanese diaspora in the 1920s that scattered Japanese across the U.S. West Coast, Hawaii, and South America.

Jerry Powell, another SF veteran, said, “In Training Group in 1963, and subsequently in the 5th Group, any hand-to-hand training that I saw was pretty much on my own time.” Tom Marzullo, a third SF veteran, said of his time in SF Training Group in 1969, “Hand-to-hand was absent during my SF time and I was deeply disappointed.” In wartime, in all militaries, even in SOF units, training is changed and bars are raised and lowered to meet the manpower needs of the engaged units.

Historically, hand-to-hand training has been one of those things that have always been reduced or cut in order to get more troops trained faster and off to the fight. Another factor of that time was culture and how boys were raised. According to Lenhart:

“Like many or even most [boys] my age [late 60s], we grew up wrestling and boxing with towels wrapped around our fists, had rival school “meetings” every now and then, and there was the county fair that… usually escalated into a scuffle or three. Thing is, back then, when it was over, it was over, at least for a while. Maybe a broken nose, shiner, busted lip, or jammed finger or so was about as bad as it got, except for a few bruised egos. But when the city boys got involved, there would be a couple switch blades and chains produced only to be met with pitchforks and corn cutters and a ball bat or two. Those engagements did not last very long.”

The point is that back in those days, few boys entered adulthood not having been in at least a few fights. American boys in the past fought and wrestled more growing up and thus were more acclimated to and prepared, especially mentally, for hand-to-hand combat. American culture has changed in that respect.

Now it is probably the reverse: Few boys enter adulthood having been in any fights. There are, of course, exceptions. There are still rough neighborhoods and cities. But today, even country kids are more likely to do their fighting in video games than at county fairs or Friday night football games. (Parenthetically, many SF NCOs worry that the same dynamic is eroding innate land navigation skills.)

Here, Bruce Lee and his Jeet Kune Do system deserve mention. He had a major impact on U.S. and international martial arts throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and therefore on military combatives. Lee believed that martial arts had become rigid and unrealistic. He taught that real combat is unpredictable and chaotic and that the fighter or warrior must prepare for that.

Editor’s Note: This article, which was originally published in 2015, is part of a series. You can read part I here, part II here, and part III here.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

1 in 10 homeless adults are veterans – here’s how to help during polar vortex

The polar vortex that’s brought blistering temperatures to many parts of the US, especially states in the Midwest, has already claimed at least 11 lives.

This weather event is life-threatening, especially to folks without proper shelter.

There are a little less than 553,000 homeless people in the US, according to a December 2018 report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and roughly 224 million people nationwide have been hit with below-freezing temperatures.


Chicago, Illinois, alone has a homeless population of roughly 80,000. Temperatures in Chicago dipped to 21 degrees below zero on Jan. 31, 2019.

Veterans account for a disproportionate number of adult homeless people in the US. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, roughly 11 percent of the adult homeless population are veterans.

Deadly polar vortex delivers third day of sub-zero cold

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As much of the nation struggles to keep warm during the polar vortex, here’s how you can help populations that are most at risk.

Call 311 to connect with homeless outreach teams

Many major US cities, including including New York, Chicago, Boston, and Washington, DC, have hotlines under the number 311 you can call if you see someone on the street who might need help. The number can help connect you with homeless outreach teams.

Dialing 211 can also help link people with community services. This service is available to roughly 270 million people, or about 90% of the US population, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Donate clothing and other supplies to emergency shelters

Many homeless people turn up to shelters without proper clothing during a time where a proper coat can make all the difference. If you’re able to, donating warm clothing to local shelters and organizations can be a major help amid extreme weather events and low temperatures.

Click here for help finding donation centers in your area. Many of these organizations are willing to pick up donations from your residence, which you can often schedule online.

Putting together care packages and keeping them in your vehicle to hand out can also be extremely helpful. Warm items like gloves, socks, hats, scarves, and blankets are especially useful, as well as shelf-safe food, Nancy Powers with the Salvation Army’s Chicago Freedom Center told CNN.

A homeless veteran in New York.

There are specific resources for veterans you can direct people to

Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness can call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans, which is available 24/7 and is run by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans can also help you locate local services for veterans. Click here to find an organization in your area.

Donate money to a charity

If you’re able to donate money to a charity for the homeless, a little can go a long way.

Below are over a dozen organizations that were given four out of four stars by Charity Navigator, an independent nonprofit that rates charities based on their financial management and accountability.

Here are links to their websites:

Avenues for Homeless Youth

Coalition for the Homeless

Healthcare for the Homeless

Homeless Connections

Homeless Empowerment Program

Homeless Prenatal Program

Homeless Solutions, Inc.

Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless

The Homeless Families Foundation

Transitions Homeless Recovery Center

Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless

Union Station Homeless Services

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Airmen practice and perfect technical skills, but what resources can they reference when a serious personal issue arises?

The Leadership Development Course taught at Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, seeks to improve people skills and allow students to learn from previously failed experiences. Key points of discussion are developing exceptional leaders and combating toxic leadership tendencies. Another focus area is emotional intelligence, or the ability for Airmen to understand and control their emotions, while understanding others to effectively lead.


Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

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“Toxic leadership is a very big topic in the media today,” said Dr. Fil Arenas, Air University associate professor of leadership studies. “Toxic leaders are leaders that not only cause serious harm to their followers, but to their organization. We’re trying to get away from all these abusive behaviors. There is a large gradation in the literature of toxic leadership that goes from trace toxics, to completely abusive leadership that causes people to commit suicide; that is the extreme scale.”

To keep pace with the constant evolution of technology and understanding of the psychology of personalities, the Air Force has shifted how it looked at leadership and how to develop effective leaders.

“Leadership isn’t just about intelligence and just having IQ doesn’t make you an effective leader,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Clayton, Air University assistant professor of leadership studies. “You have to be able to connect with people, create relationships and understand how you impact the environment.”

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

Janine Belasco, a U.S. Air Force simulation specialist, acts as a male avatar during a virtual empathy and interpersonal communication exercise, at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., The simulation was adopted as a capstone for Air University’s new Leadership Development Course.

(U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

The shift to developing leaders’ interpersonal skills presented a training opportunity in an area that was unfamiliar to Air University, prompting Clayton to ask local education experts for support and guidance.

He was introduced to Janine Belasco, a trained actress with no military affiliation, and her line of employment — virtual empathy and leadership training.

“It is the most important work to me,” Belasco said. “To help people be able to talk about how they feel and to help people be able to feel empathy before they become leaders so they can react to others with true emotions and acts of caring is very important.”

Lt. Col. Andrew Clayton, Air University assistant professor of leadership studies, mentors a student during an empathy and interpersonal communication exercise at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. A need to look at leadership development differently sparked Clayton to look to local education institutions for guidance on a new training opportunity for empathy and leadership.

(U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

MLB prospect starts military commitment

Noah Song did not enroll at the Naval Academy to become a professional baseball player.

First and foremost, he was focused on his education and becoming an officer. Improving his pitching repertoire was nice but not the primary goal. Like all Midshipmen, a military commitment awaited him upon graduation. Being drafted in the fourth round by the Boston Red Sox in 2019 altered that timeline only slightly.


From ballplayer to Marine

“It was supposed to be four years and done with baseball,” Song said. “Everything after graduation has really just been a plus.”

Song, 23, reported to flight school in Pensacola in June, leaving behind an abbreviated stint last season for the Red Sox’s Class A short-season, minor-league affiliate in Lowell, Massachusetts. Song put away his glove without complaint, not surprising considering his family’s priorities.

His younger brother, Elijah, recently completed the Marines’ Officer Candidates School in Virginia and is one year from graduating from Cal Maritime. Song’s father, Bill, and older brother, Daniel, work for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and his sister, Faith, is a nurse.

“It seems like all the kids are gravitating to public service and servicing the country,” Bill Song said. “They’ve really fulfilled everything that I would want from a child.”

Elijah, 20, decided to become a Marine as a college freshman. He was interested in the military before Noah chose Navy but was impressed by watching how his brother matured there.

“To see him go through his transformation, just from a normal kid in high school to this refined military officer, … it made me tell myself, ‘Man, I want to be that squared away, that professional,”’ Elijah said.

Baseball wasn’t always on this Navy grad’s mind

Noah was not always that squared away, especially on the baseball field.

Navy was his only offer to play baseball after he graduated from high school in Claremont, California, about 35 miles east of Los Angeles. Scouts started paying attention during his junior year at Navy, and then Song blossomed as a senior, going 11-1 with a 1.44 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 94 innings.

He was among four finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the top amateur baseball player in the United States.

“I never really thought about [getting drafted] so much, because the mindset was just on becoming an officer,” Noah said. “I completely agree with that. That’s the complete reason we’re there, so [the attention was] kind of weird.”

While awaiting his flight-school orders, Noah was allowed to begin his professional career last summer. In seven games for Lowell, he allowed two earned runs in 17 innings for a 1.06 ERA.

“When he first got here, I don’t think he was overly confident in who he was,” Navy baseball coach Paul Kostacopoulos said. “He went from this kind of nervous, internal person to being a confident man, so to speak. It’s always great to see.”

Elijah was different.

He played golf in high school but was not that interested in sports. He enjoyed tinkering, once learning to load ammunition by researching it online and watching videos.

But mainly he loved flying. Aboard a Cessna 150, Elijah sat in the pilot’s seat for the first time as a high school junior.

“Feeling the pedals and feeling the yoke and feeling the plane actually move from my control, that was just a life-changing experience,” Elijah said.

Noah, whose future in baseball is uncertain, cherishes that view from the air as well.

He said his relationship with Elijah was tight-knit as children, but they were typical brothers. They argued. They fought. They made up.

“Looking back, it’s all just fond memories,” Noah said. “This military experience has definitely brought us a little bit closer than we used to be, just because we share a bond. We get to have that commonality between us, which is pretty cool.”

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

popular

The 10 most dangerous military jobs

“No catalogue of horrors ever kept men from war. Before the war you always think that it’s not you that dies. But you will die, brother, if you go to it long enough.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Jocko Willink, a retired Navy Seal Officer who led SEAL Team 3, Task Unit Bruiser, in Iraq during the 2006 Battle of Ramadi, says that war is the ultimate human test. “When people from both sides of a conflict are trying to kill each other, it’s life or death.” Not every station of military service bears that intensity, but some do. There are jobs in which the choices you make spell out the difference between going home safely or never going home at all. These ten jobs are some of the highest-risk jobs in the U.S. military.

  1. Explosive Ordnance Disposal

Immortalized in pop culture with The Hurt Locker and broadening awareness of the conditions on the ground in Iraq, these military bomb squad techs clear mines and inspect malfunctioning munitions. The proliferation of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in our current conflicts make the career conditions of these warriors extremely precarious. 

  1. Pararescue

An elite ambulatory care team in the USAF that not only operates in war zones, but in severe conditions due to weather and natural disasters, and even as support for NASA missions. Called PJs (Pararescue Jumpers), they’re tasked with flying, climbing, and marching into high-risk areas to save those isolated or wounded by war or disaster.

dangerous military jobs
Pararescuemen, combat rescue officers, and SERE specialists from the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan performed jump training Dec. 1, 2018.
  1. Special Operations

Encompassing a broad range of units including Army Rangers, Navy Seals, and Green Berets, Marine Raiders, Special Ops soldiers are culled through rigorous training and selection processes. Working in all terrains, they are often equipped with better gear and additional training than their counterparts in the regular infantry, but they’re also put in much more challenging situations that can amount to greater casualties.

dangerous military jobs
BAGHDAD – U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Patrick B. Roberson, the deputy commanding general of Special Operations Joint Task Force
  1. Motor Transportation

The rise in the usage of IEDs during our “forever wars” in the Middle East expose truck drivers and other vehicle transport to intense risk. Though there is a greater supply of up-armored vehicles for the units in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq than there was fifteen years ago, there’s no avoiding the exposure to bombings that many of these drivers face.

  1. Aviation

Due to the tremendous support aircraft provides to the battlefield, their pilots and crews are valuable targets to the enemy in battle. Helicopter crews in particular often have to move in and out of hostile territories while under fire to transport people and ordnance.

  1. Combat Medics (Corpsman)

The job of a medic is to move alongside friendly forces to aid the wounded and dying while under fire. Though medics are protected under the Geneva Convention, they are still susceptible to mortars, artillery, and air strikes just as their infantry support is. 

dangerous military jobs
Sgt. Kirsten Wroblewski along with Spc. Riley Martinez both medics with the 313th Medical Company Ground Ambulance unit based in Lincoln, Nebraska, perform first-aid on a patient during a mass casualty exercise at Northern Strike 19. 
  1. JTAC

JTAC, or joint terminal attack controllers, are in charge of directing offensive air operations. Basically, they’re responsible for controlling the chaos of battle in the air. They’re responsible for directing attacks, and it’s a complicated and dangerous job. While joint terminal attack controllers are usually observing and directing the action rather than acting it out themselves, they’re still in close proximity to gunfire, bomb detonations and a number of other life-threatening hazards.

  1. Artillery

These troops are subject to a lot of attention from the enemy because of their vital task of launching heavy rounds beyond the range of typical infantry. Not only are they called upon to breach fortifications and larger targets, but enemy formations as well. They are also sometimes called upon to move to infantry or cavalry positions, where they’ve received less training and can by more susceptible to danger.

  1. Aircraft carrier ground crew

You don’t have to be in a combat role to be in harm’s way. Aircraft carriers are inherently dangerous. Planes land on them while they’re in motion; it’s comparable to landing a plane on top of a skyscraper during an earthquake. Aircraft carrier ground crew members are subject to multiple hazards. Combine thousands of gallons of fuel, jet engines and intentional crash landings, and you have a pretty risky job– even if no bullets or bombs are involved.

  1. Infantry

As the primary force deployed in conflicts to take and hold enemy territory, it should come as no surprise that an infantry man or woman, now as always, is a high-risk profession. They perform all of the most common battle operations, and are host to the greatest number of casualties.


The price paid by many of our military service members is the steepest there is, and we should all strive to treat them with grace and respect. For further information on finding support after the death of a loved one, www.militaryonesource.mil is just one of the many resources available. 

MIGHTY CULTURE

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers

In the early morning of July 16, 2019, an Army UH-60 Black Hawk rescue crew was alerted to a severely injured hiker who had fallen 500 feet down one of Colorado’s tallest peaks.

The hiker, a retired astronaut, had broken both of his legs and one arm in the fall and needed emergency care fast. But to get to a hospital for his injuries, the former Navy captain had to rely on the Army to pluck him from the unforgiving terrain.

It was the height of summer, a time when hikers flock to the state’s mountain ranges and when operations at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site ramp up.


The site has a dual-hatted role. Primarily, it teaches helicopter crews how to fly and land in high altitudes. It also is a search and rescue outfit with experienced crews that can reach difficult spots where most civilian aircraft cannot.

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site drops off a civilian rescue technician near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.

(Photo by Tyler McCready)

Each year, full-time Colorado Guardsmen at the site rescue about 20 people — mainly desperate hikers who have fallen or suffered from altitude sickness or a heart attack.

With two pilots and two crew chiefs, the Black Hawk crews will also pick up two rescue technicians, who are civilian volunteers that they train with, on their way out.

After already topping their annual average for saves, 2019 has proven to be a busy year.

“It’s nice that we’re able to take what we teach, the power management techniques, and apply them on the weekend or during the week when we’re making these critical saves,” said Lt. Col. Britt Reed, the HAATS commander.

For many, the July 16 mission is one of the recent missions that stands out. While climbing La Plata Peak, which pierces the sky at over 14,000 feet near Leadville, Jeff Ashby quickly became in need of help from the air.

The day before, Ashby, 65, who had flown to space three times, had just reached the summit of the mountain. During his descent, he lost his footing and slipped, hurtling down the mountainside before large boulders stopped him.

Hours later, a local search and rescue team member managed to navigate to the former astronaut and stayed with him overnight.

At first light, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Pat Gates and his aircrew, along with two rescue technicians, flew out to Ashby’s location.

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site lowers a member of Mountain Rescue Aspen down to an injured hiker near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.

(Photo by Tyler McCready)

Once overhead, the crew used a hoist to lower the technicians, who prepped Ashby before he was pulled up into the helicopter. The aircraft then landed at a transfer site, where Ashby was taken to the hospital in a civilian medical transport helicopter.

While a collection of emergency responders helped out, the HAATS crew had the hoist capability to get Ashby out of danger.

“It’s great knowing that you have that kind of impact on somebody,” Gates said.

After being released from the hospital, Ashby wrote an email to Gates and the rest of the aircrew, thanking them for their efforts.

“He was very appreciative of everything, for the fact that the Army came to help out a Navy guy,” Gates said, smiling. “But, all in all, having a result like that is always the best case.”

Risky missions

Gates estimates he has helped with at least five rescues per year since he came to HAATS in 2009. And the total number of missions continues to increase, he said, almost quadrupling compared to when he first started.

Some of them even test the most experienced pilots, like Gates, who serves as the training site’s senior standardization instructor pilot.

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site prepares to lower a civilian rescue technician near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.

(Photo by Tyler McCready)

A hairy rescue he still remembers was in 2015 at Crestone Needle, another mountain over 14,000 feet.

In that one, a hiker also slipped and broke his leg on top of other injuries. Since the hiker was stranded in a tight area, the aircrew had to lower a hoist 200 feet as winds kicked up to 25 knots and a thunderstorm loomed nearby.

“That was very interesting,” he said. “It required a lot that day to get the [helicopter rescue team] all the way down there to the injured party.”

The mission was taxing for the crew since they had to keep the helicopter as still as possible. At that height, Gates said, the hoist can sway about 10 feet on the ground to every 1 foot the aircraft moves in the air.

Pilots may also decide to quickly do a one-wheeled landing, one of which was conducted this summer, if there is enough room that the rotors will not chop into the mountain side.

“If they feel the safest way is to land the aircraft [is] by putting one wheel down or two wheels down or using the hoist,” Reed said, “then we’ll figure out what the best way is and we’ll do it.”

And then there are the “what ifs” every difficult mission presents, Gates said, which can be mentally draining when the crew is trying to prevent them all.

Hoist ops

Other than a similar National Guard unit at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, that handles rescues on the front range of the Rocky Mountains, no state entity can replicate the landings and hoists of the HAATS crews.

“If we didn’t have these two organizations, then the [hikers] that got stuck would be in a lot of trouble,” Reed said, “because there is nobody else that can provide the resources that we can provide.”

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

Civilian rescue technicians treat an injured hiker before he is hoisted up into a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.

(Photo by Tyler McCready)

As a crew chief, Staff Sgt. Greg Yost typically operates the hoist during rescues.

In June 2019, he lowered a hoist about 100 feet to save a skier who suffered cuts and an ankle injury after a small avalanche knocked him down, causing him to hit some rocks.

Hovering above 13,000 feet in that mission, the aircrew had to deal with strong winds in a narrow valley that drastically affected the power margin of the heavy helicopter.

“We were basically at our limit in power,” Yost recalled.

While tough at times, the missions do bring Yost back to a job he never wanted to leave. Before coming to Colorado, he served on a medical evacuation aircrew in Afghanistan, picking up wounded troops in sometimes hot landing zones.

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

In this video still image, a UH-60 Black Hawk crew from the Colorado National Guard’s High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site perform a one-wheeled landing at or above 13,000 feet to rescue an injured hiker from Maroon Bells, Sept. 21, 2013.

(US Army photo)

“That wasn’t something that I really wanted to give up,” he said. “So the fact that HAATS regularly conducted those kinds of missions was a big driving force in me wanting to come to this unit so I could continue helping people.”

The work HAATS crews have done with hoist operations has led the Army to develop a standardized hoist training program last year, Gates said.

The training site also creates scenario-based evaluations from the rescue flights to teach students during its weeklong course. The lessons even give the students an opportunity to discuss how the flight could have gone smoother.

“That’s one thing we don’t do, is rest on our laurels,” Gates said. “We take information in from everybody that comes through here.”

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

VET Tv’s ‘A Grunt’s Life’ will be a cult-classic among troops and vets

It’s hard to find a good military film that truly encapsulates the spirit of the military. There’s a huge pile of duds. You know the ones I’m referring to. Then you have your epics like Saving Private Ryan, Tora! Tora! Tora!, and Bridge over the River Kwai. They’re expertly crafted, but they still lack that personal flair. Platoon comes close, and it earned all four of its Oscars because director Oliver Stone served in Vietnam – but it’s toned down for a wider audience.

Then you have VET Tv’s Kickstarter-funded film A Grunt’s Life. What it lacks in not having a widespread cinema release, it easily makes up in authenticity. And holy f*ck… It’s really f*cking good.


With that authenticity, it paints a more accurate picture of the post 9/11 wars than any other film. Warts and all. That being said…

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

There’s also plenty of fantasies about killing the buddy-f*cking commanding officer. You’ll learn to empathize with the platoon leader throughout the film.

(VetTV)

First thing’s first. A Grunt’s Life is not intended for family-friendly movie night. In fact, it’s a film that you kind of have to explain to your civilian friends/family before it shatters any previously held misconceptions about the military. Keep very much in mind that this film is basically what would happen if all of the deployment smoke pit conversations came to life and played out like we joked they would.

The film opens on the protagonist, Lt. Vince Murphy jacking off in the middle of a firefight and debating whether to join in or finish. A feeling anyone who’s ever been stuck on a Patrol Base could tell you is all too real. Even keeping an eye out on the background extras throughout the film, you’ll also almost always see them jerking it on guard duty. You’ll see plenty of dicks, but that’s kind of how deployments are…

There are also plenty of moments in the film that would be war crimes if committed in real life. Obviously, the filmmakers are not advocating them and even address them as being horrific with the characters entertaining the idea being called out as being horrific pieces of sh*t. But, well, that comes with the dark comedy that troops in the same grueling conditions adapt to.

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

This film was done so well that you can’t even tell A Grunt’s Life was actually 185 times cheaper to make than Jarhead 2.

(VetTV)

One thing that I can’t stress enough about this film is the level of effort and quality that went into it. And it shows!

The production design is just as sh*tty as I remembered Afghanistan, and the little details in the costuming are spot on. The script is solid for a satisfying arc. The acting perfectly portrays real grunts (probably because much of the cast are vets.) The camera work is gorgeous, even if what’s on camera is absolutely disgusting. You can tell that everyone involved in the project poured their hearts into this film.

The film is crude. It’s so f*cking dark at times. I feel like a monster for laughing at moments that would make my family terrified. I f*cking love this film. It’s not going to see much play with a wider audience. Amazon banned it, the Department of Defense isn’t affiliated with it, and the only way to view it is on Vimeo at this link here.

And that’s alright. This film isn’t made for everyone. It’s made by vets, for vets. Time will tell that this film is going to endure and be a beloved classic among troops and veterans for years to come.

I give it 5.56 Stars.

You can watch the trailer below.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Marines team up with Philippines and Japan for ‘Warrior of the Sea’

Marines and sailors from the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) participated in Exercise KAMANDAG 3 from Oct. 8 to Oct. 18, 2019, in the Philippines.

KAMANDAG 3 is a Philippine-led, bilateral exercise with participation from Japan.

KAMANDAG is an acronym for the Filipino phrase “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma Ng Dagat,” which translates to “Cooperation of Warriors of the Sea,” highlighting the partnership between the US and Philippine militaries.


Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

Philippine marines operate an M102 105 mm howitzer gun line at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines during exercise KAMANDAG 3, Oct. 13, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holber)

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

A Philippine marine looks through the sights on a US Marine Corps M777 towed 155 mm howitzer at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines, during exercise KAMANDAG 3, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holbert)

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

Philippine marines observe US Marines wit during a fire mission at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines as part of exercise KAMANDAG 3, Oct. 13, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holber)

“KAMANDAG 3 provided us a unique opportunity to integrate with the Philippine Marine Corps while conducting realistic, valuable training,” said Capt. Trevor Hall, the commanding officer of Alpha Battery, Battalion Landing Team 3/5, 11th MEU.

“Over the course of our nine days ashore, we participated in several subject matter expert exchanges and joint exercises, which increased our interoperability with the Philippine marines.”

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

US Marine Corps Sgt. Gabriel Alcantar, a howitzer section chief, opens the breech on a Philippine marine corps M102 105 mm howitzer during exercise KAMANDAG 3 at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines, Oct. 15, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holber)

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

US Marine Corps Cpl. Dominic Rosado, a light armored reconnaissance Marine, fires an M107 .50-caliber Special Applications Scoped Rifle during exercise KAMANDAG 3 at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base, Philippines, Oct. 14, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Adam Dublinske)

“The US Navy has a longstanding tradition of partnering with the Philippines and Japan,” said Capt. Kevin Lane, the commanding officer of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26).

“It truly is an honor to continue that tradition and to uphold our shared goals of peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

A US Marine Corps light armored vehicle fires its main gun during exercise KAMANDAG 3 at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines, Oct. 11, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Adam Dublinske)

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

US Marines bivouac at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines during exercise KAMANDAG 3, Oct. 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holbert)

The ARG/MEU departed their home port of San Diego for a regularly scheduled deployment on May 1, and entered the US 7th Fleet on September 22 after roughly two months deployed to Central Command’s area of operations.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Iran is building a massive battle tank fleet

Iran’s Deputy Defense Minister Reza Mozaffarinia says Tehran has plans to manufacture or upgrade 700 to 800 battle tanks.

In remarks quoted on July 18, 2018, by Iran’s Tasnim news agency, Mozaffarinia did not specify the type of tanks he was referring to or how many would be newly built compared to how many would be upgraded.


He also did not mention a timeline for the completion of the project.

“Annually, there are 50 to 60 tanks manufactured and a sufficient budget has been allocated because the army and Revolutionary Guards have a great need,” Mozaffarinia said.

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

Iran’s “Karrar” tank

The United States and European powers have long sought to curb Iran’s ballistic-missile program.

But Iran’s conventional military forces are thought to be weaker than its main regional rival, Saudi Arabia.

According to the CIA’s World Factbook, Iran’s military expenditure as a percentage of GDP was 2.69 percent in 2015, while Saudi Arabia’s was 9.86 percent in 2016.

In a December 2017 report, the International Institute for Strategic Studies predicted that Iran would modernize and rebalance its conventional forces “to reflect lessons learned in Syria.”

Iranian forces have been fighting in Syria since 2012 in support of the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

This is why some sailors wear gold stripes, and some wear red

The short answer? Twelve years of good conduct.


In the Navy, there are many different ways to reward a sailor for their excellent work performance, like a promotion in rank or special liberty (time off). On the contrary, there are also several ways to discipline a sailor, for instance using non-judicial punished or Captain’s Mast.

A service member falling asleep on watch, destruction of government property or theft are just some the reasons why a sailor would get sent to stand in front of their commanding officer for disciplinary action.

If a sailor is found guilty of a violation, the 12-years of good service starts over. Punishments for violations can range from restriction to discharge, depending on the severity of the offense.

Related: These are weird Navy traditions and their meanings

 

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed
The gold rank insignia of a Boatswain Mate Chief Petty Officer

Also Read: Yes, sergeant, actually that new academy cadet does outrank you

To rate the gold stripes, the sailor must complete 12-years straight of good service with no breaks starting on the first day they wake up in boot camp — not the day they entered basic training.

If the sailor does take a break from service, the period pauses until they return.

So if you notice a sailor wearing three or four service stripes on their sleeve (each stripe means four years of service) and they aren’t yellow, chances are they’ve been in trouble at least once

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