Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

This post was sponsored by Kensington Books. The author’s comments below on the novels are his own.

Some call it locked in a house in a time of plague – I say magnificent time to try out a new book! Books offer us an escape from the tedium of quarantine life, and nothing is more escapist than stories of derring-do and bravery in the face of long odds. To transport you to a different time and place, we have two new offerings from Kensington Books which I am sure will fit the bill.


Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

The first book is Ungentlemanly Warfare by Howard Linskey. Howard is a British writer who has written several popular crime and mystery novels and has since branched out to write meticulously researched historical thrillers set during World War II. Ungentlemanly Warfare is not part of a series – though given the events it could easily turn into one – but nevertheless tells an interesting self-contained tale.

This book is set in the middle days of World War II and the Nazis are seeking to perfect their newest Jet fighter, the Me163 Komet. The weapon promises to extract a heavy toll upon the Allies if the enemy can perfect the craft. To stop the Nazis from improving upon this lethal machine, they need to assassinate the lead scientist on the project. Enter Special Operations Executive agents Harry Walsh and Emma Stirling. They are tasked to team up with a Jedburgh team of American and Free French operatives and kill the target before he can submit his improved design.

Though the book starts off with an action sequence, it is more of a slow burn as the team prepares for its mission and then builds rapport on the ground with the French contingent. This approach lends a sense of verisimilitude to the story – these operatives are behind enemy lines in the most precarious of circumstances and they would be not trying to draw attention to themselves. It is far from boring though as the book is rife with danger, close-calls, and even a bit of romantic tension. Linskey creates a good sense of uncertainty that the mission can be completed which makes the book all the more riveting.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

The second book is Sandblast: A Task Force Epsilon Thriller by newcomer, Al Pessin. Pessin is a veteran foreign and Washington DC correspondent who puts his knowledge and insights to good use in crafting his debut ‘day after tomorrow’ novel. Frankly, it was one of the most engaging espionage thrillers I have read in years because of its unconventional and unique leads.

The story happens in the aftermath of a successful attack on the Secretary of Defense by international Jihadists residing in Afghanistan and a daring covert action to even the score. The story is essentially two tales – the first is about a DIA agent handler named Bridge Davenport who channeling Jessica Chastain’s character from Zero Dark Thirty comes up with an unorthodox mission to target the terrorists in Afghanistan. Her story follows the national politics of espionage and response at the highest levels as she navigates personal and professional challenges.

But the more interesting of the two tales surrounds her operative – an Afghan American service member who goes under deep cover to join the Taliban to get close to the leaders of the terrorist cell. Pessin wisely devotes the majority of the book to Faraz Abadallah’s struggle with maintaining his own identity and objectivity as he is forced to make increasingly difficult moral decisions. The story goes deep into Faraz’s psychological well being as he is indoctrinated into the Taliban and the story is heavy with Koranic verse and complex currents which make the story all the more compelling.

Ultimately, Pessin’s book serves as an introductory book to a new series centered on Task Force Epsilon with several unresolved plot threads which set the stage for future adventures involving Davenport and hopefully Abdallah.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This WWII Army veteran just celebrated his 102nd birthday

The McCurtain County VA Clinic and members of the local community gathered in Idabel, Oklahoma to celebrate World War II veteran Sydney Hunnicutt’s 102nd birthday.

“We truly care about the veterans in our community and we just want to make a difference,” said Lisa Morphew, registered nurse and clinic manager. “We love our veterans and want to show them that we’re here to help, whatever their needs are.”

VA clinic staff presented birthday cards and Jonathan Plasencia, associate director for the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System, presented a gift bag to Hunnicutt on behalf of VA Voluntary Service.


Twelve of Hunnicutt’s family members were able to attend the party including several who were visiting from California. Dorothy Cash, Hunnicutt’s daughter, said she was grateful to the clinic and community who helped make the day special for her father.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

Jonathan Plasencia shakes Sydney Hunnicutt’s hand.

“It means the world to us,” said Cash.

During World War II, Hunnicutt was drafted into the U.S. Army and deployed to the Philippines with the 63rd Infantry Regiment, 6th Infantry Division. During the Battle of Luzon, Hunnicutt fought the Japanese and was shot in his left hand. He lost two fingers and was later awarded a Purple Heart.

“It’s an honor to be here today to celebrate a member of the Greatest Generation,” said Plasencia, who drove from the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center in Muskogee to celebrate Hunnicutt’s milestone. “Veterans have many options for their health care and when they place their trust in VA, that is a privilege we do not take lightly.”

“It couldn’t have been better,” said Hunnicutt, who turns 102 on July 13, 2019.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

Clinic staff join Sydney Hunnicutt for his 102nd birthday celebration.

Hunnicutt has been a patient at the clinic since it opened in 2017, and Dr. Jose Gomez has served as his primary care physician.

“He is so happy,” said Cash. “Dr. Gomez has been the best.”

Dr. Gomez said it’s been a privilege to provide care for Hunnicutt.

“I want to thank him for his courage and for putting his life on the line for us to be able to have the freedoms that we have,” he said. “It’s an honor just to shake his hand.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How these military spouses plan to achieve one million acts of kindness

Three military spouses say they hope to change the world, through one act of kindness at a time.

To accomplish this, they aim to encourage more than one million acts of kindness in the military community through a viral movement called GivingTuesday Military Edition, set for Dec. 3, 2019.

“One million acts sounds like a lot,” admitted Maria Reed, an Army spouse and organizer for the event. “But, it just takes one act to inspire another, and if enough people are inspired — we can reach a million acts together.”


It was Reed’s optimistic thinking that initially helped her form a bond with two like-minded spouses: Samantha Gomolka, a National Guard spouse, and Jessica Manfre, a Coast Guard spouse.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

Three military spouses, Maria Reed an Army spouse, Samantha Gomolka, a National Guard spouse, and Jessica Manfre, a Coast Guard spouse visit Los Angeles, Calif., Nov. 6, 2019, to promote their online movement called GivingTuesday Military Edition.

The three first met in May at the 2019 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year awards ceremony, held in Washington, D.C. All three won that night for their respective branches.

Following the ceremony, the three connected “easy and effortlessly,” Reed said, largely due to their shared goal to use their platform to bridge together the military community and help others.

At first, they didn’t know exactly how they would collaborate, they said. But, that changed soon after a plan was hatched to contact GivingTuesday, the parent organization of their group. Shortly after they made contact, GivingTuesday representatives agreed to partner up and the military edition was created.

“It’s inspiring to see military service members, veterans, and their families who already have committed so much to something bigger than themselves, lead the way to encourage one million acts of kindness,” said Asha Curran, GivingTuesday chief executive officer, in a news release.

The military edition kicked off in September 2019, and since it was announced they have received nation-wide attention. However, according to Reed — who is a military spouse of 16 years — the need to help others is just a part of being in the military community.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

U.S. Army Spc. Janerah W. Glaze, 253rd Transportation Company, New Jersey Army National Guard, grills hamburgers during the Sgt. 1st Class Robert H. Yancey Sr. Stand Down at the National Guard Armory in Cherry Hill, N.J., Sept. 27, 2019.

(Photo by Mark Olsen)

Her husband, who is currently deployed, plans to responsibly participate from his undisclosed location overseas.

“Military families are called to serve, it’s in our DNA and [GivingTuesday] is a way that we can all serve and give back to the community,” Reed said.

No act of goodwill is too small, she added. “It doesn’t matter, kindness is kindness.”

Whether serving food to the homeless, volunteering at an animal shelter, buying coffee for a stranger, or simply holding a door open for someone — there are no shortage of options, she said.

In addition to individual acts, Reed said various schools, companies, and blood drives across the country have committed to join in the effort to meet their seven-digit goal.

But, the true measure of success, Manfre said, is simply to inspire others to be kind.

“If all we do is inspire just one person to be kind to someone else, that’s what matters,” she said.

The inaugural event will be documented online with #GivingTuesdayMilitary.

With more than 50 chapter ambassadors at the forefront of local efforts, and thousands of eager participants who are affiliated with more than 800 military installations worldwide, the trio agree their movement will grow every year.

Social media pages have been set up on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the campaign, all with the handle @GivingTuesdayMilitary.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Airborne for old guys

Here is a great information piece from an Army Soldier who completed the US Army Basic Airborne Course (BAC) at age 42. He has always been a great runner but needed to focus on the PT for the arms and legs to prepare for the landings / regular PT.

Phil Lowry is a JAG officer with the Utah National Guard. Here is his story of how to survive BAC during your late 30’s and early 40’s:


Airborne School poses particular challenges for Soldiers over 35 (which under the reg is the normal age cutoff for Airborne students). Those challenges come in two forms: (1) the PT test, and (2) the accumulating burdens of falling down a lot.

The PT test is very handily addressed in Stew’s preparation book for the Airborne School. Pay particular attention to the timed drills, since as we age our ability to make explosive movement decreases. Timed drills allow you to retain the muscle memory required to efficiently do 42 pushups and 53 situps in under two minutes (hopefully in less than 90 seconds).

Remember that the PT test is done in washed river gravel, about the size of almonds. That means that the pushups will be done on a plank, a strange feeling. The plank may not be wide enough for those of you who prefer a wide stance. It wasn’t wide enough for me (I like about 27 inches of space between the inside of my hands). Be sure to be able to comfortably pass the pushups at about a 25-inch stance. I found the situps to be easier in the gravel. Wiggle yourself into a depression before you begin so you are comfortable.

As for the falling down – there is a reason that there are not many football players older than 40. You will fall in a variety of ways in Airborne school. First, during ground week, in the 34-foot tower you will be falling in a harness onto a zip line, at least 6 times-if you master your exit. One guy in my stick went out the 34-foot tower 22 times. That takes a toll on the pinch points around legs, crotch and chest. It also taxes your neck to fall while tucking your chin in an ACH.

You will fall a lot more when learning parachute landing falls. Young guys tend to “get” PLFs quickly. Older guys can master it quickly, also, especially natural athletes. But if you are not very coordinated, or have to “unlearn” a technique (a martial arts forward roll, or a combat roll learned in combatives), you will be falling off the lateral drift apparatus (LDA) a lot. It does not really hurt at any given time, but it slowly but surely gives you bruises all over. It can also be very hard on your neck as you have to keep your chin tucked in all of your landings. A lot of bells get rung. Also, while in the PLF pit the only way you can travel is by bunny hopping with your feet and knees together. Sounds easy – until you do it for four hours.

During tower week, in the swing line trainer, you will fall even more. The SLT tends to hurt more than the LDA, since it is more realistic and harder to master. Mass exits in the 34-foot tower are comparatively easy, but come on the last day when you are beat. The two different harness training exercises are also easier, but once again give you that wonderful “pinching” feeling.

Learn more about Army Airborne PFT.

And, of course, there is jump week, where you put it all together, along with five 1/2 to 1-mile hikes at double time across a very soft drop zone that is as hard to run in as a newly plowed field. The manner of carrying the parachute, especially when hucking a combat load, puts a lot of stress on your already sore neck.

How does an oldster get ready for this? Some practical exercises:

1. Increase your endurance sets for your upper body, and try to use methods that engage large and small muscle groups in both power and stabilizing moves. Dumbbells are better than barbells, calisthenics are really good.

2. Focus on pullups. You need them to pull on your risers. But make sure not only your lats are strong, but also your hands and your forearms. Rock climbers do drills on these extremities-you should, too. Old guys tend to pull muscles in these areas more easily (I did), and it takes us longer to heal if we do.

3. Focus on your neck. There are a variety of techniques and exercises in published material that can help with both neck strength and endurance. The PLF puts a lot of strain on your neck (better your neck than your head). Even the youngest students complain about their necks at the end of ground week. It’s worse when you’re older. Also, get used to your ACH before you go to Airborne. You will always have it on whenever you train. It is a good idea to run or ruck with your ACH on as an endurance exercise. This will help your neck.

4. Run in boots. You will be doing so at Airborne. Get used to it. High-tec boots (Exospeeds, etc.) are authorized at Airborne.

5. Do more running than you need for the APFT. You should probably do at least half as much running as recommended by the training guide.

6. Endurance is more important than mass or strength, in all areas. Muscles with high endurance are highly vascularized, and so they heal quickly, and are less likely to be injured in the first place. Airborne training does not really require explosive strength-it requires efficient repetitive taxing motion, with the ability to absorb repetitive mild trauma.

7. The PT at Airborne is easy. Don’t worry about it. Focus on the APFT and preparing for the actual training. That way, when you do PT, you won’t worry about aggravating a training injury (try doing pullups with a pulled forearm muscle. Better to avoid pulling the muscle in training in the first place than having to baby it in morning PT).

8. Be ready for having to perform even if hurt. Cope and compensate as you can-there is no periodicity to the training. All of us oldsters had to suck it up, most of us more than once. I jumped three times on a badly bruised knee; a 43-year-old master sergeant jumped three times on a mildly sprained, but very painful, ankle.

The upside to being older at Airborne is that you will likely deal better with the mental stress that your physical ailments and the training environment place upon you.

“Remember, there is a difference between being hurt and being injured. You are all hurt-you are about to jump out of a plane for the fifth time. None of you are injured. Injured means you are in the hospital.” stated the First Sergeant, Charlie Company, 1/507 PIR, BAC.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Elon Musk amuses the internet with tweet about flags

Chad and Romania are situated on separate continents and share few historical or geographical links. They don’t even have an embassy in each other’s country.

The two countries rarely come up in the same sentence. That is, unless you’re discussing their flags.

Aside from slight variations in color shading, the two countries’ flags appear identical — an observation Tesla CEO Elon Musk appears to have just discovered and shared with Twitter.


According to the online Encyclopedia Britannica, Romania initially displayed a flag with horizontal stripes of blue, yellow, and red before settling on its current vertical design in 1861.

Chad decided on its own flag design after it achieved independence from France in 1959.

The country initially considered a green, yellow, and red design but quickly discovered Mali had already taken the same pattern. It then swapped the green for the blue — inadvertently creating a flag that was almost identical to Romania’s.

Chad’s flag is not the only one to resemble other flags — here are some other examples

The flag of Mali, the country Chad tried to avoid copying, is similar to Senegal’s — a single green star in the middle appears to separate the two flags. Guinea’s also replicates Mali’s design but is reversed.

Both Indonesia and Monaco fly two horizontal stripes: red over white. Poland similarly flies white over red.

Ireland and Ivory Coast share the same design, but it is flipped on the flagpole.

All of these similarities may have stemmed from coincidence, but other flags have a specific reason for slight variations to a theme.

Ecuador, Venezuela, and Colombia all sport the same-colored horizontal stripes, but that’s because they used to be part of the same country of Gran Colombia, which dissolved in 1822, according to Britannica.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The history of the modern military salute

The most popular origin story of the modern military salute dates back to the Roman Republic in 509 BCE. It’s a very compelling theory, but is it true? Let’s break it down.

It is said that during antiquity — sorry, the olden days — assassinations were common, so citizens and subordinates were required to approach officials with their fighting hand, the right hand, raised to demonstrate that it was not carrying a weapon. Others say that the Romans would slap their chest and raise their arm in tribute to demonstrate allegiance.


 

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

Looks legit.

Not that this rules out the theories — they do make sense. Still, it wasn’t until the 1600s that English military records mention the salute, calling it a formal act that “was to be by removal of headdress.” In 1745, the procedure was amended to simply have troops “clap their hands to their hats and bow as they pass by.”

Also read: 13 awful hand salutes that don’t even come close

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

This is how all British salutes look to me.

The British Army and, later, the Royal Air Force, would develop a salute with the palm facing outwards, but the Royal Navy began to turn their palm downwards, allegedly because the men working on ships had dirty palms and it was considered disrespectful to display them. One popular tale cites Queen Victoria as the one behind the downward-facing-palm, after she was saluted with a grimy hand.

When the United States declared its independence from the throne, we brought military customs across the Atlantic, and by the time of the Revolutionary War, the salute became the most expedient form of protocol. The USO reported that, according to the Armed Forces History Museum, today’s standard salute was in place by 1820.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

That’s actually pretty solid, Angel.

Though there are a few variations between branches, overall, the United States military still maintains this salute today: right arm parallel with the floor, straight wrist and hand, middle finger touching the brim of the hat or the corner of the eyebrow, and palm facing downward or even inward.

The salute should be a smooth motion up and down the gigline, with the individual of lower rank raising their salute first and lowering it last. Oh, and remember, “any flourish in the salute is improper.

Of course, cool guys have their fun.

More reading: 6 of the worst times to salute officers

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

Superheroes can ignore giglines.

In addition to superior commissioned and warrant officers, the following individuals are always entitled to a military salute: The President of the United States, officers of allied foreign countries (good luck learning their rank system), and Medal of Honor recipients — I actually didn’t know that one.

In America, the military salute is protected by the First Amendment. Anyone can salute anyone, really. You can salute a veteran when they’re in civilian attire… it’s just not mandatory or even customary. And it can actually be a little awkward if they’re not expecting it.

But in other countries, there are legal ramifications behind certain salutes. In Germany, for example, the straight-arm “Heil Hitler” salute is illegal and punishable by up to three years in jail. It’s not uncommon for tourists to be detained for performing the salute for photos, and one man was sentenced to jail for teaching his dog Adolf to give the Hitlergruss on command. …Yeah.

Today, the salute is a gesture of mutual respect, given and reciprocated, and whether the origin stories are true, the salute nonetheless remains a symbol of honor — and reassurance that you’re not holding a weapon.

MIGHTY CULTURE

VA centers are using tai chi to promote healing and mental clarity

Pan flute music like an old-time kung fu movie drifts serenely through the recreation room of the Milwaukee VA’s Spinal Cord Injury Center. Zibin Guo talks of swaying breezes, mountain streams, and the peaceful but powerful force of nature.

“Still… like a mountain,” he says. “Flow… like water.”

The group follows his every move from their chairs, pivoting wheels as he turns on foot. This new twist on an ancient martial art, Guo says, will play a big role in the modern-day treatment of pain and post-traumatic stress, even cutting down on opioids and other painkillers.

The three-day wheelchair tai chi seminar for health care workers from the Milwaukee and Madison VA Medical Centers; Appleton, Wisconsin, Clinic; and community hospitals, is part of Guo’s nationwide tour to teach more instructors, collect data and prove tai chi works.


Guo, a medical anthropologist from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, has received more than 0,000 from the Adaptive Sports Grant Program, and has already traveled to 24 VA medical centers. He hopes to get to 24 more by next year.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

Zibin Guo

(YouTube)

The grant program, managed by the National Veterans Sports Program and Special Events Office, provides million annually to support studies and adaptive sports for disabled veterans. Guo said his goal is to promote a way to rethink western rehabilitative medicine, based on bodily functions of eastern philosophy.

“There is a mental clarity that comes from tai chi, which then creates physical benefits for the whole body,” he said.

“For some people,” he added, “this can be psychological. If someone is in a wheelchair, they may see themselves as disabled and are labeled that way. When you are labeled as disabled, you become disabled.

“Wheelchair tai chi transforms the idea of the wheelchair into something else. Now, it’s no longer just for transporting from one place to another. You use it to create power and beauty, integrating the chair movements with tai chi.”

Guo said some VAs have already learned the healing benefits while others are just starting to add tai chi to their repertoire.

“Especially now as VA is building up its Whole Health program nationwide, I hope we are going to see more of these types of offerings,” he said.

Milwaukee was one of the first VAs to offer tai chi. Its polytrauma department started it in 2012 with another grant from the Adaptive Sports Program. Guo’s techniques provided a different perspective, said Dr. Judith Kosasih, lead physician in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

“I knew when we started this seven years ago it was going to be valuable, and I believe in it,” she said. “Right now, we teach tai chi fundamentals, but he gives us a completely different perspective, with more movement, even in a wheelchair.”

Kosasih first started tai chi in Milwaukee, believing it would help with Parkinson’s Disease and pain.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

Zibin Guo leads health care workers through one of his tai chi routines. He first taught the group standing up and then in wheelchairs. Guo believes regular tai chi can significantly help treat post-traumatic stress and reduce the use of painkillers.

“The practice helps you relax, helps you sleep better. When you sleep better, you will feel better,” she said. “I guarantee it improves endurance, balance, memory, and you will be able to stand longer. It gives our veterans skills and empowers them to develop this and get better.”

It’s also a gateway to health for those who can’t afford other sports.

Guo said: “Paralympics and wheelchair rugby and basketball is great but think about how much just one of those chairs costs. The average person doesn’t have a chance. One percent can get the specialized chair and 99 percent can’t. Wheelchair tai chi gives people self-empowerment. You don’t need a special chair.

“There are so many physical benefits,” he added. “A lot of studies have already demonstrated that the nature of the movements is so unique, and the circular motion creates powerful circulation in the body. It’s not just the blood, but the energy, and that treats a wide range of problems without drugs — it treats pain, it treats headaches. There are so many benefits.”

Besides teaching others how to teach the class, he is asking them to compile data to prove his point. He pointed to one veteran in Tennessee, who said she used tai chi to drastically cut down on painkillers.

Zarita Croney, an Afghanistan veteran, suffered from post-traumatic stress, three bulging discs, one eroded disc and intermittent paralysis, plus a host of other issues.

“I had to have a huge purse just for all my meds. You’d look inside and see nothing but pill bottles.” While still in the military, she said she cycled through an array of pain medications. “I’d have to lay in bed for three hours, just waiting for the medicine to work,” she said.

Croney spiraled into depression until she reached out to the Tennessee Valley Health Care System for mental health. Her VA recommended recreation therapy, including the tai chi Guo promotes.

Mind and Machine

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“The first time in tai chi, they had to wheel me there in a wheelchair,” she said. “The first few visits, I couldn’t get through the whole class. Then I start getting more range of motion. My instructor said, ‘Even if you can’t do it, see yourself doing it in your mind.’ And as you go along, your body does catch up with what the mind is doing.

“I went from visiting the emergency room at least once a month to get shot up with morphine, to walking with a cane, and sometimes without the cane. I’ve cut out about three-fourths of the pills I was on,” she said. “With all these things, it’s a battle every day, but tai chi gave me the foundation.”

Guo says this is nothing new to him.

“Pain symptoms are very complex and not just physical. The symptoms of stress, tension, or anger and bad emotions, that creates chemicals in the brain that stimulate pain,” he said. “Tai chi not only relaxes, it promotes healing.”

Leanne Young, a recreation therapist from the San Francisco VA Health Care System, said she is excited to see tai chi and other eastern philosophies gain more acceptance, because it plays into what she and other therapists have been doing for years.

“This is definitely time for this,” she said. “I think most people want to see evidence-based practice and data. They want to see research. Many things recreation therapists have done — not just tai chi, but in general — hasn’t always been recognized because there isn’t always research that supports the benefits.

“I really feel tai chi is a whole mind-body thing, and that really works. Your brain ends up telling your body what to do. It’s mindfulness, and to me, it’s a state of mind which affects your body and your pain reduction.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

Serving your country as part of the armed forces is easily one of the greatest accomplishments you can achieve. Simply raising your right hand, signing on the dotting line, and joining a branch is a selfless act, regardless of your actual job.

Right out of the gate, many have no idea what to expect — this is normal. There are certain days, however, that will always be shrouded in particular mystery and confusion. Just because joining the military is an admirable choice doesn’t mean it’s a path free of doubt or misunderstanding. It’s a blazed trail that many have walked before you, but every service member experiences these days that require serious adjustment.


Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

Day one in service? Yea, it’s a big, fat WTF moment

(Photo by Lance Cpl. David Bessey)

Day 1

The day you begin service is a special one — and we don’t mean “special” like when the moon shines perfectly over a still, beautiful lake, as if positioned just for you. It’s the kind of special that screams directly into your face with a kind of fury you’ve never seen before.

Sure, those who join from military families may have different expectations from those who had never seen a military uniform before meeting a recruiter. But no matter what you think your first day will be like, you’re going to be wrong.

Expect the unexpected.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

What should be a joyous day can get really weird, really quick

The day you become a supervisor

This is a day that truly changes your military career, particularly for the enlisted. On this day, you ascend from the ranks of the Junior Enlisted and make your way to the glorious land of the NCO.

The birds are singing, you’re feeling like a million f*ckin’ bucks, and all is right in the world. Then, you’re forced to exercise your rank and authority either by general necessity or constitutional requirement. Nothing’s wrong with that, really, except that when this happens early on in your life as an NCO, your actions and decisions will be highly scrutinized. You are being watched.

It’s a weird place to find yourself in. You’re expected to make decisions and have some “know better” in your system, but you aren’t initially trusted with the unquestioned support we thought would come with the post.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

This is what it feels like to get that glorious DD 214

Photo via Parade.com

The day you get out

There is a safe, happy post-service life waiting for all of us after we get that DD214, right? Well, maybe. But also, maybe not.

Even if you’ve prepared for the day you leave service for your entire career, when that day finally comes, adjusting isn’t always easy. You’ve been living a highly structured, organized life for the last several years and now it’s time to take the reigns 100%. But don’t fret; while getting your DD214 may be one of the most confusing days, it’s also one of the sweetest.

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.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

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

www.youtube.com

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.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

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

Veterans finding connection through social and physical activities

Did you know that there are 3.5 million post-9/11 veterans nationwide, and that 250,000 more service members will leave active duty this year to join them? These veterans often face isolation, lack of physical fitness, and a lack of purpose in a world that doesn’t understand the military.

Team Red, White & Blue‘s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. Utilizing a nationwide network of chapters, Team RWB hosts and participates in events designed to bring veterans together and engage in the communities where they live and work.

Whether it’s workouts, races, social activities or community service projects, Team RWB members, also known as Eagles, support each other through shared values and experiences; there’s probably an RWB chapter near you.


Joining Team RWB is easy

Visit the Team RWB homepage to sign up. New members also receive a free Team RWB Nike t-shirt ( shipping and handling charge). New eagles are also quickly connected to their local chapter to learn about upcoming local activities. More than 160K veterans, their families, and non-military supporters have already joined Team RWB.

This is Us – Team RWB

www.youtube.com

Team Red, White Blue is a nonprofit founded by veterans working to solve the epidemic of loneliness through physical activity. Team RWB is the bridge connecting communities where veterans and civilians work together to gain common understanding.

Team RWB takes the best of military service–the camaraderie and physical challenges–and creates a new family of Eagles connected through physical activity.

“Staying active both physically and socially is key for a lot of veterans, especially those who have been wounded, ill or injured,” said Tampa VAMC Chief of Recreation and U.S. Army veteran Geoff Hopkins. “It’s very important for those veterans with ‘invisible wounds,’ such as PTSD, to engage in activities in the community, to draw them out of their dark places and get them interacting with others.”

Take the 1776 Challenge

Independence Day is for celebrating our nation’s freedom. This summer, Team Red, White Blue will showcase their commitment to the men and women who have fought for our freedom with the 1776 Challenge.

Team RWB invites you to join all Team RWB Eagles across the nation. Whether you do it with someone else or weave it into your workout, you will know that thousands of others will be taking on that day’s unique challenge with you! Dedicate your hard work and sweat to celebrate our nation’s veterans and their commitment to this great nation. Every time you “check in,” you will be entered into a chance to win prizes!

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

Be it writing, crafting, sewing, makeup, painting or music, the arts are considered both a hobby and an outlet for many military spouses. One such hobby – cosplay – has begun to pop up more and more in the military community. Cosplay, by definition, is, “a performance art in which someone dresses up as a character from a book, a movie, or a television show.” Cosplay often combines sewing and various forms of crafting, including makeup and building, to make a costume. But to some, it is much more than a hobby – it is a form of self-expression. These three military spouse cosplayers share what cosplay means to them, and how it has ultimately changed their lives for the better.

“Cosplay gives me an attainable outlet that I would not have otherwise.”

For some, cosplay is a way to get back in touch with oneself when life doesn’t go as planned. Lexi Fontaine, 26, an Air Force spouse stationed in Virginia, grew up doing theatre. However, when Fontaine was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 16, she had to stop performing for the sake of her health. 

When Fontaine and her new husband moved to Georgia in 2015, Fontaine noticed character appearances for birthday parties and other events were a huge hit. “I thought, ‘Well, that sounds fun, and sounds like something that I could do, and would enjoy doing.’ This was also at the beginning of my health journey, so I said, ‘why not?’” she said. 

Shortly after starting her own business, Fontaine realized that this wasn’t what cosplay was supposed to be to her. “I think what was hard for me was when I started the business, I didn’t feel true to myself when I was charging people,” she said. “Because, for me, dressing up was an extension of the escape that theater always was for me. Cosplaying, being able to take on the personality and the magic of other characters – especially Disney – gave me an outlet for creative expression that I felt like my health took away from me.”

Fontaine also enjoys how liberating cosplay can be. “I got some really really nasty comments about my weight when I was dressing up for events, and I was a fraction of the size I am now. They really discouraged me. But with cosplay, you’re allowed to dress up as whoever you want to dress up as, so long as you do it respectfully and like it; you have no obligation to conform to anybody else’s standards. I think that there’s something very freeing about that,” Fontaine said.

If you follow Fontaine on Tiktok, you’ve likely seen her singing, dancing and dressing up like various Disney characters. She even “duets” with other TikTokers who make similar content to hers. “TikTok is where I use a lot of my costumes now. A lot of acting duets and stuff I do are modern day characters inspired by Greek gods and goddesses, and being able to take that and create a character out of that, there’s something that’s also very empowering about that. I feel that way about creative outlets in general – being able to take all of this extra creative energy that is constantly going through my mind, and actually put it somewhere, it gives you the sense of accomplishment that I don’t really get from a lot of things right now,” she said. 

If you haven’t already, be sure to follow @minniefontaine on Tiktok to see her latest content!

“It feels like a way to express the inner desires of my soul.”

Whether she is splashing in the waves as Mermaid Harmony, frolicking in the forest as Fairy Moonfire or Live Action Role Playing (LARP) as the notorious villain in her local roleplaying group, Aj Smit is weaving joy wherever she goes. Affectionately known as “The Joy Weaver”, Smit, 31, is an Air Force spouse, author, speaker and owner of  In Joy Productions, a safe space for women to explore who they are through art, meditation and creative conversation. 

Smit started cosplaying seven years ago, when she and her husband lived in Hawaii. “We went to the Comic Con. I was selling things, and everybody else’s dressed up and I thought it’d be awesome.” When asked what drew her to cosplay, she replied, “Honestly, I didn’t want to be in ‘human’ clothes.”

She also created a business through cosplay with her character Mermaid Harmony, who entertained moms and kids. “I started [my Mermaid Harmony business] because I always wanted to be a mermaid growing up,” she said. “[My husband] Jared joined the Air Force, and so it was a perfect way to have my own business, be a mermaid and also take it with me anywhere I went. It just looked like the perfect job, and it became the best of both worlds.” she said. “There’s a lot of moms who have dreams, and they also want magical moments for their kids. The way that we strip imagination and fantasy from people nowadays, we only allow it into escapism and we don’t weave it into our everyday lives,” she said. “I wanted to change that.”

When it comes to cosplay, Smit says it gives her a way to explore aspects of herself without ramifications. “When I do my photo shoots, or when I go dress up or dance in the woods, paint or draw henna, it’s all a way to explore who I am,” she says. “And with LARPing, it’s all an expression of something I want to explore, discover or uncover, like a personality trait or something that’s not safe to explore in the regular human world.”

Smit says that she can also explore some of her “dark” side. “You know I can be a crazy power hungry satyr in a game and be like, ‘Nope, it’s my way or the highway,’ where I would never do that in the human world,” she says.

Be on the lookout for Smit’s new book, The Red Thread, out in September 2021!

“Cosplay gave me a way to reconnect with my Ffmily”

Ashleigh Magee is a busy woman. Not only is she an active duty sailor in the Navy, but she is also a military spouse AND entrepreneur. She owns Ashleigh Magee Coaching, where she helps women in the military community lose weight, get fit and build healthy habits. 

Magee says her love of cosplay started when she went to her first San Diego Comic Con. Because of her circumstances, she had to buy her first costume. “I went to my first [San Diego] Comic Con in 2013.I was able to get tickets really late, and I [had] just graduated from the Naval Academy. I was living out of the hotel, so literally the only thing at my disposal was ordering online. So I cosplayed as Princess Peach. And I had a friend dress as Mario,” she said.

Shortly after her first comic con, Magee tried her hand at making her own costume. “When I lived in Hawaii, I found this amazing hot pink sequin ABS dress and got it tailored to my body. So I have an 80s Princess Peach with pink high top Chuck Taylors.” she said.

She says cosplay helped her realize that she had other interests. “I’ve always been a theater kid. I also didn’t know I was a nerd until later in life.I was always the weird kid that didn’t fit in but I didn’t understand what that meant until I was in college. In college, I was finally around theater kids.”  So I think part of it is the theater kind of aspect but cosplay to me is an external expression of who we are and who we want to be.” she said. 

Magee credits cosplay with helping her reconnect with her creativity. “When the pandemic started, I was here alone. I’m extremely extroverted, and I had just moved here so I had time to make maybe three friends before everything shut down,” she said. “I was using my business as a coping mechanism, and just work work work work work work, and I was like, ‘I need to reconnect to my outlets,’ and this was also happening while I was reconnecting with my biological mom who instilled those things in me at a young age.”  

Magee says cosplay has also helped strengthen her relationship with her mother. “I grew up in a house where they taught me how to knit, and quilt, and we were always crafting. So it’s been really beautiful in that way. As I’ve reconnected to my own creativity, I’ve healed my inner child and strengthened my relationship with my mom, so it’s like all these beautiful things all wrapped up into one,” she said.

Her next project? “She [my mom] and I are actually doing a 2021 sewing project! We’re both going to make Victorian outfits – I’m talking skirt, corset, the whole nine yards!” she said.

The next time you’re at a convention and you happen to see a cosplayer, be sure to tell them how awesome their costume is. You never know how much they need to hear it!

MIGHTY CULTURE

March is Marine Infantry Month, here’s how to celebrate

Okay, okay. Marines are arrogant; we get it. So, maybe we don’t need to dedicate an entire month to one of the finest fighting forces on the planet. Maybe doing so will simply add fuel to their egotistical fire. But the fact is that Infantry Marines are some of the best, most badass creatures on the planet, and we’re going celebrate them however we damn-well want.

Luckily, for the celebratory folks among us, the Marine Corps’ MOS codes have given us a pretty easy-to-follow structure. So, we’re officially declaring that March be Marine Infantry Month, and we’re marking the following days on our calendars to celebrate each of the many Marine Corps Infantry sub-cultures.


Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

It should be noted that, on this day, if you wish to express your anger, just yell, “but I have a college degree!”

(U.S. Marine Corps)

March 1st — Infantry Officers Day (0301)

While many may not feel like celebrating it, infantry officers are certainly something you can appreciate. Each year, we’ll start this day off with a land navigation course during which you purposely get lost before you find yourself on a beach, sipping on expensive alcohol with lance corporals cooking on grills (not in the barracks, though).

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

See how much fun this one’s having? That could be you.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brendan Custer)

March 11th — Day of the Rifleman (0311)

The most populous of the infantry jobs, on March 11, start your celebration with a long-distance run or a patrol into a densely wooded area nearby. Once you’re there, eat some MREs — but save that poundcake! You’ll need it for the ceremonial field birthday cake: an MRE pound cake with a burning cigarette in the center.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

This is a day of stillness. Don’t you move, boot.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Israel Chincio)

March 17th — Day of the Snipers (0317)

When you wake up on the 17th, paint your face in camouflage, crawl a few miles, and then lay there for the rest of the day. When the sun starts to set, shoot a rifle at something really far away, and then crawl home.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

A fun day at the beach, right?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christian Ayers)

March 21st — Day of Reconnaissance (0321)

On the 21st, take a boat out from the shore before paddling it back in. What you do after you’ve landed is completely up to you, but no matter what, you can’t tell anyone what happened.

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

Also, make that dumb crunchy dig your fighting hole then take it over!

(U.S. Marine Corps)

March 31st – Weapons Day (0331, 0341, 0351, 0352…)

Because there are a lot of MOS codes out there that end in numbers bigger than 31, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover at the end of the month. Not exactly optimal — each job really deserves their own day — but hey, we didn’t make the universe.

Here’s how a celebration might go: You sit back and watch as the riflemen do all the work and only help them when they call up the proper radio report. Then maybe you help them. Otherwise, you’ve got an avenue of approach to keep an eye on, right?

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of October 5th

This week, airmen all over the world are finally able to don their super cool, super high-speed OCPs. Meanwhile, the Army has just one more year of ACUs before they have to be completely switched to the same pattern. Airmen are loving it, but soldiers have been reacting with a near-unanimous “are you f*cking kidding me?”

The airmen love it because they’re no longer in those ridiculous, tiger-stripe uniform. Soldiers hate it because, well, they’re cramping our style. If the Air Force starts claiming they were a part of the Army during the Pinks & Greens era to get in on that perfect getup (instead of that flight attendant costume), then we might have a problem.

What were we talking about again? Oh, yeah. Enjoy these memes.


Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(Meme via PNN)

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(Meme via Dysfunctional Veterans)

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(Meme by Inkfidel)

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(Meme via Shammers United)

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

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