Everybody looks up - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Everybody looks up

In this video, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, a member of the Defense Innovation (Unit) Board, talks about how space exploration, and the development of technologies that make it possible, can inspire a new generation to seek careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.


Everybody Looks Up

vimeo.com

As with the Apollo and space shuttle missions of previous generations, the U.S. Air Force was once again an integral part of a launch that had everybody looking up. It was an event which will undoubtedly inspire future STEM generations to consider a career in the Air Force.

In a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, NASA astronauts Air Force Col. Robert Behnken and retired Marine Corps Col. Douglas Hurley launched at 3:22 p.m. EDT May 30, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida–the same launch pad used for the Apollo 11 Moon Landing mission.

They were the first astronauts to fly into space from U.S. soil in nine years aboard the first commercially built and operated American spacecraft to carry humans to orbit, opening a new era in human spaceflight.

The astronauts’ spacecraft then docked with International Space Station’s Harmony module at 10:16 a.m. EDT May 31, where Behnken and Hurley were welcomed as crew members of Expedition 63 by fellow NASA astronaut Navy Capt. Chris Cassidy.

Everybody looks up

Astronaut U.S. Air Force Col. Robert Behnken is welcomed aboard the International Space Station after he and retired Marine Col. Douglas Hurley docked their SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on Sunday, March 31, 2020. The two astronauts were the first to launch from American soil in nine years. (STILL PHOTO FROM VIDEO // NASA)

In addition, U.S. Air Force “Guardian Angel” pararescue forces were pre-positioned in key locations, alert and ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, had the astronauts needed to abort the launch and splash down within 200 nautical miles of the launch site. An HC-130 Combat King II aircraft along with two HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters were set to deploy from Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, if needed.

These aircraft will carry a team of up to nine pararescue specialists along with rescue equipment and medical supplies. The pararescue specialists would jump from the aircraft with inflatable boats and an inflatable ring called a stabilization collar to steady the capsule and other equipment in the water.

Everybody looks up

Pararescue specialists from the 304th Rescue Squadron, located in Portland, Oregon and supporting the 45th Operations Group’s Detachment 3, based out of Patrick Air Force Base, prepare equipment during an April astronaut rescue exercise with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and SpaceX off of Florida’s eastern coast. The pararescue specialists, also known as “Guardian Angels,” jumped from military aircraft and simulated a rescue operation to demonstrate their ability to safely remove crew from the SpaceX Crew Dragon in the unlikely event of an emergency landing. The pararescue specialists are fully qualified paramedics able to perform field surgery, if necessary. (PHOTO // U.S. AIR FORCE)

For contingency landings outside of the 200 nautical mile-radius, a C-17 Globesmater III aircraft would have deployed with the same type of team and equipment to execute rescue operation from either Charleston AFB, South Carolina, or Hickam AFB, Hawaii, depending on the splashdown location.

The “Guardian Angels” will also be ready when the astronauts return to Earth.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy vet goes from fighting in Iraq to fighting fires

Navy veteran Tyler Welch used to patrol the streets of Iraq as a corpsman. Now, he’s fighting a new battle against fires.

Welch is part of the Veterans Fire Corps crewmember program, run through the Southeast Conservation Corps. SECC is an AmeriCorps-affiliated non profit that engages recent-era veterans, partnering with the U.S. Forest Service Southeast Region. SECC started the Veterans Fire Corps program in 2018. The 10-month intensive training program engages recent-era military veterans up to age 35 in fuels reduction, fuels management, and wildland firefighting.

For veterans like Welch, the program is a perfect fit for his transition.


“Wildland firefighting had been an idea in the back of my head for a few years as a job to looking into when I got out of the military,” Welch said. “The program that SECC is running piqued my interest because it is a veteran program and is a lengthy training program allowing me to see several parts of the wildland world.”

Everybody looks up

Navy veteran Tyler Welch went from corpsman to Veteran Fire Corps member.

Welch served tours in Hadditha, Iraq, with Marines as the senior corpsman; and in Basra, Iraq, and Kuwait as a search and rescue medical technician. Stateside, he served at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, and at Naval Hospital Whidbey Island, Washington. Seeking a new challenge, he sought something that could use his military service.

“The biggest skills I’ve carried over from the military that have helped with the program are team work and leadership,” he said. “Additionally, just being able to grind and get the work done on the hard day. It’s not always easy or fun, but at the end of the day you look back and see what you accomplished.”

For those looking for a challenge, Welch had three pieces of advice. The first is to keep fit, as days are long. The second is carryover advice from military service: get a good pair of boots. The third is to go camp and get used to being in the woods, living out of a tent and campground.

VFC crews

VFC crewmembers can earn certifications related to fuels management. This includes courses on firefighting, wildland fires, chainsaws, incident management, first aid and CPR. Southeast National Forests use VFC, which facilitates opportunities for crew members to work across a variety of districts and landscapes while simultaneously assisting forests with a myriad of fuels related needs.

“This program is designed to engage veterans in a truly hands-on experience,” said SECC Director Brenna Kelly. “Through rigorous and repeated trainings as well as field-based project work, veterans will earn necessary certifications and practical experience needed to compete for career positions related to fire and natural resource management.”

Everybody looks up

Navy veteran Tyler Welch went from corpsman to Veteran Fire Corps member.

Home base for VFC crews is the Conasauga Ranger District of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in Georgia. The crew roves throughout the Southeastern United States for the duration of the program.

Some projects require members to work five days at a time with two days off. Other projects require camping and living on project locations for 8-14 days, with a set amount of days off. Members cannot use drugs or alcohol during work related travel at any time.

In addition to a stipend, members receive paid trainings and certifications and an education award upon program completion. Members also receive food and accommodations during overnight travel and transportation to and from work sites.

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

Articles

This is why West Point graduates have big shoes to fill

The United States Military Academy (also known as West Point, the Point, the Academy or the Long Gray Line) was founded in March 1802 by Thomas Jefferson. The university, located in West Point, New York, is one of the top educational institutions in the United States. Being selected to study at West Point is very difficult, with only 10 percent of applicants admitted each year.

The high standard of education offered has resulted in a number of very successful alumni. Although it is an institution that produced many brilliant military careers, the achievements of its graduates are not limited to the battlefield. Military, business, politics, sciences or downright groundbreaking achievements, over the years, the West point alumni have brought honor to the Academy in many fields. Some of them have even shaped the future of the United States and played an important role on the international stage. Whatever their field, the West Point graduates carry the motto of their school with them: Duty, Honor, Country.

Wikimedia Commons

Benjamin L.E. Bonneville

Class of 1815. Fearless explorer who ventured into the uncharted American West, mapping the Yellowstone, Green, Salmon, and Snake rivers, as well as the Great Salt Lake. The Bonneville Salt Flats, now used to establish speed records on land, is named after him.

Jefferson Davis

Class of 1828. Successful politician, member of Congress, Senator from Mississippi, Secretary of War from 1853 to 1857. He went on to become the President of the Confederate States of America.

Robert E. Lee

Class of 1829. General in Chief of the Confederate forces during the Civil War, he became the president of the Washington & Lee University after the war.

This painting depicts Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant on the field during the Battle of the Wilderness, Virginia, May 5-7, 1864. (U.S. Army)

Ulysses S. Grant

Class of 1843. General in Chief of the Armies of the United States of America during the Civil War, he went on to become the President of the United States from 1869 to 1877.

John J. Pershing

Class of 1886. Nicknamed “Black Jack,” he was the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Expeditionary Forces during WWI and became General of the Armies in 1919. His tactics were often criticized for their high cost of lives, but he achieved several important military victories.

U.S. Army

Douglas MacArthur

Class of 1903. Supreme Commander of the Pacific from 1941 to 1945, Supreme Commander of the UN Forces in Korea from 1950 to 1951. He received a Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Bataan.

George S. Patton, Jr

Class of 1909. Member of the U.S. Olympic team of 1912 (Pentathlon), he became a commander of the forces in the European Theater during WWII. Known for his bold tactics, he butted heads with his superiors a few times, but he achieved some great victories against the Nazis.

U.S. Army

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Class of 1915. Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe from 1943 to the victory in 1945, reaching the 5-star general rank and organizing Operation Overlord. He went on to become President of the United States from 1953 to 1961.

Robert F. McDermott

Class of 1943. A fighter pilot during WWII, he achieved the rank of brigadier general before having a successful business career, where he became Chairman of USAA.

Fidel V. Ramos

Class of 1950. An international cadet, he became an officer in the Phillipino Army, then served in the Philippino government, before becoming President of the Republic of the Philippines from 1992 to 1998.

NASA

Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin

Class of 1951. Astronaut from 1963 to 1972, he became the second man to ever walk on the Moon in July 1969.

Edward White II

Class of 1952. Astronaut from 1962 to 1967, he became the first American to do a spacewalk. He died tragically in 1967, during the Apollo spacecraft fire.

James V. Kimsey

Class of 1962. Served two tours in Vietnam as a Ranger. He co-founded and headed AOL as Chairman until 1995 and created the Kimsey Foundation upon retirement.

Marshall Larsen

Class of 1970. He became COO of the Goodrich Aerospace Corporation, CEO and chairman of Ithaco Space Systems, Inc, and chairman of the Aerospace Industries Association.

Wikimedia Commons

Robert Alan McDonald

Class of 1975. Politician and businessman, he became the eighth Secretary of Veterans Affairs in the United States and went on to become CEO of Proctor & Gamble.

Alex Gorsky

Class of 1982. After graduation, he became an Army Ranger, where he reached the rank of Captain. He successfully transitioned into a business career, where he became CEO of Johnson & Johnson.


Feature image: U.S. Army photo

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

When US Marines and sailors arrived in the Baltic region in June for 2019’s Baltic Operations exercise, they did so as national leaders came together in Western Europe for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

But the 47th iteration of BaltOps wasn’t tailored to that anniversary, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Rob Sellin and Marine Maj. Jeff Starr, two officers tasked with planning amphibious operations for BaltOps 2019, in a June 2019 interview.

When they started planning in February 2019, they were aware of the timing, but the schedule was shaped by more immediate concerns. “This is the best weather time to be in this area of the world,” Sellin said.


Sellin and Starr focused on big-picture planning and sought to get the most out of the exercises — “ensuring that we were able to include as many possible craft, as many … landing craft on the amphibious side as possible,” Starr said

“As we traveled and visited all these different countries and different landing locations,” Starr added, “we really had an eye for the specific capabilities and limitations of all the craft that were going to be involved, so that we could make sure to get the maximum inclusion for our NATO partners and allies.”

Below, you can see how the US and its partners trained for one of the most complex operations any military does, and how they did it in an increasingly tense part of the world.

Everybody looks up

US Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Ty-Chon Montemoino briefs US and Spanish marines on boarding a landing craft utility while aboard the USS Fort McHenry.

(US Marine/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

Everybody looks up

Spanish amphibious assault vehicles prepare to exit the well deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry, June 15, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

Everybody looks up

US and Spanish Marines exit the well deck of the USS Fort McHenry on a landing craft utility, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

Everybody looks up

US and Romanian marines secure a beach after disembarking Polish mine layer/landing ship ORP Gnierzno, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

Everybody looks up

US Marines and sailors and Romanian and Spanish Marines secure a beach after disembarking from a Polish using Soviet Tracked Amphibious Transports and from Landing Craft Utility ships using Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo Vehicles and Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacements, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

Everybody looks up

Members of the US Navy Fleet Survey Team conduct a hydrographic beach survey in Ravlunda, Sweden, ahead of BALTOPS 2019, May 8, 2019.

(Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command/Kaley Turfitt)

Everybody looks up

US Marines disembark a landing craft utility during a tactics exercise in Sweden, June 19, 2019.

(US Marine/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

Everybody looks up

US Marines exchange information with Spanish marines on the flight deck of the USS Fort McHenry, June 14, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

Everybody looks up

US Marines and Romanian marines secure a beach after disembarking from Polish mine layer/landing ship ORP Gniezno in Estonia, June 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Abrey Liggins)

Everybody looks up

Royal Marines exit a British navy Merlin MK 4 helicopter via fast rope as part of an amphibious assault in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

11 countries joined the BaltOps amphibious task group, and personnel from four countries took part in the landings. “Contrary to popular belief, the language barriers typically don’t prove too concerning for these planning efforts,” Starr said. “What does prove a little bit challenging for us is various communications systems and how they work interoperably.”

Lithuania borders the Russian province of Kaliningrad along the Baltic Sea, placing some of the amphibious exercises close to Russia.

Everybody looks up

Spanish amphibious assault vehicles exit the well deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry, June 16, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

Everybody looks up

A Polish PTS-M carries Romanian Marines ashore during an amphibious assault exercise at Baltic Operations 2019’s Distinguished Visitors Day in Palanga, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Marine/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

Like other officials involved in BaltOps, Sellin and Starr stressed that the exercise wasn’t directed at any other country. But tensions between Russia and NATO remain elevated after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea — particularly around the Baltic states and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are NATO members (and rely on NATO air forces to patrol their airspace) as is Norway.

Sweden and Finland are not in NATO but have responded to increasing tension in the region. Both have worked more closely with NATO in addition to bolstering their own militaries.

Everybody looks up

US Marines march to the beach from a landing craft utility for an amphibious assault exercise in Klaipeda, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

Everybody looks up

A Royal Marine disembarks the USS Mount Whitney onto a landing craft vehicle attached to British Royal Navy ship HMS Albion in the Baltic Sea, June 16, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Scott Barnes)

Everybody looks up

Landing craft utility vessels stand by at sea after transporting Marines during an amphibious landing demonstration in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

Everybody looks up

Romanian Marines in an amphibious assault vehicle exit a landing craft utility as a part of an amphibious landing demonstration in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

Everybody looks up

US Marines perform a simulated amphibious assault from a landing craft utility in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

Everybody looks up

A US Marine and Spanish Marines buddy rush across the beach following an amphibious landing demonstration during the final event of NATO exercise Baltic Operations 2019 in Lithuania, June 16, 2019, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

Everybody looks up

A US Navy landing craft offloads vehicles during an amphibious exercise at Kallaste Beach in Estonia, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

BaltOps 2019 took place just after the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and while that still colors popular perceptions of amphibious operations, Starr and Sellin said they don’t plan for the kind of massive landing that put hundreds of thousands of Allied troops ashore in Normandy in 1944.

On June 6, 1944, more than 130,000 Allied troops rushed ashore on Normandy’s beaches as part of Operation Overlord, the beginning of the assault known as D-Day.

Everybody looks up

Romanian Marines storm the beach during an amphibious assault exercise for Baltic Operations 2019’s Distinguished Visitors Day in Palanga, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

Everybody looks up

US Marine Cpl. Timothy Moffitt runs ashore during an amphibious assault exercise for Baltic Operations 2019 in Palanga, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

“The reality is as amphibious planners, our job is to give our commanders a variety of options … for ways to accomplish the mission, and it’s very much not limited to putting a huge force ashore,” Sellin said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army wants to change rules on who can be buried at Arlington National Cemetery

The Acting Secretary of the Army announced proposed changes to eligibility criteria at Arlington National Cemetery. This begins the process for the federal government to prepare for the public rulemaking process which includes public feedback to the proposed changes.

The nation’s premiere military cemetery is at a critical crossroads in its history. Nearly all of the 22 million living armed forces members and veterans are eligible for less than 95,000 remaining burial spaces within these hallowed grounds.


A planned Southern Expansion project will add 37 acres of additional burial space for the nation’s veterans. Southern Expansion includes the area nearest the Air Force Memorial and a part of the former grounds of the Navy Annex. However, expansion alone will not keep Arlington National Cemetery open to new interments well into the future. Without changes to eligibility, Arlington National Cemetery will be full for first burials by the mid-2050s.

Everybody looks up

Columbarium Courts 10 and 11 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, July 20, 2018.

(Photo by Ms. Elizabeth Fraser)

“The hard reality is we are running out of space. To keep Arlington National Cemetery open and active well into the future means we have to make some tough decisions that restrict the eligibility,” said Executive Director of Army National Military Cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery Karen Durham-Aguilera.

The Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act directed the Secretary of the Army to establish revised eligibility criteria to keep the cemetery functioning as an active burial ground well into the future, defined as 150 years.

The Secretary established imperatives to recognize the individual’s sacrifice, service and impact to the nation’s security. The proposed eligibility criteria honors commitment to military service and is equitable across branches and eras of service. Additionally, any change should be easily understood, fair and consistent with Arlington National Cemetery’s mission.

Years of outreach have guided the decision-making process. Arlington National Cemetery and its stakeholders — military and veteran service organizations, military, government leaders, Congress, veterans, military service members and their family members — have been working this issue very closely.

Everybody looks up

Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.

“This has been a very lengthy and deliberate process that has been done in the public domain,” said former Superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery Katharine Kelley. “We have a Federal Advisory Committee at Arlington National Cemetery, an independent body mandated by Congress to look at very substantive issues related to the cemetery, and they have looked at the question of eligibility for many years,” said Kelley.

The cemetery has maintained an active and ongoing dialogue with military and veteran service organizations over two and a half years of thoughtful deliberation and public outreach. Additionally, the cemetery has conducted public surveys that garnered input and feedback from these important stakeholders, as well the active duty component who serves today.

The cemetery received more than 250,000 responses to these national surveys, and the results offered a compelling look at the opinions and attitudes of veterans, family members and active duty populations. Ninety-five percent of respondents want Arlington to not only remain open, but remain open and active well into the future.

“We’ve made extensive efforts to listen and gather input as part of this process, and that feedback we have received has been part of the Secretary’s deliberations and part of our discussions going forward,” said Kelley.

Now that the Secretary has established the proposed criteria, once cleared, the Department of the Army will publish a draft rule in the Federal Register for public comment, adjudicate public comments and publish the final rule. Federal rulemaking is a deliberative process and is expected to take a minimum of nine months.

“This is a lengthy process, but it’s another opportunity to have a say in what the future of Arlington National Cemetery should be for our nation,” said Durham-Aguilera.

Everybody looks up

An officer salutes as members of the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard take the casket of a Sailor killed during the Vietnam War to his gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Todd Frantom)

In addition to preserving 1,000 gravesites for current and future Medal of Honor recipients, the proposed revised eligibility criteria for those who honorably serve the nation are as follows:

For below-ground interment:

  • Killed in Action, to include repatriated remains of service members
  • Award recipients of the Silver Star and above who also served in combat
  • Recipients of the Purple Heart
  • Combat-related service deaths while conducting uniquely military activities
  • Former Prisoners of War
  • Presidents and Vice Presidents of the United States
  • Veterans with combat service who also served out of uniform as a government official and made significant contributions to the nation’s security at the highest levels of public service

For above-ground inurnment:

  • World War II-era veterans, to include legislated active duty designees
  • Retirees from the armed forces who are eligible to receive retired pay but are not otherwise eligible for interment
  • Veterans who have served a minimum of two years on active duty and who have served in combat
  • Veterans without combat service who also served out of uniform as a government official and made significant contributions to the nation’s security at the highest levels of public service

Eventual implementation of revised eligibility will not affect previously scheduled services at Arlington National Cemetery. Additionally, the proposed revisions will not affect veterans’ burial benefits or veteran eligibility at Department of Veterans Affairs 137 national cemeteries and 115 state veterans cemeteries.

Arlington National Cemetery will continue to actively engage stakeholders in the important decisions impacting the future of the cemetery.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 terms you won’t believe have military origins

There’s a long history of military slang, probably dating all the way back to when the first people hit each other with sticks and rocks. While military slang can be fun, it’s even more fun when it seeps into the common vernacular of everyday people. The only problem is when a word or phrase is too good, its origin gets lost in time, and people forget where it came from – but no longer.

Here are just a few words and phrases that came from military tradition.

1. “Best man”

In the days of yore, it was quite possible that a betrothed man might lose his wife even before their wedding to any number of possible hazards – rival bands, enemy leaders, or even random highwaymen. So while he was in the middle of the ceremony, he would enlist his best swordsman to cover his back while his attention was focused elsewhere or hold off an attacking party while the new couple made their getaway.

2. “Boondocks”

These days, to be way out in the boonies means you’re out in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in the sticks. When the term was coined, it meant that too, only the actual boondocks are in the Philippines. In Tagalog, “bundok” literally translates to “mountains” so when Filipino fighters told American troops they were headed to the bundoks during the 1898 Spanish-American War and the subsequent Philippine-American War, it meant they were headed to the islands’ inner wilderness.

3. “Cowboys”

On their way to the first Cowboys-Patriots Super Bowl. Public domain.
 

Sorry, but the term “cowboy” used to define the ranchers and vaqueros of the Old West was never actually used for those guys at the time. They were usually just called cow herders or cowhands. The term “cowboy” goes well past the 19th Century. The original cowboys were American colonists loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolution. They would band together in guerrilla units and lure other units of rebel farmers into ambushes using cowbells to coax them in. After the war, it was used to describe criminals from Texas who made raids into Mexico.

4. “Face the music”

In the European military tradition (from which the U.S. tradition is derived), any disgraced officer who was summarily kicked out of his unit was done so in the most demeaning manner possible. As the regiment’s drummer played on, the officer would have his sword broken, his buttons removed, and his charges read to the entire room. The officer was them marched across the parade ground to the tune of the “Rogue’s March” toward the regimental band.

5. “Last ditch effort”

Everybody looks up
Public domain

In the kind of fighting that took place in the 16th and 17 Century, troops didn’t just maneuver around the battlefields in the open, in tight formations, wearing bright colors. I mean, they did that, but they also constructed a series of earthwork redoubts and other protective places to hold. Among these was a series of trenches they could fall back to if the stuff started hitting the fan – and they would dig many in case things went really wrong. But everyone knew by the time you got to your last one, you had to do something amazing, or everyone was likely to die in that last ditch.

6. “The whole nine yards”

Everybody looks up
Loading up a P-51 Mustang.

This term appeared in the 1950s, after the end of World War II – and it has nothing to do with football or anything else where yardage is a factor. It refers to the length of the ammunition belts designed for American and British fighter planes during the war, 27 feet (or nine yards). When flying a particularly tough mission or otherwise using a lot of ammo, a pilot might have been said to use “the whole nine yards.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

What it looks like when Marines fire their biggest guns

Last year, the Australian Army hosted one of its largest military exercises with participants from the U.S. Marine Corps and the French military working side-by-side with Australian forces. The three militaries practiced how to work with each other as well as how to best incorporate the strengths of each force.

And that gives us a perfect chance to watch the highly mobile, flexible and lethal Marine artilleryman at work.


For warfighting exercise Koolendong, the 3rd Battalion, 11 Marines brought out their “Triple Sevens.” These are M777 howitzers which fire 155mm shells. An M777 is capable of sending a 103-pound shell to a target almost 14 miles away and of hitting that target within 54 yards thanks to a GPS-guided fuze.

An extended-range version of the round can go almost 23 miles at maximum range.

But of course, the rounds and the howitzers are only as good as the artillerymen manning them, and the Marines in the video above prove themselves quite capable of using their weapon to maximum effect.

While other troops sometimes make fun of artillerymen with accusations that they’re too weak to walk all the way to the target or too dumb for other work, the fact is that artillery requires a crap-ton of math, even more upper body strength, and an insane level of attention to detail.

And that need for strength and attention to detail only gets greater the larger the gun is. And if artillery is king of the battle, the M777 is a roided-out king who could wrestle a lion.

There’s a Marine who ferries ammunition from the truck or ammo supply point to the weapon, which requires a quick movement of dozens of yards while carrying over 100 pounds every time he does it.

There are two Marines who work together to ram the round from its staged position into the breech, something that is accomplished with a massive, heavy tool that they sprint against.

There’s the gunner who’s trying to make sure his weapon is perfectly aimed after each shot, even though it settles into the dirt differently after every firing. The tiniest mistake in his measurements could send the round hundreds of yards off target.

And while the crew is firing at its sustained rate, of two rounds per minute, it can be tough. But their max firing rate is five rounds per minute, meaning that they have to repeat their physically and mentally challenging jobs every twelve seconds without fail. To see what that looks like, check out the video at top if you haven’t already.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Marine veteran is bringing something new to the Cannabis Industry: Integrity

We all have that friend who marches to the beat of their own drum. The one who challenges the stereotypes of how the world has always been or, even scarier, doesn’t care. These are the friends who don’t follow normal routines, who see life not just as doing work but as a chance to build something bigger than themselves. They are seemingly fearless.

For me, that friend is James Brobyn.


As a “Mustang,” a prior enlisted Marine, who worked his way to the Naval Academy and then into leading Marines in combat as an infantry officer, James has always taken risks. Even after he took off the uniform, he continued to pursue challenges that seemed too risky to consider, even for the most battle hardened. He helped the Travis Manion Foundation grow from a small family-led nonprofit into a nationally recognized powerhouse. He’s started businesses, closed businesses and started them again. James’ battles can be scary both to your health and to your finances but I’ve learned that my friend is not fearless. Instead, he finds his strength in a single word that defines who he is at his core: INTEGRITY.

In ancient Rome, the Legionnaires, not unlike Marines today, would conduct inspections before battle. Paramount in this ritual was their breastplate, the armour that protects soldiers from enemy arrows or swords. Legionnaires would spend countless hours polishing their breastplates and tightening straps. Not a single crack or chip was permitted. When a soldier passed inspection, he would pound his fist into the metal and yell, “Integritas,” (Integrity) for all others to hear. This was not only an affirmation that the armour was sound but also that the heart and soul it protected was of whole, pure character — ready to take on any challenge in battle.

James has called me into his battles both figuratively and literally many times over the last two decades. We served together in the Marines and deployed together to Iraq. He’s been my boss twice. He fired me once only to hire me back 10 years later. Another story for another time but I am grateful for everything he has taught me. Above all else, James is not afraid of hard work. In between these battles, James would disappear for a few months and then reappear with a phone call. Even to this day, he still starts each conversation with my callsign from Iraq, “White 1.”

Not long ago, James called me again. “White 1, I got something for you.” He paused. “I’ve started a cannabis company and I want you to come see what we’ve built.” Of course, I was intrigued but also weary. Cannabis is an industry tied with all kinds of risk. It’s legal in some states, not in others. It’s celebrated by some of my friends (especially veterans) and hated by others, including my own family. There is a stigma that cannabis is the Wild West, a gold rush of former drug dealers and shady investors trying to get rich in the grey area. It’s a world of multiple tribes jockeying for power. Honestly, it felt a little like James was asking me to go back to Iraq. I stuttered, “Is this legal?”

My friend could only laugh, “Yes, we’ve built our business with integrity from the ground up.” Two days later, I was on a plane to a cannabis farm in Michigan. What I saw changed my entire view of both James and the industry.

The American Fiber Company (AmFI) is a multistate cannabis brand that delivers pharmaceutical grade products directly to consumers and wholesalers. It is also the result of a three year journey that took James and his team from Colombia to Canada to the United States. AmFi operates three dispensaries in Michigan; they’re the first company approved to import FDA certified 100% organic CBD oil into the United States and they’ve partnered with world class research facilities to ensure their products maintain the highest safety standards. My first question to James: “How the hell did you build all this?”

James reminded me, “We did the hard work. We built the framework. We run it the right way with Integrity.”

I recently chatted with James to understand more about his journey from combat to cannabis.

James: White 1.

WATM: Blue 1. (James’s callsign from 2006). Boom. All right. Comms are up. So here’s my thought and you tell me what you feel comfortable with. I would really like to focus on your journey from combat to the cannabis industry as well as some of the crazy things that happened along the way.

James: Ok. So before I answer that, what is your goal with the article?

I think to myself, “Dammit. How did he turn that one on me so fast?”

WATM: Good question. I like to highlight influencers in our space that are at the top of their game. It’s a series of interview questions so people can get to know others that are making moves in our world. So are you making moves?

James: (He laughs). Yeah, ok, I think that makes sense. So I guess from my standpoint, I’m most excited about how the journey got me to this point right now. Honestly, every skill from the Academy to leading Marines in combat to the Travis Manion Foundation are all being used to build something.

All those core values that we learned and were beat into us. Do hard work with integrity, do it the right way. That’s what’s really neat about it. When you put those principles to work every day and you teach people to abide by them, you build your own tribe and it works. People want to be a part of something. And that’s what’s kind of cool about this. That’s what’s really been the neatest part about the cannabis industry. It’s a rich kind of this weird, you know, fraternity that lets in all types of people, which is great.

WATM: When was the first time you got introduced to cannabis?

James: My God, I was a teenager. I grew up in Philly in the 80s and 90s. At 15, 16, 17, it was part of the culture. Honestly, it wasn’t about weed. I was just trying to fit in with the local friends. Normal teenage stuff. And I wanted to keep up with my older brothers but I made bad choices and eventually my dad kicked me out of the house.

WATM: Kicked you out?

James: Yep, at 19, but honestly he should have done it earlier. In hindsight, I just wanted to find my tribe and the outcome was partying. I had it in sports, but, you know, as soon as you start getting older and you leave high school you lose the camaraderie. A lot of people do. So I made bad decisions. We’ll leave it at that.

WATM: What about the decision to join the Marine Corps?

James: When I was at boot camp, I was like, what the hell did I do? I thought that, like, every day. But I think most people do. When I got my aircrew wings, it was scary to be Lance Corporal, but I had two pilots in my squadron that I flew with consistently. They told me about a program for helping enlisted Marines get into the Naval Academy. They changed my life.

WATM: Why do you think they focused on you?

James: In so many ways, they took an interest in me and my long term well-being. Not short term, not as some piece of equipment, but in me as a person. Once word got around that there was traction on my application, honestly, I had half the squadron helping me out. I even had Staff NCOs that were taking me on ridiculous runs to train me to get ready to go to the Naval Academy. I mean, I think they just saw I gave a shit. I showed up every day.

WATM: Is there anything about your time at the Academy that stands out? Any major lessons learned that you still use today?

James: You learn how to win there. I believe it. It comes down to two things. First is the honor code. I think you see it with Captain Crozier (USNA ’92) and the recent situation on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Your integrity is what you have. If you give it away, then you have no foundation. Nothing to build from. It’s a house of cards. Secondly, the Academy teaches you that you can do more than any other person out there. Without a doubt. I mean, you know, the amount of stuff you can get done in 24 hours there is ridiculous. I keep those lessons with me daily.
Everybody looks up

​James with the Marines of 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in Iraq, 2006

Photo Courtesy of James Brobyn

WATM: You graduated in 2004, and we deployed to Iraq together not long after. What is there about leading Marines that stands out?

James: I loved my dudes. 2006 and 2007 were hard times to be in Iraq. We were given a mission to provide security for 30,000 people and not much more resources than what we had. That pretty much looks like a small business to me. It was the best entrepreneurship training that I’ve had. Honestly, combat is the closest thing to running a business in the cannabis industry. that I have found. You have to be nimble, understand uncertainty, take a look at risks and act. But at the end of the day, your plan never survives first contact. All you can do is surround yourself with good people.

WATM: How do you make the leap from combat to cannabis?

James: At first, I was just following cannabis related to veterans. There are a lot of positive benefits outside just the medical aspects. First off, dudes drink less, eat better and lose weight. There are multiple levels of benefit but I hadn’t thought about the business side of things until I met Dan Tobon, a former Army Sniper and Iraq veteran. We became fast friends. Dan had just started working on a project in Colombia where his family is from called NuSierra Holdings.

Colombia had approved export of cannabis products and it was anticipated at that time Canada and Australia would be able to import them, even THC products. So it was a big rush to get out of Colombia and go out to the commoditized cannabis world. Then we met John Leja, founder of PharmaCannis, who understood the retail side of the business and was trying to establish a packing facility in Toronto. I met John and Dan at a bar in Philly and they asked me, Will you help us out?I didn’t know much about cannabis but I knew we had supply and distribution so I said, ‘Sure. Let’s figure this out.’ I was on a plane to Toronto the next day.

WATM: There are so many stereotypes associated with cannabis, do you have a hard time getting over the stigmas or comparisons to a gold rush?

James: I learned alot from John and Dan about how to stop thinking of cannabis as a shiny object of gold that’s going to make everyone rich but as a commodity that’s going to be turned into an amazing consumer product. If you reframe cannabis that way, you can start thinking about designing a strategy where you can gain footholds into different parts of the supply chain that are completely compliant, legal, and then allow us to really take a good market share of the industry.
Everybody looks up

James and the Author in a American Fiber Company grow facility

Photo Courtesy of James Brobyn

WATM: Was this venture your training for the American Fiber Company and setting up a cannabis business in the U.S.?

James: 100%. In 2018, it felt like every state was its own country when it came to cannabis. Some were recreational, others were medicinal only and others, it was flat out illegal. We had a plan for how to set up a multi-state operation but it’s hard to work because every jurisdiction has its own rules. And you literally have to go into jurisdictions. You have to work with the locals. You can’t just pop in your model and make it work. You have to build from the ground up and it all came back to finding the right people. People with integrity. American Fiber established our first operations in Southwest Michigan.

WATM: You’ve mentioned integrity a lot. What does integrity really mean to you?

James: It’s not about just telling the truth. It’s about following through. It’s about doing what you say you’re going to do. Doing it the right way. Even if it’s hard — especially if it’s hard. That’s the key here because that’s how you normalize the industry. We work with the state and federal regulators to do the hard work that people don’t want to do.

WATM: Like becoming the first company in the U.S. to legally import full spectrum CBD oil?

James: That’s just one example. We never set out to be the first company in the world to import full-spectrum CBD oil out of Colombia into the US, but we figured out how to get it compliant with Customs and Border Protection. But we’ve also taken on other challenges that are just as hard. We’ve built a research partnership in Delaware with Fraunhofer Center for Molecular Biology so that we can figure out how to start collecting real data on health benefits so that we can go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, get approved by the FDA on certain products and continue to provide safe quality, cannabis products to our consumers. And that’s why it’s a long game.

Everybody looks up

The American Fiber Company Team in Michigan

Photo Courtesy of James Brobyn

WATM: Is the long game paying off?

James: I think so. Take the current COVID-19 restrictions for example. Every state that had medicinal and recreational policies deemed cannabis business essential. I mean, yeah. Our team in South Michigan is out there every day serving patients curbside, delivery, and hopefully drive-through soon. We’re moving into a post-prohibition world right now and now it’s pretty exciting.

WATM: Where do you see American Fiber in that world. Maybe 5 years from now?

James: Oh, my God. That’s like 50 decades in this industry. Well, let me tell you what the ultimate goal is, and it’s how we’ve always tried to build a company. I always felt that we built a company that we could take public. Ultimately, I want American Fiber to be synonymous with all the values that make our people and country ready to face whatever challenge comes ahead. Hard work, commitment and integrity.

WATM: Integritas.

James: Exactly. Integritas.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s how this Army general wishes he could handle internet trolls

Anybody that spends even the slightest bit of time on social media today is woefully aware of internet trolls. If, by some miracle of a chance, you haven’t had a run in with one of these anger facilitators on platforms like Facebook or Twitter, you’ve still almost certainly seen their kind surfacing in the comments sections under news articles and YouTube videos as though these digital outlets are little more than the sharpie-laden door of a bathroom stall.

They strike without warning, offering nonsense arguments without context or citation, caps-lock tirades, or insulting one-liners that someone, somewhere apparently thinks is funny while the rest of us are stuck scratching our heads or shaking our fists. In the societal hierarchy of the digital domain, internet trolls rank somewhere just below trantrum-throwing toddlers in terms of discourse, but their presence has become such an expected bit of online life that most of us log into our social media platforms of choice with our eyes already rolling in anticipation.


But what if it didn’t have to be that way? That was clearly on Lt. Gen. Ted Martin’s mind this week. The deputy commanding general of Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) released a hilarious video on Twitter Wednesday showing exactly how he’d like to handle the masses of keyboard warriors.


Twitter

twitter.com

“I got another snarky comment,” Martin tells a member of his staff after calling him into his office. “Can you get ahold of [Army Cyber]? I need to find out about @jackwagon. I don’t know who that is.”
Everybody looks up

Not the hero we deserve, but the hero we need. (US Army photo)

Obviously, war fighting is serious business, as is training for the same–but it’s nice to see someone at the 3-Star level exercising his sense of humor in what has otherwise been one brutal year.

Unfortunately, we probably won’t be able to get the 10-digit grid coordinates of every snarky jackwagon with a black belt in keyboard-fu, but at least we know we’re not the only ones that wish we could send a tank platoon and some Rangers after them.

Bravo Zulu, sir.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 business lessons from the ‘Black Hawk down’ raid

It is a day that should always be remembered — and studied.

On Oct. 3, 1993 a large special operations force unit set out to capture a Somali warlord, Mohamed Farrah Aidid, who was causing the deaths of Somali civilians by capturing international food aid and killing international peacekeeping forces who were providing security for the food relief effort. The “routine” combat operation to capture Aidid was drastically changed when one, and then two, Black Hawk helicopters were shot down in a dense urban area of Mogadishu that was swarming with militia. The mission instantly transformed from a capture mission into a multi-pronged rescue filled with tragedy, heroism, bravery, brotherhood, and lessons for the future.


Mogadishu, Somalia on Oct. 3, 1993 is a reminder of the sacrifices of the fallen and wounded U.S. servicemen as well as the unparalleled efforts to reduce the suffering for the Somali people.

Lesson #1: The team is the most important.

As the events unfolded from the planned capture mission into multiple rescue missions, street fighting, medical evacuations, and resupply missions, the military personnel realized they were fighting for each other. A SOF mission planning tenant is that “humans are more important than hardware”. The military understands missions cannot be accomplished without personnel, and business needs to learn that employees matter most.

In business, it is amazingly easy to focus on revenue, profitability, and stock prices, but Oct. 3, 1993 clearly reminds us that it is employees that need to be an overarching focus for a successful business in periods of crisis.

Lesson #2: Stability in success is an illusion.

During the prior raids in Mogadishu, the SOF unit had used a well-rehearsed and well-executed combination of helicopter and ground convoy insertion and extraction tactics that performed well. On Oct. 3, 1993, the various militia in Mogadishu used RPGs in a ground-to-air role instead of the traditional ground-to-ground role. This change in how RPGs were used immediately put at risk the heavy reliance on helicopters when two Black Hawks were shot down using RPGs.

Businesses need to learn that any stability in their product line, pricing, and customer base can vanish overnight when the competition rapidly adapts.

Lesson #3: Building teamwork & relationships before the battle. 

Prior to the battle, the SOF forces trained together and many had known each other for years. The times before adversity are the most important because it is during the times of quiet that learning occurs, relationships are built, and methods perfected. It was really all the time before the battle that prevented Oct. 3 in Mogadishu from turning into a tragedy.

Business needs to realize that during the “good” times, business needs to take a very hard look at products, implement solid employee training programs, value customers, and develop broad product and service lines to begin improving business results before the competition acts.

Lesson #4: Difficult training triumphs over adversity.

The SOF in the Battle of Mogadishu were Rangers, Special Operations Aviation, the legendary “Delta” Force, and other military units. These groups are some of the most highly-trained military forces in the world. The central point for business (that the military realizes) is that you may never fully know when you will enter your most challenging point, which is why constant, difficult training is vital to success.

Business leaders must understand that constant, challenging, up-to-date and difficult training is the only way to remain constantly prepared for challenges that you cannot fully anticipate.

Lesson #5: Success in one area does not mean success in another.

In 1993, the U.S. military was supreme in the world. It had been a central player in forcing the Soviet Union to abandon communism for democratic reforms. In the Middle East, Operation Desert Storm built a strong coalition that destroyed the regional military power, Iraq, in less than a week of conventional ground combat.

The unexpected challenge for the U.S. military in Mogadishu was that the militia forces were an exceptionally effective, and highly untraditional, military force adept at fighting in the dense, confusing urban terrain of a major city. The lesson for business is that just because you are strong in one product category or one market does not mean that you will be strong in others.

Lesson #6: Lower level leaders with initiative bring success.

Encouraging and developing leaders with initiative is one of the hallmarks of SOF. A great deal of the success that US forces experienced in Mogadishu came from lower level leaders who understood that the initial plan had to be modified, observed what needed to be done, and then took multiple successful actions to ensure that the follow on plan was successful. The lesson for business is that few product launches or new business initiatives succeed exactly according to plan.

Business needs to encourage the development of trained, bright, and focused leaders and instill them with a spirit of initiative, so they seek out problems when initial plans fail to deliver success at the end. Initiative is one of the most powerful forces in employees.

Lesson #7: Learn, reshape your operations, and prepare for the next fight.

Finally, SOF never rest in examining their mistakes and creating new methods, tactics, and equipment to ensure success in the future. The Battle of Mogadishu continues to be relentlessly studied and examined by the very people that fought the battle to improve for the future.

Oct. 3, 1993 brought about a renewed focus on urban fighting, new medical technology to halt bleeding faster, and renewed focus on fighting as a combined force of air and ground teams working together. Business needs to adopt the military process of an after-action review, or debrief, to learn how to make every operation a study for future improvement. An effective team never rests in their desire to be even greater.

The business challenges of COVID-19 continue to demonstrate that life and business are transforming in unpredictable and dynamic ways. When a business focuses on their team, expects and plans for instability, builds teamwork, trains their employees, understands the strategic relevance of prior success, builds employee initiative, and constantly learns how to be better that organization is prepared to succeed in a world of chaos and challenge.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘From Cradle to Career’: Special Operations Warrior Foundation Leaves No Child of America’s Fallen Special Operators Behind

Alicia Sims was at her neighbor’s house to get some Tylenol when she heard a knock at the front door. At first she thought it was one of her five children.

“Come in,” she hollered.

There was no reply.

“It’s unlocked, come in,” she yelled.

Again, no answer.

She went to the door and there stood a chaplain and another man. Immediately, Alicia’s thoughts turned to her husband, Jacob, a 36-year-old MH-47G Chinook pilot in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment who was deployed to Afghanistan at the time, in October 2017.

“Is he okay?” Alicia asked.

The two did not immediately reply.

“Is he okay?” she asked again, clinging to the hope that her husband was only wounded. “Just tell me where I have to go.”

“If he was okay, I wouldn’t be here right now,” the chaplain replied.

Then, he delivered the news: Jacob’s Chinook had crashed during a nighttime raid in Afghanistan’s Logar Province. Six crew members were injured. Jacob was dead.

Alicia and Jacob Sims. Photo courtesy of Alicia Sims.

High school sweethearts, the couple began dating when Alicia was a sophomore. She married Jacob the day after she graduated. As a married couple, they’d been through thick and thin. Five children, countless deployments, moving across the country. Not an unusual story for military families in the post-9/11 era.

A chief warrant officer in the Army’s elite aviation outfit the “Night Stalkers,” based at Fort Lewis in Washington, Jacob had steadily advanced in his career over the years. Having dedicated her life to her family, Alicia, for her part, had never gone to university or had a career of her own. Instead, she’d held down the home front while her husband deployed over and over again — more times than she can now remember — to the war zones in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places such as Kosovo. And now the nightmare had come true. Her husband, the father of their five children, wouldn’t be coming home this time.

Alicia was devastated, and she would grieve. Yes, that would come. But not yet. In the immediate roil and tumble of the single worst instant of her life, the first thing that went through Alicia Sims’ mind was how she was going to give her children the news that their father had died.

“My first thought was, Now I’ve got to tell my five kids this,” Alicia says in a telephone interview with Coffee or Die Magazine from her home in Clarksville, Tennessee.

“I’d been with Jacob half my life, and I was a stay-at-home mom,” she continues. “All I could think was: What am I going to do? How am I going to support these kids? I don’t even have an education. How am I going to pay bills? There were a lot of things running through my mind.”

In the first days following Jacob’s death, Alicia’s needs revolved around simple things like food, laundry, and getting the children to school. She also had to go to Dover, Delaware, to receive her husband’s body.

“I had to come back and plan his funeral and do all of that. And when you’re being pulled in all those different directions, you don’t think about grocery shopping or food or anything else,” she says.

Jacob Sims with two of his five children. Photo courtesy of Alicia Sims.

As time went on, however, the immediacy of the tragedy faded and the long-term reality of being a single mother set in. Consequently, Alicia’s worries evolved to encompass larger issues — more complicated problems than a simple check or a home-cooked meal by a neighbor could fix. Above all, she needed a college degree to land a job that could support her and her five children. But how would she ever find the time to go to school? Their youngest child, a daughter named Harper, was just shy of 2 years old when Jacob died, and Alicia couldn’t afford day care or preschool. Plus, in a few years the two oldest daughters would be thinking about going to college — how was she ever going to pay for all that?

The walls seemed to be closing in until something incredible happened — an unexpected encounter that forever changed the course of Alicia’s life. At an event for families of the fallen, a Special Operations Warrior Foundation representative approached Alicia, informing her that the organization had begun funding preschool programs. And then the magic words: “Are you interested?”

“And so the youngest of my five was one of their first kids that they put through preschool, which is very fortunate for me,” Alicia later explains. “None of my kids have ever been in preschool or anything like that, so Harper is the only one. Last year she was in preschool and this year she’s in pre-K, fully funded by the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.”

Today, Alicia Sims is a single mother, raising three daughters, aged 15, 14, and 4; and two boys, aged 11 and 10. The youngest daughter, Harper, will have her education paid for by the Special Operations Warrior Foundation from preschool to university. Her two older daughters are enrolled in a college preparation academy, and her son has been receiving math tutoring — all paid for by the foundation.

With her children’s educational needs provided for, Alicia has been able to pursue a college degree in social work.

“Knowing the [Special Operations Warrior Foundation] is just an email away if we were to need anything education-wise, it puts my mind at ease. Because I don’t have to worry about what to cut this month to pay for tutoring or anything like that,” Alicia says.

She adds: “Because my youngest gets to go to preschool, and I don’t have to worry about day care, it’s allowed me to better myself to further my own career so I can take care of myself and my kids and not have to rely on other people.”

The Sims family’s five children, now aged 15, 14, 11, 10, and 4. Photo courtesy Alicia Sims.

Typically after a tragedy, the immediate outpourings of grief and sympathy taper off as time goes on. And it is the family, the survivors, who are left to live with the enduring consequences of their loss, while others — no matter how well intentioned their initial expressions of sympathy may have been — are able to move on.

“Everybody else goes on with their lives, while our lives are still kind of at a standstill,” Alicia says. “But one thing I can say about the [Special Operations Warrior Foundation] is that they have never lost contact. Every few weeks, you know, they’re reaching out to make sure I don’t need anything. That the kids don’t need anything. ‘Is anybody struggling? Do they need a tutor?’ There’s a constant outreach just to make sure we’re okay.”

The Special Operations Warrior Foundation is an organization that provides college scholarships, as well as educational assistance as early as preschool, for the children of special operations soldiers killed in combat or training. The 40-year-old 501(c)(3) charitable organization distinguishes itself from other nonprofits by committing its resources to the children of the fallen for the long haul — from “cradle to career,” as the organization’s CEO and president, Clay Hutmacher, tells Coffee or Die Magazine.

“Our kids, I think, need this holistic approach because they’ve been through a traumatic event,” Hutmacher says. “They’ve lost a parent and most of them are in a single-parent home. Our strategy is to invest in these kids up front. And, you know, preschool statistically significantly enhances your kid’s chances of going on to higher education.”

That “holistic” approach is yielding results. Some 90% of the children sponsored by the Special Operations Warrior Foundation go on to pursue a college education immediately after high school — 20% above the national average. Moreover, between 92% and 93% of the foundation’s sponsored children graduate a four-year institution in five years or less — about 30% above the national average.

Currently, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation counts 882 children in its programs — the average age is 7. With up to $8,000 available per year for a child to go to preschool, the foundation also pays for tutoring and for specialized high school programs such as the college preparation courses in which Alicia Sims has enrolled her two oldest daughters. The organization also provides benefits to about a dozen children in need of special education.

“We pay for college visits, and we pay for study abroad,” Hutmacher says. “We help with internships just to defray some of the costs of relocating and all of that. And then we run [the students] through a program to prep them for college study skills, financial management, writing their essays, all that kind of stuff. And then, of course, we fully fund their [college degrees], and we don’t care where they go. We don’t care if they go to Harvard or to community college to be an auto mechanic.”

A 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) MH-47 in flight. Photo by Staff Sgt. Reed Knutson, courtesy of DVIDS.

Our nation will always need special operators. And those elite warriors will likely remain perpetually engaged in combat, whether covertly or overtly, to hold the world’s dark forces at bay beyond the edges of America’s borders, guaranteeing the peaceful life we enjoy and so often take for granted.

Each day when Hutmacher arrives at work, he takes a minute to pause in the main hallway of the foundation’s Tampa, Florida, offices. The walls are covered with photos of the college graduates the Special Operations Warrior Foundation has sponsored over the years — a stark testament to the toll of our nation’s wars, no doubt. But also a measure of all the good the foundation has done for the families left behind in the wake of those tragedies.

“You walk in this building every day and we’ve got pictures on the wall of kids that we’ve helped. The job satisfaction is off the chart,” Hutmacher tells Coffee or Die Magazine.

After a military career that spanned some 41 years — from his days as an enlisted Marine to retiring as an Army major general at the upper echelons of the special operations community — Hutmacher understands the reality of the threats facing our nation, as well as the constant expenditure of courage and sacrifice needed to keep those threats at bay.

“Behind every name, there’s a whole family whose lives are changed forever. Their struggle is just beginning. You know, their lives were changed in the blink of an eye and not for the better. And there’s many, many challenges ahead,” Hutmacher says.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Clay Hutmacher, president and CEO of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. Photo courtesy of Clay Hutmacher.

Thus, each morning, as Hutmacher stands in that hallowed hallway and takes stock of the good work his organization has done, he also understands there’s a lot of work left to do. In this endless endeavor, Hutmacher says he is continually inspired by the exceptionalism of the men and women who’ve stood up to fight for our country.

“You have unique men and women that have chosen a life of service, and they are generally very, very talented and they could have done many other things,” Hutmacher explains. “But they chose a life of service. So I feel like it’s the least we can do to take care of their children.”

For her part, Alicia Sims says that thanks to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, her children are not simply surviving the trauma they’ve experienced. Rather, they’ve been galvanized to lead uniquely successful lives in honor of the legacy of their father’s heroic service and sacrifice.

“There’s a whole group of people standing in their corner, cheering them on, wanting them to succeed in life,” she says. “It is definitely putting more of an importance on furthering their education because, like I explained to them, you know, if your father hadn’t have died, we wouldn’t have been able to ever pay for all five of our kids to go to college. So this is an opportunity they wouldn’t have had otherwise. They see the importance of that. And they want to make sure he didn’t die in vain, and they’re making him proud, and they use the benefits they have to their fullest potential.”

The Special Operations Warrior Foundation was founded in the wake of Operation Eagle Claw — an April 1980 operation ordered by President Jimmy Carter to attempt to rescue the 52 hostages held at the US Embassy in the Iranian capital of Tehran. Five Air Force personnel and three Marines were killed in the ill-fated mission, leaving 17 children without a father.

At first, the charitable organization was focused on providing college scholarships to the children of special operators killed in combat or training. Yet, as its financial resources have improved over the years, its mission has expanded. Apart from the “cradle to career” philosophy espoused by Hutmacher, the foundation now also supports the children of living Medal of Honor recipients (if they’re associated with special operations forces), as well as the families of special operators who have been gravely wounded in training or combat.

“It’s a very amazing foundation. There’s no questions asked. You simply fill out a form just so they kind of know what’s needed, where the money needs to go. And it’s taken care of,” Alicia Sims says. “If the foundation wasn’t a part of our lives, I don’t know what we’d do.”

A helicopter in ashes during Operation Eagle Claw. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A triathlete and an outwardly laid-back guy (despite his six and a half years as a Marine and rising to the rank of major general in the Army), Hutmacher has a passion for his work that radiates through the telephone connection. In short, the man embodies the spirit of service, displaying a boundless drive to better others’ lives and to draw his own quiet happiness from that selfless endeavor. One small example: Hutmacher writes — by hand — a congratulatory note to every college student sponsored by the foundation who earns a 3.5 GPA or higher.

“I want to encourage the students to continue and to succeed. That’s my passion,” Hutmacher says. “I’m not a professional fundraiser, I’m a stick wiggler. But I get fired up about this job. Especially when I see the impact on these kids. It’s awesome.”

Hutmacher’s anecdotes exemplify his personal commitment to the foundation’s mission. He recounts the story of Josh Wheeler, a 39-year-old Army master sergeant who served with Delta Force and was killed during a hostage rescue mission in Iraq in 2015.

Throughout the course of his storied military career, Wheeler earned 11 Bronze Star Medals including four with Valor Devices. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the Purple Heart, and the Medal of Patriotism.

When Wheeler left behind a wife and four sons, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation stepped in to help. And when one of Wheeler’s sons started having trouble in school, Hutmacher organized a cruise for the two of them around Tampa Bay as a “team-building” opportunity. Later, Hutmacher visited Wheeler’s family at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. He brought them takeout Chinese food like their father used to do. Seemingly small gestures, perhaps, but in the end they made all the difference.

The son who had once been struggling in school went on to study at North Carolina’s Sandhills Community College. He earned a 3.5 GPA in his first quarter. Last quarter, he earned a 4.0 GPA, Hutmacher proudly says.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he explains. “You see, these are kids that have been through some tough times. So, to me, that’s why we’re here. We invest in each and every child to make sure they succeed.”

Army Sgt. Cameron Meddock, a Ranger, died in combat in Afghanistan in January 2019. After his daughter, Brinley, was born the following April, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation immediately reached out and enrolled her in their program. Next year, Brinley is set to attend preschool under the foundation’s sponsorship.

“I was six months pregnant when my husband was killed in Afghanistan,” said Meddock’s widow, Stevie, in a statement. “Looking or planning for the future seemed impossible. Special Operations Warrior Foundation reached out to me to help ease some of that stress for me. Knowing that my daughter will have the opportunity to have an education without the associated financial burden has taken a huge weight off my shoulders and given me something positive to look forward to.”

Starting in eighth grade, years from now, Brinley is slated to attend a college success academy. If she chooses to go to college, she’ll graduate in 2040.

“It’s a lifetime commitment,” Hutmacher says. “We pour our hearts and souls into these families.”

Army Sgt. Cameron Meddock, a Ranger, seen here with his wife, Stevie, died in combat in Afghanistan in January 2019. Photo courtesy of The Darby Project/Facebook.

A native of Wenatchee, Washington, Hutmacher commanded at every level during his three tours with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. He rounded out his illustrious career serving as commanding general of Army Special Operations Aviation Command, deputy commanding general of Army Special Operations Command, and director of operations at US Special Operations Command in Tampa.

When he retired in 2018 — just one month shy of 41 years of active-duty service — Hutmacher briefly considered working for a military contractor. However, an unexpected opportunity arose to take the reins of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation as president and CEO. It was a fork in the road, but after some careful consideration, he knew where his heart lay.

“It’s the dream job,” Hutmacher says. He admits, however, that fundraising is a “constant struggle.” For one, the foundation doesn’t pay for TV advertisements — its only paid advertising commitment is a $5,000 spread in the Air Commando Journal.

“The worst part of this job, to be honest with you, is asking for money. I’m not shy, but I hate to ask,” Hutmacher says. And this year, COVID-19 hasn’t helped matters. Many of the foundation’s annual fundraising events were canceled due to the pandemic.

“It’s not only us, everybody’s in the same boat,” Hutmacher says. “This is going to be a struggle for us to maintain our revenue, but it is what it is.”

To recoup a portion of its lost fundraising, the foundation has added some virtual events this year — including a virtual bourbon tasting hosted by Bardstown Bourbon Co. Additionally, Hutmacher lauds the efforts of veterans and active-duty personnel who occasionally embark on audacious fundraising endeavors on the foundation’s behalf. After all, service to one’s nation doesn’t necessarily end when the uniform starts collecting dust in the closet.

“We get a lot of current and retired special operators who feel driven to support us,” Hutmacher says.

One notable example is David Goggins, a retired Navy SEAL who has run numerous ultramarathons and performed other mind-boggling athletic feats — such as multiple world-record attempts to complete the most pullups in 24 hours — to raise money and awareness for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tSTk1083VY

In some ways, Alicia Sims and her children were prepared for loss in ways that civilian families aren’t. The children, in particular, had gotten used to dad not being around due to the nonstop pace of deployments and training, which became part and parcel of life in the special operations community in the post-9/11 years. The couple’s youngest child, Harper, who was almost 2 when Jacob died, spent precious little time with her father.

“I mean, he maybe saw her four months out of those two years. Between training and deployment,” Alicia says. “Everybody asked me shortly after why the kids were adapting so easily. And the reality of it is, they were used to him being gone. You know, it wasn’t abnormal. He was gone more than he was there.”

Special operations forces bore a heavy burden in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. And despite all the talk these days about so-called great power competition, America’s special operations units remain embroiled in counterterrorism combat in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, as well as various other sites in Africa and Asia.

Irregular warfare may not be the topic du jour in the Pentagon’s polished hallways, but America’s special operations forces remain engaged in nearly endless combat in some rough corners of the world. Consequently, the need for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation’s mission isn’t going away. Last year, the foundation added 79 children to its programs — roughly an even split between commissioned and enlisted families — representing 39 fatalities. And this year, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation has added 40 new children to its programs, with some 12 to 16 more pending.

Alicia Sims, bottom left, at a memorial ceremony for her husband, Jacob. Photo courtesy of Alicia Sims.

Clearly, the toll of counterinsurgency warfare has not abated — even if the lion’s share of that war effort occurs in the shadows. Overall, nearly 400 children supported by the Special Operations Warrior Foundation have graduated from college. And the foundation currently has 190 students enrolled in college programs. Overall, since its inception in 1980, the organization has provided benefits to more than 1,400 children, representing more than 1,130 fatalities.

Hutmacher explains that he had been a “benefactor” and a “big fan” of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation for years. While he was on active duty he saw firsthand the value of the foundation’s work to the families of the fallen, as well as the peace of mind it gave special operators as they went into the breach, again and again, on their country’s behalf.

“We had a lot of missions where we lost a lot of people,” Hutmacher says, going on to highlight how the foundation’s work reaches beyond the families it directly benefits.

“I’ve had dozens and dozens of active special operators from all the services share with me that it gives them peace of mind to know that if something happens to them the Special Operations Warrior Foundation will be there for their kids,” Hutmacher says. “You’d be hard pressed to find anybody in the special ops community who doesn’t get some peace of mind knowing that we’re out there.”

Similarly, Alicia Sims is confident that her personal experience with the foundation has sent a positive message to those men and women in the special operations community who are still fighting our country’s wars.

“I’m actually still in contact with everyone who survived that night,” Alicia says of the helicopter crash that killed her husband. “Knowing that there will be people there to take care of their families, God forbid something happens, helps them to not dwell on the ‘what-ifs’ when they’re going into combat. They know that their families will be taken care of. And that’s a huge relief.”

“When I flew AH-6 attack helicopters, there were a couple of times when I wasn’t sure what the outcome was going to be on some of those missions,” Hutmacher says. “And, you know, my first concern was always about my kids … if I had one wish, it would be that my kids were taken care of.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

US soldiers seen as more trustworthy than judges, new poll finds

Almost 70% of Americans surveyed in a recent online poll said soldiers are more trustworthy than judges, police and Transportation Security Administration agents.

SafeHome.org, a company that researches and reviews security products and services, conducted the survey of more than 1,000 Americans through Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk), a virtual job outsourcing platform often used to conduct studies. Survey recipients were asked specifically about soldiers, but the word was intended to represent all U.S. troops.

Gesa Pannenborg, the survey’s project manager, said SafeHome.org wanted to study how people relate to those in authority or power positions during this “particularly divisive time” in American history.

“We were surprised by the extent to which our politics may influence how we interact with authority figures in our daily lives — perhaps more than we realize,” she wrote in an email.

Soldiers had the sixth-highest trustworthy rating by those surveyed, following top picks of paramedics, firefighters, doctors, teachers and professors, in that order.

“I think we as a country have always held soldiers in high regard, as the brave men and women who protect us and risk their lives for our freedom,” Pannenborg said. “It’s encouraging to see that, while politicians or wars can be unpopular, people, both left- and right-leaning, are pretty uniformly unwavering in their deference for those we entrust to carry on with the fighting.”

The study found 63% of Democrats surveyed thought of soldiers as trustworthy compared to 82% of Republicans. Professors had a similar 20% trustworthy disparity, though they rated higher with Democrats.

Republicans also had significantly more trust in police than Democrats did, but overall, the police fared worse than company supervisors and security guards.

“In recent years, there have been numerous highly publicized, controversial incidents involving police officers,” Pannenborg said. “Some of the results we found were likely a response to that press coverage, and it’s clear that Republicans and Democrats are more divided in their perception of the trustworthiness of police officers.”

Everybody looks up

Soldiers had the sixth-highest trustworthy rating by those surveyed, following top picks of paramedics, firefighters, doctors, teachers and professors, in that order.

Survey takers’ ages ranged from 19 to 83. Nearly 450 of them were Democrats, about 240 were Republicans and 264 Independents. They took about three minutes on average to complete the study and were paid .43 for their responses.

While widely used for studies, MTurk has been criticized within the last two years for taking advantage of rural workers, and there’s been skepticism about whether robots or people are filling out the surveys.

— Dorothy Mills-Gregg can be reached at dorothy.mills-gregg@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @DMillsGregg.

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 times the US military messed up on social media

Every day, scores of US military commands reach millions with posts aimed to inform and inspire: videos of valor, motivational photos, and, yes, puppy pics.

The military has codified the rules for managing these official accounts. But sometimes these social-media pros flub it — even the four-star command responsible for the US’s nuclear weapons.

Here’s a blooper reel of some of the military’s most embarrassing and dumb social-media mistakes since 2016.


Everybody looks up

A still image from a video posted by US Strategic Command.

(US Strategic Command)

1. ‘#Ready to drop something much, much bigger’

US Strategic Command, which oversees the US’s nuclear arsenal, ringed in 2019 with a reminder that they’re ready, at any time, to start a nuclear war.

Playing off the image of the ball dropping in New York City’s Times Square, STRATCOM’s official account posted a tweet that included a clip of a B-2 dropping bombs. The command apologized for the message.

Everybody looks up

The A-10 Thunderbolt is armed with a 30mm cannon that fires so rapidly that the crack of each bullet blends into a thundering sound.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Corey Hook)

2. #BRRRT

In May 2018, the internet was debating whether the word heard on a short audio recording was “Yanny” or “Laurel.” Then the US Air Force joined the debate, referring to a recent strike on Taliban.

“The Taliban Forces in Farah city #Afghanistan would much rather have heard #Yanny or #Laurel than the deafening #BRRRT they got courtesy of our #A10,” the official US Air Force Twitter account said.

The A-10 gunship carries a fearsome 30mm cannon used to destroy buildings, shred ground vehicles, and kill insurgents. It can fire so rapidly — nearly 3,900 rounds a minute — that the sound of each bullet is indistinguishable from the previous one, blending into a thundering “BRRRT.”

The US Air Force apologized for the tweet and deleted it, acknowledging it was in “poor taste.”

Everybody looks up

Mindy Kaling’s joke briefly got some props from the US Army.

(imdb.com)

3. ‘I’m like really smart now’

In January 2018, President Donald Trump fired off a flurry a tweets defending himself in response to the headline-grabbing details in Michael Wolff’s book, “Fire and Fury.”

Trump said he was “like, really smart” and “a very stable genius.”

That prompted a tweet from comedian Mindy Kaling from her character in the office, with the caption: “You guys, I’m like really smart now, you don’t even know.”

The US Army’s official Twitter account liked Kaling’s tweet, to which she replied: “#armystrong”

By the following day, the US Army had unliked the tweet.

Everybody looks up

The US Navy tweeted this image to celebrate its 241st birthday on Oct. 13, 2016, but would later delete it.

(US Navy photo)

4. Tough. Bold. Ready.

In 2016, the US Navy celebrated the 241st year since the date of its creation with a tweet that combined three images into one: a warship, a fighter jet, and a painting of a historic battle.

But the birthday message didn’t go over well with one audience on Twitter: Turks.

The flag in that battle scene closely resembles that of Turkey, a NATO member and US ally, as Muira McCammon detailed in Slate.

The Turkish community on Twitter sharply criticized the US Navy, and the Navy deleted it.

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

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