Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg's unexpected bravery - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery

The sacrifice of a Soldier is not measured by the medals he wears. The unfathomable courage in a split second is when the real sacrifice is made. Bravery is cultivated in the most critical hours of our lives; in a decision that is often not intentional, but innate.


For CPT (RET) Florent Groberg, his hardest battle came after the fight. August 8, 2012, changed his life forever. Eight seconds was the only separation between life and death. From this tragedy rose a man who is fiercely passionate about leadership, mental health advocacy and sharing stories about the heroes we’ve lost. But those eight seconds took something from him. Here is the story of CPT Groberg’s unexpected bravery.

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery

In an interview with We Are The Mighty, Groberg said, “After the ceremonies, the awards and the newly acquired celebrity, I was alone. My new life was hard. Being in the hospital was hard. The surgeries, the pain and the lack of sleep and privacy only made matters worse. For years I wasn’t myself. I was angry that I was alive. I survived, and my brothers didn’t. They were leaders that had families. Kennedy had a wife and one-year-old twins. I was single. I had no one, only survivor’s guilt. Four of my brothers were killed that day: August 8, 2012.

“The day started off as normal, well, as normal as it can be downrange. We were headed to a meeting in the governor’s province. This was a green zone, so not much ever happened there. I was working as the security detachment commander. The task was simple: Get everyone to and from the meeting safely. Easy enough, right? Our team proceeded to travel outside of the wire. We were carrying high ranking officials that day, so of course, precautionary safety measures were in place.

“As we traveled further outside of the wire, I received notification that the security detail at our arriving destination had dispersed. This left me with an eerie feeling. Two motorcycles approached our convoy on the bridge. I noticed a structure to the left … someone was standing there. As the motorcycles stopped, the drivers dismounted and began to flee. The person near the building began walking toward us.

“He had on a suicide vest.

“I ran toward him, to keep him away from the others. SGT Mahoney helped me. [The bomber] detonated his vest. The blast sent me flying. Another bomber was near and prematurely detonated his device. I was severely wounded, but alive.

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery

“Lying in the hospital, I replayed the scenario over and over. Wondering what I could’ve done differently to save my brothers. I was heavily medicated and suicidal. My brain became my own worst enemy. I felt like a failure. I didn’t feel worthy of being alive. I wasn’t myself. My thoughts were constantly racing. I needed out.

“I learned a lot about myself during those two years. I learned that anyone is susceptible to PTS and it’s okay to be vulnerable. We just don’t have to hold onto those thoughts. During my hospital stay, Travis Mills visited me and reminded me of my purpose. I needed that. I had a new mission — honoring my brothers by telling the stories of their bravery. In order to understand true patriotism, we must be willing to forgo our personal needs and put our country first. I did that. Not for a medal. I was just doing my job. I was willing to fight for what I was proud of.”

On November 12, 2015, CPT Florent Groberg was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama, in a White House ceremony. In the ceremony, President Obama said, “On his very worst day, he managed to summon his very best. That’s the nature of courage — not being unafraid, but confronting fear and danger and performing in a selfless fashion. He showed his guts, he showed his training; how he would put it all on the line for his teammates. That’s an American we can all be grateful for.”

Countless veterans, service members and civilians agree. Krista Simpson, who lost her husband SSGT Michael Simpson recently had the opportunity to hear CPT Groberg speak at the Military Influencer Conference. Her reaction to his speech was profound. “There is something so remarkable about a leader who has the courage and intelligence to allow his people to guide him through something that can be life or death,” she said. “The humbling honor to serve his country wasn’t lost on Medal of Honor recipient, CPT Florent Groberg from the moment he put on the uniform.

“I sat in the audience watching this brave man downplay the highest honor our country awards a soldier with deep admiration. He hates being called a hero. Flo believes the heroes are the families of the men and women who gave their lives in service to our nation. He acknowledged that there were families missing out on a life with their loved ones. Tears streamed down my face as he looked at me, nodding in recognition for the final sacrifice my husband, SSG Michael H. Simpson, made May 1, 2013. It’s men like Flo and our great nation that ignite the pride I have for his sacrifice.”

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery

CPT Groberg was medically retired, awarded the medal of honor and wrote a book about his experience: 8 Seconds to Courage: Soldier’s Story from Immigrant to the Medal of Honor. He’s involved with organizations like Bravo Sierra, which helps strengthen the physical and mental wellness of current service members and veterans. CPT Groberg advocates for the mental well-being of our service members. If you are struggling with something, please speak up. CPT Groberg has a few suggestions on how you can remain mentally resilient during tough times.

For Troops:

  1. Go have a conversation with someone you trust.
  2. Don’t go through it alone. Keeping it in only leads to negative consequences.
  3. Remember: It’s okay to be hurt. Take responsibility for your healing, get help.

For Commanders:

  1. Don’t be judgemental. Listen to your troops. Understand the cause of their discord.
  2. Continue to evaluate the mental well-being of your troops. Incorporate training that will help eliminate the stigma of mental illness. Talk about TBIs, PTS and life after war.
  3. Remember: Not every individual suffers the same. No one solution will fix it all. Be vigilant but remain open.

And as CPT Groberg so aptly stated, “There is an opportunity to strengthen our troops. Banding together will make us healthier and a stronger fighting force. Turn the lessons from failed missions into paths that lead to success.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways the military protects the environment

The U.S. Military prides itself on serving our country in all situations, foreign and domestic. The Military coordinates with government agencies to issue out destruction to the enemies of freedom, but it also focuses on preserving this beautiful land of ours. Researchers routinely find rare or endangered species of plants and animals on bases because of the way we preserve training areas.

The cohesion between military and civilian organizations, coming together to preserve our wildlife, has grown stronger over the last decade. All branches take painstaking care to protect nature; the inheritance of generations yet to come. Here’s how:


Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery

“Many years ago, [red-cockaded woodpeckers] decided to plant themselves in our training area and we decided that we wanted to help save these birds,” – Colonel Scalise

(Lip Kee)

The Marine Corps plants trees to save woodpeckers

In April, 2018, Col. Michael Scalise, Deputy Commander of MCI East, Camp Lejeune, met with Representative Walter Jones to plant Longleaf Pine Seedlings at Stones Creek Game Land. The Longleaf tree is a favorite of the red-cockaded woodpecker, a species that has made nests under the protection of the Marine Corps for generations. Camp Lejeune shares land with a nature preserve that further protects the woodpecker and other endangered species alike.

The ceremony of planting new trees was the culmination of state and federal conservation agencies, such as the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Recovery and Sustainment Program partnership (RASP), to encourage the species to relocate their nesting grounds off ranges and onto safer areas. Training schedules are adjusted regularly to accommodate the woodpeckers’ preservation.

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery

The Coast Guard battles the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The Coast Guard spearheads oil spill disasters

The Office of Marine Environmental Response Policy’s mission statement is to:

Provide guidance, policy, and tools for Coast Guard Marine Environmental Response planning, preparedness, and operations to prevent, enforce, investigate, respond to, and to mitigate the threat, frequency, and consequences of oil discharges and hazardous substance releases into the navigable waters of the United States.

They are the first line of defense against oil spills that threaten the health of our citizens and wildlife. Coast Guardsmen are the first responders in the event of a hazardous substance release polluting our waters on a very real, catastrophic scale. Coasties are the stewards of our oceans, the most precious of national treasures, and risk their lives in the name of public health, national security, and U.S. economic interests.

Rare butterfly thrives on, and because of, US military bases

www.youtube.com

The Army saves endangered butterflies with controlled burns

Across many Army Installations, a variety of endangered butterflies would rather take their chances living on artillery impact areas due to habitat destruction. Species such as the St. Francis Satyr need disturbance to keep their populations at a thriving level. The fires set by explosions burn across forests and wetlands that benefit the frail little ones. Even if an impact kills some butterflies, even more are able to take their place. At least three of the world’s rarest butterflies have found safety among the howitzer shells of Fort Bragg, NC.

The Army partners with biologists to retrieve females and relocate them to a greenhouse the Army built. The butterflies are bred and released into new areas for the population to continue to grow. Biologists and the Army recreate zones that resemble the impact areas to ensure the population won’t have to resort to living amongst unexploded ordinance.

Other species, such as the one in the video below, also call Army bases home.

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery

It’s as if the military was never here…

(USAF Civil Engineer Center)

The Air Force prevents the contamination of wildlife after training

The Air Force has a division that specializes in Restoration Systems and Strategies. Their mission is to promote efficient and effective restoration of contaminated sites. They provide expertise on clean-up exit strategies and implementation of effective remediation using science and engineering. They ensure that the Air Force keeps up with their environmental responsibilities and tracks progress to prevent adverse long-term effects of training.

Performance-based remediation has become the standard for the Environmental Restoration Technical Support Branch that keeps the homes of wildlife clean.

Navy Marine Species Research and Monitoring

www.youtube.com

The Navy shares their data with marine researchers

The Navy has a program called Marine Species Research and Monitoring and has invested over 0 million dollars to better understand marine species and the location of important habitat areas. Civilian researchers have access to the Navy’s data about the migratory patterns of whales, sea turtles, and birds that can aid them when their work is peer-reviewed.

The benefit is mutually beneficial because the published works can then be used by the Navy to develop tools to better estimate the potential effects of underwater sound. The program empowers scientists with research they otherwise would never have had access to independently, and the Navy can safeguard marine protected species.

MIGHTY TRENDING

American infantry must overmatch its enemies in ground combat

American ground fighters must overmatch any potential adversary, now and in the future, the leaders of the Close Combat Lethality Task Force said April 11, 2018.

Robert Wilkie, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, who serves on the task force’s advisory board, spoke about the effort at the Association of the United States Army’s Sullivan Center.
The effort looks to improve the lethality of Army, Marine Corps and special operations light infantry units, and it is personally being pushed by Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.


Scales said the reason behind the task force comes down to three numbers: Ninety, four, and one. Ninety percent of Americans killed in combat are infantry, he noted. “They constitute four percent of uniformed personnel and receive just one percent of the DOD budget for training and equipping,” Scales said.

Combat overmatch

The United States maintains combat overmatch in every other portion of the battlefield — air, sea and space — yet the small infantry unit, the unit most likely to be under fire, is the one that comes closest to a fair fight with an enemy, Scales said.
Success in ground combat “lies not just with technical superiority, but with the human dimension,” Wilkie said.

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery
New Jersey Army National Guard soldiers from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry (Air Assault) rush toward an objective during battle drills on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., April 9, 2018.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)

“There is nothing more important than focusing our energies now on developing and nurturing the unique capabilities of human performance,” he added. “That means bringing fresh vigor, renewing our sense of urgency and enhancing the lethality of our front-line Army and Marine Corps units.”

Success comes from repetition, training

The task force will look at how the services select the right people for this crucial job, and what the services need to do to retain them. It also will examine how the services judge fitness and provide fitness. “Finally,” Wilkie said, “do we understand, as do our greatest athletic leaders, that success comes with constant repetition and training?”

Some aspects do not require legislation or extra money. Willke said the Army personnel system can be changed to keep units together and allow infantry personnel to bond with their unit mates. Programs can also be put in place so soldiers and Marines are actually training with their units and not performing an ancillary duty.

“Every plane and ship we purchase comes with sophisticated simulators to train personnel to overcome every conceivable contingency,” Wilkie said. “We would not buy a plane of a ship that was not packaged along with that technology. But we don’t do that for our ground forces.”

But it can be done, he added, and when combined with exercises at Fort Irwin’s National Training Center, the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in California, or at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, this training can be invaluable with keeping infantry alive.

Wilkie and Scales said the task force will also look at weapons, protective systems, communications gear, unmanned tactical systems, doctrine and many other issues as it continues its work.

And all this will be done quickly, both men said, noting that Mattis is intensely interested in seeing this program succeed.

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This is how the Army convinced pilots to fly one of its most crash-prone planes

Let’s face it – some planes are tough to fly. The F4U Corsair that served in World War II and Korea was called the “Ensign Eliminator.” The F-104 Starfighter and AV-8B+ Harrier have both been called the “Widow Maker.”


So. too, was the Martin B-26 Marauder.

The B-26 Marauder was a medium bomber with two engines. According to MilitaryFactory.com, it had a crew of seven, a top speed of 282 miles per hour, a range of 675 miles, and the ability to carry up to 5,200 pounds of bombs.

 

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery
In this scene from a USAAF training film, an instructor walks a new B-26 pilot through taxiing. (Youtube screenshot)

 

It also had a bad reputation early in World War II for crashing and killing its crews. In fact, according to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the B-26 was nearly cancelled because of all the crashes. But experienced crews went to bat for it, convincing Sen. Harry Truman to relent.

The bomber ultimately flew over 110,000 sorties, and dropped over 150,000 tons of bombs on the Axis.

One of those who helped prove the B-26 wasn’t a killer was Jimmy Doolittle, fresh from leading the Tokyo raid. He soon realized that many of the instructors were almost as inexperienced as the pilots they were training. Worse, the mechanics were not experienced, and weren’t maintaining the engines properly.

To top it off, a switch in the type of gasoline used had been causing damaged to the carburetors.

 

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery
James H. Doolittle (Photo: Wikipedia)

 

Doolittle soon took the plane up – in the type of lead-from-the-front leadership that would later get him in hot water with Gen. Eisenhower on more than one occasion. He would fly the plane with one engine shut down on takeoff, then he would make inverted passes at low level. But the Army also began to work harder on training the crews properly, and the manufacturer sent crews out to train the mechanics.

The Army also made a training film for prospective pilots of the Marauder, which you can watch below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch the explosive video Strategic Command had to delete on New Years Eve

The United States Military is good at its job and, understandably, a little cocky about it. That cockiness got the U.S. Strategic Command in hot water on New Years Eve 2018 when it posted a tweet about being able to drop something “much bigger” than the ball that drops in New York City’s Times Square every year.


In a move the House Armed Forces Committee members called “tacky,” the official Twitter account of the United States Strategic Command sent a tweet featuring a music video of B-2 bombers hitting targets during a training exercise – 30,000 pound Massive Ordnance Penetrators – also known as “bunker busters” – on a test range.

#TimesSquare tradition rings in the #NewYear by dropping the big ball…if ever needed, we are #ready to drop something much, much bigger.

Watch to the end! @AFGlobalStrike @Whiteman_AFB #Deterrence #Assurance #CombatReadyForce#PeaceIsOurProfession… pic.twitter.com/Aw6vzzTONg

— US Strategic Command (@US_Stratcom) December 31, 2018

U.S. Strategic Command is the body that maintains and commands the United States’ nuclear arsenal. A Strategic Command spokesperson told CNN the post was intended to remind Americans that the United States military was on guard and had its priorities in order, even on a holiday like New Years Eve.

The command was later forced to apologize for the tweet, via Twitter.

The video itself was one created by airmen based at Whiteman Air Force Base, Miss. and is less than a minute long. According to the Aviationist, it likely wasn’t filmed recently but is one of the first videos to show a dual dropping of Massive Ordnance Penetrators.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the CIA recruited and handled its top KGB mole

On June 22, 1977, Aleksandr Ogorodnik killed himself with a CIA-supplied suicide pill after the KGB arrested him based on information initially provided by a mole within the Agency. Just over three weeks later, CIA officer Martha (Marti) Peterson — unaware of Aleksandr’s death — was seized in a KGB ambush while servicing a dead drop in Moscow.

The streets of Moscow were one of the most important, and dangerous, battlefields of the Cold War. American intelligence officers like Marti worked with assets like Aleksandr in the shadows to collect Soviet secrets. The Soviets, in turn, closely watched all foreign nationals and their own citizens for signs of espionage.


Although the story of TRIGON ended tragically, the intelligence Aleksandr provided gave US policymakers valuable insights into Soviet foreign policy plans and intentions. It was insights like this which ultimately helped us win the Cold War.

Recruiting a spy:

Aleksandr Ogorodnik was a mid-level official in the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) posted in Latin America and had access to information about Soviet intentions for the region. He enjoyed his life in Latin America and disliked the Soviet system, which he found oppressive.

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery
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The CIA recruited Aleksandr in South America in 1973. Upon signing up to spy for the Agency, he was given the codename TRIGON.

TRIGON smuggled documents from the embassy and took them to a safe-house, where Agency officers photographed them. The material he provided gave unique insights into Soviet policies in Latin America, including plans to influence other governments.

Return to the motherland:

In anticipation of his recall to Moscow, CIA officers taught TRIGON operational trade-craft and techniques. He also received training in secret writing, the use of one-time pads, and dead drop techniques.

One of the first female CIA case officer to serve behind the Iron Curtain, Marti Peterson, went to Moscow to be TRIGON’s handler. At the time, the KGB discounted the ability of women to conduct intelligence operations, so Marti went unnoticed for almost 18 months.

TRIGON’s value rose significantly after he returned to Moscow in October 1974. He had agreed to continue spying for the Agency, but he asked that the US government resettle his then-pregnant girlfriend. Before leaving for the Soviet Union, TRIGON requested a suicide device in case he was caught. After high-level deliberations at Langley, his CIA handlers reluctantly gave him a fountain pen containing a cyanide capsule.

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery
TRIGON’S dead drop instructions made by CIA.
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)

A few months later, per his recontact instructions, TRIGON gave a “sign of life” signal in February 1975. As face-to-face meetings were too dangerous, impersonal operational encounters—using signal sites, radio messages, concealment devices, dead drops, and car drops—began in October and were scheduled monthly.

For nearly two years they worked together, Marti and TRIGON never met. They were only spies passing in the night.

Dead rats for dead drops:

Moscow was a challenging environment to operate within. Even finding one’s way around Moscow proved difficult because Soviet-produced maps of the city were deliberately inaccurate. The Agency had to get creative when communicating with assets, which regularly included the use of dead drops.

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery
Dead drop rock intended for TRIGON.
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)

Dead drops are a way for intelligence officers to leave or receive items at a secret location in order to exchange information with an asset without having to meet directly. Everyday items like fake bricks can be used for dead drops. Packed with messages or supplies, the bricks can be deposited at a set location, such as a construction site, for later pickup.

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery
Marti Peterson’s purse, used during dead drop operations in Moscow.

One of the more surprising concealment devices sometimes used by the CIA were dead rats. The body cavity was large enough to hold a wad of money or roll of film. Hot pepper sauce kept scavenging cats away after the “rat” was tossed from a car window at a prearranged drop site.

Marti used a purse to conceal supplies and equipment that she transferred to TRIGON via dead drop exchanges. Because of the KGB’s gender bias, the purse, like Marti herself, did not attract suspicion.

The mole:

TRIGON soon secured a position in the Global Affairs Department of the MFA that gave him access to incoming and outgoing classified cables to Soviet embassies worldwide. He provided sensitive intelligence about Soviet foreign policy plans and objectives. His reporting went to the President and senior US policymakers.

Meanwhile, Karl Koecher, a naturalized US citizen, was working at CIA as a translator and contract employee. (Unbeknownst to CIA, he was also working concurrently for the Czech Intelligence Service.) He had incidental access to information about TRIGON’s first dealings with the Agency and told his intelligence service, which then notified the KGB.

When that occurred is not known, nor is the time when the KGB began investigating TRIGON. In early 1977, however, his case officers began noticing indications—principally a marked decline in the quality of the photographs—that he had been compromised and was under KGB control.

The Krasnoluzhskiy Most

TRIGON never showed up for a dead drop encounter on June 28, 1977, so another was arranged via radio message for two weeks later.

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery
Krasnoluzhskiy Most, Moscow Bridge site for dead drop.
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)

On July 15, Marti went to the Krasnoluzhskiy Most — a railroad bridge near Lenin Central Stadium —to set up the dead drop. The bridge spanned the Moscow River with a pedestrian walkway running along the side of the tracks. A spot was prepicked where TRIGON would receive a “drop” from Marti, and leave a package to be retrieved later that same night.

As night fell over Moscow, Marti left a concealment device in a narrow window inside a stone tower on the Krasnoluzhskiy Most. It was a trap.

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)

A KGB surveillance team was waiting and seized Marti. They took her to Lyubianka Prison, where she was questioned for hours and photographed with some of the espionage paraphernalia Agency officers and TRIGON had used. She was declared persona non grata (an unwelcome person) and sent back to the US immediately.

The Agency later learned that Alexander Ogorodnik had killed himself a month before Marti had been apprehended. He told the KGB he would sign a confession but asked to use his own pen. Marti wrote in her memoir, The Widow Spy, that “Opening the pen as if to begin writing, he bit down on the barrel and expired instantly in front of his KGB interrogators. The KGB was so intent on his confession that they never suspected he had poison….TRIGON died his own way, a hero.”

This article originally appeared on Central Intelligence Agency. Follow @CIA on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Two defense companies just Voltroned into a massive behemoth

L3 Technologies and Harris Corporation rallied on Oct. 15, 2018, after the two companies agreed to merge in an all-stock deal. The new company will have a market capitalization of $33.5 billion, making it the sixth-largest defense company in the US, according to the company release.

Following the news, L3 Technologies climbed 9.8% and Harris Corporation jumped 8.6%.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, each L3 Technologies shareholder will receive 1.30 Harris Corp shares for each L3 share they owned, the company said. After completion of the deal, Harris shareholders will own approximately 54% of the company while L3 shareholders will own the remaining 46%.


The combined company, called L3 Technologies, is expected to generate net revenue of approximately billion, earnings before interest and taxes of .4 billion, and free cash flow of id=”listicle-2612680907″.9 billion. The company will employ 48,000 people and will have its headquarters in Melbourne, Florida, where Harris is based.

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery

The all-stock deal will create the country’s sixth-largest defense contractor.

“This merger creates greater benefits and growth opportunities than either company could have achieved alone,” said Christopher E. Kubasik, L3 chairman, president and chief executive officer.

“The companies were on similar growth trajectories and this combination accelerates the journey to becoming a more agile, integrated and innovative non-traditional 6th Prime focused on investing in important, next-generation technologies.”

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

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4 awesome traditions to look for at the Army-Navy Game

Along with more than 100 years of history, the game comes steeped in traditions that range from the usual smack talk between fans to events that can only be found when Army plays Navy.


Almost all American sporting events feature the National Anthem, many games get a U.S. military flyover, and every sports rivalry is characterized by fans going above and beyond to demonstrate their team spirit. The Army-Navy Game has all of those, except this game gets a flyover from two service branches and fans in attendance willing to break strict uniform regulations to show their spirit.

Along with the traditions typical of every other sporting event, the Army-Navy Game comes with the added traditions of two military academies that are older than the sport they’re playing, of military branches whose own traditions date back to the founding of the United States, and a unique culture developed through the history of American military training.

And despite the intense rivalry, it’s all in good fun.

1. The Prisoner Exchange

Before the game kicks off, seven West Point cadets and seven Annapolis midshipmen will march to midfield in Philadelphia to be returned to their home military academies. These “prisoners” were sent to their rival service academies in the Service Academy Exchange Program, which sends students from each of four service academies (along with West Point and Annapolis, the Air Force Academy and the Coast Guard Academy also participate) for the fall semester.

The prestigious, competitive exchange program began its semester-long life in 1975 and has remained the same ever since. Each academy sends seven sophomore students to the other academies. The “Prisoner Exchange” allows the visiting cadets and mids to sit with their team’s fans.

2. The Army-Navy Drumline Battle

At the Army-Navy Game, there’s more confrontation than just what happens on the football field. Before the game, the bands representing each branch engage in a drumline – one as much about showmanship as it is about skills with the sticks.

3. “The March On”

Before the kickoff of every Army-Navy Game, the cadets of the U.S. Military Academy and the midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy take the field. No, not just the teams playing the game that day, the entire student body — thousands of people — march on the field in the way only drilled and trained U.S. troops can.

4. “Honoring the Fallen”

Every Army-Navy Game is going to see one loser and one winner. No matter what the outcome of the game, the players sing both teams’ alma maters. The winners will join the losing team, facing the losing side’s fans. Then, the two groups will do the same for the winning team. It’s a simple act of respectful sportsmanship that reminds everyone they’re on the same side.

To date, this tradition hasn’t caught on across college teams, but it might be happening as we speak. The Navy team invites every school it plays to sing “Navy Blue and Gold” after the game, and sometimes they do, like in 2014, when the Ohio State Buckeyes joined in.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Yes, you can aim at enemy troops with the .50-cal.

It’s one of the most persistent myths in the U.S. Military. I was even told it in basic training a mere 11 years ago, almost 90 years after the .50-caliber M2 was first designed. It goes like this: Weapons firing a .50-caliber round can be aimed at equipment, but not people. So, if you need to kill a person with a .50-cal., you have to aim at their load-bearing equipment (basically their suspenders).


Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery

Look at this. War crimes at night. What is wrong with troops today?

(U.S. Army 1st Lt. Robert Barney)

But, uh, really? The U.S. has and deploys a weapon in an anti-personnel role that can’t legally be fired at people? And we’ve just been hoodwinking everyone for a century?

That’s… surprising, if not unbelievable. That would require that every enemy in World War II never brought war crimes charges against the U.S. If you assume that the rule was put in place after World War II, when a lot of modern war crimes were defined, then you still have to assume that no one in Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Iraq, or Afghanistan protested the illegal American actions.

And, even more odd, militaries brag about their top ranged sniper kills. Five of the top six longest-range kills, at least according to Wikipedia right now, were made with .50-cal. rounds (Number six was made by Carlos Hathcock with a machine gun, because he’s awesome). Since all of those snipers were targeting individuals, if you accept this premise, aren’t they war criminals?

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery

Extremely accurate war crimes, huh, buddy?

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Conner Robbins)

Uncool, Wiki editors — do not list war crimes made by war heroes. Let the military justice system do its work without your amateur meddling…

…Except, hear that? That’s the sound of no CID agents coming to arrest these overly bold war criminals. Probably because shooting an enemy combatant with a .50-cal. is not, at all, illegal.

The actual rules for weapons in combat ban specific categories of weapons, like poisonous gasses or plastic landmines, and weapons that cause more unnecessary suffering than they provide military advantage.

If that sounds vague, that’s because it is. Nations occasionally argue about what weapons cause unnecessary suffering, but the militaries involved would typically rather keep all their options open, and so combatants usually decide that any given weapon is fine.

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery

Look at this guy and his belt-fed war crimes. Horrible.

(U.S. Army Spc. Deomontez Duncan)

Shotguns came under some serious contention in World War I. The U.S. brought them over the Atlantic to clear German trenches, and they were ridiculously effective. Germany complained that the weapons, which often left their troops either blown in half or with pellet-filled guts, caused unnecessary suffering. America just pointed out that Germany was already using poisonous gasses, and so they should screw off.

Germany never lodged a formal case against the shotgun, but there are a number of weapons that are, officially, illegal under rules against unnecessary suffering. Weapons that use plastic fragments or pellets to wound and kill the enemy, many types of landmines, some types of torpedoes, etc., have all either been banned or partially banned. But there’s no real case against the .50-cal.

So, how did this misinformation campaign get started? It’s not completely clear, but there is a rumor it began in Vietnam.

American logistics at the time were limited, especially for troops deep in the jungle. As the story goes, troops far forward were using their .50-cal. rounds to shoot at any and everything in the jungle that sounded threatening. Commanders prevented ammo shortages by ordering their men to use the .50-cal. ammo only to engage light vehicles.

This is the target that the .50-cal. is best for. It can pierce light armor at decent ranges unlike 5.56mm or 7.62mm rounds. So, if you have a limited supply of the ammo, you want to hold it for the vehicles. The command is thought to have grown from simple ammo conservation to belief of a war crime.

But no, if it’s an enemy combatant, you can legally kill it with any weapon at your disposal, as long as you don’t damage civilian structures or intentionally cause undue suffering. You don’t need to aim a .50-cal at their suspenders, belt buckle, or buttons.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These are the first units to get Army’s cutting-edge night vision technology

Army Futures Command on Sept. 25, 2019, began equipping the first of two combat brigades, selected so far, to receive the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular (ENVG-B), a capability that modernization officials promise will improve marksmanship, day and night.

The ENVG-B is a wireless, dual-tubed technology with a built-in thermal imager that is part of a capability set modernization officials started fielding to soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, at Fort Riley, Kansas.

The Army has also selected 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, as the next unit to receive the new capability in March 2020, Bridgett Siter, spokeswoman for the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, told Military.com. The service plans to buy as many as 108,251 ENVG-Bs to issue to infantry and other close-combat units.


Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston and senior modernization officials celebrated the fielding as the first major achievement of Army Futures Command.

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery

The Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular (ENVG-B).

(US Army photo)

“This is a historic event; I am really proud to be here,” Grinston said during a discussion with reporters at Riley. “So, we can say we stood up the Army’s Futures Command, and then today we are delivering a product in two years.”

The service announced its plan to create the command in 2017, but didn’t activate it until August 2018.

During the process, the Army has conducted 11 user evaluations, known as Soldier Touchpoints, in which soldiers and Marines have field-tested the prototypes of ENVG-B and “helped us get this right,” said Brig. Gen. Dave Hodne, director of the Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team and chief of infantry at Fort Benning, Georgia.

In addition to the creation of Army Futures Command, officials credited the work of the cross-functional teams — made up of requirements experts, materiel developers and test officials — that make it possible to field equipment much faster than in the past.

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery

Sgt. 1st Class William Roth, Technical Advisor, Soldier Lethality-Cross Functional Team, gets ready to step off for an overnight hike to the summit of Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire using the Enhanced Night Vision Google- Binocular during a Soldier Touchpoint on the system July 10-12, 2019.

(Photo by Photo by Patrick Ferraris)

The structure “really enables us to move faster as an enterprise than we have ever been able to move before, in being able to derive and deliver capabilities for our soldiers,” said Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, commander of Program Executive Office Soldier.

The binocular function of the ENVG-B gives soldiers more depth perception, and the thermal image intensifier allows soldiers to see enemy heat signatures at night and in the daylight through smoke, fog and other battlefield obscurants, Army officials say.

But when the system is teamed with the Family of Weapon Sights-Individual (FWS-I), which is being fielded with the ENVG-B, soldiers can view their sight reticle as it’s transmitted wirelessly into the goggle.

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery

Sgt. Gabrielle Hurd, 237th Military Police Company, New Hampshire Army National Guard, shows her team the route they will take before embarking on an overnight hike to the summit of Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire, during an Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular Soldier Touchpoint, July 10-12, 2019.

(Photo by Photo by Patrick Ferraris)

“Now we are able to move that targeting data straight from that weapon, without wires, up in front of a soldier’s eyes,” Potts said, adding that the process is much faster and “makes a soldier far more lethal.”

“What you are seeing today is the first iteration of a capability fielding … and we are going to continue to grow this capability out so that we really treat the soldier as an integrated weapon platform,” he said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How guitars become works of art that help vets heal

Guitars for Vets is a non-profit organization that has a guitar instruction program aimed at providing veterans struggling with physical injuries, PTSD, and other emotional distress a unique therapeutic alternative. G4V pursues its mission to share the healing power of music by providing free guitar instruction, a new acoustic guitar and a guitar accessory kit in a structured program run by volunteers.

In other words, they give guitars to vets and teach them how to play. It’s pretty cool! 

And it works — playing a musical instrument has been linked to the process of coping with PTSD, reducing anxiety, and improving quality of life.

WATCH: Guitars for Vets Feelin’ Good Tutorial

Most of the non-profit’s funding comes from a mix of individual donors and sponsors, from monetary donations to merchandise purchases to my favorite: the Operations Art Strings program. 

Through the Operation Art Strings program, Guitars for Vets connects talented artists around the country with unplayable guitars in their inventory to create works of art that can be sold to help fund their program.

And they’re looking for artists!

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery

Aspect and Angles Photography

If you’re interested in painting a guitar, helping, or learning more, you can reach out to tori@guitarsforvets.org (and if you do paint a guitar, please send me a picture on social media!).

Guitars for Vets — and its impact — has gained national attention. Vietnam War veteran James Robledo is a graduate of the program and the chapter coordinator at the Loma Linda chapter in California who, as a volunteer, has helped hundreds of veterans graduate from the program.

Also read: This is why so many veterans turn to music after war

Robledo was named the 2015 National Humanitarian of the Year by the National Association of Letter Carriers, and he was invited to a music panel at the White House as well as to place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

“There have been students that have come back and said because of the program they no longer have suicidal thoughts. And that’s what we’re about,” added Robledo.

If you’re a veteran interested in enrolling in the Guitars for Vets program, you can check out their website to find a local chapter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica

Winter sucks everywhere. Sure, the bugs have finally frozen over and you can finally break out that coat you like, but it’s cold, you’re always late because your car won’t defrost in time, and no one seems to remember to tap their brakes when stopping at intersections.

But, as any optimist might tell you, things can always get worse! While it sucks for us up here in the middle of December, it’s actually the nicest time to be in Antarctica — nice by Antarctic standards anyway.

It doesn’t last, though, as the winters there begin in mid-February and don’t let up until mid-November. And don’t forget, we have brothers and sisters in the U.S. Armed Forces down there embracing the suck of the coldest temperatures on Earth.


Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery

McMurdo Station is by far the most populated location on the entire continent with a population of 250 in the winter.

(Photo by Sarah E. Marshall)

To ensure that no hostilities occur on the frozen continent, the Antarctica Treaty lists it as “the common heritage of mankind.” As such, only scientific expeditions are allowed down there. Since airmen, sailors, and coast guardsmen have the capabilities to assist in this respect, they routinely travel to scientific research facilities to help out. Their mission is, simply, keep the scientists alive and let them focus on doing their jobs.

During the winter, which, as we’d mentioned, lasts for ten months, most scientists head to more hospitable climates. Most. Not all. It’s up to the troops to help keep those who remain safe and well. Thankfully, there are only three spots on the entire barren continent that they need to keep tabs on: McMurdo Station, Palmer Station, and the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

The ports and airstrips at Palmer Station remain active year round. In case of any emergencies, the Air Force and Navy can quickly send supplies into Palmer to have it distributed out further. At McMurdo Station, the winters are a little more intense, so the ports and airstrip are strictly for emergency use — but they manage.

Then there’re the troops with the scientists at the South Pole Station. They’re almost entirely frozen in. Thankfully, it doesn’t snow that much at the South Pole, but the wind combined with near-permanent darkness make it feel close to -100 Fahrenheit. The only real thing to do then is to bunker inside at the one bar located at the South Pole and wait for ten months inside.

To see what the winters actually look like in Antarctica, check out the video below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The National Guard just delivered hay to a feedlot in Nebraska

Amid the extensive flooding in Nebraska and across the Midwest, farms, ranches, and feedlots have seen damages that will likely be far in the millions. Preliminary estimates of the overall damage in Nebraska are about $650 million. But it’s important to remember that the damage is ongoing, and that’s why the Nebraska National Guard delivered hay by air and land on March 25.


The flooding has hit farm country hard, with some ranchers reporting that they watched cattle float away, powerless to save their livestock or their livelihoods. But plenty of cattle have survived, and keeping the survivors healthy and fed will be essential to rebuilding herds without the astronomical costs of buying and shipping in cows from other parts of the country.

But there’s a problem for ranchers and feedlot owners: Hay and other feed that gets too wet is dangerous to feed to cattle. Mold can quickly grow in wet hay, and the chemical processes that take place in wet hay can quickly deplete it of nutritional value or, in extreme cases, create fires.

(Yeah, we know it sounds weird that getting hay wet can start a fire. In the broadest possible strokes: Wet hay composts in a way that generates lots of heat. The heat builds enough to dry some of the outer hay and then ignite it, then fire spreads.)

Cows fed affected hay, at best, can become malnourished. At worst, they are poisoned by the mold.

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery
Nebraska National Guard soldiers provide assistance during flood relief

(Nebraska Air National Guard Senior Master Sgt. Shannon Nielsen)

So, when ranchers and farmers in Nebraska reported that they had some cows safe from the floods and rain, but they were susceptible to becoming malnourished or poisoned by the only feed available, the National Guard planned a way to get fresh, safe hay to them.

Deliveries were conducted via helicopters and truck convoy, getting the feed past flooded roads and terrain and into the farms where it can do some good. In some cases, CH-47 Chinooks are rolling massive bales of hay off their back cargo ramps, essentially bombing areas with fresh hay. This allows them to reach areas where cattle might be trapped and starving, but even ranchers can’t yet reach.

Hopefully, this will ameliorate some of the damages from the storms. But the storms have already hit military installations hard and, as mentioned above, are thought to have caused over half a billion in economic damages.

So the toll is going to be rough regardless.

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