4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

Deep in the swamp – or what feels like the swamp at least –  lies a training ground whose memories haunt your dreams forever. What pops up when your headlamp goes off? Why does the ground look like it’s moving? It’s all in here… it’s all Fort Polk. 

The itsy-bitsy swarm of spiders 

It’s night and you are patrolling through the Vietnam-like jungles of Fort Polk in search of the elusive “G Man.” The humidity is so thick you could cut it with a knife and as you scan the ground with your headlamp, tiny flashes of light shimmer back at you from the grass, bushes, and trees that surround you. No those aren’t water droplets and you didn’t suddenly walk into a diamond mine. 

They are spider eyes and there are hundreds of them across every inch of ground within “The Box.” In Louisiana, there exist such species of spiders, like the massive Banana Spider who live to haunt you forever. According to local wildlife guides, they’re likely hiding or in webs between trees which wouldn’t affect you unless you’re doing such things like digging foxholes, fighting positions, or traipsing through the wilderness in the dark. All things which in fact, you will be doing in the box while training there. Good thing you packed a flame thrower just for this instance.

It’s raining it’s pouring it’s always *bleeping* raining 

The first few days after arriving at Fort Polk for training usually involve unpacking Conexes, unloading vehicles at the rail yard and attending training classes. The weather during this period is likely sunny and warm, giving a false sense of hope that perhaps it’s not so bad here after all. Then at the precise moment, your unit enters the box, the monsoon hits. 

With an average yearly rainfall around 60 inches, it’s nearly double the national average. Your hooch is in mortal danger of becoming swept away (with your body in it) when the puddle quickly becomes a raging river. 

Beware of the “swamp ass” 

You wake up- you’re sweating. You go to sleep-sweating. You stand still and you’re sweating. Not only is it embarrassing, but it’s stinky. This particular form of “booty-dew” is nearly impossible to solve since it’s likely you only rucked in with a few extra shirts or socks, which are likely still wet from last night’s flash flood that swept through the camp. 

Gators, mosquitos, and horses- oh my! 

Fort Polk is home to a host of species we’re all terrified of. Ever parachuted into a cloud of fog to see nothing, but hear the pounding of hooves coming straight for you? Welcome to Fort Polk. Wondering what that fast-moving cloud is that covered the sliver of sunshine? It’s mosquitos. They’re so bad down here that slapping yourself in the face is not only “normal” but it’s a tactical strategy. You’re not crazy, they are. Another fun fact about this paradise you ask? Louisiana has one of the highest populations of alligators in the U.S. 

So when that nearby flood pond looks like the salvation from “swamp ass” you’ve been looking for, think again. If you’re lucky enough to avoid the real-life jaws of death, perhaps you should check your ankles after the LT’s suggestion to save time. Leeches are just another of God’s greatest creations awaiting your arrival to Fort Polk. 

Finally, the Conex is packed, the vehicles loaded and you’re on the march out. You’ve survived. There’s something special waiting for you…next year’s rotation back to this paradise. 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s why the Russian military is so ‘accident-prone’

While every military has accidents, the Russian military appears to be more accident-prone than other great powers.

“There’s a tendency for accidents to happen in Russia,” Jeffrey Edmonds, a Russia expert at CNA, told INSIDER.

Edmonds, a former CIA analyst and member of the National Security Council, said that the problem appears to be that Russia often combines a willingness to take risks with an outdated military infrastructure that simply can’t support that culture, creating an environment where accidents are more likely.

In recent weeks, many people have been killed or wounded in various Russian military accidents, including a deadly fire aboard a top-secret submarine, an ammunition dump explosion at a military base, and a missile engine explosion at a military test site.


Fourteen Russian sailors died on July 1, 2019, when fire broke out aboard a submarine thought to be the Losharik, a deep-diving vessel believed to have been built to gather intelligence as well as possibly destroy or tap into undersea cables.

The incident was the worst Russian naval accident since 20 Russian sailors and civilians died aboard the nuclear-powered submarine Nerpa in 2008 — a tragedy preceded by the loss of 118 sailors aboard the nuclear-powered cruise-missile sub Kursk in 2000.

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

Nuclear-powered submarine Nerpa.

These are just a few of a number of deadly submarine accidents since the turn of the century.

“The aging Russian navy (and the predecessor Soviet Navy) in general has had a far higher number of operational accidents than any other ‘major’ fleet,” A.D. Baker, a former naval intelligence officer, previously told INSIDER.

The Russian navy lost its only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, last fall when a heavy crane punched a large hole in it, and the only dry dock suitable for carrying out the necessary repairs and maintenance on a ship of that size sank due to a sudden power failure.

Even when it was deployed, the Kuznetsov was routinely followed around by tug boats in expectation of an accident.

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier.

Accidents are by no means limited to the Russian navy. An ammunition depot housing tens of thousands of artillery shells at a military base in Siberia exploded on Aug. 5, 2019, killing one and wounding over a dozen people. Then, on Aug. 8, 2019, a missile engine at a military test site in northern Russia unexpectedly exploded, killing two and injuring another six.

Russia also experiences aircraft accidents and other incidents common to other militaries, the US included.

“Russia really pushes an infrastructure that is old to try to keep up or gain parity with the United States,” Edmonds told INSIDER. “They’re pushing their fleet and pushing their military to perform in a certain way that is often beyond what is safe for them to actually do considering the age of the equipment and the age of the infrastructure.”

At the same time, though, “there is a culture of aggressiveness and risk-taking,” Edmonds added, pointing to some of the close calls the Russian military has had while executing dangerous maneuvers in the air and at sea in close proximity to the US military.

“There is a culture of risk-taking in the Russian military that you don’t have in the United States,” he explained. “You would never allow a US pilot to do a low flyover of a Russian ship. The pilot would immediately have his career ended.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

US military thinks its next war will be underground

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) issued a peculiar request over Twitter on Aug. 28, 2019, asking for underground tunnels to use for research — as soon as possible.

Though DARPA’s request managed to spook Twitter users, DARPA told Insider that the request is related to technology development for underground combat and search-and rescue operations.

While President Donald Trump looks to create a Space Force — an entirely new military branch — the Pentagon itself has put more than half a billion dollars into technology and training to compete on underground battlefields.


4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

Soldiers of 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, provide security during subterranean operations training, May 17. Lancers of 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, with the assistance of a Mobile Training Team from the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, completed a 5-day exercise focused on subterranean operations, at a remote underground facility in Washington State, May 14-18.

(US Atmy photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Armstrong)

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency asked universities and colleges for underground tunnels to use for research.

Attention, city dwellers,” DARPA tweeted. “We’re interested in identifying university-owned or commercially managed underground urban tunnels facilities able to host research experimentation.”

The agency noted the short notice of the request — it asked for responses within two days — and specified that it was seeking “a human-made underground environment spanning several city blocks” which includes “a complex layout multiple stories, including atriums, tunnels stairwells.”

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

Scientists watch soldiers sample simulated leaking chemical weapons in an underground facility in order to get a better idea of both the bulky protective gear soldiers must wear as well as the dark, constrained environments they sometimes work in.

(Stacy Smenos, Dugway Proving Ground)

While the Trump administration is increasingly looking to the skies and pressing for a Space Force, DARPA is focusing on operations underground.

In the agency’s online request for information, DARPA specifies that it’s trying to understand how technology could be used for rapid mapping, search, and navigation operations, likely in the case of urban conflict or disaster-related search-and-rescue operations.

“Complex urban underground infrastructure can present significant challenges for situational awareness in time-sensitive scenarios, such as active combat operations or disaster response,” Jared Adams, a spokesperson at DARPA, told Insider via email.

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

The Ultra-Light Robot employing its “arms,” which can be used to climb small obstacles such as stairs, July 3, 2019, in Stafford, Virginia. In the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2019, the Corps will field the Ultra-Light Robot—a small, mobile robot system that enables explosive ordnance disposal Marines to manage or destroy improvised explosive devices or conduct various other reconnaissance activities.

(US Marine Corps photo by Matt Gonzales)

The request comes out ahead of DARPA’s Subterranean Challenge.

The Subterranean Challenge, or SubT Challenge, invites teams of researchers from all over the world to compete and find technological solutions for underground operations. The teams use locations — like the ones DARPA requested information about — to test technologies that can search and navigate in underground terrain where it might be too difficult for humans to go.

Teams in the systems competition focus on technology like robotics that can physically search and navigate in an underground terrain. On the virtual track, teams compete and develop software that can be used to assist in simulations of underground operations.

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

Soldiers with 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division provide security while clearing an underground complex during dense urban environment training. The training, provided by a mobile training team from 3rd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment out of Fort Benning, introduces tactics and techniques to the force to prosecute operations within dense urban terrain and populated urban centers.

(Photo by Capt. Scott Kuhn)

The urban circuit of the SubT challenge will take place in February 2020, hence the request for urban underground space.

“As teams prepare for the SubT Challenge Urban Circuit, the program recognizes it can be difficult for them to find locations suitable to test their systems and sensors,” Adams told Insider.

“DARPA issued this RFI in part to help identify potential representative environments where teams may be able to test in advance of the upcoming event.”

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

Soldiers perform evacuation procedures at Fort Hood’s underground training facility. The training is part of a week-long training teaching Soldiers how to fight, win and survive in a dense urban terrain.

(Photo by Sgt. Jessica DuVernay)

The military has become more aware that it needs to develop technology and strategy to fight in an underground, urban setting.

Historically, underground warfare has been the domain of special operations troops like Navy SEALs. But military researchers predict that this kind of warfare will be too much for special operators alone to navigate, particularly if dealing with an adversary like China or Russia, which both have extensive underground space. China in particular uses vast underground complexes to store missiles and its nuclear arsenal.

“We did recognize, in a megacity that has underground facilities — sewers and subways and some of the things we would encounter … we have to look at ourselves and say ‘OK, how does our current set of equipment and our tactics stack up?'” Col. Townley Hedrick, commandant of the infantry school at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, said in an interview with Military.com last year.

The military has encountered underground facilities before — some Vietnam War-era special units explored tunnels dug by the Viet Cong.

ISIS militants also used tunnels in Iraq and Syria. In Israel and Lebanon, Hezbollah fighters used underground tunnels to launch attacks in Israel.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Preparing future generations for leadership and military service

The children are our future. Isn’t it time to talk to them about leadership and military service? Today’s children are the future leaders and military personnel of our country. They are the ones that will one day take that oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” The reality that today’s youth are the future of our country and our military is why it is so important that we have programs in place to mold, teach, and prepare them to be the strong leaders of tomorrow. The military branches have had programs in place for decades to aid in this preparation of today’s youth. These programs include: the Sea Cadets, the Young Marines, and the ROTC.


4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

The US Naval Sea Cadet Corps is sponsored by both the Navy and the Coast Guard. They are designed to promote interest and skill in naval disciplines while also instilling strong moral character and life skills through leadership and technical programs. The main goals of the Sea Cadets are: developing an interest and ability in seamanship and seagoing skills, instill the virtues of good citizenship and strong moral principles in each cadet, demonstrate the values of an alcohol-free, drug-free, and gang-free lifestyle, expose cadets to the prestige of public service and a variety of career paths through hands-on training with our nation’s armed services.

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

The Young Marines set out to build tomorrow’s leaders today. They promote the mental, moral, and physical development of each of their members. The Young Marines program focuses on the values of leadership, self-discipline, and teamwork. They strive to strengthen the lives of America’s youth, and they do so by teaching the importance of self-confidence, academic achievement, honoring our veterans, community service, and living a healthy drug-free lifestyle. The Young Marines aims to mold today’s youth into productive members of society.

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

The Reserve Officer’s Training Corps, or ROTC, as it is more commonly known, is designed to give young people invaluable experiences while still in school. ROTC is different because it is a program that is a part of a school or university. Each branch has its own ROTC program, so students can choose which path they want to take. Through the ROTC program, students can begin a military career in health care, aviation, finance, engineering, chemistry, law enforcement, and transportation, among others. ROTC is designed to mold them and prepare them for officer programs and careers in the armed services.

No matter what program the youth of today chooses to join, they will be taught valuable skills and learn how to become the strong leaders the future of our country depends on. They will be taught structure and discipline, while being molded into productive members of society. Whether or not they choose to go into a career in the military, the experiences they receive in these programs will follow them through the rest of their lives. They will learn invaluable lessons that will aid them in any career path they choose, and they will make memories that will last a lifetime.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how US troops came to be called ‘GIs’

Anyone who loves the U.S. military and the troops who fight in it is familiar with their nickname. Over the years, American troops have earned many – Johnny Reb, Billy Yank, Dogface, Grunt, Jarhead, Doughboy – you get the point. There is one all-encompassing nickname used all over the country, applicable to any branch, and used by troops and civilians alike: G.I.


4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

Kinda like that, except real.

When we see the word “GI” many of us probably think of the phrase “Government Issue” or “General Issue” used back in the days of World War II. And that thought is both true and not entirely the whole story. While many of the items produced and used by the government were considered General Issue, including the men who were drafted and enlisted to fight, that’s not what the original “GI” really meant.

Going back to World War I, many of the items made for and used by the government of the United States for military purposes were stamped “GI” – but not because it was Government Issue. It was government issue, but that’s not the reason for stamping it. That’s like stamping your jeans with “Purchased at Wal-Mart.”

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

We know you got that stuff at Target anyway.

When troops originally saw GI slapped on some piece of government property, they were likely mopping the floors or doing some other kind of cleaning work, because GI, meant “galvanized iron,” and more often than not was found on buckets used by the U.S. military. Since the one thing all U.S. troops get experience with is cleaning, the term spread to include all things U.S. military, including the people themselves. By World War II, U.S. troops were affectionately known as G.I.s all around the country.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why corporal is ‘the worst rank in the Army’

“All of the work, none of the pay.”

For those who aren’t familiar with the Army rank structure, there are three directions an Army specialist can go in terms of rank change. They can be demoted to private first class, losing responsibilities and pay. They can be promoted to sergeant, gaining responsibilities and pay.

Or, a third direction, they can be “laterally promoted” to corporal, where they gain lots of responsibilities but no pay.

This is why corporal is the worst rank in the Army.


4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

An Army corporal is sent to roll up ratchet straps near trees while an Army specialist is paid the same to take a photo of them doing it.

(U.S. Army Spc. Andrew J. Washington)

See, corporal is an enlisted level-4 rank, equal in pay to a specialist. This is a holdover from back in the day when the Army had two enlisted rank structures that ran side-by-side. There were specialists-4, specialists-5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. Specialists got the same pay as their noncommissioned officer equivalents. So, a specialist-9 got paid the same as a sergeant major.

Specialists were expected to be experts in a specific job, but weren’t expected to necessarily lead other soldiers. So, it was unlikely that they would pull duties like sergeant of the guard, and they were only rarely appointed to real leadership positions. The rest of the time, they just did their jobs well and got left alone.

But specialists were slowly whittled down in the 1960s-80s. After 1985, only one specialist rank remained. It was paid at the E-4 level, same as a corporal.

Today, specialist is the most common rank in the Army.

But some specialists are so high-speed, so good at their jobs, so inspiring to their fellow troops, that the Army decides it must have them as leaders now. And, if they aren’t eligible for promotion to E-5 just yet, then we’ll just laterally promote them to corporal and get them into the rotation anyway.

So, the soldier gets added to the NCO duty rosters, gets tapped for all sorts of work details that pop up, and gets held to a higher standard than their peers, even though they’re drawing the same paycheck every month.

They can even be assigned to positions which would normally go to a sergeant, like senior team leader.

“All of the work, none of the pay.”

Meanwhile, their specialist peers are so well known for cutting up that the symbol of their rank is known as the “sham shield,” a play on the Army slang of “shamming” (skipping work, known as skating in the Navy).

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

The Army needed someone to go out and take photos of a bunch of guys getting hit with CS gas in the middle of the desert. They, of course, turned to a corporal.

(U.S. Army Cpl. Hannah Baker)

But, hey, how bad can life actually be?

Well, first, Army enlisted soldier is already one of the most stressful jobs in the nation according to yearly surveys. One widely reported every year comes from CareerCast which ranked enlisted military as the single most stressful position in the country in 2018.

(Side note: the rest of the occupations in the top 5 most stressful jobs have an average salary of ,562. E-4s pull in about ,000 depending on their time in service.)

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

A U.S. Army specialist is “promoted” to corporal, a promotion that he will never regret.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christina Turnipseed)

Next, when corporals are laterally promoted, they only move up the feeding chain a tiny amount, moving from specialists to guys who are ostensibly in charge of specialist, but still below all other NCO, officers, and warrant officers.

And we said ostensibly for a reason. Specialists aren’t known for always caring what a corporal says. Or what anyone else says, but corporals get particularly short shrift. And this is especially bad for corporals who are appointed to that rank in the same unit they were specialists in. After all, that means they have to now direct the guys they were hanging out with just a few days or weeks before, all without the benefit of a more concrete promotion.

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

Army Cpl. Quantavius Carter works as a movement noncommissioned officer, logging all the measurements necessary for the paperwork to ship the vehicle.

(U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth White)

But their job is important, and most corporals are appointed to that rank because higher leadership knows that they’ll take it seriously. Like we mentioned, corporals can be assigned to jobs that would normally require a sergeant. They sent to supervise everything from crap details to automatic weapons teams.

They are, truthfully, part of the backbone of the Army, but they still often have to share barracks rooms with drunk specialists.

So, yeah, buy your local corporal a drink when you get a chance, because they’re stuck in a tough job with no extra pay and little extra respect. Worst rank in the Army.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how US military dogs train for dangerous missions

By now, everybody has seen the picture. A tan dog in a tactical vest, sitting up at the position of attention, perky ears framing a black face. The mouth wide open, the tongue hanging out the side of the mouth, the dog looks happy, almost goofy.

This is the dog that chased down ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi this past weekend, leading to al-Baghdadi’s death when he detonated a suicide vest he was wearing. The dog was injured in the blast, but has since returned to duty. Assigned to Delta Force, the dog’s identity is classified, even as the dog is being hailed as a hero, with the picture shared on Twitter by President Donald Trump, who called it Conan.

Read on to find out what we know about this dog.


4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

U.S. Marine military working dog Argo rides into the ocean on a combat rubber raiding craft at Red Beach.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez)

They are the special forces of military working dogs, attached to special operations forces, such as the Navy SEALS and Army Rangers. Trained to find explosives, chase down human targets, and detect hidden threats, these Multi-Purpose Canines, or MPCs, are also trained to rappel out of helicopters, parachute out of airplanes, and conduct amphibious operations on Zodiac boats. Highly skilled, an MPC named Cairo even assisted in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.

These dogs are specially selected and trained to handle the most stressful situations while keeping their cool. In the spirit of the Marine Recon motto, these dogs are swift, silent, and deadly. Barking is forbidden. With the secretive nature of their work, much of the information regarding the selection and training of these dogs is classified.

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

A military working dog chases a suspect during a demonstration.

(Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Derry)

Four times per year, a team of canine handlers, trainers, veterinarians, and other specialists from the 341st Training Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio Texas — the home of the Military Working Dog Program — make the trip abroad to buy dogs. They evaluate each dog to ensure that they will not have any medical issue that will prevent them from serving for at least 10 years. They perform x-rays to ensure that there is no hip or elbow dysplasia or other skeletal defects. Dogs with skin conditions, eye issues, or ear problems are ruled out.

If they pass the medical screening, they are further assessed on their temperament. Over up to 10 days, the dogs are judged on their ability to search and detect, their aggressiveness, and their trainability. While the special forces have their own programs to procure dogs, which are confidential, the traits that they look for are the same. The standards are just higher.

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

Caro, a five-year-old Belgian Malinois with the 96th Security Forces Squadron, stands by her handler.

(US Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

This hero dog from the al-Baghdadi raid is a Belgian Malinois, one of the most popular breeds among working dogs.

This hero dog from the al-Baghdadi raid is a Belgian Malinois, one of the most popular breeds among working dogs. W

While the military uses labs, retrievers, and other breeds including a Jack Russell or two for detection, the most popular breeds of war dogs are Belgian Malinois, Dutch Shepherd, and the ever popular German Shepherd. These dogs are valued for their intelligence, trainability, work ethic, and adaptability.

The Malinois in particular is valued for its targeted aggression, speed, agility, and ability to survive in extreme heat. Handlers are known to refer to their dogs as either a “fur missile” or a “maligator.”

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

A Multi-Purpose Canine with U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC), prepares for Zodiac boat training inserts on Camp Pendleton, Calif.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Maricela M. Bryant)

The dogs are hand selected from the best kennels in Europe and around the world, brought to the United States, and trained to the highest level.

They are taught patrolling, searching, explosive or narcotic detection, tracking, and are desensitized to the types of equipment around which they will work. They are familiarized with gunfire, rappelling out of helicopters, riding in Zodiac boats, or even skydiving. All said, the dogs and their training cost up to ,000 each. Including the highly specialized gear of MPCs, the cost can be tens of thousands of dollars higher.

Wearing bulletproof vests outfitted with lights, cameras, communications equipment, and sensors, the dogs can operate off leash, providing a real-time view to the handler while taking verbal commands through the radio.

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

A Multi-Purpose Canine handler with U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command prepares his canine for a parachute jump.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Scott Achtemeier)

Over their years of service, a multipurpose canine will conduct dozens of combat missions over multiple deployments, most of which the public will never hear about.

One of these missions resulted in the death of Maiko, a multi-purpose canine with the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment. Leading the way into a secure compound in Afghanistan in November 2018, Maiko caused the Al Qaeda fighters to open fire, giving away their position, allowing the Rangers to eliminate the threat without injury.

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

A multi-purpose canine handler with U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, checks for a pulse while administering medical care to a realistic canine mannequin.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Bryann K. Whitley)

When dogs are injured on the battlefield, their handlers are trained to provide first aid.

Using specially developed, highly realistic dog mannequins, the handlers are trained to treat massive bleeding, collapsed lungs, amputations, and more. The mannequins respond by whimpering and barking.

Many of the developers of this dog mannequin came from the Hollywood special effects world, working on productions like the Star Wars or Harry Potter films. The simulated dog, with its pulse and breathing responding to the treatment, costs more than ,000.

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

Military working dog handlers with the U.S. Army Rangers and U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command multipurpose canine handlers fast-rope from a U.S. Navy MH-60 Seahawk helicopter.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels)

If a dog is injured in combat or in training, or is showing signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, he can be sent to a dog hospital at Lackland Air Force Base for surgery, rehabilitation, or assessment for retirement.

While PTSD is not well understood in dogs, veterinarians, dog trainers, and specialists at Lackland Air Force Base agree that dogs show symptoms of combat stress as much as humans do. Whether they become fearful of loud noises, become more aggressive, forget how to do tasks, or decide that they don’t want to work, these dogs are rehabilitated with the goal of returning them to service. If this is not possible, the dogs are evaluated for transfer to non-combat jobs or potential retirement.

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

Nero proudly displays his U.S. Military Working Dog Medal during his retirement ceremony aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. on May 21, 2018. During his five years of service, Nero served two deployments. Nero will be adopted and spend his retirement as a companion to his handler.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Bryann K. Whitley)

Before being retired, the dogs are assessed to ensure that they do not pose a risk to the public.

After up to a decade of devoted service, the goal is to let the dog live out its life on a soft bed, preferably with one of its former handlers.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out this footage of life on a 1960’s aircraft carrier

The footage below is taken from “Flying Clipper,” a “monumental documentary about the adventures of a Swedish sailing ship, which travels into the Mediterranean in the early 1960s.”

Filmed in 1962 with specially designed 70mm cameras, “Flying Clipper” was the first German film produced in this high-resolution large format. The documentary was recently scanned in 4K and digitally restored, so that it could be marketed as 4K UHD, Blu-Ray and DVD.

Besides the Côte d’Azur, the Greek islands and the pyramids of Egypt, “Flying Clipper” included also more than 5 minutes of footage from aboard USS Shangri-La (CVA-38), one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers completed during or shortly after World War II for the United States Navy.


With the CVG-10 on board, the USS Shangri-La was involved in a 6-month Mediterranean Sea cruise with the 6th Fleet Area Of Responsibility between February and August 1962. The clip shows with outstanding details the “blue waters operations” of the F4D-1 Skyray fighters with the VF-13; the A-4D Skyhawks of the VA-106 and VA-46; and the F-8U Crusaders of the VMF-251 and VFP-2.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JROmHzavjA8
USS Shangri-La

www.youtube.com

You can also spot some AD-6 Skyraider of the VA-176 while the opening scene shows the vivid colors of one of the HUP-3 helicopter of the HU-2.

There was much less technology aboard to launch and recover aircraft, and “bolters” (when the aircraft misses the arresting cable on the flight deck) and “wave-offs” (a go around during final approach) were seemingly quite frequent.

By the way, don’t you like the high-visibility markings sported by the aircraft back then?

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This SEAL will show you how to defeat the enemy when it follows you home

What happens when troops return from the battlefield with no enemy left to fight? According to Navy SEAL Mikal Vega, we bring the enemy home — and it destroys us.

“While in the military, we focus on cultivating a destructive force that we unleash on the battlefield within our respective fields — which we do with great success — but what happens when there’s no longer an enemy to release that energy upon is that it still remains. We create an enemy and that can manifest in a myriad of ways,” he cautions.

“The only thing we can do to offset it — and warriors throughout history that we model ourselves after understood this — is the cultivation of creative forces. The warrior walks that razor’s edge in between the two, drawing strength from both the creative and the destructive side of the spectrum.”

Vega, a combat vet himself, uses his creative energies to help guide the veteran community to healing, especially in light of the troubling 22-a-day statistic about veteran suicide. And his methods aren’t what you might think:


4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

Vega developed his Vital Warrior Program to help break down the stigma associated around cultivating creativity and healing. Vital Warrior at its core is all about teaching men and women to go inside, discover their creative talents, and use those creative talents in service of the people around them and to uplift and inspire them to do the same for others.

He served 22 years within the Navy SEAL Team and EOD communities. While deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and while manning the turret of an HMMWV, he sustained an injury from an IED detonation that caused severe cervical trauma, ulnar nerve damage, and a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI).

After a medical retirement and VA-prescribed narcotic painkillers and psychoactive drugs, Vega hit his limit. He recognized that the medications were having an adverse affect on his health and he decided to explore his own healing regimen of myofascial release, acupuncture, and yoga.

He takes a discipline-oriented and regimented approach to his yoga practice, which he now teaches in Venice, CA, offering free classes to veterans in a donation-based environment. He empowers his students to reject the victim mindset and take responsibility for their health. In the military community in particular, that often means breaking through pre-conceived notions about yoga, breaking the stigma about practices like meditation, and introducing the modern warrior mindset into peaceful practices.

“Once vets show up and do it — and really try — they’re floored,” he shared.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B1SZmUIAOGy/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]Mikal A. Vega on Instagram: “This track is available now with your preorder (link in bio). Vital Warrior music was created to increase performance and creative flow.…”

www.instagram.com

Listen to a sample of Vega’s latest project:

He talked about that nagging sense of anxiety when you ignore the work you know you should be doing and its adverse effect on the warrior in particular. “If you’re not engaged in the fight, you know you’re not and you’ll be crushed by the energy of it,” he observed.

Vega has a steady career in TV and film, with past credits including Colony, Hawaii Five-0, and Transformers: Age of Extinction. He’ll also appear in the upcoming second season of Mayans M.C., set to premiere September 3rd.

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

His entertainment career allows him to serve his non-profit, leading to one of his most exciting endeavors yet: a music album appropriately titled Vital Warrior, available now on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, and more. Featuring deep earthy tones and Vega’s rich voice, the album is designed to not only increase performance and creative flow, but, through the use of the mantras selected, to become a transport vehicle to a better place.

Whether you listen to it during strength-training or yoga, the music will hit the right spot.

Vega served as both the Executive Producer on the album, as well as a vocalist and composer, along with Composer, Musician, and Vocalist Jesus Garcia and Latin Grammy winner and Sound Engineer Rubén Salas — both of whom also produced the album.

“This practice is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I can see why people might resist it. I’m going up against higher versions of myself, and doing it every day. There is nothing else — it’s me up against me,” he confessed. “It is our sincere desire that this album and this technology engages people because if it does, their life will become better. It doesn’t matter where they are or what they’re doing — they’re life will become better.”

Sign me up.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Top 10 military charities of 2020

The holiday season is all about giving to those we love. It’s also a perfect time to give to those in need! These 10 charities are among the most highly-rated charities helping those who are more deserving of care than almost anyone: military personnel, veterans, and their families. The military community carries the weight of protecting our country. If you’re able to help, consider donating to one of these charities to lift a little of that weight off their shoulders. 

1. Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund

The mission of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund is to help severely injured military personnel to receive the care they need to return to military service or transition back into civilian life. So far, the fund has raised $200 million for rehabilitation facilities, programs, and financial assistance. 

Their eight Intrepid Spirit Centers offer comprehensive treatment, including the treatment of traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress. Over 90% of patients treated there are able to resume Active Duty. 

2. Fisher House Foundation

When soldiers are injured, having the support of their families is more important than ever. The Fisher House Foundation builds homes at military and VA medical centers worldwide so that families can stay together throughout medical treatment. Each Fisher House has up to 21 suites which include private bedrooms and bathrooms and access to a shared living room, kitchen, dining area, and laundry room. 

The Foundation also offers the Hero Miles program, through which people can donate frequent flyer miles to assist military families with travel expenses, with a similar program offered for no-cost hotel stays. Last but not least, their grant program offers scholarship funds for the children and spouses of veterans. 

In 2019, over 32,000 families were served, with over 500,000 served since the organization was founded. More than $25 million has been provided to students through scholarship awards, and over 70,000 flights have been covered. 

3. Semper Fi & America’s Fund

Semper Fi, one of the most renowned military charities, is dedicated to helping combat wounded, ill, and catastrophically injured veterans and their families. Their Transition Program helps servicemen and women recover and adapt to post-injury life, connect with their communities, and reach their career goals. They fund numerous adaptive fitness and sports programs, as well as therapeutic art and music classes. They also offer direct financial assistance to help support military families throughout the healing process. 

Semper Fi has been directed by military spouses from the start, so every program is designed with empathy and understanding. So far, $231 million has been provided in assistance, with services offered to 25,500 service members. 

4. Armed Services YMCA 

The ASYMCA is a segment of the YMCA dedicated to helping young enlisted military service members and their families. They’re the oldest US military support organization, dating back to 1861. All services and programs are provided at no cost and require no annual membership fees. Instead of focusing on one particular form of care, ASYMCA aims to be a constant resource throughout military life; from transitioning between bases to deployment. 

In total, they’ve provided care for 25 thousand military family members, and their volunteers have logged 11 thousand hours. In recent months, ASYMCA has also increased emergency relief services, launched virtual youth programs, and provided childcare for the children of essential workers to help military families impacted by COVID-19. 

5. Wounded Warriors Family Support

The Wounded Warriors Family Support organization works to improve the lives of military personnel and the families of those who were injured or killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The challenges faced by wounded warriors and their loved ones are complex, so the program focuses on comprehensive care. 

Services include caregiver respite, veteran career training, adapted vehicles, and long-term care for veterans with spinal cord and brain injuries. They also offer all-expense-paid vacations to help veterans reconnect with their families! 

6. Mission Continues

Returning to civilian life often leaves veterans feeling a sense of purposelessness. Mission Continues is all about providing veterans with ways to provide service in their own backyards. More specifically, the organization gives veterans the tools to make an impact in underserved communities. In the process, veterans have the opportunity to get invested in their community, bond with fellow veterans, and reignite their passion for helping others. 

7. Homes For Our Troops

When severely injured veterans return home, their home is the same. Unfortunately, their abilities may be different. Homes For Our Troops donates personally-customized homes to help post-9/11 veterans live full, normal lives. Charity Navigator, America’s biggest independent charity evaluator, rated HFOT in the top four percent of charities, with a four out of four star rating. 

So far, HFOT has built 313 homes, with 90 cents of every donated dollar going directly to the project. The veterans helped never pay a cent.

8. Hope for the Warriors

Hope For The Warriors began on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, NC back in 2006. Military families realized how much of an impact war had on service members and their loved ones back at home. They started Hope For The Warriors to support the military community through transition programs, peer engagement, and health and wellness programs. Their approach is holistic and well-rounded, aimed at addressing each factor that affects a service member’s life.

Even today, the organization is run by military families and combat veterans. 

9. K9s For Warriors

When we have a bad day, many of us turn to our dogs for comfort. Veterans can rely on dogs for a whole lot more. K9s For Warriors provides fully-trained service dogs to post 9/11 vets suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, or military sexual trauma. Their service dog program is based on research conducted by Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine to ensure that both vets and their service dogs are receiving the care they need. Vet care, assistance with housing, and home-cooked meals are also offered, so vets can bond with their support dog worry-free. 

In 2018, 122 vets were paired with service dogs, with over $13 million raised in total.

10. Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors

The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, better known as TAPS, has spent the past 27 years giving comfort and care to those coping with the death of a loved one in the military. They provide 24/7 phone support, plus ongoing grief counseling resources, seminars, and youth programs. In 2019, TAPS welcomed close to 7,000 newly bereaved military families, and they answer over 19,000 calls to their helpline each year. Their staff is mostly made up of survivors of military loss who have already been through TAPS and want to help others in similar shoes. 

For more charitable military organizations to donate to, check out this comprehensive list by the Charity Navigator.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans learn to see differently through the camera lens

When Army Veteran Corrin Lee Mac heard of the Lebanon VA Medical Center and Lebanon Valley College’s The Seeing Lens group, she thought the idea was “far-fetched.” The 10-week therapeutic photography group is for Veterans in recovery. However, as Mac–pictured above–went through the program, she discovered that it worked for her. “It promotes mindfulness. Looking through the lens, this second in time, you are here in the moment.”

Veterans who participate in The Seeing Lens are issued a camera and textbook for duration of the program. Each week focuses on a different aspect of recovery and ties it to a photographic technique. For example, clarity and attention are linked with the concepts of aperture and depth of field.


Members of the inaugural group had their photos displayed in an exhibit at Lebanon Valley College and the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The exhibit will return to Lebanon VAMC later this year.

Graduates gathered at the college to talk about the impact the program and the exhibit had on their lives.

“Every Veteran can experience it in their own way, but something that would be in common between Veterans was the supportive nature of it, the non-judgmental atmosphere, ” said Army Veteran Robin Ann Pottoroff.

You are more thoughtful and creative.

“It makes you slow down and look at the world in a different way,” said Navy Veteran Mike Robertson. “You are more thoughtful and creative. It calms a racing brain.”

Lebanon VAMC recreation therapist Amy Cook, a founder of the program, was struck by “really seeing what the camera can do as a recovery tool. Once the Veteran picked up the camera, it was life-changing.”

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

Project alumni suggested that other Veterans in recovery give The Seeing Lens a try.

“Give it a shot. It worked for me,” said Navy Veteran Patrick Dougherty. “And I was the most negative person, a naysayer. So if it helped me, it can pretty much help anyone.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Kelly Clarkson Show highlights WATM ‘10 WEEKS’ series and GivingTuesdayMilitary movement for Veterans Day

For the first time in Army history, video cameras were allowed inside boot camp, and WATM was there to capture every minute. ‘10 WEEKS’ follows recruits as they make it through the Army’s grueling boot camp. Different storylines will captivate viewers as they get to know these real life soldiers in the making. One of those soldiers was featured on the Kelly Clarkson Show’s Veterans Day special, discussing the filming and her boot camp experience. Also on the show was one of WATM’s writers, Jessica Manfre, as she shared the mission of GivingTuesdayMilitary. 

For many, the desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves propels people to give back and to serve. It’s why many service members join the military. The deep desire to make a difference and positively impact the world is another. That’s something that is extremely unique to the military community and why GivingTuesdayMilitary was created.

The global GivingTuesday movement was founded in 2012 after its founders lamented their frustration with the lack of generosity or kindness following Thanksgiving. They saw America jump from that holiday straight into the craziness of shopping, leaving little room for gratitude and kindness. Since its inception, which is always the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, they’ve grown exponentially. In 2019 alone their campaigns raised over $500 million dollars for charities. It was also the same year that a few military spouses decided to join in, and put their own spin on things. 

Manfre is one of the co-founders of GivingTuesdayMilitary. Their mission and purpose is to promote intentional acts of kindness, all across the globe. The thought was that due to the deep reach of the military spanning the world, spreading kindness would have a ripple effect that could be felt everywhere. Their original goal was 1 million acts and they reached 2.5 million. For 2020, they are more determined than ever to spread kindness.

“We recognize that we are in a perilous climate with the divisiveness of the election, COVID-19 virus and issues regarding inequality running rampant throughout our country,” Manfre explained. “To combat this, there really is a new urgency on our message of kindness. Despite our differences, we can unite behind kindness. Kindness doesn’t care what you look like, who you love or who you voted for. It’s something that brings us together, no matter what.” 

So, what do you have to do to join in on the movement? Be kind. Go into your communities and see where there is a need and fill it. This could mean organizing drives for the homeless or foster children; writing letters for hospice veterans through Operation Holiday Salute; or, it can be the beautiful but equally vital things like leaving encouraging notes for strangers. The message is simple: you can make a difference.

Co-founder Samantha Gomolka lives by the quote, “Create the world our children already believe exists.” We couldn’t agree more and it starts with you. This December 1 — be kind.  
To watch episodes of The Kelly Clarkson Show, click here. To learn more about GivingTuesdayMilitary and how you can be a part of it, you can find them on all social media platforms under @GivingTuesdayMilitary or check out their website.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Congress introduces new veteran medical marijuana bills

Less than a month into the 116th Congress, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate have introduced four bills that, if signed into law, would require the VA to conduct research on medical marijuana.

Tennessee Republican Rep. Phil Roe, a medical doctor and ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, introduced legislation Jan. 24, 2019, that would require VA to conduct research on medicinal cannabis, to include marijuana and cannabidiol — a component extract of marijuana — for post-traumatic stress disorder, pain and other conditions. The bill, H.R. 747, is similar to one introduced Jan. 23, 2019, by Rep. Lou Correa, D-California, H.R. 601.


In the Senate, Sens. Jon Tester, D-Montana, and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, introduced a bill, S. 179, on Jan. 17, 2019, directing the VA to carry out clinical trials on the effects of medical marijuana for certain health conditions.

And on Jan. 16, 2019, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, introduced legislation that would create a pathway for VA to obtain the marijuana needed for research. Gaetz’s bill, H.R. 601, would increase the number of manufacturers registered under the Controlled Substances Act to grow cannabis for research purposes. It also would authorize VA health care providers to provide information to veterans on any federally approved clinical trials.

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

(Flickr photo by Herba Connect)

“For too long, Congress has faced a dilemma with cannabis-related legislation: we cannot reform cannabis law without researching its safety, its efficacy, and its medical uses — but we cannot perform this critical research without first reforming cannabis law,” Gaetz said in a statement.

“The VA needs to listen to the growing number of veterans who have already found success in medicinal cannabis in easing their pain and other symptoms,” said Tester, ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, in introducing his bill.

Lawmakers have tried for years to influence the debate on medical marijuana, offering numerous proposals on veterans’ access to marijuana and its derivatives. Marijuana remains classified as a Schedule 1 drug under federal legislation, meaning they have a high potential for addiction and “no currently accepted medical use.”

In 2018, bills were introduced that would have required the VA to conduct research on medical marijuana, allowed VA providers to complete the paperwork patients need to obtain medical marijuana in states where it has been legalized and decriminalized the drug for veterans regardless of where they live.

None made it into law.

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive


In August 2018, Tester, Roe, Sullivan and former Democrat Rep. Tim Walz, now governor of Minnesota, wrote VA Secretary Robert Wilkie urging him to support “rigorous clinical trials” on medical marijuana. They pointed out that VA is currently conducting two small-scale studies, adding that veterans “deserve to have full knowledge of the potential benefits and side effects of this alternative therapy.”

“The pervasive lack of research makes [providers’] jobs even more difficult, leaving VA clinicians flying blind without concrete recommendations to veterans,” they wrote.

To date, 33 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico have made marijuana legal for medical purposes.

Roe said that, as a doctor, he believes medical research is needed to determine whether treatments are safe and effective.

“While data remains limited, surveys have shown that some veterans already use medicinal cannabis as a means to help with PTSD. … I would never prescribe to my patients a substance unless I was confident in its proven efficacy and safety and we need to hold medicinal cannabis to the same standards … if research on the usage of medicinal cannabis is favorable, I am confident that it could become another option to help improve the lives of veterans and other Americans,” he said.

In 2017, the American Legion, the largest veterans organization with nearly 2 million members, urged the federal government for marijuana to be removed from the list of controlled substances. The organization also adopted a resolution urging passage of laws that would allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana.

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