Don't miss the Geminids meteor shower this weekend - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Don’t miss the Geminids meteor shower this weekend

The Geminids meteor shower peaks on Friday night, and for the first time ever, a spacecraft has spotted the asteroid dust that makes those shooting stars.

Since NASA’s Parker Solar Probe launched in August 2018, it has rocketed around the sun three times, getting closer than any spacecraft before it and traveling faster than any other human-made object in history. Scientists released findings from the probe’s first batch of data this month, which revealed never-before-seen activity in the plasma and energy at the edges of the sun’s atmosphere.

The spacecraft also stumbled upon the never-before-seen trail of asteroid dust that we know as the Geminids.


“The truly remarkable thing about the Parker Solar Probe mission is that it’s also giving us answers to questions that we weren’t even asking,” Karl Battams, an astrophysicist working with the spacecraft’s imaging tools, said in a press conference on Wednesday. “We’ve seen something in the data that we have never seen before with any of our instruments, and in fact no one has ever seen before.”

In the image below, the probe captured a portion of the mysterious Geminids dust.

Don’t miss the Geminids meteor shower this weekend

The Parker Solar Probe captured the first-ever view of this dust trail, pictured between the red arrows, that creates the Geminids meteor shower.

(Brendan Gallagher/Karl Battams/NRL)

The dust trail is about 100,000 kilometers (62,000 miles) wide. The portion in the photo is about 20 million kilometers (12 million miles) long.

“We’re very confident that we are, indeed, seeing the Geminids meteor shower,” Battams said.

The mysterious dust trail came from an asteroid rocketing around the sun 

The asteroid Phaethon left behind this enormous trail of dust long ago.

“A couple of thousand years ago, it went by the sun and something happened to it,” Battams said. “We don’t know what, but something happened to it, and it released a huge debris trail that we now call the Geminid meteor shower.”

Don’t miss the Geminids meteor shower this weekend

Radar images of asteroid 3200 Phaethon, taken as it came within 6.4 million miles of Earth by astronomers at the National Science Foundation’s Arecibo Observatory, December 17, 2017.

(Arecibo Observatory/NASA/NSF)

Phaethon’s current orbit around the sun leads the sun’s heat to fracture the asteroid’s surface each time it gets close. That causes it to release more dust. But those regular releases are “nowhere near sufficient” to make the trail that Parker spotted, Battams said.

Battams’s research team found that the trail Parker saw contains about 1 billion kilograms (1 million tons) of material. That sheer amount told scientists that the trail that Parker captured is, indeed, the Geminids.

“People have been looking for this trail for a long time. We know it exists because our planet goes plunging through it every year, but we don’t really know the structure of the trail,” Battams said.

Just a few years ago, the Hubble Space Telescope searched for the Geminids trail and couldn’t find it.

Don’t miss the Geminids meteor shower this weekend

An illustration of the Parker Solar Probe shows it flying through the sun’s searing-hot corona and withstanding blasts of solar wind.

(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

Parker will spot the Geminids again as it flies past the sun 21 more times

Over the next six years, Parker is set to approach the sun 21 more times, getting closer and closer. In its final pass, it should fly within 4 million miles of the sun’s surface.

During each flyby, the probe will gather more data on the sun — and the Geminids.

“Every time we go by we’re going to see this same trail. We’re going to get these same observations,” Battams said. “And every time we’re going to learn a little bit more about this trail and really start to address some of the questions that we have about this meteor shower that we pass through every year.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what happens when your Delta Force squadmate is also a cartoonist

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

Officer: “Guys, if this job were easy monkeys could do it.”

NCO: “Yeah, and if monkeys could do it… then we wouldn’t need officers.”


When I was stationed with Special Forces Dive Academy in Key West Florida as an instructor, I took to immortalizing events as I witnessed them in person: the good, the bad, the smart, the stupid, and always the funny. Heck, as a cartoonist I could always make events funny even if they weren’t; that’s just what a cartoonist does.

The beauty of being the cartoonist is that I got to choose the events that were going to get the attention. Sure, guys could come up and present their ideas to me and plead their case, but if I didn’t like it I simply could… ignore it! It was easy to become intoxicated with power.

I carried the tradition with me to the Delta Force. I anonymously hung my first cartoon in the day room to test the waters. The sterling response from the pipe-hitters meant I could claim my work, and I kept a working log of my cartoons in a binder on the bar in our squadron lounge titled: A-Squadron Tymz.

Most of the guys loved being featured in the Squadron Tymz and roared with laughter at their plight or praise. Others lamented their incidental turn to be in the book. I consoled them in all seriousness:

“Brother, you’re looking at this all wrong… you WANT to be in the book; everyone should WANT to be in it because you are then immortalized for all time!” They thought that the book was a record of their mistakes but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

I really am quite certain that piece of cheerleading in earnest gifted them peace of mind, and none of the features I added to the book were ever in poor taste. Brothers from the other squadrons tended to mosey over to our break room to have a casual gander at the latest cartoons and beg the backstory from any standers-by. Other squadrons even began to keep their own versions of my Squadron Tymz.

As for the back story of the featured cartoon, there are two parts depicting events that both happened on the same assault on a complex target objective. My assault team was designated to move in behind an initial ground floor clearing team. Once they cleared that ground floor of threats using assault weapons and flash-bang grenades, my team was to flow through quickly to the stairs and gain access to the top floor.

All went particularly well, if I may brag; assault rifles belched smoke, fire, lead, and hate as bangers thundered smashing out glass in the window pains and tearing holes through gypsum wall boarding. Calls rang out:

“CLEAR,” “CLEAR HERE,” “ALL CLEAR,”!!

Don’t miss the Geminids meteor shower this weekend

The condemned and abandoned target subject (left side)

Each of the guys on my team peered out and down the hall where our bro Guido had just swaggered out of a room and stood in the middle of the hall where you weren’t ever supposed to stop and stand. It was time for Guido-style post-assault levity as we had become accustomed to it. He stood with his rifle on his hip like a duck hunter, other hand on hip, head cocked to the side and stated in his best cool-guy voice.

“I think there’s something you guys don’t realized but need to know right now, and that is that this top floor is now officially… CLEAR!”

With that, the floor under his feet creaked and sagged, and Guido went instantly crashing through the floor of the old condemned building. His body fell roughly to its waist then jammed in the hole. On the floor below, startled men cursed as a half-dozen little red dots from visible lasers danced across his kicking legs.

We dashed to extract him. He cried out as we tugged and pulled him finally through the hole in the floor. Once out we headed back downstairs, Guido limping heavily. He had tweaked his hip in the fall, an injury we all insisted for days was actually his ass, a notion that he strenuously objected too at every opportunity.

Outside a car sped away with three more assaulters who had blocked the road leading to the target during the assault. Once we reported the objective secured, the men intended to push out farther away from the target to provide more advance notice to the assault force of approaching vehicles.

The vehicle they were in was purchased by the Unit from a local car dealer, and in need of repair, and fixed up by our crack mechanic shop. It was known by us all to have mushy breaks. As the driver, Jester, came up fast on the second security position in the dark he chose to right-leg break the car to a definitive stop, but didn’t have time to warn his riders.

As the car screeched to a halt, passenger Chainsaw came flying off his vinyl seat and slammed his head into and shattered the windshield. Poor Chainsaw… as Jester describes: “The brother is an accident magnet,” and indeed that may well be, as Chainsaw wrecked a motorcycle his first week in squadron plunging the kickstand through one of his calves.

Don’t miss the Geminids meteor shower this weekend

The accident magnet Chainsaw in this exaggerated version is launched through the windshield as the Jester laments: “What have I done” in German.

Later he was blown up by the premature detonation of an explosive breaching charge. He is famous in the Unit for taking a .45 caliber ACP bullet to the forehead and surviving. The bullet struck his head at a shallow angle and bounced off just above his hairline. It snapped his neck back injuring it, but otherwise, he was ok. Only in the shower when his hair was wet could you see the .45 bullet-shaped scar on his scalp.

Sadly, Chainsaw was hit again in the head by an HK G3 rifle at the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan. This time he was gravely injured and still suffers to this day from that head wound. We two remain friends on Facebook, catching up and busting chops just like in the day.

Don’t miss the Geminids meteor shower this weekend

7.62 x 51 (NATO) Heckler and Koch (HK) G3 rifle

“How’s your ass, Guido?”

“I told you guys it’s my hip… my hip is what is injured; not my ass!”

“Ok, whatever you say, Guido… you take care of that ass, ya hear?”

“I TOLD you it’s not my ASS!”

“Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha… sure thing, Guido.” And so it went.

Don’t miss the Geminids meteor shower this weekend
MIGHTY CULTURE

‘Murphy’s Law’ gives context to a controversial veteran-turned-journalist

Jack Murphy is no stranger to controversy. In fact, you might even say that the former Army Ranger-turned-Green Beret-turned-journalist has sought it out, or at least had a laissez-faire attitude toward it over the course of his tenure as an investigative journalist. With the release of his memoir, he has given both fans and haters alike an inside look at how he sees the world — whether they like it or not.


Murphy has penned multiple fiction novels in the past, as well as a New York Times best-selling nonfiction report on the Benghazi consulate attack. But he’s gained the most notoriety as editor-in-chief of NEWSREP.com, formerly SOFREP.com. He’s established himself as a serious journalist by breaking stories that have made international news, but has also faced accusations of operational security violations and betraying the special operations community. Most recently, the release of helmet-cam footage from U.S. Army Special Forces operators killed during an ambush in Niger stoked the heated controversy swirling around the publication.

Don’t miss the Geminids meteor shower this weekend

“Murphy’s Law” was released on April 23.

(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)

Despite that, Simon and Schuster’s conservative nonfiction imprint, Threshold Editions, published “Murphy’s Law” on April 23. The memoir contains a brief background of Murphy’s upbringing in New York before diving into his military career and, later, the reporting exploits that took him around the world — often to arguably more dangerous corners than he faced while in uniform.

Writing a memoir wasn’t something he was interested in, despite the onslaught of special operations veterans who were publishing books around him. It wasn’t for lack of opportunity though; Murphy had made a habit of avoiding editors trying to convince him to pen his life story. At a book signing for “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi,” Kris Paranto’s editor approached him, and he once again politely declined.

Don’t miss the Geminids meteor shower this weekend

Murphy in Iraq as a Special Forces NCO training Iraqi SWAT forces.

(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)

But the offer stuck with him, and he brought it up to his friend and mentor, Special Forces veteran Jim West. “I told him that I’ve written all these articles, in-depth pieces — that I’ve basically told everyone’s story but my own,” Murphy said in a phone interview. “He told me that I’m avoiding my past. That was the moment I said, ‘F*ck it, maybe I should confront some of these things.'”

And so he did. The book doesn’t paint a picture of the stereotypical war hero, nor does it show him as a PTSD-riddled veteran who struggles to cope with life after combat. His self-examination is as brutally honest as he aims to be in his reporting, often taking shots at himself in one paragraph before dispelling rumors in the next.

Don’t miss the Geminids meteor shower this weekend

Murphy preparing for an aerial overwatch mission as a Ranger sniper in Afghanistan.

(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)

He doesn’t expect that the context this book provides will help quiet his detractors though. “I don’t really give a sh*t at the end of the day,” Murphy said, noting that he hopes the book tells the truth while cutting through rumors. “I said what I had to say, and I think the criticism and anger is part and parcel with the job, and if you can’t handle it, you need to find a different profession. I don’t think anyone is going to change their mind after reading this book.”

Indeed, the last chapter of the book is titled “Controversy and Upsets” and directly addresses many of the accusations that have been leveled in his direction. It comes after 100-some pages detailing years of doing a job that many misunderstand or flat-out disdain. For that reason alone, the book is worth the read: more Americans need to understand the great lengths and risk many journalists put themselves through in order to report the news.

Don’t miss the Geminids meteor shower this weekend

Murphy in Kurdistan while working as an embedded journalist with Peshmerga forces during an offensive.

(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)

And that’s what Murphy will continue to do, which will likely continue ruffling feathers in the process. “Unfortunately, the military sexual trauma story has been something I’ve continued to work on,” Murphy said, before noting that he also plans to finish his fifth novel, which was pushed aside while writing his memoir. “I have a passion for writing, and I don’t think that’s something I’m ever going to stop doing.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs

The CFT has nothing to do with combat, Kuwait isn’t a real deployment, not every Marine is a rifleman, stop piggybacking off the XO—every service member has thought these things in some form at one point or another. You may have even said it aloud to a buddy. Putting a military spin on Dude With a Sign, Veteran With A Sign takes these thoughts that we have all had and actually says them.


VWAS is an Instagram page that started in March 2020 as a writing project by a f̶o̶r̶m̶e̶r̶ Marine named Zach. He served two tours in Afghanistan as an infantryman and held every position in a Marine infantry squad up to squad leader. “GWOT was hot and COIN was cool,” Zach said as he recalled the intensity of combat operations over a decade ago. After separating from the Marine Corps, Zach continued to support his brothers and sisters in arms working for Centerstone, a nonprofit national network that offers essential behavioral healthcare to veterans. Like most veterans, Zach started following military memes as a way to connect with the community. However, he found that most of the memes were the same; heavy handed, punching down, and generally negative in nature. He decided to try something different.

As quarantines went into place across the country and people went internal both literally and on the internet, Zach saw an opportunity to test out his idea and seized it. His first sign read, “Take motrin Drink water Change your socks.” This military cure-all was followed by other popular sayings like “Hurry up and wait” and “Standby to standby.” VWAS’s posts are meant to help veterans with a type of humor that serves as a common language across the services. “Everything’s with a wink and a smile,” Zach said. However, the community was slow to catch on. The number of followers was low and Zach found that people just weren’t getting the joke. “It was annoying,” he recalled. By May, he wondered if he shouldn’t just shut the whole thing down. However, seemingly overnight, the community got the joke.

Early on, Zach began consulting with his Marine Corps buddy Jay. The two served together in Afghanistan with Zach becoming Jay’s squad leader on their last deployment. “We stayed in touch after the Marines,” Jay said, “but we went from good friends to best friends with VWAS.” While working toward a business degree, Jay helped to direct the social media strategy of the page and grow its followership by tagging friends, sharing posts, and trying to line up just the right hashtag. When Zach considered shutting it down, the page was hovering around 600-800 followers. The next day, it had jumped to 1,200. In a week, it more than doubled to 2,500. After a week and a half, VWAS had over 10,000 followers. “We found a common unified voice for the page,” Jay said.

Don’t miss the Geminids meteor shower this weekend

Zach (left) and Jay (right) hold signs written by the other (veteranwithasign)

As the page grew, so did its message. Zach and Jay realized the social responsibility that had been placed on them and crafted their posts accordingly. While they still made humorous signs like “Mortarmen Are Infantry That Can Do Math”, they also used their platform to bring attention to serious topics with signs like “Text Your Buddies…It Could Save A Life” and “Where Is Vanessa Guillén??” The two also carefully crafted the identity of the page with the character of the Warfighter. Wearing OD green skivvies, black sunglasses, and a hat, the Warfighter persona aims to focus attention on the message of the sign while also representing all types of veterans. “Anyone who puts on the uniform is fighting the war,” Jay said. From S1 and supply to mechanics and logisticians, “everybody is the warfighter in their own way.” Zach says that the concept was inspired by the 2006 film V for Vendetta, in which a masked man fights against a fascist tyrannical government. V’s face, hidden by a Guy Fawkes mask, is never seen in the film and the mask becomes a symbol of freedom and rebellion against the oppressive regime. Jay reinforced this idea when he talked about donning the skivvies, hat, and shades to hold up a sign. “In that moment, I’m the Warfighter.”

Expanding the VWAS community, Zach and Jay started taking suggestions from followers who had a message that they wanted to share. Working with Zach and Jay to craft and home the message, the follower would then don the Warfighter outfit, assume the identity, and hold up their sign for the world to read. One such collaboration was with a veteran and former law enforcement officer who goes by the Instagram name donutoperator—the sign read, “Military Experience Doesn’t Equal Law Enforcement Experience.” Another major expansion for VWAS came when Tim Kennedy shared a post in which Zach held up a sign reading, “No One Hates Successful Veterans Like Veterans” while his friend held one reading, “He Sucks”.

Don’t miss the Geminids meteor shower this weekend

“Wives aren’t the only ones wanting to be called by rank” (veteranwithasign)

“There’s a current cultural problem with the veteran community. It feels as if we eat our own,” Kennedy said in his sharing of the post. “We need to be supporting each other. We need to back each other.” While Zach and Jay hope to continue to grow the page as a forum of free speech, there’s no room on VWAS for negativity. The page receives dozens of DMs and comments on a daily basis, and while Zach and Jay like to respond to all of them, they simply ignore the constant suggestions to do signs bashing on veteran-owned apparel or coffee companies.

“That’s just being a bully,” Jay said, “and no one likes a bully.”

On the other hand, many DMs to the page come from concerned friends looking for resources to provide to battle buddies who they think might be suicide risks. Zach and Jay take the time to identify the most appropriate and effective resources and pass the information on with best wishes. “That’s what this is all about,” Zach said, “helping veterans laugh more and hurt themselves less.” While veteran suicides have gone up since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, VWAS wants to do more than just acknowledge the problem or point fingers at the VA. “That doesn’t solve anything,” Zach said. “Instead, I look at it like, ‘They’re doing what they can do and we’re doing what we can do.'”

Doing 22 push-ups for 30 days on Facebook can be a good way to bring awareness to the problem of veteran suicide, but there is a simpler course of action that addresses the problem directly. Call your buddies. Take the time to talk, catch up, and ask how they’re doing. Let them know that you care about them and are always there for them. The feeling of loneliness and hopelessness that tragically brings so many veterans to take their own lives can be combated with a phone call from a friend.

Be that friend.

Here are some resources designed to prevent veteran suicide:

Veterans Crisis Line—1-800-273-8255 and press 1

Veterans Crisis Line for deaf or hard of hearing—1-800-799-4889

Veterans Crisis Text—838255

Veterans Crisis Online Chat— https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/chat

MIGHTY CULTURE

Soldiers share stories of suicide to save others

There was the staff sergeant who walked onto the street in front of his home — gun in hand — ready to end his life, when a neighbor stopped him from pulling the trigger.

There’s the lieutenant who vulnerably opened up to his commander during a battle assembly weekend — eyes so tired from not having slept in two days — and admitted he needed help.

The chaplain who lost his father to suicide in his grandmother’s house.

The sergeant who lost a soldier during deployment.

The officer who handled a suicide investigation case.

A lost brother. A mother. A close friend.


Each of them sat in front of the camera to share their stories — raw and real and unscripted — for a new take on suicide prevention.

“The idea was, talk directly into the lens as if you were looking at that person who is in crisis. Look at them in the eye. Say whatever it is you need them to hear,” said David Dummer, the suicide prevention program manager for the 200th Military Police Command, headquartered at Fort Meade.

Don’t miss the Geminids meteor shower this weekend

Sgt. Claude Richardson, a U.S. Army Reserve soldier and suicide prevention instructor with the 358th Military Police Company, talks about his experience as an instructor during a video project hosted and organized by the 200th Military Police Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Since 2010, the command’s suicide rate has dropped 65 percent. It is currently at its lowest point on record. In four of the last five years, the command’s suicide rate has been below the civilian rate, based on similar age demographics. That’s not often true throughout most of the armed services, said Dummer.

“We’ve already seen a tremendous, tremendous reduction in our suicide rate using the old material, and I think these new (videos) will take us even further in the right direction,” said Dummer.

The goal is to create something new, powerful and impactful to use in suicide prevention training, unlike some of the canned material that has been in use for several years now.

Don’t miss the Geminids meteor shower this weekend

Maj. Valerie Palacios, a U.S. Army Reserve public affairs officer for the 200th Military Police Command, operates a camera on a slider during an interview for a video project organized by the 200th MP Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Suicide prevention training is required for all soldiers. In spite of everyone recognizing how incredibly important it is, soldiers often groan at the training because the materials used often feel scripted or repetitive, said Dummer.

“Our suicide prevention effort is to save lives. We recognized some time ago that the training material we have been given to use is rather stale,” Dummer said.

These new video messages are intended to change that. They are designed to supplement current material, not replace it.

“The official Army line is to reduce suicides, but in the 200th we’re aiming to eliminate them completely,” said Dummer.

The video shoot spanned two days at the Defense Media Activity (DMA), recorded inside a state of the art studio that reassured everyone that this was important. Their stories would be handled

Don’t miss the Geminids meteor shower this weekend

U.S. Army Reserve soldiers listen to a final “out brief” after completing a video project hosted and organized by the 200th Military Police Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

with care and professionalism. It wasn’t going to be some PSA message haphazardly thrown together at the last minute. Dummer and his team at the 200th MP Command had been planning this shoot for months, calling soldiers from across the United States to take part in the effort.

“Their words have power. That power will ripple throughout the audience and beyond as people start to talk about what they saw on camera … It takes a lot of courage to get up and speak about your personal experiences publically,” Dummer said.

Don’t miss the Geminids meteor shower this weekend

U.S. Army Reserve soldiers and civilians pose for a group portrait after completing a video project hosted and organized by the 200th Military Police Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

The primary audience for this video is the MP command itself, composed of nearly 14,000 U.S. Army Reserve soldiers across the United States. Most of those soldiers are MPs who specialize in combat support, detention operations and criminal investigations — among other job specialties. These are soldiers who have experienced deployment, trauma and life stressors as intense as any active duty soldier.

“I always brag that I have more combat stripes than I have service stripes,” said Staff Sgt. Preston Snowden, a 20-year Army veteran who is also a civilian police officer from Atlanta.

Snowden is also a suicide prevention instructor who often shares personal experiences to connect with soldiers during training.

Don’t miss the Geminids meteor shower this weekend

David Dummer (top), suicide prevention coordinator for the 200th Military Police Command, and Maj. Valerie Palacios, the command’s public affairs officer, conduct a video interview during a project organized by the 200th MP Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

“Me being a police officer thinking I knew how to handle every situation, because I’ve dealt with child molestations. I’ve dealt with suicides … Overdoses. Murders. On the outside looking in, you have that mindset, just like you would in the military, that it’s work. When it’s over, it’s over. You go home,” he said.

Yet, the challenges of adjusting to home life after deployment only grew worse when trauma struck in his own house. One of his own daughters was sexually assaulted. He felt like a failure. He was her father. Her protector. A police officer. A former infantryman. If he couldn’t protect her, who could?

Over time, that sense of shame and worthlessness brought him onto the street with a gun. He didn’t want to end his life in his house or his back yard. He looked both ways to ensure no cars were coming. Then he heard a voice.

“Hey, brother, what are you doing?” It was his neighbor. Up until that day, Snowden didn’t even know the man’s name.

Don’t miss the Geminids meteor shower this weekend

Staff Sgt. Preston Snowden, a U.S. Army Reserve military police soldier with the 200th Military Police Command, poses for a portrait while participating in a video project hosted and organized by the 200th MP Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Snowden tried to make some excuse.

“That’s bull—-,” the neighbor responded. “I see it. Cause I’ve done it. I was there. I could see it a mile away. I could pretty much smell it on you. Let’s talk.”

The man introduced himself as Fred. A 32-year Army veteran. A man who cuts the grass and works in the yard every day as his personal outlet. Through that interaction, Fred saved Snowden’s life.

Other stories shared on camera didn’t have a happy ending. On holidays and birthdays, soldiers still miss the loved ones they lost to suicide. Yet, even though each story is personal and unique, they all share a universal message.

Don’t miss the Geminids meteor shower this weekend

U.S. Army Reserve soldiers listen to a final “out brief” after completing a video project hosted and organized by the 200th Military Police Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

“I think the one theme that emerged from every single story … is the value of reaching out to someone around you, or to the people around you, and asking them for their support in getting through whatever tough time you’re experiencing,” said Dummer.

Soldiers often don’t express their need for help because they’re afraid of losing their security clearances, or their careers. They’re afraid of appearing weak or inferior. Dummer hopes to help dispel those fears through this video series.

Don’t miss the Geminids meteor shower this weekend

Sgt. Claude Richardson, a U.S. Army Reserve soldier and suicide prevention instructor with the 358th Military Police Company, talks about his experience as an instructor during a video project hosted and organized by the 200th Military Police Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Dummer also wants all Army Reserve leaders to know that if a soldier expresses suicidal ideations, commanders can place those soldiers on 72-hour orders to provide them immediate medical treatment at the nearest civilian emergency room or military hospital. The video will also provide a list of other helpful resources, such as “Give an Hour,” which offers free behavioral health services to all military members.

It’s not enough to raise awareness about a problem, if that awareness offers no solutions, Dummer said. These videos will do both.

The command has at least one more day scheduled at the DMA studios in January, before post production and editing begins. Once finished, the videos will be packaged and distributed throughout the command for training purposes beginning in the spring of 2019.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy’s ‘Team Battle Axe’ trains with the ‘best crew in the fleet’

Squadrons assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3 flew aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) Sept. 9, 2019, for carrier qualifications as part of Tailored Ship’s Training Availability/Final Evaluation Problem (TSTA/FEP).

“Team Battle Axe is thrilled to be aboard the Mighty Ike once again and join the best crew in the fleet,” said Capt. Trevor Estes, commander of CVW 3.

“The training our aviators and air crew will accomplish during carrier qualifications will ensure we are all ready to meet the nation’s call at a moment’s notice as the ship becomes ready to fight. With grit and determination, CVW 3 will continue to improve on its successes and do our part to make Ike greater each day.”


CVW 3 squadrons from around the United States have joined Ike’s crew for the assessment, which will evaluate Ike and the embarked air wing as an integrated team and on their proficiency in a wide range of mission critical areas while maintaining the ability to survive complex casualty control scenarios.

Don’t miss the Geminids meteor shower this weekend

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Nicholas Harvey observes an F/A-18E Super Hornet, assigned to the “Gunslingers” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 105, aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, Sept. 9, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist Seaman Apprentice Trent P. Hawkins)

“It’s a great opportunity for us to train at the air wing level and ultimately at the strike group level,” said Lt. Matt Huffman, a naval aviator attached to VFA 131. “It’s our first real combined exercise as part of the work-up cycle. We’ve done a lot of work at the squadron level and the unit level. This is the first time that we are going to be integrated together.”

The aircraft and crew of CVW 3 is comprised of HSC 7, the “Swamp Foxes” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 74, the “Zappers” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 130, the “Screwtops” of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123, the “Fighting Swordsmen” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32, the “Gunslingers” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 105, the “Rampagers” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 83 and Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 131.

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Rear Adm. Paul J. Schlise, commander of Carrier Strike Group 10, arrives aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, Sept. 12, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Tatyana Freeman)

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Sailors perform aircraft maintenance in the hangar bay aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, Sept. 10, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Sawyer Haskins)

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A MK 31 Rolling Airframe Missile launches from the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower during a Live Fire With a Purpose event, Sept. 11, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Tony D. Curtis)

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Sailors observe flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, Sept. 10, 2019.

The squadrons and staff of CVW 3 are part of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 10, also known as the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower CSG, which includes Ike, the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers USS Monterey (CG 61), USS San Jacinto (CG 56), and USS Vella Gulf (CG 72); and the ships and staff of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 26.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force Wounded Warrior program partners with Ukrainian vets to find healing in war-torn country

Exercise and adaptive sports have been proven to build resiliency among wounded veterans. Through new purpose, unwavering support, rekindled determination, and a focus on ability and not disability, these warriors can heal. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported that 13,000 people had been killed in the Ukraine conflict as of 2019. Upward of 30,000 soldiers have been badly wounded since the war began in 2014.


These injured soldiers come back with burns covering much of their bodies, extensive brain damage, and chronic phantom pains from amputations. Around half of them are also suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Once home, their new war is just beginning.

The Ukrainian government struggles to provide basic care for these veterans, with private non-profits often stepping in to pay for things like prosthetics. Seeking help for mental health illnesses, like PTSD, carries a strong stigma for Ukrainian society. Psychologists and non-profit wounded warrior programs in Ukraine have been working hard to change that.

In 2015, Col. (Dr.) Vsevolod Stebliuk introduced the first complex psychological and physical program for the rehabilitation of war veterans at Irpin Military Hospital in Ukraine. It’s there that veterans are introduced to things like exercise therapy to build resiliency. Wounded Warrior Ukraine also teaches PTSD workshops, deep breathing and exercise therapy to Ukrainian veterans.

In 2017 the Ukraine team made its debut at the Invictus Games. This was monumental for these veterans who were struggling with devastating visible and invisible wounds from war. The Invictus Games helped them by not only building a community of support, but by giving them purpose and passion through adaptive sports. The word “Invictus” is Latin for unconquered – implying that although forever changed by war, they will not be overcome.

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Marsha Gonzales, a retired United States Air Force veteran and current Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2) Branch Chief for Warrior Care Support, is the manager of Team US for the 2020 Invictus Games. While at a meeting for the games, she met the manager for Team Ukraine, Oksana Horbach. Horbach shared with Gonzales her concern for her team, as Ukraine did not have the same access to financial resources as other countries. Gonzales decided to help.

When discussing different options of support, Gonzales remembered that AFW2 had equipment that was to be recycled. It was at this moment that AFW2 helped establish Team Ukraine’s first-ever wheelchair basketball team to compete in the 2020 Invictus Games.

Ten specialized wheelchairs were delivered to Ukraine in February, and with them came two AFW2 coaches and five sports ambassadors to not only train the Ukrainians with sport-specific knowledge, but also directly engage with local veterans. The AFW2 group visited the Ministry of Veteran’s Affairs, Ministry of Defense, and engaged with local media to share stories of resilience through adaptive sports.

According to Gonzales, many tears were shed during the visits with veterans. She shared that while visiting veterans in one local hospital, it was hard not to be overcome by their stories. American Veterans who came on the trip with AFW2 also felt an overwhelming sense of appreciation for the care and support they receive in the United States. All involved wished there was more they could do for these incredible Ukrainian veterans.

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One Ukrainian veteran shared during a visit that they had just received word of increased fighting, and that some of their friends had been killed. Gonzales said it was hard to remain unemotional, knowing that not far away, more Ukrainian soldiers were dying in the conflict.

While providing wheelchairs and giving their time might not seem like much to some, to the Ukrainians it was everything. “We are giving these veterans hope for their future,” Gonzales said.

Team US co-captain, retired Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joshua Smith, was one of the ambassadors on the international trip. He made a Facebook post on Feb. 22 sharing that the visit was a humbling and profound experience for him and others taking part.

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“Letting other wounded, ill, and injured service members/disabled veterans know that we can adapt, overcome, and persevere with absolute resiliency in the face of challenges, obstacles, and trials we suffer due to military service for our countries,” he wrote.

Smith said that they went into this trip with Team Ukraine appearing very unsure of why they were there to help. However, by the time AFW2 left, Ukrainian veterans were referring to them as “our Americans.”

It was no longer Team US and Team Ukraine – it was “Our Team.”

To see all of the things AFW2 is doing to support wounded warriors, click here. Also, check out Team Ukraine’s Invictus Team page.

Articles

This is what happens if you try to illegally enter Area 51

In 2013, the United States government finally admitted the famed Area 51 of conspiracy theory lore was not only real, but also there are a lot of tests that go on there. And that was about it. Even though the area’s existence was confirmed, nothing else about it was revealed. 

All we really know is that the area is located north of Las Vegas, at Groom Lake, a dry lake bed in the desert and there are two other facilities at Groom Lake, the Nevada Test Site and the Nevada Test and Training Range.

The truth is that even though a lot of secret research, testing, and training happens at Area 51, for the most part, it’s just like any other military installation (except there’s no flying over Area 51). You still need access to go on the base and if you go on the base without access, a number of things could happen.

“Sir, this ID is cardboard and your name is clearly written in crayon…”(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Zachiah Roberson)

Just like any other military base, how you illegally enter the base will determine how Air Force security forces (or whoever is guarding Area 51) responds to you. So, in short, swarming Area 51 like the internet planned to do a few years back would go terribly, terribly wrong for everyone involved.

If you were to somehow find yourself on the base without being authorized to be there, there’s no roving execution squad driving around to find infiltrators. I mean, they are looking for infiltrators, but security forces isn’t going to summarily execute one. 

It would be a lot of ground to cover for said roving execution squads (Wikimedia Commons)

Air Force security forces are authorized to use deadly force on an intruder, as every sign outside of a base installation says. They don’t, however, have to use deadly force. In fact, before they start shooting at you, you have to demonstrate three things: intent, opportunity, and capability of either using deadly force yourself, causing bodily harm, or damaging or destroying resources. 

So tiptoeing onto a base might get you captured and questioned, but it won’t get you executed unless you start going all “True Lies” on anyone who happens to accidentally cross your path. Again, this is true of any base. At Area 51, the entrances to the Groom Lake area are really far from any actual buildings, so there’s no opportunity there. 

Driving like a bat out of hell through a gate, however, might demonstrate all three conditions at the same time, so there are good odds that the shooting will start immediately, maybe even before you make it to the gate. This actually happened at a regular base in 2010, when the driver of a stolen car refused to slow down or stop at the entrance of Luke Air Force Base.

Area 51
“Target is wearing an ‘X-Files’ t-shirt, staggering and complaining that they’re thirsty…” (U.S. Air Force photo/Rob Bussard)

The driver got lit up by Air Force security forces and though he made it onto the base, he didn’t make it far. He crashed the vehicle almost immediately and was arrested by local authorities. 

At Area 51, the third criteria for the use of deadly force might be interpreted a little more loosely, considering the installation’s national security mission. If the Air Force is okay with assuming that anyone not authorized to be in the area has the intent and capability of causing harm to national security and is capable of doing whatever it takes to do so, then they might just assume that the only good intruder is a dead one. 


Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

MIGHTY CULTURE

This journalist witnessed the rise of ISIS up close—and now he’s telling the story​

In 2007 I was a fresh-out-to-pasture journalist, trying not to lose my sanity as an Army wife and stay at home mom. I had worked most recently as a reporter for The Fayetteville Observer, but my husband, a Special Forces soldier, kept getting deployed. We couldn’t afford a nanny, and no daycare in town stayed open late enough to watch our son until I could get off work.


The Observer offered me an opportunity to write a blog and two weekly columns from home, and that’s how I came to meet Mike Giglio, a fresh-out-of-college writer for Charlotte Magazine, working on a story about military families at Ft. Bragg.

Giglio has written a book now, “Shatter the Nations: ISIS and the War for the Caliphate” – an open wound of a book, as raw and bleeding as the conflict itself.

But back in 2007, he came to my house, sat in my living room, made the requisite comments about the adorableness of my toddler, and interviewed me. He has since told me that I was the first person he had interviewed about war. He has interviewed many, many more people since. He wrote then:

Rebekah Sanderlin looks like an Army wife from a movie: the hero pulls out her picture in the opening scene, she has dark hair, engaging eyes, and a warm smile, she’s holding his kid, and you’re already hoping he makes it out of this thing alive.

12 years and as many deployments later, my husband and I are still married and, indeed, he appears to have made it out of this thing alive.

I followed Giglio’s career from a distance after that, watching as his byline hopped up to the big leagues and then across the ocean, first to London and then to Istanbul, and then right into the heart of war.

Now a journalist for The Atlantic, he spent four years living in Turkey and Syria, interviewing members of the Islamic State, their enablers, and legions of others who were pushing back against ISIS’ terror quest for power, embedding with U.S. military units as well as low-level groups of resistance fighters.
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(The Atlantic)

His book is part memoir, part chronicle. We see the early movements of ISIS in the form of sources and scoops that grow into defeats and victories. He is unflinching in the descriptions but avoids the war-porn tendencies lesser writers find irresistible. There are no heroes and no villains, only humans showing up, day after day. Characters come and go, lost to war and the swirling chaos of life. There are no neat and tidy endings. This is news – news never ends.

His sparse, direct, writing style is appropriately like chewing on broken glass. A book about ISIS shouldn’t be overwrought. There’s too much gore, too much horror, too much human misery, for a writer in love with adjectives. No one needs those adjectives.

Of an Iraqi Special Forces soldier, he writes:

“So when militiamen kidnapped Ahmed from a checkpoint in Baghdad one day, they didn’t just torture him. They put a circular saw to his forehead and tried to peel off his face. Then they put a hood over his head, shot him five times, and tossed his body in a garbage dump, thinking he was dead. Ahmed survived, though, and was found by an elderly man, who carried him to a hospital. When he recovered, he had gained his nickname – The Bullet, for what couldn’t kill him – and he returned to his turret.

These are not pages to read before bed.

Giglio is captured and nearly executed, and he survives being hit by a suicide bomber. He sets these encounters on the table, like an indifferent dinner party host, as if to say, “Here it is. Make of it what you will.” And, of course, there is only one thing to make of it: ISIS is even worse than you thought.

I read Mike’s book during the vacant, pedestrian, moments of my mom-life. Sitting in my daughter’s gymnastics class, reading about the young Syrian mother who watched helplessly as a wall collapsed on all four of her children during a bombing. In the front seat of my minivan, parked at the high school, waiting for that once-toddler-now-teenager, reading about a man whose seven siblings were all killed by ISIS. Sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room while a friend’s wrist was being x-rayed, reading about ISIS fighters gathering body parts from numerous people into one duffel bag, only to leave the bag in the middle of a street.

I read about Mike, being zip-tied and beaten by a jeering mob in Egypt, before being thrown into a prison bus and carted to a sports arena, where sham trials and public executions were being held for political prisoners. And then the zip ties are cut from his wrists and he is inexplicably released. I think about the cub reporter I first met in my North Carolina living room, as eager for adventure as any young soldier.

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He is in Iraq, embedded with a battalion from the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Force (ICTF) in Mosul when the results of the 2016 election are announced, and Americans of all political persuasions are melting down. He writes:

“I wondered if, when a country was at war for so long but only a select few ever waged it, the rest of society began to go a certain kind of crazy. Some played at civil war while others vowed to flee to Canada as political refugees, and too many Americans seemed to want to pull a bit of conflict into their lives just when so many people around the world were risking everything to escape from it.”

And then he finally escapes it himself, perhaps for good, writing this about then-new President Trump’s premature declaration of victory over ISIS: “As in the past, America was looking to move on from the region before the war was really over – leaving much of Iraq and Syria in ruins and ISIS still a threat. This was an impulse I embodied, too. As Colonel Arkan had once explained, the thing about going to war far from home is that you can always walk away from it.”

If you’re lucky, Mike. Only the lucky get to walk away.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Soldiers get down and dirty in this muddy ‘playground-of-the-day’

A seven-minute drive and there it was; a training site with water pits, steep hills and lots of mud. This was the playground-of-the-day for soldiers with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, during their wheeled vehicle recovery class at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, late July 2019.

The training was designed to submerge vehicles in a controlled setting so soldiers could use the skills they’ve learned to retrieve it safely, according to Sgt. 1st Class Thomas McKenzie, an instructor with the Regional Training Site Maintenance Company, from Fort McCoy. Soldiers train in the same scenarios they may face overseas to prepare for the elements, he added.


“I have the firm belief that if you have to call one of our recovery guys, something bad has happened,” said McKenzie, whose unit goes by the motto, “You call, we haul.”

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U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Brett Cosaboom with the Regional Training Site Maintenance Company in Fort McCoy, Wis., prepares a truck during an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy July 20, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)

“We never go out when it’s a bright, sunny day and pretty outside,” said McKenzie. “We always go out in the worst possible conditions.”

The group huddled up for a weather briefing just as the clouds rolled in. Despite the inclement weather, they continued mission. Each soldier stood in their respective positions and waited for the next move. Torrential rains pounded down creating conditions of limited visibility, but the soldiers carried on without hesitation.

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U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, walk through deep water during an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 20, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)

“We don’t stop during bad weather because this is the kind of stuff these soldiers are going to have to deal with, as long as we can do it safely. I tell my soldiers all the time, the number one goal for this class is 10 fingers, 10 toes, vertical and breathing when you leave it,” said McKenzie.

Each soldier took their turn walking into the mire pits to attach massive chains to the submerged vehicles for recovery.

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U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, perform reconnaissance before an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 20, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)

According to Pfc. Kaleen Hansen, with the 445th Transportation Co., this type of training is an invaluable resource not only for the soldiers in the class, but also the Army Reserve as a whole. Wheeled vehicle mechanics do their job so that other soldiers can get on with theirs, she added.

Throughout the 17-day course, instructors practiced a crawl-walk-run style of learning to ensure soldiers are set up for success in the field, added McKenzie.

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U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Austin Smith with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, prepares a vehicle during an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 20, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)

“People think it’s just hooking up a cable or chain and moving on. It’s not. There’s a lot of math. These guys are doing a lot of complex equations to figure out what they need to do,” said McKenzie.

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A U.S. Army Reserve Soldier with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, rinses out his uniform after getting soaked during an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 20, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)

Safety and readiness are the two main concerns when conducting this type of training, according to Spc. Austin Smith, with the 445th Transportation Co. These vehicles weigh-in at 96,000 pounds, so all safety measures are taken seriously to avoid any accidents or injury, he added.

“You take care of us, we’ll take care of you … and we’ll get it done faster than heck,” said Smith.

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U.S. Army Reserve Pfc. Kaleen Hansen with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, prepares a vehicle during an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 20, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)

Despite tornado warnings, rain and gusting winds, soldiers of the 445th Transportation Co. weathered the storm enough to safely recover all vehicles in a training environment. After a couple more days of practical exercises, the wheeled vehicle mechanic course at Fort McCoy wrapped up July 24, 2019, ensuring, rain or shine, they will be able to support when needed.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

Transitioning from the military is hard. Habits and disciplines established over years of service are supposed to fall away as you drive off base. Here are the biggest things you’ll have to deal with when becoming a civilian.


1. Civilians don’t have safety briefs

 

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Literally none. Everyone just expects you to remember to not drink and drive, to use protection while doin’ it, and to practice weapons safety. To help ease the transition, record your last safety brief from your unit commander and set it as an alarm on your phone. Set the alarm for every Friday at 1700.

2. Learning that ten minutes early is early

Yes, your platoon sergeant has told you for years that ten minutes early is late, but it’s actually ten minutes early because that’s how words work.

Most civilians will aim to be “on time,” which is anything up to the scheduled meeting time.

3. Civilians have no idea what military time is

Speaking of 1700, after you leave the military you will notice that 1700 hours isn’t a thing. It’s called “5 p.m.” This is completely separate from 0500 which is called “5 a.m.” If you find yourself having trouble, check out this helpful book. Books are like field manuals but there are more types. They’re also similar to magazines (the paper kind).

4. Learning the language

 

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Yes, “magazines” can also refer to devices that store “rounds” for your “weapons.” Your new civilian friends will call these things “clips,” “bullets,” and “guns.” They don’t care what you call them. In the civilian world, military vocabulary falls under the category of “trivia.”

5. Civilians actually have to look before they cross the street

 

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In the civilian world, you will most likely run on your own without supervision or a cadence caller. You can choose to wear headphones to keep your motivation and pace up, but remember that no one will be stopping cars at intersections for you. The trick is to identify the sidewalks and run on them when possible. When you must cross a street, look left, right, and then left again. Only cross if no vehicles are approaching your route.

6. Avoiding danger without a reflective belt

Compounding this problem will be the fact that you won’t be wearing a reflective belt. In theory, you should still be fully visible, but it turns out that civilian drivers are about as stupid as military drivers. Stick to the “left, right, and then left again” thing described above. Or you could just start moving through the world in human hamster balls.

7. Defining your personal value without PT scores or military evaluation records

 

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You will not have a records brief listing all your rewards and accolades, and you will have to determine your personal value without these aids.

If you find yourself unable to decide if you’re a good person without this help, go ahead and assume you’re not. Then, start putting any awards or certificates you earn, along with any really good drawings you do, up on your parents’ fridge. The fridge can serve as a pseudo-records brief.

8. Trading badges, ribbons, and medals for a single lapel pin

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Not only will you not have a piece of paper stating your accomplishments, you won’t be able to wear them on your shirts anymore either. This is especially tough for soldiers who are used to wearing their badges and patches year round.

You can wear a lapel pin, but that’s only good for bragging about one thing at a time. If you need to brag about graduating basic while also making sure people know you were a marksman, you’ll have to put stickers on your car.

9. Figuring out who you can yell at when no one wears ranks

Like the sudden absence of awards, there will be no ranks in the civilian world. But, if you work in a company, some people are still more powerful than you.

What can you do? If just treating everyone with respect is out of the question, grab a copy of your company’s personnel list and make flash cards for yourself. The CEO is like a general, your district manager equals a battalion commander, and the head custodian is essentially your squad sergeant. You can only yell at people who don’t outrank you.

10. As a civilian, choosing your own outfits is normal

 

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Notice how all those people who aren’t wearing ranks are wearing different clothes from each other? Don’t worry! You don’t have to match any of their outfits, and no platoon sergeant is about to yell at everyone.

See, in the civilian world there are no uniforms, so you pick your own clothes to wear. Cargo pants and shirts are a good starting point when you first get out. You’ll get these at stores rather than exchanges. If the first store doesn’t have anything you like, don’t worry. Where bases only have a couple of different stores with the same tired inventory, civilians live in cities with tons of different shops all selling different merchandise.

11. Speaking without acronyms

FYSA, the DoD isn’t the only AO where acronyms are prevalent, but civilians still think you’re weird when you string together a sentence of alphabet soup. Go ahead and plan on stating entire words when speaking to civilians.

If you need to, use lozenges and honey to soothe your throat during the transition.

12. Civilians speak with a whole lot less cussing

Even more important than not using acronyms is not cussing. Most people find it harsh in the civilian world, especially if you’re around children at all. Avoid other colorful language as well, such as “BLOOD! BLOOD! BLOOD MAKES THE GREEN GRASS GROW!” and “KILL!” Click here for a more complete list.

13. Pointing instead of knife-handing

 

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Photo: Marine Corps

Knife hands have been disappearing from the armed forces and even the Marine Corps seems to be cutting back. If that bothers you, hold on to your butts. Civilians don’t even know what the knife hand is! And using it would be a major mistake.

When you want to knife hand to point out an object, civilians use a finger instead or even a verbal description of where someone should look. Where a knife hand would be used to emphasize a point or establish displeasure, civilians rely on tone of voice or a sternly worded note.

14. First names

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That’s right, instead of ranks or last names, civilians use first names. You’ll be expected to as well unless you’re a doctor.

But we both know you’re not.

15. What to do with all your moto

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In the military, you could throw on a gas mask and some armor for a 10-mile run when you were over-moto, but in the civilian world that ends with you dodging Taser shots from nervous cops. You can still go running or head to the range, but you’ll probably just deaden the moto with reality T.V. like everyone else.

NOW: This Army vet uses Tumblr to show civilians the realities of war

WATCH: These veterans transitioned to unique jobs after the military

MIGHTY CULTURE

The story of Atos, a heroic K9 killed in action

Military and law enforcement working dogs are vital. They not only add capabilities for the units they serve with, like finding the enemy faster due to their powerful sense of smell; they also save their lives in the process. These dogs willingly sacrifice themselves in the process of saving their team. Atos was one of them.


Randy Roy served four years in the 2nd Ranger Battalion of the Army in the 1980’s and went on to become a law enforcement officer in Iowa. He began working with the K9 unit and training dogs. In 2007 he was approached by the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) to become a Contract Trainer for their military working dogs. Roy and his family left their home in the Midwest and settled outside of Ft. Bragg in North Carolina shortly after that.

Atos was the first military working dog he trained.

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Roy shared that USASOC acquired Atos in the summer of 2007. “Atos was a goofball, hard head, Malinois. He was awesome. Atos was kind of stubborn but very trainable and learned quickly,” said Roy. He continued on saying, “He was very sociable with everyone. They truly become part of the team and he certainly became a team member.” When Atos finished his training, he deployed to Iraq.

It was while in Iraq that he was assigned to his handler. The handler had just lost his previous military working dog, Duke, who was killed in action during a firefight. Roy shared that at first, Atos’ handler didn’t want to like him, most likely because the loss of Duke was so fresh. But Atos grew on him quickly.

Jarrett “Fish” Heavenston and Roy connected on that deployment, with Heavenson often volunteering for Atos’ training and happily donning a bite suit. Heavenston joined the Army at seventeen in 1991 and completed seven years as a ranger. He also worked in jungle warfare and USASOC. Heavenston wanted to do something different, so he left the Army and joined the Air Force in 2001 as a Combat Controller where he stayed until he retired in 2016.

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“They [working military dogs] recognized who their tribe or pack was and they were very protective of them. We are kind of look, dress and walk the same; if you weren’t part of that pack they were alert and watching you and on guard,’ said Heavenston. As a Combat Controller, he was with many different dogs; he shared that some dogs were approachable, and friendly and that’s how Atos was described.

On Christmas Eve in 2007, Heavenston and his team were tracking enemy combatants. The brush was incredibly thick and woody. “It was very tough to move in the brush. We knew they were in there and waiting for us,” he shared. Heavenston said that he was helping to guide the handler as he was casting Atos out. The dog was able to find and track the guy they were looking for because of his keen sense of smell; but that meant that the team lost sight of Atos.

Although Atos quickly made his way through the brush, the team moved behind him much more slowly due to the difficulty of navigating the tough terrain. “You have the best-trained guys in the world out there, but it doesn’t negate that what you are doing is really hard,” said Heavenston. He shared that between the rough terrain and fading daylight, it was a tough operation.

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“The dog is on him the dog is on him” is what Heavenston remembers hearing from the communications with an aircraft above them. They didn’t realize it was Atos at first, but eventually, they heard the commotion.

Shortly after that, the enemy combatant blew himself up, killing not just himself, but Atos.

Four members of their team were wounded that night, some grievously. “Had Atos not done what he had done, it would have been much worse,” shared Heavenston. He knows that if Atos hadn’t engaged with the enemy and forced him to detonate his bomb early, there would have been certain loss of human life that Christmas Eve.

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“There are hundreds of dogs out there who have made the ultimate sacrifice. There are many of us within the military that are here today because of what they did,” said Heavenston. It was with this in mind that his company, Tough Stump Technologies (which Atos’ trainer, Roy, became a part of), decided to hold an event in Atos’ honor.

Touch Stump Technologies partnered with K9 for Warriors to raise money through their event for the organization, which is working to end veteran suicide and return dignity to America’s heroes by pairing them with service dogs. Dogs are paired with veterans who are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), or have suffered military sexual trauma (MST).

The event will celebrate the life and sacrifice of Atos and all working dogs on March 13, 2020.

Heavenston also shared that his company is working hard to develop technology that would allow the military to better track their military working dogs. “If we had this on Atos that night, that narrative would have been a lot different,” said Heavenston. The hope is that with specialized GPS tracking capabilities, they won’t lose dogs like they lost Atos.

Working dogs are an integral part of the military and law enforcement. On this K9 Veteran’s Day, take a moment to remember the dogs like Atos that willingly sacrificed their lives to save their people. Every loss is felt deeply, and the gratitude for the lives they’ve saved is unmeasurable. Don’t forget them.
MIGHTY CULTURE

Top podcasts for the commuting veteran

The popularity of podcasts is soaring exponentially. It is a radio renaissance. With over 500,000 podcasts on just the Apple store alone, it’s obvious that with rising popularity comes oversaturation. But have no fear—We Are The Mighty is here—to help clear the mist and show you the best podcasts for anyone with a military background. Whether you’re a veteran with a long morning commute, an on-base active serviceman with duty that could use some spicing up, or simply a prospective enlistee, at least one of these podcasts will be just right for you.


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SOFREP Radio

This podcast flat out kicks ass. The host, Jack Murphy (Army Ranger/Green Beret) talk with experts across every aspect of military life. He’s straight, to the point, no bulls**t. The podcast focuses on ways of cultivating mental and physical toughness with respect to special operations. With over 400 episodes already out, there is plenty to dive in and catch up on. This is the premier military podcast.

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War College

War College explores weapons, tech, and various military stories related to the instruments of war that soldiers need to be familiar with. One week they’ll talk about Navy pilots experiencing UFOs, and the next they’ll break down the Air Forces’ new “Frozen Chicken Gun.” Highly informative.

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The Joe Rogan Experience

The Joe Rogan Podcast has become a cultural phenomenon. The premise for one of the most popular podcasts of all-time is simple: Joe Rogan sits across from a guest and has an intelligent back and forth conversation for about 3 hours. His guests range massively in scope: Elon Musk, UFC fighters, fellow comedians, scientists, psychologists, authors, and more. Joe Rogan’s centrist sweep highly appeals to people in the military sphere, and the topics covered on here would be interesting to anybody. It’s not just an internet meme, it’s a great listen.

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American Military History Podcast

For all the military history buffs out there—look no further. This podcast goes deeper than the surface facts we usually associate with historical events. I found myself surprised to learn contextual facts about historical battles I thought I knew. The key aspect of this podcast that sets it apart from other military history podcasts is the context. It gives perspective and crafts interesting narratives out of that context.

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Mind of the Warrior

In this podcast, Dr. Mike Simpson (former Special Forces Operator and highly regarded expert on both combat trauma and combat sports medicine), delves into the psychology of what it takes to be a modern day “warrior.” He talks with top-ranking policemen, to combat veterans, to MMA experts, and many more—all in pursuit of talking about combat and the common threads that loom warriors to the same fabric.

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This Past Weekend with Theo Von

Every military service member needs some laughter in their life, too. Theo Von and his hilarious podcast “This Past Weekend” have just the right flavor for a military background listener. In case you don’t know, Theo Von is a rising comedic voice and one of the absolute funniest dudes in the country. His Louisiana drawl contrasts his bizarre shoehorning of the English language and, when combined with some downright brilliant joke writing, becomes a really easy recipe for some deep belly laughs on your commute. The only downside is you can’t see his glorious mullet through your headphones.

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War on the Rocks

Ryan Evans swills some drinks and talks policy, life, and security on this well-produced podcast. The issues span from diplomacy to economic to domestic. Ryan has a really contagious charisma which makes for a lot of vehement nodding in agreement while listening. A must listen for anyone interested in geopolitics.

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Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast

And finally, we have the legendary Bill Burr, in one of the longest-running comedic podcasts out there. If you have served in the military, and you haven’t heard of Bill Burr, just listen to a single episode. All of your internal frustrations will be hilariously articulated right before your eyes as Bill Burr rants to himself (and a 1,000,000+ listeners) about issues small and large. His clear cut, no-nonsense approach is really sobering and refreshing. His east-coast Boston accent layers his precisely supported rants with an authentic edginess. Feels kinda like an audio shot of whisky on your way to work.

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