10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

Let’s face it – a deployment over the holidays isn’t ideal. What’s worse? Gifting items your favorite service member cannot use for the foreseeable future. Whether it’s your spouse or your BFF, here are 10 gifts deployed military personnel actually have on their list this year and can use on deployment:

  1. Hydro Flask Coffee Tumbler with Flex Sip Lid – Whether your soldier is on-the-move or in their room, this tumbler was built for keeping coffee hot for up to six hours using TempShield technology. A range of colors ensures a flask for every preference! 
  1. ALTRA Footwear – Built for maximum stability across any type of terrain, Altra creates running and trail shoes that allow toes to relax and spread naturally while moving. Consistently rated in the top ten for running specialty shoes, Altra is best known for “Zero Drop,” meaning consistent height between heel and toe bed. 
  1. PHOOZY Apollo Antimicrobial Phone Case – Using patented materials and NASA technology, this phone case prevents the dreaded “temperature warning” for phones and protects from other elements without disrupting wifi or Bluetooth capabilities. And, the antimicrobial lining ensures all inserted devices keep bacteria away. Perfect for a global pandemic. 
  1. UST Microfiber Towel – Skip the bulky towel! This microfiber towel features soft material that wicks away water and packs into a compact zipper pouch. Lightweight in nature, it can be a soldier’s best friend following a shower or gym session.
  1. OluKai slippers for men and women – Make them feel like they’re at home, without actually being at home with these durable slippers. Built with OluKau’s trademark drop-in heel, they are easy to slip on and go.
  1. Gear Snake – Forget zip ties that are useless after one use – this cut-to-length wire helps keep gear or equipment together without knots to tie or hooks to clip. The cord doesn’t rust, slip or stretch and features a foam rubber coating. 
  1. Hillsound BTR Stool – BTR stands for Better Than a Rock…and we agree. This compact tripod stool that can be used on deployment and at home (think camping or backpacking) folds into a 14-inch aluminum pole for easy stowing. 
  1. Portable All-In-One Coffee Maker – Compact and lightweight, this all-in-one pour over coffee maker means hot coffee anytime, anywhere. Featuring a fully adjustable grinder, pouring kettle, stainless filter dripper, insulated tumbler and lid, users just need to add beans for a perfect, 16-ounce ‘cup of Joe’ every single time.
  1. Duke Cannon Cold Shower Cooling Towels – No shower? No problem. These cooling towels, infused with menthol, aloe and jojoba to provide a chilling blast as they cleanse and protect, are individually wrapped and work as the ideal pick-me-up. Inspired by soldiers, a portion of proceeds from Duke Cannon products directly benefit Honor Flight Network, Military Working Dog Team Support Association, K9S For Warriors and Folds Of Honor. 
  1. Extra Strength Tiger Balm – Muscle soreness doesn’t stand a chance with extra-strength pain relieving balm. Made with natural herbal ingredients, this tried-and-true ointment can be used by deployed service members to relieve cramps, muscle soreness, and joint pain.

Still not sure any of these are the perfect fit? A gift card is always the right size. Amazon, Audible, Green Beans Coffee and iTunes are a great place to start.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 best places to party on leave

Troops train year-round to maintain the high standard of readiness essential to the preservation and defense of democracy. However, none of us are machines that can operate under constant pressure over an infinite amount of time. And enlisted professions, infantry, in particular, are among the most stressful jobs available. That’s why leave (or ‘vacation days’ in civilian terms) is a crucial component to blowing off steam and keeping morale high.

Homesick troops will often use their leave days to go and visit the family. However, those who have leave days burning a hole in their pocket should consider visiting these party cities if they’re looking for something new. Plus, there’s a good chance that someone from your platoon/squad is from the city you’re visiting and may even offer to be your guide.

In no particular order, these are the 10 best places to party on leave.


10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

New York, New York

New York City has earned the reputation of being the city that never sleeps and defends its title vigorously. In the Big Apple, you can party until the small hours of the morning and still find a place serving piping hot, fresh, New York-style pizza. As the economic crown jewel of the U.S. you can find the best brands of any product imported from around the world.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

Can’t answer SSGT’s call in another country.

Barcelona, Spain

Parties here start at 1 a.m. and last all night long, which means you’ll have enough time to do touristy things, go to the hotel to change, pregame, and invade Spain like a Roman Legionnaire. The theme parties here can get out of control, so definitely bring a battle buddy or two.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

I’m ready for my close up.

(emerictimelapse.com)

Los Angeles, California

Music labels, film studios, and conglomerates have built empires on keeping you entertained. Los Angeles offers media from every medium, genre, and artist on an unparalleled scale. LA Weekly and Ticketmaster provide information on upcoming events to plan your trip around.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

Home of the original libo risk.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

A classic destination on every bucket list but you might want to wait until you have your DD-214 to fully toke take in the culture. If your agenda doesn’t include visiting its coffee shops, there’s plenty else to do — Europeans party hard AF.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

(emerictimelapse.com)

Las Vegas, Nevada

Sin city, a single Marine’s paradise — and other branches, too. The casinos offer free booze while you gamble, gentlemen’s clubs offer the perfect location to blow away your bonus, and many hotels have venues and clubs built into the location. Excellent for post-deployment debauchery relaxation.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

Ze colors!

Berlin, Germany

Berlin is another city that never sleeps, and it is home to tons of DJs. The mainstream venues are good, but the underground parties are unbeatable. Bring someone who speaks German so you can have your finger on the pulse of this city.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

The parties are year round.

(Miami.com)

Miami, Florida

Miami has arguably the best club scene; one that can compete with LA and New York. Florida’s beaches are often featured on top ten lists and are capable of dethroning Hawaii. Every troop must storm these beaches at least once in their career.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

(Air Forces Central Command)

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

U.A.E. is home to the Burj Al Arab, the Palm Islands, and an indoor ski resort in the mall, but make sure you read up on the local laws. As a conservative Islamic country, it has many restrictions — unless you’re wealthy. Remember the golden rule: He who has the gold, makes the rules.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

The famous bar crawls of Austin

Austin, Texas

Austin has been earning a reputation as a must-visit spot for partygoers at a steady rate in recent years. The city offers pub crawls, ghost tours, historic landmarks, and lounges. It is common to see Austin on lists of top places to live for both liberals and conservatives. This growing metropolis with a southern twang should not be underestimated.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

New Years Eve in Iceland!

(icelandnaturally.com)

Reykjavik, Iceland

Vikings are still drinking and celebrating in both Valhalla and Reykjavik. Although Iceland is small, their festivals aren’t. Reykjavik is LGBTQ+ friendly and accepting of all types, but don’t wander off into the inland — the wilderness here is dangerous as hell.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics

Wait times at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics have gone down significantly from recent years and are now shorter on average than those in private-sector health care, at least in big cities, according to a new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Critics of the study pointed out that main contributors to the JAMA report were current and former VA executives, including Dr. David Shulkin, who was fired as VA secretary in 2018 by President Donald Trump.


In a statement, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the JAMA report published Jan. 18, 2019, showed that the VA “has made a concerted, transparent effort to improve access to care” since 2014, when wait-times scandals and doctored records led to the resignation of former VA Secretary and retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki.

“This study affirms that VA has made notable progress in improving access in primary care, and other key specialty care areas,” Wilkie said.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

The cross-sectional JAMA study of wait-time data from VA facilities and private-sector hospitals focused on primary care, dermatology, cardiology and orthopedics in 15 major metropolitan areas.

The findings were that “there was no statistically significant difference between private sector and VA mean wait times in 2014” and, in 2017, “mean wait times were statistically significantly shorter for the VA,” the JAMA report said.

“In 2014 the average wait time in VA hospitals was 22.5 days, compared with 18.7 in the private sector,” the study said, but in 2017, “mean wait time at VA hospitals had gone down to 17.7 days, while rising to 29.8 for private practitioners.”

The study, titled “Comparison of Wait Times for New Patients Between the Private Sector and Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers,” relied on wait-time data provided by the VA and calculated private-sector data from a survey conducted by a physicians’ search firm, Merritt Hawkins, using the so-called “secret shopper” method in nearly 2,000 medical offices in metropolitan areas.

“For the secret shoppers method, the research associates at MH [Merritt Hawkins] called physicians’ offices asking to be told the first available time for a new-patient appointment,” the JAMA study said.

“This earliest availability was recorded as the wait time. However, the VA data record scheduled wait times, which may not reflect the earliest available appointment,” the study said.

The JAMA report also noted that rural areas and follow-on care were excluded from the analysis and said that “follow-up studies are critical to analyze access to the entirety of VA health care,” since nearly one-quarter of veterans live in rural areas.

The overall conclusion of the report was that “access to care within VA facilities appears to have improved between 2014 and 2017 and appears to have surpassed access in the private sector for 3 of the 4 specialties evaluated,” with the exception of orthopedics.

In 2014, the VA was rocked by wait-time scandals and allegations of manipulated data at the VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona. “This incident damaged the VA’s credibility and created a public perception regarding the VA health care system’s inability to see patients in a timely manner,” the JAMA report said.

The VA has since worked to improve access and reduce wait times.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

“There is evidence suggesting that these efforts have improved access to care, including reports that 22% of VA patients are now seen on the same day as the requested appointment,” the report said. However, “Despite, these efforts, the adequacy of access to VA care remains unclear.”

As a result of the 2014 scandals, the VA initiated the Choice program to expand private-care options for veterans. Last year, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law the VA Mission Act to consolidate and streamline the Choice program, which has been riddled with inefficiencies.

In June 2018, the Government Accountability Office issued a report stating that many veterans who opted for the Choice program to avoid wait times still faced delays that could stretch for months before seeing a doctor.

In response to the JAMA report, a posting on the Disabled American Veterans website came under the heading: “Veterans Affairs Spins ‘JAMA Study’ It Authored On VA Wait Times.”

In addition to Shulkin, the posting noted that another contributor to the JAMA study was Dr. Carolyn Clancy, the former acting head of the Veterans Health Administration. She was replaced in July by Dr. Richard Stone as acting head of the VHA and has now taken the position at the VA of deputy under secretary for discovery, education and affiliate networks.

Stone, the former deputy surgeon general of the Army, has yet to receive Senate confirmation. The VHA has not had a permanent head since Shulkin left the position in January 2017 to become VA secretary.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

A woman made it through SEAL officer test for the first time

The Navy marked a first earlier this year when a woman completed Navy SEAL officer assessment and selection, Military.com has learned.

At the quarterly meeting of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services in December, a Navy official disclosed that the woman had reached the end of the physically and mentally demanding two-week SOAS process in September. Ultimately, however, she was not selected for a SEAL contract, officials said.

While the military formally opened SEAL billets — and all other previously closed jobs — to women in 2016, no woman has yet made it to the infamous 24-week Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training to date. If the woman had been selected for a SEAL contract at the end of SOAS, she would have been the first to reach BUD/S.


Capt. Tamara Lawrence, a spokeswoman for Naval Special Warfare, said the candidate had not listed the SEALs as her top-choice warfighting community. She was awarded placement in her top choice, Lawrence said.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

US Navy SEAL candidates during Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

“We do not discuss details of a candidate’s non-selection so it does not interfere with their successful service in other warfighter communities,” she said.

Candidates for SOAS are taken from college Reserve Officer Training Corps programs, service academies, and the Navy’s Officer Candidate School, all prior to getting their first Navy contract. Lawrence declined to specify which pathway the recent female candidate had taken out of concern that doing so would reveal her identity.

Lt. Grace Olechowski, force integration officer with Naval Special Warfare Command, said five women had been invited to participate in SOAS since the pipeline was opened to women. Three had entered SOAS to date, but only one had completed assessment and selection.

Military.com broke the news in 2017 that a first female student had entered SOAS — an ROTC student at a U.S. college. She ultimately exited the process before reaching the selection panel, however.

Lawrence said the SEAL officer selection process is candidate-neutral, meaning the selection board does not know the gender or other personal information of the candidates.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

U.S. Navy SEAL candidates participating in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sean Furey)

“Selection is based on the candidate’s scores during the two-week SOAS assessment,” she said. “This process ensures every candidate has a fair and equal chance based on Naval Special Warfare standards.”

It’s also possible that not listing the SEALs as a primary career choice would factor against a candidate in the selection process.

The selection panel is made up of senior SEAL officers, Lawrence said, who use SOAS assessment data along with resume information to select “the most competitive candidates.”

Roughly 180 candidates are selected every year to attend SEAL officer assessment and selection, she said; on average, the top 85 candidates are chosen to continue on to SEAL training. There are four two-week SOAS blocks held every year.

While SOAS precedes the award of a final SEAL contract, it is not for the faint of heart. It was previously called “mini-BUD/S” in a nod to its grueling and rigorous nature.

“Physical stress and sleep deprivation are applied to reveal authentic character traits,” the Navy says on its official Naval Special Warfare recruiting site. “Performance and interview data on every candidate is meticulously documented and presented to the NSW Selection Panel.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

One of the joys of reading is the long-running book series. One-off stories are well and good but there is great joy in reading a multiple book series featuring the same cast of characters and watching them grow and deal with increasingly severe situations. Serialized fiction is not for everyone but if it is your jam, there are few literary joys equivalent to a good series.

One long running series is the Jonathan Grave series of books by John Gilstrap. Twelve books and counting, it is the sort of thing that can excite an appreciator of serial fiction. I conducted an interview with the author of the book so he can talk about his latest offering.


This interview has been lightly edited for formatting and presentation purposes.

Hi, John! Thanks for taking time to talk to us today. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

My name is John Gilstrap. I am a lifelong resident of Northern Virginia, as is my bride of 36 years. Since 1995, I have penned 21 thrillers and one nonfiction book. My passion has always been writing. In fact, I am one of precious few people I know who, in my sixth decade on the planet, is doing exactly what I would have told you I wanted to do when I was a teenager.

Hellfire is the latest novel in your long-running Jonathan Grave series of books. Please tell us a bit about this series and its protagonist.

Long-running indeed! Hellfire is the 12th entry in the series. I never dreamed that the series would have that kind of legs. What an honor!

Jonathan Grave and his team are freelance hostage rescue specialists. As a team, they often work outside of the law, but never on the wrong side of it. When the police run a hostage rescue operation, their primary objective is to make sure that the bad guys go to jail. When Security Solutions, Jonathan’s team, run a rescue, their sole focus is to save the good guys. What happens to the bad guys is not their concern.

Uncle Sam is aware of what the team is capable of, and it is not uncommon for the director of the FBI to engage them to do things that governments simply cannot do.

I don’t think of the Grave books as a series, though. They are standalone thrillers with recurring characters. I work hard to make sure that each book can stand on its own without confusing readers, while including treats for the benefit of fans who have come along for the whole ride.

To me, one of the interesting things about this novel is the cast of characters at Grave’s company Security Solutions and his contact at the FBI. Please tell me about them and how they have evolved as the series has progressed.

Thank you. Jonathan does not suffer fools. He surrounds himself with a team that is extraordinarily competent, and they are 100% committed to each other. Of the three main operators, Jonathan and Boxers are former Delta Force operators, and Gail Bonneville was part of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT). The fourth member of the team, Venice Alexander, is a world-class hacker who can work wonders in cyberspace.

Jonathan has a special relationship with Irene Rivers, director of the FBI. Back in the day, when Irene was still a special agent for the FBI and Jonathan was still in the Army, Jonathan and Boxers broke more than a few laws to save Irene’s young daughters from a predator. That’s their special secret and their special bond. After Irene was named FBI director, that bond took on special importance.

Jonathan’s team is the only family he has.

A lot of thriller books in this genre seem dominated by former military or law enforcement writers. But I learned in preparing the review for another of your books, Nathan’s Run, your background was as a firefighter and safety engineer. How has that informed your writing style?

Beginning when I was 23 years old, I entered the worst moments of strangers’ lives and brought order to chaos. Over the next fifteen years, over thousands of emergency responses, I delivered two babies and counseled countless grieving spouses, parents and children. I was burned, shot at, and threatened with one very large knife. Along the way, I saved far more lives than I lost and formed deep bonds with some fine public servants. And I did all of that without being paid a dime. Those experiences affect everything that I think and do. How can it not?

Professionally, my safety engineering dealt mainly with explosives and other hazardous materials. I conducted well over 1,000 accident investigations, from minor cuts to fatalities; from small fires to major explosions.

I don’t know exactly how that all informs my writing style, but I figure it must. Again, how could it not?

I was interested to learn that your one non-fiction book was about the rescue of Kurt Muse during the Panamanian Invasion. Did the people you meet researching that book help build your portrayal of Jonathan Grave?

The people I met doing the research for Six Minutes to Freedom serve as the models for both Jonathan and Boxers. The men and women of the American Special Forces are a breed unlike any other. They are dedicated not just to God and country, but also to each other and to their mission. Those are all traits and principles that drive Jonathan Grave and his team.

As with any long running series, one often wonders ‘What next?’ What is next for Grave and his company of Hostage Rescue professionals?

The 13th entry in the Grave series will be Stealth Attack. It is still too deeply in the development phase to describe it.

After the end of this book, there was a sample chapter for a new series you are writing called Crimson Phoenix. Could you take a moment to tell us about it?

The Crimson Phoenix series takes my work in an entirely new direction. In it, World War III lasts about eight hours, and when it is done, the United States is left in ruins. With all the infrastructure gone, and elected leaders unable to communicate with people outside of the bunkers that protected official Washington, it falls to individual citizens to figure out a way to continue living. It doesn’t take long for the weak to turn feral. In one corner of West Virginia, though, a single mom named Victoria Emerson turns out to be the leader that everyone’s been looking for.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today!

It’s been a real pleasure.


MIGHTY CULTURE

5 best bunkers for riding out the apocalypse

Every troop, at one point or another, thinks about how they’d prepare for a multitude of disaster scenarios. Many of these daydreams include building a bunker or an egress to a far-off island. With a military mindset, anything is possible — you can build a personal bunker in your backyard or, if you amass enough wealth, you can buy a luxury palace that’s nestled safely underground.

The following are types of bunkers that troops would love to live, from the strictly utilitarian to the abundantly extravagant. They’re each rated based on their affordability, sustainability, security, and amenities offered.

So, prepare for the end, my friends — preferably in one of these:


Take A Look At The Bunker Lowes Sells

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Loew’s Concrete Storm Shelter

Affordability: 5/5

With a price tag of around ,500 (with installation), this is something that one can afford with an enlistment/re-enlistment bonus, a dip into savings, or with some post-deployment earnings. This is a realistic option for those of us without a massive disaster budget.

Sustainability: 1/5

Depending on how many people are in your household, these bunkers are perfect for weathering a storm or a tornado until you get the all-clear. It’s a little cramped, but it gets the job done.

It’s too small to hold the resources you’d need to sustain for a long period of time, there’s no way to dispose of waste, and oxygen can only be brought in through the built-in vents. There’s no method to cultivate renewable energy and privacy is nonexistent.

Security: 2/5

You might want to keep your lips tight about owning one of these — you never know how other people will react when their lack of preparation suddenly makes them desperate.

Amenities: 1/5

You won’t have much to do other than eat, sleep, and wait. Personal entertainment devices and conversation with your family are going to be your only distractions from whatever’s going on outside.

Doomsday Preppers Go Upscale With Luxury Bunkers

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Atlas survival shelter

Affordability: 3/5

The small shelters run around k and the larger ones go for about k-k. They’re not too expensive relative to other, larger shelters. They’re customizable and made to order. You’ll have to take permit and installation costs into consideration, but these are achievable with proper financial discipline.

Sustainability: 3/5

These things have solar power, generators, and waste disposal mixed in with the comforts of home. Typically, you can last around 90 days without resupply. You can design it for a longer stay if necessary.

Security: 3/5

You still might want to keep this one a secret due to the limited living space. You won’t be able to house the whole neighborhood.

Amenities: 4/5

Home is where you make it. All around, this is a solid bunker that can be your home away from home — if necessary.

So you wanna live in a missile silo?

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Renovate an old silo yourself

Affordability: 1/5

This is a labor of love that will take a lifetime to complete — and it has a price tag of 1 million to match. Oof.

Sustainability: 3/5

We ranked this one right in the middle because it’ll be exactly what you make of it. You’ll have to gut it out and replace all the life-sustaining technology in order to bring this ol’ gal back to life. Rest assured, you take care of her and she’ll take care of you — but it’s up to you to think ahead.

Security: 5/5

Heavy doors, enough space to save a small town, and capable of withstanding a nuclear attack? Check, check, and check.

Amenities: 4/5

Having a re-purposed military installation is a surefire guarantee you’ll thrive in the apocalypse. A silo is a blank canvas for you to shape however you’d like. Above ground, you’ll have a luxury home and, if sh*t hits the, fan all you have to do is go downstairs.

What’s really hiding under Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado?

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An actual base, like Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station

Affordability: 0/5

If you’re lucky enough to be stationed here or in a similar facility, Uncle Sam will provide the funds necessary to continue the fight against the enemies of freedom. If not, well, it’s not for sale — sorry, take your millions elsewhere.

Sustainability: 5/5

This bunker has generators, reservoirs, and even a store. This bunker has everything you need for any scenario.

Security: 5/5

Armed guards, heavy doors, information-gathering capabilities, and plethora of state-of-the-art technology is at your fingertips. No worries here.

Amenities: 3/5

This one’s on par with the government’s prioritization of operation over recreation, but at least it has a gym. What it lacks in recreational facilities, it more than makes up for in terms of survivability.

Luxury Bunkers

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Survival condo

Affordability: 2/5

It’s out of the price range for most of us, but if you’re lucky enough to have million laying around, this luxury survival condo (or one like this) will definitively put your worries to rest.

Security: 5/5

It can survive a direct hit from a nuclear attack, has an armory, and has you surrounded by survival-minded neighbors. This one has it all.

Sustainability: 5/5

It has multiple life-support technologies, a mini hospital, hydroponic gardens, and it’s stocked full of supplies. This bunker will ensure you have everything you need to live a long and happy life.

Amenities: 5/5

It has a movie theater, rock climbing wall, indoor pool, grocery store, spa, gym, and a dog park — that’s right, you can save your pets! That’s an automatic max score, because who doesn’t want to save their beloved companions, too?

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 4 rules of being a good wingman

In the Air Force, we call them wingmen. In the Army, they’re called battle buddies. In the Marines, they’re swim buddies. Name aside, the idea is simple and clear: Accompany your wingman in all possibly dangerous or questionable situations. You keep your wingman out of trouble or, in some cases, make sure they don’t get in trouble alone.

For the most part, the concept is well understood and regularly executed. There are, however, a few absolutely unacceptable areas of failure when it comes to implementing the concept. Here’s a tough pill to stomach: Sexual assault is, unfortunately, all too common throughout the military.

Having a few good wingmen can play an instrumental role in preventing such behavior. And while, ultimately, only the assaulter is responsible for their actions, it’s up to you, the wingman, to keep a watchful eye. Implementing these techniques will help make the military a safer culture for everyone.


10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

It’s that simple.

(Photo by sholefet.com)

Consent is not optional

If you see any kind of behavior that’s flirting with the line, don’t take (or let anyone take) a chance.

This one’s simple enough, and it deserves to be at the top of this list.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

Have a plan.

Establish your team and roles before you go out

It doesn’t matter if it’s just the two of you going out or an entire group, build set of rules for everyone to stick by. Know exactly who is responsible for watching who and make sure everyone has at least one person accountable for their safe return. Set up a triple-check system for when someone is breaking away from the group.

As long as everyone sticks with the established rules and takes care of who they are expected to take care of, everyone will get home fine.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

Actual footage of the new Sergeant’s first weekend off.

Know your limits… and your team’s limits

It’s almost as if they issue you a stronger liver and a standard-issue drinking habit upon swearing in. As a result, many of us tend to carry on as if liquor isn’t impairing our judgement and decision-making abilities. Here’s a fact: it is.

Knowing what you can actually handle (and what your buddies can handle) is crucial to having an incident-free night. Know your team.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

It is a yes? An undeniable and clear yes? Does it ever become a no? Please understand consent.

Consent. Again.

Consent should be simple. No means no, and that’s that.

While you’re out partying and sparks fly with someone, typically, there’s some amount of intoxication involved, and that can muddle things up. What might start as a “yes” might morph as the night goes on. It’s simple: When you hear a “no” (or anything that isn’t explicitly a “yes”) stop immediately. Do not slow down and creep on creepin’ on. Do not try to guilt or coerce the other party into continuing. Do not do anything other than stopping. Just stop.

Use your words and have a conversation that may (or may not) lead to a sober and completely consensual hook-up down the line. Or better yet, maybe you’ll leave the conversation with an understanding of one another. Best of all, you’ll come away without inflicting or sustaining any horrifically permanent scars.

To keep it very simple, just remember: No means no.

That’s all there is to it. Nobody should stop you from having a good time, but it’s up to you to be a good wingman and keep your buddies out of trouble.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 silly terms you’ll only hear on submarines

Submarines are a little world of their own. With little more than 100 people aboard and submerged, running silent for months at a time, the crews of these nuclear powered undersea monsters begin to develop an entirely new culture of their own. Even non-submarine sailors can get flummoxed at the vocabulary the silent service sailors are capable of slinging.


10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

Freeloading oxygen breather

A person taking a ride on the sub or a submarine sailor who doesn’t pull his or her own weight.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

Angles and dangles

When the sub takes a significant angle while submerging or surfacing, the boat is no longer moving horizontally. As a result, the ship’s crew will suddenly be walking uphill or downhill at a significant angle.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

Emergency blow

This is when the sub has to surface for an emergency. There are even special handles the crew can pull to initiate an emergency blow.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

Noise

This is what it sounds like, but minimizing noise is the responsibility of every crew member. Most of the time spent aboard a U.S. Navy nuclear sub, the crew is likely trying to go undetected or are somewhere they aren’t supposed to be. Slamming the toilet seat down at such a time could be very detrimental to one’s health.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

Ahead flank cavitate

The submariner’s version of pulling chocks or popping smoke – also known as let’s get out of here as fast as possible. Cavitation (creating bubbles in the ocean caused by the screws that propel the sub) is usually something to be mitigated, but when this order is given, no one cares about cavitation.

Baffles

This is where an enemy sub can hide directly behind another while moving without being detected. In The Hunt For Red October, the USS Dallas hides behind Red October by hiding in the baffles.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

Dolphins

The Submarine Warfare qualification pin worn on Navy uniforms. Sailors without their dolphins are nubs, useless.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

Mail buoy

This is a fool’s errand perpetrated by saltier members of the crew on the newer guys, usually nubs. Similar to a Machinists’ Punch. If you’re in the Army, this would be like sending a soldier for Grid Squares or in the Air Force, prop wash. Except on a submarine, the new guy has to get in his foul weather gear, harness, and life jackets to go through the main hatch.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

Portable air sample

This is another way to get at the new guys or the uninitiated submariner. Subs have little devices for testing the radiation in the air, but the sailors will still get nubs to take a trash bag full of air to the ship’s command.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

 Ramen fish and feet

According to submariners, this is what a submarine comes to smell like after just a few weeks.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Old Hickory vets celebrate 75th anniversary of liberation

North Carolina National Guard soldiers escorted four WWII veterans and their families to 75th-anniversary liberation celebrations Sept. 11-17, 2019.

The veterans served in the 30th Infantry Division, known as Old Hickory, and helped to liberate Belgium and the Netherlands from German occupation in September 1944.

Throughout the week, the Old Hickory veterans were honored with ceremonies, dinners, hugs, and a parade through Maastricht in the Limburg Province.

The soldiers and WWII veterans enjoyed the festivities, as well as the smaller, more personal moments.


“The most emotional part for me was when George Ham visited the spot where his battle buddy was killed,” said Maj. Kevin Hinton, deputy commander for the NCNG’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion. “George served in Charlie Company, 120th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division, and that’s who I served with in Iraq in 2004.”

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

WWII Veterans who served in the 30th Infantry Division, and North Carolina National Guard soldiers visit the graves of 30th Inf. Div. soldiers buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, the Netherlands on Sept. 12, 2019.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mary Junell)

Hinton, vice president of the 30th Infantry Division Association, said he felt a connection to what the WWII veteran was going through.

“Part of George’s emotion is that he was supposed to be that guy, but he switched positions,” Hinton said. “There’s probably some survivor’s guilt on his part, and I’ve been there. I understand that feeling.”

The N.C. Guard soldiers were all veterans of the same unit, having served in Iraq with the now reorganized 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, and acted as representatives of the Guard and the 30th Infantry Division Association, a membership group for veterans of the unit.

The trip affected not only the 30th Infantry Division veterans but also currently serving soldiers who were part of the liberation celebrations.

“It gives value to my own sense of service and what I’m doing now by serving,” said Col. Wes Morrison, the North Carolina Army National Guard chief of staff. “I see that folks appreciate, across the world, what the United States Army has done for the world at different times. Your service means something and it means something to not just Americans, but people across the world.”

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

WWII Veterans who served with the 30th Infantry Division were honored with a ceremony and parade through the City of Maastricht in the Limburg Province of the Netherlands that ended in a festival on Sept. 14, 2019, in celebration of 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Limburg Provence by 30th Inf. Div. soldiers in September of 1944.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mary Junell)

The group was able to visit the same places where the 30th Infantry Division fought back the German occupation and other places where they were able to rest after almost 90 days of being on the front lines.

One of those places was the Rolduc Abbey in Kerkrade, a rest center for soldiers after the liberation. While there, some of the current Soldiers took a photo in the same courtyard where a formation of Old Hickory soldiers took a photo 75 years ago.

Hinton hoped this trip would help build a bond between the new generation of Old Hickory veterans and the people of the Limburg province to continue the tradition.

“It’s a part of the history of the 30th and the North Carolina National Guard,” Hinton said. “We need to educate our young soldiers on the history of what the 30th has done. When the WWII veterans are long gone, the U.S. and the Netherlands will still exist, and we have to maintain this and remember what they did. Like someone said in one of the speeches, the beginnings of the European Union started with the liberation and the desire for Europe to never go through that again.”

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

WWII Veterans who served with the 30th Infantry Division, visit the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial in Belgium on Sept. 15, 2019, where more than 300 Old Hickory soldiers who died during WWII are buried.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mary Junell)

As the soldiers, veterans, and their families prepared to travel home, many were heard to say “see you in five years,” anticipating the 80th anniversary of the liberation.

Even though the WWII veterans may no longer be able to make the trip, Morrison thought it was important the tradition continues.

“If we honor the veterans of the past, we bring more value to the service that we have today,” Morrison said. “You wear the uniform in the current unit, you’re wearing Old Hickory. You now have the responsibility of that lineage and history of that unit on your back. We can’t let them down. The history they created here, the high bar, high standard for performance of duty and what they did here, 75 years ago is something we have to keep in the back of our minds all the time.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

A soldier faked his way into the 82nd Airborne – and almost everything else

Jumping from a perfectly good airplane is inherently dangerous, even for qualified Army Airborne personnel. Why someone would fake their way into jumping without being certified or trained is anyone’s guess, but there was Staff Sgt. Joshua Stokes in August 2014, making the jump. Somehow, he landed like a paratrooper, and no one would figure out his entire Army life was a sham.

Not yet, anyway.


Stokes was on his way to a staff position at his battalion headquarters when his company’s Air NCO noticed something was off about his Airborne Graduation Certificate. His was the only one in the entire 82d whose name wasn’t printed in all caps. It was just the first in a long line of falsified documents that Stokes had in his service record. The Air NCO wasn’t going to let it go. When Stokes wouldn’t produce the paperwork for his parachutist badge, he called Fort Benning’s Airborne School.

That’s when the 82d Airborne discovered Staff Sgt. Joshua Stokes had never attended Airborne School. And the long effort to unravel all of Stokes’ false records began. It wasn’t only that he wasn’t jump qualified. There was much, much more, according to an Army Times story from 2018.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

A U.S. Soldier jumpmaster, assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division instructs Paratroopers from various units during pre-jump training at Pope Army Airfield, N.C., Aug. 7, 2019. Paratroopers perform routine airborne proficiency training to maintain their skills and keep readiness alive.

(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Gin-Sophie De Bellotte)

An Army investigation discovered the soldier had been sending false documents to the Electronic Military Personnel Office for almost as long as he’d been in the military. Some falsehoods were small, like claiming to have attended Sniper School and even being an instructor there for three years. Others were egregious, like claiming to have received the Purple Heart and Good Conduct Medal – for a time period before he was ever in the Army.

Stokes’ graduation certificate was dated for a Sunday, not a Friday as per Airborne tradition. HIs jump log lists dates of jumps he made when he was actually stationed with the 10th Mountain Division. He had never attended Sniper School, let alone work as an instructor. Stokes claimed to have finished Jump School, but he had never received jump pay. For all his denials, there are photos of Stokes wearing the Purple Heart in his dress uniform. Stokes’ Good Conduct Medal dates back to January 1992, when he was still in high school. He not only faked his way into the famed unit, he had faked his way through almost his entire Army career.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

U.S. Army Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division go through pre-jump safety procedures, Aug. 7, 2019, at Pope Army Airfield, N.C. During this procedure strong emphasis is placed on the way troops exit the Paratroop door to maximize their safety during the operation.

(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Gin-Sophie De Bellotte)

The real Stokes entered the military in the California National Guard with the name Asche before changing his name to Stokes. As Stokes, he entered active duty in May 2003. His first assignment was at Fort Drum with the 10th Mountain Division. His record shows he was a sniper then, but the Army’s Sniper School has no record of that. Army investigators found that at least ten false documents had been added on a single day in 2007.

Army Times found Stokes on Facebook and reached out for comment, but none was forthcoming. The Army confirmed with Army Times that Stokes was administratively separated from the Army sometime between the start of the investigation and the writing of the Army Times story, but could not explain why, as those records are protected by privacy laws. One thing is for certain, the Army believes Stokes falsified all the questionable documents and added them to his record on his own.

And he almost got away with it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Up late? 5 ways service members stay awake when the going gets tough

Exhaustion is the great equalizer. There comes a point for everyone when your body demands sleep, and if you aren’t willing to give it what it wants, things start to get rough. It doesn’t matter if you’re a soldier on post in a combat zone or a new mom trying to make it through the day after a sleepless night of diaper changes and bottle-boiling, the sandman comes for us all.

If you’re desperate for sleep, the best thing you can do is rack out and get some. If that’s not an option, however, here are some of the ways service members stay alert long after exhaustion has set in. They’re not always the healthiest options, but hey, if we were that worried about our health, we’d be getting some rest.


10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

Instant coffee works best when you can chew it.

Caffeine

Ah, caffeine–the old standby. Whenever anyone’s tired, the first thing they think to do is pour themselves a nice hot cup of joe. Of course, in the field, that’s not always an option, but there are plenty of other ways to get your fix. Aside from the service-member favorite energy drinks, the most common field-sources of caffeine come in MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). Some even now come with sticks of caffeinated gum.

If you’ve got the time and the hot water, the small packets of instant coffee that come in MREs can make for a passable cup, but plenty of guys simply pour the pouches into their lips like a pinch of chewing tobacco. Might not be delicious, but it’ll help keep you up. Of course, too much caffeine poses a number of problems, including dehydration and nausea, so there are limits to what a lipper of coffee can do for you.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

Nicotine

Not just for smoke breaks, nicotine can also go far in helping to keep you conscious and alert during long nights on post or in the campus library. A lot of service members pick up cigarette or chewing tobacco habits during their time in uniform, in part because it offers something to do during long stretches of downtime, and in part because of the kick of energy you can get from a properly timed smoke break.

Of course, nicotine comes with a whole host of negative side effects, so choose your weapons wisely when waging war against your own exhaustion.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

Debate

Many service members stumble across this tactic on post: you and another person are stuck in one place for a while with nothing to do but look at the horizon, so you spark up a bit of conversation. Before you know it, you’re arguing about whether or not Darkwing Duck was a better show than Duck Tales and you’ve both managed to kill two hours of your shift… so powerful is the magic of useless debate.

It’s important not to let friendly debate boil over into a full-fledged fight, however, which can be a real challenge sometimes when you’re operating on little sleep.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

Get physical

Long after caffeine has failed you and nicotine is just giving you the shakes, there’s one more thing you can do to help you overcome the heaviest of eyelids: get up and get moving. Something as simple as hopping off your chair for a set of push-ups can get your blood pumping again. Go for a walk around the office or your house, karate chop some old boards in your garage, or haze yourself with a few sets of burpees.

And as an added bonus, you can meet the criteria for “getting physical” by getting into a fist fight with your buddy once your Ducktales debate gets out of hand.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

When your friends are counting on you, you do what you’ve got to do.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ken Scar)

Just ride it out

Eventually, if you ride out your exhaustion well into the next day, some of the worse symptoms will begin to subside. You’ll feel strange, hazy, and detached… but conscious nonetheless. The human body is capable of playing dirty to get you to do the things you need to do (like sleep), but it’s also good at letting you stay in the fight when it becomes clear the things you need to do aren’t in the cards.

Just like hunger pains will subside after a time, so too will the horrible weight of exhaustion… at least, for a few hours. Once that second wind subsides, you’ll be hurting worse than ever. Hopefully, you’ll have a chance to rack out by then.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Beautiful Arlington photos of a barrier-breaker’s funeral

Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Jordan Harris was laid to rest Feb. 7, 2019, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, with full military funeral honors.

During Harris’s life and Air Force career, she accomplished multiple crowning achievements. After receiving her commission through Officer Training School at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in 1965, she ventured into her first assignment as the assistant director for administration for the 60th Airlift Wing at Travis AFB, California. She then completed a tour in West Germany in 1971 before enrolling in the Aircraft Maintenance Officer Course at Chanute AFB, Illinois. After graduating, she was named aircraft maintenance officer — the first woman to ever hold the title.


10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

Friends and family of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris attend her full honors military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

“Being a leader, being a mentor is not about how much you can fill your own cup, it’s about how much you pour into others and with Major General Harris, our cups run over,” said Lt. Gen. Stayce Harris, Inspector General of the Air Force. “She poured so much of herself, personally and professional, into all of us and influenced so many — those she knew and those who knew her from afar.”

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard performs full military honors during the funeral of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

Through hard work and dedication, Harris continued to pave the way for females and women of color in the military. While she served at assignments in Thailand, California, Washington, D.C., Colorado, Kansas, Japan, Mississippi and Oklahoma, she continued to rise through the ranks. During those assignments, she was appointed as a White House aide during the presidential administrations of Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter in 1975, and she was the second female in history to serve as a commanding officer for an Air Force cadet squadron in 1978. In 1988, she became the first female wing commander.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Lenny Richoux, the commander of U.S. Transportation Command’s Joint Enabling Capabilities Command, presents the American Flag to retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Mareclite Harris’s daughter, Tenecia Harris, during a full honors funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)


Harris continued to break barriers – on May 1, 1991, she was promoted to brigadier general – making her the first African-American female general in the U.S. Air Force. A mere four years later, on May 25, 1995, she was promoted to major general, and was the first woman to hold this rank in the service.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

Friends and family of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris attend her full honors military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

“Harris was the personification of enduring power…she had the ability to withstand challenges and changes that came with being the first…the first woman, the first forerunner, the pioneer for females in male dominated career fields,” said Lt. Col. Ruth Segres, chaplain. “In the midst of opposition and obstacles she exhibited a power, a mental steadfast strength and a fierce fortitude to keep her composure — a credit to her character.”

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

Friends and family of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris attend her full honors military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

After 32 years of service, Harris retired in 1997 as the highest ranking female in the U.S. Air Force and highest ranking African-American female in the Department of Defense. She continued her legacy of service by aiding as the treasurer of the Atlanta branch of the NAACP and a director on the board of Peachtree Hope Charter School. In 2010, she was given the chance to once again serve with her Air Force family when President Barack Obama appointed her to work as a member of the Board of Visitors for the U.S. Air Force Academy.

10 gifts deployed service members actually want this year

A caisson delivers the remains of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris during her full honors funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

“My sister was a fighter,” said Elizabeth Johnson, Harris’s younger sister during the memorial service. “She was forever striving to serve others, and even in retirement she never missed an opportunity to contribute.”

Harris passed away Sept. 7, 2018, at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami, on a Caribbean vacation with her companion, retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. David Branch. Though her death was sudden and unexpected, she was surrounded by loved ones.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Marine is conquering adversity and extreme sports

In August 2008, 17-year old Kirstie Ennis enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in Pensacola, Florida. After training, she served as a door gunner and airframes mechanic on the CH-53 helicopter.

As a Marine Corps “brat,” choosing to enlist was not a question for her; she had been committed to serving and protecting her country since childhood. However, her plan to serve for 20 years was cut down to six after suffering traumatic injuries during her second deployment to Afghanistan.

On June 23, 2012, while performing combat resupplies to Forward Operating Base Now Zad, the helicopter Kirstie served on as an aerial gunner made a crash landing in the Helmand Province. She sustained a traumatic brain injury, full thickness facial trauma, bilateral shoulder damage, cervical and lumbar spine injuries, and severe left leg wounds. After approximately 40 surgeries over the course of three years, Kirstie’s left leg was amputated below the knee. One month later, she underwent an amputation above the knee. Even though she was forced into medical retirement from the Marine Corps in 2014, she still found a way to serve to prove to herself and the world that circumstances do not control us.


Although Kirstie does not have a background in sports, her competitive spirit led her to consider extreme sports as a way to raise money for others going through difficult situations like hers, and to inspire the world.

Even while lying in a hospital bed post-operation, snowboarding was one of the first sports Kirstie considered. She competed for three years, winning a USA Snowboard and Freeski Association national title.

In the future, Kirstie hopes to compete in the X Games, and — via her partnership with Burton Snowboards — create a program to take adaptive athletes on skiing and snowboarding trips.

When she’s not snowboarding, Kirstie also enjoys mountaineering, and is determined to climb the highest peak on each continent, a feat known as the “Seven Summits.”

In 2017, she climbed the Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia, and also Mount Kilimanjaro. There, she left behind the dog tags of her friend Lance Cpl. Matthew Rodriguez, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2013. This endeavor also made her the first female above-the-knee amputee to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. Since then she has taken on several other challenging preparation hikes to train for the Seven Summits.

Kirstie Ennis Goes From Survivor To Competitive Athlete In The 2017 Body Issue | ESPN

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As if that wasn’t enough, Kirstie started a non-profit organization to raise money for organizations that strive to improve lives through education. She also sits on multiple charity boards. She even learned how to create her own prosthetics for climbing, and then used these skills to create a climbing foot for another retired Army veteran who will use it to climb Mount Rainier.

From physical battles in combat to personal battles after her accident, Kirstie serves as a constant reminder to never hold back, to always live life to the fullest.

Thank you for your service, Sgt. Kirstie Ennis.

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

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