This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller - We Are The Mighty
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

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.

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

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.

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

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)

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

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)

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

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)

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

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

Watch what these civilians do to help a vet in need

In this scene from the show What Would You Do? unsuspecting bystanders go above and beyond telling a vet-in-need “thank you for your service” in a big way.


What Would You Do? features actors playing out scenes of conflict or illegal activity in public settings with everyday people while hidden cameras record their actions. The focus of the show is to capture whether or not bystanders intervene and how.

The way people stepped up is especially touching for the actor, who happens to really be an Army vet.

Watch:

MIGHTY CULTURE

How and when to tell a job you might be PCSing

Are you PCSing soon? Or is a PCS in the works? While it can be hard to tell exactly when you might be leaving before hard orders are issued, in the military world, it’s pretty much a given that you will be leaving. If not anytime soon, then soon after that.


It’s just a part of the lifestyle.

Why it’s a Potential Setback

As a military spouse who works as a civilian (but tied to military schedules and locations in “normal” careers), PCSing can throw a wrench right into your plans. Before you can promote, before you can achieve seniority … or just as you get settled, it’s time to move. That means finding another job, and wondering if you’ll have your frequent moves held against you.

But how do you tell your current job you’re PCSing? And when?

Look at Your Work Relationship

This is a tricky situation; there are horror stories of spouses suddenly being laid off once orders arrived. Don’t fall victim to this scheme. Consider the type of relationship you have with your current company and let it guide you. Do you get along well? Is there a hostile corporate environment where the competition is high?

Technically, you do not owe anymore more than two weeks of notice before you leave. But in most scenarios, it’s courteous to let your employer know when you’ll be leaving town 1) so they can start looking for a replacement and 2) you can be a part of the training process. OR secret option 3) you can start working with them on a remote position setup.

If you have a good relationship with work and get orders well in advance, tell them. Talk about possibilities for staying on, and what the change might look like. However, if you’re genuinely worried about getting the boot, keep mum. Your work is not owed any personal information, especially when you fear that sharing will hurt your income.

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

Staying on Remote

A growing option among military spouses is the ability to work for a single company remotely. With easier online access and accountability, telecommuting is not only viable as a long term career, it’s cost effective.

Bring up this move to your boss; go in with a plan so they aren’t worried about logistics. Talk about your hours, your workload, and how you’d love to stay on with them well into the future. Help your chances by including stats on remote work, platforms that can help keep everyone on track, and even savings that are in it for the company but not paying for an additional office seat.

Of course, the biggest perk to working as a remote employee is that your company gets to keep you. They don’t have to train a new worker or start over with brand nuances or expertise. Play up your specialties for a solid sell.

How To Drop the News

There doesn’t need to be anything formal about sharing military orders. A simple, “Hey we’re moving to Texas!” Or “Colorado will be seeing us soon.” Remember to drop in all the hard details, as well as the ones you don’t yet have. For instance, when you’re moving, how long you’ll be there, what it means for your availability, and any specific report times.

There can be light at the end of the tunnel by letting your current job know you’re moving, and when. Consider current working relationships and how that can plan into future moves for all involved, including the possibility of remote work.

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘What do snipers think when they miss’ & other dumb military questions

“Which U.S. military branch has the nicest looking uniforms?”

This is one where we actually all came together as one. Say it with me now: Navy Marines.

We are back in another installment of “Vets Answer Dumb Military Questions” where the premise is simple: people asked dumb military questions and, well, vets answer them. I guess I didn’t need to explain that.

But apparently there is much that does need to be explained. So let’s get to it:


Do soldiers ever name their weapons? | Dumb Military Questions 106

www.youtube.com

Do soldiers ever name their weapons? | Dumb Military Questions 106

Our cast of veterans this week includes: August Dannehl (Navy), Jennifer Brofer (Marine Corps), Rosario Eléna (Army), Mark Harper (Air Force), Graham Pulliam (Marine Corps), Donna Callaway (Marine Corps), Jennifer Campbell (Army), Tara Batesole (Air Force), Chase Millsap (Green Beret — no branch required), and of course yours truly (Air Force).

Oh! And Megan Miller, our token civilian. And Ding Dong. Can’t forget about Ding Dong.

“Why do soldiers not use suitcases with wheels for loaded marches?”

Because wheels are for…

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

Get it?

“Who would win if the United States Navy and Marines fought a war against the United States Army and Air Force?”

Millsap made a solid argument: “It happens every year. It’s called the Army Navy Game. Navy usually wins.”

But on the other hand, Campbell has a point: “Army and Air Force. Marines are dumb and then the navies transport them. So you have dumb people transporting dumb people.” ZING.

Harper argues that no one wins. “It’s just like Aliens vs. Predator.”

But if we’re all being really honest with ourselves, Pulliam has the correct answer:

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

“Coasties because everyone else would be f***ing dead.”

And let’s just face it: the Coast Guard really has won, right? They get to be by the water, saving lives every day, stopping drugs, hanging out with whales. My grandpa told me to join the Coast Guard and he was right.

You hear that, Gramps?? YOU WERE RIGHT.

“Are special forces-trained fighters more efficient at taking out attackers in unarmed combat than civilian martial artists?”

Guess what our answers were. Go on. Guess.

“What were the weird things you did when extremely bored while you were in the military?”

Hahaha, no one would make eye contact after reading this question.

“Do soldiers ever name their weapons and equipment? What’s the funniest or strangest you’ve heard?”

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

“Tits McGee” courtesy of Brofer’s battle buddies.

Voltrex. Pedro? Fart sack. Fluffy. Cher. Starfish Puckerbutt (and it has a story involved).

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

You didn’t forget about Ding Dong, did you?

“What do snipers think when they miss?”

The answers to this question are worth sticking around to the end of the video. Trust me.

Watch the video above then check out more funny videos from our military experts:

Vets answer dumb military questions – part one

Vets answer dumb military questions – part two

Vets answer EVEN MOAR dumb military questions

How to get posted at Area 51′ other dumb military questions answered

‘What happens if you refuse to shower’ other dumb questions



MIGHTY CULTURE

What all the letters and numbers in Navy ship designations mean

Even to the other branches of service, the Navy can be a deep dark mystery of rates and rankings, Captains that have a lot of authority and wearing name tapes on your pants. But it doesn’t have to be that way. And one of the biggest questions posed by vets of other branches and civilians alike is just what the heck do all those letters on these ships mean anyway?


It means you’re in for a history lesson.

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

Hmmm… maybe not that far back.

In 1920, the Navy was producing so many new kinds of ships, they needed a better way to keep track of them all. So, acting Navy Secretary Robert Coontz decided to standardize a numbering system that included a two-letter code that would identify the ship and its status as well as its number in the series, type, and sub-type. If the ship didn’t have a sub-type, the first letter would just be repeated

So the Battleship USS Missouri, being a battleship with no sub-type and the 63rd ship in that series was designated USS Missouri BB-63.

Easy, right? Well, Mostly.

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

Welcome to the military, where nothing is really that easy.

That was the early 20th Century. World War I had only just introduced a number of new technological innovations to the battlefield, and there were a lot more to come. Training ships, aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and so, so much more were still to come to the U.S. Navy, and they would need even more designation letters, ones that would describe their purpose and even their power source.

So where do aircraft carriers get the designation CVN, as in the USS Gerald Ford CVN-78? The C is for carrier, and the N means it’s a nuclear-powered ship. The V, well, that’s not that simple. According to the publication “United States Naval Aviation 1910-1995, Appendix 16: US Navy and Marine Corps Squadron Designations and Abbreviations,” the V means it carries heavier-than-air aircraft (as opposed to, say, blimps), but no one really knows for sure why the letter V was chosen, though many believe it was to represent the French vol plané, the word for “glide.”

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

Meanwhile Russia’s carrier just smokes and slowly retains more water, like your mom.

But there is now more than a century’s worth of Naval Ship Designations for you to peruse, far too many for me to list in their entirety. There are even four-letter designations now, like the SSGN (Attack Submarine, Guided Missile, Nuclear Powered).

Luckily for the curious, there’s always Wikipedia, where someone took the time to list them all, including all the historical designations, like monitors and coastal defenses. Be sure to leave a tip.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard details the importance of the service to the nation

The United States Coast Guardsman will wear multiple hats during their service to this nation. They are an armed force, environmental protector, maritime law enforcer and first responder.

Every single day.


“We have eleven statutory missions that we perform for the country with 42,000 active duty, 6,000 reservists, and 8,000 civilians. We don’t get overtime, we are on duty 24/7 and are subject to the uniform code of military justice. We work a lot of hours to get it done,” shared Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, Jason Vanderhaden.
This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

He continued on sharing the differences between those that serve under the Department of Defense and the USCG. He explained that those under DOD leave to fight, and when they get home, they have a chance to recharge and retrain. That’s not the case for those in the USCG. When a ship returns home from deployment, there are continual repairs and work that doesn’t stop. Then – it redeploys again, to continue serving the mission.

The defense readiness aspect of the USCG is unique. They have always had a respected partnership with the United States Navy and have fought in every major war since their inception on Aug. 4, 1790. They are overseas even now, serving in the ongoing middle eastern conflict. It may surprise the public to learn that they are the nations oldest continuing seagoing service.

“I want to paint the picture that we have a very challenging mission set, but at the same time, we do it well,” shared Vanderhaden. He continued on saying that it’s almost as though coasties thrive on that environment, which is evidenced in the retention rate.

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

It may surprise people to learn that the USCG has an absolutely vital role in America’s anti-terrorism and counter-terrorism battle. As a matter of fact, they are on the front lines of it. On any given day, they are enforcing security zones, conducting law enforcement boardings, and working to detect weapons of mass destruction.

They are also the nation’s first line of defense against drugs entering the country. The USCG’s drug interdictions account for over half of the total seizures of cocaine in the United States.

While patrolling and protecting America, they are also continually serving her water and its marine inhabitants. They partner with multiple organizations and groups to protect the environment. One of the core missions of the USCG involves protecting endangered marine species, stopping unauthorized ocean dumping, and preventing oil or chemical spills.

“You’ll go a lot of places where people don’t know what the Coast Guard does, that’s for sure. We also struggle a little bit because people think they can’t join the Coast Guard because they don’t swim well. If you are in the water – something is probably wrong,” said Vanderhaden with a laugh. This is because there is truly only one rating or MOS where they have to get into the water, and that is the aviation survival technician, most commonly known as the rescue swimmer.

The USCG often conducts search and rescues in extreme weather conditions. This mission involves multi-mission stations, cutters, aircraft, and boats that are all linked by communication networks. Although public references to movies like The Guardian cause eye rolls within the USCG community; it did bring rescue swimming to a higher level of respect within the public. The rescue swimmer motto should give you goosebumps: “so that others may live.”

You’d think that recruiting potential coasties would be easy with the continuous news coverage and more visibility with certain movies, but it isn’t. Vanderhaden shared that only a small percentage of the population will actually qualify to serve in the armed forces, and getting the word out about the USCG is still very challenging. This is because they do not have the recruiting budgets that the DOD has, so you’ll almost never see a USCG commercial. “We rely on people finding us,” said Vanderhaden.

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

With the world currently being consumed with the coronavirus or COVID-19 spread, Vanderhaden was asked about the USCG’s response and continuing of its missions during the pandemic. “We still have the service that we have to provide to the nation…. We are still doing our job and we have to, we are just taking more precautions,” he shared. There is no stand down for all of the vital operations of the USCG. He continued on saying, “We do need to make sure that we are always ready to respond, and we will continue to do that.”

Their core values are honor, respect, and devotion to duty. These values guide them in all they do, every single day. They willingly don the multiple hats and are prepared to sacrifice it all in the name of preserving this nation. That’s the United States Coast Guard, always ready.

To learn more about the Coast Guard and their missions, click here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of August 31st

It looks like Hurricane Lane is finally done wrecking Hawaii, leaving in its wake record rainfall, widespread building damage, and places without power. Since Hawaii is home to many military installations from each branch, they won’t have to look too hard to find bodies for their 10,000-man aid detail.

If you’re stationed in Hawaii, you’ll more than likely be used in the clean-up efforts — you know, just as soon as you finish sweeping all the crude that washed into the motor pool.

These memes probably can’t soothe the pain of being the only person who’s actually going to work while your buddies are making their third run to the gut truck and your NCOs are “supervising.” But, hey, they can’t hurt, either.


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

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

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

(Meme via Military Memes)

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

(Meme via Shammers United)

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

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

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

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

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

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

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

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

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

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

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

(Meme by Ranger Up)

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

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

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

(Meme via Shammers United)

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

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

All the pay and respect of a specialist with the duties of an NCO. No one ever wants to be a corporal, you just end up as one.

And if you think you actually wanted to be a corporal, you’re only lying to yourself — or you’re secretly a robot.

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

(Meme by We Are The Mighty)

MIGHTY CULTURE

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

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

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

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


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

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

(Photo by Sarah E. Marshall)

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

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

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

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

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This C-17 crew broke diplomatic protocol to save a life

Air Force Capt. Forrest “Cal” Lampela was about to put the aircraft landing gear down in Shannon, Ireland, eight hours into a flight. If all had gone according to plan, he and his C-17 Globemaster III crew should have been more than halfway over the Atlantic.

He couldn’t see the runway because of dense fog, catching a glimpse of it from only 100 feet above the ground — the absolute minimum altitude to which the large transport aircraft can descend before its pilot must either call for a landing or to abort approach.

Somewhere below, an ambulance stood by, waiting to pick up a sailor who had been wounded in combat and was in critical condition.


“I was a little bit afraid of where the ambulance was going to be because I didn’t want him to try to run up on the jet while we still had engines running, because the fog was that bad,” Lampela said.

He recalls it as “the most challenging landing that I’ve ever done.” But on top of dangerous, foggy conditions, Lampela and the crew, call sign Reach 445, had just entered a country where they had not received diplomatic clearance before touching down.

“I wouldn’t do that unless it was an emergency,” Lampela said in a recent interview with Military.com, recounting the April aeromedical mission to transport the sailor. He and his team belong to the 14th Airlift Squadron out of Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina.

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

Senior Airman Kyle Bowers, left, a C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster, and Capt. Cal Lampela, a C-17 pilot, are instructors assigned to the 14th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, S.C.

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Joshua R. Maund)

“If I’m going to fly into a country without diplomatic clearance, it’s going to be [over a potential] loss of life or [loss of] your craft or safety of flight,” he said. “We were … essentially a flying ambulance.”

The flight included Lampela, the aircraft commander and C-17 instructor pilot; Capt. Chris Puckett, a C-17 instructor pilot; Capt. Ken Dickenscheidt, a C-17 pilot; Senior Airman Chris Kyle Bowers, a C-17 instructor loadmaster; Airman 1st Class Timothy Henn, a C-17 loadmaster; and Tech. Sgt. Nick Scarmeas, flying crew chief of the 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

The decision they made to turn back from the U.S. and head to Ireland to save the sailor’s life got the Air Force’s attention: The six airmen are now under consideration for the Air Medal for making the right call under difficult circumstances. The sailor remains unidentified for privacy reasons.

“For their act of heroism and success in operating beyond what is expected and routine, Capt. Lampela and his crew were submitted to be awarded single-event Air Medals,” Lt. Col. Kari Fleming, 14th Airlift Squadron commander, told Military.com on June 10, 2019. “It is my honor to recognize this deserving crew with such a rare decoration.”

The medal is awarded to U.S. and civilian personnel “for single acts of heroism or meritorious achievements while participating in aerial flight … in actual combat in support of operations,” according to the service. It can also be awarded to foreign military personnel.

“Our airmen dedicate their lives to serve this great nation to deliver lifesaving capabilities, so our wounded may return to their loved ones,” Gen. Maryanne Miller, head of Air Mobility Command (AMC), said in a separate statement. “The crews of Reach 445 highlight that our incredible airmen are our greatest advantage.

“Sound decision-making and superior care once again bring a hero home to his family,” she added.

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

A C-17 Globemaster III sits on a flightline at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Jan. 9, 2014.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jared Trimarchi)

Diverting the flight

The crew had begun their transit at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, reaching Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. But they had to delay the second leg of their journey because of bad storms on the U.S. East Coast. Their home base, Joint Base Charleston, had lost power; some squadrons there had been sent home early.

“We [were] just bringing some stuff from Al Udeid back home to Charleston, [and] we were in Germany for the crew to rest up,” Lampela said.

But “it looked like pretty terrible storms all the way across the East Coast,” he added.

Their delay meant they were the only C-17 in theater with the tools and space required to transport the patient to Walter Reed Medical Center outside Washington, D.C. They headed to Ramstein Air Base, approximately 70 miles away, to pick up medical teams from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

“We were told that he was in such a state that Germany couldn’t care for him anymore, and Walter Reed [is] the best trauma center,” Lampela said.

With the six members of the crew, the patient and the Critical Care Air Transport Team, known as a CCATT, there were 17 people bound for Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, said Bowers, the instructor loadmaster. The CCATT is known throughout the Air Force as a “flying intensive care unit.”

Col. Allison Cogar of the 313th Expeditionary Operation Support Squadron, currently deployed to Ramstein, gave general background information on CCATTs. More specific information on the Reach 445 flight was unavailable for confidentiality reasons.

CCATTs typically transport a ventilator and monitors, along with other gear, she said.

“We have IV pumps, we have suction equipment — that’s kind of the standard equipment,” Cogar said. “We can augment that with other things that are specific to the patient.”

Teams can perform surgical tasks, she said, but “it’s pretty uncommon.”

“If I’m having a patient who’s having issues, I try and alert the crew early on so they can communicate with [air operations and command centers],” Cogar said of reasons why a flight would be diverted. “It’s much safer and better for the patient to do on the ground, where you have a lot more resources available to you. So we try and kind of pre-emptively fend off any of those things that we think we may need to do.”

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

A C-17 Globemaster.

Making the call

The sailor took a turn for the worse and needed immediate surgery. The medical professionals knew they’d have to divert or face a grim outcome.

“We were approximately halfway over the ocean when the patient started to destabilize,” Lampela said. The crew contacted the air operations center at Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, to strategize.

“They couldn’t get his blood levels under control,” Lampela said. “They brought enough blood for the flight, but he was bleeding out in one and, they thought possibly, two wounds. So they didn’t have enough blood to keep him stabilized. Secondly, we needed dialysis because his kidneys had failed, so they needed a hospital.”

The crew looked at the available options.

“I was probably four hours from the tip of Canada, which even making it to Canada, there was nothing until I hit probably stateside, and I was probably six hours from Boston. I was approximately two hours from Ireland, probably three to England, and [roughly] five hours to Iceland,” Lampela said.

University Hospital Limerick, about 30 minutes from Shannon airport, had the necessary equipment. They made the decision to turn around and head to Ireland.

In the back of the C-17, Bowers, the loadmaster, was trying to ease the stress, communicating back and forth with the cockpit and the cargo hold. He had already reconfigured the cargo hold to fit the sailor and the CCATT before they boarded.

Around 2 a.m., 60 miles from their approach to Ireland, Lampela got a call from air traffic control that fog had unexpectedly rolled in.

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

Air Force pilots in a C-17 Globemaster III during takeoff at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, July 27, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Keith James)

Wheels down in Ireland

Lampela had asked the pilots, Puckett and Dickenscheidt, to take turns in the co-pilot seat assisting, since they were about to do a Cat II minimum approach — meaning the pilot must make a decision whether to land at only 200 to 100 feet altitude.

“Keep in mind: During this time, I also have a patient who’s bleeding, and I don’t know how much time and I don’t know where else I can go,” Lampela said.

He added, “The landing itself was not eventful. But I will tell you, with a patient you have in the back, and going through 200 feet above the ground, and you still don’t see anything … you start to get really [anxious and hope] that you see the runway real quick.”

The sailor was taken off the C-17 five minutes after the aircraft landed. Soon after, Lampela was answering calls from both the Irish and U.S. embassies.

“They wanted to know several things, such as were we there to spy, or if we had anything that was not allowed in the country, such as guns or something like that,” he said.

Lampela called his chain of command in Charleston to say they would be delayed.

“I said, ‘All right, uh, don’t get mad. I declared an emergency. I’m in Ireland without diplomatic clearance or, if you hear something about me, it was warranted,'” he recalled.

After receiving clearance, the crew stayed in Ireland for 24 hours, waiting for the sailor to undergo surgery before flying him to Joint Base Andrews. He was transported in stable condition.

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

Soldiers and equipment disembark from a C-17 Globemaster III in southern Arizona.

(Angela Camara/Operation Faithful Patriot)

Being versatile

“Essentially, you wake up in the morning, and there’s been many times where we’ve been picked off for different missions,” Lampela said. “So you’re actually going here, you’re going to this country, or a humanitarian issue pops up. So you’re never really sure of … what you think you’re going to do. But until you actually go do it, nothing’s really guaranteed.”

Air Mobility Command has logged 245 aeromedical evacuations in the first quarter of this year, moving 1,183 patients. Last year, airmen moved 5,409 patients in 866 aeromedical events, according to statistics provided to Military.com.

While some Reach 445 members had been on aeromedical tasking before, the critical level made it rare.

“Every situation is different,” Bowers said. “We’re constantly learning on a daily basis. There’s never going to be a similar incident. But as far as, are we going to do better, get better and are we going to be more prepared? Absolutely.”

“In AMC and in the flying world, we preach this attitude of readiness,” Lampela said. “I’m humbled to have been a part of this opportunity.

“We woke up; we weren’t expecting this. But because of our training, we were prepared to go out and do this. We were ready to go. And I’m glad it [turned out] OK,” he said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Only 55% of Americans know what Memorial Day is about

Only 55% of Americans know what Memorial Day is about, and only about one in five plan to fly a flag at half-staff or attend a patriotic event on May 27, according to a Harris poll survey commissioned by the University of Phoenix.

The survey, conducted April 9-11, 2019, among 2,025 adults, showed that only 28% had attended a local ceremony or patriotic event on a previous Memorial Day. It also found that only 23% had flown a flag at half-staff, while 22% had left a flag or flowers at a gravesite or visited a military monument.

Only 55% could correctly describe Memorial Day as a day to honor the fallen from all the nation’s wars, the Harris survey states, and 45% said they either always or often attended a commemoration activity.


About 27% of those surveyed thought Memorial Day honored all military veterans, 5% thought it honored those currently serving, and 3% thought the day marked the official beginning of summer, the survey states.

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

(U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

Of those who said they had participated in some form of commemoration activity on Memorial Day, 52% said they had thanked a veteran, 14% said they had worn a Memorial Day button, and 14% said they had joined in a National Moment of Remembrance, according to the survey.

Older adults are more likely to observe Memorial Day and describe it correctly, the survey found. About 53% of those aged 55-64 commemorated Memorial Day, compared with 40% of those aged 18-34, according to the survey’s findings.

Former Army Sgt. Brian Ishmael, director of Military and Veterans Affairs at the University of Phoenix, said in a phone interview that it is “a little bit disappointing” to know that so many Americans are unaware of the true meaning of Memorial Day.

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

Staff Sgt. Steve Sandoval of the 147th Combat Communications Squadron pays respects to his wife’s grandfather, James C. Peebles, U.S. Army, who served in World War II. Sandoval was among thousands of volunteers from the local community who placed flags on 67,000 grave sites at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in honor of Memorial day.

(Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Julie Avey)

Ishmael, who served two tours in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division, said that “being a combat veteran myself, that has to be a bit disappointing.”

At the University of Phoenix, “we put a lot of emphasis” on explaining the real meaning of Memorial Day, he said. For this Memorial Day, the mostly online university will continue a 10-year tradition of planting flags on the Phoenix campus.

This year, the university plans to plant 15,000 flags with the theme “Their Legacy Lives On,” Ishmael said.

However, the for-profit University of Phoenix has had a checkered history of serving veterans and its use of GI Bill funds for tuition.

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

Navy captain places flags at the grave of his uncle, who served during the Vietnam War.

(U.S. Navy photo by Greg Vojtko)

In 2009, the university agreed to a .5 million settlement with the federal government on allegations that it was illegally paying recruiters based on the number of students enrolled.

And in 2015, the Defense Department suspended the university from recruiting on military bases and accessing federal education funds.

It was alleged that the university had violated rules against for-profit colleges seeking to gain preferential access to potential students from the military. The suspension was lifted in 2016.

Ishmael acknowledged the allegations against the university but said they are dated, and the school is now “100% focused on our veterans” and their education.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 spooky military ghost stories

If war wasn’t scary enough already, living enemies might not be the only ones you have to worry about. You see, where there’s war, there’s death, and where there’s death, there are ghosts…or ghost stories, at least! There are dozens, if not hundreds, of unique, ghostly experiences from veterans and bases all over the world. These creepy stories might leave you checking over your shoulder twice when you walk down the hall at night!

Ghost Planes

During and after World War II, fighter planes were seen patrolling the sky appearing and disappearing in and out of the clouds. One such sighting happened a year after Pearl Harbor. When the United States Army radar traced the signal of an incoming plane, pilots were dispatched to investigate.

An American P-40 was spotted, riddled with bullet holes, its landing gear, mangled, and its blood drenched pilot slumped in his harness. Suddenly, the aircraft fell from the sky spiraling out of control and crashing down. When scouts went to investigate, the P-40 was found, but the pilot had disappeared.

Diplomat Hotel

Nights at the Diplomat Hotel are often pierced with shrill screams and banging. Located in the Philippines, it is a hot spot for paranormal investigation. The hotel’s terror is believed to have stemmed from the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. Originally a monastery, invading soldiers beheaded all nuns and clergymen, leaving a trail of blood in their wake. For the remainder of the war, it served as a sanitorium, only to reopen again as the Diplomat Hotel, where guests often see black figures and women clothed in white.

The Battle of the Alamo

The 1836 Battle of the Alamo was the climatic point of Texans’ fight for independence from Mexican control. Today, the San Antonio historic landmark now serves as a cemetery for the remains of fallen soldiers, many of whose bodies were dismembered and dumped into the San Antonio River. Just days after the battle, though, paranormal activity was reported. When Mexican General Juan Jose Andrade ordered the burning of what remains still lay on the field of battle to prevent the spread of disease, the men came running back, fearful of what they’d witnessed. On the river, the men had spotted six diablos or “devils,” guarding the front of the Alamo mission. Over the years, visitors have seen young boys running along the mission plaza and then disappearing, hearing the clacking of horse hooves on the streets, and even seeing a man and small boy fall from the roof of the mission.

The Jefferson Barracks 

On October 23, 1826, the Jefferson Barracks were opened in honor of president Thomas Jefferson who had passed earlier that year. It’s been used as a hospital, cemetery, and also for military staging,but on the barracks headquarters, soldiers have reported an aggressive sentry confronting them. He’s said to approach with a bloody bullet hole through his head. Supposedly, the sentry had been killed in a munitions raid and as he believes he’s still on duty, confronts those he suspects as the enemy.

Missing Children

Though Switzerland tried to stay neutral during WW2, the country was repeatedly swayed by both Allied and Axis powers. When Germany instigated, the UK retaliated, sending one British unit to a secluded village within the Swiss Alps. However, just a few weeks after their arrival, scraps of food supplies started disappearing and goods were stolen. Not long after, children went missing from the village, including one Private Reginald from the British troop. These disappearances led to the story that a monster resided in the mountains.

One night, soldiers on patrol saw a figure through the window of a house. The figure gave chase all the way to the outskirts of the village where the figure jumped into a man-made cave. Shots were fired from either side and after a resounding silence, soldiers entered the cave where they found Reginald with a bullet whole through his heart and surrounded by the missing children’s half-eaten bodies.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why bayonet training is still just as important for today’s troops

Today’s military has many antiquated training plans still written into the calendar. Troops will still practice drill and ceremony despite the fact that the need for marching into combat died out more than a hundred years ago. We still sharpen our land navigation skills despite the fact that we have overwhelming technological advantages that make the use of more primitive tools highly improbable.

However, the one training that always draws the loudest “but why?” from the back of the formation is bayonet warfare. And you know what? That loud, obnoxious dude isn’t entirely wrong — the last time “fix bayonets!” was officially ordered to a company-sized element in combat was by Col. Lewis Millet during the Korean War.

But bayonet training isn’t about just learning to attach a “pointy thing to your boomstick and poking the blood out of people,” as an old infantry sergeant once told me. It’s about laying the fundamentals of everything else.


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

It’s only silly if you make it silly. If you do, the other guy will knock the silliness out of you.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Melissa Marnell)

Bayonet training was officially taken off the Army’s basic training schedule back in 2010 because it created scheduling conflicts with other needed skills. Still, some drill sergeants find a way to work it in on their own time. The Marine Corps still learns the skill, but it’s a part of the greater Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.

The training is always conducted in stages. The first stage is to have the recruits train on pugil sticks — giant, cotton-swab-looking sticks. This teaches a warfighter the importance of maintaining a positive footing while trying to overpower an opponent. Literally anyone can take on anyone in a pugil stick match because it’s not about size or strength — it’s about control.

Learning to control your body while asserting dominance on your enemy is crucial in close-quarters combat. Once you’ve mastered the pugil stick, you can move on to bayonets.

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

“Yeah! Take that, tire! F*ck you!”

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Walter D. Marino II)

Fighting with a bayonet is less like fighting with a rifle that happens to have a knife attached and more like using a spear that has a rifle on it. Much of the same footwork learned while training with pugil sticks plays a role here. Maintain good footing, thrust your bayonet into the enemy, and send them to their maker.

Maintaining good footing is a fundamental of nearly every single martial arts form known to man. Instead of having troops learn a martial art (which would take years to yield workable results), troops can come to understand the importance of footwork by just stabbing a worn-out tire — much more efficient.

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

“Fix bayonets!”

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Maximiliano Bavastro)

The third and most vital lesson that’s secretly taught behind the guise of bayonet training is when the troops line up to conduct a full charge toward targets.

Sure, without the real threat of danger, the point may be missed by some, but it’s important nonetheless. If you and your unit are tasked with making a last-ditch effort to stop the enemy and all you have is your bayonet, many of you may die. But when you know for certain that you and your brothers will charge into death head-on with the hopes of gutting at least that one, last son of a b*tch… you’ve embraced the warrior lifestyle.

Sure, missing out on that life lesson doesn’t hurt the “combat effectiveness” that training room officers love to care about, but there’s little else that compares to the ferocity of a bayonet charge.

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