4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

Being a first responder can suck. In fact, it often does suck… Yes, there are some clear benefits to being a part of the first responder family, but it’s grueling work that never stops. You’ve gotta be a special kind of person to put yourself on the line like that, day in, day out.

But there’s a silver lining to first responder life. One of the most underrated benefits of being a first responder is the special holiday treatment. It’s hard to describe and really has to be experienced to be appreciated, but you’re here already, so we’ll do our best.


The holiday season is the one time when being a first responder might be the best job to have.

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

This is what the average Security Forces gate shack looks like by noon, Christmas Day.

(The Japan Times)

The food

This one is actually specifically for my Security Forces/Master of Arms/Military Police family. Our firefighter brothers and our siblings in the ambulances don’t typically face the same struggles in getting a simple lunch. Day in and day out, the constant nature of our work makes a daily lunch uncertain (to say the least).

Having that experience really makes the flood of holiday food that much easier to appreciate. It’s almost as if the other 11 months of being overworked and under-appreciated are a fair price to pay for all the love we get during this wonderful time of the year.

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

Something about having the higher-ups serve you gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling.

People are actually nice to you

It may seem like respect is always on the menu when dealing with first responders — and that’s true, to a degree. But we’re also often treated as though we’re invisible. First responders deal with the outside world in the worst of times. If you’ve dialed 911 and had responders show up at your location, chances are you were having at least a marginally bad day. So, it’s easy to see us first responders as inanimate objects — as tools of rescue. Save for a few occasions, we might as well be made of glass.

During the holidays, all of that changes. People understand that having to work on those days is a particular kind of suck that somehow stands out from the rest. This is the one time of the year when everyone sees you. Everyone tries to make you feel better, or, at the very least, expresses genuine care for your well-being.

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

Believe it or not, the schedule

There’s no denying that having to work on these special days is tough. No matter how great you’re treated or fed, it isn’t an easy undertaking. It messes with you, at least those first few times.

Conversely, working on those days often means some form of holiday schedule. This means about a week straight of work, either followed or preceded by a week of time off. Many of us use that time in conjunction with some leave and end up with a solid lump of time either to ourselves or with our loved ones.

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

Your work family will be going through the suck alongside you.

(Department of Defense)

Camaraderie

Brotherhood is a standing and well-recognized benefit of being a first responder. During the holidays, first responders have a way of coming together and really being a family.

There are few better bonding moments than sharing some holiday goodies with your work-family over a 12-hour shift.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine credits triathlons with making him a better warfighter

After finishing his second Boston Marathon in 2013, Maj. Ken Parisi, a logistics specialist at Marine Corps Systems Command, wanted to tackle a new challenge — triathlons.

He has completed four full-distance 140.6-mile races and 10 half-distance 70.3-mile races. He said this passion for triathlons gave him confidence and made him a better Marine.


“I realized I got myself into something pretty big, so I did what all Marines would do — I made a plan, hired a coach, bought a bike, and then just actively and aggressively pursued my training plan until I crossed each finish line,” Parisi said.

In 2018, he participated in the Ironman 70.3 World Championship at Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, placing in the top 25 percent of 4,500 competitors. The race included a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run.

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

Maj. Ken Parisi, a logistics specialist at Marine Corps Systems Command, talks about his passion for triathlons and how they gave him confidence and made him a better Marine.

It was Parisi’s first World Championship race, and he had to overcome a few obstacles: it rained the entire race and his bike never arrived in time after he shipped it from the U.S. Luckily, he was able to rent a bike and was only six minutes short of his fastest time. He also beat his personal record in running by six minutes and matched his fastest swim time.

“It was an incredible experience competing with the best athletes and Olympians across the globe,” said Parisi. “I enjoy triathlons because they push me past my uncomfortable limitations into becoming a better athlete and a better person. I’m more patient and confident in myself and what I can do because of this sport.”

Parisi said training for a full-distance Ironman consumes his off-duty time. He alternates between swimming and running one day, then biking and running the next day, training at least 14-18 hours a week. This does not include the time he spends on travel, preparation, cool down, stretching, and calorie consumption.

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

Maj. Ken Parisi, a logistics specialist at Marine Corps Systems Command, crosses the finish line at the Ironman World Championship at Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

“On Saturdays I’ll wake up at 5:00 a.m. and go for a five or six-hour bike ride, follow it up with a run, try to get home early enough to have a late lunch or early dinner, go to bed, and then do another workout the following day,” he said. “I’m a very goal-driven Marine and individual. I think if you are going to be a successful and competitive athlete, having realistic, identifiable and attainable goals is critical.”

Parisi said he believes competing in distance triathlons has increased his endurance and strength, which makes him a better Marine, even after 23 years of service. He earned a perfect score of 300 on his physical and combat fitness tests, and is more driven and disciplined to conquer every goal he sets.

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

Maj. Ken Parisi, a logistics specialist at Marine Corps Systems Command, shows off his Ironman World Championship coin which signified his qualification into the race at Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

“As Marines, we are put in hard situations and expected to come out on top,” said Parisi. “It’s really up to us to focus, drill down, and get the job done, and I believe this sport challenges me enough to know that I can do anything.”

Parisi will continue working toward his goal to compete in the Ironman World Championship, a 140.6-mile journey, which is double the distance from the Ironman in South Africa.

“It is very challenging, but I’m focused on the common quote ‘failing doesn’t make you a failure,'” he said. “I know that every workout I do will make me a little bit stronger for the next workout, and getting across the finish line at the world championship one day is my ultimate goal.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Vietnam veteran Dr. Robert Primeaux, Lakota Warrior

Native American Vietnam veteran Robert Primeaux shared his journey from a Lakota reservation to the Army and even to Hollywood.

As a young man, Primeaux was eager to get off the reservation and see the world. To leave, he decided to join the Army. He trained in Fort Lewis and Fort Knox before joining the 101st Airborne Division and sent off to Vietnam.

In 1972, Primeaux returned to the United States. His younger brother had been killed in a car accident, leaving Primeaux as the sole male survivor of his family.


However, he did not stay in the Army long. A car accident of his own put him in a coma for three weeks. After he recovered, he was discharged.

Primeaux then lived on his grandmother’s ranch while he recovered from his injuries. To help with his recovery, he began to self-rehab by working with the horses on the ranch. His love for horses gave him the opportunity to go to school through a rodeo scholarship from the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA).

Between school and living on his family ranch, Primeaux met Michael Apted on the set of Thunderheart in South Dakota. Through this meeting, he landed a stunt role on Thunderheart and become eligible for access to the Union of the Screen Actors Guild.

Later, Primeaux moved to LA to begin his film career where he landed roles in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and a more prominent role in Rough Riders. This role as Indian Bob was special to Primeaux because the director John Milius specifically created it with him in mind.

Recently, Primeaux has worked as an advocate for fallen service-members.

Throughout his life, through thick and thin, Primeaux credited the Four Cardinal Lakota Virtues for helping him recover from the Vietnam War and his car accident. He listed the Lakota Virtues as:

  1. Bravery. “Individual valor meant more than group bravery, and the warrior who most fearlessly risked his life earned the admiration of all the people and received the most cherished honors.”
  2. Generosity. “If you have more than one of anything, you should give it away to help those persons.”
  3. Fortitude. “All had to be borne without visible signs of distress.
  4. Wisdom. “A man who displays wisdom, displays superior judgment in matters of war, the hunt, of human and group relationships, of band and Tribal policy, and of harmonious interaction with the natural and spiritual world.”

From childhood, Lakota Warriors were taught these four virtues. Primeaux stated that warriors who were taught the true meaning of these virtues learn to treat their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

A guy who travels the US to mow lawns for veterans has a new Christmas mission

Rodney Smith is gearing up for a trip to Alaska. He’s already been to all of the lower 48 U.S. states. He’s on a mission to provide free lawn care to the elderly, the disabled, single mothers, and veterans. He’s the founder of a nonprofit for youth which is aimed at community development.

He’s showing everyone in America his dedication to service, and he’s doing it the way he knows best: mowing lawns.


He is the founder of Raising Men Lawn Care Service, a way for young people to give back to their community while learning the ins and outs of the lawn-care industry. Smith doesn’t limit his services to mowing, just like any other lawn-care service. Raking leaves and shoveling snow are just a couple of the services he and his cadre of volunteers offer.

As he travels the United States, he takes requests, even going so far to post his phone number on Twitter. He mows lawns in the dark, just to get one more in for that day. He’ll even do what he calls a “mow by,” completing a lawn-care service for someone in need, even when they aren’t home.

Of course, it’s better if they’re home. Then the family can meet the incredible individual who enjoys giving back and mowing lawns so much he’ll go to disaster sites, like storm-stricken Virginia.

Smith started mowing lawns for free in 2015 after driving by an elderly man struggling to mow his lawn. He stopped his car, got out, and finished the lawn for the man.

A small act of kindness grew into all this,” he says. “You never know what someone is going through and you touch them a certain way.”

After that act of kindness, he founded his nonprofit in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala. while he was working on a degree in computer science. He used to mow lawns in between classes, a challenge for his studies but one he took with zeal. Then, he challenged others to something similar. He wanted kids to mow 50 lawns after posting a photo of them accepting the 50-Yard Challenge.

I show kids the importance of giving back to their community,” Smith says. He now boasts hundreds of volunteer lawn care experts through Raising Men. “At first they didn’t like it… but they see the smiles and it shows them a different side of life.

They didn’t know it when the accepted the challenge, but Smith would present the kids with a new lawn mower upon completing their 50th yard.

He challenged himself again with the task of mowing “50 Yards in 50 States.” In 2017, he drove to all lower 48 states and flew to Alaska and Hawaii. In May, 2018, he started doing it all again, visiting 20 states within three weeks. He’s not just mowing one lawn in each state, either. He often mows up to four per day as he travels. And when he comes across those in need, he stops to hear their story and help out.

And now he finds himself with a different challenge.

In 2017, Smith traveled to all the major urban areas in Tennessee and Alabama, dressed as Santa Claus to deliver gifts to the area’s homeless population. For 2018, the big-hearted lawn mower said he wanted to go even bigger. On Nov. 26, 2018, he began another nationwide tour, to visit each state and meet with at least two people or groups who are homeless and deliver gifts that will make them happy.

He wants to deliver true Christmas cheer. Not content to give and take a photo before moving on, he wants to sit with them, talk, find out how they became homeless, and try to understand what the season means for them.

Rodney Smith covered the lower 48 states in just 22 days. As of Dec. 18, 2018, he was on his way to Alaska to continue his mission.

Every day is tough when you’re homeless, but it’s terribly difficult this time of year – both physically and mentally,” Smith said. “If I can help make even a few people more comfortable and happy, I want to do it. It may sound crazy, but I believe if we all helped just one person where we live, the results would be astonishing.

To make donations, visit Hopefortheholidaystour.com. To follow Rodney and hear stories from those he meets, visit him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

The wind blows viciously as it sweeps across the open waters, but the sound of gum being popped out of the pack is a familiar feeling that Senior Chief Quartermaster Steve Schweizer will never forget, even after retirement. It’s something that he takes on every mission, a lucky charm that he’ll leave behind when he walks out of the Assault Craft Unit Four (ACU-4) facility for the very last time.


“I won’t fly without it,” said Schweizer. “I’ve actually been on the ramp getting ready to go and I was feeling my pockets and thought ‘oh it’s not there, no I have to run back inside I know it’s in my desk.’ I’ll look at the water, look at the weather, and I’ll just kind of almost go into a quiet place, like just relax. I know that as soon as that mission starts, it’s ‘go go go’, it’s stress, it’s just operational, operational, operational.”

Schweizer first thought of joining the Navy after being unsure what he wanted to do in life.

“I took half a semester of college and realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do,” said Schweizer. “I had an uncle in the Navy who I didn’t talk to very much, but I told him I decided to join the military and he told me how much fun he had in the Navy so I figured I may have made the right decision.”

Schweizer first joined the LCAC program in 2004 and enjoys what he does.

“I’ve been here for fifteen years and I love what I do,” said Schweizer. “I love flying the crafts, I love teaching people how to fly the crafts, and I like our mission.”

Schweizer began running as a hobby before his 2014 deployment, describing it as an escape and a stress reliever.

“I just put my music on, go for a run, and I just tune everything out,” said Schweizer. “It’s just my relax time, my alone time. It’s definitely one of those things where it’s like if you think of work all the time, if you think of the stress of your job all the time, it’s going to get to you, so it’s my outlet.”

The program has a very high attrition rate and has a difficult training pipeline.

“This is a 90×50 foot hovercraft, it weighs about 200 thousand pounds,” said Schweizer. “You’re controlling it with three different controls. Your feet are doing one job and both hands are doing separate jobs. It takes a lot of coordination and it’s not easy.”

Training in the simulator and manning the live craft are completely different, and requires a lot of attention.

“You always have that heightened sense of awareness,” said Schweizer. “Anticipation of what the craft is going to do and how to counteract it. Never take anything for granted.”

On a small craft that is only manned by five personnel, personnel develop a closer relationship with crew members quicker, Schweizer explained.

“They develop that bond because you know that person has your back, or you know that person is looking out for you,” said Schweizer. “I know my crew, I know their families, I know what they like to do in their spare time, they know that if they’re ever in trouble they know they’ll call me first, or they’ll call one of their crew members first.”

This article originally appeared on All Hands Magazine. Follow @AllHandsMag on Twitter.

Articles

This is how a zombie apocalypse is most likely to start in China

A zombie outbreak in pop culture usually starts in the United Kingdom or the United States. However, western countries do not keep quiet for long when it come to a worldwide threat. Communist countries have time and again chosen to suppress information until it is no longer deniable. In 1986, when the Chernobyl disaster happened, the Soviet Union refused to acknowledge a problem until other countries had irrefutable proof something was wrong.

China continues this motif of lies and propaganda to save face when they mess up. In Chinese culture, losing face is worse than the actual mistake. Worse yet is owning up to it because it is seen a sign of weakness.

China would suppress news of an out break

By refusing to admit the truth of the zombie outbreak to the world, the Communist Chinese government aided its spread due to misinformation about what was actually happening.

Zombiepedia, World War Z by Max Brooks

Digging deeper into the cultural phenomena of losing face, the Chinese people, not just the government, would actively deny they are powerless. The country as a whole would lose face if the world called out the CCP when caught in a lie. They would rather invent a scenario where the cause of the outbreak was natural rather than criminal negligence. The Chinese not knowing how the virus is spreading would be another losing face situation. To be seen as ignorant of that knowledge is shameful in Chinese culture.

While the Chinese government is squabbling over how to present the situation on the world stage, the Z virus would spread exponentially. China’s population is around 1.4 billion people – that’s a lot of zombies. In 2019 Chinese “authorities deliberately sacrificed health workers to maintain their lies.” We know what the first thing the CCP would do if there was a zombie virus: lie.

They would use a zombie vaccine as leverage

The civilized world would put politics aside and band together to achieve a common goal. Yet, the Chinese government would use the zombie outbreak as an excuse to profit from the vaccines, blackmail countries to do their bidding and deny them life saving medicine. Once they can no longer deny that there is a problem, they will do everything in their power to make the rest of the world suffer the consequences.

A weaponized Z virus

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder
“No, don’t be silly. These are just a precaution. Nothing to see here.” (DoD photo by Senior Airman Carlye D. La Pointe, U.S. Air Force)

China’s bioweapons ambitions are no secret. They actively pursue diseases, then engineer deadlier versions. Regardless of whether a zombie virus was manmade or developed in a lab, the cat is out of the bag. Conveniently, the CCP has been trying to cleanse China of undesirables. All they would have to do is do nothing, as the wanton destruction of the Communist Zombies eats away their political enemies.

Ground Zero

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder
“You guys make Raccoon City look like a minor hiccup.” (Sony Pictures)

Instead of China having a Resident Evil Umbrella Corporation-like deliberate response to a zombie outbreak, they would most likely fall flat on their faces. The politicians at the top would continue their caricature-like information suppression tactics. The poor and disenfranchised would suffer the most. Eventually, the rest of the world would have to clean up their mess like always. When you deal with a problem when it’s small, it stays small. Bad news doesn’t get better with time. The Communists will always deny, deflect and lie until it’s too late. The zombie apocalypse is most likely to start in China, not because of deliberate evil, but because of President Winnie the Pooh’s hubris.

Feature image: ahmadreza heidaripoor from Pixabay

Editor’s note: This is an opinion piece.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Veteran who spent 421 days as a prisoner of war turns 100

Bob Teichgraeber grew up under the dark shadow of the Great Depression. When World War II came to America, he signed up for the Army Air Corps to earn a better living and serve his country.

He never dreamed he’d end up a prisoner of war.


Assigned to a B-24 within the 445th Bomb Group as a Gunner, Teichgraeber found himself stationed outside of London, England. It was February 24, 1944, when he and his crew joined 25 other planes headed for Germany. Their mission: bombing a factory responsible for building Messerschmitt fighters. Unfortunately, Teichgraeber’s group missed the meet up with a large wing of 200 planes. Rather than wait, their group leader pushed to continue on without fighter protection.

The Germans shot down 12 of their 25 planes down before they ever hit the target. “They were all around us like bees shooting,” Teichgraeber explained. Despite the constant barrage of bullets, their plane managed to drop their bomb on the factory. They also shot down enemy fighters in the process. Not long after that, they were attacked head on by an enemy fighter plane.

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

“They hit our oxygen system in the bomb bay and the plane caught on fire and went down,” Teichgraeber shared. Although he broke his foot and ankle in the crash, a well-timed jump saved him from being torn in two by the horizontal stabilizer. When he looked around, he realized only six of them had made it through the crash.

As they exited the plane, the Germans were waiting for them. “We were captured and brought to a prison camp in East Prussia, which is Lithuania now. They handcuffed us to each other and made us run up a hill with German police dogs at our heels and throw our Red Cross parcels away,” Teichgraeber said. It was so dark that he was soon separated from his crew. “It was the end of February of ’44 and we tried to wait patiently for D-Day, which we knew was coming.”

Some of the men were unable to cope with the waiting, though. “Some of us tried but we really didn’t have the ability to help these guys,” he said sadly. They were taken away and he never saw many of them again.

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

A few months after being captured, he heard the Russian guns coming closer to their prison camp. The threat of the Russians forced the Germans to evacuate the prison camp and move everyone up the Baltic sea on a coal ship. “We were put down in the bottom of the hull — it was darker than an ace of spades and we didn’t see anything for three days,” Teichgraeber said. The Germans unloaded them in Poland, but the prisoners weren’t there long… soon, they could hear the Russian guns getting closer once again.

The Germans forced them to march.

It was winter and hovering around 15 degrees and the only scarce food available was bread and potatoes, but not all the time. After that first night of marching away from the Russians, Teichgraeber and the other prisoners (mostly airmen) were forced to sleep on the frozen ground. He shared that they all dreamt about those Red Cross parcels they were forced to throw away, which were filled with things like spam, candy bars and soap – a feast they’d give anything to have right then.

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

The marching didn’t stop, even in the snow. “Sometimes all you could see was the guy marching in front of you, it was so white out,” Teichgraeber said. He described the horrific scenes of constant frostbite, diarrhea and starvation. Sometimes they’d get lucky and find barns to sleep in, instead of the ground. But those were filled with lice and fleas. “Guys began dropping out,” he admitted.

After a couple of months, the marching finally stopped. Their group arrived at another prisoner of war camp, this one much more crowded. Teichgraeber and a friend found a barracks building and slept on the floor, trying to recuperate. Five days later, the entire camp was forced to evacuate and march once again. This time, to avoid the British.

“They would do a headcount every morning and we were close to a barn. Our guard got distracted so once they did the headcount, my buddy and I went back into the barn,” Teichgraeber said. They hid, trying not to make a sound as they waited, praying they wouldn’t be found. Eventually, they heard the sounds of the camp moving and marching again. Soon there were no sounds at all.

They were free.

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

“The next day, the British came through and rescued us,” he said with a smile. Teichgraeber and his fellow airman were given new clothes, which was a relief after wearing the same ragged clothes for months. “They got us cleaned up and in one of their uniforms – which was very unusual as you’d normally never see an American service member in another country’s uniform, but it was clean.”

Normally around 135 pounds, Teichgraeber found himself hovering at 90 pounds after his rescue. He shared that they were all so hungry that after chow was served, he and the other airman went back and raided the garbage cans for food. “An officer found us and told us we didn’t have to do that anymore,” he said. “But we were so used to it at that point.”

After a few weeks, he and the others rescued were put back into American hands and sent home. Although faced with torture and other unimaginable horrors while he was a prisoner of war, Teichgraeber said he never lost hope. When he returned to his hometown in Illinois, he went back to work at his old job and met his wife, Rose, not long after. They’ve been married for 68 years.

On August 22, 2020, the former prisoner of war turned 100. When Teichgraeber was asked the secret to his longevity, he got a twinkle in his eye and said with a laugh, “Just don’t die.” He still loves to sit in his riding lawn mower and take care of his own grass. Sometimes he even drives if he’s feeling up to it, although there is a caregiver who comes to help with errand running these days. After surviving 421 days a prisoner of war, he said his life has been continually filled with beauty and joy.

And he’s not done yet.

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder
MIGHTY CULTURE

7 reasons why 24-hour duty isn’t as bad as troops make it out to be

A sense of dread washes over the company as the most recent version of the duty roster gets posted in the common area. The troops shuffle toward the single piece of paper while crossing their fingers, hoping that their name hasn’t been called. But alas, a poor, unfortunate soul gets stuck with duty next Tuesday and, upon learning that, their day is cast to ruin.

Sound familiar? Troops tend to over-dramatize the “horrors” of getting stuck on staff duty every single time the duty roster goes up. But why? Seriously? You’re being put at a desk for 24-hours and told to maintain the area. Once that timer is done, the next shift comes in to replace you and you’re done for the day.

I guess it can feel like you have all eyes on you if you’re at Battalion or higher, but barracks CQ is the most skate job ever. Your only real job is to not fall asleep — and yet, for some odd reason, everyone has sympathy for you.


Here’s why it’s not as bad as everyone makes it sound:

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

​You might have to deal with one or two people coming in, but that’s about it.

(U.S. Army)

1. You don’t really do anything

The officer handles the occasional phone calls, the NCO walks about the area once or twice, and the lower enlisted mops the hallways. That’s about the extent of a normal staff duty shift.

Yes, there’s the off-chance that a situation arises. If it does? You, as the staff duty, are just going to log it and let the chain of command handle the ramifications.

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

And you’re not going to be doing any major cleaning. That police call is done by everyone else.

(U.S. Army Photo by Pfc. Lee Hyokang)

2. You clean once and it stays clean until it’s the next guy’s problem

Officers and NCOs don’t complain about staff duty as much. They’ve either realized how sweet of a gig it actually is or they’re holding it together for professionalism’s sake. The ones who moan the loudest are the lower enlisted — but as we mentioned earlier, they just have to clean up a bit and… that’s it.

The good thing about cleaning is that it’s almost always expected to be done at night when there’s little chance that anyone will come in and disrupt the cleanliness. So, you just sweep and mop the floors and probably take the trash out. How terrible.

The best thing about cleaning is that it only has to be done once, and then it usually stays clean until it becomes the next guy’s problem. It’s not like your entire 24-hour shift is spent cleaning.

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

They may have to pretend if someone signs out on leave, but don’t take it personally.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace)

3. Your duty officer or NCO will become human again

At about 0200, when no one else is around, the normally-salty leaders drop their tough-guy act for a little while and relax with the lower enlisted.

When they’ve got nothing better to do, they’ll open up about when they were a young, dumb private or share stories about when they were deployed. Enjoy it. The moment the commander checks in early, the stoic facade is back in full swing.

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

Even the big wigs have to sleep. But when they’re awake… You might want to look busy.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andrew Jones)

4. You can study… or play video games, or read, or watch tv, or…

Everyone is asleep after midnight. You might run into someone trying to sign out on leave, but there’s not a single soul to check up on you. So, do whatever you want — as long as you stay in the area.

I’ve seen people bring entire gaming setups to barracks CQ and without anyone batting an eye. You can’t leave, but if you give a heads up to the NCO or officer with you, you can probably get away with a trip to the gas station or something.

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

Meanwhile, they’ve probably learned to sleep with their eyes open.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. John L. Carkeet IV, U.S. Army Japan)

5. You might be able to swing a nap between 0100 and 0530. 

The most daunting thing about staff duty is that you’re expected to remain awake the entire time. It’s problem up to around midnight but the, like a normal person, the drowsiness settles in big-time at about 0200.

Remember the part above about how probably nobody will check in on you between 0100 and the time the commander shows up? Let the officer or NCO you’re with know that you’re about to rack out for a quick nap and, if they’re cool with you, they’ll probably come up with some excuse as to why you’re not currently present if necessary.

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

“Give this to those poor, hardworking troops on Staff Duty. They’re working their asses off trying not to sleep…”

(U.S. Navy photo by Lieutenant junior grade Rob Kunzig)

6. You aren’t even really screwed on Holidays

The worst time to get stuck on staff duty is over a holiday, especially when it would have otherwise been a day off for you. But there’s a silver lining here: Everyone takes extreme pity on you. If your chain of command likes you, they might even swing an extra comp day your way to make it up to you.

Remember the story about when Secretary of Defense Mattis was still in the Corps and he relieved from young Marine for Christmas staff duty? That happens more often than you’d think. I, personally, have been screwed out of leave packets and ended up on four consecutive Independence Day duties. Each time, the Colonel came in with something to relieve “the pain” of staff duty.

It’s a nice change of pace.

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

“It’s time to get back to what’s important in life… Doing nothing…”

(U.S. Army photo)

7. You get that sweet, sweet comp day

When the next guy shows up, you’re free for an entire 24 hours. It’s expected that you’ll be catching up on sleep, but nobody wants to screw up their circadian rhythm, so you’ll probably just take it easy.

If you’re truly a part of the E-4 Mafia or Lance Cpl. Underground, you’ll try to sweet-talk someone into giving you their Thursday duty, which means you have a free three-day weekend. Not so bad for a couple hours of cleaning, right?

MIGHTY CULTURE

How you can help Navy SEALs fight veteran homelessness — and swim the Hudson!

On Saturday, Aug. 3, a team of over 30 Navy SEALs will swim across the Hudson River to honor military veterans and their families, as well as those who died during the 9/11 attacks and the wars that followed.

It will be the first Navy SEAL Hudson River Swim and Run — and the first ever legally sanctioned swim across the Hudson River. The event has the full support of New York City and state officials as well as the NYPD, FDNY, Port Authority of New York, New Jersey Police Department, and New Jersey State Police.

The benefit will help the GI Go Fund, which supports veterans and their families with housing, health care, employment services, and financial aid.

Swimming over two and a half miles in the currents of the Hudson is a great challenge — but that’s how the frogmen like it.


Former Navy SEAL Swims Across Hudson River

www.youtube.com

Former Navy SEAL Swims Across Hudson River

“We get nowhere in life by staying in our comfort zone. Results come when we get uncomfortable, challenge ourselves and push pass our perceived limits. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t apply that lesson, and I won’t get to where I need to be in life if that trend doesn’t continue,” shared Remi Adeleke, a SEAL embodying the idea of service after service.

There are nearly 38,000 homeless veterans in the United States. The SEALs, through GI Go Fund, are helping to give back to their community of service members — and they could use your support.

“The route we chose is important,” said Kaj Larsen, one of the Navy SEAL swimmers. “We are swimming to the Statue of Liberty because it is an iconic symbol of freedom, the same thing we fought for overseas. Ellis Island represents the diversity that makes us strong as a nation. And finally the Ground Zero memorial, which has deep significance for the country, the SEAL teams, and me personally.”

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

Larsen and his team train beneath the Statue of Liberty.

Larsen was in First Phase of SEAL training on 9/11. His roommate LT Michael Murphy, a Medal of Honor recipient, was from New York. His father was a New York firefighter and when Murphy was killed on June 28, 2005 in Afghanistan during Operation Red Wings, he was wearing an NYFD t-shirt under his uniform.

“There is an inextricable connection between the SEAL community and New York. Our fates were intertwined on September 11, so it is an honor to come back here with my fellow SEALs and compete in this event and give back to the city,” said Larsen.

First the frogmen will swim from Liberty Park to the Statue of Liberty. From there they head to Ellis Island. Finally they swim to Battery park and run as a unit to the Freedom Tower and the site of a new memorial dedicated to Special Operations Forces.

At each stop they will perform a series of push-ups and pull-ups culminating in a ceremony at the SOF memorial.

So far they have raised over ,000 to benefit homeless and transitioning veterans in NYC, but they’re not stopping there.

Check out details about the event and help spread the word — or maybe pitch in a few bucks — right here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

Within the military, being airborne comes with a special brand of badassery that you won’t find within any non-airborne unit, or, as we call them, “legs.” Even more badass are the troops that have proven themselves by jumping directly into combat — like the paratroopers over D-Day or the 75th Rangers at Objective Rhino in Afghanistan.

But jumping into certain danger with nothing but your gear and a parachute isn’t something exclusive to the military. There exists a certain breed of firefighters who are so fearless that they are always on-call to jump into newly-formed wildfires.

Meet the Smokejumpers.


4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder
The relationship between the smokejumpers and Army paratroopers really does run deep.
(U.S. Forest Service photo by E.L. Perry)

Born of a need to quickly get firefighters into middle-of-nowhere locations, the first smokejump was made on July 12th, 1940, into Nez Perce National Forest by Rufus Robinson and Earl Cooley. They dropped allegedly on a dare, equipped with just enough gear to establish a fire line and hold off the flames until more help could arrive.

That first jump was so successful that smokejumping was quickly adopted throughout many major Forest Services located in rural areas susceptible to wildfires. Then-Major William C. Lee of the U.S. Army saw the smokejumpers training and adapted their methods into the Army’s newly formed airborne school at Ft. Benning — and later into the 101st Airborne Division.

The U.S. Army assigned the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, the only all-black airborne unit in U.S. military history, as smokejumpers as a precaution against potential fire balloon bombs that Japan supposedly had at the ready, poised to burn down American forests. The Japanese “Operation Firefly” never came to fruition, but the men of the 555th helped fight natural wildfires, thus further proving the need for smokejumpers

There are countless hoops a firefighter must go through before becoming a smokejumper today. Typically, they’re only selected from firefighters who’ve proven themselves capable as part of both a conventional firefighting unit and a hotshot crew, a small, elite team made up of 20 of the country’s best wildland firefighters who go into the heart of the flames. Then, they must go through a rigorous training schedule, which includes pararescue jumping — regardless of whether they’re an airborne-qualified veteran or not.

Despite the many dangers that smokejumpers face, fatalities within the ranks are infrequent because of the insane amount of planning that goes into each jump. They’ll only jump into a location that is a safe distance away from the flame itself — as the updraft from the flames could catch and incinerate any firefighter — and into areas area clear of slopes or trees. This could require the smokejumper to ruck miles out of the way while carrying up to 150lbs of gear.

When they finally arrive at the fire, they must then determine the likely route the flames with travel and keep clear the way for reinforcements.

For a more in-depth look at how smokejumpers conduct a wildfire mission, check out the video.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A 101-year-old WWII vet commissioned his grandson at the Air Force Academy

The Air Force Academy graduated 989 newly-minted Air Force officers in 2019. As part of their graduation, each cadet gets his or her own pinning-on of their new rank, often done by the new officer’s loved ones. One cadet had the oath of a new military member given by an old former airman who was flying when the Air Force was still called the Army Air Corps.


4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

(U.S. Air Force Academy photo)

Newly-commissioned 2nd Lt. Joseph Kloc had his new rank pinned on by his mother and father in May 2019. Among the other family members who made the trek to Colorado Springs was the young man’s 101-year-old grandfather, Walter Kloc. The elder Kloc was an Air Corps bombardier officer who served in World War II. It was Maj. Walter Klock who delivered his grandson’s oath, commissioning him into the U.S. Air Force.

According to Kloc’s wife Virginia, Walter was incredibly excited to go, give the oath and then deliver some words of wisdom to his grandson.

“[I wanted to] congratulate him on his great work and what he’s done and wish him a good future,” Kloc told Buffalo NBC affiliate WGRZ.

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

Before delivering the oath, Walter was greeted with a standing ovation by the assembled crowd. He delivered the oath in his old uniform and then watched on as his son pinned the younger Kloc’s rank on his epaulets. The moment was an emotional one for everyone involved.

“I’m so excited for him,” 2nd Lt. Joseph Kloc’s father William Kloc told WGRZ before their trip to Colorado. “He’s fulfilling his dream and he was so excited that his grandfather, a World War II Air Force bombardier pilot, could come and commission him.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 hot cocktails to drink this winter

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with mixing up some whiskey, lemon, cloves, honey, and cinnamon — otherwise known as the hot toddy. But hot winter cocktails are not limited to the toddy alone. If you find yourself in a mood for a fortifying warm cocktail when the mercury falls, but want a drink that’s a bit more adventurous — and perhaps the main ingredient of which is something besides whiskey — there are plenty of excellent options. (We see you, hot buttered rum and boozy hot chocolate) To venture out into different territory, and to provide you with some hot alcoholic drinks to get you through winter, we spoke to a squad of New York City bartenders and asked them to share their hottest hot cocktail recipes. From variations on the classic hot toddy and the best damn boozy hot chocolate you’ll ever try to a fancy mulled wine and rum punch that really packs a punch, here are seven warming cold weather cocktails to try.


1. The Hot Teddy

Remember when your mother told you never to play with fire? Well, you’re going to need to disregard that bit of advice in order to make this next level hot toddy. Amir Babayoff, head bartender at Ophelia in New York City, starts with the rich and layered Barrell Craft Spirits Bourbon and adds a touch of French fortified wine for added complexity. Next, some Pineau des Charentes is brought in to bring out the softer part of the drink thanks to notes of peaches, prunes, plums and toasted nuts. Next comes caffeine-free orange and ginger tea. He adds Panella (unrefined sugar cane) with a blend of five winter spices (cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom to finish it with a sweet complexity. Is it an easy cocktail to whip together? Definitely not. But the end result is very much worth the effort.

Ingredients:
1.5 oz Barrell Whiskey
0.5 oz Pineau De Charente
0.5 oz Lemon Juice
0.75 oz Island Syrup
Angostura Bitters
5 oz Hot Water
1 Ginger/Orange Spiced Tea Bag

Directions: Prepare two copper mugs with hot water. Empty one and add 5 oz Hot Water, Tea Bags, Syrup, Lemon Juice and Bitters. Add Bourbon and Brandy to Mug #2 and rinse. Light Mug #2 on fire and pour from mug to mug. Pour into a Snifter and garnish with Cinnamon Stick, Orange Peel and Star Anise.

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

(Photo by Eiliv-Sonas Aceron)

2. Spiked Mexican Hot Chocolate

Boozy hot chocolate is a pretty unbeatable winter drink. This version is a lighter, spicier play. “The traditional Italian hot chocolate is usually a rich and indulgent treat that’s perfect for a cold day,” says Anthony Henriquez, Beverage Director at Lumaca in New York City. “But it might not be the best before or after a meal.” This version removes the heavier ingredients and the allspice. The remaining cinnamon and chili flavors blend well with the caramel notes of tequila (they use Chamucos). Topped off with some freshly roasted marshmallows, it’s enough to make you forget about the cold for a few minutes.

Ingredients:
3 cups hot milk
3 tbs cocoa powder
3 tbs granulated sugar
1/4 tbs cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3 oz Chamucos Tequila

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a snifter, garnish with two roasted marshmallows.

3. Nightcap

Now, this drink is not for novices. But for those accustomed to using a flame or amateur mixologists ready to raise their game, the Nightcap is worth the effort. Maybe keep a fire extinguisher handy. “When creating this cocktail, we knew we wanted to include absinthe but wanted to experiment with chartreuse since it’s high-proof and knew it would add a very rich, floral flavor” says NR bar owner, Shigefumi Kabashima. “We heat an iron rod over a flame to mix the cocktail with in order to cut the edge of the chartreuse and burn off some of the alcohol.” The drink also has butter, which caramelizes and adds to the cocktail’s rich flavor.

Ingredients:
1.5 oz. Green Chartruse
.5 oz. Lemon Juice
.25 oz. fresh ginger
.25 oz. honey
.5 oz. water
tsp butter
5 dashes absinthe

Directions: Combine all ingredients except for butter in a small heat-proof vessel and carefully heat iron rod over a flame for about one minute. Once the iron is heated, stir the cocktail ingredients carefully in heat proof vessel. Remove rod from and pour into heat-proof cocktail glass, and add in teaspoon of butter.

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

(Photo by Gaby Dyson)

4. Mulled Wine

Mulled wine is a classic winter warmer. This one is fortified with a bit of brandy for an extra kick. “I believe that the Mulled wine we make at Valerie just hits the mark for the season,” says Marshall Minaya, Beverage Director for Valerie in New York City. “With a little fresh ginger, honey bonded Apple Brandy, and the constant temperature it is what we want to serve you to warm you up.”

Ingredients:
1 (750ml) bottle Cabernet-Sauvignon
½ cup Lairds Bonded Apple Brandy
1 Orange (sliced)
6 whole Cloves
3 Cinnamon Sticks
3 Star Anise
3 Whole Allspice
¼ cup Honey Syrup
¼ cup Ginger Syrup

Directions: In a medium sauce pot, bring all ingredients to a simmer (not boil). Reduce heat and leave for 10 min. Cool, and store in Cambro. Pour 5oz from thermos into mug. Garnish with a dehydrated lemon wheel and grated cinnamon

5. Hot Fig-Rum Punch

This Hot Fig Rum Punch created by Ryan Gavin, Bar Manager, Gran Tivoli Peppi’s Cellar, has an old-school winter vibe that compliments the season. That was intentional. “I wanted to showcase the versatility of tropical flavors in how they combine well with the more traditional seasonal ingredients such as ginger and fig,” Gavin said. While he says that the punch is warming and wintry, he says the fruity notes from the rum and pineapple “evoke festivities of an exotic nature.” Damn right they do.

Ingredients:
.3 oz. Fig Vin Cotto
.5 oz. Pineapple syrup
.3 oz. Lactic Acid Solution (10%)
1.5 oz. Santa Teresa Rum
4 oz. Hot water
1 oz. Ginger turmeric teabag
Heat on steam wand

Directions: Build and server in a footed 6 oz. glass. Garnish with a quarter fig on skewer

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

6. Coffee & Cream

Spiked coffee makes a great pick-me-up for the colder months. Gavin’s Coffee Cream is a decadently delightful variation with a chilled sweet vanilla cream crown that floats on top of the drink. “We were aiming for some sort of elevated Irish coffee style of drink that would show off not just the delicious espresso but some nutty and rich notes from the brandy and Vin Santo,” Gavin says. “By adding the Mr. Black Coffee Liqueur, we were able to elevate the natural coffee flavor and bring the sweetness up to that magical point that is lip smacking, but not too syrupy.”

Ingredients:
.75 oz Brandy
.75 oz Mr Black Coffee Liqueur
.175 oz Vin Santo
1 oz Espresso
2 oz Hot Water
.75 Vanilla Cream
Glass: Footed 6 oz

Directions: Build and layer all ingredients in a footed 6 oz. glass. Garnish with cacao and bee pollen.

7. The Rum Hot Toddy

Simple and sweet, this Toddy variation is anchored with some stellar spiced rum for an added layer of warmth. “We make our Hot Toddy using Santa Teresa 1796 Rum,” says Kenneth McCoy, chief creative officer of the Rum House. “It’s rich, smooth and has hints of warming spices, that added with a hint of honey, fresh ginger and cinnamon is perfect for a winter warmer on a cold evening.”

Ingredients:
2 oz El Dorado Spiced Rum
.25 oz fresh lemon juice
.50 oz Demerara syrup
Hot water from a tea kettle
1 orange peel
1 lemon peel
Slice of fresh ginger
3-4 gloves
Cinnamon stick

Directions: Fill your Toddy glass with hot water from the kettle and cover the top with a plate to keep warm while preparing the drink. Place lemon peel, orange peel , cloves, fresh ginger and Demerara into a mixing glass use a muddler to lightly extract the juices from the zest’s and ginger. Add rum and lemon juice stir with a bar spoon. Dump water from your Toddy glass, and double strain the cocktail to remove the pulp. Add 3-4 ounces of hot water on top of liquid and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Navy’s small craft action teams defend US warships at sea

GULF OF ADEN (NNS) – Aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21), a small group is trained to defend the ship in an emergency situation.


This group of sailors, the Small Craft Action Team (SCAT), provides a surge capability for reacting to an emergency security situation within the defensive perimeter of the ship, and has earned high-level praise for its integration with the Marines of the embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

“SCAT is a team consisting of crew-served weapons machine gun operators that provide 360 degree coverage of the ship, an anti-terrorism tactical watch officer and a gunnery liaison officer,” said Lt. j.g. Frank Smeeks, New York’s anti-terrorism officer (ATO). “They are called away as a pre-planned response to threats the ship may face like a small boat attack or low, slow flyer.”

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Logistics Specialist 2nd Class William Aponte, aboard Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut (DDG 99), mans a 25mm machine gun as part of the small craft action team (SCAT) as the ship transits the Dover Straits, October 25, 2018.

US Navy/MCS 2nd Class Cameron M. Stoner

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US sailors with the small craft action team man and fire a .50-caliber machine gun on the forecastle of the Harpers Ferry-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry during a live-fire exercise in the Pacific Ocean, March 17, 2019.

US Navy/MCS 3rd Class Danielle A. Baker

“A SCAT member has to be qualified to shoot both the M240 and M2HB machine guns,” said Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Adam Gilbert, a SCAT watch stander. “They must know how to properly identify contacts and how to properly report them.”

New York puts SCAT members through rigorous training to ensure they are ready for any situation.

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Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Leogene Porticos communicates to the bridge using a sound-powered telephone to report surface contacts during a small craft action team drill aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge, August 22, 2018.

US Navy/MCS 2nd Class Dana D. Legg

“They must receive extensive training on many topics to include use of force and rules of engagement, warning shots, contact reporting and tracking, and how to clear machine guns of any malfunctions or stoppages,” said Smeeks.

This training was put to test during Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX), a pre-deployment exercise during which embarked assessors from Carrier Strike Group 4 gave New York’s SCAT the highest tier grade.

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A sailor assigned to San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage and Marines assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines H S Company, Scout Sniper Platoon, stand watch as part of the small craft action team during a force protection exercise, April 30, 2018.

US Navy/MCS 2nd Class Brandon Williams-Church

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US Marines assigned to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit participate in a small craft action team (SCAT) drill aboard Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Rushmore during Essex Amphibious Ready Group and 13th MEU exercise in the Pacific Ocean, May 2, 2018.

US Navy/MCS 3rd Class Reymundo A. Villegas III

Chief Gunner’s Mate Sierra Karatali said the sailors and Marines onboard “have one common goal: Defend the ship.”

“Training together allowed us to get to know one another and share techniques to make us better,” she said. “We became one team, in one fight.”

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Seaman Bryce Frost-Johnson, with the small craft action team, looks through binoculars aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) as the ship transits the Strait of Tiran, September 9, 2019.

US Navy/MCS 3rd Class Danielle A. Baker

SCAT is an integral part of many evolutions aboard the ship.

“If the ship is conducting a sea-and-anchor transit or a strait transit anywhere in the world, the SCAT team is employed during the entire transit, if not longer,” said Gilbert.

“It is a 24/7 reaction force, day or night. The amount of precision SCAT member has to effectively employ our crew-served weapons as a team is amazing, and I am proud to be a member of the team.”

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

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