Honoring our Gold Star Mothers: Today and always - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Honoring our Gold Star Mothers: Today and always

Gold Star Mother’s Day is a day to recognize and honor the mothers of service members who have died in the line of duty. Each year, there are events and meetings for Gold Star Mothers and their families.


Service Flags

The Gold Star has long been a symbol of a loved one lost in combat. During WWI, flags became a way for families to let others in their communities know about the status of their loved ones in the military. Blue Stars displayed on flags meant that a household had someone in the military who was deployed. Additional stars indicated additional family members.

If a family received news that their loved one had been killed in action, the star’s color was changed from blue to gold.

A Grieving Mother starts an organization 

In 1928, Grace Darling took the informal practice of flag display and formalized it into a non-profit organization, American Gold Star Mothers.

After her son, George Vaughn Seibold, volunteered for military service during WWI, Grace looked for ways to help her local community of veterans. She started visiting veterans in the greater Washington area, hoping that her presence might help them. When letters from her son stopped arriving in the mail, Grace feared the worst.

George’s remains were never found. Grace quickly realized that self-contained grief would eat her alive. So, she and 25 other grieving mothers met to create a formal organization that would help them collectively deal with their grief.

American Gold Star Mothers is formed

On June 4, 1928, Grace Darling and twenty-five other mothers formed the American Gold Star Mothers non-profit organization. Six months later, the organization was incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia. Within 90 days, the organization had almost tripled in size. Currently, the organization holds a congressional charter under Title 36-211 of the United States Code.

American Gold Star Mothers Inc. works on behalf of Gold Star families to educate the public on the unique challenges that Gold Star Mothers face. Their aim to inspire “true allegiance to the United States of America.” To advance this mission, the Gold Star Mothers hold an annual convention and have events centered around Gold Star Mother’s Day and Veteran’s Day. They also partner with Wreaths Across America to coordinate wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and 1,200 other locations in the U.S. and abroad.

Criteria for membership 

Membership into American Gold Star Mothers is open to any woman who is a U.S. citizen or legal resident who has lost a son or daughter in active service in the military, regardless of the place or time of military service and regardless of whether the circumstances of death involved hostile conflict or not. Membership is open to mothers of service members missing in action as well.

The current charter was ratified in 1984 and also includes mothers who are from U.S. territories or insular possessions. Membership is not contingent on whether the service member was killed in action or in the theater of action.

Non-adoptive stepmothers are also eligible for membership if they assume responsibility for the service member before the age of fifteen. Husbands and children of Gold Star Mothers are eligible to join as Associate Members. Honorary membership is provided to mothers who were not citizens or legal residents when their service member child was inducted.

National Gold Star Family Registry

National Gold Star Family Registry is a program that honors those who have died while defending our freedom. This non-profit is the first comprehensive database of fallen heroes that’s ever been developed. It allows family members a space to publicly remember their loved ones and serves as a historical log of those who have died in combat. Educational resources and personal accounts are also provided, which might help future generations better understand our nation’s heroes. Information for the registry is compiled from public sources, including the Department of Defense and the National Archives. Launched in 2010, the registry recognizes the need for families to be able to share the stories of their heroes with the world.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet Callie, the military’s only search-and-rescue dog

This is Callie, the only search and rescue dog in the entire U.S. military.

Callie and her handler, Master Sergeant Rudy Parsons, are assigned to the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, Kentucky Air National Guard.

Callie was “born” out of experience.

In 2010, a catastrophic earthquake rocked Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. The impoverished country’s infrastructure doubled under the strain of the magnitude 7 earthquake, which caused apocalyptic devastation.

The US military responded in force to the aid of the tried Haitians. In that humanitarian effort, the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) played a big part because of their unique capabilities. More specifically, it was AFSOC’s Combat Controllers (CCT), who specialize in airfield surveys and air traffic control, among other tasks, and Pararescuemen (PJ), who are the Department of Defense’s sole specially trained and equipped search-and-rescue (SAR) unit, that contributed the most.

Master Sgt. Parsons was one of the Pararescuemen that deployed to the Caribbean nation.

“Local sources were telling people that there was a schoolhouse that had collapsed with about 40 children inside,” Parsons had said in a 2019 interview. “A team of special tactics Airmen went over and started looking through the rubble, just carrying these rocks off, looking for these missing kids. A few days into the search, (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) was finally able to land. They brought a dog to the pile and were able to clear it in about 20 minutes. There was nobody in that pile.

Callie and Master Sergeant Rudy Parsons
Callie and Master Sergeant Rudy Parsons (SOCOM).

“It had been a couple [of] days of wasted labor that could’ve been used to help save other lives. It was at that time that we kind of realized the importance and the capability that dogs can bring to search and rescue. Every environment presents different difficulties, but it’s all restricted by our human limitations. Our current practice is: Hoping that we see or hear somebody.”

When he returned to the US, Parsons advocated and pushed for a search-and-rescue K-9 capability. In 2018, almost a decade after Haiti, his determination bore fruits and the Search and Rescue K-9 Program was created. The program aims to increase the effectiveness of Pararescue teams during natural disasters by pairing PJs with specially trained dogs.

Honoring our Gold Star Mothers: Today and always
Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search and rescue K-9, land at Fort McCoy, Wis. July 17, 2019, as part of an domestic operations exercise. Callie is currently the only search and rescue dog in the Department of Defense. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton).

The first, and only, canine to have been accepted in the program is Callie, a Dutch shepherd. What differentiates her from other military working dogs (MWD) and special operations military working dogs (SOMWD) is her ability to located people, injured or not, in adverse conditions. Whether it’s in a forest, collapsed building, or the wilderness, Callie can use her nose, senses, and body to go where humans cannot go easily. And in emergencies, time is of the essence.

To be operational, Callie, and any future SAR dogs, has had to qualify in a number of insertion methods that Pararescuemen use, such as fast-roping, mountain climbing and rappelling, and parachuting (both static-line and military freefall).

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine veteran combats PTSD symptoms by serving others

Following World War I, many troops were rapidly diagnosed with “shell shock.” World War II brought the new label of “combat stress reaction.” Today, it’s known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD – which is diagnosed when negative symptoms arise after experiencing a traumatic event. Marine veteran John Welch doesn’t shy away from sharing his own diagnosis of PTSD caused by combat. In fact, he thinks it’s vital that it is talked about, because that’s the only way veterans will begin to heal.


Welch followed his father and brothers into the Marines. He always knew he’d become one himself because it was ingrained into him his whole life. Although he doesn’t regret a moment of his service to this country, he’s uncomfortable with talking about it. For a long time, being a Marine was all that he had and it wasn’t enough.

Honoring our Gold Star Mothers: Today and always

He knows the dark and deeply-rooted impacts of PTSD intimately because he lived in that space for a long time after leaving the Marine Corps. Welch said that he slowly came back to life after receiving his service dog, Onyx, four years ago. “She took me out of the darkness and brought me back into the world,” he shared. Once Welch was on his own path of healing, he wanted to find ways to help other veterans make it there too.

He started with reclaimed wood.

Welch feels like he was probably always artistic, but that by working through his trauma by using things like art, he flourished. Since then, he has spent years building and creating custom wooden American flags for veterans. He doesn’t charge for them or take requests but instead waits to be led to the person who needs one the most. At this point, he has made hundreds.

“Yeah, I have PTSD. But there is a way out. That way out is to do for others,” Welch said candidly. He believes serving others saved him. Welch uses his flag art to work through his own trauma and give back, but he is also a peer liaison volunteer at his local VA. There, he works closely with other veterans suffering from the debilitating effects of PTSD. He was feeling content. But there was more waiting for him.

While shopping at his local Christmas tree store, he ran into a friend. After talking a while, he suggested that Welch join Team Rubicon, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that serves communities by mobilizing veterans to continue their service and leverages their skills and experience to help people prepare, respond and recover from disaster and humanitarian crisis. The friend wouldn’t give him details and instead pushed him to look it up. After he learned TR’s mission, he realized it was a way he could continue to further his service, and joined immediately, spending almost his first year deployed on Team Rubicon operations.

“Team Rubicon gave me the ability to serve others,” Welch said. “I lost that sense of service when I left the military. When I joined Team Rubicon, it gave me that back.” Welch has now been a volunteer with Team Rubicon since 2018 and has gone on several deployments with them. Currently, he’s entering his tenth straight week serving in the COVID-19 response team for New York.

Honoring our Gold Star Mothers: Today and always

There’s nowhere he’d rather be than beside his fellow “Greyshirt” teammates helping people in need. “Team Rubicon has been instrumental in getting me better,” he shared. When the newest Team Rubicon volunteers didn’t receive their coveted grey shirts in time, Welch jumped in immediately and handcrafted wood plaques for them to welcome them to the team.

Welch shared that at one time he was deemed “broken.” He discovered that by serving others, he was made whole again. “When you look back at your life, you should ask, ‘Did I make a difference in the world?'” he said. Although he knows most people cannot give the amount of time that he does to service, he hopes that those who hear his story see the importance of giving back.

While Welch quite literally spends almost his entire day in service of some kind, he’s never been happier. It saved him. He’s hoping it’ll save others too.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Win the first War on Terror by backing ‘Shores of Tripoli’ on Kickstarter

It was the first time the United States fought a pitched battle on foreign soil and, as a sign of things to come, came out the victor. In 1805, Arab mercenaries and United States Marines under the command of William Eaton and Marine Lt. Presley O’Bannon marched on the Tripolitan city of Derna. Their mission was to capture the city, then restore the rightful (American friendly) ruler of Tripoli to the throne. The Marines were outnumbered by nearly ten to one and made an overland march of 500 miles before they could even attack.

Well, do you have a better idea? A new strategy game on Kickstarter invites you to give it a shot.


In Shores of Tripoli, a new game from Washington, DC’s Fort Circle Games, take one or two players to take up arms as either the United States or the Bashaw of Tripoli in a game of wits and maneuvers designed to bend your opponent to your will. Tripolitania wants to keep conducting pirate raids that have brought it so much wealth in gold and slaves. The United States is out to end the reign of Barbary terror and restore the freedom of American ships at sea.

With cards representing significant events and the most important players in these events, players use dice and in-game figurines to start battles, start diplomatic talks, and get more troops to the fight. To win, the Americans must force the Tripolitans to submit to a peace treaty or forcibly install a pro-American ruler.

Guess which route the Marines chose.

Honoring our Gold Star Mothers: Today and always

“Lolz” – Lt. Presley O’Bannon.

To win as Tripoli, you have to inflict enough shock and damage on the Americans and their squadron of ships as possible, sinking four frigates or capturing 12 merchantmen.

Shores of Tripoli the board game honestly looks like any history buff’s greatest wet dream. Along with educational information about the conflict, the game comes with a high-quality game map, 82 wooden game pieces, and a lot of other high-quality elements. One historian’s review of the game called it “historically accurate” and “sophisticated” as well as “beautifully designed” and – most importantly, “very fun.

Now learning about military history doesn’t have to mean memorizing a bunch of boring dates. Now it means taking down the first terrorists with the United States Marine Corps.
Honoring our Gold Star Mothers: Today and always

Which looks like everything I’ve ever wanted in any game anywhere.

(Shores of Tripoli on Kickstarter)

You won’t get it in time for Christmas 2019, but for a backing of .00 you can get a copy of this amazing-looking historical strategy game. Or in true Marine Corps fashion, you can donate your copy to Toys for Tots. As you donate more money, you get more copies of the game, presumably one for yourself and up to 30 to donate to schools and Toys for Tots.

William Eaton just declared himself general and commander of the force that attacked Derna. For id=”listicle-2641249602″,000 you can declare yourself the Executive Producer of Shores of Tripoli game. Head on over to its Kickstarter page to find out how.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Navy SEAL will help you survive anything, anywhere

Retired Navy SEAL Clint Emerson spent decades serving American interests across the globe, doing dangerous work in dangerous places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, he runs a company that helps people prepare for a crisis, and he wants to share some of his experience with you.


Retired Navy SEAL Explains How to Prepare for Dangerous Situations | Tradecraft | WIRED

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The broad message of his video is something that will sound familiar to any veteran: plan and mentally rehearse.

Look, no one can be truly “prepared” during their first active shooter situation, their first kidnapping, or massive natural disaster. Most of us will never face one of those situations (thankfully). But, precisely because those types of events are so rare, most of us have never given much thought to how to survive something like that.

And that can be a mistake. The second worst time to figure out how to survive in a crisis is during a crisis. The only worse moment is to figure it out after it’s too late to survive.

The best time is whenever you’re calm, when you have a few minutes. Since you’re reading an internet article, we’re going to assume that’s right now.

This is the best time because you can apply your rational, calm mind to the planning, so you make the best decisions possible.

And once you’re in planning mode, Emerson has all sorts of tips to help you out. For instance, always figure out your exits. For anywhere you go often, like work and home, plan out escape routes, know the dead ends where you could be trapped, figure out what areas provide cover from attackers or high winds. For anywhere else, mark the doors and windows when you enter.

And be sure to have at least one or two exit options that aren’t the obvious one, if possible.

He also has tips to specific situations, like trusting your eyes instead of ears when looking for a shooter or heading to the stairs during a fire in order to get fresh air. You can jump from about three stories and likely survive in a crisis if you have to. And try to avoid going above the 12th floor in a building if possible, because rescue trucks can usually only extend ladders 120 feet.

Check out the video above to get a lot more tips from Emerson.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What Snowden has to say about theory that the government is hiding aliens

Edward Snowden shut down the conspiracy theory that the US government is secretly harboring aliens at its top secret facilities during an episode of “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast, which aired on Oct. 23, 2019.

Snowden, an American whistleblower who revealed details of classified US government surveillance programs in 2013, addressed rumors about secret extraterrestrial lifeforms in his recently released memoir “Permanent Record.”

“I know, Joe, I know you want there to be aliens,” he said. “I know Neil deGrasse Tyson badly wants there to be aliens. And there probably are, right?”

“I do,” Rogan responded.


Speaking to Rogan from Russia, where he has been granted asylum, Snowden said as far as he knew the US government has not made contact with aliens and is not housing them at their facilities, like that of Area 51 in Nevada.

“But the idea that we’re hiding them — if we are hiding them — I had ridiculous access to the networks of the NSA, the CIA, the military, all these groups. I couldn’t find anything,” he asserted.

He said, he found no evidence of extraterrestrial life during his time spent snooping through government databases when he worked as a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Joe Rogan Experience #1368 – Edward Snowden

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He admitted that it was entirely possible that knowledge of alien contact were “hidden really damn well” from people with direct access to classified information.

“Everybody wants to believe in conspiracy theories because it helps life make sense,” he told Rogan. “It helps us believe that somebody is in control, that somebody is calling the shots.”

In his book, which came out September 2019, Snowden shut down other popular conspiracy theories, like the idea that the US faked the moon landing, or that climate science is a hoax.

“For the record, as far as I could tell, aliens have never contacted Earth, or at least they haven’t contacted US intelligence,” he wrote.

“Yes, man really did land on the moon. Climate change is real. Chemtrails are not a thing,” he added.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The science behind why beer tastes better outdoors

The difference between a good beer and a great beer could be the door that hits you on your way out to take a swig. There’s just something about having a cold one outside that makes the overall experience, including the taste itself, more enjoyable, experts agree. By taking the beer out of the kitchen or the bar, it becomes more celebratory, yet rebellious in nature — both aspects of life busy that parents could use more of.



“People have better associations with being outside, so their mood is generally higher,” Matthew Johnson, a professor of psychology at Hult International Business School in San Francisco, told Fatherly. The indoors, on the other hand, conjures memories of work, deadlines, responsibilities. “Having a unique experience can galvanize the pleasure response, so you would enjoy a beer a bit more by being outside.”

When people don’t drink too often or too much, a few beers can go a long way toward creating a pleasurable, relaxing experience. Alcohol kicks off a healthy release of endorphins, and a dopamine response along the reward pathways of the brain, research shows. There is also evidence that alcohol inhibits the central nervous system’s ability to respond to stress, which may explain why alcohol, in moderation, helps you unwind.

Honoring our Gold Star Mothers: Today and always

(Photo by Stacie DaPonte)

When you then take that experience outdoors, you get the added benefit of vitamin D, which helps to boost mood, immunity, and even weight loss, Johnson says. “I would imagine that this general phenomenon of alcohol reducing stress is compounded by being outside, given the positive associations we have,” he says.

Individuals who have had positive experiences with the outdoors are most likely to benefit from sipping a cold one in their backyards, Ryan Daley, a Master Cicerone and Senior Educator at Anheuser-Busch, told Fatherly. “Most people are already feeling great being outdoors, soaking up the sun, and hanging out with family and friends,” he says. “This is why drinking beer in the summertime is so enjoyable.” Daley beers that incorporate summers smells such as flowers, fruits, grills, and even sunscreen, to maximize the experience. He says beer styles such as kölsche, session IPAs, saisons, goses, and dark milds are all good options.

Beyond positive associations with nature, Johnson suspects that there’s something sweetly transgressive about drinking outdoors, especially in areas that have laws prohibiting it. But it’s not just the fear of getting reprimanded by a beach cop that motivates the rush. Perhaps the most important association people have with drinking outside is that it typically occurs during special occasions. A drink on your porch reminds you of a drink at a sprawling, outdoor family reunion, and helps reproduce those pleasurable feelings.

It’s not simply that the ambience of nature helps enhance what’s great about beer, but what’s great about beer also enhances what is great about the outdoors. It’s a better party when they both show up together.

“The primary reason why we beer would enhance the feeling of being outside is because both mirror the same, desirable emotions,” Johnson says. “The outside environment physically resembles the emotions we typically enjoy through alcohol, like being uninhibited and unconstrained.”

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Space Force is heading on deployment – to the Arabian Desert

It’s easy to joke about the Space Force. From their ridiculous motto to their seal, it seems like the leadership for America’s newest military branch is just asking to be the butt of jokes. Space Force is the sixth branch of our military and the first new branch since the Air Force’s creation way back in 1947. At least the Air Force had a precursor (the Army Air Corps) and a definite need. With the Space Force, we’re not so sure.

We’re no closer to getting personnel on the moon than we were back in 1947, and it seems like everyone from Netflix to Star Trek is getting in on the jokes.


Now Space Force just made it a whole lot easier.

In September, a squadron of 20 airmen deployed for Space Force’s first foreign deployment – all the way to far off distant Dubai, UAE. The squad was sworn in as Space Force recruits at the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, becoming the military’s newest first foreign deployed trips. What makes this swearing-in unique is that all 20 squad members were already searching overseas with the Air Force. The group of enlisted and commissioned Airmen assigned to the 16th Expeditionary Space Control Flight and the 609th Air Operations Center was deployed to Qatar. With their swearing-in comes a new uniform and a new place to call home for a while.

Air Force Col. Todd Benson, director of Space Forces of US Air Forces CENTCOM, said that the group was making history as the 20 members officially switched branches from the Air Force to the Space Force. The ceremony officially transferred Space Operations and Airmen in core space career fields, including space operations and space system operations. In the future, ceremonies will induct professions in common career fields like acquisitions, intelligence, engineering fields, and cybersecurity.

According to a press release, the squad has been stationed in the UAE as part of support for combat operations.

During the swearing-in ceremony at Al Udeid, the newest Space Force personnel were flanked by American flags and massive satellites. Soon more will join the “core space operators” to help run satellites, track enemy maneuvers, and avoid conflicts that happen in space.

Benson reiterated that the missions aren’t new, and neither are the personnel. But what is new is the price tag. The force is expected to grow to at least 16,000 troops by 2021 and have a budget of 15.4 billion. Some leadership worries this entire project is a vanity push for President Trump ahead of next month’s election, though there’s no conclusive evidence to support that.

The growing concerns over the weaponization of outer space are conversations that senior military leaders have been having for decades. As outer space ownership becomes increasingly contested, many cite the need to have a space corps devoted specifically to American interests.

Of course, military presence in the Middle East is nothing new. We’ve been there in some capacity for generations.

But according to historians, the Middle East might just be where the first “space war” was actually fought – that is, if you’re willing to accept the use of a satellite-based GPS mission as a “space war.” During the 1991 Desert Storm operation, US troops used satellites to push Iraqi troops out of Kuwait, making military history in the process.

Since the 1991 use of satellites in combat, threats from global agitators have grown. In his briefing welcoming the newest personnel, Benson declined to name the “aggressive” nations the Space Force will monitor and track. Unsurprisingly, the decision to deploy the Space Force to the UAE comes just months after the ramp-up of tensions between the US and Iran.

The 16th Space Control Flight, part of the 21st Operations Group, was operational from 1967 until 1994. It was reactivated in 2007, and its mission is to protect critical satellite communication links to detect, characterize, and report sources of electromagnetic interference.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Which special operators make the best CIA agents?

There are more rumors and myths floating around about the Central Intelligence Agency then there are actual facts. “The Agency” or “The Company” is charged with preempting threats and furthering national security objectives by collecting and analyzing intelligence and conducting covert action while simultaneously safeguarding our nation’s secrets. It’s a broad mission, and a lot of trust has been granted to them by the American people to carry it out.

But it takes a special kind of person to thrive in the CIA.

Who, or what, are they looking for? And do those who served at the tip of the spear while in the military have a competitive advantage? If so, is a U.S. Navy SEAL better than a U.S. Army Ranger? Or does a Green Beret’s experience hold more weight when competing for one of the few spots available as a gray man?


The CIA doesn’t publicly answer any of those questions, instead opting to keep their ideal candidate’s qualifications vague. So we reached out to a few veterans of the Agency to see if they noticed any trends.

Honoring our Gold Star Mothers: Today and always

Hafer while deployed to Africa.

(Photo courtesy of Evan Hafer)

Evan Hafer, former CIA contractor

Evan Hafer is in the coffee business these days, but he started out as a U.S. Army Special Forces NCO (noncommissioned officer) before transitioning to contracting for the CIA. He’s deployed dozens of times around the world on their behalf, and he even assessed and trained those who were trying out for the Agency’s elite high-threat, low-visibility security force toward the end of his career.

“It all depends on what kind of officer you’re looking for,” Hafer said. “When you look at paramilitary operations, they have a wide variety of objectives. A good portion is working by, through, and with foreign nationals while conducting covert action. For a long time, Special Forces did a lot of covert action, so they made for the best agents in that respect.”

Honoring our Gold Star Mothers: Today and always

Hafer while deployed to Afghanistan.

(Photo courtesy of Evan Hafer)

Hafer went on to explain that there are different types of jobs at the Agency that require different skill sets. “Typically a good Ranger NCO will make a great guy for on-the-ground, high-threat, low-visibility security work. And Marines across the spectrum are pretty good at a lot of different things.”

Hafer made sure to note the difference between conducting direct action (DA) in the military’s special operations units and gathering intelligence for the CIA. “If you like blowing doors down, intel will bore the fuck out of you,” Hafer said. “It’s a lot of writing, and regardless of background, guys who enjoy DA might not like the intel job.”

“If you’re a hammer and every problem is a nail, then you won’t like being the pen.”

Honoring our Gold Star Mothers: Today and always

(Photo courtesy of Bob Baer)

Bob Baer, former CIA case officer

You may recognize Bob Baer from his work hosting investigative shows on the History Channel or delivering commentary on CNN, but before that he spent 21 years as a CIA case officer. He deployed around the world, speaks eight languages, and even won the CIA’s career intelligence medal.

“It’s almost always Special Forces,” Baer said about the ideal background for working operations in the CIA. “These guys are out in places training locals. I found the SF guys, especially the ones who have experience working in strange places, to be most effective.”

Honoring our Gold Star Mothers: Today and always

(Photo courtesy of Bob Baer)

He even went so far as to say that elite Tier 1 operators (that many would assume to be perfect for the job) often don’t work out. “For them, it’s so low-speed — there’s not as much excitement as they’re used to. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Delta or SEAL Team Six guy make the adjustment.”

Baer echoed Hafer’s sentiment toward the U.S. Marines, saying, “It seemed the Marines did a good job adjusting.” And admitted that he usually preferred a military background over a straight academic: “All in all, people who were in the military were best because they learned about dealing with government BS, while the least equipped were always the academics.”

We are the Directorate of Operations

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Robyn, former CIA case officer

Robyn, like Baer, was a case officer for the CIA and spent years running sources around the world — to include active combat zones. She asked that we not use her last name but was happy to offer her thoughts on not just the ideal military resume, but also what it actually takes to be a successful case officer regardless of background.

“At the end of the day, you’re selling a lemon. You’re convincing someone to commit espionage and provide intel against their country in exchange for whatever is valuable to them,” Robyn explained. “You have to convince them that you care, that their life matters — whether it does or not.”

“So the guys that do well are the guys that understand the human factor,” she continued. “They have to understand what makes someone tick and pretend to be concerned. People are not going to put their lives at risk for someone who doesn’t care. You have to care.”

Robyn recalled a former state trooper who she worked with that did well, noting that a law enforcement background laid a solid foundation for talking to people who can be difficult to extract information from, such as witnesses and victims.

“The militant guys don’t do well,” Robyn said, noting that there’s a difference between being militant and being from the military, and that it takes a unique person to operate in the gray for months or even years at a time. “They’ve gotta operate without mental, emotional, or personal boundaries. There’s no commander’s intent, and the mission isn’t always clear. A renaissance man will do better than the fire-breather, even if they both come from Special Forces. We need the guys who can jump between philosophy and tactics while maneuvering in all different environments.”

The one thing that Hafer, Baer, and Robyn all agreed on is that no single bullet point on a resume qualifies someone for the difficult work of the CIA. They all emphasized that it takes a special person, and the best people at the Agency often have certain intangibles that you either have or you don’t. It seems it takes much more than a trident or a tab to make it into the nation’s most elite intelligence agency — and that’s a good thing.

Trojan Footprint: Embedded with Special Forces in Europe

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This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

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The ‘Yucca Man’ is a beast that stalks Marines at 29 Palms

There are many versions of the age-old story. A Marine is assigned to a remote area of Twentynine Palms when he suddenly finds himself alone, in the dark, and being circled by a wild, growling beast. He pulls up his weapon and flashlight to see an eight-foot-tall hairy creature on two legs with glowing red eyes. The Marine then is either knocked cold or passes out from fear, awaking to find his weapon bent or broken in half.

Another Marine survives his encounter with the “Yucca Man,” a Bigfoot-like beast of military legend – and the story is given new life.


Honoring our Gold Star Mothers: Today and always
Yucca Man sightings have persisted among military personnel as late as 2009. (Desert Oracle)

 

He goes by a number of names, including the Mojave Bigfoot, the Sierra Highway Devil, and even the slightly endearing nickname “Marvin of the Mojave.” His appearance isn’t limited to the relatively recent arrival of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. The local native tribes have been telling stories of “hairy devils” who have lived in the deserts among the Joshua Trees for as long as native tribes have been around.

As the area around the San Bernardino mountains began to develop in the middle of the 20th century, it seems the wild man, the Yucca Man, were pushed out of their native habitat and headfirst into developing civilization. Strange reports of large, bipedal beasts were reported as far west as Palmdale and Edwards Air Force Base.

Honoring our Gold Star Mothers: Today and always
Unlike traditional Bigfoot sightings, the Yucca Man was said to be “huge, scary, aggressive, fast and threatening.”

 

It was at Edwards AFB, with its numerous security cameras, that reports of the Yucca Man were said to be captured on video. More strange than that, the wild men were said to have actually been caught on camera, moving through the guarded, secure underground tunnels that hide the U.S. military’s most advanced top secret technology. In the 1960s and 1970s, U.S. Air Force air police units would be sent on wild goose chases in the catacombs of Edwards tunnels after the men, who would suddenly disappear.

On Edwards AFB, however, the beast had blue eyes, not red. The blue eyes, according to one air policeman who was caught alone with the beast, were said to be four inches apart – the eyes of a predator – and rise seven feet off the ground. They glowed blue to the man who was sitting in his police truck. Suddenly, the eyes darted closer and covered half the distance between the animal and the truck in the blink of an eye. As an overwhelming stench filled the air, the airman took a disturbance call and drove off.

The airmen called it “Blue Eyes” for the rest of their time in the desert – and still talk about him to this day.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Air Force veteran John Baxter, 9/11 responder

On Sept. 11, 2001, Air Force flight surgeon John Baxter showed up to work at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, to a full load of patients and completing physicals — just like any other day.

Halfway through his morning while getting his next patient, he saw that a civilian airliner had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers.

While with the patient, Baxter said he noticed the background noise in the Pentagon changed. It seemed quieter than usual. Then, he heard shouts. He opened his door and saw people running and shouting, and smoke in the hallway.


At first, Baxter didn’t know if there was an explosion, a fire or some other event. Despite the unknowns, he assembled his team of flight surgeons, a nurse and medical technicians. They grabbed medical kits and traveled as a group. Their emergency plan was to meet up with other medics at the Pentagon’s DiLorenzo Clinic.

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A red flower sits atop of every bench to remember the fallen on Sept. 11, 2001, during the Pentagon Memorial Observance Ceremony in Washington D.C., Sept. 11, 2018.

(Defense Department photo by Tech. Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

Then they heard the news: there were casualties in corridor 5.

Baxter’s team ran to the spot. They found Army veteran Brian Birdwell, who was in excruciating pain from burns. It was a situation that Baxter was unexpectedly prepared for: Months earlier, in an emergency exercise, the flight clinic trained for the same scenario that unfolded on 9/11: a plane crashing into the Pentagon.

John Baxter still serves at the Pentagon, though now as a civilian flight surgeon. For this week’s Born the Battle Podcast, Baxter details his story of 9/11 and the days that followed.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 New Year’s resolutions every military spouse will break

There’s something magical about the approach of a New Year. After all, it’s the time we tend to create wonderful fantasies about what the coming year will bring. Untold riches, a beautiful new hobby, and a six-pack that would make Schwarznegger shed a tear are at the top of many lists.

However, come the end of January – let’s face it. The struggle bus is real and the wheels are about to come off. And you know what? That’s ok!

This New Year, give yourself some grace if you make – and then break – these resolutions.


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1. Limit Family Screen Time, Starting with Fortnite

I guess we could cut back an hour…or two…and parent by using less screen time in the house. But, since we’re talking crazy, I could also churn my own butter, but that’s not happening either.

Honoring our Gold Star Mothers: Today and always

2. ‘Marie Kondo’ the $@%& Out of this House Before We PCS

Converts swear by organizational queen Marie Kondo’s life-changing magic of tidying up. And soon, you too find dreams of nice, clutter-free spaces dancing in your head. This year is finally THE YEAR to de-clutter before a PCS.

But let’s face it. Once you pull out every piece of clothing and lay it on your bed, it doesn’t take long to realize this little exercise does anything but spark joy. Back into the closet it goes, right next to “The Box” and the curtains you swore would fit in the next house.

Honoring our Gold Star Mothers: Today and always

3. Not Go Into Feral-Mode Every Time My Spouse Leaves

Whether it’s a lengthy deployment, or the seemingly never-ending rounds of TDYs – it’s oh so tempting to set the loftiest of lofty self-improvement goals to stay busy while our spouses are away from home.

But, if you find yourself having ice cream, mac and cheese, or wine for dinner for a week straight, that’s ok too. We’ve all been there.

Honoring our Gold Star Mothers: Today and always

4. Stay on Top of the Laundry

Is that the third time I’ve washed the same load of laundry – because I left it overnight in the machine? Someone remind me – why did we ever want to grow up and become adults?

Honoring our Gold Star Mothers: Today and always

5. Not Buy Plane Tickets Before Leave is Finalized

Until one magical commercial later. Disney – here we come. Hopefully.

Honoring our Gold Star Mothers: Today and always

6. Finally, Step Outside of my Comfort Zone

This is the year I’m finally going to do it! I will step outside of my comfort zone, meet that village I keep hearing about, learn a new hobby, and sign up for ALL of the things. Crochet, CrossFit and Zumba – here I come!

Right after I finish catching up on my latest Facebook gossip and hiding in my car for five minutes in the commissary parking lot to avoid people…

Honoring our Gold Star Mothers: Today and always

7. Learn to Better Manage my Time

Ok, who are we kidding? I call foul and blame the military for teaching us constant lessons in the fine skill of “hurry-up…and wait.”

This year, let’s resolve to give ourselves grace and let go of the pressure to be perfect. Regrets? None.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Dumb military rules I absolutely hate

“KEEP OFF THE COMMANDER’S GRASS.”

But why?

The military loves its rules and regulations. There are books upon books upon books filled with governance on everything from how to dress to how to stay alive. It’s a good thing, even if it is really obnoxious. The military is supposed to be a standardized, uniformed, disciplined unit, after all.

But there’s always someone who takes it too far.


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If someone told me to PT in the grass, my first reaction would be to wonder if it was a trap.

1. “Don’t walk on the grass.”

Sometimes, when humans and other animals take a shortcut over vegetation, they wear it down, eventually killing what’s underfoot and making a trail. This looks unsightly on a well-groomed lawn. If that were the reason troops are prohibited from walking on the grass, I could get on board. Seems logical enough: Don’t ruin the foliage.

But that’s not what this is about.

I once saw a guy get ripped apart because he stepped off the walkway to tie his shoe. He made the logical choice to not block foot traffic and correct a safety concern and some first sergeant took it upon himself to stomp over and start screaming at the guy for “walking on the commander’s grass.”

The military doesn’t really issue explanations along with their rules, so everyone has a different explanation as to why troops can’t walk on the grass on base. The consensus seems to be that it’s unbecoming. Some say that taking a shortcut is symbolic and antithetical to military motivation and commitment.

There’s also a “shut up and color” mentality in the military — follow orders and don’t ask questions. I get that troops need to follow orders during combat, but there has to be some flexibility when it comes to the military environment. We also need troops to be problem-solvers, critical thinkers, and, you know, confident, mentally-sound human beings.

Yelling in someone’s face over an understandable train of thought? Dumb.

Honoring our Gold Star Mothers: Today and always

“…unless you’re Dwight D. Eisenhower.”

2. “Keep your hands out of your pockets.”

According to the Navy, “While in uniform, it is inappropriate and detracts from military smartness for personnel to have their hands in their pockets.”

That sounds like an opinion to me — a dumb opinion.

You know what detracts from military smartness? Cold hands.

“But Shannon, you could wear gloves!”

It’s not that f***ing cold. It’s just kinda cold.

Or maybe it isn’t cold at all. It’s just comfortable to stand with your hands in your pockets. It allows you to roll your shoulders back and open your chest and lung cavity with minimal effort. Sure, it’s more casual. And I’m not condoning a formation of warriors shoving their hands in their pockets before battle, but on a lazy Tuesday afternoon in the middle of Oklahoma, why not I say?!

Besides, if it’s good enough for Chesty Puller AND THESE OTHER HEROES, then it’s good enough for me!

Air Force Master Sgt. Vincent Brass, a first sergeant at the time, made the argument that there should be no standard too small to enforce because there is a danger in picking and choosing which standards are mandatory.

I will grant Sgt. Brass this but I would argue that this is why it’s so important to stay mindful about the rules we create — and why it’s important to evolve as a service.

Which leads me to… yet another dumb rule.

Related: 21 pictures of U.S. military legends with their hands in their pockets

Honoring our Gold Star Mothers: Today and always

The Thunderbirds: proving you can be professional, awesome, and standardized — even if you’re protecting your vision.

3. “No ear or eye protection in formation.”

This one really pisses me off: regulating ear and eye protection in formation.

You know why humans wear ear muffs in cold weather? Because lower temperatures can decrease blood circulation and cause ear pain and headaches.

Furthermore, you can get develop frostbite in 40-degree Fahrenheit weather, depending on the wind.

So, let’s say it’s, oh I don’t know, 0700 on a chilly January morning in South Korea. Outside, you’re looking at an average temperature of 15 degrees. Even if the wind is only blowing a paltry 5 miles an hour, you can develop frostbite in under 10 minutes. Meanwhile, you’re standing in formation waiting for some general to show up for the “fun run” when your Deputy Squadron Commander yells at you for wearing ear protection, saying you’re a disappointing officer and a bad leader.

Well you know what, Colonel? You’re a disappointing officer and a bad leader because you don’t take care of your people! Sorry no one else brought ear muffs and we aren’t all gonna look the same for the general. Maybe the rest of the formation is more afraid of getting yelled at by you than they are concerned about taking care of themselves — but that’s not me.

You know why humans wear sunglasses? To protect our eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. If we don’t protect our eyes, we can get cataracts, macular degeneration, and pterygium. Those conditions all impair our vision, if you’re not familiar.

The United States Department of Defense knows this, which is why service members are allowed to wear sunglasses that meet regulation while in uniform. But some commanders still don’t think they should wear them in formation. Air Force regulations AFI 36-2903 specifically prohibits wearing sunglasses in formation unless someone has a note from a doctor.

Well, I think it’s clear by now that I think it’s more important to protect people than it is to maintain uniformity, but hey, I get that standing in straight lines is an ancient if antiquated thing for the military to do — so why not just make it mandatory to protect yourself outdoors?

The bottom line is that it is dumb to reprimand someone for protecting themselves when there is no legitimate downside to it.

Honoring our Gold Star Mothers: Today and always

May as well be terrorists.

Bonus: “Don’t walk and talk on the phone in uniform.”

Final dumb rule of this rant: While walking in uniform, use of personal electronic media devices, including ear pieces, speaker phones, or text messaging, is limited to emergencies or when official notifications are necessary.

Sigh.

I could see the argument for not walking while holding a phone up to your ear — it gets weird with saluting.

I can definitely see why troops deployed to combat zones shouldn’t walk around using their devices — they need to be vigilant and nimble.

But stateside… walking with a headset… come on.

Come on.

Come on.

What’s the argument there?

Until someone can give me a good one I’m calling it: DUMB.

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