How the Army's 'Robin Sage' puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

Every few months, several North Carolina counties host a unique special-operations event.

Robin Sage is a four-week exercise that all Special Forces candidates must pass before they graduate and don the coveted Green Beret.

Named after Col. Jerry Michael Sage, an Office of Strategic Services (OSS) operative who was captured by the Nazis and attempted to escape more than 12 times before succeeding, Robin Sage is the culminating exercise of the Special Forces pipeline.

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina
Special Forces candidates listen to a briefing during the final phase of field training known as Robin Sage in central North Carolina, July 9, 2019. 

It takes place in the fictional country of Pineland, which spans about 50,000 square miles in the woods of North Carolina.

The Army’s Special Forces, known as Green Berets, mainly specialize in training and supporting foreign forces, counterterrorism, and reconnaissance, as well as carrying out its own small-scale raids and ambushes.

Green Berets operate in 12-man detachments and work with and through partner forces. They receive extensive cultural and linguistic training that enables them to operate anywhere in the world.

But it is during Robin Sage that they get their first real taste of what Special Forces does.

The road to Robin Sage

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina
A Special Forces candidate leads mules to a staging area to be loaded with rucksacks for a long-distance movement during the final phase of field training known as Robin Sage in central North Carolina, June 7, 2020. 

To make it to Robin Sage, prospective Green Berets must first pass the Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS), a 21-day course that pushes candidates to their physical and mental limits.

Those who successfully complete SFAS move on to the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC), or Q Course.

There have been almost 30 different versions of Q Course during its nearly 60-year history. Until recently, it was close to two years long. However, the course was revamped in 2019 and now lasts about six months. It is broken into four major phases: Small Unit Tactics, Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE), Military Occupational Specialty training, and Robin Sage.

After several months of training, students come together for Robin Sage and work as a team using the different skills they have learned.

Free Pineland!

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina
Special Forces candidates School meet with role players acting as village leaders during the final phase of field training known as Robin Sage in central North Carolina, July 9, 2019. 

In the fictional scenario of Robin Sage, Special Forces candidates must help a guerrilla force, which is usually led by retired Green Berets, overthrow the illegitimate government of Pineland.

“Today, we read a lot about proxy warfare, and that is what Robin Sage is in a nutshell,” Steve Balestrieri, a retired Special Forces warrant officer who also served as an instructor for the course, told Insider.

“The Special Forces candidates have to meet up with and make rapport with a third-world nation guerrilla force, train them up, and then work by, with, and through that guerrilla force to conduct combat operations against a numerically superior enemy occupying force,” Balestrieri said.

During Robin Sage, students are tested on what they have learned in Q Course. They teach their partner force small-unit tactics, provide medical care, build outposts, and establish communications with headquarters.

They also conduct reconnaissance, raids, ambushes, and numerous other missions and are tested on other challenges they might encounter on the battlefield.

For example, teams are often presented with war-crime scenarios, where their partner force wants to “execute” a prisoner or “destroy” a village. It falls on the team to successfully negotiate those delicate situations without losing the support of their allies or violating the laws of war.

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina
Special Forces candidates move a simulated casualty during the evaluation and final phase of field training known as Robin Sage in central North Carolina, July 11, 2019. 

It’s the ever-important human element that makes Robin Sage special. The social interactions between the team and the “guerrillas” might mean mission success or failure on the battlefield.

“Our Robin Sage [infiltration] was supposed to be brutal, our rucks weighing more than 100 pounds each,” John Black, a retired Green Beret, told Insider.

“We had packed everything in preparation for more than two weeks in the field with no resupply. Two Blackhawk choppers dropped us off behind enemy lines where we were to meet our partner force in the middle of the night,” Black said. “We walked and walked with this guy for hours in what seemed like a circle — he was lost. The captain asked to help him navigate with the map. Turned out we had been circling the camp for hours and the solution was simple — ask if he needed help.”

Perhaps the most important aspect of Robin Sage is the hands-on lesson it provides to future operators about the main mission of Special Forces, which is unconventional warfare — activities that help a resistance movement or insurgent force take on a bigger power.

“As a Green Beret, I feel Robin Sage is imperative and really gets you to think about the real mission of Special Forces, to work with and through a partner force,” Black added. “Very little of what a Green Beret does is kicking in doors and getting bad guys. Robin Sage definitely helped prepare me for life as an operator on a team.”

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina
A Special Forces candidate crosses a water obstacle during the final phase of field training known as Robin Sage in central North Carolina, July 9, 2019. 

“What makes Robin Special is how well and smoothly it’s run from the time the student teams go into isolation until they [infiltrate] and are actively engaged with the G-Force,” Balestrieri said, referring to the guerrilla force.

“It rams home how important is, when operating in a guerrilla warfare/unconventional warfare environment, to at least have the nominal support of the population,” Balestrieri added.

Robin Sage is so realistic that a few years ago, a student was killed and another wounded by a police officer who wasn’t aware of the event and thought that they were robbers. Since then, before every Robin Sage begins, local communities are thoroughly notified.

The exercise and its lessons largely are what differentiate Green Berets from other US special-operations units.

“Robin Sage is tremendously important in the career of every Special Forces soldier, because it takes everything that you’ve been taught thus far in the SFQC and gears it toward SF’s true mission, which is unconventional warfare,” Balestrieri said.

As the US prepares for a renewed era of great-power competition with China and Russia, and as irregular warfare becomes increasingly important, Robin Sage is more relevant than ever.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Everything you need to know about the Silver Star but didn’t want to ask

As the third-highest award for bravery in combat awarded to service members in the military, the Silver Star honors those who display exceptional courage while engaged in military combat operations against enemy forces.

When you see a Silver Star distinction on a license plate or on a uniform, you might wonder what the service member did to earn the distinction. Here’s everything you need to know about the Silver Star Medal but didn’t want to ask.


The Silver Star Requirements

The SSM is awarded for bravery, as long as the action doesn’t justify the award of one of the next higher valor awards (the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, the Air Force Cross or the Coast Guard Cross).

The act of bravery has to have taken place while in combat action against an enemy of the United States while involved in military operations that involve conflict with an opposing foreign force. It can also occur while serving with a friendly force engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

This medal is awarded for singular acts of heroism over a brief period, such as one to two days.

Exceptions

Air Force pilots, combat systems officers and Navy/Marine naval aviators/flight officers are often ineligible to receive the Silver Star after becoming an ace (having five or more confirmed aerial kills). However, the last conflict to produce aces was the Vietnam War, and during that conflict, several Silver Stars were awarded to aces.

Finely constructed details

The Silver Star Medal is a gold five-pointed star, 1 ½ inch in diameter with a laurel wreath encircling rays forming the center. A smaller, 3/16 inch silver star is superimposed in the center. The pendant is suspended from a rectangular shaped metal loop with rounded corners.

On the backside, the reserve has the inscription, “For Gallantry in Action.” The ribbon measures 1 3/8 inches wide and has a 5.6mm wide Old Glory Red stripe in the center, proceeding outward pairs of white and ultramarine blue.

Second and subsequent Silver Star awards are denoted by bronze or silver oak leaf clusters in the Air Force and Army, and gold and silver stars for the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard.

Recipients of Silver Star Medals

To date, independent groups estimate that between 100,000 and 150,000 Silver Stars have been awarded since the decoration was established. The Department of Defense doesn’t keep records for how many are issued.

The first Silver Star was awarded to Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1932, who was then awarded Silver Stars seven additional times for his actions in WWI.

Col. Davis Hackworth was awarded 10 Silver Star medals for his actions in both Korea and Vietnam. It’s thought that he has the highest number of medals issued to one single person.

Former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, Senator John Kerry, Army Gen. George Marshall and Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North all received Silver Stars.

WWI Controversy

In WWI, three Army nurses were cited with the Citation Star for their bravery in attending to wounded service personnel while under artillery fire in July 1918. However, in 2007, it was discovered that the nurses never received their awards. These three nurses were Jane Rignel, for her bravery in giving aid to the wounded while under fire, and Irene Robar and Linnie Leckrone, for their courage to attend to the wounded while under artillery bombardments.

The first woman to receive both the Silver Star and the Purple Heart was also an Army nurse – Lt. Col. Cordelia Cook. She served in WWII and later went on to have a career as a civilian nurse.

In 2005, Army National Guard Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester received the Silver Star for her gallantry during an insurgent ambush on a convoy in Iraq. In 2008, Army Spec. Monica Lin Brown received the Silver Star for her extraordinary heroism as a medic in the War in Afghanistan.

Since September 11, 2001, the Silver Star has been awarded to service members during combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

MIGHTY CULTURE

DO NOT use this as a survival hack

Peter R. Asks: If I had to, what parts of my body are healthiest to eat and offer the most caloric benefit? Essentially, what parts of me should I eat first to maximize my survival chances in some extreme situation? Would eating feces be of any benefit?

While of course how long one could survive without food and water varies dramatically based on exact scenario, on the more pressing issue of water, it would appear that if someone stopped consuming this life sustaining liquid at all (including not getting any from food), their death would generally occur within a maximum of about 14 days. This grim figure has been gleaned from data collected from the notes of terminally ill or end of life patients in hospitals who forgo artificial sustenance and their bodies are slowly allowed to die. In many of these cases, the individual is either bedridden or in a coma, meaning their caloric and water needs are potentially minimized, so this seems a good rough upper limit.


Unfortunately for our thoroughly average 5 ft. 9 inch, 195.5 pound everyman named Jeff, who is about to find himself in rather dire straits, death for him is likely to occur much faster. Beyond the fact that he’s likely to be more active than a person in a coma, these figures don’t necessarily immediately apply to him because of something known as adaptive thermogenesis. Adaptive thermogenesis is the term used to describe a unique quirk of physiology, which is often colloquially referred to as “starvation mode”. In a massively overly simplistic nutshell sure to trigger more than one medical professional out there, when the body is put on a restrictive diet for a significant length of time, it adapts to function less optimally, but at least still function, lowering the sustenance requirements it needs in a variety of fascinating ways that would take an entire video of its own to cover.

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina
Giphy

Since terminally ill people and people in comas are typically already in this state when their sustenance is completely cut off, their bodies will, in some cases at least, likely survive longer than poor Jeff who, if he was randomly cut off from sustenance without warning in a survival situation would probably not make it more than about 3-4 days.

Of course, Jeff could last longer if he ate something because many foods contain quite a lot of water, his most pressing need. While body parts are among those food items that are jam-packed with H20, that liquid was already in Jeff anyway. So there is going to be no benefit to consuming his own body part in this situation, unless of course the limb just happened to have gotten lopped off outside of his control and he wants to recoup what he can from the lost appendage.

But let’s say that Jeff has an unlimited supply of water. Now he just needs some food, which the human body is literally made up of. Thus, Jeff targets those sweet, sweet calories within himself.

How many calories? Figures on this can vary wildly based on the individual in question as you might expect, but for a ballpark average for such an everyman as Jeff, he probably has about 80,000 calories in him, at least, according to figures compiled by one Dr. James Cole at the University of Brighton.

As for the legs, again with the caveat that this can vary wildly based on a specific individual, for a ballpark average, each leg contains around 7,000-8,000 calories (enough to sustain Jeff comfortably for around three and a half days).

If Jeff got really desperate he could cut off one of his arms which would net him an additional 2,000 or so calories. Another day of comfortable eating.

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina
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Since he needs that other arm to perform surgeries, cook, eat, etc., let’s say Jeff, who is also now an expert surgeon, also removes a lung, a kidney, 70% of his liver, his gallbladder, his appendix, spleen and his testicles (all things that can removed from the body without killing you if done properly). We stopped just short of calculating the caloric value of a human penis because, come on, we have to leave Jeff something to do the rest of the day while he awaits rescue.

Based on available figures from the aforementioned British professor and, where needed, supplementing his calorie content numbers with animals with comparable organs to our own, this would all provide roughly 3,000 or so calories, give or take.

Finally, if Jeff took the bones from his severed limbs and boiled them in water, he could create something akin to bone broth, which contains about 130 calories per litre. It turns out that you can make about a gallon of bone broth with around 7 pounds of bones.

Your skeleton makes up about 15% of your total body weight and your legs and a single arm constitute just shy of 40% of your total weight. Taking Jeff’s weight which we’ve already established as being 195.5 pounds, Jeff’s legs and arm would provide around 12 pounds of bone, or enough to make a gallon and a half of bone broth. This amounts to in the ballpark of 900 calories.

Being resourceful, Jeff isn’t going to stop at limbs, organs, and bone, though. After all, a byproduct of eating produces another food source- feces. Unfortunately, there’s no study that has been done that we could find telling us definitively the calorific content of human poop. That said, from limited studies we did find on human poop’s nutritional makeup, and from many more done on mice feces, it would appear on average feces contains about 10% of the calories eaten previously, with the caveat that this does vary based on a variety of factors- work with us here people. If you want a better number for the calories in human feces when that human is eating human legs, arms, and organs, you feel free to Google to your heart’s content. We’re already a little uncomfortable with how our search history looks after this one.

In any event, if Jeff consumed in the ballpark of the 2000-2500 calories per day to maintain his original physique before he found himself in his little predicament, his poop may contain as many as 250 calories. Contrary to popular belief, his poop would also be reasonably safe to eat provided he kept it fairly sanitary after squeezing it out — the five second rule isn’t really a thing. A dropped turd is most definitely going to pick up some icky things from the floor.

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina
Giphy

So, doing the math, if Jeff literally cut off or removed every extraneous part of his body save for a single arm, then ate his excrement, he could conceivably find himself with a total of around 20,000-22,000 or so calories, or around 10 days of comfortable sustenance. And, hey, with the loss of each extra body part, there’s fewer calories needed to support the remaining, meaning Jeff’s going to be able to stretch things out even further in this little fantasy land we’ve created.

Of course, in a real life scenario, slicing yourself up would by definition do severe damage to your body, expose yourself to infection, result in a loss of blood and hence reduce your hydration level, and just generally place a lot more demands on your body to keep on keeping on- when traumatically injured, your nutritional needs actually go up.

And, in the end, your body already had you covered.

You see, it turns out beyond attempting to get more efficient about caloric usage naturally if you stop giving the body enough to function optimally, the human body is also amazingly efficient at using stored sustenance in your various bits, particularly fat, muscle, and, to a lesser extent, bone. Sure, at the end of it, Jeff’s body fat percentage might be on the lean side and his lifts on the bench press may be vastly reduced from their former no doubt beast-mode levels. But he’ll be alive and whole anyway.

Thus, as with so many of life’s problems, the solution was inside himself all along… including the feces and urine which could potentially give a very slight benefit the first time if he wanted to muscle them down.

So to sum up the answer to the question posed by our new favorite reader, while certainly your body contains a lot of useful calories should you consume them directly, it turns out it’s already really good at more or less eating itself without you needing to cut anything off. That said, should you be stranded with a pleasantly plump companion in such a survival scenario, you might want to go check out our article- Do People Who Resort to Cannibalism in Survival Situations Get in Trouble? Knowledge is power people.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘The Off-Islander’ sees a Vietnam vet turned private investigator looking for a missing man in 1982 New England

Growing up, my stepdad kept a series of paperback books high up on the shelf. They were novels by an author named John MacDonald with distinctive color-based titles like The Green Ripper and The Scarlet Ruse. They featured a unique sort of private investigator named Travis McGee. When I was old enough to reach them, they became my entry point into the mystery genre.

Travis McGee was a departure from the hardboiled detective stories of an earlier era. The classic noir private investigator was a world-weary gumshoe navigating dark streets and negotiating femme fatales, corrupt cops, and mobsters to close the case. Mcgee was different. Travis was a bon vivant and knight-errant, a handsome man who saw life as something to be enjoyed rather than endured as he cut a swath through both Florida’s prettiest women and its most colorful villains to close cases. Think 1980’s Magnum PI set in Fort Lauderdale and you get the picture.


All of this is my way of saying I was feeling a little bit of that MacDonald vibe when I read Peter Colt’s debut novel, The Off-Islander.

For sure, Colt’s Andy Roark is a different character than MacDonald’s McGee. Andy is a good bit rougher than McGee due to his military and cop background and as he describes himself, ‘doesn’t always conform to rules and regulations’. But Roark, much like McGee has a sensitive core with an appreciation for books and music, good food and drink, and a preference for educated women who appreciate art. He even partakes of marijuana though he rather stick to beer and bourbon.

The plot of the novel isn’t a complex one. It is a missing person case, which sees Andy travel through Boston and Nantucket Island looking for someone who obviously does not want to be found. Like most mystery novels, there are some complications as Andy works the case. Only some of those complications are resolved by the end of the novel but the loose strings do not otherwise affect the resolution of this procedural.

That is not to say I did not enjoy this novel. I enjoyed it very much. The plot is dripping with New England atmospherics. Where McGee’s novels were all Florida sun, Colt sets his story in the bleak windswept bogs and shores of Massachusetts. Andy’s investigation takes him from the gray environs of Boston to charming Cape Cod store fronts besieged by whipping rain and wind. It is the perfect setting for hard-edged people with secrets they’re willing to kill to keep. The book is also informed by Peter Colt’s real life experience as a veteran, police officer, and former resident of Nantucket Island. This lends the text an added layer of authenticity and intimacy in his description of the setting and Roark’s detective deductions.

In addition, notable in this book was Andy’s military past. Though McGee was also a veteran, MacDonald left McGee’s service ambiguous and it never really played much of a role in how portrayed his character. Colt on the other hand keeps coming back to Andy’s service in Vietnam in just about every chapter of the book. Roark is still clearly dealing with his unresolved feelings towards his service and in a melancholic touch, it seems to be the shadow that ruins his relationships with the women in his life. The title of the book, ‘The Off-Islander’ is not just descriptive of Andy’s alienation from the closed community of Nantucket Island – it also speaks to his personal post-war isolation from polite civil society.

Ultimately, this is a good debut novel which launches what I help to be a great series of adventures featuring an appealing private investigator. It was an easy afternoon and evening read set in the part of the country which I reside and love. I enjoyed my time sleuthing with Andy. I ended the novel hoping to see him get a Vietnam-free night of sleep, a good stiff drink, and a healthy relationship with a good woman in the second book.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Portraits of veterans painted by former president on display

Visitors to The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., can see a collection of veteran portraits on display through Nov. 15, 2019.

The collection is Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors, painted by another veteran, President George W. Bush.

The collection highlights 98 men and women out of the approximately five million post-9/11 veterans. The exhibit showcases 66 full-color oil portraits and a four-panel mural painted by the former president, himself an Air Force veteran.


Upon entering the display, visitors see a two-minute video by the 43rd president. Bush talks about the positive assets of veterans, why he continues to serve veterans, the courage involved in talking about post-traumatic stress and his painting history.

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

President Bush painting.

(Photo courtesy of the Bush Center)

Alongside the video is a quote from the president on why he painted these veterans.

“I painted these men and women as a way to honor their service to the country and to show my respect for their sacrifice and courage.”

Nearly all the warriors featured participated in one of the two wounded warrior sporting events hosted by the George W. Bush Presidential Center. The W100K is a 100-kilometer mountain bike ride on the president’s ranch near Crawford, Texas. The Warrior Open is a competitive golf tournament in Dallas.

The portraits are on loan from the Ambassador and Mrs. George L. Argyros Collection of Presidential Art at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, a non-profit organization whose Military Service Initiative is focused on helping post-9/11 veterans and their families.

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

Portraits of Courage at The Kennedy Center.

For more information

The paintings are on display until Nov. 15, 2019, at The Kennedy Center. More information is at https://www.kennedy-center.org/calendar/event/ZURRA. The exhibit then moves to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, Dec. 21 through Jan. 20, 2020.

A Portraits of Courage app is also available at the Apple store and Google Play.

More information about the Military Service Initiative is available at https://www.bushcenter.org/explore-our-work/issues/military-service-initiative.html.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Marine is manufacturing weights in the U.S.A.

Grant Broggi has been struggling right alongside many other small business owners due to the worldwide pandemic. But there’s probably one big difference: He’s a Marine.

Broggi opened The Strength Co. in 2017 after receiving his Starting Strength Coach Certification in 2016. He opened his second gym location in southern California in January 2019 and was getting ready to open his third location when COVID-19 hit the United States, forcing business closures due to quarantine mandates. “I always thought if it [a pandemic] came, it would be bad. I also knew I had a responsibility to my coaches and the members…I’ve faced harder things than this, but this is a pretty prolonged hard thing,” he explained.


Going through training within the Marine Corps definitely prepared Broggi for the pandemic. “In Marine Officer School the number one thing said is, ‘Make a decision, lieutenant!’ it might be wrong or right, but you have to make a decision,” he said. When the quarantine mandate came down, he didn’t simply close his doors and wait.

Broggi jumped into action.

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

“Any hesitation and you lost speed and tempo…I had a bunch of members but only 16 squat racks. I had made squat racks in the Marine Corps, so we started cranking those out and giving them out for free to members.” Broggi’s company also adapted and started offering online strength classes to keep their members engaged. But he wanted to do more and when he couldn’t get the equipment for them, he decided to make it himself.

Broggi’s gym then began manufacturing racks for members.

“I started buying steel and went to a welder. It was always very clear to me that it had to be done. The only way now it seems is to invest more and double down…People asked me why I was manufacturing, I would just say people need to keep lifting. I think it’s important for their survival and is good for them – especially now,” Broggi said. The Strength Co.’s overall mission is to use barbell training to help people get strong for life – mentally and physically.

He credits his team for their strength as well, saying that because everyone truly follows the concept of strength for health and survival – they’ve been able to adapt and keep going in the midst of the pandemic.

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

“Now more than ever, people are dealing with adversity daily in their own homes and cities. There’s unrest in American cities that just blows my mind,” he shared. With the country beginning to feel the negative mental health effects of continued quarantine and social distancing measures, Broggi sees the negative impact it’s having every day. He continued, “It can’t be underplayed on how people are feeling. They are not prepared for this… When we get deployed, it’s what we signed up for and what we trained for. People aren’t trained for this. I think people just needed leadership, they are scared. A lot of what we do is to try to bring positivity back,” Broggi said. Keeping people connected and engaged is difficult without the ability to open his gyms as the cases of COVID-19 continue to soar in California, but Broggi remains committed to finding ways to be innovative in helping people continue to train and build strength.

Sometimes Marines themselves need a little strength coaching, too. Even with the Marine Corps having one of the toughest and longest basic training around, he said he was still surprised when he took leadership of his first group of Marines in 2012.

“I got my first unit in the Marine Corps…I remember looking at them the first time thinking, ‘Are you kidding me?’ Of course, Marines are scrappy no matter what – so I started coaching them. We had less people going to med or falling out on hikes and we had a more prepared unit by the end of it. That really resonated with me, that this [building strength] is preparing you for life or an uncertain event,” he shared. When he and his unit deployed to Afghanistan, they didn’t stop training either.

They just got creative.

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

“We had weights on a wooden platform, it was very hodge-podge. We hung a big whiteboard and it had every Marine’s name on it. It’s not just about being competitive, it’s the achievement and hard work that matters,” Broggi said. When he returned stateside and went into the reserves, he knew he wanted to continue teaching and helping people develop their own strength.

Fast forward to now, owning two gyms during a global pandemic. Broggi continues to think and power forward like he was trained to as a Marine. Not only is the company making squat racks, benches, deadlift mats and all American leather weightlifting belts, but now they are having ‘Made in USA’ cast iron Olympic weights being manufactured in Wisconsin.

“I think we are all cut from the same cloth in terms of the driving factor. That’s why I stayed in the reserves, it made me feel fulfilled even while launching the gyms,” Broggi said. He explained that most members of the Armed Forces seek that deep feeling of purpose and fulfilment. It’s something he hopes to bring to each of his gym members.

One workout at a time.

To learn about the Starting Strength method and The Strength Co., check out their website.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Looking for your next vice? Meet Ranger Candy Coffee

It’s no secret that veterans and coffee go together like peanut butter and jelly. As more and more people separate from active duty to pursue their passions, the number of boutique coffee companies run by prior service folks is only growing.

One of the newest is Ranger Candy Coffee. Ranger Candy is run by a former US Army mortarman who served a total of eight years both on active duty and with the National Guard. The company launched earlier this year with the goal of bringing high-quality coffee to service members, first responders, and outdoorsmen. The HMFIC at Ranger Candy also owns a home remodeling company, giving us hope that the American work ethic isn’t completely dead.


How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

Ranger Candy starts with hand-selected, single-origin Arabica beans that they import from 18 different countries. The beans are then blended, roasted, ground, and shipped by the Ranger Candy crew anywhere in the US or to anybody working overseas with an APO/DPO/FPO. They offer light, medium and dark roasts available in six different grinds from fine to espresso to coarse, with a couple of settings in between. You can purchase quantities from 12 ounces to 12 pounds as well as K-Cups.

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

We received our own sample of Ranger Candy in a re-sealable 12-ounce bag that kind of reminded us of an MRE pouch. We’re not sure if that was on purpose or if we happen to be feeling nostalgic. Said sample was a standard grind dark roast sourced from Tanzania. We know it came from Tanzania because the label on the bag includes a list of all 18 countries they source from, and they will conveniently “check the box” next to the country of origin for your particular bag of coffee. In fact, you can specify the country of origin when you order. Do you prefer Mexican coffee to Costa Rican? Or Indian? Or Ugandan? You can specify the country of origin when you place your order. If you’re not sure what you prefer, the Ranger Candy website includes tasting and origin notes for each of the countries they source from.

For our Tanzanian sample, tasting notes were chocolate, cherries, and caramel. We caught the chocolate and think maybe we tasted a little bit of cherry on the finish, but couldn’t find the caramel. Your mileage may vary. But we also learned that our coffee was grown at an elevation of 5,900 feet in the Mbeya region.

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

Ranger Candy coffee runs .99 per 12 ounce bag, regardless of country-of-origin. They also offer a line of mugs and swag to accompany your cup of joe. Check them out at www.rangercandycoffee.com or on your social media of choice.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

VA centers are using tai chi to promote healing and mental clarity

Pan flute music like an old-time kung fu movie drifts serenely through the recreation room of the Milwaukee VA’s Spinal Cord Injury Center. Zibin Guo talks of swaying breezes, mountain streams, and the peaceful but powerful force of nature.

“Still… like a mountain,” he says. “Flow… like water.”

The group follows his every move from their chairs, pivoting wheels as he turns on foot. This new twist on an ancient martial art, Guo says, will play a big role in the modern-day treatment of pain and post-traumatic stress, even cutting down on opioids and other painkillers.

The three-day wheelchair tai chi seminar for health care workers from the Milwaukee and Madison VA Medical Centers; Appleton, Wisconsin, Clinic; and community hospitals, is part of Guo’s nationwide tour to teach more instructors, collect data and prove tai chi works.


Guo, a medical anthropologist from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, has received more than 0,000 from the Adaptive Sports Grant Program, and has already traveled to 24 VA medical centers. He hopes to get to 24 more by next year.

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

Zibin Guo

(YouTube)

The grant program, managed by the National Veterans Sports Program and Special Events Office, provides million annually to support studies and adaptive sports for disabled veterans. Guo said his goal is to promote a way to rethink western rehabilitative medicine, based on bodily functions of eastern philosophy.

“There is a mental clarity that comes from tai chi, which then creates physical benefits for the whole body,” he said.

“For some people,” he added, “this can be psychological. If someone is in a wheelchair, they may see themselves as disabled and are labeled that way. When you are labeled as disabled, you become disabled.

“Wheelchair tai chi transforms the idea of the wheelchair into something else. Now, it’s no longer just for transporting from one place to another. You use it to create power and beauty, integrating the chair movements with tai chi.”

Guo said some VAs have already learned the healing benefits while others are just starting to add tai chi to their repertoire.

“Especially now as VA is building up its Whole Health program nationwide, I hope we are going to see more of these types of offerings,” he said.

Milwaukee was one of the first VAs to offer tai chi. Its polytrauma department started it in 2012 with another grant from the Adaptive Sports Program. Guo’s techniques provided a different perspective, said Dr. Judith Kosasih, lead physician in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

“I knew when we started this seven years ago it was going to be valuable, and I believe in it,” she said. “Right now, we teach tai chi fundamentals, but he gives us a completely different perspective, with more movement, even in a wheelchair.”

Kosasih first started tai chi in Milwaukee, believing it would help with Parkinson’s Disease and pain.

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

Zibin Guo leads health care workers through one of his tai chi routines. He first taught the group standing up and then in wheelchairs. Guo believes regular tai chi can significantly help treat post-traumatic stress and reduce the use of painkillers.

“The practice helps you relax, helps you sleep better. When you sleep better, you will feel better,” she said. “I guarantee it improves endurance, balance, memory, and you will be able to stand longer. It gives our veterans skills and empowers them to develop this and get better.”

It’s also a gateway to health for those who can’t afford other sports.

Guo said: “Paralympics and wheelchair rugby and basketball is great but think about how much just one of those chairs costs. The average person doesn’t have a chance. One percent can get the specialized chair and 99 percent can’t. Wheelchair tai chi gives people self-empowerment. You don’t need a special chair.

“There are so many physical benefits,” he added. “A lot of studies have already demonstrated that the nature of the movements is so unique, and the circular motion creates powerful circulation in the body. It’s not just the blood, but the energy, and that treats a wide range of problems without drugs — it treats pain, it treats headaches. There are so many benefits.”

Besides teaching others how to teach the class, he is asking them to compile data to prove his point. He pointed to one veteran in Tennessee, who said she used tai chi to drastically cut down on painkillers.

Zarita Croney, an Afghanistan veteran, suffered from post-traumatic stress, three bulging discs, one eroded disc and intermittent paralysis, plus a host of other issues.

“I had to have a huge purse just for all my meds. You’d look inside and see nothing but pill bottles.” While still in the military, she said she cycled through an array of pain medications. “I’d have to lay in bed for three hours, just waiting for the medicine to work,” she said.

Croney spiraled into depression until she reached out to the Tennessee Valley Health Care System for mental health. Her VA recommended recreation therapy, including the tai chi Guo promotes.

Mind and Machine

www.youtube.com

“The first time in tai chi, they had to wheel me there in a wheelchair,” she said. “The first few visits, I couldn’t get through the whole class. Then I start getting more range of motion. My instructor said, ‘Even if you can’t do it, see yourself doing it in your mind.’ And as you go along, your body does catch up with what the mind is doing.

“I went from visiting the emergency room at least once a month to get shot up with morphine, to walking with a cane, and sometimes without the cane. I’ve cut out about three-fourths of the pills I was on,” she said. “With all these things, it’s a battle every day, but tai chi gave me the foundation.”

Guo says this is nothing new to him.

“Pain symptoms are very complex and not just physical. The symptoms of stress, tension, or anger and bad emotions, that creates chemicals in the brain that stimulate pain,” he said. “Tai chi not only relaxes, it promotes healing.”

Leanne Young, a recreation therapist from the San Francisco VA Health Care System, said she is excited to see tai chi and other eastern philosophies gain more acceptance, because it plays into what she and other therapists have been doing for years.

“This is definitely time for this,” she said. “I think most people want to see evidence-based practice and data. They want to see research. Many things recreation therapists have done — not just tai chi, but in general — hasn’t always been recognized because there isn’t always research that supports the benefits.

“I really feel tai chi is a whole mind-body thing, and that really works. Your brain ends up telling your body what to do. It’s mindfulness, and to me, it’s a state of mind which affects your body and your pain reduction.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The FBI is using Facebook ads to recruit Russian spies

The FBI is running Facebook ads to recruit Russian spies, Donie O’Sullivan and David Shortell at CNN reported on Oct. 2, 2019.

The ads started running on Sept. 11, 2019, according to Facebook’s public Ad Library. Though, a source familiar with the matter told CNN that the ads were running this summer.

The three ads contain images and illustrations overlaid with Russian text; they are accompanied by information about reporting knowledge to the FBI.

“We cannot comment except to note that Russia has a large number of intelligence officers based in Russian diplomatic facilities around the world. They are very active and pose a security risk to the U.S. and our allies,” read a statement provided to Business Insider by the FBI on behalf of Alan E. Kohler Jr., a special agent in charge of the FBI Washington Field Office’s Counterintelligence Division.


“Russia has long been a counterintelligence threat to the U.S. and election interference is certainly an important concern, but it’s not the only one,” the statement reads. “The FBI uses a variety of means to gather information, including the use of sources. The FBI will use all legal means available to locate individuals with information that can help protect the United States from threats to our national security.

Facebook did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

Once clicked, these ads direct to the website of the FBI’s Washington Field Office Counterintelligence Program.

“The mission of the counterintelligence program at the FBI’s Washington Field Office is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States through the detection, identification, and neutralization of hostile foreign intelligence activities,” the website reads.

“The FBI obtains the best intelligence to combat this threat through information provided by the public. If you have information that can help the FBI fulfill this mission, visit us in person,” the website continues, followed by Washington Field Office address. “The information you provide will be handled in a confidential manner, and our interactions with you will be professional and respectful of your security.”

The full message is repeated in Russian underneath.

CNN intelligence and security analyst Bob Baer, who is also a former CIA agent, told CNN that these ads are “seeding the idea of volunteering for the FBI” in the minds of agents on US soil who are spying for Russia.

“The thing with Russian spies is 99 percent of them are walk-ins, and these people make the decision on their own completely,” Baer told CNN, referring to Russian spies who then decide to inform the US.

See the FBI’s three Facebook ads in Russian below:

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

(FBI/Facebok)

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

This FBI ad reads in Russian.

(FBI/Facebok)

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

(FBI/Facebok)

“For your future, for the future of your family.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army SSGT performs the ultimate Van Halen tribute and it goes viral

On October 6, legendary rocker Eddie Van Halen lost his battle with cancer. The death of the rocker shocked not just his legions of fans but people around the globe. As a tribute to the late great, Army Staff Sgt. Austin West took to the internet to play through his grief and offer one of the most fitting tributes to the musician.


Eddie Van Halen Tribute

www.youtube.com

West knew what many of us inherently understand – music unites us, both in times of hope and in times of grief. Of course, West wasn’t the only person who took to the internet to offer their tributes, but his was definitely the best.

The three-minute video of West has been viewed more than a million times. West, who is a recruiter based in Watertown, New York, instantly became a viral sensation, not just because of West’s stellar guitar skills but also because it’s so very clear that his tribute to the late rocker is so heartfelt.

West successfully manages to play half a dozen of Van Halen’s best-known guitar riffs, including “You Really Got Me,” “Panama” and “Eruption.” The Army musician reportedly told Stars and Stripes that he feels connected to both his guitar and the late musical legend.

The 26-guitar player first picked up an ax after listening to an AC/DC cassette. He was hooked and immediately wanted to learn how to play. Then, he saw Van Halen live in 2008, and that sealed the deal. He’s been playing for 13 years now, and he once played a single song for an AC/DC tribute band.

That tribute was never rehearsed and played flawlessly, West said, so it’s no surprise that his Van Halen tribute has had so many views and rings so true.

In an interview with the Watertown CBS affiliate WWNY, West said that even his earliest attempts at learning Van Halen’s music made him feel like a “rock god,” and that’s one of the many reasons he kept practicing.

During his Army career, West has worked as both a signal soldier and then held a post as a guitarist for the US Army Bank.

A soldier spotlight video for the US Army Recruiting Command, released in February, features West. In the video, he says that getting out of bed every morning is easier knowing he’s going to help someone, “whether it be in recruiting and helping change someone’s life and hearing their success stories or going out and playing in front of all these beautiful people.”

The Van Halen tribute video isn’t the first time that West’s guitar playing has reached countless fans. Back in 2015, he performed in a tour with the US Army Soldier Show. The Soldier Show is an annual production that visits installations around the country to feature the musical and theater talents of service members and to help raise awareness that creative positions in the Army exist. During West’s participation in 2015, the Soldier Show stopped at 74 installations.

In a time of increasing social isolation, music is one of the few shared creative outlets that can exist across all communities. Uniting through music, no matter if it’s Van Halen or Mozart, can help bring people together in a way that other media can’t. West’s touching tribute proves that viral videos don’t need to be over the top or extreme to be shared, liked, and appreciated by people all around the country. Music is all around us and helps provide us the foundation to share our stories, which is exactly what West has been able to do with his tribute to Eddie Van Halen. As a universal language, it helps unit us across cultures and can comfort people in times of need, grief, or sadness – emotions all felt when the world learned of Van Halen’s untimely death.

Once his recruiting billet is complete, West will be joining the Army pop-rock group, As You Were, for a three-year assignment.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Married 40 years, she is now her husband’s caregiver

40 years hand in hand, Jean King, caregiver, and John ‘Jack’ King, Army Vietnam Veteran, have a special bond that is so much more than what is portrayed in romantic movies.

The duo has lived the American dream. Service to country, five healthy children and a successful medical career. Their retirement was brighter than ever.

Then unexpected news for Jack came of a non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Stage 4 diagnosis.

Jean parted from her medical career to support and care for her husband as his caregiver. In her words, “It was absolutely worth it.”

Not only did their whole lives change in seconds, but she had to take on a new role. It was then that she discovered all of what VA has to offer – not only for Veterans but for caregivers just like her.

Now an organized expert, she gives credit to VA

Starting from zero, or as she says, “A gerbil running in a wheel ending up back in the same place,” to an organized expert, Jean gives all credit to VA. From a blank slate to a book filled with all medications, daily care, meal plans, etc. Everything you need to know about Jack King is in a binder from Step 1 to Step 100.

The now caregiver expert says, “The biggest lesson I learned from the Caregivers Support team is to keep everything meticulous. They taught me how to make plans. I have everything written down. Before, I had nothing.”

The VA Caregiver Support Program goes even further than teaching crucial organization skills. The wellbeing of caregivers is critical to the program. Support, whether it is a call to vent or a text for a quick health question, Jean King has what she calls “angels on earth.”

“One of the best caregivers in the business.”

One of the angels is Tiffany Pundai, VA Caregiver Support Program social worker. She proudly says, “It was truly refreshing and such a pleasure to work with one of the best caregivers in the business, Jean King. She has a heart of gold and deserves all the help and support.

“Her stress level was high and her confidence low, but after working together she was able to build a foundation of skills important for Jack’s recovery. I am grateful to be a part of their care and inspired by their level of dedication and optimism. I am truly humbled to work with such amazing people.”

Every caregiver receives customized support. For Jean, at her Orlando VA Medical Center, she has a strong connection with Pundai. She is not just a resource – she is her outlet.

With tears in her eyes, Jean says, “To find the support that I have found, knowing I am able to talk to someone who knows where I am – mentally, physically, everything – I can’t tell you how much I love everybody that I have interacted with. It is so good to know people understand me.

“Tiffany has made it all about Jack and me. Even now, with the telehealth. It is amazing. It has been so helpful. I text her and in seconds, she calls me. There are certain people that need to come into your life. Thank you is not enough for her.”

“I don’t know what we would have done without VA.”

Pundai is one of hundreds who prove that no caregiver is alone, thanks to the VA Caregiver Support Program. The program goes beyond local borders and serves caregivers nationwide. Caregivers can give a ring to the Caregiver Support Hotline at 855.260.3274 or join the monthly live calls. There is support. All you have to do is ask.

Jean King adds, “We are just so grateful for VA. Without them, I don’t know what we would have done. You plan your life and it does not always go as planned. It is so nice to know we have this. You can, too.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 ways to explore a civilian career working with veterans

No matter where you served in the military, one thing is certain: Veterans have a special bond. These shared experiences draw former service members to careers working with fellow veterans. As you might’ve guessed, VA is a great place to do exactly that.

You still may have a lot of questions about what it’s like to work here. Will it be the right cultural fit? How do the benefits stack up? What support is available day to day?

There are plenty of resources to help you answer these and other questions. Here are six ways you can explore what it’s like to work at VA before you make the choice to apply:


1. Visit the VA Careers website.

The VA Careers site is chock full of information about what it’s like to work at VA, including employee video stories about VA’s workplace culture, an informational deep dive into some of the positions we’re hiring for (think: physicians, nurses and mental health counselors), a summary of benefits we offer employees, and details on how we work with veterans to build rewarding careers.

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina
Smiling Group

2. Check out the Veteran Employment Services Office (VESO).

VESO is a wealth of information for veterans seeking employment opportunities. Get details on upcoming veteran hiring events, access free virtual training on how to navigate USAJOBS or write an effective resume, and learn more about the federal hiring process.

3. Attend a VA recruitment event.

Visit the VA Careers event webpage for days and times of recruiting events we’ll be attending all around the country. You’re invited to register for an event and ask recruiters questions about a future career with VA.

4. Participate in a virtual career fair. 

If you can’t make it to one of our events, go digital! Through virtual career fairs, VA brings recruiters and job seekers together online so they can exchange information without having to worry about distance or travel. Find out about the next virtual career fair by following the VA Careers blog or visiting the events site.

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

5. Reach out to a recruiter directly.

Do you have specific questions? Reach out to VA recruiters via email for guidance on finding the opportunity that best matches your skillset, preparing your resume and planning for interviews.

6. Get more information about the transitioning military program.

The Transitioning Military Personnel program aims to raise awareness about civilian careers for former service members at VA. If you’ve served in military healthcare — as a physician, nurse, mental health provider, medic, hospital corpsmen, health service technician, para rescue specialist or another occupation — find an array of VA opportunities across the country where you can put your professional training and skills to work.

After you’ve done your research and fully explored VA careers, think about applying for an opening. Be sure to look into special programs such as Veterans Preference that can help you get hired more quickly.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of April 12th

There was a study conducted recently by the CDC and the Delphi Behavioral Health Group that concluded that the U.S. Military beats out literally every other profession in days per year spent drinking. If you roughly equal out the days spent with the total number of troops, that puts us at 130 days on average, compared to the 91 day average for every other profession.

And, I mean, it makes absolute sense. No other profession has a culture around drinking like the military. It’s not “drunk like an interior designer” or “drunk like a software developer.” Toss a bunch of them into a barracks with nothing to do but drink after a long and stressful day, and you’ll see their numbers rise too.

So raise a glass, folks! I’m damn sure we’ve managed to keep that number one position since 1775 and won’t let go of it until the end of time!


How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

(Meme via United States Veteran’s Network)

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales, meme by Justin Swarb)

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

(Meme via ASMDSS)

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

(Meme via Private News Network)

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

(Meme by Pop Smoke)

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

How the Army’s ‘Robin Sage’ puts Special Forces hopefuls to a final, make-or-break test in the forests of North Carolina

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

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