How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor

National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day is December 7. On Monday, the American flag will fly at half-staff from sunrise until sunset to honor the 2,403 service members and civilians who died in the attack. 

In the early hours of what many expected to be a quiet Sunday on December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service attacked the still-neutral United States at Naval Station Pearl Harbor. Much of the rest of the world was involved in WWII’s ongoing conflict, but the United States hadn’t yet declared war on Germany or Japan. 

The attack was swift, cruel, and ruthless. Aircraft boldly marked with bright red discs proclaiming them as Japanese attacked the harbor from all directions. Torpedo planes flew low over the water and launched torpedoes toward the attack’s primary target – Ford Island’s Battleship Row. The attack struck four battleships – the USS West Virginia, the USS Oklahoma, the USS California, and the USS Nevada and damaged four others in the navy yard. Dive bombers destroyed buildings, aircraft, and hangers at Hickam Field and on Ford Island. 

Service personnel attempted to escape the burning ships by jumping into oil-covered water, which resulted in them being burned alive. The attack killed several thousand Americans and injured 1,178 others. All told, three cruisers, three destroyers, and a minelayer were destroyed, along with 188 aircraft and damage sustained to 159 others.

Ships burn at Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.
Burning and damaged ships at Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7 1941. Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

That was just the first wave.

The second squadron of Japanese planes arrived about half an hour after the first. This wave of dive bombers concentrated on the southeast side of Ford Island. The battleship Pennsylvania was damaged, as were two other destroyers at the Ford Island dock. The USS Nevada famously tried to pursue the dive bombers, but at least six bombs struck the battleship, and the captain of the ship intentionally beached it to prevent further damage. 

The entire attack took less than two hours and left the US Pacific Fleet in almost complete ruin. The following day, President Roosevelt gave his now-famous Infamy speech. The first line of Roosevelt’s speech called the surprise Japanese attack “a day which will live in infamy.” Though the speech was relatively short – just over seven minutes – it’s one of Roosevelt’s most famous. An hour after Roosevelt’s speech, the United States Congress declared war on the Empire of Japan. America was no longer neutral in the war against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Within months, the war effort was mobilized, and service members were preparing to deploy across the country.

The USS Missouri 

In January 1945, the USS Missouri left for the Pacific Theater from Pearl Harbor. Throughout its 50 year career, the battleship saw conflict in three separate wars. 

On her maiden voyage, the USS Missouri provided anti-aircraft deference for aircraft carriers conducting bombing strikes. One month after launching, the USS Missouri helped support the invasion of Iwo Jima. In April 1945, the USS Missouri bombed Okinawa’s shores as part of the Pacific theater’s land invasion. In April, the ship was the target of several kamikaze attacks. From March through May, the USS Missouri crew fired on 16 enemy aircraft and claimed five kills. By the end of the war, the USS Missouri was used as a surrender ship and served as the physical location for the end of WWII. 

The ship’s final voyage was sailing into Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1991, to mark the attack’s 50th anniversary. 

In 1998, the USS Missouri was donated to the USS Missouri Memorial Association and became a Pearl Harbor museum ship. Visitors can explore the decks, wardroom, and quarters and learn how the sailors lived. The Surrender Deck offers visitors a chance to explore the significance of the place where WWII officially ended. Because visitors cannot explore the USS Missouri in person, the National Park Service has made a virtual tour available. 

National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day 

How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor
Members of the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Honors and Ceremonies participate in a flag folding during an ash scattering ceremony at the USS Utah Memorial for Pearl Harbor survivor William Henderson. Henderson served aboard USS Helena (CL 50) during the 1941 Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tiarra Fulgham/Released)

In 1994, the US Congress designed December 7 as the National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Most years, Pearl Harbor survivors, veterans, and visitors come together to honor those killed in the attack. Generally, these events converge at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial and end with a commemoration ceremony. 

Currently, the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, the museums, and the USS Arizona memorial are open to the public. The Park Theater is still closed and is expected to remain so through next year. This year, the commemoration event will focus on Battlefield O’ahu and be held at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. 

This year’s commemoration will compress the usual week-long series of events to better protect WWII veterans. The event will be closed to the public but will be live-streamed via the Pearl Harbor National Memorial Facebook page. Honor the events of Pearl Harbor by watching the commemoration.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Top 10 military charities of 2020

The holiday season is all about giving to those we love. It’s also a perfect time to give to those in need! These 10 charities are among the most highly-rated charities helping those who are more deserving of care than almost anyone: military personnel, veterans, and their families. The military community carries the weight of protecting our country. If you’re able to help, consider donating to one of these charities to lift a little of that weight off their shoulders. 

1. Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund

The mission of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund is to help severely injured military personnel to receive the care they need to return to military service or transition back into civilian life. So far, the fund has raised $200 million for rehabilitation facilities, programs, and financial assistance. 

Their eight Intrepid Spirit Centers offer comprehensive treatment, including the treatment of traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress. Over 90% of patients treated there are able to resume Active Duty. 

2. Fisher House Foundation

When soldiers are injured, having the support of their families is more important than ever. The Fisher House Foundation builds homes at military and VA medical centers worldwide so that families can stay together throughout medical treatment. Each Fisher House has up to 21 suites which include private bedrooms and bathrooms and access to a shared living room, kitchen, dining area, and laundry room. 

The Foundation also offers the Hero Miles program, through which people can donate frequent flyer miles to assist military families with travel expenses, with a similar program offered for no-cost hotel stays. Last but not least, their grant program offers scholarship funds for the children and spouses of veterans. 

In 2019, over 32,000 families were served, with over 500,000 served since the organization was founded. More than $25 million has been provided to students through scholarship awards, and over 70,000 flights have been covered. 

3. Semper Fi & America’s Fund

Semper Fi, one of the most renowned military charities, is dedicated to helping combat wounded, ill, and catastrophically injured veterans and their families. Their Transition Program helps servicemen and women recover and adapt to post-injury life, connect with their communities, and reach their career goals. They fund numerous adaptive fitness and sports programs, as well as therapeutic art and music classes. They also offer direct financial assistance to help support military families throughout the healing process. 

Semper Fi has been directed by military spouses from the start, so every program is designed with empathy and understanding. So far, $231 million has been provided in assistance, with services offered to 25,500 service members. 

4. Armed Services YMCA 

The ASYMCA is a segment of the YMCA dedicated to helping young enlisted military service members and their families. They’re the oldest US military support organization, dating back to 1861. All services and programs are provided at no cost and require no annual membership fees. Instead of focusing on one particular form of care, ASYMCA aims to be a constant resource throughout military life; from transitioning between bases to deployment. 

In total, they’ve provided care for 25 thousand military family members, and their volunteers have logged 11 thousand hours. In recent months, ASYMCA has also increased emergency relief services, launched virtual youth programs, and provided childcare for the children of essential workers to help military families impacted by COVID-19. 

5. Wounded Warriors Family Support

The Wounded Warriors Family Support organization works to improve the lives of military personnel and the families of those who were injured or killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The challenges faced by wounded warriors and their loved ones are complex, so the program focuses on comprehensive care. 

Services include caregiver respite, veteran career training, adapted vehicles, and long-term care for veterans with spinal cord and brain injuries. They also offer all-expense-paid vacations to help veterans reconnect with their families! 

6. Mission Continues

Returning to civilian life often leaves veterans feeling a sense of purposelessness. Mission Continues is all about providing veterans with ways to provide service in their own backyards. More specifically, the organization gives veterans the tools to make an impact in underserved communities. In the process, veterans have the opportunity to get invested in their community, bond with fellow veterans, and reignite their passion for helping others. 

7. Homes For Our Troops

When severely injured veterans return home, their home is the same. Unfortunately, their abilities may be different. Homes For Our Troops donates personally-customized homes to help post-9/11 veterans live full, normal lives. Charity Navigator, America’s biggest independent charity evaluator, rated HFOT in the top four percent of charities, with a four out of four star rating. 

So far, HFOT has built 313 homes, with 90 cents of every donated dollar going directly to the project. The veterans helped never pay a cent.

8. Hope for the Warriors

Hope For The Warriors began on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, NC back in 2006. Military families realized how much of an impact war had on service members and their loved ones back at home. They started Hope For The Warriors to support the military community through transition programs, peer engagement, and health and wellness programs. Their approach is holistic and well-rounded, aimed at addressing each factor that affects a service member’s life.

Even today, the organization is run by military families and combat veterans. 

9. K9s For Warriors

When we have a bad day, many of us turn to our dogs for comfort. Veterans can rely on dogs for a whole lot more. K9s For Warriors provides fully-trained service dogs to post 9/11 vets suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, or military sexual trauma. Their service dog program is based on research conducted by Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine to ensure that both vets and their service dogs are receiving the care they need. Vet care, assistance with housing, and home-cooked meals are also offered, so vets can bond with their support dog worry-free. 

In 2018, 122 vets were paired with service dogs, with over $13 million raised in total.

10. Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors

The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, better known as TAPS, has spent the past 27 years giving comfort and care to those coping with the death of a loved one in the military. They provide 24/7 phone support, plus ongoing grief counseling resources, seminars, and youth programs. In 2019, TAPS welcomed close to 7,000 newly bereaved military families, and they answer over 19,000 calls to their helpline each year. Their staff is mostly made up of survivors of military loss who have already been through TAPS and want to help others in similar shoes. 

For more charitable military organizations to donate to, check out this comprehensive list by the Charity Navigator.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine artist Maximilian Uriarte publishes compelling new graphic novel

Maximilian Uriarte is the renowned creator of the popular Terminal Lance comics and New York Times Best Seller The White Donkey. Uriarte’s new graphic novel, Battle Born: Lapis Lazuli, lends a raw and compelling, modern voice to the combat veteran experience. But before he did all of that, he was a Marine.

Artistry and the Marine Corps aren’t words that you typically see put in the same sentence, but Uriarte himself defies any Marine stereotype. “I’ve been an artist my whole life. I was always the kid in school drawing in the back,” he said with a smile. “I joined the Marine Corps infantry to become a better artist. I viewed it as a soul enriching experience.” He’s well aware that most people don’t use those words as a reason to join what is thought of as the toughest branch of service.


When Uriarte joined the Corps in 2006, he was adamant about becoming an infantryman – even though his high ASVAB scores allowed him to pick almost any MOS. But he shared that he wanted to do something that would shape him as a person, making him better. So, with his recruiter shaking his head in bafflement in the background, Uriarte signed on at 19 years old to become a 0351 Assaultman.

How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor

It was a decision that took his family by complete surprise, especially with the Iraq war in full swing. Raised in Oregon, Uriarte hadn’t been around the military but always knew he wanted to do something to challenge himself — something he was confident the Marine Corps would do. The year after he joined, Uriarte was deployed to the Al Zaidan region of Iraq with the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines from 2007 to 2008.

Uriarte deployed to Iraq once again in 2009 and this time, had the chance to be a part of Combat Camera. It was here that he really started examining his experiences as a Marine and he began developing the now infamous Terminal Lance comic strip. He launched it in 2010, five months before his enlistment with the Corps was up.

“When I put it out [Terminal Lance] I really thought I was going to get into trouble,” Uriarte said with a laugh. What sparked its creation was being surrounded by positive Marine stories, told in what he describes as an ever-present “oorah” tone. “To me, it seemed not authentic to the experience I had as a Marine Corps infantryman going to Iraq twice. Everyone hated being in Iraq, no one wanted to go there.”

How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor

The Marines loved Terminal Lance. It wasn’t long before it became a cultural phenomenon throughout the military as a whole and Uriarte became known as a hero among young Marines.

Uriarte shared that he had always wanted to do a web comic and the Marine Corps was definitely an interesting subject matter for him to dissect. “In a way, it was cathartic. The experience isn’t something most humans go through. Doing it helped me move on in a healthy way,” he said. While authoring the comic strip, he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a major in Animation through the California College of the Fine Arts.

In 2013, Uriarte self-published The White Donkey after a successful kickstarter, which raised 0,000 for the book. A few months after its release, it was so successful it was picked up by traditional publishing and went on to become a New York Times Best Seller. The gripping graphic novel pulls back the curtain to expose the raw cost of war, especially for Marines serving in combat.

How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor

Uriarte knew he wanted to keep going and this time, wanted to take his storytelling a bit further. It was his hope that he could create something focused on the importance of human connection. Through all of this, he created Battle Born.

“It’s a story of a platoon of Marines going to Afghanistan, to fight the Taliban over the gemstone economy…. But it’s really about Sergeant King and his emotional journey,” Uriarte explained. He shared that he really wanted the character to reflect a modern day Conan The Barbarian, who he feels would definitely be a Marine.

“It’s really a meditation on the history of Afghanistan in the shadow of western imperialism, colonialism and looking at the tragic history of Afghanistan,” Uriarte said. “What does it mean to be civilized, is really the central theme of the book.”

Uriarte’s main passion is creating good stories that he himself wanted to see. He had never seen anything like Battle Born before – a Marine infantryman story that was very human grounded. “I truly believe that representation matters. It’s a lens I don’t think we’ve seen a war movie through before – the eyes of a black main character,” he explained.

How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor

Hollywood agrees: The book is currently in film development to become a live action film.

The biggest piece of advice he hopes to impart on service members getting out of the military is to use their GI Bill and go to school when their enlistment is up. “Just go and figure yourself out. It is a very safe place to decompress,” he explained. “The Marine Corps is very good at making Marines, but it’s bad at unmaking them. It’s a hard thing come back to the world and not be a Marine or in the military anymore.”

The 2018 annual suicide report found that soldiers and Marines took their own lives at a significantly higher rate than the other branches.

Uriarte struggled himself when he got out, but he found that school and writing was therapeutic for him. “When you get out, the thing Marines struggle with the most is, ‘Who am I?’ We always say, ‘Once a Marine always a Marine,’ but I think that is unhealthy,” he said. “People wonder why we have such high veteran suicides and it’s because we turn them into something they aren’t going to be for the rest of their lives.”

When asked what he wants readers to take from his work, Uriarte was quick to answer. “These are really stories of human experiences; passion, love and loss. It’s just showing that people are human and that Marines, especially, are human,” he explained. Uriarte also feels that his latest full-color graphic novel will appeal not just to those who enjoy comics, but to a wide spectrum of readers through a beautiful visual journey.

Uriarte uniquely tackles the difficulty of being a Marine and serving in the military with raw honesty and creativity through all of his work. His newest book, Battle Born: Lapis Lazuli is a deeply compelling compilation of the human experiences that affect us all.

You can purchase Battle Born Lapis: Lazuli and his other work at your local Walmart, Target or online through Amazon by clicking here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The wild science of military MRE meals

It’s hard to think of a more beloved — and sometimes hated — cultural touchstone in the military than MRE meals, or meals ready to eat. They’ve been around since the C-Rations of World War II and beyond, and have for decades offered a touch of comfort and a taste of home — albeit a highly engineered one that can last for years at high temperatures without spoiling. You can find MRE cookbooks that will tell you how to turn drink mix and generic toaster pastries into gourmet desserts, and there are scores of YouTube videos dedicated to taste-testing chili mac and the prized jalapeno cheese spread.

Well, it turns out there’s a lot of science that goes into each one of these compact rations packs, and sometimes the development of a new MRE menu item — such as the coveted pepperoni pizza slice — requires actual technological breakthrough. Today, we’ll talk to two people from the Combat Feeding Directorate in Natick, Massachusetts: Lauren Oleksyk, team leader for food engineering, who holds two patents in revolutionary food science, and David Accetta, an Army military historian and public affairs officer at the directorate.

The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Left of Boom:

Hope Hodge Seck 0:00

Welcome back to Left of Boom. I’m your host, Hope Hodge Seck. It’s hard to think of a more beloved — and sometimes hated — cultural touchstone in the military than meals ready to eat, or MREs. They’ve been around since the C-rations of World War II and beyond, and have for decades offered a touch of comfort and a taste of home, albeit a highly engineered one that can last for years at high temperatures without spoiling. You can find MRE cookbooks that will tell you how to turn drink mix and generic toaster pastries into gourmet desserts, and there are scores of YouTube videos dedicated to taste-testing chili mac and the prized jalapeno cheese spread. Well, it turns out there’s a lot of science that goes into each one of these compact rations packs. And sometimes the development of a new MRE menu item, such as the coveted pepperoni pizza slice requires actual technological breakthrough. Today we’ll talk to two people from the Combat Feeding Directorate in Natick, Massachusetts: Lauren Oleksyk, team leader for food engineering, who holds two patents in revolutionary food science, and David Accetta, an Army military historian and public affairs officer at the directorate. Welcome to the show.

Lauren Oleksyk 1:10

Hello.

David Accetta 1:11

Hi, thank you very much for having us.

Hope Hodge Seck 1:14

So, Lauren, I am so interested in this really unique job that you have. So how did you end up as the team leader of food engineering, basically one of the top MRE developers for the military? Do you start taking the science career path to get here? Or do you get here through a love of the culinary arts? Or both? What was it for you?

Lauren Oleksyk 1:39

For me, it was a little of both. I specifically sought a career in the combat feeding division. While I was still in college, I majored in food science at a local university and started working at the soldier center as an intern. But I would say my interest in food science actually began as a child. I came from a large family and we had an enormous garden. So we canned most of our fruits and vegetables. And I learned very early on about food preservation, and my neighbors were dairy farmers. So my first job as a teen was in the milk-processing field. So I think I developed an early interest in that and also in nutrition and packaging, and I love to cook. So a career in food science was a perfect fit for me.

Hope Hodge Seck 2:24

When did you encounter your first MRE? or How did you get interested in the military side of boot development in the first place?

Lauren Oleksyk 2:32

Well, I interned at a soldier center in the combat feeding division, and I was immediately drawn to the science and technology side of ration development. And one of my first tasks there was to develop cereal bars for survival rations. You know, I had some product development experience when I was in college. But this was my first real hands on experience with product development. And I assumed it would be not too difficult, you know, I develop a cereal bar and test it out, and it will be ready to go. And I quickly learned all about the military constraints and requirements for rations and realize that this was really a unique job.

Hope Hodge Seck 3:12

Can you give a rundown on what those requirements and constraints are?

Lauren Oleksyk 3:16

Probably the most difficult challenge is, rations have to withstand a three-year shelf life. So that’s at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, that’s a long time that these foods have to be shelf-stable and not spoil. They also have to be extremely compact and lightweight and durable enough to survive airdrop, they have to withstand extreme climatic changes that range from minus 60 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. So our packaging has to be really, really durable to protect rations for that long of a period of time. And we have nutritional requirements that are mandated by the Office of the Surgeon General. Also we have to consider operational scenarios. Where will these rations be issued? This is a lot to consider. It’s not as simple as if you were developing a food for the commercial market.

Hope Hodge Seck 4:05

So the cereal bar was it a hit? Did it meet the requirement? Is it still out there in the world.

Lauren Oleksyk 4:11

It is still a component of survival rations. These rations have very, very long shelf life requirements, sometimes in excess of three years. And the cereal bars are still packaged in that ration, but it’s a special-purpose ration and it’s not readily used unless it needs to be. There’s less variety in that type of ration compared to the MRE.

Hope Hodge Seck 4:31

And I’m not sure how long you’ve been at the combat feeding directorate. But what other MRE recipes have you created or developed since you got there?

Lauren Oleksyk 4:40

I’ve been there a long time. It’s going on 37 years now.

Hope Hodge Seck 4:44

Oh my goodness.

Lauren Oleksyk 4:46

Yeah. And over the years, I was involved in the development of a few MRE items. One in particular, I have a co-patent on the MRE shelf-stable bread, and this bread is stable for three years due to a series of what we call hurdle technologies that keep the bread from staling or spoiling. So this product and technologies that we use to stabilize it form the basis of several other big items in the MRE. To this day, things like the shelf-stable pizza that you’ve heard about, and shelf-stable sandwiches that are in some of our other rations.

Hope Hodge Seck 5:22

That’s incredible. Can you go through what those technologies are that keep the bread for example, from going stale or otherwise spoiling?

Lauren Oleksyk 5:32

The technologies used for bread and baked goods are, we call them hurdle technologies. And this is a way to preserve foods that have intermediate moisture contents without having to subject them to a thermal sterilization process. Essentially, you introduce hurdles to microbial growth. And you do that by using specific ingredients that control water activity that control the product’s pH, control the moisture content, in the case of something like a shelf-stable pizza, it would control the migration of moisture from one part of the food to another, because you might have a lot of components. Like in the case of the pizza, you have the dough, the sauce, the cheese, the toppings, and they all have different moisture contents and water activity. So if you don’t control how that migrates from piece to piece, you are going to introduce the opportunity for microbial spoilage. So we use ingredients, and we also control the headspace in the package. And everything we can do to prevent that spoilage. And we test the safety of the food throughout its three-year shelf life to confirm that it’s safe to consume and nothing will grow. That’s an example of a hurdle technology. And it’s employed in different ways for different intermediate moisture products.

Hope Hodge Seck 6:51

And I know this MRE pizza slice pepperoni pizza slice, I’ve actually tried it, it came out a few years ago, and it was sort of the holy grail of MRE. And as I understand, was a highly requested item since its release. Have you tracked soldier service member feedback? And what are you hearing about how well it’s going over in the field?

Lauren Oleksyk 7:12

Well, we should actually start getting that data soon. It was incorporated into the MRE in 2018, and really first fielded around 2019. Every year, we actually do field tests and evaluation with soldiers and we get that feedback from them. So this will be the first year that we actually can start collecting data on the fielded Pizza to assess how well it’s accepted. But prior to it going into the MRE, we did a number of field evaluations on just that item like all MRE components. It had to be warfighter-tested and approved before it went into the ration. And the pizza definitely was a highly accepted product. They had been asking for it for years, and it was very well received. So we’re hoping that the field test results going forward confirm that, and we’ll keep a close eye on it.

Hope Hodge Seck 8:02

What sort of feedback do you solicit in these surveys that you’re talking about getting the data back from?

Lauren Oleksyk 8:07

We ask them to rate the acceptability of the components, especially if we’re testing new prototypes. So they’re given a scale from one to nine, and they rank how well they like the product. We also do consumption studies, where we measure how much of each item they eat, and how much they throw away, so we can assess whether something is under-consumed. And if we see that trend, we’ll ask them questions regarding that: why aren’t they consuming it? And then every year, based on that data, we make decisions on whether something’s retired from the MRE or replaced with something else. And a lot of times the demographics might change of the military. So things that were well loved by warfighters, you know, back in the ’70s and ’80s are not well-liked by you know, some of the military personnel today who might prefer different foods that reflect more of what they ate when they were growing up.

Hope Hodge Seck 9:03

I know for example, cigarettes are no longer included in MREs and they were historically included in combat rations many years ago. But how often our items are tired and what are some of the most recent items to be retired?

Lauren Oleksyk 9:17

Things that were very popular years ago like chicken a la king, ham and lima beans to go way back, those things were retired, and today we have things like burritos and vegetarian options, things that they request and are much more familiar with — the MRE pizza. But in terms of what’s taken in and out every year, it varies.

David Accetta 9:35

It’s all based on the soldiers and feedback and and it’s actually not just soldiers. We also do the surveys with Marines, because the Army and the Marine Corps are the primary consumers of the MREs. So we need to get their feedback and ask them what do they like, what they don’t like, and then what they don’t like, gets retired, and we try to figure out what they do like, which is how we got to the pizza. And then a lot of the other things that are in MREs — If you looked at the menu from today versus the menus from the early 80s, when they first came out, you’ll see great differences in the entrees. Because the original MREs were pretty much based on traditional American comfort food, the same way that the previous series of rations, meal combat-individual, and before that the Army C-rations. You know, as we did more surveys and got more feedback from military personnel, we found out what they liked and what they didn’t like. And Lauren alluded to it when she said things that they remember growing up, and you’ve got so much more diversity in the Army now, you’ve got people from all different ethnic backgrounds. So there’s a lot of different types of food. It’s not just standard American comfort food, it’s not pot roast, and it’s not those kind of things anymore.

Hope Hodge Seck 11:01

So one of my favorite things about MREs, henever I’ve had the chance to eat them downrange is all the little side items that they come with, all the little packages you can open and the jalapeno cheese spread and the snacks for later. It’s really fun opening them up and seeing all the items that are inside and how they all work together. And you know, of course there are those people who make little recipes in the field with whatever they have or trade them back and forth. So how does a new complete MRE menu come about? And what are sort of the parameters for ensuring complementarity of taste and nutritional balance and appeal for everything that’s in the package as a whole, developing a new menu?

Lauren Oleksyk 11:47

We consider three things really. The first one are the warfighters’ recommendations and their desires, you know, and the MRE pizza is an example of that. But secondly, and probably more importantly, we have to think about military requirements and the operational scenario where the ration will be used. And then lastly, we look at leading-edge food science and packaging technologies, because sometimes the science itself will bring us in a direction that says we can develop something that otherwise wouldn’t have been able to be developed before, because it’s a new technology that we can utilize. In addition to the three-year shelf life requirement for a new menu, we have nutritional guidelines that we have to follow. So there might be a nutrient that’s lacking in a menu. And so we’ll develop a food that specifically has that nutrient in it. So that as a whole when you put all those components together, the MRE is nutritionally complete. As far as taste and palatability, the combat feeding division is outfitted with a sensory lab, where technically trained panelists can examine the foods’ organoleptic properties. So this would include the appearance odor, flavor, texture, and overall quality. And we do that over the duration of the product shelf life. So we’ll rate the products on a scale and we try to achieve a score above a six. So you know,one being dislike, nine being like. And we’ll try to get a six at the end of a product shelf life to ensure that it’s acceptable once it’s issued, six or better. So that’s kind of our internal goal. But we also utilize general consumer panels who rate a new product based on just a matter of how much they like it. They don’t really look at the technical aspects of the food, but whether they like it or not. And then we have military human research volunteers that are located at soldier center. And we solicit them to test new prototypes and to participate in focus groups to get their feedback. And then after we do all of that is when we’ll conduct our annual or biannual field tests with military personnel. And that’s where every new MRE component must be tested and accepted before it will go into a ration.

Hope Hodge Seck 13:52

When you’re talking about this technical expert panelists, who are those people?

Lauren Oleksyk 13:57

They are primarily food technologists, they’ve undergone specific training in sensory evaluation. So we all have varied thresholds where we can pick up very subtle changes in flavors and odors. And we have a good range of us so they look across you know, people who have a very low threshold for salt, say. Some others might have a very low threshold for rancidity, or bitterness. And so combined, this group of technical panelists really can do a thorough evaluation of foods. And we’ll do it not only when a food is first developed, but even after it’s been stored for three years.

Hope Hodge Seck 14:35

That’s fascinating. So you talked about the hurdle technologies that led to bread and then to pizza, which was sort of like this revelation. Are there current scientific food challenges that you’re currently working through to pave the way to develop more items?

Lauren Oleksyk 14:53

Yes, there are. And one of the reasons is we’re very focused right now on the fact that soldiers and units might be in environments where they have to go longer without resupply. So right now, we’re very focused on reducing the logistics burden by reducing the weight and size of rations so that soldiers in small units can carry more. And this is becoming critically important. And it’s it’s dictating the development of smaller and more compact, nutrient-dense foods. So some of the technologies we’re really advancing right now are drying technologies to reduce the weight of foods, and compression technologies to reduce the volume of foods. And that’s includes things like vacuum microwave drying, and ultrasonic agglomeration, which is a compression technology. And sometimes we’re developing new prototypes, using a combination of those two technologies to make these very nutrient-dense, compact foods, in some cases can actually be entire meal replacement bars.

Hope Hodge Seck 15:56

The way you’re describing it, immediately, what comes to mind is the rations that are sent to space with astronauts, when you’re talking about drying and making things as late as they possibly can be. Are there any similarities there?

Lauren Oleksyk 16:10

Yes, very similar requirements. In fact, we collaborate with NASA, and have worked with them on many dense and compact items such as meal replacement bars that they’re considering for their menus for the mission to Mars. And also, we work with them on developing entrees that are used at the International Space Station. So the similarities and requirements for astronauts and military personnel are very, very similar. And in fact, NASA has long shelf-life requirements too, even longer than military rations in some case, but lightweight products in very dense products are required by both.

Hope Hodge Seck 16:50

How soon might we see a meal replacement bar out in the field and fully developed and being used by troops on the go?

Lauren Oleksyk 16:58

We’re working on a new ration called the close combat assault ration. This is a ration that’s designed to be extremely lightweight and compact. So we’re developing these nutrient-dense bars. Now they’re in the prototype stage for the close combat assault ration that’s going to be field-tested soon. Some of the first prototypes will be field-tested in the near future, the bars that we’re looking at for that ration are not necessarily full meal replacement bars. But they using the technology for drying and compression that enable us to make a full meal replacement bar if needed.

Hope Hodge Seck 17:34

And how much lighter it might these rations be than the typical MRE package?

Lauren Oleksyk 17:39

The ration components themselves, it depends on how much moisture you remove. But we’ve achieved anywhere between 40 to 70% decrease in weight on a component level, because essentially, you’re just taking the fresh food and you’re removing the moisture, but you can dial in how much you want to remove for palatability purposes. We know that war fighters don’t necessarily want to consume all dry bars. So we want to be able to offer a variety of moistures in these products so that it’s something they want to consume. So it depends, you know, the weight reductions depend, but we have metrics and goals to achieve about a 40% reduction in weight. And we can achieve the same and volume if we compress the product as well.

Hope Hodge Seck 18:27

As we’re talking about many development. I know in the last couple of decades, there’s a lot more service members who want to eat, say keto, or paleo, even Whole 30 — these diets that are really dependent on protein and vegetables and probably really hard to sustain in the field. And I’m sure there are things that it’s just like, yeah, there’s no way to make shelf-stable rations that fit that bill. But are you looking at any ways to develop additional menus that cater to people who have specific food requirements like these, or want to, I guess, eat a little bit more whole food or protein-heavy, whatever the case may be?

Lauren Oleksyk 19:12

With regard to the MRE, there is no requirement from the military services to develop keto or paleo menus. All the menus in the MREs have to meet the nutritional standards for operational rations. You know, and as I mentioned, that was that’s mandated by the Office of the Surgeon General. But we do listen to some of their desires for this for certain types of foods. And one example of that is we currently have four vegetarian meals in the MRE out of the 24 menus. Four of them are vegetarian, two new vegetarian entrees were approved for the latest MRE: cheese pizza and the Mexican-style rice and bean bowl. And every every ration is labeled in accordance with FDA regulations so individual soldiers can see the list of ingredients and they can determine for themselves, you know whether it’s a product that they want to consume, but in general, you know, we want them to consume the entire MRE, because that is a nutritionally complete ration and it will optimize their performance and health if they consume it all.

Hope Hodge Seck 20:14

In my journeys around the internet, I have found this trove of MRE enthusiasts who live on places like YouTube, where they’ll buy old MREs that are decades old and taste-test them or make Top Chef-style recipes, combining different ingredients, using the Kool-Aid powder and the, you know, you name it just really mixing things up. So do you ever kind of watch those YouTube videos? Or pay attention to that little subculture? And do the fans of MREs who kind of live out in the civilian world and are just interested in these things, do they ever inspire you in your work?

Lauren Oleksyk 20:51

I do watch those. I love those videos, they make me laugh, first of all, but I also think it’s so fun to see how creative they get with the types of things they make. I read the comments, I find the comments are very interesting and helpful. And I will bring, when I read something like that, I will have little brainstorm sessions at work. And we’ll talk about what people think and you know, some of the ideas that come from those videos in terms of new product lines. So yes, I do watch them. And a lot of times, you know, if they’re a positive review, it can be actually somewhat rewarding to know that you were part of the development of those products, I see that a lot with the flameless ration heater that they show inside the MRE, that was a development that — I was one of the original developers of the flameless ration heater. And even though it’s not a food item, it allows soldiers to actually have a hot meal now in the field, where before 1992, they didn’t always have a way to heat their entrees. So a lot of those YouTube videos will show people using the flameless ration heater and heating up their entree and it’s quite enjoyable to watch them.

Hope Hodge Seck 22:03

I love that so much.

David Accetta 22:05

The flameless ration heater was a huge, huge development that to help soldiers — well, all troops in the field. You know, having been in the Army for a long time, before flameless ration heaters, you have to come up with creative ways to to heat your food. Otherwise, you know, your food was essentially the same temperature as it was outside, whether that was 40 degrees or 70 degrees. The flameless ration heater made a huge difference to the morale of troops, because it gave them the ability to have hot food anywhere that they were. So they didn’t have to rely on using the heat from the engine of the vehicle that you happen to be next to, or finding some other creative way to heat up your MRE components without making a fire.

Hope Hodge Seck 22:55

Something that still gives troops a lot of joy is the instructions that those heaters come with. And the fact that they tell whoever is eating the MRE to put the whole package, balance it on “a rock or something” are the words that people really get a kick out of. Do you know how that particular bit of instruction that language came about?

Lauren Oleksyk 23:17

Yes, I happen to know that. Since we developed the flameless ration heater, we also developed the instructions that are on the bag. And initially that when we were designing the pictograms that you see on the package itself, we were trying to come up with an object that you lean the flameless ration heater on top of, at an angle, which helps it to heat faster. And we couldn’t think of an object. And my colleague next to me said, well, let’s just use the rock or something in the picture. And we did we put a rock and we called it the “rock or something” as a joke. And we left it in because people thought it was funny. And it actually brought some humor to the field. So we decided over the long term to leave it in there and we still hear about it all the time.

Hope Hodge Seck 24:04

That is so amazing.

Lauren Oleksyk 24:06

Yeah.

Hope Hodge Seck 24:06

So I do have to ask about a little bit more MRE myths and legends. Anyone who’s ever been out in the field is eating these and so they get talked about a lot and there are all these rumors that are flying around. First of all, the gum that comes with the current mre, they say it’s a laxative to keep things moving along. Is there any truth in that rumor?

David Accetta 24:27

Absolutely not.

Lauren Oleksyk 24:30

The gum at one point had a xylitol component which can have in some people a laxative effect, but it was it’s not intentionally in the MRE to to serve as a laxative. So yes, that is not exactly true.

David Accetta 24:46

The xylitol in the gum is to help prevent tooth decay. So it was designed for situations where you didn’t have the ability to brush your teeth. You could chew the gum and then that would help with the health of your teeth in the field.

Hope Hodge Seck 25:05

So there was a hidden benefit, but it was not what people were thinking.

Lauren Oleksyk 25:09

Correct.

Hope Hodge Seck 25:10

Other one that I think spans your career is even back in the ’90s, maybe even in the early 2000s, maybe even longer — Charms candy, were part of some MRE menus and those were notorious for being bad luck. I think even in the Generation Kill miniseries, they come across the Charms dump, where everyone’s just gotten the Charms out of their MRIs to be on the safe side. So do you know anything about how that charms rumor came about? And when Charm stopped being part of the MRE?

Lauren Oleksyk 25:42

I’m not sure when exactly they were removed, they are no longer in the MRE today. And I know, I’ve heard of the curse of the Charms. Back in the day. If a warfighter received a ration with Charms in it, they would deem to bring bad luck, so they would get rid of them. I’ve heard stories of soldiers holding bags out to collect everyone’s Charms at feeding time to get rid of. David might have more experience with that.

David Accetta 26:08

Yeah, we don’t really have a good idea of exactly when or how Charms became associated with bad luck. But I mean, I do remember hearing that, that if you ate the Charms when you were in field, say in a training environment, then that would guarantee that it would rain on you. And then later on, as we got into more combat operations in different parts of the world, they became associated with soldiers getting injured or killed. Which is why some troops were very adamant about not having the Charms and getting rid of them as soon as they could. I think some of that might have to do with the popularity or lack of popularity of the Charms, of hard candy. So those had been part of military rations for a long time going back to World War II. And I kind of think personally that, generations later, troops were just not all that fond of hard candy, and just didn’t want to eat them, you know, whereas it was probably much more popular in the ’40s and ’50s.

Hope Hodge Seck 27:21

Makes sense. It’s good to get to get to the bottom of that one. I could talk to you all for hours. I think this is really fascinating stuff. And I love the work that you do. But I know we have to wrap up. So my final question is for each of you. What is your favorite MRE menu and why?

Lauren Oleksyk 27:39

Okay, well, for me, it’s the MRE pepperoni pizza, of course, partly because my team is the team that developed the item but also because I love pizza. And I also like the vegetarian taco pasta. So those are my two favorites.

Hope Hodge Seck 27:54

Hmm.

David Accetta 27:55

I have, I think very strange sense of taste. And that’s what most people would politely describe it. My favorite MRE was the omelet with ham. And that was also my favorite of the meal combat-individuals and the canned rations. And that was really good for me because most people didn’t like either one of those. So I could always trade whatever I had for that one. Now of the of the newer-generation MREs, I like the cheese tortellini, it’s even though it’s a vegetarian meal and I’m not a vegetarian. I like the cheese tortellini. And just as a point of trivia, the only ration I mean, the only entree that is still in the MRE menu from the original menu is the spaghetti. And everybody likes the spaghetti and during Desert Storm and going into Iraq in in 2003, as well, that one was really popular and I remember soldiers fighting over who was going to get the spaghetti because they like the spaghetti and that one also came with M&Ms. So that was a jackpot if you pull the the spaghetti MRE out of the box.

Hope Hodge Seck 29:19

Love it, jackpot indeed. Well, I have a very fun memory of being very hungry on a late night in Afghanistan and finding a first strike ration that had a pepperoni sandwich in it, and it tasted just so good. And I don’t think anything will ever taste as good as that item did.

David Accetta 29:39

And that is all due to the work that Lauren and her team did with the shelf-stable bread that enabled the pepperoni sandwich. But you’re exactly right. And we tell people that because you mentioned the the MRE videos on the internet and you know, MREs get a lot of criticism. Not only from troops, but also from civilians who may pick one up somewhere and they eat it. And they’re not designed to be gourmet food. And you know, what we like to tell people is that the true benefit of an MRE can’t be found if you’re sitting in your kitchen or your living room eating it. The benefit of an MRE is when you’re cold, wet, tired and hungry, sitting in the dark in the rain on a mountainside in Afghanistan. And you can open up an MRE and you can have hot food, and you can have something that reminds you of home and have better times and that’s really what the benefits of the MRE are and how you can really appreciate them.

Hope Hodge Seck 30:42

Well, Lauren, and David, thank you so much for coming on the show today.

David Accetta 30:46

Thank you. Great being here.

Hope Hodge Seck 30:57

Well, I don’t know about you, but that episode made me hungry. I’ll take the barbecue beef MRE: It comes with a side of black beans and shelf-stable tortillas and that delicious jalapeno cheese. Do you have any favorite memory recipes or stories about how you enjoy them in the field? Are there any combat ration myths and rumors that we didn’t get to on today’s episode? Hit me up at podcast@military.com and let me know. Hit subscribe on the show today, and if you use Apple podcasts, please do leave a rating and review. And until next time, remember to check out Military.com for all the information and news you need about your military community.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Service Academy athletes can now go pro after graduation

When Chad Hennings won the top award for College Football’s best inside lineman in 1987, it significantly raised his stock for the NFL draft. He would need it. Despite being the best in the game in his day, he still wasn’t drafted until the 11th round. The reason is that Hennings played football at the Air Force Academy, and would have to serve four years in the military before he could pursue his NFL dreams.

He wouldn’t have to do that today. Defense Secretary Mark Esper just signed a new memo, laying out the guidelines newly-graduated academy athletes need to pursue professional sports careers instead of entering the military.


How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor

Go Chad!

Hennings spent four years as a pilot and would actually get his last four years waived by the Air Force. By the time he got to the Dallas Cowboys, he was already 27 years old – almost elderly by NFL standards. Luckily for Hennings, he really was one of the best linemen ever to play the game. After his first start in 1992, he went on to win three Super Bowls and snag 27.5 sacks before retiring after the 2000 season. But other athletes weren’t so lucky.

The issue of letting service members who can play at a professional level attempt that dream has been hotly debated by both pro sports fans and policymakers in Washington. The NCAA is big business now, and the NFL is even bigger, generating 5 million and .1 billion in annual revenues, respectively. The pressure to maintain popular talent is definitely on, but the service academies mean more than just big bucks for big-time athletes. They’re supposed to, anyway. There are many who are against the idea.

How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor

One in particular.

Before the Obama Administration, academy athletes were required to fulfill their service obligations. The Obama Administration allowed academy athletes to defer their service if they were good enough to be drafted by the NFL. Shortly after Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds was allowed to be drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2016, the Pentagon rescinded that policy. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis believed the academies “exist to develop future officers,” and those trained officers should fulfill the expectations of their education.

President Trump stepped in in June 2019, saying there was such a short window of talent between their college career and potential professional sports careers, that academy athletes should be allowed to try and take advantage. On Nov. 15, 2019, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper signed a memo that dictates what the athletes must do to try and take advantage – which includes getting permission from the SECDEF and either serving their commitment or paying the government back for their education.

These days, academy grads usually owe the military five years of service after graduation. Under the new athletics policy, once permission is obtained from the Secretary of Defense, the athlete must agree to return to the military and serve those five years. The waiver is then reviewed by the DoD every year while the athlete is in his pro sports position. If they can’t pass the medical standards when they get to the military, they’ll serve five years in a civilian job. If they don’t do either of those, they’ll be charged for their education.

It’s not impossible for service academy grads to serve first and then join the NFL. In addition to the Cowboys’ Chad Hennings, Navy’s Roger Staubach, Mike Wahle, and Phil McConkey as well Army’s Glenn Davis and Alejandro Villanueva all had successful NFL careers after serving their obligations.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The perfect grooming products for your bug-out bag

You wake up to a bunch of texts asking if you are ok. You stare at your phone, then turn on the television and see that there is some type of calamity in your area and you need to go. So, you walk to the garage, grab your bug-out bag that’s been hanging on the wall, throw some bottles of water in the trunk and hop in your car. You head out of town knowing you have enough supplies to last you for a few days until this blows over.

If you served in the military, you probably are prepared like this because you probably have some variation of a bug-out bag. For some of us, it is a small little pack that has the basics to last 48-72 hours. For others, it pretty much has everything you need to survive any crazy scenario up to and including the Apocalypse.


Typically, your bug-out bag should be able to ensure your survival in the 2-3-day window. While some people might scoff that the idea of having a pack sitting around, the fact is most Americans are decidedly underprepared when life drastically changes, and disaster becomes the norm. (I mean you did see the rush on toilet paper this past month)

Most of us military/vet types learned that proper planning prevents piss poor performance and that is very important when it comes to your safety and well-being.

Well-being is a term that we continually tend to redefine as we get older. One thing we know is that in addition to the water, food, fire starters, and flashlights that are in your bag, the toiletries you take with you are important as well. Yes, you need to take meds, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and toilet paper.

But you also need to take care of your body, too.

Enter BRAVO SIERRA.

The Military-Native performance wellness company that makes top of the line grooming products for both military personnel, veterans, and civilians has some of the best personal care products that you will need in your bug-out bag. Why them?

BRAVO SIERRA, a personal care company founded by a team of veterans and civilians, has military members field test their products in real world environments. They use true data and actual feedback which ensures that products that you have in your bug-out bag will get you through a good 48-72 hour stretch while keeping you clean, healthy, and refreshed.

Here are some of the products you should definitely add to your bug-out bag!

How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor

Antibacterial Body Wipes

These were lifesavers when you were out on deployment and in the field. Why wouldn’t you have it there now? In every bug-out bag, there should be body wipes. Bacteria leads to infection and you don’t want to risk that at all. These wipes kill 99.99% of bacteria in 60 seconds. Also, it helps to be able to clean yourself off when you don’t have access to a ready shower or water supply. Not only are these wipes bacteria killers, they are alcohol-free (which is great for your skin) and leaves you smelling like an adult instead of a baby. Durability matters, too, and these are 4x thicker than baby wipes while remaining biodegradable.

How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor

Hair and Body Solid Cleanser

Yes, you need soap in your bag. And not just some random bar. This coconut-derived cleanser is a two-in-one that will save space and keep you clean. It’s also great on your skin. BRAVO SIERRA’s hydrating formula and coconut-derived cleansing agent allows you to use this product from hair to toe without drying skin, hair, face or scalp.

The last thing you need is dry cracking skin that will leave you open to cuts, sores, and dirt and this bar doesn’t use the traditional harsh cleansing agent that strips your skin like other soaps.

How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor

Deodorant

Yes, you need to not stink. Remember your bug-out bag needs to keep you held over for 48-72 hours. You need to make sure that you feel fresh and smell normal too. Unlike many brands, BRAVO SIERRA doesn’t use baking soda or aluminum in their deodorant.

How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor

Hair/Body Wash & Shave

The ultimate combo and space saver, this is your soap, shampoo, and shaving cream in one. Use it to clean your body, wash your hair, and keep your face within regs. Enriched with ginseng and blue algae, this gel to foam wonder is a must have for your bug-out bag.

How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor

Lip Balm

Why have lip balm handy? Dry/chapped lips lead to crack and, potentially, infection. You don’t want that.If your lips are prone to crack or chap, it is wise to have this handy in your bag.

And no, this isn’t the lip balm your mom uses. BRAVO SIERRA’s is fragrance-free, flavor-free, non-greasy and doesn’t leave you with glossy lips! It’s also enriched with murumuru butter from the Amazon, which means it’s so clean you could eat it — but you should probably stick to regular food.

How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor

Face Sunscreen SPF 30

This one is an obvious one. Even if you have layers and don’t plan on being outside, sunscreen will go a long way to ensuring your skin’s health. Blocking out the sun‘s rays keeps you from getting burnt, and you don’t want to be burnt, especially if you are in a situation that means you are outside your AO for a couple of days. What makes this sunscreen great is that it’s lightweight, non-greasy, non-shiny, non-sticky, and fragrance-free.

So, now that you know what grooming products you need in your bug-out bag, let’s get to work!

Visit BRAVO SIERRA and stock up.

This article is sponsored by BRAVO SIERRA.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

On a recent warm fall afternoon in Charleston, South Carolina, Stacy Pearsall struggled to wind herself down from the daily bustle of ranch life. Flustered from her regular stream of chores and nursing a broken hand for which she recently underwent surgery, the retired Air Force combat photographer fumbled briefly with her phone as she settled into a video-chat interview with Coffee or Die Magazine

Constant motion is Pearsall’s preferred state of being. A few weeks before she was trampled by one of the rare Brabant draft horses she cares for, another horse kicked her in the head; fortunately, she was wearing a helmet. Even after multiple combat deployments left her with a traumatic brain injury and significant spine and nerve damage, she’s never quite figured out how to listen to her body, slow down, and generally behave like a person with actual physical limitations. 

“She’s about as stubborn as one of her donkeys,” says Pearsall’s husband, retired Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway, with a chuckle.  

svg%3E
Staff Sgt. Stacy Pearsall documents combat operations with the 1st Cavalry Division, 12th Infantry Regiment, in Khalis, Iraq, on Feb. 21, 2007. Photo by Andy Dunaway.

Pearsall’s unflinching resolve is a characteristic she habituated early in her career as she fought to earn her place among the military’s best photojournalists at the Air Force’s elite 1st Combat Camera Squadron, where she carved out a legacy of extraordinary, trailblazing service as one of the best shooters in the Department of Defense. 

“I spent my entire career trying to tough everything out,” Pearsall says. “I never wanted to be the one who reflected badly on women. I always had this attitude that I wouldn’t let people in and let people know how bad things were.” 

svg%3E
Pearsall in Iraq in 2007. Photo courtesy of Stacy L. Pearsall.

After spending her first four years on active duty processing photos from U-2 surveillance aircraft, Pearsall, whose family’s tradition of military service can be traced back to the Revolutionary War, applied for a spot at 1st Combat Camera, where she says “somebody typically had to die or retire” for a spot to open up. When a former supervisor was assigned to the unit, he encouraged Pearsall to apply, and after a rigorous screening process, she was accepted and joined the unit in 2002.  

“I actually wasn’t a very good photographer back then, but I was a hard worker,” Pearsall says. “There was absolutely a ‘good old boys’ climate, so all I could do was earn respect through my work.”  

Pearsall’s husband served at the squadron from 2002 to 2010. 

svg%3E
Pearsall and Dunaway on active duty in 2009. Photo courtesy of Stacy L. Pearsall.

“We supported a lot of tier 1 missions and taskings that were only open to men,” Dunaway says. “Some men at the time definitely viewed women as not necessary or less capable.”  

Pearsall says she lost count of how many times she was told she couldn’t do an assignment because the unit wanted a man. But as she navigated an often overtly misogynistic culture, she was also exposed to the best training and equipment the military had to offer and a pool of incredibly talented and experienced photographers — many of whom rewarded her determination and work ethic with invaluable mentorship.  

“Stacy was always out on assignment or looking for something to photograph,” Dunaway says. “She was always out experimenting with the camera, working to get better, and people noticed that.”  

svg%3E
Pearsall hired a National Guard soldier in this photo from a commercial photo shoot for a body armor company. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

Pearsall’s work ethic earned her a combat deployment to Iraq in late 2003, and the photos she made during her first Iraq tour earned her top honors in the National Press Photographer Association’s 2003 Military Photographer of the Year (MILPHOG) competition, making her the second woman to ever win the prestigious title.  

Pearsall was exposed to combat action several times, including an incident in which the HMMWV she was riding in hit a bomb. Her service during that deployment earned Pearsall an Air Force Commendation Medal for valor while documenting combat operations. 

“I don’t know why anyone earns a medal for that,” Pearsall says, looking down uncomfortably for a moment and processing. “I think it was for continuing to document even when shit went sideways — for doing my job. I look back and think how ludicrous it is to get a medal for doing your job.” 

svg%3E
US Air Force medical personnel transfer a wounded soldier, who was just struck by an improvised explosive device, from an ambulance to a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in Baghdad, Iraq, on June 22, 2003. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

After returning from Iraq, she earned the privilege of attending the Pentagon’s Military Photojournalism program at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications in 2004. The yearlong course of study at one of the country’s best journalism schools is the Department of Defense’s most advanced photography course. Only a handful of Air Force members are selected annually, and the service gives its graduates the special designation of “PJ,” or photojournalist.    

Dunaway says it was a rare feat for a squadron member to win MILPHOG without first attending the MPJ program, and after excelling at Syracuse, Pearsall was afforded more opportunities to prove herself among her peers. 

She ultimately deployed to 41 countries, supporting humanitarian relief missions, special operations forces, combat, and other operations. Her images were used by the president, secretary of defense, and Joint Chiefs of Staff to make informed decisions about military operations.

svg%3E
Casablanca, Morocco, June 10, 2010. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

In 2007, Pearsall was again named Military Photographer of the Year, making her the first and only woman in American history to win the title twice. Her portfolio consisted mostly of images from her second Iraq deployment, and Pearsall also took home top honors in numerous individual categories of the competition, including Combat Photography, Portrait, Pictorial, and Photo Story.  

But just as Pearsall appeared to be hitting her professional stride, beneath the surface, she was beginning to break. She had suffered another improvised explosive device blast in Iraq and lived through a bloody ambush during which she was knocked off her feet while rushing to aid a gravely wounded soldier. Her neck slammed into the edge of an ICV Stryker ramp, aggravating the cervical spine trauma she suffered on her first combat deployment. With adrenaline surging through her, Pearsall jumped up and dragged the wounded soldier out of the street and into the Stryker before pinching closed a severed artery in his neck until a medic arrived.

svg%3E
US and Iraqi soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 5th Division, conduct a cordon and search for insurgents and weapons caches in Chubinait, Iraq, on Feb. 3, 2007. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

Recalling the ambush, she suddenly stops and goes quiet for several moments. She turns away from the camera, trying to suppress the anguished feelings that always flood back when she tells the story. Gathering herself after several moments, she says, “I just try not to live in that moment too much.”

In 2011, Pearsall shared the whole story on the PBS NewsHour. 

It’s not just the trauma of that day’s violence and death that haunts Pearsall. It was, after all, just one of the many intense combat actions she lived through and documented on that deployment, earning a Bronze Star in the process. The thing that seems to pain Pearsall most about the ambush is that she pinpoints the injury she suffered that day as “the beginning of the end” of her military career. 

“I got banged up a lot on that deployment,” she says. “But I had always operated under the ideology that if I wasn’t missing a limb and I could see and had a pulse, I should just keep working.”

svg%3E
Members of the US Army, Military Transition Team, and Iraqi army, 4th Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 5th Division, conducted a three-day raid during Operation Brown Hawk in Tahrir, Iraq, on Feb. 27, 2007. The purpose of Operation Brown Hawk was to eliminate Tahrir as an operating base for improvised explosive device building cells and key leaders of the al-Qaeda forces in Iraq. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

Soon after suffering the neck trauma, she started having bad side effects from nerve damage. She often found it difficult to hold her camera or other objects as neurological tremors would sometimes involuntarily release her grip on items. The bomb blast from Pearsall’s first deployment had ruptured her eardrum, and the vertigo she suffered from inner-ear damage worsened after the ambush in 2007.  

After a friend convinced Pearsall to seek medical treatment in Iraq, a doctor hooked her up to an electrical stimulation device, hoping to alleviate some of her pain. 

When the current contracted the muscles in her neck, Pearsall fell backward, nearly passing out from the jolt of excruciating pain. After ordering and reviewing X-rays for Pearsall, the doctor explained the severity of her condition:  

“He’s like, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this, Sgt. Pearsall, but you’ve got to go to Balad [Air Base] today. The chopper leaves in four hours. Go pack your shit.’” 

svg%3E
As the sky turns ominous, Army Sgt. Kyle Ellison searches the roof of a local’s house for weapons during an assault against anti-Iraqi forces in Buhriz, Iraq, on April 11, 2007. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

Pearsall expected to get a CAT scan and return within 24 hours. Instead, doctors told her she had a cervical spine trauma and wearing a Kevlar helmet and body armor every day was no longer an option without treatment and recovery.  

“They wanted to send me to Germany for surgery right away,” she says. “And I was like, ‘No, not doing that.’”

Pearsall never returned to combat. She was sent back to Charleston for long-term nonsurgical treatment. Ultimately, she had to endure a soul-crushing process that required her to go before a medical review board. 

“I remember when I was going through that,” Pearsall recalls, “I had an officer in my unit look me in the eye and say, ‘You weren’t wounded.’ The whole process was awful, and after going through all of that, I thought about suicide. It was not a good place to be.” 

svg%3E
US Air Force Security Forces at Lackland Air Force Base. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

After she was medically retired, Pearsall found herself making frequent trips to the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston. As she carried a head full of bad memories, remorse, and shame to her appointments, she felt alienated and isolated by the constant assumptions by male veterans and staff that she was a dependent rather than a combat veteran. 

“In our society, a lot of people, especially older veterans, still don’t associate women with being military veterans,” Dunaway says. “They look at women as a support function, or as being married to a service member.” 

Pearsall says at the VA hospital, she was frequently asked if she was bringing her father or husband for a doctor’s appointment. On one especially irritating occasion, the Red Cross was passing out cookies and sodas, and when Pearsall reached for some, her hand was slapped away. The cookies were for veterans only, they told her.

“That really made me resentful and bitter,” she says. “I thought everyone was prejudiced against me.”

svg%3E
Retired Army Maj. Ron DeMello served in the infantry and Special Forces from 1957 to 1978. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

In 2008, Pearsall was waiting to see a neurologist at the hospital when an Army veteran from World War II named Mickey Dorsey sat down next to her and changed her life forever.

“I could see him staring at me, and I was getting really pissed,” she says. “When I turned and asked if there was something I could do for him, I found out he was a volunteer at the VA, and he could see that I was struggling and was just looking to help me.”

Pearsall says as she and Dorsey forged a friendship, he inspired her to find a new purpose — another way to serve. She says she set out to honor and thank other veterans with “the only gift I had worth giving, my photography.” 

She started bringing her camera to appointments and making portraits of some of the veterans she’d meet. After doctors told her she shouldn’t carry anything more than 5 pounds or stand for long periods, she started bringing a backdrop and lights — stubborn and determined as ever. 

svg%3E
Jewish-American veteran Benjamin D. Cooper served as a combat medic for three years in World War II. Photo courtesy of Stacy L. Pearsall.

The Veterans Portrait Project was born. 

That first year Pearsall photographed 100 veterans, and 88 of the portraits were curated for a permanent exhibition in the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center’s Hall of Heroes. 

“Suddenly I found myself enjoying what I was doing, and it gave me a sense of purpose,” she says. “It showed me that I could serve outside of a uniform — that I could serve my fellow veterans by helping to challenge people’s perceptions and educate the general public and even the veteran community about who veterans are.” 

svg%3E
Retired Marine Lt. Col. James Sfayer, left, served as an infantry and recon officer from 1972 to 1994 and is a Desert Shield/Storm veteran. Retired Maj. Henry “Duke” Boswell, right, is a World War II and Korean War veteran. He successfully completed combat jumps into Sicily, Italy; Normandy; and Holland. Photos by Stacy L. Pearsall for the Veterans Portrait Project.

She set a goal to photograph veterans at other VA facilities and in the nearby area. Soon she was holding exhibitions — some permanent and some pop-up — all over the country. She would curate a number of portraits and invite political leaders, local business owners, and community members to engage in a dialogue with the veterans she photographed. 

Since taking her first portrait in late 2008, Pearsall has traveled coast to coast with the VPP, covering 82 cities in all 50 states. She has documented more than 8,500 veterans in more than 189 engagements. Each veteran receives a complimentary, high-resolution portrait that they can share with friends and family. Their portraits and stories are also included in national printed exhibitions, showcased in video productions, and shared via social media, ensuring their contributions to American military history are never lost.

svg%3E
Retired Army Col. Sharon A. Singleton, left, served as a nurse from 1985 to 2010 and is a Desert Shield/Storm veteran. Philip George, a Mohawk Native American, served as an Army infantryman from 2009 to 2013 and deployed to Afghanistan twice. Photos by Stacy L. Pearsall for the Veterans Portrait Project.

Pearsall’s portraits are displayed at the National Veterans Memorial Museum in Columbus, Ohio, the Pentagon, the Military Service Memorial for America at Arlington National Cemetery, and myriad locations all over the country. 

‘They’re everywhere,” she says proudly.

Pearsall says the VPP collection represents the more than 22 million military veterans in the United States. 

svg%3E
Army 1st Sgt. Willie S. Grimes, left, served from 1995 to 2012 and deployed to Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq. Service dog Daisy sits with her veteran, former Army Staff Sgt. Robert “Bobby” Henline, also known as the “Well Done Comedian.” Photos by Stacy L. Pearsall for the Veterans Portrait Project.

“They’re young and old, male and female. They come from all walks of life and have varied religious beliefs, levels of education and racial ethnicity,” she says on the VPP website. “What unites them all is their service. It’s a bond that cannot be broken, and I’m proud to be one of them.”

Pearsall says she remains passionately devoted to teaching photography and supporting photographers of every skill level. From 2009 to 2013, she owned and operated the Charleston Center for Photography, a photography education institution and studio. She is a Nikon Ambassador, an educator, military consultant, public speaker, veteran advocate, and author of two books — Shooter: Combat from Behind the Camera and A Photojournalist’s Field Guide: In the Trenches with Combat Photographer Stacy Pearsall. She also produces her own podcast and will soon produce a TV show for PBS.  

svg%3E
Marilyn “Mickey” Cogswell, left, enlisted in the Marine Corps at 18 alongside a few high school girlfriends and served one enlistment in the early 1950s. Retired Army 1st Sgt. Eugene D. Smith enlisted in 1966 at the height of the Vietnam War and retired in 1992. Photos by Stacy L. Pearsall for the Veterans Portrait Project.

Dunaway says his wife’s work sustains and fulfills her, but most people don’t see that it takes a lot out of her, too. As Pearsall points out, “The hard part for me is I have constant reminders in my pictures.”

“Every time she does a speech or engagement, it brings her PTSD back,” Dunaway says. “But Charlie helps with that.”

Charlie is Pearsall’s service dog. He helps her deal with everything from seizures to post-traumatic stress, hearing and mobility support, and nightmare interruptions.

“Every day is a conscious decision to be present,” Pearsall says. “The emotional stuff that you carry with you — it’s not something you ever get over. It’s just something you learn to carry and how heavy you allow that burden to be.” 

svg%3E
Pearsall with service dog Charlie. Photo courtesy of Stacy L. Pearsall.

With that, Pearsall looks at her watch, and as the interview winds down, she worries aloud that her sincerity and vulnerability might come off “bitter and ugly.” She stresses that her military experience was “incredible on so many levels,” and that she would do it all over again if given the choice. 

“I think the military has come a long way,” she says. “The fact that combat arms and special operations roles are now open to women is pretty extraordinary. More women are filling important leadership roles at even the highest levels of the Air Force, and that’s incredible too. So I look at all of that progress, and I am honored to have been part of the growth and to have had the opportunity to experience and to document the history that unfolded while I was in the service.”

And with that, Stacy Pearsall gets back to work. 

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Top US Marine says young troops should not be blamed for using TikTok

Gen. David Berger, the US Marine Corps commandant, suggested the concerns surrounding a service members’ use of questionable Chinese-owned apps like TikTok should be directed against the military’s leadership, rather than the individual troops.

Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, on Saturday morning, Berger said the younger generation of troops had a “clearer view” of the technology “than most people give them credit for.”

“That said, I’d give us a ‘C-minus’ or a ‘D’ in educating the force on the threat of even technology,” Berger said. “Because they view it as two pieces of gear, ‘I don’t see what the big deal is.'”


“That’s not their fault. That’s on us,” Berger added. “Once they begin to understand the risks, what the impact to them is tactically … then it becomes clear. I don’t blame them for that. This is a training and education that we have to do.”

How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor

Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps Gen. David Berger speaks with Marines during a town hall gathering at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, July 31, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Micha Pierce)

Foreign-owned apps like TikTok have prompted concern from lawmakers and the military in recent months. TikTok, the viral video-sharing app from China, was investigated by intelligence agencies and the military for concerns on the “operational security risks posed … and other China-owned social media platforms that can access massive amounts of US users’ personal data,” according to a letter by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in November.

“National security experts have raised concerns about TikTok’s collection and handling of user data, including user content and communications, IP addresses, location-related data, metadata, and other sensitive personal information,” Schumer added in the letter.

How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

To “err on the side of caution,” US Army cadets throughout high school and university were banned from using TikTok while in uniform to represent the military, a spokeswoman said in November. The act does not ban them from using it for personal use.

The app, which was formerly Musical.ly, exploded in popularity and boasted 1 billion monthly active users earlier this year. TikTok and its owner, Beijing ByteDance Technology, claims that American user data is not stored in China, nor is it politically influenced by the country.

“Let us be very clear: TikTok does not remove content based on sensitivities related to China,” the company said in a statement in October. “We have never been asked by the Chinese government to remove any content and we would not do so if asked. Period.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘The Mandalorian’ episode 8 recap: This is the Why

The eighth chapter is finally here and this time it’s directed by Thor: Ragnarok’s Taika Waititi – and it’s everything you thought a Star War directed by Taika Waititi would be. Everything we hoped it might be.

Even the scout troopers got a touch of personality in this episode. Consider this your spoiler warning.


How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor

With an appearance by Jason Sudeikis and Adam Pally.

(LucasFilm)

In this chapter of The Mandalorian, we learn a lot about Our Mandalorian. After we learn the scout troopers have murdered Kuiil and taken the Yoda Baby. We see one of the troopers actually punch the Yoda Baby before getting murdered themselves by the avenging nurse droid, IG-11. Back in the city, we find the heroes still trapped by a legion of Stormtroopers, led by everyone’s favorite villain Giancarlo Esposito, Moff Gideon, who gives them until nightfall to decide if they’re going to cooperate with the Imperial leader’s demands.

IG-11 rides into town like a one-droid army on a speeder bike, dropping stormtrooper bodies all over the streets until he reaches the square where our heroes are pinned down. IG, with the Yoda Baby on his back, continues his rampage as our pinned-down heroes break out of the building. Our Mandalorian even picks up an E-Web Heavy Repeating Blaster that looks like something Carl Weathers might have used in Predator.

How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor

(LucasFilm)

But before this amazing gunfight takes place, we learn a lot about our heroes – from Moff Gideon. It turns out the Moff was more than just an Imperial leader, but was part of an intelligence network. He knew the names of Cara Dune, and that she was from Alderaan, which explains why she hated the Empire so much. We also learn Our Mandalorian has a name, Din Djarin and he wasn’t born on Mandalore. In fact, Mandalorian isn’t even a race, it’s a creed. More importantly, we learn how Our Mandalorian became Mandalorian and why the Yoda Baby means so much to him.

In a flashback, we learn Djarin’s village and his parents were massacred by B2 Super Battle Droids when he was a boy. Just before meeting his own death at the hands of these droids, the young Djarin is rescued by a band of Mandalorian warriors who destroy the droids and carry the young boy off, presumably to Mandalore. Back on Nevarro, however, things look grim for our heroes.

Until the Yoda Baby comes into play.

How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor

“I’ma stop you right there.”

(LucasFilm)

Moff Gideon critically wounds Our Mandalorian by shooting the power cell of the E-Web blaster. He is rescued by his compatriots but they are once again trapped in the building with certain death outside. As Our Mandalorian lays dying, he refuses Dune’s help as it would require removing his helmet. IG-11 opens the sewer grate right as an Incinerator Stormtrooper walks in to blast the room. Instead of burning the room, however, the flames blast him right out the door, thanks to the Yoda Baby, who stepped up to defend his injured father. Once all the humanoids are in the sewer, IG-11 convinces Djarin that since the droid is not alive, he can take his helmet off to receive medical treatment and for the first time, we see our antihero’s face.

Once healed and looking for the Mandalorians in the sewer, they instead find the remnants of their armor. The remaining Mandalorians had been hunted or killed after the Imperials arrived, though some may have escaped. The Armorer survived, however, and after hearing about the Yoda Baby’s strange powers, tells Djarin about the Jedi. Unable to determine the baby’s race, Karga reminds Djarin that his mission will now be to raise the baby or find his home world – reminding him that “this is the way.”

She also give him his earned signet. Oh, and a jetpack called “Rising Phoenix.” She tells them the way out and covers their exit with the dopest slaughter of stormtroopers seen in the Star Wars universe since IG-11 and the Yoda Baby in the town square fifteen minutes before.

How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor

Can we talk about this most brutal stormtrooper kill?

(LucasFilm)

Our heroes make their way down a river of lava, thanks to a boat propelled by a droid. IG-11 sacrifices himself so that the group isn’t killed by a platoon of stormtroopers waiting to ambush them, and then Mando takes on Moff Gideon flying a TIE Fighter, thanks to his handy new jetpack. Every thing is reset for season 2, as Cara Dune decides to stay on Nevarro and become a member of the Guild and Karga forgives Mando, offering him the choice picks of the bounty hunter jobs.

But our Mandalorian is now a full warrior, with a mission. He returns to his ship and flies into the sunset, presumably determined to find the Yoda Baby’s home.

popular

Mighty Talks: MOH Recipients MSG Matt Williams and SSG Ronald Shurer


On April 6, 2008, Operational Detachment-Alpha 3336 entered the Shok Valley in Afghanistan with their Afghan Commando partners to capture a high-value target. Almost immediately upon insertion, the team came under heavy RPG and machine gun fire. Within minutes of landing, the team was dealing with their first casualty and began coordinating an evacuation down the side of a mountain in a foreign language, all the while calling in danger close ordnance to repel the enemy onslaught.

How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor
MSG Williams while on a mission in Afghanistan
(Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army MSG Matthew Williams)

Green Beret teams were some of the first Americans into Afghanistan after 9/11, and the unique nature of their mission inspired Williams and Shurer. Both men feel strongly about the brotherhood that is established within the Special Forces community and speak to those feelings throughout the interview. “I’ve read books, and seen movies, but until you’re in the Q Course, you see that the focus isn’t this tough, lone soldier. It’s much more of a team aspect,” said Shurer. “They’ve got to find those guys with the strong personalities but can play as part of a team, that’s why it kind of fit well with me.” Shurer added.

How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor
​MSG Williams receives the Medal of Honor from POTUS
(Photo Credit: Sgt. Keisha Brown)

As with many other Medal of Honor recipients, the award has changed their lives as they are now part of the Medal of Honor Society, and have appeared on national media to share their heroic actions and remember the efforts of others.”You’re not wearing it for yourself, you’re wearing it for all those guys who didn’t come home, and everyone out there who is still doing the job and still doing the mission,” said Shurer. “If nothing else it puts me in a position to highlight great things that are done constantly by SF teams, special forces teams are always, are constantly out there doing these things” added Williams, “I hope you see a representation of the great things that all the men and women that serve the country are capable of doing and do” he added.

Check out the full video above. Click to read the official citation for MSG Williams and SSG Shurer

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are the potential new Air Force officer categories

The Air Force is inching closer to fragmenting the Line of Air Force category into six new, more specific, categories—including one apparently intended for “space operations.” The change to the Line of Air Force categories would affect an estimated 87% of its current officers.


How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor

USAF Secretary Heather Wilson

The current draft of the categorical changes was previewed by Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. Wilson emphasized that while the changes are not yet finalized, the 6 new tentative Line Air Force categories are:

  • Nuclear and missile operations
  • Air operations and special warfare
  • Information warfare
  • Combat support
  • Force modernization (including acquisition and RD)
  • Space operations
Secretary of the Air Force Confirmation Hearing

Wilson said that the decision to splinter the Line of Air Force into specific categories may only be confined to middle officer ranks.

According to Wilson, the final decision is expected to be set in stone by October.

The proposed re-haul would give a majority of officers a more specific category to adhere to. The current system in place has specified categories for chaplains, lawyers, and doctors—but officers are a part of a much more sweeping, generic category.

How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor

Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly

According to Air Force personnel chief Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, this change could disadvantage the upward mobility of some officers. Kelly referenced the need for officers to vary their skillsets so that they are competitive when job openings or promotions become available.

“But if, for example, acquisition officers had their own competitive category, they could stay longer at a base to provide more continuity within their program. Moreover, the lack of command opportunities that acquisition officers typically face would be less likely to hurt their promotion chances,” Kelly continued, “But more categories would give different career fields the opportunity to grow officers in their own unique ways, providing the best fit for them.”

How to honor the bombing of Pearl Harbor

This could mean big changes for officers—like those pictured here graduating from USAF OTS on Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama

(Airman First Class Matthew Markivee)

Wilson reiterated that the umbrella system of categorizing officers has led to some unequal footing in terms of experience levels in certain fields. Wilson used the example of colonels and lieutenant colonels in the Air Force, and how there is essentially a reliance on chance that a qualified candidate will fall into the position.

“And we may not have enough colonels in cyber, or lieutenant colonels in logistics, or somebody that’s coming along who eventually is being groomed to be the leader of one of our laboratories,” Wilson continued, “Not everybody’s career is going to look like everybody else’s — and it doesn’t have to.”

Wilson conceded that a change of this magnitude, like many others, will need support, “So we’re going to take it out to the force, get a lot of input, hope people post on it, blog on it, comment on it, have town hall meetings on it.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Which military branch SHOULD you join?

So you’re thinking about joining the military. Good for you, you little patriot! Whether it’s for the experience or the benefits or maybe just the emptiness inside you that makes you want to be a hero call to serve a higher good, the military has a lot to offer.

But not all military experiences are equal. There’s a major difference between being a Marine Scout Sniper and an Air Force Linguist. Both have pros and cons, so let’s talk about some of them, starting with the culture and mission of each branch.

Keep in mind that these are broad generalizations. A Special Operations mission in any branch will differ significantly from, say, a Public Affairs perspective, which will also influence the training requirements and deployment tempos for the individual.


As a note, this article was written based on a compilation of Department of Defense publications, interviews with veterans and my own experience. It cannot cover everyone’s experience, so it’s important to do your own research and talk to veterans (not just the first recruiting officer you meet).

As an additional note, the Boot Camp descriptions here are for enlisted personnel – officers have shorter boot camps because they undergo less academic training during boot camp itself and more during additional officer training. This isn’t the only difference between being an officer and an enlisted member; from the mission to the pay to the benefits, the experiences are extremely varied — once you’ve found a branch you like, make sure you check out our article about commissioning compared to enlisting.

If you want to join the military, it’s wise to reflect on why that is and what you want your life and job to look like. This is a good place to start:

What New Marine Corps Recruits Go Through In Boot Camp

www.youtube.com

U.S. MARINE CORPS

Boot Camp:

“What you’re really made of can only be revealed at the brink of exhaustion. Marine Recruit Training will take you there. Only those who possess the never-quit spirit required of every Marine will find the strength they never knew they had, the willpower they never knew they needed and the commitment to find that second wind even when it hurts to breathe to overcome the Marine boot camp requirements.”

Phase One — Weeks 1-4

Recruits transition from civilian to military life with strenuous physical training and martial arts as well as Marine Corps history and classes. They learn Marine Corps culture and values, including how to wear the uniform and handle weapons.

Phase Two — Weeks 5-9

The second phase consists of combat skills and marksmanship training. Recruits undergo gas chamber training and the Crucible.

Phase Three — Weeks 10-13

Recruits undergo specialty training such as combat water survival and defensive driving.

Physical Fitness Test:

  1. Pull-ups or push-ups (as many as you can; you can only max out on pull-ups — with push-ups you can get a maximum score of 70 points)
  2. Crunches or plank pose (as many crunches as possible in two minutes or holding plank pose for up to four minutes and twenty seconds)
  3. Timed run (three mile run in 28 minutes or less for men, 31 minutes or less for women)

Combat Fitness Test:

  1. Movement to Contact (timed 880-yard sprint)
  2. Ammunition Lift (lift 30-pound ammo can as many times as possible overhead in set amount of time)
  3. Maneuver Under Fire (300-yard course that combines battle-related challenges)

Deployments: The Marines remain at a 1:2 deployment-to-dwell ratio (or 1 year deployed with 2 years at home), which Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps General Robert Neller referred to as “unsustianable.” The goal is to achieve a 1:3 deployment-to-dwell ratio.

Culture: Marines are trained for combat and they are very good at that mission, which they should be proud of.

Unfortunately, the Marine Corps still struggles with health and care of its service members. A 2018 Annual Suicide Report showed the Marine Corps had the highest rate of active duty suicides, with a rate of 31.4 per 100,000 (compared to the Army with 24.8, Navy with 20.7 and Air Force with 18.5).

The Marine Corps also had the highest reporting rate of sexual assault with 5.7 percent, followed by the Army at 5.5 percent, Navy at 4.8 percent and the Air Force at 4.3 percent.

What Army Recruits Go Through At Boot Camp

www.youtube.com

U.S. ARMY

Boot Camp:

Army Basic Combat Training comes in three phases and lasts about ten weeks depending on your military occupational specialty (MOS) — in other words, your job for the Army.

During the Red Phase, you learn the basics about Army life, such as how to wear the uniform and comport yourself. You also get your ass in line with physical readiness training and formation marching. Also, as a treat, you get your introduction to Chemical Radioactive Biological and Nuclear readiness, including getting gassed proper usage of breathing masks.

During the White Phase, you receive weapons and hand-to-hand combat training. You continue your physical readiness training, including obstacle courses and rappelling from the 50-foot Warrior Tower.

During the Blue Phase, you receive advanced weapons training, including machine guns and live grenades. You embark on a multiple-day land navigation course to test your survival skills. If you pass all of your challenges, you become a fully qualified Army Soldier. Huzzah.

Physical Fitness Test:

  1. Two minutes of push-ups
  2. Two minutes of sit-ups
  3. Timed two mile run

Army Combat Fitness Test:

  1. 3 repetition maximum deadlift
  2. Standing Power Throw
  3. Hand release push up arm extension
  4. Sprint-Drag-Carry
  5. Leg Tuck
  6. Two mile run
Deployments: The Army has maintained a high operations tempo when it comes to deployments. Current high deployment thresholds consist of 220 days deployed out of the previous 365 days, or 400 days deployed out of the previous 730 days.

In 2017, the Secretary of Defense’s standard was a 1 to 2 deploy-dwell ratio — or one year deployed with two years at home, for example — with the “red line” at 1 to 1. At the time, that ratio was at about 1 to 1.2 or 1.3, according to Army Times. It isn’t uncommon to expect 12-18 month deployments.

Culture: Like the Marine Corps, the U.S. Army has a proven history on the battlefield. Soldiers are trained to operate under a “suck it up” attitude to endure long deployments and combat as well as physical and mental stress. The Army has the second highest reported incidents of suicide and sexual assault, just behind the Marine Corps. Anyone joining the Army can expect to join a branch with a proud lineage, but it’s wise to evolve your own sense of self-care and to learn how to protect your health and the health of your battle buddies.
US Air Force Recruit BOOT CAMP Documentary

www.youtube.com

U.S. AIR FORCE

Basic Military Training:

Air Force BMT consists of eight and a half weeks where recruits are introduced to military life through academics and uniform wear as well as physical fitness and weapons training. Academics and certifications, such as learning the Code of Conduct and becoming CPR certified, remain peppered throughout training.

Air Force recruits will complete a Tactical Assault Course and M9 pistol training, but unlike the Army or the Marine Corps, airmen are not required to qualify on the weapon during BMT. Active duty enlisted personnel and officers will qualify on their weapon only as required by their job or deployment status.

Compared to the Marine Corps and Army and even the Navy or Coast Guard, with firefighting and water survival, the Air Force BMT is probably the least strenuous of the branch boot camps.

Physical Fitness Test:

  1. One minute of push ups
  2. One minute of sit-ups
  3. Timed one and a half mile run

Note that this test is less strenuous than the Army/Navy/Marine Corps fitness tests. Soldiers and Marines are more likely to become “boots on the ground” in combat zones.

Deployments: The Air Force maintains an Air and Space Expeditionary Force (AEF) deploy-to-dwell tempo system, depending on career fields: The deployment categories are called tempo bands. Air Force officials have created five tempo bands: A through E. Tempo Band A reflects the original AEF cycle of a 1:4 dwell ration based on 120-day deployments. Bands B through E are based on 179-day deployments. Tempo band B is a 1:4 dwell ratio — or six months deployed 24 months home. Tempo band C is a 1:3 dwell, band D is a 1:2 dwell and band E, reserved for the most stressed career fields, is a 1:1 dwell, or six months out, six months in.

Culture: Other branches like to tease the “Chair Force” due to its reputation for cleaner housing and higher quality chow halls. The average Air Force mission will be less physically strenuous or dangerous than that of the Marine Corps or Army.

You might say the Air Force operates with the motto of “work smarter not harder,” and for better or for worse, this pays off. In recent reports, the Air Force had the lowest number of active duty suicides and sexual assaults. That being said, if you want to join the military to get in the fight and kick down doors in a combat zone, there are few Air Force positions available.

Boot Camp: Behind The Scenes at Recruit Training Command (Full documentary, 2019)

www.youtube.com

U.S. NAVY

Boot Camp:

Recruit training or “boot camp” is about seven weeks long for the U.S. Navy. It will include physical fitness and Navy heritage, as well as seamanship and firearms training. The first two weeks are a challenging adjustment period filled with medical screenings and physical training as well as military education, including uniform wear and rank recognition.

The next four weeks include class and hands-on training environments that cover everything from firefighting and shipboard damage control to water survival and weapons training. Navy sailors aboard a ship must know how to respond to ship emergencies including flooding and fires as well as how to survive at sea. Every sailor is a qualified swimmer, able to swim 50 yards and complete a five minute prone float.

The final hurdle for Navy recruits is called Battle Stations, which includes numerous obstacles to test everything learned in the weeks prior.

Physical Readiness Test:

(Note, in 2020, the U.S. Navy will be introducing changes to the PRT)

  1. 1.5 mile run for time
    1. Alternate per commander’s discretion: 500 yard swim for time
    2. Alternate per commander’s discretion: Stationary cycle calorie burn in 12 minutes
    3. Alternate per commander’s discretion: 1.5 mile treadmill; run/walk for time
    4. (2020 alternate per commander’s discretion: 2 kilometer row machine test)
  2. Two minutes of curl-ups
    1. (To be replaced by forearm plank test)
  3. Two minutes of push ups
Deployments: Deployments will depend on what type of ship and mission sailors are assigned to, but they are often around seven months and during that time, sailors might not see land for long periods of time. While at sea, there are no breaks: you stand a 6-12 hour watch, even on Sundays, although there are often “holiday routines” with modified shifts. Ship/shore rotation tends to happen after about three years, depending on the job. Some career fields have longer ship rotations and some have only shore duty stations. It’s important to research ahead of time to try to secure the best job suited for you and your capabilities.

Culture: Navy ships especially continue to operate in historical fashions, so change is slow. Segregation of ranks is still strictly enforced (junior enlisted does not mingle with senior enlisted and fraternization with officers is especially prohibited in such close quarters). While women do serve at all ranks, there is still sexism and harassment in alarming numbers (though statistically less than the Marine Corps and the Army).

What It Takes To Survive Coast Guard Boot Camp

www.youtube.com

U.S. COAST GUARD

Boot Camp:

U.S. Coast Guard boot camp consists of eight weeks that begin with military and physical fitness fundamentals and mature to hands-on application of Coast Guard proficiencies. Recruits learn firefighting and marksmanship as well as seamanship and water survival. Recruits must pass a three part swimming test (swim circuit) that includes a six-foot jump followed by a 100 meter swim and treading water for five minutes.

Physical Fitness Test:

  1. One minute of push ups
  2. One minute of sit-ups
  3. Timed 1.5 mile run
  4. Swim circuit

Deployments:

The Coast Guard consists of about 40,000 active duty members. As such, it is a very selective branch with missions that involve everything from Search and Rescue to Maritime Protection. Coast Guardsmen “deploy” every day in their duties and units and cutters can be away from port for months at a time. Coast Guard deployments tend to be more frequent, but can be as short as a few days or as long as several months.

Not all Coast Guard assignments are on “the coast” — there are inland assignments protecting inland waterways and lakes. The Coast Guard will also deploy to combat zones to provide additional support to maritime operations or to augment the Navy throughout the world.

Once you’ve researched the differences between each branch, there is still one more major consideration that can affect your military experience: whether to enlist or commission. We go into the benefits and downsides of each right here — check them out!

MIGHTY CULTURE

3 great uses for your “forgotten to return” woobie

By far, the most coveted and “forgotten to return” item that’s ever been issued to members of the military is the woobie. Maybe you’ve forgotten that your most cherished bit of military memorabilia is actually a poncho liner … since so few people ever actually used it for its intended purpose. The woobie designers intended for you to use the little holes on the sides to tie it together, but let’s be serious – no one has ever done that. It’s probably a really excellent poncho liner, but chances are you’re never going to use it for its manufactured purpose. Instead, let’s take a look at some great ways to use your woobie besides using it as a blanket.


History of the woobie

But first, do you even know why it’s called a woobie? The real origin story is likely lost to history, but most people tend to think it’s because of the phrase, “Because you would be cold without it.” “Would be” eventually evolved into woobie, and a military star was born.

The truth is that the woobie history stretches back even further to the 1850s when ponchos were first in use by the American military. Forces assigned to patrol the Western Plains were issued ponchos to keep them warm. These ponchos were made from “gutta-percha muslin,” which was muslin fabric coated with rubber. The rubber coating made the poncho waterproof but also made it hard to fold.

During the Civil War, these rubber coated ponchos were standard issue. Ponchos were used as both waterproof groundsheets and to keep dry.

By 1900, ponchos were made from rubberized canvas, which was great for weatherproofing, but really freaking heavy.

During WWI and WWII, service members used ponchos because they could protect both the pack and the wearer as well as serving as a makeshift shelter in the field.

The 1950s saw ponchos made from synthetic fabrics, and this is when the earliest predecessor of what we know as the woobie began to emerge. During the Vietnam War, the standard-issue Army wool blanket was unsuited for the terrain and climate, since it got really heavy when wet. The woobie made its first field appearance sometime between 1962 and 1964.

Okay, enough history. Here are three fun things you can do with your woobie.

1. Repurpose as a robe

Find a seamstress and make your woobie into the coziest robe ever. Trust us when we say you’ll never want to take it off. If you’re not the robe-wearing type, what about making it into the warmest hoodie ever? Or you could go all out and have it repurposed into a light jacket, thereby getting pretty darn close to the woobie’s intended original use.

2. Camp

Use it as a tent divider if you’re still keen on camping. That is if being in the field wasn’t enough camping to last a lifetime. Woobies make perfect tent dividers to section out space inside a large tent or to create rooms if you’re camping with your family.

3. Pets

Let your cat or dog appropriate it and use it as their new favorite bed. It smells like you, it’s soft, warm, and it makes for the perfect traveling pet bed because it’s so compact. It’s especially useful for the inside of kennels if you have to move since the woobie is waterproof and dustproof.

A few years back, the Marine Corps unveiled the Woobie 2.0, and four years on, we’re still smiling about its enhanced benefits. This upgrade includes the things service members have been asking for – better insulation, a way to keep various tie-down points in place, and the addition of parachute cord loops. The latest version also includes a heavy-duty reversible zipper to make the woobie into the ultimate cozy cocoon. Woobie 2.0 doesn’t have as much stitching as the older version because the insulation is so much better. But to prevent rips, some stitches run down the length of the woobie.

We’re obsessed with the new zipper function and like all the old times always said, these new kids don’t know how good they’ve got it. From its humble beginnings in the earliest days of the American military to the jungles of Vietnam, the woobie truly is the greatest military invention ever fielded.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information