How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

U.S. Air Forces in Europe Fire Academy members, assigned to the 435th Construction and Training Squadron, hosted a burn training during a USAFE NATO Firefighter Partnership course, Oct. 5, 2018, on Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

“The participants did extremely well,” said 1st Lt. Justin Domingo, 435th Contingency Response Support Squadron air advisor. “Most participants are already experienced firefighters so they generally have no issues.”


This training enhances interoperability with Latvian and Lithuanian air forces firefighters and ensures all forces are qualified, trained, and knowledgeable rescue personnel.

“This is the third firefighting training course this year that we’ve hosted,” Domingo said. “We look forward to continuing these events in order to maintain the relationships we’ve built while developing our goal of NATO interoperability.”

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

Latvian and Lithuanian air forces firefighters extinguish mock fires during a U.S. Air Forces in Europe NATO Firefighter Partnership course on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 10, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Devin M. Rumbaugh)

Approximately 20 NATO ally firefighters participated in the five-day course focused on crash and fire procedure familiarization, enabling partner nations to work together in any situation.

“The NATO allies are always ready for a challenge and bring a lot of motivation and energy to every situation whether it’s just a classroom discussion or hands-on training,” said Staff Sgt. Germane White, 435th CTS fire rescue and contingency training instructor.

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Frank Butler, 435th Construction and Training Squadron fire rescue and contingency training instructor, waits for a simulation to begin during a U.S. Air Forces in Europe NATO Firefighter Partnership course on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 10, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Devin M. Rumbaugh)

Students learned firefighting tactics such as nozzle operations, hose advancement, forcible entry, search and rescue operations, and confined space rescue.

“I feel honored to be an instructor for our NATO allies. They bring so much to the table and its monumental being able to instruct and help them with certain tactics they may not be familiar with.”

U.S. aircraft are present throughout Europe and at any given time an emergency can arise. By conducting this training, the instructors are prepping NATO allies for contingency operations and humanitarian missions.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

USPS unveils Military Working Dog stamps to celebrate our *true* heroes

I haven’t been this excited about Forever Stamps since an LT I worked with in Korea monologized about how investing in them would save money over time as the price of stamps continued to rise. Now seems as good a time as any to take his advice, especially considering these new Military Working Dog stamps are just so CUTE patriotic.

According to a press release, “Each block of four stamps features one stamp of each of the following breeds — German shepherd, Labrador retriever, Belgian Malinois, and Dutch shepherd — that commonly serve in America’s armed forces. The background of each stamp features a detail of a white star. A star appears in the center of each block. The stylized digital illustrations are in red, white, blue and gold to represent the American flag and patriotism.”


The 9 Biggest Myths About Military Working Dogs | Military Insider

youtu.be

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)

From detecting improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan to being on the front lines during World War I, military working dogs have been used to help service members win battles for generations.

Also read: A day in the life of a military working dog

According to CNN, an estimated 2,300 military working dogs serve on U.S. bases worldwide. Both male and female dogs are chosen, they are given specialized training, and they are treated with the respect and dignity of their fellow service members. Military working dogs have even received medals for their heroism.

The bond between the handler and the dog is so strong that many handlers will adopt their MWDs after their service. When a military working dog is finally laid to rest, they are given full military honors.

Now, the rest of us can help commemorate their sacrifice, devotion, and bravery with these stamps.

More: A brief history of dogs in warfare

The art for the stamps was created by DKNG Studios and designed by art director Greg Breeding. More details on dates and locations for the first-day-of-issue ceremonies “are coming.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

As soon as Shawn Campbell saw his name on a plaque next to a statue sunken 40 feet on the seafloor, the memories of soldiers he had once served with flooded his mind.

The life-size statue, one of a dozen concrete figures that make up the nation’s only underwater veterans memorial, depicted a soldier wearing combat gear from the Iraq War — a war he had fought in three separate times.

“It really took my breath away,” said the former staff sergeant, now a master diver at a Florida dive shop. “It was a huge honor.”

His company made a donation to place his name at the base of the statue before the figures were recently installed about 10 miles off the coast of Clearwater, Florida.


The memorial, called Circle of Heroes, honors the entire military with statues portraying a variety of service members in what organizers hope will serve as a therapeutic dive for veterans and a unique diving experience for all.

Plans call for an additional 12 statues to be added to the memorial next year.

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

Circle of Heroes is the nation’s only memorial of its kind and will eventually have 24 life-size statues depicting troops from all services.

(Circle of Heroes)

For Campbell, who served about a decade in the Army as a combat medic, he said the memorial helped him remember those who never returned home and those who struggled once they did.

“I had a lot of friends who didn’t make it back,” he said Aug.12, 2019, a week after the memorial officially opened. “And even more who did make it back, but then couldn’t win the battle with themselves after the war.”

One such friend was Staff Sgt. Victor Cota. He and Campbell had been in the same 4th Infantry Division unit that provided security for senior leaders traveling in and around Baghdad.

On May 14, 2008, Cota’s vehicle hit a roadside bomb, killing the 33-year-old Tucson, Arizona, native.

“He was a really good friend of mine,” Campbell said. “We lost him during [my] second deployment.”

In 2013, Campbell left the Army to finish his associate’s degree and then worked as a commercial deep sea diver. He now teaches courses at a dive shop in the Tampa area, where he grew up.

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, looks at his name on a plaque next to one of the statues at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.

(Video still by Bill Mills)

“I was like, well, if I survived the war, I’m going to start doing everything I want to do now,” he said.

Campbell said scuba diving is a relaxing activity that calms his post-traumatic stress and gives him time to analyze his thoughts in peace.

“It helps me deal with things,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to have a bad day when you’re underwater and you get to reflect upon yourself.”

Former Staff Sgt. Jace Badia, also a diving instructor, agreed, saying the sport gives him more freedom of movement.

Badia, an infantryman who lost his left leg above the knee to a roadside bomb in Iraq, said he and others who have had amputated limbs can move however they like while floating below the surface.

He even knows a blind veteran who enjoys scuba diving.

“If you don’t have the ability to run because of prosthetics, you can get in the water with a tank and you can swim as fast as you want,” he said. “Nothing is stopping you.”

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, had a statue dedicated to him at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.

(Shawn Campbell)

Badia, who manned a boat so other wounded veterans could dive around the memorial last week, said he is looking forward to seeing it soon in an upcoming dive.

“I can’t believe that they finally made an underwater memorial for [service members],” he said. “That’s amazing, I never even thought that was possible.”

While memorials are typically above ground, this one can allow visitors to connect to it on a deeper level. There is even a nonprofit that specifically takes wounded veterans to the site as an alternative form of therapy.

“The one thing about scuba diving is when you’re down there, even if you’re in a group, you’re still by yourself,” Campbell said. “You have no choice but to reflect on what you’re looking at.

“It’s more of a serene experience that you never get an opportunity to experience above the water.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

First Marines to get new women’s uniform graduate boot camp

For nearly four years, Marine Corps Systems Command has been working on a new dress blues coat for women that more closely resembled the coat worn by male Marines. The Corps wanted a more unified look between the two uniforms. On Nov. 16, 2018, the first class of female Marines graduated from boot camp on Parris Island wearing the new coat.


“I was honored to be a part of history and stand out on the renowned parade deck to witness the newest Marines who will enter into the operating forces,” said Marine Corps Systems Command Sgt. Maj. Robin Fortner said. Fortner served as the parade reviewing official. “All the Marines looked sharp. The uniform represents the United States Marine Corps and its proud, rich legacy, which was exemplified by the Marines.”

The most obvious difference for the new women’s uniform is that the standing collar now matches the men’s dress blues coat, instead of using the old standard lapel.

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

The old women’s dress blues coat next to the classic men’s dress blues.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Photo by Sgt. Mallory Vanderschans)

Other improvements include a white belt and a seam in the upper-torso area to allow for Marines to more easily alter the coat to better fit their body types. It is also longer, an addition that gives it balance with the uniform trouser but also allows the wearer greater mobility and range of motion.

The reason the changes took so long to design and then enact is the attention to detail paid to making the improvements. The approved changes in the jacket worn by Marines with November Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion (the class who graduated on Nov. 16) is actually the third and final attempt at improving women’s dress blues.

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

Drill Instructors and Marines with November Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion march towards the Peatross Parade Deck before their graduation ceremony Nov. 16, 2018 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Yamil Casarreal)

Researchers interviewed female Marines from I and II Marine Expeditionary Forces along with surveys conducted with Marines in the National Capital Region, Parris Island, Camp Lejeune, Cherry Point, Yuma, and the entire west coast. An additional 3,000 women filled in the information online as well.

The coat is now available for sale at the Marine Corps Exchange.

In the Marine Corps, traditions don’t change fast, if at all. But female Marines who modeled the coat during its trial phase tell current Marines to give the coat a try before forming an opinion about it – they might be pleasantly surprised when they look in the mirror.

Before I joined the service, my first impression was the iconic male uniform coat I saw on commercials,” said Sgt. Lucy Schroder who traveled with the designer to model the uniforms and answer questions from fellow Marines. “When I got to boot camp and they gave me my coat, I was confused because it looked different than what I expected. The more we progress in time, the more female Marines are having a voice and opinions on how they want to look, which will hopefully draw the attention of future recruits.
MIGHTY CULTURE

7 animals who serve in militaries around the world

From the horses of Chinggis Khan’s army, to Hannibal’s famed elephants, to World War I carrier pigeons, animals have played a crucial role in military operations for centuries.

But despite the technological achievements since Hannibal marched his elephants over the Alps in 218 BCE, militaries still use animals, whether for parades, transport, or weapons detection.

In September 2019, as Hurricane Dorian pummeled parts of the southeastern United States, the team of marine mammals from Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic in Kings Bay, Georgia, where they patrol the waters for enemy crafts or other intruders, were evacuated to Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division in Panama City, Florida, to ride out the storm.


“At NSWC PCD, we personally understand the trials and tribulations that come with the devastation of a hurricane, especially after Hurricane Michael severely impacted our area in 2018,” Nicole Waters, the Machine Shops Project Manager in Panama City told Navy Times.

“We strongly support the ‘One Team, One Fight’ initiative and will always be willing to help protect any Navy personnel and assets.”

Read on to learn more about the roles animals play in today’s militaries.

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

1. A beluga whale was found off the coast of Norway in 2018, sparking suspicions that it was trained as a Russian spy.

The whale was initially found by Norwegian fisherman with a harness strapped to it that read Equipment St. Petersburg, The Washington Post reported at the time. The whale was extremely friendly toward humans, an unusual behavior for a beluga raised in the wild. It was speculated at the time that the whale’s harness may have held a camera or weapons of some sort.

More recently, another whale with a GoPro camera base strapped to it made its way to Norway, where locals named it “Whaledimir.”

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

A Navy Marine Mammal Program (NMMP) California sea lion waits for his handler to give the command to search the pier for potential threats during International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX). IMCMEX includes navies from 44 countries whose focus is to promote regional security through mine countermeasure operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kathleen Gorby)

2. The US Navy uses sea lions to recover objects at depths that swimmers can’t reach.

“Sea lions have excellent low light vision and underwater directional hearing that allow them to detect and track undersea targets, even in dark or murky waters,” the US Navy Marine Mammal program explains. They’re also able to dive much further below the water’s surface than human divers, without getting decompression sickness, or “the bends.”

They’re trained to patrol areas near nuclear-powered submarines and detect the presence of adversaries’ robots, divers, or other submerged threats.

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program (NMMP) MK7 Marine Mammal System bottlenose dolphin searches for an exercise sea mine alongside an NMMP trainers. NMMP is conducting simulated mine hunting operations in Southern California during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), exercise, July 22. Twenty-five nations, 46 ships, five submarines, and about 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 27 to Aug. 2 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.

(SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific)

3. Dolphins, too, are used by the Navy to sniff out mines.

“Since 1959, the U.S. Navy has trained dolphins and sea lions as teammates for our Sailors and Marines to help guard against similar threats underwater,”according to the US Navy Marine Mammal program.

“Dolphins naturally possess the most sophisticated sonar known to science,” the program’s website says. “Mines and other potentially dangerous objects on the ocean floor that are difficult to detect with electronic sonar, especially in coastal shallows or cluttered harbors, are easily found by the dolphins.”

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

Office of U.S. Quartermaster, Army Camel Corp training.

4. The Indian Army uses camels in its parades.

It also piloted a program in 2017 to introduce camels as load-bearing animals in high-altitude areas, specifically the Line of Actual Control (LAC) separating Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir from the part controlled by China.

The camels could carry 180-220kg loads, much more than horses or mules, and could travel faster too, according to the Times of India.

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

U.S. Army Special Operations Soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) ride horseback on a trail during the Special Operations Forces (SOF) Horsemanship Course at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (MWTC), Bridgeport, Calif., June 19, 2019. The purpose of the SOF horsemanship course is to teach SOF personnel the necessary skills to enable them to ride horses, load and maintain pack animals for military applications in austere environments.

(US Marine Corps photo Lance Cpl. William Chockey)

5. US special operators train on horses and mules, in case they’re working in particularly rugged environments where vehicles might now be able to go.

Green Berets from Operational Detachment Alpha 595 rode horses in the mountainous, unforgiving terrain of Afghanistan just after the US invasion, earning them the nickname “horse soldiers.”

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kevin McMahon, 39th Security Forces Squadron commander, congratulates Autumn, a 39th SFS military working dog, during the latter’s retirement ceremony at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, July 29, 2019. Autumn served seven years at Incirlik and earned the Meritorious Service Medal for her contributions to the mission.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Magbanua)

6. Of course, man’s best friend plays several important roles in the military.


Perhaps the most famous US military dog is Chesty, the English bulldog mascot of the Marine Corps (Chesty XIV retired last year with the rank of Corporal). But Military Working Dogs (MWDs) perform the very serious duties of sniffing out explosives and drugs, and acting as patrols and sentries on military bases.

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(Photo by Doruk Yemenici)

7. The Indian military uses mules and horses for transport in rugged terrains and high altitudes.

As of 2019, the Indian armed forces were using horses and mules to transport supplies in difficult terrain, although plans to replace the four-legged forces with ATVs and drones came up in a 2017 Army Design Bureau report, according to the Hindustan Times.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

We’ve all at one point or another had to pull duty on a holiday and the news is demoralizing. Pulling duty on a holiday is generally terrible if you had plans with family. However, there are several benefits to having duty on Christmas, specifically. All I want for Christmas is no duty, no duty…All I want for Christmas is no duty…Oh no here come Gunny; to ruin Christmas.

  1. You can charge to take over Christmas duty if you weren’t assigned it

This happened to me once. An acquaintance of mine had duty and he already bought his plane ticket and made plans with his family. Nonrefundable, in true boot Marine tradition. They were devastated. He offered me $400 to take over a 24-duty shift. The going rate during OEF in garrison was $100 for a normal day of duty, $200 for a bank holiday and $400 for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years. 

Easiest money I ever made because I was not even planning on going home. 

2.   Usually, the barracks is empty and at low risk of an incident happening

While I was on duty as an NCO on Christmas the barracks were empty. Only the Marines who had to pull duty were left while everyone was on block leave. Everyone followed the rules, we knew who everyone was, and when there was a person we didn’t recognize they stood out like a sore thumb. You rover your post, log it and report to the OOD (Officer of The Day) when he/she is on deck. Nothing new or unusual to report at this time.

  1. You earn brownie points toward not working the next holiday

Nothing in the Marine Corps is guaranteed but you can be certain you will have a strong case against ending up on another roster. If you have solid leadership and you’ve kept your name clean, there is a good chance you can save yourself from being on duty during a holiday or another block leave.

  1. Christmas and New Years events on or around base

There are some events nearby that, if you are married and your family lives nearby, you can still enjoy the holiday season with them. Recently on December 9, 2020, hundreds of Marines and their families participated in the annual Trees4Troops event where FedEx delivered live Christmas trees at MCAS NewRiver. The same event was held at the Paradise Point Golf Course on Camp Lejeune. On the other side of the continent at Camp Pendleton there is a ‘Santa’s Village’ set up at the Mission Marketplace near Oceanside, CA. There is also a socially distant drive-thru light show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds until January 2, 2021.

A quick google search of your base, across all branches of the military, will yield results of socially distant events that can be enjoyed from your car.

  1. At least you are not on duty with seven other Marines right now

In true Marine Corps Staff NCO fashion, a Sgt. Maj with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines regiment at 29 Palms, California is forcing Marines to pull eight duty spots per day for the month of December because two Marines on Thanksgiving got into a fight with each other.  All eight duty spots are to be filled by NCOs, the backbone of the Marine corps. These Marines have not seen their families in almost two years due to COVID and travel restrictions. Senior Staff NCOs usually get away with pulling this kind of corporal punishment. However, a group of Marines are standing up to this conduct unbecoming of a staff NCO and requesting mass. 

Corporal punishment does not work, and it is the chief reason good Marines leave the Corps. So, as bad as it is for you to be pulling duty on Christmas, at least you do not belong to this unit. If you do belong to this unit, lawyer up, gents. A media circus is going to make the stress even worse.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Beware the unit Cartoonist lurking nearby; Red Light Randy Strikes

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

There is a saying among the airborne forces (words to the effect): “The sky, even more so than the land or the sea, is terribly unforgiving to even the slightest mistake.”


I have been in ground combat units, airborne units both low and high-altitude operational in nature, and have extensive experience in both maritime undersea and surface operations. I agree that airborne operations are likely more dangerous than those maritime, but I insist that the land is by far the safest of all; in fact, I’m conducting a fairly safe land operation right this very minute!

Combat diving puts one in many claustrophobic situations. I happen to be mildly claustrophobic; I think a great percentage of us are, but I also happen to be clinically horrified of heights to the point of near incapacitation. For me, therefore, parachute training was the most stressful. That notwithstanding, I have ~800 parachute jumps to boast of.

While I know of many deaths, near deaths, and injuries from parachute operations (mostly broken limbs from landing and spinal injuries from hard parachute openings), I also have personal experience with two fatalities just in the basic training course for Special Forces underwater operations. In both cases the deaths were attributed to heart attacks. I should mention that the Army’s diving school is one of the most stressful, mentally and physically, in the world.

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

One of the concerns in airborne operations are early or late exits from the jump aircraft. As you may know, paratroopers try to land in a pre-designated area of land know as a Drop Zone (DZ) that is largely devoid of structures and obstacles like trees and communications lines. Therefore urban areas are avoided and deserts make for great DZs indeed. High altitude jumpers with highly maneuverable parachutes fancy the motto: “The whole world is a Drop Zone.”

In a jump aircraft, the pilot turns over control of the jump to the Jump Master in charge by way of a simple pair of lights located at the jump doors; one is red and the other green. Minutes from the DZ, the pilot will illuminate the red light indicating “no jump”. Once the pilot feels he is safely over the DZ, he will illuminate the green light indicating “safe for jump.”

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(Sweet shot of a paratrooper just out the jump door with the green “Go” light illuminated.)

Paratroopers exiting on a red light is considered a major safety violation and is not tolerated across the community. Each incident warrants some measure of investigation to determine fault and safety conditions at the time. Such was the case of Red Light Randy.

Delta does very few if any low-level static lines drops, favoring the greater potential of drops from altitudes of 12,500 feet Above Ground Level (AGL) and above. Red Light Randy had a mission for which a low-level drop was needed, so he set out for a couple of rehearsal jumps prior to the mission.

The practice jumps went well, but on the night of the actual mission, the pilot failed to put the red light to green once over the DZ. Randy had positive visual recognition of his DZ reception party below, but had no jump authority. Frustrated at the sight of his DZ wasting away below him, he stuffed his team out the door with a frustrated enthusiasm. At a point along the exit the green light finally came on.

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(A low-level drop has a much greater penchant to keep men less dispersed ever ground
than a high-level drop.)

There was never a decent explanation given by the pilot for the late green light that caused Randy, the last to exit, to come down in some modest scrub past the far edge of the drop zone. There were no injuries or loss of equipment, and Randy and his men enjoyed a mission success for the night.

The Air Force reported the “incident” as an early exit on a red light, but the swift and efficient investigation that ensued determined that the pilot gave a late green, threatening a separation in Randy’s team. In combat it is not the prerogative to circle back and drop the rest of the team, so inevitably the loss of so many men of Randy’s team would have monumentally jeopardized mission success.

So the early red light incident was over… or was it? The “potential ball-breaking” alarm sounded. The details of the event were rocketed off to me, and I got to work straight away producing the feature cartoon:

The drop aircraft is depicted still on departure field runway with Randy announcing the command to jump, The first man exits only to splat face-down on the tarmac. Early exit on red for Red Light Randy!

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD

Thirteen years after a medical discharge from the Air Force, photographer Omar Columbus received an assignment that was the stuff of dreams: to shoot for a hip fashion and culture magazine filled with models and feature-length stories.

It was a long road for Columbus to travel, to use photography and writing to cope with PTSD, to suddenly shooting fashion in New York City. But it wasn’t always this way.

Columbus grew up in Washington, North Carolina, raised by a single mom. Feeling that he did not have much opportunity, he enlisted into the Air Force, serving from 1994 to 2006. In that time, Columbus served in South Korea, Colorado Springs, and to Saudi Arabia in 2003 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


After exiting service, Columbus moved to New York City, where he found art and community in veterans’ writing groups around the city. He found his voice through writing poetry and performing with Warrior Writers, Craft of War Writing, and Voices from War.

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

Veteran Omar Columbus and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Marion Creasap.

“My PTSD is related to specific things I experienced on deployment, as well as a general feeling of guilt,” says Columbus. Writing poetry gave him a sense of confidence, a way to express traumas of his military experience through art. The chance to perform in front of civilians is powerful. “Words like desert, combat, and bomb become part of artistic expression rather than just association with personal guilt and doubt or shame.”

Columbus also recognized that photography gave him a way to manage his anxiety in public. Through the imaginary barrier created with his camera lens, he chooses if he wants to interact with his subjects or just photograph the streets from a distance. Featured in a group gallery show at the legendary Salmagundi Club in Manhattan, Columbus recently sold a photo collage called “New Yawk State of Mind.”

Columbus found help at the VA NY Harbor, with his psychiatric nurse practitioner, mentor and counselor, Marion Creasap, who has been a steadying and stabilizing influence. “She’s been a rock for me to hold on to when I was down and wanted to give up.”

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

“Eye on Brooklyn” collage by Omar Columbus.

Recently, celebrity fashion photographer and TV personality, Mike Ruiz, called Columbus and made him an extraordinary offer. He wanted Columbus to photograph a project. “The photoshoot was over-the-top and such an exhilarating experience,” Columbus recalled.

Now, Columbus is giving back, to help others as he has been helped. Later this year, he will be sending disposable cameras to service members deployed to Afghanistan, to capture the good times with their friends. He raised id=”listicle-2639096820″,000 to purchase boxes of Girl Scout Cookies and sent them to military personnel serving on the front lines to remind them of home.

“The biggest reward was the photos they sent back holding up the boxes of cookies and the joy on their faces,” said Columbus. “I want to do more of that.”

The taste of acknowledgment has helped Columbus feel optimistic. “I want to be a healer and advocate for veterans through art. Hear my story, hear my words.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

Since its opening in 2004, the World War II memorial had consistently been one of the top sites visited by those exploring the National Mall. More than 4.6 million people visited the site in 2018. It was designed by Friedrich St. Florian, the former chief of the Rhode Island School of Design. 

The WWII memorial is full of metaphors and helps illustrate the relationship between the home front and the battlefront. It showcases not just the sacrifices of service members but also Americans at home and illustrates the defining years of the 20th century. The memorial consists of 56 pillars and a pair of triumphal arches, all of which surround a square and fountain. It sits on the former site of the Rainbow Pool at the eastern end of the Reflecting Pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

It opened on April 29, 2004, and was formally dedicated on May 29, 2004, by President George W. Bush. 

Each of the 56 granite pillars on the memorial grounds is 17 feet tall. The pillars are arranged in a semicircle around the plaza with two 43-foot arches on either side. Each pillar is inscribed with the name of one of the then 48 states of America, along with the District of Columbia, the Alaska Territory, the Territory of Hawaii, the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the US Virgin Islands. There are two wreaths on each pillar. The wheat wreath represents agriculture, and the oak wreath represents industry. Together, these wreaths symbolize that states and territories gave their citizens to serve and also their resources, fruits of their labor, and hard work. 

The northern arc is inscribed “Atlantic,” and the southern arc is inscribed “Pacific,” meant to indicate WWII’s two theaters.

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case
(National Parks Service)

The memorial includes two inconspicuously located “Kilroy was here” engravings to acknowledge the symbol’s significance to American soldiers who served during WWII. Kilroy was here is a symbol that became popular during WWII and represented military presence and protection wherever the symbol was inscribed.

When entering the memorial from the east, a visitor can walk along either the right wall or left wall, both of which picture scenes from the war. In base relief, the scenes progress as the country ramps up to go to war. On the right wall, the scenes show soon to be military service personnel getting physical exams, taking their oaths, and being issued gear. On the left wall, the scenes are more typical of the European theater, and some take place in England and show preparations for air and water assaults. The last scene is a handshake between the American and Russian armies, symbolic of the meeting of the western and eastern fronts. 

The place of honor at the WWII memorial is the Freedom Wall. This field of gold stars symbolizes the number of American dead from WWII. The state pillars are arranged from the Freedom Wall outward. The first state listed is Delaware, the first to ratify the US Constitution. To the left is Pennsylvania. The states go back and forth in this manner in a staged sort of military march to represent when each state entered the union. 

There are 4,048 gold stars on the Freedom Wall. Each one represents 100 American military deaths. More than 400,000 Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, sailors and military personnel lost their lives or remain missing in action. Of the 16 million men and women in military service during that time, that means that one person out of every 40 died. 

The Gold Star has long been a symbol associated with the American military family. The tradition started in WWI when American families began displaying blue stars stitched on flags to show that they had family members fighting in the war. The Gold Star indicates that the service member was killed in action and is a hallmark symbol of American military family sacrifice. 

“Here We Mark the Price of Freedom,” is inscribed below the Freedom Wall, a sentiment that’s echoed in the other war memorials located at the National Mall.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Have old razors? Here’s how you can use them to support injured warriors

Fisher House recently announced partnership with TerraCycle, Gillette and CVS Pharmacy for a new razor recycling initiative. Not only will they aim to make a positive impact on the environment, but serve military families while they do it.

“How it works is that you collect all your shave products. The boxes, cartridges and the razors. Keep them until the end of August and mail them to TerraCycle,” said Michelle Baldanza, Vice President of Communications for Fisher House Foundation. CVS is providing the free shipping label for those participating. She continued, “The most weight that’s sent to them by state per capita – the winner of that – will get a playground for their Fisher House.”


In the press release for the initiative, TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky said, “We are happy to align with these forward-thinking companies to give communities the opportunity to engage around a free, easy recycling solution that supports veterans and their families.” Fisher House Foundation is proud to partner with other nonprofits and organizations to continue to serve military families.

This initiative is open to anyone who wants to participate. It also creates a unique opportunity for military bases to get involved and create friendly competition with their neighboring states. Should a state win that already has a playground for their Fisher House, another project of similar value will be approved. If for some reason there is not a Fisher House in the state that wins, one within the closest geographic proximity will be chosen instead.

Most Fisher Houses are located near major medical or VA facilities and are completely free for troops and their families to stay at while a loved one is receiving treatment. Fisher House Foundation now boasts 88 comfort homes for military families. They are breaking ground on a new home in Kansas City in a few months and opening one in New Orleans at the end of the year. The comfort homes are scattered across the United States, with a few in Europe.

The Landstuhl Fisher House in Germany is a vital house as it is next to the medical facility that troops injured in combat go through for treatment. “They started it just after a bombing in the 90s and finished it just before 9/11. The timing was really incredible that it happened right before the surge,” Baldanza shared.

Each Fisher House is between 5,000 to 16,800 square feet in size. There are up to 21 suites and are all professional furnished and decorated. Each can also accommodate between 16 to 42 family members. The homes are gifted to either the DOD or VA when they are completed.

“For 16 years we’ve had four star charity ratings. Between 93 percent to 95 percent of what we bring in goes right back into the Fisher Houses. They know what we do goes to the service members, families and veterans,” Baldanza explained. Fisher House also boasts an A+ grade from Charity Watch.

According to their website, Fisher House served over 32,000 families in 2019 alone. They’ve also given million in scholarships to military children and given out over 70,000 airline tickets with their Hero Miles program. When an injured service member is receiving treatment and there is no Fisher House, they put their families in nearby hotels with their Hotels for Heroes program.

Baldanza expressed that Fisher House Foundation is only a part of the puzzle of support that cares for veterans and their families – it takes a village. This is one of the main reasons that they continually build partnerships, like the recent one with TerraCycle, CVS and Gillette. Together, they know they can accomplish so much more for military families.

“There are so many needs that are out there, it’s hard to fill them all. We [Fisher House Foundation] try to take care of those basic burdens so that family members can heal with their loved ones and help their loved ones heal too,” Baldanza explained. She continued, “We always say ‘a family’s love is the best medicine’ and that’s the goal – to keep these families together.”

To learn more about Fisher House Foundation or to join in on their latest initiative, click here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Committing to gender integration: Get rid of the female tent

Over the past decade, the U.S. Army has taken steps to fully integrate women into all positions in its formations. Last month, the Army announced female infantry and armor Soldiers will integrate into the last nine brigade combat teams by the end of the year. In light of these initiatives and the open-mindedness of my leadership, I competed for and served as a light infantry brigade assistant S2 and, more importantly, an infantry battalion S2, a position open to women since 2014.

Gender integration has had its challenges but in my experience, leaders at all levels are trying to embrace this evolution. It is not unusual for a group of officers to experience awkward initial counseling sessions with their maneuver commander wherein the commander overemphasizes their support of female integration directly to the one female officer in the room. Although it may seem uncomfortable for all parties involved, these maneuver officers are still learning and while it may not be perfect, at least they’re trying..


However, even with the best of intentions, military leaders occasionally make decisions that inadvertently segregate women, leading to the unintended consequence of isolating them from their units.. This article addresses how a commander’s simple decision on troop billeting can have an adverse impact, and how commanders and leaders can more successfully lead gender-integrated teams.

The female tent: A flawed good intention

When a unit deploys to a Combat Training Center (CTC), Soldiers are housed in “tent city” while conducting Reception, Staging, Onward movement and Integration (RSOI), Leaders are responsible for allocating tents, ensuring they account for all personnel on the ground. Sometimes as an afterthought, someone asks the question “Where is the female tent?”

The idea that women require their own tent is an antiquated tradition that many senior leaders (and often junior leaders) have yet to break from and likely causes more harm than good . This issue may initially seem benign within the context of integrating women into combat arms units. After all, it’s “just” a tent, it is only temporary, and you only go there to sleep and then show up to the next formation. This issue is about much more than a tent. The decisions leaders make can help or hinder their ability to build a cohesive team that sees beyond gender.

The female tent exists mainly as a safety precaution to protect the female Soldier population. Sexual assault and harassment continues to be a large issue in the military. However, as we look deeper into the effects of gender-segregated tents, we will start to identify how our separate treatment of genders only exacerbates the issue. Studies in the past decade, including one conducted on the Norwegian Army’s Unisex living spaces in 2014, concluded that integrating genders for training and in living quarters increased team cohesion between genders by breaking the “us versus them” mentality, decreased sexual harassment and assault claims, and made gender difference less significant. Instead of training separate teams of male and female Soldiers, the integrated training and living arrangements created teams of Soldiers comprised of men and women.

The segregation of women from their platoon, company, or battalion leads to them missing critical events, and team building and bonding built during times of uncertainty when leaders make decisions and plans change. The female tent creates an additional barrier to communication where a portion of the unit does not receive updates on the evolving operational conditions because men and women are hesitant to enter each other’s tent to get information. Women show up to meetings being caught off guard by changes in the plan that were made among the male officers at 2300 but failed to make it back to the female battalion staff lead because they forgot, they figured it could wait, or it was too inconvenient to send a runner to inform them of the change. This communication barrier creates an overall disadvantage to the commander who now has a population in the formation that is unable to inform the decision-making process and in the end hinders the unit in achieving mission success.

More importantly, the female tent denies female Soldiers equal access to the esprit de corps and cohesiveness building reality of shared accommodation, and often imposes a gender divide on teams. In the end, this causes women to miss the stories told in their team, invitations to the gym, and group meals. They miss the inside jokes and become an outsider in their own unit. They struggle to get to know their unit and their unit struggles to bring them into the fold. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle of damaging isolation that most women do not want, but are forced to endure.

How do we fight the female tent?

1. Prioritize mission success over comfort. Key to mission success is enabling your commander’s ability to exercise command and control over the formation. The female tent takes women of different ranks across the formation and puts them in one tent geographically separated from their organic teams. We, in turn, hindered multiple leaders’ ability to lead effectively by complicating the flow of communication, reducing ability to receive feedback from a select population, and decreasing the flexibility of a unit to rapidly adapt and execute operations. The female tent becomes more unfeasible as we integrate more women into company commander, executive officer, and platoon leader positions in combat arms formations.

As leaders in charge of planning training events, we need to focus on how to enable mission success. In 2018, my light infantry brigade had one battalion commander, one command sergeant major, two brigade staff primaries, five brigade staff senior NCOs, at least one battalion staff primary officer or NCO per battalion, and five company commanders or first sergeants who were women. That equaled 20 leaders at the company level and above that were integral to the brigade’s success at our CTC rotation. Since then, the number of female leaders in today’s brigade combat team continues to increase.

Focusing on mission success means all leaders are able to be with their Soldiers through all aspects of a training environment. Integrated tents allow leaders to better take care of their Soldiers because they are together in one place where they can monitor the well-being of each Soldier as the unit goes through stressful training exercises. It allows leaders to identify and address sexism issues in their ranks because they can monitor the interactions among all of their Soldiers.In a segregated environment, leaders may not be present when their female Soldiers are harassed while they are isolated in separate areas. Integrated tents build better teams that communicate more effectively, provide feedback to their commanders, and react quicker to rapid changes because they are a cohesive unit that treats everyone as a valued member of the team.

2. Use informal leadership. As described in ADP 6-22 Army Leadership, part of informal leadership is taking the initiative to advise formal leaders on decisions based on previous experience or expertise. Informal leadership takes initiative and some courage, because it usually involves an individual speaking up to leaders who outrank them. In one experience at a CTC exercise, my company leadership was trying to remove the female Soldiers from our unit’s tent because the brigade’s designated female tent did not have enough females in it. A female lieutenant I supervised looked at me with disappointment and asked me if there was anything I could do to stop it. I decided to work with another female captain located in our company to make it clear to our leadership that we did not want to leave our sections to live in a separate tent. The company leadership relented but not without some offhand remarks about how we were an inconvenience.

After that experience, the female officers made it a point to teach our staff sections how the separation of women into female tents affects women because our male peers honestly did not understand. How could they? In their military career, they never had to be separated from their team because of their gender. The effort we made to stay in the tent was worth it because our section became a more cohesive team and it was a leadership opportunity that enabled us to discuss a gender issue with our male counterparts that they will never experience firsthand. Informal leadership is a powerful tool that leaders can use to prevent segregation in their units, regardless of gender.

3. Be comfortable asking “What’s best for the team?” You may not know all the right answers when it comes to how best to integrate women and that’s okay. It is a learning process for everyone. What Soldiers do not want to hear is what one of my peers told me as he shrugged his shoulders, “We forgot to account for you guys (for bed space). Sorry, I’m infantry.” Instead, leaders should exercise humility and ask their female peers or subordinates for input. More often than not, they have been through these situations multiple times and they will appreciate your willingness to learn about how best you can assist your formation. It is as simple as something an infantry major once said to me, “I’m new to this. Do I need to make special accommodations for you or do you feel comfortable staying with the unit?” Yes, it can feel awkward to ask, but there is a certain amount of respect you gain when you open yourself up to learning how best to ensure everyone feels like a valued member of the team.

If a living situation is poorly planned or seems like it may be an issue, present the options. “We can let you stay in the open bay with the males and everyone will just use their sleeping bags or the latrines to change, or we can cordon off an area in the bay for privacy so that we can keep you with the team.”

4. Keep everyone in the loop. Sometimes it is inevitable to be forced to split your unit into gender-specific tents, especially while traveling through different locations with transient barracks or if the final decision is made above your level. When this happens, it is important to take steps prior to the unit splitting apart to make sure that the isolated personnel stay in the loop. Leaders should develop a clear communication plan and battle rhythm to distribute information. It is imperative to ensure inclusiveness of the isolated population for both work- and social-related events. If a squad goes to eat together, it is the responsibility of that squad and team leader to include the female squad members. If a platoon is tasked for a working party, the platoon sergeant needs to get everyone involved in helping. If the battalion staff needs to talk through some minor decisions, make the effort to get those female staff officers involved. It can be demoralizing to hear the stories of what someone missed because no one bothered to let her know what the unit was doing.

It’s a learning process

Gender integration will continue to be a learning process for the military. To build better integrated teams, units need to train, eat, and sleep in harsh environments together. As leaders, we are responsible for making decisions that enable mission success, providing feedback on gender integration, and remaining open to new ways to improve integration. No part of ADP 6-0 Mission Command and ADP 6-22 Army Leadership suggests that any type of segregation is good for the Army. Segregation of any type creates resentment, isolation, and ultimately an unsafe environment for everyone. Instead, leaders need to focus on building cohesive teams based on mutual trust, and unit integrity through shared hardship is essential to that cohesion. We should be able to reach solutions that allow all Soldiers, regardless of gender, to feel like an equal member of the team and trust that they can depend on each other for anything.

Captain Ashley Barber is a military intelligence officer currently serving in the 10th Mountain Division G2. She has previously served in MI brigades and IBCTs (LI). She completed her KD time in 2/10 IBCT (LI) as the brigade AS2 and the 2-87 Infantry Battalion S2 through iterations of LTP, JRTC, and a deployment to Afghanistan.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Photos show moment President George W. Bush learned of the 9/11 attacks

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, heart-wrenching images surfaced and stirred the world.

Photos released by the US National Archives in 2016 show exactly when President George W. Bush learned the US was under attack.

See how Bush responded to what would be the defining moment of his presidency.


How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(The U.S. National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(US National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(U.S. National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(The U.S. National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(The U.S. National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(The U.S. National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(The U.S. National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(The U.S. National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(The U.S. National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(The U.S. National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(The U.S. National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(The U.S. National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(US National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(The U.S. National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(The U.S. National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(The U.S. National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(The U.S. National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(The U.S. National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(The U.S. National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(The U.S. National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(The U.S. National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(The U.S. National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(The U.S. National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(The U.S. National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(US National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(The U.S. National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(The U.S. National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(US National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(The U.S. National Archives)

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

(The U.S. National Archives)

After addressing the nation, Bush meets with his National Security Council in the President’s Emergency Operations Center.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why self-care is the best gift of 2020

Guess what? In just a few short weeks, you’ll have officially survived 2020. Congratulations! No, really. Congrats. Give yourself a pat on the back, or maybe a bear hug, because just making it through this year in (mostly) one piece is something to be proud of. 

When 2020 commenced, I was fired up. I had big plans. Within months, my plans looked like they had been shoved through a wood chipper. Planning anything at all felt impossible. Who knew what grenade 2020 would throw next? Stuck in my house, I felt incredibly alone. Yet, I wasn’t. There were millions of others in the same boat. 

Now, it’s been a full year since the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’re all still in the middle of the ocean. Whether you’re adapting to working from home, figuring out distance learning, or struggling with unemployment, 2020 has probably found a way to make your life harder. 

Some of us are in sturdier boats than others, but at the end of the day we’re all just trying to stay afloat. And that’s okay. 

Feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or just plain depressed is all too common this year. If you’re worried it’s just you, take a look at these sobering statistics. In June, 40% of U.S. adults said they were struggling with mental health or substance use, while 18.1% are coping with an anxiety disorder. 

Mental health in children has worsened as well; 9.7% of U.S. children have been diagnosed with severe major depression. Among those between the ages of 10 and 34, suicide is the second leading cause of death. Not cancer, not heart disease. Suicide. Veterans are also vulnerable; since 2008, the average number of veteran suicides hasn’t dropped below 17 a day

These ugly numbers send a powerful message: Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s an essential service. 

If you’re one of the millions of people who struggled to stay positive this year, this message is for you. Feeling burnt out isn’t a sign of weakness, and when you are burnt out, it’s OKAY to take a break. 

This holiday season, don’t worry about what other people want. Focus about what you and your family need. 

Seriously. Be kind to yourself. If you put on more holiday pounds than usual, give yourself a break. It’s okay. If you don’t have it in you to plan your annual family photoshoot and send out cards, forget about it. Gather everyone on the couch, hold up your TP and hand sanitizer, and say cheese. If you don’t have time to meticulously wrap presents, shove em’ in a gift bag with some tissue paper. Done. Don’t grind yourself into the ground. 

Expectations from family members can also take a toll. 

Hosting a Christmas party is now a topic of controversy, and families are divided. Some feel it’s irresponsible. Others feel it’s non-negotiable. The solution? Again, do what’s best for you. The people who love you should respect your choice, and if they don’t, they’re not worth your time anyway. This is a live and let live kind of year. 

Self-care comes in many shapes and forms. Do what makes you feel good, whether it’s going for a long walk, taking up a new hobby, or panic baking. If you want to dance like no one is watching, go for it. Literally, no one is watching. 

Click here for more ideas on self-care during this crazy and complicated year, and be patient with yourself and those around you. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing signs or symptoms of depression or anxiety, don’t tough it out. 

For mental health support, contact your doctor. For immediate help, call SAMHSA’s hotline or visit the VA’s support page for round the clock phone and chat support. 

Do Not Sell My Personal Information