I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

March is Women’s History Month


The I Am Not Invisible (IANI) campaign began in February 2017 in Portland, Oregon. The vision was to bring awareness to the barriers and challenges that women Veterans face in obtaining health care and other services. The program, started by then-Oregon Woman Veterans Coordinator and Army Veteran Elizabeth Estabrooks, also helped recognize Women Veterans.

With support from the Center for Women Veterans this project has crossed 50 States, 75 cities, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and 27 Indian Tribes and Nations to capture more than 3,053 women Veteran images.

This initiative means different things to different women Veterans. Often, women Veterans express that they are not a Veteran. In recognizing this, and to change cultural mindset, the Center has changed how we ask the question, “Did you serve?” To further change the culture, Center for Women Veterans is sharing the message with as many women Veterans as possible. This includes I Am Not Invisible to #BringWomenVeteransHome2VA, so that all women Veterans can receive the benefits and services they have earned.

In December 2020, photographer Gene Russell took the last IANI photograph in Oahu, Hawaii.

“It is one thing to honor Women Veterans, something completely different and inspiring to show them in the light they so richly deserve,” Russell said. EUGENIA WOODWARD UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN 1943 - 1946 ARIAL PHOTOGRAPHY - WWII VETERAN  ROMAY DAVIS UNITED STATES ARMY WWII VETERAN 1943 - 1945 6888th CENTRAL POSTAL DIRECTORY BATTALION  IKUMI HIRASHIMA UNITED STATES AIR FORCE VETERAN 2009 - 2014 NURSE

“How very fortunate am I?”

IANI 2.0

With the completion of the photography, it is not the end of IANI. The I Am Not Invisible Campaign 2.0 kicked off in December 2020. The overarching goal is to change the culture of gender-based harassment by strategically placing them in VA medical facilities. This will help ensure women Veterans feel welcome in their own spaces.  IANI 2.0 supports the center’s ongoing mission of recognizing the service and contributions of women Veterans and women in the military, raising awareness of the responsibility to treat women Veterans with dignity and respect, and helping to advocate for positive cultural transformation.

Photos will be in facilities VA-wide soon. Veterans can take a picture and tag @VAWomenVets on FB and Twitter. Also, the library of IANI pictures is available here.

The Veterans Canteen Service supported the effort and the center’s outreach initiatives.

This article originally appeared on U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This modern amphibious assault ship is carrying WWII planes

The amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) is an integral part of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force as a forward operating platform. Essex is capable of carrying up to 1,771 Marines as well as the landing craft to get them ashore.

Her aircraft suite includes AV-8B Harrier II attack aircraft, F-35B Lightning II stealth strike-fighters, AH-1W/Z Super Cobra/Viper attack helicopters, MV-22B Osprey assault support tiltrotors, CH-53E Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopters, UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters, and SH-60F/HH-60H anti-submarine warfare helicopters.


However, rather than her usual wing of modern jets and helicopters, USS Essex is currently carrying 14 WWII-era trainer, bomber and fighter aircraft.
I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

USS Essex usually carries Marine aircraft like these Ospreys (US Navy)

The 844-foot-long ship is on her way to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to participate in RIMPAC 2020, the world’s largest international maritime exercise. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Pentagon made the decision to cancel RIMPAC’s air exercises.

In January, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper called for a number of WWII-era aircraft to assemble in Hawaii to participate in a commemoration of the end of the war in the Pacific. Known as V-J Day for “Victory over Japan”, the event is most commonly celebrated on August 15. On August 15, 1945, (which was August 14 in America due to the time change), Emperor Hirohito announced his decree to accept the Potsdam Declaration and surrender over the radio.

Since the Marines had to leave their aircraft behind, USS Essex had plenty of room for the WWII-era aircraft since the vintage planes were unable to make the flight to Hawaii. The planes will include five AT-6/SNJ advanced trainers, two PBY Catalina flying boats, a B-25 Mitchell bomber, an FM-2 Wildcat fighter, an F8F Bearcat fighter, a Stearman Model 75 biplane, a TBM Avenger torpedo bomber and a T-28 Trojan.
I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

The FM-2 Wildcat is lowered to the hangar deck (Commemorative Air Force)

The planes will conduct flyovers over Hawaii from August 29, the day U.S. troops began the occupation of Japan, to September 2, the day that the formal Japanese surrender was made aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

Before embarking on the trip to Hawaii, the pilots, maintainers and ground crews accompanying the planes were required to spend two weeks in quarantine at Naval Base San Diego to prevent anyone with COVID-19 from boarding the ship.

The 14 planes headed to Hawaii aboard the USS Essex will return to San Diego with the ship following the conclusion of the V-J Day Commemoration and RIMPAC.


MIGHTY CULTURE

‘Spoiled brat’ says Army put him in his place

“I have no idea why I joined the Army,” said Spc. Ken Park, a soldier with the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, based out of Southfield, Michigan. “My parents were extremely against it. I was a spoiled brat. I was fat.”

Park came from what he considered to be a privileged life. He was constantly told that he was special by his parents and his teachers. But Spc Park never really felt like that was a life for him. “Coming from that sort of privileged background, joining the Army, being told that I was the same as everyone else sort of put me in my place.”

“My recruiter even told me I couldn’t join, the first time. He said I should go to school instead, and I could join later” said Park. He was about 60 pounds overweight at the time, so he joined a gym and, through hard work and discipline, ended up losing 70 pounds. Park was, perhaps unknowingly, starting to re-program himself into the Army life even before he officially enlisted.


By being in the Army, Park said, he has learned life skills that he may not have learned otherwise. “I didn’t know how to do laundry until the first or second day of basic. Actually, my battle buddy looked at me weird. He said, ‘How do you not know how to do laundry as an 18 year old?’ I had someone do that for me my whole life” said Park. “But now I know the value of a dollar. How hard you have to work to be something. And how to do laundry,” he said with a chuckle.

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

Spc. Ken Parks, a soldier with the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion listens to the range safety officer issue commands targets during a qualification table at his unit’s November drill weekend at Fort Custer, Mich. on Nov. 16th, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Bob Yarbrough)

Park went on to say that his Army experience has only gotten better. “In AIT (Advanced Individual Training) I had a case of bronchitis, but I kept going. We had a PT test and I had to pass. “There was [harsh winter] weather like this. And I had to go on. The fast guys came back, because they knew I had bronchitis, but I had to pass. I made it and it was hard, but I don’t know that I would have made it without them.”

Spc. Park isn’t new to the U.S. Army Reserve, but he is new to the Civil Affairs Community, and the 414th, first drilling with the unit in September. He says his time in the 414th has been eye-opeing. “There aren’t many places you can go, in the Army or in normal life, where someone will see you struggling, and say ‘Hey, I know you’re tired, I got you’ and they take care of you so the mission still gets done.”

Park came to the 414th after being contacted by an Officer in the unit. “Cpt. Babcock actually reached out to me on LinkedIn,” said Park, “because I’m fluent in Korean and Japanese. Now I feel proud to be part of the unit, and I hope to live up to the expectations of the Commander and the First Sergeant.”

“Despite being told that I shouldn’t, and couldn’t, join the Army, I’m glad I did,” said Park. “It gave me a higher value, a better reason for doing what I do.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of October 11th

Just as a step away from the regularly scheduled news that is probably left in better hands than the “meme guy,” did you know that former President George W. Bush had his museum debut at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington D.C. this week?

Yeah. And I mean, they’re actually pretty good. He’s got plenty of artwork that you can find around, but his most recent series has been stylized portraits of wounded Post-9/11 veterans – with the exception of the veteran’s eyes, which are drawn realistically. I’m no art critic, but I can tell that it draws you in, and you find yourself staring into the very souls of the veterans, and the rest kinda pulls you into how they feel.

I guess that goes to show you that after he got his “Presidential DD-214,” even the former commander-in-chief made a name for himself in the art world. See? Now can you all get off my back for using my GI Bill on a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree?


Anyways, here are some memes while I reevaluate my creative endeavors.

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

(Meme via Army Veteran Style)

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

(Meme via Call for Fire)

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

(Photo via US Army WTF Moments)

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

(Meme via Grunt Works)

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

(Meme via Disgruntled Decks)

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

MIGHTY CULTURE

This soldier gave up life as an actress to join the Army

Not many people could recognize Carly Schroeder June 27, 2019, at Fort Jackson’s Hilton Field. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed “Lizzy McGuire” and “General Hospital” actress who traded her red carpet heels for combat boots, blended into the crowd of roughly 450 other identically dressed soldiers as they walked across the field during their Basic Combat Training graduation ceremony.

“Army life is very different from Hollywood,” Schroeder said. “There are some similarities, but Army life is very uniform. Everyone is very disciplined and everyone is treated equally.”

No stranger to weapons training and the physicality of stunt work, Schroeder faced a new set of challenges during BCT. She faced marksmanship courses with the Army’s M4 rifle, daily physical fitness workouts, ruck marches, obstacle courses, learning to work with others as a team and a culminating event that tests the abilities and strengths of fellow soldiers to work together to successfully complete a set of missions — The Forge.


“The most difficult thing has to be between the ruck marches and food,” Schroeder said. “Before I came here I was vegan.”

Schroeder lived the vegan lifestyle for quite some time before enlisting, but adapted to a vegetarian diet to take in additional protein during training. While the military has always offered alternate meals to those with dietary needs, it can be challenging to find a wide variety of those foods within the BCT environment.

“It was quite an adjustment,” said Schroeder. “There was only one MRE I could eat, veggie crumbles.”

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

Spc. Carly Schroeder, center, the actress who traded her red carpet heels for combat boots, embraces her newly made friends during her Basic Combat Training graduation at Fort Jackson June 26, 2019.

(Photo by Ms. Alexandra Shea)

An MRE, or Meal, Ready-to-Eat, are daily rations that contain about a day’s worth of calories in a convenient to carry and store pouch. The MRE mentioned is Menu 11 — Vegetable Crumbles with Pasta in Taco Style Sauce. With a little help from some new friends, she “fare-d” well with field rations.

“My team mates really made sure they had my back and got the veggie crumbles for me every time,” Schroeder said.

Schroeder, like all trainees to pass through BCT, learned not only the basics of making a soldier physically but also social skills that allowed her to adapt and overcome in stressful situations and when finding herself in a foreign environment with new people. These skills empower soldiers to build personal and professional relationships quickly and units to build a cohesiveness that helps ensure successful future missions.

“Basic Combat Training was fun but hard too,” said Pvt. Mylene Sanchez, a fellow unit member. “The ruck marches were really hard, Schroeder really helped me a lot with them. She helped take some of the weight for me.”

Actions such as helping a buddy out with a few pounds during a ruck march exemplify one of the seven Army core values — selfless service. These values are instilled in each soldier from day one of training and they use them to build strong teams.

“Teamwork was the biggest obstacle for everyone to overcome,” said another unit member Spc. Joel Morris. “As long as you push forward and kept trying, it was a breeze.”

Schroeder easily cultivated relationships, even with those who knew of her silver screen time.

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

A camera crew from a nationally syndicated TV program interviews Spc. Carly Schroeder and some of her newly-made friends during their Basic Combat Training graduation June 27, 2019, at Fort Jackson.

(Photo by Ms. Alexandra Shea)

Schroeder explained how she didn’t talk about her time as an actress and how she wanted to blend in so people wouldn’t treat her differently. Eventually, word spread about her acting career, but her relationships with her team members was already cemented.

“She was an amazing leader,” said Pvt. Cindy Ganesh, another unit member who trained alongside Schroeder. “She took the time to go and help and teach. She was a friend, a real friend.”

Morris said, “she would kick everyone’s butt in combatives.”

As the 10-weeks of training came to an end with the graduation ceremony, the soldiers now face Advanced Individual Training. Some of the soldiers who met in training will continue on with fellow graduates depending on the location of their AIT training and their occupational specialty. Schroeder is a 09S — Commissioned Officer Candidate who will attend 12 weeks of tactical and leadership training at Fort Benning, Georgia before she is officially commissioned.

While the former actress is on her way to the next chapter of her military career, she is not likely to forget soon the friendships she built in BCT.

“They’re not my team members anymore, we became Family” Schroeder said. “We worked through 10 hard weeks together. It was brutal but it’s what we bonded over.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 unanticipated downsides of cool Army jobs

The Army is cool, as any recruiter will happily tell you while sliding a suspiciously thick stack of paperwork your way across the desk. But even the coolest jobs have downsides. The people who get to do the coolest stuff also often have to deal with the crappiest side bits.

Here are eight awesome jobs that sometimes, unexpectedly, suck:


I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

Mortar Soldiers with the 77th Armored Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, fire a 120mm mortar round to provide indirect, suppressive fire for infantry Soldiers during a squad live-fire exercise November 3, 2016 at Udari Range near Camp Buehring, Kuwait.

(U.S. Army Sgt. Angela Lorden)

1. Mortarmen lob bombs but carry insane weight

On the list of cool jobs, “use rifles and armor to find and fix enemy forces, then bomb them with mortar shells that you launch out of hand-held tubes,” ranks pretty highly. But being a mortarman, or “Indirect Fire Infantryman” as it’s known, has some drawbacks. The greatest of which is the sheer weight.

Mortarmen can sometimes get close to their firing points with vehicles, but that’s far from guaranteed. And planners seem to take a perverse interest in making the 60mm mortar crews march as far as possible. Those crews have to carry a mortar that weighs about 20-40 pounds in addition to mortar shells that weigh about 4 pounds each.

The weight only goes up from there with the 81mm mortar system. The 120mm mortar system obviously weighs the most, but the weapon and its ammo is typically moved by vehicle.

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

U.S. Army Sgt. John Leslie, of Sierra Vista, Ariz., completes system setup for the Wolfhound intelligence gathering system during the fielding and training class at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, January 25, 2014.

(U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class E. L. Craig)

2. Wolfhound operators can listen in on enemy radio transmissions but are always seen as nerds

There’s a class of soldier that can detect the location of enemy transmissions and then listen in on them, translating them instantly if they’re a linguist or have one nearby. But, unless the carrier is an infantryman who can absolutely destroy on the Expert Infantry Badge course, they’re going to be derided as a nerd.

And that’s because they have to learn some nerdy stuff, especially if they’re an Electronic Warfare Specialist by MOS. Managing the device requires knowing a bit about radio frequencies and electronic devices used by the enemy, but getting a soldier who can relay the enemy’s entire plan to the platoon is worth the occasional Poindexter joke.

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brendan Mackie, photojournalist with the Hawaii Army National Guard’s 117th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, photographs from the back of a Stryker fighting vehicle during Operation Buffalo Thunder II in Shorabak district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, June 27, 2012.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brendan Mackie)

3. Public affairs troops get to see many angles of the Army, but are always just tourists

Want to patrol with the cavalry one day, hit buildings with infantry the next, and clear obstacles with the engineers on the third? Then public affairs is for you! Unfortunately, you will also be considered a tourist for your efforts.

That’s because public affairs rarely has the chance to really learn their unit’s job on the tactical level since, you know, that’s not their job. But they do get to learn a little about all the forces in their unit or — if they’re in a public affairs detachment or a high-level office — their entire area of operations. Kind of like how a tourist learns a little about a bunch of things in a city or country.

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to Multinational Battle Group-East’s Forward Command Post clear a building during a training exercise in Gracanica, Kosovo, May 10, 2017.

(U.S. Army Spc. Adeline Witherspoon)

4. Cav scouts are human eyes and ears for units, but are heckled for their efforts

They go forward in small groups, sneaking as best they can around potentially massive enemy forces. They’re outgunned, outnumbered, and using their eyes and ears to call in bigger, badder weapon systems against enemy formations. And they’re also widely made fun of, especially by the infantry.

Cavalry scouts have a reputation for being a bit weird, and that leads to all sorts of comparisons to groups considered odd by the internet, like Bronies and Furries. It’s not fair, obviously, but the scouts seems happy as long as they still get to crawl around in the mud looking for tanks and yelling, “Scouts out!”

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

California Army National Guard Soldiers from the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade prepare simulated casualties to be evacuated by a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from Company F, 2nd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment, 40th CAB, at a tactical combat casualty care lane at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, February 23, 2016.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ian Kummer)

5. Medics are linchpins of combat units, but have to see lots of gross genitals

They’re venerated, valued, and skilled. They’re de facto members of whatever unit they’re part of, even being protected from the “POG” title if they serve with the infantry. Their skills transfer well to the civilian world — they’re actually required to maintain their EMT certification, which makes finding employment easy.

But medics are the primary source of medical advice and care in many of their companies and platoons, meaning that they see all the symptoms of disease or injury in their units first. And that includes STDs and genital trauma, which means that most medics have a mental library of nightmare material. They also have to ask things like, “can you describe the discharge for me?”

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

A Soldier for 4th Squadron, 10th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, ground guides an M1A2 Tank commander to a maintenance area after his crew qualified during Gunnery Table VI, Fort Carson, Colorado, March 2, 2017.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ange Desinor)

6. Tank crews roll in thick armor, but draw fire from everything that can kill them

What could be safer than a tank, with its thick, composite armor, massive gun, and multiple machine guns? Well, in force-on-force warfare, a lot of things. That’s because tanks are so powerful that any maneuver force that can take them out needs to do so as quickly as possible. And tanks aren’t invulnerable. Even powerful IEDs have destroyed them.

So, when an enemy force sees a body of Abrams tanks, they concentrate artillery and anti-tank fire on them. Now, luckily, tanks do have great defenses and both armored and standard commanders work hard to protect them. But, if you take a tank into a fight against Russia or China, be prepared for your cramped little tank to get rocked all the time.

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

U.S. Army Sergeant 1st Class Jeramy Bays, a master diver assigned to Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, returns from inspecting a seaplane wreck site in the waters of U.S. Army Garrison Kwajalein Atoll on August 16, 2016.

(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Markus Castaneda)

7. Divers get to swim all day, but have some of the toughest fitness requirements

Who doesn’t love a nice day at the pool, complete with sunshine, warm water, and military salary and benefits? Well, Army divers enjoy all three of those things, but the frequent exposure to chlorine and the constant fitness requirements still make it a tough job.

During training, recruits often spend three hours a day in the pool and have to do tasks like treading water with large weights. Trainees get a few months to build up their skills before graduating, but then they have to maintain or even improve their already-high levels of physical fitness so their bodies can perform and withstand the rigors of living under the water.

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

Unmanned aerial systems operators prep a drone for launch. While Air Force pilots famously operate from remote stations, Army pilots are typically near the front.

(U.S. Army Spc. Andrew Ingram)

8. UAS operators are commonly near the front lines despite the whole “remote” part of their job

Want the title of pilot without all the risk of flying over enemy forces? The unmanned aerial systems operator is the job for you (most people refer to them as “drone pilots)! But, before you start shopping for real estate in the American West, you should know that it’s mostly Air Force pilots who can fly drones over the Middle East from the States.

But Army drone pilots are much more likely to be enlisted and to be deployed forward with their birds. Part of their job is actually launching and recovering their aircraft. So, yeah, they’re generally within a few dozen miles of the fighting, potentially within range of enemy artillery, close air support, or even enemy drone attack.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check

In the military, we had such a strong bond with those with whom we served. From day one in uniform, we had a battle buddy by our side. The closeness we had with our brothers and sisters is not something for those that didn’t serve to easily understand. Would your current co-workers pull ticks out for you from near your anus? Yeah, that actually happened to me … Thanks Mac, that’s what we call close! Do you think the people you work with now would run into gunfire for you?

We leave that family and often, many feel alone. This feeling is natural because being out of uniform is different from still serving. However, it’s what every veteran goes through as they leave their service. We may not talk about it at parties, but it’s as real as anything else in the world. This feeling can’t be ignored, but must be addressed.


It’s no secret that we have a suicide problem in the U.S. and even more profound in our veteran community. It’s a sad reality that we’ve lost more to suicide — over 108,000 — than combat during the Global War on Terror. Most of us know a brother or sister who’s taken their life after losing their personal battle at home. We can never eliminate the crisis, but we can certainly limit the amount who are overcome by their demons.

According to Stop Soldier Suicide, a nonprofit focused on reducing the number of service members and veterans lost to suicide, veterans are at a 50 percent higher risk of suicide than those who didn’t serve. By 2030, the number of veteran suicides will be 23 times higher than post 9/11 combat deaths. There has been a 93 percent increase in the suicide rate of male veterans aged 18 to 34.

I applaud people bringing attention to the issue through different methods. It may be doing 22 pushups a day, talking about why they served for 21 days or, I’ve also seen other messages and posts on social media raising awareness about the problem. We know there’s a problem, but I’m more for doing what Non-Commissioned Officers always do: Identify the problem, develop solutions and implement change.

Let’s be more proactive.

While serving, we saw our teammates every day. We were able to witness signs that they may be struggling. Being around each other so much, we could see if their behaviors changed, if they were down, if they showed the signs of depression and if they needed help. These checks are more difficult when we’re out of the military.

One of my favorite quotes: “You don’t need to have a patch on your arm to have honor.” – LT Kaffee at the end of A Few Good Men.

I’m challenging you to do one thing: pick up the phone and call someone you served with. Check on them. Ask them how they’re doing and listen. This is not a time to bullshit around the topic – ask them if they’re doing ok. How are they handling being out of uniform? Bring up the fact that it’s different and you feel the difference, too. We know how to accomplish tough tasks — this should be easier because of the love we have for those we served with. Have a real talk, reconnect and you may help someone suffering silently.

It’s not easy for people to acknowledge they’re having problems; generally, it’s not our veteran way. It’s not a disorder and we’re not broken. If we look out for each other and remove the stigma, we can mitigate the risks. Let’s show our love for our brothers and sisters. If you need help, reach out. And, reach out to others and do a buddy check.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The winter traffic collision this paramedic won’t forget

It was a cold December morning, and Taylor Olson and his fire department crew had just finished their start-of-shift checks on their gear. They wanted to get a hot breakfast before the winter storm set in, so they headed off while they had the chance. Olson had a paramedic student with him that day, one who hadn’t experienced any critical patients yet. Their fire station crews worked in 24-hour shift rotations, starting at 0700. As they loaded into their fire engine, a winter ice storm began to roll in. A mix of sleet and freezing rain was coming in heavy. 

Olson and his crew had to deviate from their breakfast plans twice because of separate 911 calls for minor car accidents related to ice on the roadways. The saying “where there is one, there are more” usually refers to critters and pests but also applies to winter storms and accidents in a paramedic’s world. 

The crew were eventually able to slam down breakfast. On their way back to the station, another call came in: lights-and-sirens response needed for a semitruck-versus-car accident on a two-lane interstate. To a paramedic, the combination of a semitruck, interstate speeds, and ice carries an ominous feeling — add a standard car to the mix, and it’s a recipe for disaster. 

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans
Light reflects off snow and sleet, impacting visibility while driving. Adobe Stock image.

Olson and his crew took off toward the call in the ambulance with its lights bouncing off the falling sleet. Icy roadways required the paramedics to navigate as quickly and efficiently as possible while being mindful of the conditions. There is a “golden hour” standard that establishes a 60-minute window after a traumatic injury during which a patient needs to receive definitive care at a hospital before risk of death and disability greatly increase.

As the crew crested the last hill on the interstate that was blocking their view, they started to get eyes on scene. A car appeared to have hit black ice, started to turn sideways, and then slammed under a tractor-trailer at highway speeds. Olson said it almost looked like the semi’s rear dual tires had run over the front end of the car and then back off.  

The emergency medical services crew had to piece together the puzzle of the accident from what they could see — there were no eyewitnesses coming forward. Because Olson and his crew handle both fire and EMS calls, they understand the different paths cars will take in various weather conditions and were well equipped to survey the scene.

Once an injury like this is identified, the “golden hour” is more like a couple of minutes — the patient is already in critical condition.

Olson and his ambulance crew approached the wreck as the engine crew dismounted and did the same. A woman stood next to the smashed car, trying to talk to the man inside. They found out he was her husband, and she had been in the car but was able to get herself out. Olson directed her to go with the engine crew since she was considered to be in stable condition. They needed to focus on the man trapped in the smashed car. 

“When I looked in the window, he kind of looked at me but had that thousand-mile stare look going on,” Olson said. “But you kind of know when it doesn’t look good.” Experienced paramedics know this look is a strong indicator of shock. Since there was sharp metal and glass everywhere, Olson and his partner ran back to the ambulance to put on their fire-department turnout gear. 

Olson crawled into the car through the passenger door, where the man’s wife had exited. He climbed into the back seat to better evaluate the trapped man. The driver’s side door was crushed into the patient, and the steering wheel had pinned down his legs. Olson did a double take.

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans
A view of the damage to the patient’s vehicle. Paramedic Taylor Olson didn’t have much space to maneuver after the accident, giving CPR to the driver from the back seat. Photo courtesy of Taylor Olson.

“I looked down and his — basically his left leg was smashed completely up underneath the right leg. His pelvis was pretty much crushed,” Olson said, although he was surprised to find only minor scrapes and cuts outside of the man’s main injury.  

The internal bleeding caused by a crushed pelvis is fast and severe. Once an injury like this is identified, the “golden hour” is more like a couple of minutes — the patient is already in critical condition. Olson’s chief went to work with a ram bar in an attempt to slam the steering wheel away and free the man. Meanwhile, Olson placed an IV and started running fluids to assist with the man’s dropping blood pressure. The patient was no longer responding.

“He was awake, but I think nobody was home upstairs,” Olson said, identifying a hallmark of shock progressing to dangerous levels. 

The chief was experiencing difficulty moving the steering wheel over. Then the man slumped backward in his seat. Olson checked for a pulse but was unable to detect one, nor was his patient breathing. The man had suffered a traumatic cardiac arrest, which is common with severe trauma. Olson began to perform CPR, but with limited room, he had to work with one arm from the back seat while leaning over the center console. 

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans
A closer look at the space the paramedic and fire crew were dealing with after the accident. Photo courtesy of Taylor Olson.

Performing CPR is an exhausting measure even in a wide-open setting, but Olson put forth his best effort to maximize the modified form. He kept on administering chest compressions while the other crew members attempted to cut the car open. As the car was being dismantled, Olson covered the patient with his arms to protect him from getting sprayed with glass. “The cutter was right over my left arm,” Olson said, “like, probably a couple inches away.” 

Paramedic students are expected to familiarize themselves with an ambulance and all the gear they’ll use on the job. Olson’s student was on her first advanced life support (ALS) ride with them, so he wasn’t sure she would bring the right gear when he told her that the patient was in cardiac arrest. However, the student came running up with everything he needed. 

Traffic on the interstate had been halted by police and firefighters, and an extensive line of cars had grown behind them. People were pouring out of their cars, phones in hand to record the event, which increased the stress of an already difficult situation for the first responders. 

“Everything from the waist down was pretty smashed. I mean, there wasn’t much — I don’t think there was anything solid down there.”

Olson attempted to intubate the man — to place a tube into his trachea — from the only position available in the limited space. He wasn’t able to perform a normal intubation and resorted to a last-ditch effort he had never done before: a technique called digital intubation. The paramedic places a hand in the patient’s mouth and uses fingers to guide the breathing tube into the trachea. 

“I got it!” Olson exclaimed after placing it on his first try. A burst of laughter escaped both him and his chief — in chaotic and morbid situations, humor can often help clear the mind to focus on the upcoming tasks. 

Olson continued CPR while another crew member attempted to breathe for the patient via the tube and a bag valve mask, or BVM. The chief and Olson continually knocked helmets in the cramped space while performing their separate tasks. Their patient’s heart had stopped, and to keep his odds of survival as high as possible, they had to keep working on the patient nonstop — and they also had to get him out of the car or the treatments would be in vain. 

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Taylor Olson on the scene of a fire. Photo courtesy of Taylor Olson.

Unable to get the ram bar to move the steering wheel, the chief switched over to a tool called a spreader. At last he was able to push away the wheel, and the crew outside pried the driver’s door open. The man was quickly extracted, moved onto a stretcher, and into the ambulance. They hit the road immediately. 

The hospital was close, but en route Olson and his paramedic student placed an IO — an intraosseous line, sort of like an IV into the bone marrow — for additional fluids and medications to be administered. Now that the patient was out of the car, the destruction he had endured from the wreck was obvious. “Everything from the waist down was pretty smashed. I mean, there wasn’t much — I don’t think there was anything solid down there,” Olson recalled.

The crew entered the emergency room with the patient on the stretcher, performing CPR and breathing for him the whole time. While the hospital staff took over, Olson gave them his report. With this transition of care, the role of EMS in the call was concluded. From the point of contact on scene to transferring care to the hospital, approximately 20 minutes had elapsed. The men and women of EMS work efficiently and fast. 

Olson and his crew, exhausted, walked back to the ambulance. They needed to clean up and prep for the next call that would inevitably come in. There was still the rest of their 24-hour shift to endure — just another day in the office.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 things to do at the start of your deployment

There’s nothing troops anticipate more than the chance to finally get to do what they’ve spent their entire career training for: deploying to a combat zone. Maybe you’re the gungho grunt who just can’t wait to embrace the suck. Maybe you’re the frightened POG who’s terrified of indirect fire sirens. Maybe you’re the salty NCO who’s ready to mark your fifth trip to the sandbox, realizing that each deployment feels more and more like a TDY trip than the last. 

Nowhere is this wide array of emotions more on display than in the transient tents that house troops as they move between the States and the deployment. Regardless of how you’re feeling about the deployment, you’ll have to mark a few things off the checklist before you arrive.


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You’ll also wish you’d marked your duffel bag extremely well…(U.S. Army)

 

Keep your gear ready to go at a moment’s notice

Number one rule about traveling in the military: Expect to be somewhere for weeks until, suddenly, you’re not. Your flight will be bumped back after you’ve been waiting for a few hours. You will have to endure more sleepless nights in that disgusting tent that no one ever cleans.

When your number finally comes, not even your chain of command will have a heads up. They’ll be just as lost as you are when they’re told their troops are on the manifest in thirty minutes.

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The USO building may not have much, but it’s better than nothing.
(U.S. Air Force)

 

Tell loved ones you have to go radio silent for a few weeks before deployment

Well, since you’ve got nothing important to do while your flight gets delayed for the sixth time (which, judging by your conversations with other deployed vets, is not out of the ordinary), you might as well call your family and tell them you love them.

The one thing you should probably let them know is that you won’t be able to speak to them until everything is set up at your final destination. This could happen immediately or it could take weeks. They should prepare for either case. On the bright side, this is also about the time that your commander should allow you to give out your future mailing address so loved ones can send care packages while you’re deployed.

Spoiler alert: Your address is always going to just be your name, your unit up to brigade level, APO, AE, and whatever zip code for the base.

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This one shack has seen the face of every troop who’s gone into theatre.
(Photo by Shane Songbird)

 

Get that last bit of fast food before you go without for a while

As odd as this one sounds, you’re going to want to hit up that rip-off McDonald’s in Ali Al Salem Air Base. It’s going to taste like absolute garbage. Compared to a stateside Big Mac, it’s going to be stale, under-cooked, and a bit sour for some reason. But, funnily enough, that same burger is going to taste like Heaven when you come back from deployment 12 months later.

Think of it as a soft introduction to the type of food you’re going to have to eat for your entire employment. We hope you like spongy, mermite eggs.

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It’s really fun to f*ck with the new guys, so don’t believe everything they say — except the parts about the camel spiders. Those things are hellspawns that deserve to be purged from this plane of existence.
(U.S. Marine Corps)

 

Talk with the guys leaving where you’re going

The nice thing about transient barracks is that everyone, both coming and going, is bunked in the same tent. Some may have been in the serious sh*t while others were at a bigger, more comfortable air field. Since you both have absolutely nothing better to do, might as well pick their brains.

Take everything they say with a grain of salt — your deployment experience may differ. Even if you’re going to the exact same FOB, a lot could have happened between then and now, for better or worse. Still, it’s always nice to try and get a heads up.

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For some f*cking reason… The one thing that everyone will always get are these cheapo lawn chairs.
(U.S. Army photo)

 

Realize you forgot necessities and buy them off of outbound troops

It doesn’t matter if it’s you’re deployed for the first time or the fourth, you’re probably going to kick your own ass when you realize that you forgot something ​seemingly insignificant,like a power adapter.

Don’t sweat it. Everyone who’s in the tents and is headed back home is trying to pawn off all of their crap because they just don’t need it anymore after deployment. In fact, you could probably get it for free if you do a little sweet-talking.

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Get your sleep in while you can!
(U.S. Army)

 

Enjoy the last bit of nothingness you’ll experience for the rest of your deployment

This isn’t even a POG vs grunt thing. Everyone is going to be working their ass off while they’re deployed — there’s no getting out of that. Regardless of what your MOS is, don’t expect weekends or a 0900-1700 schedule. Those days are over.

So, screw it. Since you’re just sitting on the tarmac, waiting to leave: Relax. Take a load off. Enjoy the fact that the only thing you need to do while in transit for deployment is just being at the right place at the right time.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The military origin of the classic gin and tonic cocktail

Some days, you just feel like you need a drink. Other days, you can’t live without one. For hundreds — maybe thousands — of English troops, there’s one drink that literally saved their lives: the gin and tonic.


It all started when the Spanish learned that Quechua tribesmen in the 1700s (in what is now Peru) would strip the bark from cinchona trees and grind it to help stop fever-related shivering. The active ingredient in the cinchona power was a little chemical known as quinine. It didn’t take long before Spain began to use the remedy to fight malaria.

Eventually, the treatment made its way around the world, helping the British colonial government in India maintain order.

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Any gin is a better complement to wood shavings than wine.

Whilethe French mixed the cinchona with wine, the British mixed theirs with gin,sugar, and,often, a bit of lemon. Later on, this mixture became even more pleasantwhen a Swiss jeweler of German descent, Johann Jakob Schweppe, created amixture of bubbly soda water, citrus, and quinine—and calledit “Schweppes Indian Tonic Water.”

By 1869, Indian companies were manufacturing their own soda water and lemon tonics. With easy access to the soda and one of Britain’s favorite spirits, the redcoats were free to continue colonizing the subcontinent unabated by pesky mosquitoes.

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Too bad there wasn’t a cocktail that helped the British conquer Afghanistan.

Today’s tonic water has much less quinine in it. To prevent malaria, you’d need between 500-1,000 milligrams of quinine, but consuming an entire liter of tonic water today would only get you about 83-87 milligrams. Quinine alone isn’t even an effective treatment for the disease anymore, as malarial parasites have grown resistant to the drug. These days, a drug cocktail is more effective at malaria prevention than quinine alone.

So, bring along your Hendrick’s and Tonic, but don’t forget to bring your malaria pills, too.


MIGHTY CULTURE

3 reasons military brats are better off without roots

If you have ever found yourself standing in the middle of drop-off at a new school, blinking away tears while a sea of strangers swallows up your children, wishing you could stop putting your kids through this and just let them settle in one place for once…

…do not despair.

While we might not have roots, and while we might not give our children roots, we do have something different.

What is it? Let me explain…


What is our ultimate goal for our kids?

Recently, while reading Senator Ben Sasse’s The Vanishing American Adult, I stopped and pondered his suggestion that our society is raising a generation that might not be “fully equipped to confront the stark challenges ahead of them.” Basically, Sasse is worried that we’re raising kids who will not be prepared for adulthood.

My antennae zoomed up as I read on, contemplating my own kids, their peers and our military lifestyle.

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(Photo by Tim Pierce)

Often, as military parents, we worry about what we are not providing our kids: stability, continuity and those thick, long roots. We worry about how the military lifestyle is affecting our kids now, in the present: are they scared? Nervous? Shy? Sad? Lost? Lonely? Anxious?

How is deployment affecting them? Is it interfering with their learning, their happiness, their ability to socialize?

But then I thought of what we are giving them, and deep down I believe it has the power to prepare them for the long-term in a truly awesome way.

As our children navigate the challenges and joys, the transitions and calm of military life, they grow vines that are wide and long. These vines grow across the country and around the world. They wind through friendships and communities. They guide our kids through unfamiliar territory and fortify them in the face of challenge.

They are what distinguish our kids. They are what prepare them for adulthood. And here’s why I think so…

1. Military kids learn about themselves by experiencing diversity.

I once read a meme that said something like, “Civilian kids see difference; Military kids see diversity.” I love that. It’s a beautiful way to think of the gift our children have to grow up in several different parts of the country, and perhaps the world.

Our children’s vines extend in and about unique people and places, helping them learn about the complexities of our nation and our world. Our kids don’t travel to foreign places as consumer tourists, passively observing popular landmarks, literally watching the world go by.

No, our kids actively participate in the life of different communities and cultures.

Whether it’s in a small American town or a vibrant European city, our children learn to adapt to social customs and appreciate the nuances of the locale’s lifestyle. In the process, they develop a sense of their own capabilities, as they overcome language barriers, navigate unfamiliar places, and understand different points of view. Our kids gain self-knowledge and experience self-reliance by living a life that requires them to step outside their comfort zone on a regular basis.

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(Photo by Janice Cullivan)

2. Military kids learn early networking skills.

With every transition, our kids become accustomed to the process of getting to know people in their new surroundings. Whether they’re initiating conversations, joining kids on the playground or accepting an invitation to a new friend’s house, our kids are developing excellent communication skills.

Regardless of their personality – shy or outgoing, studious or athletic – they are getting practice in interacting with people from a variety of backgrounds, which will serve them well as adults. As they experience transitions, our kids learn not only how to socialize with friends, but how to form connections in a new place. They seek out clubs, teams and other activities where like-minded peers will gather.

In a way, this is actually giving them experience in early networking skills, challenging them to confront newness, identify what resources they need and reach out to the people who they believe can help them. Someday, when we are far away and they are on their own, they will use exactly the same skills to forge their own path.

3. Military kids are taught to persevere.

Hardship and struggle are realities of every life, military or not. The key to surviving that struggle is recognizing that eventually you’ll make it to the other side. It’s digging deep within yourself for the tools to help you get through difficult times. It’s perseverance, and it’s something military kids know intimately.

Frequent moves, coping with deployments and saying goodbye to friends demand that our kids cope with unusual challenges for their age. But in the process, they learn that while some situations are hard, they have the mental fortitude to push through.

When our service members are deployed, for example, we teach our kids to remember that it is a temporary hardship. Dad or Mom will be home after a certain number of months. In the meantime, we help our kids channel their anxieties into letters or other healthy outlets. When our kids feel the discomfort of a move, we help them take steps to feel more at home. We sign them up for activities or connect them to peers in our new unit. We help our kids grow their vines, extend them out, grab hold and pull through.

I’ll take vines over roots any day.

While deep roots might offer our kids the security of close family, stability and calm, it’s the vines that enrich their lives, lead them on paths of self-discovery and reveal just how rewarding tenacity can be.

The way I see it, roots are overrated…and they have the potential to make our kids stuck. But vines? To me, our kids’ vines are exactly what Sasse worries that the general population of kids lack. Military kids’ vines are a built-in mechanism to open their minds and hearts, and they can give our kids the mental fortitude and strength of character to face their futures as adults.

And as far as we parents are concerned, isn’t that all we really hope for?

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of June 8

So, I finally got around to binge-watching Netflix’s Space Force recently. It’s nowhere near as bad as critics are making it out to be. The writers knew enough about military culture to poke fun at our soon-to-be real sister branch while simultaneously giving it a solid storyline to keep me invested. And, uh. Yeah. That’s about it. Pretty solid and I enjoyed it. I hope it gets a second season, but I hope it can flesh out some of its side characters a bit more.

If you can’t tell, my normal schtick of riffing on military news in the opener of these memes pieces is going to be a lose/lose situation this time for fairly obvious reasons. There are many more voices out there that could probably articulate the proper words for this situation far better than I could. I don’t want to take anything away from those conversations. I curate memes and practice a stand-up routine that will probably never get me to a late-night writer gig. I think I’m funny, but I’m probably not.


But that’s why we love memes, isn’t’ it? It’s a brief distraction from the sh*tstorm of daily life and outside is currently a Cat-5 Sh*ticane. It’s the slight exhale of breath at a mildly funny meme followed by a, “Heh. That sucks. I remember doing that sh*t.” That gets us through whatever we’re doing. Memes won’t undo whatever it is that’s going on around us, but it’s a good quick break from it all.

So just sit back. Relax. And remember what Bill and Ted taught us… Just be excellent to each other. Anyways, here’s some memes.

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(Meme via Army as F*ck)
I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

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(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

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(Meme via Not CID)

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(Meme via I Am an American Soldier)

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(meme via The Enlisted Club)

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(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

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(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

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(Meme via Private News Network)

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(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

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(Meme via Pop Smoke)

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

(Meme via US Space Force WTF Moments)

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 big reasons why the military should do a battle royale event

The branch rivalry can be mind-numbing at times. Each branch believes they’re the best while each has a unique role, making it impossible to objectively determine which is truly king. That’s where a battle royale comes in.

If you’re not living under a digital rock, then you know that “battle royales” are extremely popular in video games right now. In short, these types of games pit several players (or teams of players) against one another in a fight to scavenge, survive, and outlast the competition. And it got us thinking – what if the military hosted its own?

Imagine this: Each branch puts forth a five-person team (including a medic or corpsman) to compete against each other in a large, miserable training area. The teams must survive and fight against each other in a battle to earn the ultimate bragging rights for their respective branch.


Keep in mind, this is not a squad competition — each team would be given a certain amount of time, an area of operations, a number of MREs (with the ability to find resupply points), and either blanks or sesam rounds. There would be referees following or monitoring teams to keep battles fair.

But enough about the finer points, here’s why it should happen:

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There could even be an award for the winning branch.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman Cameron Lewis)

Determine the best branch

The most obvious reason we should do this is because it would finally silence the pissing content. One branch would beat the others in competition, fair and square. Each branch put forth a team on a level playing field with an equal chance at winning — there’d be no room for excuses. Better luck next year.

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Things like this build unique bonds.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kate Thornton)

Cohesion

It goes without saying that the members of a unit would form stronger bonds. But even in defeat, you can respect your opponent’s strengths. An activity like this would give each branch a chance to see the skills of each. Seeing what each branch is capable of could really help us acknowledge each other’s strengths.

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This would bring everyone together in a way that is fun and interesting.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William Sykes)

Friendly competition

In the Marine Corps, you build unit cohesion by having teams or squads compete against each other. No matter the activity, the real goal is to bring your troops closer together so they can build mutual trust. This would be the same idea — but on a much larger scale.

As it stands now, branches don’t really trust one another — mostly because they’re not sure if the others are as tough.

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You can bring those lessons back to your unit so everyone can learn something.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Hailey D. Clay)

It could have great training value

When you’re forced into a situation, you have to improvise, adapt, and overcome. In learning how to best compete, you’ll learn about yourself.

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