Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

When preparing for a mission, officers, who’ve signed off on hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment and are responsible for troops each wearing around $17,500 worth of gear, crowd around a simple box made of sand, sticks, and stones. The S-3 officer will pick up a rock and say, “first platoon, this is you guys” and they’ll use another rock to represent second platoon. And maybe they’ll even throw in some ad-libbed sound effects. Admittedly, it’s kinda silly at first glance.

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you’ll get an operations officer to spring a couple bucks and buy a few green, plastic Army guys to represent each unit, which makes it feel more like a tabletop RPG or something. Whatever markers are used, the intent is the same — and it may be one of the best instructional tools available when briefing the troops on what’s about to go down.

Here’s why:


Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

And, for the love of all that is holy, the answer is not another friggin’ PowerPoint presentation.

(U.S. Army)

The boots-on-the-ground troops don’t often get a chance to look inside the S-3 tent when they aren’t building it. Without that kind of visibility, it’s easy to overlook the insane amount of detail that goes into preparing for each and every mission. Every single eventuality has to be considered and mapped out. Each potential outcome requires an alternate plan, a contingency plan, and an emergency plan. This goes for everything, from an assault on a compound to just planning a convoy to a training center.

When it comes time to execute the mission, all of that pristine planning is for naught if you can’t properly convey it to the people responsible for carrying out the orders. So, officers need a good way to send that message.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

Who would have thought that you’d be using the same toys when you were a kid “playing Army” in the real Army.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Christopher Ruano

This is where sand tables come in. It gives each and every person watching the demonstration a bird’s eye view of what’s supposed to go down. An observer can either take it all in or just hone in on their own marker. Either way, the sand table allows everyone to focus on something in physical space instead of just zoning out while staring toward a dry-erase board filled with scribbles.

It also gives the viewer a chance to take part in the preparation, and taking an active role helps increase information retention. For example, you can give the platoon leader the “first platoon rock” and have them act out their mission.

The best part of it all? Sand tables don’t take much more than a little bit of wood and elbow grease to put together — sometimes, the best solution is the simplest.

To watch a retired Green Beret build a sand table, check out the video below from Dave of Centurion MILSIM. He’s actually got an entire series on how to create fantastic tables and military terrain models from scratch.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army looks at new ways to retain these field experts

Senior warrant officers from around the Army congregated to discuss talent management on day two of the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army in Washington, D.C.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Doug Englen of the Army Talent Management Task Force served on a panel of five distinguished senior warrant officers to discuss a series of personnel reforms designed to help acquire, develop, employ, and retain the right talent among Army warrant officers. Warrant officers are subject-matter experts in their field, serving in diverse roles across the Army from flying helicopters to conducting offensive cyber operations.

Every community within the Army has its own unique talent management challenges. The warrant officer community, in particular, has struggled to retain the most experienced warrant officers.


“In 1991, we had 1,500 warrant officers with over twenty years of warrant officer experience. Today, that number is just 350, even though we still have the same number of warrant officers,” said Englen.

Since arriving to the task force over one year ago, Englen has helped the Army begin to address talent management issues specifically impacting warrant officers.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

Senior warrant officers from around the Army discussed talent management at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in Washington, DC. The Army has already implemented talent management reforms within the officer corps; some of these reforms are being expanded to warrant officers and enlisted personnel. These programs are part of a comprehensive series of reforms designed to modernize the Army’s personnel system and transform it to a 21st Century talent management system.

(U.S. Army photo)

“When an active duty warrant officer retires, he or she is placed on the regular Army retired list, unlike commissioned officers, who are placed on the reserve Army list,” said Englen.

“Title 37 of the U.S. Code prevents dual compensation of retirement and reserve pay,” said Englen, “But by offering our retiring warrant officers Selective Reserve (SELRES) status, we can allow them to serve in the Reserve component following their retirement from active duty without causing them to lose their retirement pay.”

Doing so would help the Army address at least part of its manning shortfalls in the Army Reserve, which is currently short approximately 4,000 warrant officers.

The warrant officer community is also incredibly diverse. Each career field, said Englen, requires its own unique approach to talent management.

Aviators, for instance, can require over a year’s worth of training before they can be assigned to their units. Under the current system, many warrant officers are promoted to chief warrant officer two (CW2) either during or shortly after flight school. The task force is drafting a new policy to “reset” a warrant officer’s date of rank once they complete flight school, allowing time to develop them as a warrant officer (WO1) for two years before being promoted to chief warrant officer two (CW2).

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

Senior warrant officers from around the Army discussed talent management at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in Washington, DC. The Army has already implemented talent management reforms within the officer corps; some of these reforms are being expanded to warrant officers and enlisted personnel. These programs are part of a comprehensive series of reforms designed to modernize the Army’s personnel system and transform it to a 21st Century talent management system.

(U.S. Army photo)

Other communities, such as Special Forces and air defense, do not require extensive warrant officer training timelines, as they draw from their respective communities.

Instead, Englen noted, these communities are working to directly commission senior non-commissioned officers in the grades of sergeant first class through first sergeant to the rank of chief warrant officer two (CW2).

The Army has already implemented talent management reforms within the officer corps. Some of these reforms are being expanded to warrant officers and enlisted personnel. These programs are part of a comprehensive series of reforms designed to modernize the Army’s personnel system and transform it to a 21st Century talent management system.

These talent management initiatives aimed at the warrant officer community are expected to begin early 2020.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Plastic Army set will finally include women and military working dogs

At the end of 2019, BMC Toys responded to 6-year-old Vivian Lord’s inquiry as to why there are only green Army men by designing some green Army women with 15 different poses. Now the toy designer is expanding the set to include military working dogs and their handlers, as well.

“[Please] can you make army girls that look like women,” Vivian wrote. “I would play with them every day and my [friends] would [too]!”

Jeff Imel, the owner of the Pennsylvania toy company, launched a Kickstarter campaign with a simple premise: “Customers asked for Plastic Army Women. The story went viral. So, now I’m making them.”


BMC Toys designed figures like “Pathfinder Captain” and “Standing Rifleman” among many others. The original 24-piece set included:

  • Pathfinder Captain
  • Standing Rifleman
  • Kneeling Rifleman
  • Prone Sniper
  • Grenadier
  • Bazooka Operator

The campaign was such a success that BMC Toys unlocked stretch goals that upgraded the set to 36 figures in with six additional poses:

  • Running Rifleman
  • Combat Medic
  • Low-Crawl Rifleman
  • Radio Operator
  • Wounded Soldier
  • Light Machine Gunner

By Dec. 17, 2019, even more stretch goals had been unlocked, which added the Medical Team and the K9 Team to the set.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

“Why do you not make Girl army men[?] My [friend’s] mom is in the army [too]!” wrote Vivian, voicing the concerns that many veterans have asked over the years. Introducing young girls to military toys that include them will help shape their ideas of what they can achieve in their lives.

BMC Toys recognized this fact and set to work, hiring a sculptor for their first prototype.

The BMC Female Combat Soldiers, which are marketed as “real American Made plastic heroes, meant to be set up, knocked down, picked up and played with for years to come” are in development for production and will become available in October 2020.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how much US troops are paid according to their rank

How much are US troops paid?

The answer to that question depends on their rank, time in service, location of duty station, family members, and job specialty — just to name a few.

Other benefits, like government healthcare and tax-free portions of their pay, help service members stretch their earnings a bit farther than civilian counterparts.


To give you an idea, we broke down their monthly salary, or base pay, for each rank. We estimated their pay rate based on how many years they’ve typically served by the time they reach that rank — many service members spend more time in each rank than we’ve calculated, while some troops spend less time and promote more quickly.

We also didn’t include factors like housing allowance because they vary widely, but these are often a large portion of their compensation. We also didn’t include warrant officers, whose years of service can vary widely.

Each military branch sets rules for promotions and implements an “up or out” policy, which dictates how long a service member can stay in the military without promoting.

The full military pay chart can be found here.

Here is the typical annual base pay for each rank.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

A drill instructor shows Marine recruits proper techniques during martial arts training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California. While they are in boot camp, service members are paid minimally — but their paychecks will increase incrementally as they gain experience.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Christian Garcia)

E-1: ,172

E-1 is the lowest enlisted rank in the US military: Airman Basic (Air Force), Private (Army/Marine Corps), Seaman Recruit (Navy). Service members usually hold this rank through basic training, and automatically promote to the next rank after six months of service.

Rounded to the nearest dollar, base pay (salary) starts at id=”listicle-2629413157″,554 per month at this rank. After four months of service, pay will increase to id=”listicle-2629413157″,681 per month.

The military can demote troops to this rank as punishment.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

These sailors’ uniforms indicate a seaman apprentice, petty officer 3rd class, and seaman.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist Seaman Apprentice Ignacio Perez)

E-2: ,608

Service members automatically promote to the E-2 paygrade — Airman (Air Force), Private (Army), Private 1st Class (Marine Corps), Seaman Apprentice (Navy) — after 6 months of service.

Their pay increases to id=”listicle-2629413157″,884 per month.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

A Marine Lance Cpl. strums his guitar on the USS Kearsarge during a deployment.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

E-3: ,772

Promotion to the E-3 occurs automatically after 12 months of service. Airman 1st Class (Air Force), Private 1st Class (Army), Lance Corporal (Marine Corps), Seaman (Navy).

Basic pay is id=”listicle-2629413157″,981 at this rank, adding up to a 7 monthly increase in pay after one year on the job.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

Senior Airmen conduct a flag folding presentation during a retirement ceremony in 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

E-4: ,684

Although time in service requirements vary between each branch, service members who promote to E-4 typically have at least two years of service. Senior Airman (Air Force), Specialist/Corporal (Army), Corporal (Marine Corps), Petty Officer 3rd Class (Navy)

If an E-3 doesn’t advance in paygrade after two years, their pay will still increase to ,195 rounded to the nearest dollar.

For those who do make E-4 with two years, pay will increase to ,307 per month. Some service members will promote to the next rank after just one year at this paygrade — those who remain at the E-4 level will see a pay raise to ,432 per month after spending three years in service.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

E-5: ,136

Promotions are no longer automatic, but troops can advance to E-5 with as little as three years in service. Those ranks are Staff Sergeant (Air Force), Sergeant (Army/Marine Corps), Petty Officer 2nd Class (Navy).

For these troops, their new paychecks will come out to ,678 per month.

Service members will commonly spend at least three years at this paygrade. While they do not advance in rank during that time, their pay will still increase along with their time in service.

Four years after enlistment, an E-5 will make ,804 per month. After six years of service, their pay will increase again — even if they do not promote — to ,001 per month.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

First class petty officers from USS Dwight D. Eisenhower participate in a community relations project. The logo on their t-shirts is an alteration of the Navy’s E-6 insignia, which shows an eagle perched on top of three inverted chevrons and the sailor’s job specialty badge.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Patrick Grieco)

E-6: ,048

It is unusual for a service member to achieve the rank of E-6 — Technical Sgt. (Air Force), Staff Sgt. (Army/Marine Corps), Petty Officer 1st Class (Navy) — with fewer than six years of service.

An “E-6 with six” takes home ,254 per month.

After another two years in the service, that will increase to ,543 in monthly salary, equating to approximately ,500 per year.

Achieving the next higher paygrade, E-7, before serving for 10 years is not unheard of but not guaranteed. If an E-6 doesn’t advance by then, they will still receive a pay raise, taking home ,656 a month.

Their next pay raise occurs 12 years after their enlistment date, at which point their monthly pay will amount to ,875.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

The late Marine and actor R. Lee Ermey as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in Full Metal Jacket.

(YouTube)

E-7: ,340

Achieving the coveted rank of E-7 — Master Sergeant (Air Force), Sgt. 1st Class (Army), Gunnery Sgt. (Marine Corps), Chief Petty Officer (Navy) — with fewer than 10 years of service is not common, but it can be done.

Those who achieve this milestone will be paid ,945 a month, increased to ,072 per month after reaching their 10-year enlistment anniversary.

Some service members retire at this paygrade — if they do, their pay will increase every two years until they become eligible to retire. When they reach 20 years, their pay will amount to ,798 per month — or ,576 yearly.

The military places a cap on how long each service member can spend in each rank. Commonly referred to as “up or out,” this means that if a service member doesn’t advance to the next rank, they will not be able to reenlist. While these vary between branches, in the Navy that cap occurs at 24 years for chief petty officers.

A chief with 24 years of service makes ,069 per month.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

A US Navy senior chief petty officer’s cover, with the emblem of an anchor and its chain, USN, and a silver star.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class James Foehl)

E-8: ,884

Service members may promote to E-8 — Senior Master Sgt. or 1st Sgt. (Air Force), 1st Sgt. or Master Sgt. (Army), Master Sgt. or 1st Sgt. (Marine Corps), Senior Chief Petty Officer (Navy) —with as little as 12 years of service.

At that point, they will receive ,657 per month.

Troops who retire as an E-8 after 20 years of service will take home a monthly salary of ,374 — or ,488 per year.

If they stay in past that point, they will receive raises every two years.

An E-8 with 28 years in the service makes ,076 monthly.

The Army’s up-or-out policy prevents more than 29 years of service for each 1st Sgt. or Sgt. Maj.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

The Chief Master Sergeant insignia is seen on jackets prepared for an induction ceremony. Less than 1% of US Air Force enlisted personnel are promoted to the rank.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Randy Burlingame)

E-9: ,960

E-9s have anywhere from 15 to 30 years of experience, although few selected for specific positions may exceed 30 years of service. Their titles are Chief Master Sgt. (Air Force), Sgt. Maj. (Army), Master Gunnery Sgt. or Sgt. Maj. (Marine Corps), Master Chief Petty Officer (Navy).

Service members who achieve this rank with 15 years of experience will be paid ,580 per month.

They’ll receive their next pay raise when they reach 16 years, and take home ,758 monthly.

After 20 years, they will take home ,227 — that’s ,724 yearly when they reach retirement eligibility.

Some branches allow E-9s to stay in the military up to 32 years, at which point they will make ,475 — or ,700 per year.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

Newly commissioned Navy and Marine Corps officers celebrate during their 2018 graduation from the US Naval Academy.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist Chief Elliott Fabrizio)

O-1: ,256

Compared to enlisted service members with the same amount of experience, military officers make considerably more money.

A freshly commissioned O-1 — 2nd Lt. (Army/Marine Corps/Air Force), Ensign (Navy) — earns ,188 per month in base pay alone.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

A US Marine 1st Lt. takes the oath of office during his promotion ceremony.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jered Stone)

O-2: ,208

Officers are automatically promoted to O-2 after two years of service. This is a highly anticipated promotion, as it marks one of the largest individual pay raises officers will see during their careers. Those ranks are 1st Lt. (Air Force/Army/Marine Corps), Lt. j.g. (Navy).

An O-2 earns ,184 per month, which comes out to ,208 a year.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

A US Army captain waits for a simulated attack during training in Wiesbaden, Germany.

(US Army photo by Paul Hughes)

O-3: ,052

Officers will receive a pay raise after reaching three years in service.

Using the Army’s average promotion schedule, officers will achieve the next rank automatically after four years in the service.

New captains and lieutenants, with four years of service, make ,671 per month. At this rank, officers will receive pay raises every two years.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

A Navy lieutenant commander talks with pilots from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26 from the USS Ponce while the ship is deployed to the Arabian Gulf in 2014.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Peter Blair)

O-4: ,832

By the time they reach the rank of O-4, military officers will have spent an average of 10 years in the service. Maj. (Air Force/Army/Marine Corps), Lt. Cmdr. (Navy)

A major or lieutenant commander with a decade of experience takes home ,236 per month, or just under ,832 a year. Officer pay continues to increase with every two years of additional service.

O-4 pay is capped at ,074 a month, so if an officer wants to take home a six-figure salary — additional pay, bonuses and allowances aside — they’ll have to promote to O-5.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

Lt. Col. Goldie, the only US Air Force therapy dog, wears a purple ribbon in support of domestic violence awareness month in October 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

O-5: 5,012

Officers typically spend at least 17 years in the military before promoting to O-5.

They’ll take home ,751 per month until their 18-year commissioning anniversary, at which point they’ll earn ,998 per month. Those ranks are Lt. Col. (Air Force/Army/Marine Corps), Cmdr. (Navy).

After 18 years in the military, officers receive annual compensation of nearly 8,000 a year.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

Col. Lewis “Chesty” Puller, a Marine Corps legend, circa 1950.

(US Marine Corps Archives)

O-6: 0,092

“Full bird” colonels and Navy captains, with an average 22 years of service, are compensated ,841 per month.

Officers who do not promote to become a general or admiral must retire after 30 years of service. At this point, they will be making ,668 a month, or roughly 0,000 per year.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

An Air Force pararescueman unfurls the brigadier general flag for US Air Force Brig. Gen. Claude Tudor, commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

O-7: 5,820

Promotion to brigadier general and rear admiral depends on a wide range of variables, including job availability.

Each of these ranks carries its own mandatory requirement; similar to the enlisted “up or out” policies, officers must promote to the next higher rank or retire.

Officers who have spent less than five years at the lowest flag rank must retire after 30 years of service. Their last pay raise increased their monthly salary to ,985.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

Two Rear Admirals and a Captain salute during the national anthem.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Eric Dietrich)

O-8: 4,572

Generals and admirals with two stars — Maj. Gen. (Air Force/Army/Marine Corps), Rear Adm. (Navy) — must retire after their 35th year in the military.

At this point, they will be earning ,381 per month, or 4,572 a year.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

US Army Lt. Gen. Martin lays a wreath for President Abraham Lincoln’s 210th birthday. It takes the corporal in the image roughly half a year to earn the same amount Martin takes home every month.

(US Army photo by Spc. Dana Clarke)

O-9: 9,600

Military officer pay is regulated and limited by US Code.

Both three- and four-star admirals and generals who stay in the service long enough will receive the maximum compensation allowed by the code. These ranks are vice admiral for the Navy and lieutenant general for the other branches.

Excluding additional pays, cost of living adjustments, and allowances, these officers make up to ,800 every month.

That’s about 9,600 a year.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

Retired Gen. James Amos, the 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps, shares a story with Marines during a visit to a base in Hawaii.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Reece Lodder)

O-10: 9,600

Regardless of continued time in service, once a military officer achieves the four-star rank of general or admiral, they will no longer receive pay raises and are capped at ,800 per month.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

US service members across all branches conduct state funeral services for former President George H. W. Bush.

(US Army photo by Spc. James Harvey/)

Extra pays and allowances help take their salaries a bit further.

Base pay can seem stingy, especially at the lower ranks where enlisted receive around ,000 per year.

But troops receive a number of benefits and may qualify for extra allowances.

TRICARE Prime, the military’s primary healthcare package, is free for active duty troops — saving them the ,896 average annual premium for single payers.

When eligible to live off base, service members receive a basic allowance for housing (BAH), which increases at each paygrade; the exact amount is set based on location and whether the individual has any children. Service members also receive allowances to help cover the cost of food and in expensive duty locations receive a cost of living allowance (COLA). Enlisted personnel also receive a stipend to help them pay for their uniforms.

Any portion of a service member’s salary that is labeled as an “allowance” is not taxed by the government, so service members may only have to pay taxes for roughly two-thirds of their salary.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Not training because you think you have nothing to prepare for?

Put the beer down and read.

When we leave active duty, we go through a lot of emotional ups and downs, we have many hurdles to overcome, and most importantly, we have to repurpose ourselves.


That repurposing process is a subconscious one for the overwhelming majority of us. We fall into the civilian world and look for things we couldn’t do or have while we were in the service. You know, like drugs, experiences, traveling opportunities, and sleeping in past 0600 on a weekday. Basically, we’re just adult versions of Amish teens on Rumspringa.

After we get those things out of our system, we find ourselves so far on the other side of society that we realize we need to get back to “normality.” That normality is somewhere between the extreme lifestyle of the military and the post-DD-214 period of blowing off steam, so we think.

Check out the details of my transition struggle here.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

This bell curve shows how the population is distributed when it comes to potential for greatness.

(I took the liberty of making this normal bell curve much better.)

The ‘Normal’ Trap.

By definition, we aren’t normal people; we’re 1%-ers. It’s a different and much more dangerous 1%. That being the case, normal for us isn’t the same normal as it is for actual “normal” people.

Falling into how normal people live looks something like this:

  • Wake-up at the last possible minute for a job you hate.
  • Fight through traffic to get to the same place you’ll go for 15-30 years of your life.
  • Expend all of your energy, will power, and decision-making ability by just trying to make it to the end of the workday.
  • Get home exhausted, reach for an alcoholic beverage, sit on an unnecessarily comfortable couch, and watch 4-6 hours of premium content.
  • Eat whatever is around or order something that you don’t know where it came from or why you’re eating it.
  • Lose track of time due to social media and end up going to bed with only 4-5 hours left before you need to wake up for work again.
  • Repeat for years on end.

Can you imagine what happens when you put a 1%-er into the same box as the majority? Have you ever seen what happens to a feral bull after it’s domesticated?

But this is what happens when we allow ourselves to be subconsciously repurposed.

Here’s how you can keep a 1%-er happy in the gym.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

Build stuff, kick butt, and charge big bucks for it.

(Photo by Charles Forerunner on Unsplash)

Shadows of normalcy

We should instead be repurposing ourselves to do great things like growing businesses, shaking up industries, raising the status quo. In order for us to do that, we need to not forget the greatness we came from by ending up in a “normal” life.

I’m not just talking about combat veterans or vets with spec ops training here. I’m talking about all of us, all veterans, from the most boot Airman to the grizzliest retired E-9 turned private security contractor that you can think of. If we weren’t better humans, we wouldn’t have even thought the military was an option for us in the first place.

Get out of the shadow of normalcy.

The decision to end up in normal is a mistake for us. Normal kills potential. Normal shits on passion. Normal shames greatness.

We need to stay closer to the fringe than the normals do.

Here’s how to clear your head so that you can actually figure out what empire you want to build.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

Blasting normal in the crotch… after living like this there’s no way you’ll be happy being “normal.”

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Fred Gray IV/Released)

The fringe is where the magic happens

It’s not easy to stay on the fringe though… it’s demanding and exhausting out here, but it feels like home to us. You need to stay fit and capable in order to live outside of normal.

That’s why the military has fitness standards when normal people have 2.6 doctors visits a month. The fringe only seeks medical attention when something is broken from flying too close to the sun.

That’s why you need to be training. You’re training to stay strong, lean, and healthy, but even more importantly, you’re training to stay at the tip of the spear, albeit a different spear than you stood on in the military.

It doesn’t matter if your new spear is higher education, the business world, entrepreneurship, or parenthood. The best in their field are those that know how to leverage their body to produce greatness.

You’ve already been given keys to the castle of greatness through your military indoctrination. The foundation of that castle is training hard to take care of your body and make everything else in life seem easier.

That’s it. Train hard, become the best at what you do, and teach normal people what greatness actually looks like.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

Click the image if you want to get in touch with me directly.

Me (the author)

The new Mighty Fit Plan is nearly ready. Become one of the first to hear about it here!

Get over to the Mighty Fit FB Group here and join like-minded 1%-ers that are ready to step out of normalcy and into their next big move.

MIGHTY CULTURE

9 epic photos of Marines drinking snake blood and eating scorpions

On Feb. 12, 2019, the US and Thailand launched Cobra Gold, one of the largest multi-national exercises in the world.

The annual exercise brings together 29 nations as participants or observers; nine participating countries include the US and Thailand as well as Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, China, India, Indonesia, and South Korea, according to a US Army release.

The exercise, which will end on Feb. 22, 2019, includes a field training exercise, humanitarian and disaster relief components.

One of the most anticipated aspects of the exercise is jungle survival training, when Royal Thai Marines teach their US counterparts how to identify edible foods, including plants and animals.

During the training, US troops have the opportunity to eat scorpions and geckos, and drink snake blood — all skills necessary to survive if one becomes isolated from their unit.


Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

U.S. Marines drink the blood of a king cobra during jungle survival training as part of Cobra Gold 19 at Ban Chan Krem, Kingdom of Thailand.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kenny Nunez)

1. These Marines aren’t drinking snake blood just for show.

Jungle training teaches essential skills for survival in a wild, tropical environment.

Marines learn skills from identifying poisonous plants, differentiating between venomous and non-venomous snakes, and finding water sources if they get lost.

One of the instructors interviewed by Marine Staff Sgt. Matthew Bragg said that drinking animal blood is one way to stay hydrated in the absence of another water source.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

US Marines cheer on comrades during the highly anticipated jungle survival training during exercise Cobra Gold.

(US Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

A Royal Thai Marine instructor shows US Marines different types of snakes during jungle survival training.

(US Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

U.S. Marines watch as Royal Thai Marine instructor shows off a snake during Cobra Gold 19.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

Royal Thai Marine Corps instructor passes around freshly cooked meat during Cobra Gold 19.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

A US Marine eats a scorpion in jungle survivor training during Cobra Gold 19.

(US Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Austin Gassaway eats a plant during jungle survival training as part of Cobra Gold 19.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kenny Nunez)

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

Royal Thai Marine shows US Marines what to eat in the jungle during the exercise.

(US Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

Royal Thai and U.S. Marines learn how to make fire in the jungle during Cobra Gold 19.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

9. Marines also learn skills like building fires and alternate ways to stay hydrated.

“I didn’t know that ants are a trace of water. Wherever they’re filing to, they know where the location of water is,” said US Army Spc. Louis Smith.

Smith said that new knowledge is something he’d take back home with him.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The difference between military funeral honors and ‘full’ military honors

Any eligible veteran who requests a military burial is guaranteed by law to have certain honors at his or her funeral. The Department of Defense is required by law to provide these services at no cost to the veteran’s family. 

The honors they receive at their funeral depends on the veteran’s service, but will always have certain baseline elements, which includes at least two honor guard members. Depending on their military achievements, however, the funeral can range from a simple, understated ceremony to something akin to the opening act of a Super Bowl.

For veterans to get military honors at their burial, the family must give the VA or the local military installation two days’ notice. This can be coordinated through a veteran’s funeral director. 

Any veteran’s funeral will have, at the least, the two-person honor guard, who will play “Taps” as well as fold and present the American flag to the veteran’s family. The Department of Defense will go out of their way to provide a real bugler, but in some cases, exceptions have to be made for a recording. 

Air Force members honoring a veteran at his funeral

Sometimes, a ceremonial bugle will be used, where the song comes from a speaker in the bell of the bugle, but the song isn’t actually being played live. 

The honor guard will then fold the flag draping the casket and present it to the family. If the veteran is cremated, the folding ceremony varies slightly, but is still presented to the next of kin. Burial flags are provided free of charge, but must be coordinated through a funeral director or VA office, after completing the required form.

Every veteran interred at Arlington National Cemetery will have a 17-person casket team, a firing party, a bugler and the folding of and presentation of the flag. 

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission
A Buckley Air Force Base Honor Guard bugler plays taps at the funeral for World War II flying ace, retired Col. John Smith Stewart at the Ft. Logan National Cemetery, Denver, Colo., on Oct. 8. 2004. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Anika Williams) (RELEASED)

For members of the Coast Guard and the Navy, families can request a burial at sea. Families are responsible for transporting the remains to the port of embarkation and must know that the burial will take place during a routine deployment. It’s unlikely that the family will be able to be present at a burial at sea. 

Some veterans are eligible to receive military honors with escort, also known as “full” military honors. What eligible veterans receive with full military honors also varies by availability and service.

According to Arlington National Cemetery, military honors with escort are available to any veteran who reached the ranks of E-9, CW-4, CW-5, or O-4 and above. Medal of Honor recipients, former prisoners of war and those killed in action – of any rank – are also afforded “full” military honors. 

Those receiving military honors with escort are provided with the standard military honors; the flag ceremony, playing of “Taps,” and an honor guard. They can also receive a marching escort of various sizes (dependent on rank), a firing party for a three-volley salute, a military band and a military team of pallbearers. 

If the veteran is being interred at Arlington, they are eligible to be driven to the gravesite by the cemetery’s caisson, a wagon driven by a team of six horses. 

General officers who served in the Army or Marine Corps can get full military honors that include a riderless horse and a cannon salute with the number of cannons dependent on the general’s rank. Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps officers of 0-7 and above are offered minute guns for their salute. 

Families can also request a military flyover, if the assets are available to the location of the funeral and the weather permits.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This woman landed under fire at Inchon with the Marines

Marguerite Higgins was a legend of the news media who went ashore with the Marines in the fifth wave at Red Beach at Inchon, South Korea, earning her the respect of ground-pounders and a Pulitzer Prize while allowing the general public to understand what troops were doing for America overseas.


Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

Marguerite Higgins, a war correspondent who landed with Marines at Red Beach.

(YouTube/womenshistory)

Higgins’ journalism career started when she traveled to New York with her portfolio from college, asked a newsstand guy where the closest newspaper office was, and stormed in with the demand that she be made a reporter.

That was in 1941. America was quickly dragged into the wars in Europe and the Pacific, and Higgins got herself sent to Europe where she wrote some of her most haunting work, describing the liberation of concentration camps during the fall of Nazi Germany. She braved shellfire in battle and wrote about what the soldiers around her suffered.

In fact, when she rushed to cover the liberation of the concentration camp at Dachau, she arrived with a Stars and Stripes reporter before the Army did. The German commander and guards at the southern end of the camp turned themselves over to the journalists, and those journalists had to let the prisoners know they’d been freed.

Her work in World War II was appreciated, but she hadn’t been sent overseas until 1944. When the Korean War began, Higgins was based out of Japan as the bureau chief of the New York Tribune’s Far East Office, and she immediately sent herself to the front.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

Prisoners are marched past an M26 Pershing tank in the streets of Seoul, South Korea in 1950.

(Department of the Navy)

She was there when Seoul fell to North Korea, but then the Tribune sent another war reporter and ordered Higgins back to Japan. Instead of leaving, she kept reporting from the front in competition with other journalists — including the other Tribune journalist: Homer Bigart.

Yup, she competed against other employees of her own newspaper. Though, in her defense, that just meant the New York Tribune was getting a steady stream of articles from two of the top war correspondents in the world.

Well, it was, anyway, until the U.S. passed a new rule banning female reporters from their front lines. Higgins protested, which did nothing. Then, she protested directly to Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who was then the commander of all U.S. forces in Korea. This proved to be much more successful.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

Newspaper article announces that ban on women war correspondents in Korea has been lifted.

(YouTube/womenshistory)

MacArthur sent a telegram to the Tribune saying, “Ban on women correspondents in Korea has been lifted. Marguerite Higgins is held in highest professional esteem by everyone.”

And that was great for Higgins, because her Pulitzer moment came a couple months later. Higgins got herself onto one of the largest operations of the war: The Army and Marine Corps landing at Inchon. The strategic idea was to threaten the interior supply lines of the Communists and to relieve pressure on troops that were barely holding the southern edge of the peninsula. She opened her article with:

Heavily laden U.S. Marines, in one of the most technically difficult amphibious landings in history, stormed at sunset today over a ten-foot sea wall in the heart of the port of Inchon and within an hour had taken three commanding hills in the city.

A little later in the article, she writes:

Despite a deadly and steady pounding from naval guns and airplanes, enough North Koreans remained alive close to the beach to harass us with small-arms and mortar fire. They even hurled hand grenades down at us as we crouched in trenches which unfortunately ran behind the sea wall in the inland side.

It was far from the “virtually unopposed” landing for which the troops had hoped after hearing the quick capture of Wolmi Island in the morning by an earlier Marine assault.
Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

Marines clamber over obstacles at Inchon, South Korea, during the amphibious assault there. Marguerite Higgins landed with the fifth wave of Marines.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Higgins landed with the fifth wave of Marines. Her coverage highlighted the bravery of troops under fire, but was also critical of those who had sent forces in under-prepared or -equipped. In 1951, she wrote in War in Korea: A Woman Combat Correspondent:

So long as our government requires the backing of an aroused and informed public opinion it is necessary to tell the hard bruising truth. It is best to tell graphically the moments of desperation and horror endured by an unprepared army, so that the American public will demand that it does not happen again.

After Korea, she continued to search out chances to cover troops in combat. In 1953, she went to Vietnam to cover French forces and covered the defeat at Dien Bein Phu where her photographer was killed by a land mine. She got a pass to report from both sides of the Iron Curtain and covered the Cold War tensions as they rose in the early 1960s.

Unfortunately, her dangerous work eventually caught up with her. She returned to Vietnam to cover American operations there and, in 1965, she contracted leishmaniasis. She was sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the U.S. for treatment, but died on January 3, 1966, from the disease.

MIGHTY CULTURE

British Army is swapping English breakfasts for avocado toast

The British Army diet is getting a millennial makeover.

While full English breakfasts have long been a staple for troops, this could soon be replaced by everyone’s favorite brunch: avocado on toast.

Alongside a healthy smoothie, the new millennial-friendly breakfast option is being introduced in a bid to tackle obesity amongst troops, the Express reported.

Indeed, Lieutenant-Colonel Ben Watts was recently quoted as saying that 57% of soldiers are overweight and 12% fall into the obese category — however, it’s worth noting that BMI tests often class extremely muscular people as overweight as well.


Watts even said that the growing rate of obesity in the army is a “national security threat” because fewer troops are fit to be sent into battle.

And so the healthier “warrior breakfast” options are reportedly being trialed with units of 4 Infantry Brigade at Catterick in North Yorkshire.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

It’s been devised by defense contractor Aramark in collaboration with HQ Regional Command, the Express reported, and will see soldiers offered a light pre-breakfast of yogurt, fruit, and smoothies to start their day, and then avocado on toast as a refuel meal after their morning training sessions.

A spokesperson for the army explained to INSIDER that they take a “holistic approach” to wellbeing, educating recruits in nutrition, diet, and exercise in order to maintain a healthy weight. Troops have to pass regular fitness tests too.

The new breakfast forms part of a “Healthy Living Pilot,” which aims to lead to improvements in the areas of nutrition, alcohol, smoking, work-life balance, and mental health, with the ultimate goal of increasing retention of personnel in the military.

But what will the soldiers make of the changes?

A source who spent time as a reserve soldier in the British Army told INSIDER: “Smoothies and avocado would be a pretty drastic turn from army breakfasts as I knew them, which were mostly focused on filling you up — and not costing too much.

“My first breakfast on a British Army base was: sausage, bacon, bread, hash browns, beans, and porridge. There were apples and bananas, but it is fair to say the troops were not that enthusiastic about them.”

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

(Photo by Chris Tweten)

Another source from inside the army, who wished to remain anonymous, agreed that the new menu likely wouldn’t go down well with all the recruits.

“It’s an interesting thought and would certainly be welcome in the Officers’ Mess, not so sure about the soldiers though!” he said.

He also explained that one reason obesity is an issue in the army is that the food provided isn’t particularly appealing, which means troops often end up purchasing more delicious — but less nutritious — options.

“One of the main reasons for poor health and obesity is the government’s decision to outsource chefs and cooking to contractors like Aramark,” he said.

“The ‘core meal,’ which they are obliged by the MoD [Ministry of Defence] to provide is a balanced meal but is deliberately bland and uninspiring.

“Soldiers can opt for the more expensive alternative options which are more appetizing but are regularly unhealthy, such as burgers, pizzas, chips, baked beans, etc.”

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

Soldiers are able to order more appetizing but less nutritious meals such as pizza.

(Photo by ivan Torres)

The army spokesperson added that caterers are required to provide food to suit a wide range of dietary requirements, including healthy options.

There’s also been a change in how food is paid for.

“Soldiers now have to pay for their food as well,” our source continued. “The old system had it deducted at source from pay.

“Many soldiers are bad at managing their finances and then end up with no money to pay for food so have to eat rations, which are designed to dump loads of calories into your system to keep you going for high-intensity exercises!”

Breakfast is a little different though — for the “core option,” soldiers can currently eat a cooked breakfast comprising six items including two proteins, but cereal and milk are also deemed one of the six. This means that even if you only want a bowl of cereal, you’re wasting money by not getting a fried egg, a sausage, and beans on fried bread alongside it, according to our source.

He also explained that many of the soldiers and officers choose not to go to breakfast at all because they’d rather sleep longer and they don’t actually want to eat a big meal before doing a high-intensity exercise circuit as part of their physical training.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

Would soldiers be more likely to go to breakfast if it was a light smoothie?

(Flickr/Nomadic Lass)

“Officers used to be able to order soldiers to have breakfast but we cannot order people to spend their own money.”

Perhaps with lighter options on offer to start their day, more soldiers would decide to eat before training.

Rhiannon Lambert, a registered nutritionist and founder of Rhitrition clinic on London’s Harley Street, said she welcomes the healthier changes to the army diet.

“Regardless of the growing rates of obesity, the army deserves to have a nourishing and fulfilling breakfast that’s going to aid them in their productivity and overall health,” Lambert told INSIDER.

“Focusing on changing their dietary plan owed to obesity is something that should be seen as a positive thing in helping the health of our troops rather than focusing on the question of weight and numbers.”

However, Lambert pointed out that avocado toast isn’t actually the perfect healthy meal many people believe it to be.

“Avocado on toast isn’t actually that balanced as it doesn’t have enough protein in,” Lambert explained. “I would recommend adding a protein source on the top such as nuts, seeds, beans, eggs, or hummus.

“And of course, everyone is completely unique, and lifestyle and activity levels should dictate the diet.”

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Marine Veteran is pioneering a new VA program to help veterans and their families

This post is sponsored by the UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center (VFWC).

The UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center is honored to continue to serve and support the military-connected community during COVID-19! For appointments call (310) 478-3711 x 42793 or email info@vfwc.ucla.edu

Every Marine knows the saying, “Pain is Weakness leaving the body.” It’s the motto that drill instructors use to encourage recruits to dig just a little deeper during boot camp and it’s often repeated when physical training takes a turn from hard to brutally hard. The military, especially the Marines, know that pain is the beginning of resilience, our ability to bounce back from difficult situations and complete the mission. But while some pain often prepares our servicemen and women for strength in war, we are often at a loss for what to do when our families or even children are challenged with pain and stress once we return. So when the VA wanted to start helping veteran families they smartly turned to one of the few and the proud.


Marine Veteran Tess Banko is no stranger to pain. By twenty three years old, she had survived homelessness, a massive back injury (for which she was medically discharged) and the suicide death of her husband, also a Marine. When her world seemed to be coming apart, Tess did the opposite of what most of us would do. Instead of allowing her pain to overwhelm her, she fought back. She dug into her pain both physically and mentally. Along the way, she volunteered to empower and assist others, went to college (she was crowned homecoming queen), and ultimately, found the tools inside to help her (and her family). Tess is the epitome of resilience and now she’s bounced back to take on a new mission.

Today, Tess is the executive director of the UCLA/VA Veterans Family Wellness Center, a one of a kind partnership between UCLA and the West Los Angeles VA system. Tess and her team are part of the first VA program specifically designed to help not only veterans, but their families. To support their work, the team is relying on cutting edge research from UCLA just a few blocks from the VA campus. UCLA, the university which revolutionized kidney transplants and invented the nicotine patch, is now offering veterans and their families a state of the art resiliency program. Families Over Coming Under Stress (FOCUS) is a resiliency training regimen for individuals, families with children and couples facing adversity or issues like traumatic stress.

With Tess at the helm, she’s not only pioneering a new way of thinking for the VA, she’s also helping others find their path through trauma. Tess sat down with We Are The Mighty to discuss her work, passion and journey into resilience.

WATM: First things first, thank you for everything you do for military families. How do you describe yourself and your work here at VFWC?

Tess: Well it’s really easy to give a title. I’m the executive director of the UCLA/VA. Veteran Family Wellness Center. But really, I’m a social worker and public administrator.

WATM: And a Marine? What made you join the Corps?

Tess: I think it was really a lot of wanting to be part of something that made a difference. When I was younger I used to go to the [El Toro] airshow with my grandfather and that’s the first time I ever laid eyes on a Marine standing there in the uniform. You know guiding people, I mean it was airshow duty. I didn’t know at the time probably how much fun that wasn’t, but they were motivating and just really interacting with the public, and there were are all these exciting machines and demonstrations. So, it really made an impact on me as a little girl. The wider world was calling.

WATM: Did your family have a history of military service?

Tess: I didn’t find out until many years later that my own grandfather was actually in the Army. He never told those stories to the family because I think he was embarrassed. He said that a lot of his friends were being sent off to war but he served two years in a non-combat role, got out and went into aerospace engineering and he was one of the first Mexican-American designers of bomb and missile systems at White Sands, NM. I personally saw the military as one of the only places that you could go as far as your own two feet would take you basically or your hard work that you put into it. That’s one of the reasons why I was excited to join.

WATM: Wow.

Tess: And I like a good challenge. The Marine Corps seemed like a good fit. So I joined [as] an engineer.

WATM: Did you find the challenge you were looking for? Especially as a female Marine in the engineers.

Tess: When I joined it was very idealistic. I wanted to be just one of the guys and I saw myself in that way. I never saw myself in terms of being a woman, only a Marine and that actually caused a lot of problems and disappointment at the time as we have only just begun to move more fully into gender integration among the services. And it was really challenging for me because as I said I never saw myself as anything other than a Marine. I always just wanted to do my job.

WATM: What made you transition out of the Marine Corps?

Tess: I got hurt.

WATM: You got hurt?

Tess: Yes. We were training and I noticed that there was something wrong with my back because my leg had stopped functioning. I was in my early 20’s and the command atmosphere gave this impression that you had to white knuckle it through anything. I was told, ‘There’s no problem, there’s no problem. You just need to keep going.’ It turned out that I had a herniated disc in my back and it was it was crushing the nerve to the point where it began to permanently kill the nerves. I was standing there on the rifle range and I just fell over on my side because my leg finally gave up. They called an ambulance and rushed me into emergency surgery in Japan.

WATM: Did you feel like you had the resiliency skills that prepared you for that experience?

Tess: My life growing up was challenging. My parents were very young when they had children. I was the only person in my immediate family to successfully graduate from high school. My parents had dropped out at 17, which kind of spells disaster for a young couple with four children. And so it was really a life of learning to adapt, moving from place to place, experiencing homelessness as a child, living between motels and being chased by bill collectors. You know all that bad stuff for [a child] but even from a young age I adopted a viewpoint of life that was more curious than anything. It was less ‘Oh my God, why is this happening to me?’ and more ‘huh this interesting.’ It was just a minor shift of perspective. I developed that curiosity and a different way of looking at problems and I think that’s a key part of resilience.

WATM: Did you know what resilience was growing up?

Tess: I did not. I think it was something that I saw modeled by example. My grandmother was a very kind and giving woman, she taught me so much. She always went out of her way to help people in the community even when she seemed in the midst of a lot of uncertainty in life. So, paying that forward, even on active duty I was volunteering in the local community teaching English to Okinawan children. I’ve always been so curious about other people and their lives. It’s a great education.

WATM: And then you lost your husband (also a Marine). How do you process all of that?

Tess: It was a surreal experience having the casualty assistance team knock on the door. I can remember I opened it a crack. It didn’t make sense in my mind what was happening so I opened the door a crack and a Marine stuck his foot to keep me from shutting it. Then I saw the Colonel. And then it finally hit me that it was real. My husband wasn’t coming home. When you’re actively experiencing shock, pain or trauma it’s less thinking about resilience and more survival mode kicking in. It was one second, one minute at a time. The days blurred together. I mean being emotionally injured is much like being physically injured, it can take a long time to wrap your head around. There’s no linear pathway. Also, processing trauma is not just about moving through pain but about overcoming fear. There’s the fear that you as a person or things in your life will never be the same. Sometimes you don’t know what other people are going to think. Usually some of the fear ties back to being afraid that people are going to judge you if you feel broken. And I think that really was hard for me to overcome, but it was necessary. I think that being gentle with yourself is a skill.

WATM: You not only survived but thrived? You went back to college and grad school and now you literally work with Neuroscientists.

Tess: The science behind the brain fascinates me because people that are in pain sometimes seem to think, ‘I’m damaged forever and I’m never gonna be able to do or be anything. There is no coming back from this.’ I understand where you’re at if it’s crossed your mind, I’ve been there too, but there’s so much possibility. We can’t change what happened but our brain is essentially plastic and able to rewire. The body and mind actively try to repair themselves, and we can support our own process through building resilience. There are a lot of tools for that belt, resilience isn’t just a buzzword.

WATM: Is that thesis behind your team’s work at the VFWC?

Tess: Exactly. The center is a place of hope and healing. We teach tangible skills, identifiable tools, for veterans and their families to be able to overcome challenges and build better relationships. The FOCUS model that’s our cornerstone is pretty incredible.

WATM: Is there anybody else out there that’s focusing on families like this?

Tess: Not in this way. From a wellness-based resilience perspective this is the first center of its kind, especially paired with the VA which traditionally only sees individual veterans. They took a huge step to open their doors to couples and families too. When you think about it, though, our families, friends and communities are on the front lines supporting after military service.

WATM: So this is a groundbreaking VA partnership all based in science?

Tess: Yep. That’s why UCLA is such an amazing partner because the VFWC is just blocks away from world class researchers. The Center falls under the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and the Nathanson Family Resilience Center which focus on resilience for all families, not just veterans. The research behind our programs is about understanding what drives human behavior and growth. Based on that, VFWC programming is tailored to veterans and their families with really firm research and evidence backing it up.

WATM: Classic, intel drives operations model. But you have specific model for your programs as well. What is FOCUS?

Tess: FOCUS is Families Overcoming Under Stress. It’s a holistic model that was co-created between UCLA and Harvard University and currently in use on over 30 active duty military bases around the world. Our center represents the first wider translation of FOCUS from active duty into the veterans community, which are distinctly different populations. It’s a departure from traditional therapy models.

WATM: What can veterans and their families expect when they come to the center?

Tess: When somebody comes into the center in general we start with a consultation that helps us to really guide veterans and family members to the resources that they might be needing. It’s starting where the individual is. We have individual, couples, early childhood, military sexual trauma, and combat veteran adaptations, plus group sessions and special workshops and events. We keep our doors open for veterans and family members regardless of discharge, benefits or when they got out. The building we’re housed in also offers veterans with VA benefits massage, reiki, mindfulness and yoga. There’s even a drum circle and Taichi.

WATM: And children?

Tess: Especially children. Research that was done as far back as the Holocaust indicates that trauma can be passed down from generation to generation. In cases of post-traumatic stress, suicide and even repeated deployments, the effects of secondary trauma is a very real thing. A lot of the times we see families with children who don’t know how to talk to them about certain issues or there’s not a huge understanding of the developmental piece of what’s behind behaviors. Kids aren’t just mini-adults, the human brain is still developing until the age of 25! So, we support both the parents and children to find a closeness and ability to communicate more as they move through the journey.

WATM: That sounds pretty awesome especially for the VA. How would you describe starting the center?

Tess: It’s been a lot of pioneering. Improvising. Being resilient. There are so many people who care in the VA system and a whole lot of need. Offering another avenue for assistance is important to the team here.

WATM: What is your vision for the center and the future of resilience in the VA?

Tess: I would love to see the VA expand the VFWC’s holistic wellness model to include centers in every facility, especially coupled with a research institution. Veterans and their families would really benefit. Both our families, and wider communities for that matter, are really impactful in our individual wellness. One of the great things about the VFWC is our ability to seek additional community resources. It’s a long table and there is no one size fits all for wellness, reintegration, and healing.

WATM: So now you you’ve gone through your own experience gone through two years here. What does resilience mean to you?

Tess: I think the Marine Corps says it really, well you adapt and you overcome. Sometimes it seems like pull-through comes from out of nowhere because we’re born with it, but sometimes life can bring those levels low. Resilience is that wellspring that allows for course correction and being able to bounce back. Resilience to me also means working on saying, “hey something’s wrong here” and being open to assistance. First step for me personally of breaking the cycle was my own acknowledgment of what I was facing. For instance, I couldn’t talk to my family being sexually assaulted on active duty and I now know that’s common to those who have experienced trauma. I simply didn’t have the vocabulary, I had to organize the words in my own mind. We really need each other to get through hard times, so it’s crucial to develop.

WATM: What does 2019 look like for you and VFWC?

Tess: We’re working on piloting a new transition program, TEAM, for those at any point after active service based on the core FOCUS model paired with the ideas of identity ,mission, meaning and purpose. These are four essential elements of transition. Your perception changes along the transition to civilian life just like my perception changed of myself when I got out of the Marine Corps. It really was a rediscovery of who I was, where I was. I had to find a new mission. For me that happened to be serving people, but it could be different for others. It can be challenging to figure these things our while also providing for yourself or a family. We want to offer veterans and their families the resilience tools before they even need them.

WATM: Do you have any advice specifically to the families

Tess: There is no one size fits all to happiness, health and healing. If one thing doesn’t work, move forward. No matter what you face, keep reaching out and moving forward. Families, you are vital to service. You’re heard and seen. You matter.

Marine Veteran Tess Banko is the executive director of the UCLA/VA Veterans Family Wellness Center (VFWC). To learn more about the center’s work or begin your own resilience training please contact familycenter@nfrc.ucla.edu or Phone 310-478-3711, ext 42793.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the most amazing sniper you’ve never heard of

This post was sponsored by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The sniper is a lethal combination of patience, discipline, and accuracy. They wait, still and silent, for the perfect moment to strike from afar, eliminating key targets and providing invaluable information to troops on the ground.

While a few snipers in history have had their names enshrined in fame (or infamy, depending on which side of their scope your allegiances lay), the marksman that holds the record for longest-distance confirmed kill is one you’ve never heard of.


In 2017, a sniper with Canada’s Joint Task Force 2 (their equivalent of the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team 6) shattered the distance record once held by British sniper Craig Harrison. The Canadian deadeye, whose name has been withheld for security purposes, managed to down an IS militant from a staggering 3,540 meters away. For those metrically challenged among us, that’s 11,614 feet — or nearly 2.2 miles — or over 32 football fields, end-to-end, including end zones. The target was so far away that the bullet traveled for a full 10 seconds (at 792mph) before reaching its target.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

Yes, we counted.

As if this incredible feat of marksmanship wasn’t impressive enough, according to MilitaryTimes, this kill helped prevent an ongoing ISIS assault on Iraqi Security Forces. This shot exemplifies the importance of the sniper — instead of using bombs or other weaponry that may result in collateral losses, the Canadian weapons specialist was able to lodge a single bullet into just the right spot to stop an assault in its tracks.

So, how’d he do it? Let’s take a look at a few key elements involved.

First, the equipment. It’s reported that the sharpshooter was using a McMillan TAC-50, a long-range anti-materiel and anti-personnel sniper rifle. According to the manufacturer, this rifle has an effective range of 1,800 meters — just over half the distance of the kill. According to reports, the rifle was loaded with 750-grain Hornady rounds, which must be incredibly efficient rounds to keep from wobbling off course at such an immense distance.

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

Canadian Forces MacMillan Tac-50

More impressive than the equipment, however, is the technique demonstrated by both shooter and spotter. In order to make an accurate shot over that gigantic stretch of land, they had to keep in mind several key factors, including how much the bullet might “drop” over its trip, how much wind might push it off course, and even the speed of the earth’s rotation at the given latitude. To further complicate things, you need to think about atmospheric conditions at the time of shoot — barometric pressure, humidity, and temperature can all affect the bullet’s course. Even the tiniest change can have drastic effects over such a great distance.

At the end of the day, this amazing feat was the junction between incredible mathematics, impeccable coordination between spotter and shooter, and a steady, well-trained hand. We’d like to render a crisp hand salute to you Canadian BAMFs (but not while outside the wire, because you never know who’s watching).

For more marksmanship action, be sure to watch Sniper: Assassin’s End, the eighth installment in the epic Sniper series, available now on Blu-Ray and digital formats!

Sniper: Assassin’s End OFFICIAL TRAILER – Available on Blu-ray & Digital 6/16

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Check out the trailer for ‘Sniper: Assassin’s End’

Special Ops Sniper Brandon Beckett (Chad Michael Collins) is set-up as the primary suspect for the murder of a foreign dignitary on the eve of signing a high…

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MIGHTY CULTURE

These are the national parks that make America the most beautiful country in the world

FOX News Journalist Abby Hornacek is no stranger to the outdoors. Growing up in a family of athletes, she’s now brought her love for fitness and travel to the FOX Nation series, Park’d

In 2020, disabled military veterans received one of the best benefits of service the country could give them: free access to the most breathtaking sights in the country they served. 

A partnership between the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation allows veterans with a service-connected disability an Access Pass that allows for free entry and discounts on park amenities. 

There are so many reasons why this is an incredible benefit for America’s disabled veterans (and Gold Star Families, by the way). On Park’d, you can see FOX’s Abby Hornacek hike, surf and RV across the country in the most stunning national parks, but here are a few she’s visited everyone should see for themselves.

1. Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Nowhere else in America – perhaps on Earth – will nature lovers see a more stunning, otherworldly sight than Canyonland National Park. One of two national parks in the Moab area of Utah, Canyonland National Park is a park filled with dozens of the outdoor enthusiast’s must-do and must-see lists. 

From Grand View Point, visitors can see much of the park’s painted, jaw-dropping landscape in all its technicolor glory. The Mesa Arch is probably its most famous landmark, and with one look, visitors will see why. Canyoneering and camping is a must for any visitor, but the thrill seeker can watch Abby Honacek rappel a 120-foot drop into the park’s “Medieval Chamber” and consider taking the challenge.  

2. Acadia National Park, Maine

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Maine’s Acadia National Park isn’t just a sight to see for so-called “leafers” looking for explosions of color among the fall foliage. It’s called the “Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast” for a reason. Hiking in Acadia means literal cliff walks, offering a full panoramic view of the Maine coastline and the beautiful forests below. You may even get a glimpse of the majestic Peregrine Falcons that call Acadia home. 

When Abby Hornacek visited Acadia National Park for FOX Nation’s “Park’d,” she was able to take in the full grandeur of the park’s vastness by gliding far above the treetops. The park is so vast, in fact, that reaching some of its outlying islands could take a full day’s boat ride. Hornacek and company got in some good lobstering along the way.

3. Channel Islands National Park, California

From the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific Coast, Abby Hornacek took in Channel Islands National Park, south from the coast of Santa Barbara. In true California style, she took in some of the best waves on the West Coast, surfing in the cool Pacific waters off the “Galapagos of North America. A visit to Channel Islands National Park is an experience in one of the most ecologically diverse places on the continent. 

Kayaking across Santa Cruz island, she was able to experience the California coast as it was when untouched by human contact. Kayakers and hikers to any of the five Channel Islands will have an opportunity to see green peaks, pristine coastlines and an intense array of wildlife, from sea lions and island foxes to the American Bald Eagle.

4. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado 

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Visitors without a lot of time to explore Mesa Verde’s 5,000 natural wonders and 600 Native American cliff dwellings can still have an amazing experience inside the park’s 52,000 acres. Abby Hornacek explored as much as possible through a zipline excursion, which gave her a panoramic view of the park and its deep canyons. 

For a more up-close and personal view of the vistas of Mesa Verde, visitors can hike the Petroglyph Point Trail, for views of the canyons, cliffsides, and expansive work of art that nature created. The best view comes from hiking to Park Point Fire Lookout, the highest point in the park. At 8,572 feet, those who make the trek will be able to see Utah, New Mexico and Arizona on a clear day.

Anyone  planning on seeing as much as possible in Mesa Verde should prepare for camping in the park, as it was just certified as an International Dark Sky Park, perfect for stargazing in the clear Colorado skies. 

5. Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

Arkansas’ natural wonder was established long before the idea of creating national parks even existed. It’s easy to see why. The lush green landscape is fed by thermal springs from thousands of feet below ground mixed with the cold ground water of the area. What makes this park unique is how closely the park is integrated to the surrounding area.

Abby Hornacek explored the history of the town, which featured rustic bathhouses and other tourist attractions using the storied healing power of the spring water. She even gets a lesson in beer brewing using Hot Springs’ famous water supply from the locals. Follow Hornacek as she summits Music Mountain, the park’s highest point for a breathtaking view. 

6. Yosemite National Park, California

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No list of breathtaking national parks would be complete without including California’s Yosemite National Park. The park is home to 1,200 square miles of glacier-carved peaks, stunning river valleys and the majestic waterfalls that dot the landscape – a truly unforgettable experience. 

Visitors will also see the forest of grandiose, ancient Giant Sequoias and the storied, legendary granite summits of El Capitan and Half-Dome. On Park’d, viewers can follow FOX’s Abby Hornacek as she braves a zipline over the mountains of the Yellowstone National Park and rafts the formidable Yellowstone River. 

What’s even better? If you’ve served or are currently serving our beautiful country, then you get a free year of FOX Nation, where you can catch a new season of Park’d on July 3rd. Check out the FOX Nation website for more details!

MIGHTY CULTURE

32 small, nice things to do for family you can’t see this holiday season

The 2020 holiday season — particularly Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Years — will be different. Much different. Common sense and COVID protocols demand that families avoid gathering. This is the smart way to approach the holidays amidst a global pandemic — better to see family over Zoom now, than to risk COVID and never seeing them ever again — but the realization of smaller tables and fewer in person season’s greetings still stings.

But, if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we are nothing if not resilient — and a bit more nimble than we once thought. And with a bit of creativity and flexibility, we can make the best of our particular circumstances. So, with this in mind, we wanted to offer a list of small, nice things that families everywhere can do to stay connected with the relatives they can’t see this holiday season. From sharing recipes and table settings to scheduling Zoom happy hours and cookie baking get togethers, the list offers some suggestions of ways to get together to help family and friends stay close this season. And, hey, we may even get a few new traditions to add to celebrations in the years ahead.

34 Small, Nice Things to Do For Family You Can’t See This Holiday Season

  1. Send portioned-out ingredients for a beloved family recipe to everyone you normally see, so everyone can enjoy the recipe together.
  2. Even better, schedule a Zoom call so that everyone can prepare the recipe together and enjoy all the normal reminiscing, laughter, and passive aggression that takes place in the kitchen over the holidays.
  3. Have the kids make some place settings for the whole family and send them to relatives. Then, when you get together on Zoom, there’s a sense of togetherness and holiday joy.
  4. Host a Jeopardy-style quiz game over Zoom, the questions of which are all comprised of inside jokes or family lore. “This relative always passes out before Thanksgiving begins.” “Who is Uncle Mark?
  5. Have your kids draw family members or festive scenes and get them printed as a canvas painting on Snapfish or another service. It’s a great personal gift that captures a moment in time.
  6. Bake something — say, a pumpkin pie from scratch in a really nice baking dish —  and overnight it. You can use specialty shipping from FedEx and get it delivered for Thanksgiving dinner.
  7. Send flowers. It’s a nice touch.
  8. Who doesn’t appreciate a big hunk of meat? Head over to to Crowd Cow or similar service and send something special — maybe a prime rib, maybe a pork shoulder — to cook and enjoy around the holiday.
  9. Set up a family streaming movie date with Disney+ Group Watch or Netflix Party to maintain that ‘we watch these movies every year’ tradition
  10. Set up Zoom cookie-making or -decorating party with family and friends. If you are within driving distance, mask up and distribute the ones you made.
  11. Order everyone matching pajama sets to wear on the holiday so you can still act silly together.
  12. Set up a family game night over Zoom with games you don’t need set pieces for, like charades or Pictionary
  13. Create and share a playlist of holiday music so everyone can have the same holiday soundtrack.
  14. Secret Santa works over Zoom. Also, you can re-brand that gifting game for any holiday (Secret Turkey? Secret New Year’s Baby?) We could all use a gift right now.
  15. You know when family sits around the table with beers and plays games late into the evening? Why not do that over Zoom? If you have a particularly rowdy family, make it a drinking game.
  16. Have the kids put on a play and livestream it to the rest of the family. Even if it’s a complete nonsensical disaster, what’s not to love?
  17. Two words: Family PowerPoint. Whether it turns into a slideshow of the good times you all had over the years together or a lecture on sleep apnea and why it’s time Uncle Jim really did get that snoring checked out, it’ll be a lot of fun.
  18. Order a regional favorite food on Goldbelly and send it to family so that the entire clan can have, say, their New York bagel tradition in tact on holiday mornings.
  19. Have old VHS or super8 family movies? Convert them to digital — or just curate digital family footage. Then organize a family-wide digital film festival.
  20. Send family members/grandparents a photo book (try Shutterfly, etc.) with photos of last year’s holidays so everyone can reminisce about better times.
  21. Do you live close enough to relatives to drop-off food? Do it. Portion out dinner into Tupperware containers, mask up, and drop it on their doorstep.
  22. Have a “secret” family recipe you haven’t shared? Write it down in a card and mail them out to people so everyone can be surprised with finally knowing — and sharing in — the secret.
  23. Even better: Send everyone the same recipe and have a British Bake-off style contest where the best version of the recipe wins a prize.
  24. Schedule time to drink coffee together the morning of over Zoom. Holiday afternoons tend to get hectic. But morning coffee? That casual holiday routine is one of those lovely traditions that can — and should— be shared.
  25. Mail holiday cards. Lots of cards.
  26. Send everyone ingredients for the same holiday cocktail.
  27. Bombard family with lots of photos via text: What the kids are wearing. What you’re wearing. What you’re eating. What you’re drinking. The kids doing crafts. The kids napping. An adult napping. Just go big with photos of the day.
  28. Get the family working together online to solve puzzles and find their way out of a Virtual Escape Room.
  29. Among Us is the game of the moment for a reason: It’s the fun of murder mystery with the interactivity of video game. If your family is tech-saavy enough, it’s a great way to have holiday game night.
  30. Have a Zoom family joke night. Everyone goes around and shares their funny holiday-themed joke. The one with the most laughs wins.
  31. Bring some family members along via Facetime when there’s a snowball fight, the kids go sledding, or you go out to such festive — and safe — activities as a visit to the holiday lights at the local botanical gardens. Feeling like a part of the group from afar does wonders for someone’s spirit.
  32. Whatever you do let your relatives know that you miss them and love them and can’t wait to celebrate safely together soon.

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

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