Escaping urban jungle, man finds 'perfect fit' with Army - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

A weapons range goes hot on a cold winter morning four years ago in Fort Lewis, Washington. The silent cold air is replaced by the snapping of gun fire as the morning dew is knocked loose off the blades of grass. Soldiers’ breath is visible as they curse in despair, for they are at another range yet again, wet and freezing.

The smell of spent ammunition and wintergreen chewing tobacco is present as raindrops fall and turn into steam on the weapons’ hot barrels.

Like a dense Pacific Northwest fog, the memories dissipate, and Spc. Flavio Mendoza is dragged back to reality and the clacking of fingers on a computer keyboard.


Like many soldiers, Mendoza has surmounted many challenges in his life, from growing up in a tough, urban environment to coping with the heartbreak of losing something he loved.

But through all this, he pushed forward.

The urban jungle

Raised on the northeast side of Los Angeles, Mendoza said he knew he was always destined for more than what surrounded him in his gritty, inner-city upbringing.

But with the odds stacked against him, he had to make a choice from an early age his path in life.

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

Spc. Flavio Mendoza, assigned to the 22nd Human Resources Company, 4th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, poses for a photo on Fort Carson, Colorado, Dec. 28, 2018.

(Photo by Sgt. Asa Bingham)

Mendoza’s parents, Flavio Sr. and Veronica Mendoza — both born in Jalisco, Mexico — always tried to give the best life possible for their family of five. They both worked during the day leaving Mendoza and his two sisters with their grandmother.

Twelve family members — both immediate and extended — packed into a two bedroom house made for claustrophobic conditions. To escape from the cramped living situation, Mendoza would play outside.

“I had a lot of friends around my age growing up,” said Mendoza. “Even though the neighborhood wasn’t one for us to be playing in, we still made the best of it.”

Graffiti lined the walls of the street like uncontrollable ivy growing wild. The gunshots from rival gangs trying to kill each other, followed by the police sirens and helicopters circling with their bright lights all just became natural.

He didn’t have to go far from his childhood home to find trouble, he said. Right next door was far enough.

“I remember cops always being at that house for something,” Mendoza said. “It seems like everyone from the gang hung out there. There was always cars filled with nothing but bald heads, and gangsters with guns rolling up, asking where I was from or if I banged.”

The gang life was calling for Mendoza, who was given many opportunities to join. He ignored the beckoning calls unlike some of his friends.

“A couple of kids I grew up playing with and thought were my homies broke into our house one day,” he said. “They stole anything and everything.”

Mendoza’s parents saw what was happening to the neighborhood. They saw what path their kids could go down if they weren’t careful. So in an effort to get away from the trouble they saved up their money and moved to Monterey Park, Los Angeles.

“I didn’t hear any sirens anymore, no more gunshots, and no more constant fear from always having to turn around and watch my back at night,” said Mendoza.

His upbringing gave him a burning desire to do more, to be better then what he saw around him. The noise. The chaos. The crime. It was all motivation to get away.

The great escape

“After graduating high school, I immediately wanted to join the Army,” said then 18-year old Mendoza. “I walked into the recruiter one day and told them that I wanted to join and go fight.”

Mendoza’s parents and family were hesitant about the Army; they wanted him to go to college.

“I tried for a semester or two, but I realized school just wasn’t for me,” he said. His goal was to get away and to serve his country.

Knowing only what he saw from movies and TV shows, Mendoza said he had his heart set on joining up as an infantry soldier, but his recruiter, a combat engineer, persuaded him otherwise.

“He asked me if I wanted to blow things up,” Mendoza said. “After showing me a couple of videos and stories of what a sapper was and did, I was hooked.”

Next thing he knew, Mendoza was hauling his own weight in duffel bags with a drill sergeant in his face yelling at him to get off the bus at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

It was 2014, and his Army journey had just begun.

He spent days that felt like weeks pushing the earth away, counting “One, drill sergeant. Two, drill sergeant,” the never-ending pushups followed by the sprints, road marches, early mornings, yelling and apprehension that any moment a drill sergeant could burst in and make him question his decision to join.

“I would do it all over again,” said Mendoza. “It’s not that (One-Station Unit Training) was tough; it was more mental, like can you deal with the day to day suck and not quit.”

After completing OSUT, not knowing what to expect, Mendoza landed at his first duty station, Fort Lewis and was assigned to the 22nd Engineer Clearance Company, 864th Engineer Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade.

“Life as an engineer had its ups and downs, but for the most part, it was fun,” said Mendoza. When soldiers aren’t training they’re cleaning. From picking up cigarette butts to sweeping and mopping, this was not what Mendoza thought he would be doing. But when it came time to train and learn engineer tactics and skills, Mendoza thrived.

“I made the best of friends doing the coolest stuff,” he said. From how to calculate demolition charges to identifying improvised explosive devices, Mendoza loved to learn the skills of an engineer.

Mendoza quickly gained the respect of his peers and leadership with his good attitude and even better work ethic.

“Working as an engineer is hard work, but being around good people makes it fun,” said Travis Ramirez, a former engineer who worked with Mendoza. “I could always count on Mendoza to have a good attitude. He was always making everyone laugh, even when the work we were doing was tough.”

His infectious personality brought many of his fellow engineers to his room after work and on weekends to just hang out and have fun. It was in these time that unbreakable bonds were formed and a lasting brotherhood was forged.

His work ethic and positive attitude were evident to his leaders, who gave him the responsibility of operating the Buffalo, a version of the mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle specifically used in route clearance operations as a mine interrogation asset.

Weighing in at more than 45,000 pounds and measuring a staggering 27 feet long, considerable skill and precision is required to maneuver the armored behemoth.

Mendoza was a perfect fit.

“I feel like I was given a higher level of responsibility driving the Buffalo,” said Mendoza. “The Buff is huge and an essential part to the route clearance mission. I had the best times in Buff 1-1.”

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

A US Army 759th Explosive Ordnance Disposal team Buffalo MRV.

(DoD photo by Ken Drylie)

The switch

On any given day, Mendoza could be found with his platoon conducting 12-mile road marches with upwards of 35-pounds on his back in full combat gear to repetitive field training exercises in the cold. The pace of training seemed endless, and within three years his body started feeling the effects.

“It was just chronic leg pain,” said Mendoza. “I went to go get it checked out and was going through physical therapy, but nothing was working.”

Mendoza was diagnosed with bone spurs in his shins.

He had gained so much from being an engineer — the memories of training exercises, the connections with fellow soldiers he now considers family. He never thought of himself doing anything else, no other job could match the bravado of being an engineer.

After going to physical therapy for close to a year, he received the news he had been dreading. His primary care provider permanently limited his physical abilities. He could no longer run. He couldn’t foot march. He wasn’t even supposed to jump anymore. He was forced to switch jobs and leave the engineer world.

“I felt like I was going to lose a part of me when I was told I had to switch,” said Mendoza, now assigned to the 22nd Human Resources Company, 4th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado.

The Army had served as his escape from a life he was sure would have landed him in jail or dead. He was not about to quit, he said.

Mendoza reclassified from combat engineer to human resources specialist.

A completely different world in his eyes

Instead of looking out the driver’s window of a Buffalo, he now stared into a computer screen. He went from patrolling for improvised explosive devices to scanning personnel records. From hearing loud explosions to now hearing the quiet clicks of a computer mouse.

Mendoza didn’t waver. He pushed forward, taking with him the same work ethic and positive attitude that drove him out of the streets of Los Angeles to become the soldier he is today.

“I still carry the engineer crest in my (patrol cap). It lets me know where I came from and that gives me pride,” said Mendoza. “Even though I’m away and in a new career field, I will always be an engineer.”

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

popular

7 cool things that happen during the Army-Navy Game

Every November the halls of the Pentagon are torn apart in one of the biggest and oldest rivalries in college sports: the Army-Navy Game. While the outcome of the game may no longer affect who will win the College Football National Championship, it will affect the interpersonal relationships within the Department of Defense for days, maybe weeks after. It also may affect who gets the biggest prize of all, The Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy and a trip to the White House to have it presented personally by the President of the United States.

So yeah, it’s about a lot more than pride.

The game is a spectacle, full of more than 100 years of traditions, pranks, and the best military showmanship the two service academies can muster.


Spirit videos

Ranging from the highly-polished, well-produced masterpieces like the video above to simple iPhone-shot music videos, West Pointers and Annapolis midshipmen shoot, edit, and publish numerous videos about how their school is going to beat the other school, how their school is superior to the other school, and how their culture is more fun. It’s not just students and staff, either. All over the world, troops and graduates make their own videos and upload them to YouTube, DVIDS, and anywhere else someone might see their work of art.

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

The prisoner exchange

For one semester every year, the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy choose select members of their classes to attend the rival school. At the beginning of the annual Army-Navy Game, these students are returned to their proper academy. The swap at the beginning of the game is known as “The Prisoner Exchange.”

The march on

If you’re into watching military formations on the march as a military band plays on, be sure to catch the pre-game events before the Army-Navy kickoff. One of these events is called “The March On,” and features the entire student bodies of both service academies marching in formation across the open field. It’s really quite a sight.

Military hardware

The Army-Navy Game always starts with a huge show of military power, either in the form of Blue Angels flyovers, Army helicopters, the Army’s Golden Knights Parachute Team, the Navy’s Blue Angels, or who-knows-what-else. This pre-game display is always an awesome sight.

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

New uniforms

Every year, both Army and Navy take the field in their newest digs, ones designed to honor a part of their individual histories or traditions. Past uniforms have honored Army World War II Paratroopers, the 10th Mountain Division, and types of Navy ships.

Presidential traditions

When the Commander-In-Chief is present at the Army-Navy Game, he has traditions of his own he needs to follow. Of course, the POTUS is the person in charge and can do whatever he wants, but is always expected to cross the field at the 50-yard-line at halftime and watch the game from the other side, a tradition dating back to President Woodrow Wilson.

Honoring the fallen

No matter who wins or who loses, both teams will not leave the field without singing both schools’ alma maters. The winners go to the losing team’s fans and sing to them, taking the sting out of such a rivalry loss (at least a little bit). Then the two teams will sing the winners’ song.

That’s sportsmanship.

Humor

5 things recruits screw up the most in boot camp

The majority of recruits who ship out to boot camp are just a few months removed from graduating high school. They are, for the most part, still pretty wet behind the ears and haven’t had experience with the amount of structure they’re about to be exposed to.


We get it — recruits are flustered upon entering the intense world of boot camp. Don’t feel too bad; many newbies these make simple mistakes during their initial training.

Related: 5 ways troops always screw up a simple formation

1. Forgetting their lefts and rights

It’s a simple mistake, but in boot camp, any time is a crappy time to have a brain fart.

 

2. Not shaving properly

The military instills the value of paying close attention to detail. Leaving one, single hair uncut before a boot camp inspection is, in fact, a big deal. However, it’s not unheard of for the military to teach classes for those newbies who have never been clean-shaven before.

3. Not hydrating enough

Drinking water is one of the most important elements to staying healthy. Unfortunately, many recruits are so used to pounding sodas and energy drinks that they tend to forego water and end up falling out of simple hikes.

It’s probably because they don’t like the taste of high-quality H2O.

Also Read: 6 dumb things veterans lie about on the internet

4. Calling their drill sergeant “sir”

Unless you’re in Marine boot camp, where the first and last thing out of your mouth must be “sir,” you should always address your training instructors by their rank or proper title.

In the event you call one of them “sir,” you’re probably going to get the same response:

“Don’t call me, ‘sir.’ I work for a living.”

5. Taking a dump during morning clean up

Recruits are responsible for cleaning their squad bays and restrooms every day.  There’s always one person who has to use the “head” during cleanup or right afterward.

Nobody will like that recruit — at least not for the rest of the day.

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 of the worst errors the living made at the Battle of Winterfell

If you haven’t yet seen the third episode of the final season of Game of Thrones, then stop reading this, go watch it, then come back and finish reading this. If you have, and you were reasonably frustrated for most of the episode, then this posting is for you. Be sure and comment about the tactical and strategic decisions you would have made. They can’t be much worse than the brain trust running Winterfell right now.


Strategically, their premise was flawed. They hinged their success on killing the Night King, something they could only do if he revealed himself, if they could kill him at all. Everyone else was expected to just fall back to a series of positions, expecting to be overrun. This plan fell apart immediately, except for the plan to fall back expecting to die – that part went just as they all thought it would.

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

“Now you guys will at least see what is about to kill you.”

They deployed their maneuver forces first.

Not only did they send the Dothraki horde against the undead, the Dothraki were sent charging in head-strong against an enemy they couldn’t even see. The Dothraki have zero experience fighting in the dark, in the cold, or against an army that isn’t already afraid of them by the time they arrive. There was no reason to send them into the fighting first or to rely on them to do much damage to an overwhelming undead wave.

Reliance on maneuvering troops in an overly surrounded stronghold is what ended the French Army in Indochina, and it almost ended the army of the living.

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

Why are you not using this superweapon? You know the Night King will.

They made little use of air superiority.

Everyone talks about these dragons as if they’re going to level the playing field or give Daenerys Targaryen the perpetual upper hand. And if I were a ground troop at Winterfell, I would have felt pretty good about the dragonfire death from above we had at our disposal. So what were Daenerys and Jon Snow waiting for? Dany was the least disciplined person on their side anyway, so once the plan went out the window, the dragons should have been playing tic-tac-toe all over the undead horde.

The enemy dragon didn’t show up until halfway through the battle and was using undead dragonfire like it was the key to beating the living because it was.

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

If only they had some source of unlimited fire that not only killed the enemy but also lit the battlefield…

They had no eyes on the battlefield.

Every time the dragons lit up part of the enemy, it not only took enemy soldiers off the battlefield but it gave them living targets for their artillery and archers. A huge chunk of Winterfell’s defenders were barely used because they couldn’t see the incoming enemy. The Dothraki rode straight into the swarm, quickly overrun by a force they couldn’t fight because they couldn’t see them.

The only time the living army had any kind of chance or was able to use their natural abilities to their advantage was when they could see the enemy to shoot at them. Ask Theon Greyjoy and the crew from the Iron Islands as they stood around defending the group project’s least productive partner. They made every arrow count. If Arya Stark hadn’t actually killed the Night King, then Melisandre would have to be Winterfell’s MVP – she actually gave the defenders light to see.

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

Another Tarley being recruited by the Night King.

They failed to plan for the enemy’s reserves.

All the Night King had to do was raise his arms by 90 degrees to bring in an entirely new wave of fresh troops to finish off whoever was left standing among the living. No fewer than 10 of the Winterfell defenders knew this, but failed to relay that message. Would it be so hard to take a swing at a corpse with your dragonglass just to make sure you don’t have to fight your friend later on?

Still, everyone was surprised and overwhelmed when the Night King raised the dead. Especially those who decided to hide out in a crypt.

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

You know things are going badly when the Air Force has to pick up weapons.

The living still somehow managed to underestimate their enemy.

As Jon Snow ran up behind the Night King, the enemy leader stopped, turned, and raised another army of the dead. Jon Snow seemed very surprised by this. Why wasn’t the Night King giving him the one-on-one duel of honor Jon Snow knows he deserved? Because the Night King doesn’t care about things like that. All he does is win. He has no problems with winning a lopsided fight, even if he never has to fight it himself.

Jon and Daenerys thought they could just swoop down and kill the night king with dragonfire, despite there being a huge lack of evidence that he could be killed at all, let alone with fire. Then they assumed he would just reveal himself and allow himself to get splattered with fire. In their plan, every minute they didn’t know where the Night King was hiding or flying, there were hundreds of troops fighting for their lives and souls. Every minute their dragons weren’t spewing fire on anything else, the Night King was heavily recruiting for the White Walker Army Reserve.

Thank the old gods and the new for Arya Stark. Somewhere, CIA agents from the 1960s are nodding their heads in approval.

MIGHTY FIT

Why you should be training, not exercising

Though the distinction between training and exercising might seem unimportant — it isn’t. How you label your physical activity says more about you, your mindset, and your probable rate of success than any PFT score ever could.

I first saw this difference at The Basic School in Quantico. Some of my peers were former college athletes, and a few were training in our off-time for an upcoming marathon. These peers had goals and a plan to achieve them. The rest of us were just doing what I now call “exercising,” random workouts on random days, inconsistently.


Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

I’m on the far left, standing and squinting.

(Photo by Michael Gregory)

The Marines who were actually training were the only ones I knew who could keep a solid schedule and maintain their fitness levels during The Basic School. The rest of us got by on an ever-dwindling fitness reservoir that was nearly empty by the time I finally finished the school.

I finally started applying this training mentality to fitness during the Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor Course. The course itself was a constant physical beat-down, but in the few classroom lectures, we were taught how to set up a MCMAP and combat conditioning plan for our units. It was then that I realized I could design a plan to become progressively more difficult as fitness levels increase, the same way a pre-deployment workup gets more complicated as the deployment date nears.

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

A classic case of the slay fest.

(Photo by Cpl. Brooke C. Woods USMC Recruit Depot San Diego)

How I loathed unit PT…

I used to think I hated PT just because I disliked being told what to do.

I have come to realize I actually hated unit PT because it is exercise and not training.

Most units plan solid workups to prepare each member of the unit to the max extent possible with all the skills and proficiencies needed for when they are actually ‘in country.’ This is training, a clear plan that progressively increases in difficulty and complexity with an end state in mind.

I have rarely seen physical fitness approached in the same logical way in unit PT.

Most units approach PT in one of two ways: as a slay fest or a joke.

  1. A Slay Fest: (n) from the ancient Greek Slayus Festivus, meaning make as many people puke or stroke out as possible in an effort to assert physical dominance and make less-fit service members feel inadequate.
  2. A Joke: just going through the motions and checking the quarterly unit PT requirement box.

Neither one of these has the intention of making better the members of the unit. In fact, slay fests often lead to injuries which have the opposite effect on unit readiness, while potentially initiating a hazing investigation because a junior NCO decided to play drill instructor.

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

Is this a training session or exercise? …Seriously though, what is this?

(Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash)

The difference between training and exercising

In the Marine Corps, I saw what could be accomplished when a proper training plan is followed to the most minute detail. I also saw what type of chaos or indifference towards fitness can result from no plan and/or unchecked egos.

This is why you should be training. The most successful athletes are those that have a plan in place that works them towards a goal. I’m a firm believer that everyone is an athlete no matter what your job or current station in life.

Marines are constantly reminded that it doesn’t matter what your MOS is, you could find yourself in combat and you better be prepared for it. Even though some roll their eyes at the idea of a finance technician lobbing grenades in a firefight, they still have an underlying feeling of pride that this is a potentiality.

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

Promotion on Iwo Jima. I swore to not waste anyone’s time with exercise on that day.

(Photo by Jeremy Graves)

I carry that with me to this day. Constantly thinking about what I would do if a fight breaks out — or if ‘patient zero’ of the zombie apocalypse strolls into my part of town — doesn’t keep me awake at night in dread. It keeps me awake at night in giddy anticipation because I’m training for that sh*t every. Damn. Day.

Of course, your reason for training doesn’t need to be so heavy, violent, or world-altering. Simply wanting to be able to throw a perfect spiral with your future son is a perfect reason to be training. If you need a more immediate time frame, choose a challenge: sign up for an adventure race, a marathon, an adult sports league, or a powerlifting meet (I just took second in my first meet and got a free t-shirt #winning #tigerblood). Train for the on-season or the event day.

As a member of the military community, it’s in your blood to conduct work-ups. Now it’s your turn to determine where and when that “deployment” is and how you train for it. Exercise is a word for people who throw out their back trying to get the gallon of Arizona Iced Tea off the bottom shelf and into their grocery cart. They need exercise; you need to be training.

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army
MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia says NATO’s new combat posture is a threat

Russia says that a new NATO plan to enhance its combat readiness in Europe would weaken security on the continent, and is warning that Moscow would take that into account in its own military planning.

Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko criticized the initiative known as Four Thirties in comments on June 13, 2018. He said that Russia would take all necessary military measures to guarantee its own security.

The initiative “creates a threat to European security,” Grushko told journalists.


Four Thirties, the U.S.-proposed initiative that was supported by NATO defense ministers on June 7, 2018, is meant to protect allies against what NATO says are increased threats from Russia and to bolster combat-readiness by easing the transport of troops across Europe in the event of a crisis.

The plan, whose full details were not revealed, provides for the deployment of 30 troop battalions, 30 squadrons of aircraft, and 30 warships within 30 days. The plan is set to become operational in 2020.

Thousands of NATO troops are already stationed on standby in the Baltic states and Poland as a deterrent, and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg stressed on June 7, 2018, that the goals of Four Thirties are increased coordination and better mobility.

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army
NATO chiefu00a0Jens Stoltenberg

“This is not about setting up or deploying new forces. It is about boosting the readiness of existing forces across each and every ally,” Stoltenberg said.

“This is about establishing a culture of readiness and we need that because we have a more unpredictable security environment. We have to be prepared for the unforeseen,” he said.

Grushko said that Russia’s “views on the preparations made by the alliance on the eastern flank are well-known. We are acting based on the assumption that it substantially worsens military security in Europe.”

Asked whether Russia will factor Four Thirties into its own military planning, Grushko told journalists, “Without a doubt, we will take it into account.”

“If the need arises, we will take all military-technical measures that will guarantee our security and defense capability,” said Grushko, who is a former ambassador to NATO.

Separately, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on June 13 called on NATO to ensure that no state or group would strengthen their security at the expense of the security of others — the so-called “indivisible security” concept.

“We will continue to call on our NATO counterparts to respect all the agreements…which declare drawing new dividing lines to be unacceptable and emphasize the need to ensure indivisible security so that no one has to strengthen their security by damaging the security of others,” Lavrov said in Moscow after talks with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Havening: The weird hugging technique that will fix your anxiety

Small daily rituals can help keep sadness and anxiety at bay. Running, yoga, deep breathing, spending time in nature, and turning off news alerts on your phone do real work. Exercise releases endorphins, greenspaces increase happiness, and removing screens can lead to better sleep. In the midst of the nationwide mental health crisis stemming from COVID-19, these small defenses help in a bigger battle. Here’s another science-backed, and surprisingly impactful weapon to add to your arsenal: havening.

On the most basic level, havening means hugging or caressing yourself, sometimes while voicing positive affirmations. On a more technical level, it’s using self-soothing to induce “amygdala depotentiation,” which essentially means reining in and retraining the emotional part of the brain that kicks us into fight-or-flight mode and causes anxiety. There’s not denying it’s touchy-feely stuff. But it’s got the backing of real science and enthusiastic experts. Here’s why.


The Brain on Anxiety

To get what havening is and how it works, it helps to first understand what’s happening in the brain when we experience anxiety. Because whatever the root cause of anxiety — whether a phobia, childhood trauma, generalized anxiety disorder, or fear of contracting COVID-19 — scientists theorize that what’s going on in our heads is essentially the same.

Each of us has an “emotional brain” and a “thinking brain.” The emotional brain, ruled by the amygdala, is primal; it exists to gauge threats and react quickly to avoid danger. “The amygdala is designed to keep us safe,” says Kate Truitt, Ph.D., a psychologist and certified practitioner of the Havening Techniques. “It’s not very bright — it doesn’t think; it just operates on ‘safe’ or ‘not safe.'” When sensing a real threat, the amygdala activates the sympathetic nervous system, better known as fight-or-flight mode. Whenever we’re in this state, we feel unnerved and anxious.

Fortunately, the thinking brain also kicks into gear upon perceiving a threat, albeit four times more slowly than the emotional brain, says Truitt. It introduces reason, allowing us to react more intelligently and appropriately, which might mean not reacting at all.

“We’ve all experienced some version of walking down the road, seeing a hose or a stick, and doing a stutter step,” Truitt says. “The brain is saying ‘is that a snake?’ because we are biologically designed to look for snakes because we know they can kill us. In a healthy system, the amygdala goes, oh, that’s just a stick, and the thinking brain says, cool; we’re OK then.”

Trouble is, many people’s brains are not so healthy, especially right now. In that case — as experts believe is the case for people with generalized anxiety, phobias, or post-traumatic stress disorder — the amygdala hijacks the thinking brain and runs the show, trapping us fight-or-flight mode, even when there’s no threat present. The result: persistent, sometimes crippling, anxiety.

“Attacking or running is what we do acutely in extreme situations, but otherwise, we’re not supposed to be in sympathetic mode,” says Julie Holland, M.D., a psychiatrist in New York City. “We should be in our parasympathetic nervous system, where we stay calm, present, and open to connection. This is the only time where the body rests, digests [information], and repairs, so parasympathetic is where we want to be.” Many of us, though, are stuck in sympathetic.

Interestingly, as Holland writes in her new book Good Chemistry (Harper Wave, 2020), feeling disconnected, isolated, or lonely also activates the sympathetic nervous system. “Humans have to be social to survive, so anytime we are cut off from society or feel isolated, the body goes into fight-or-flight mode,” she says, adding that this response traces back to our early ancestors. “On the savannah, if you strayed from the tribe, you wouldn’t get help building shelter, gathering food, or finding mates. Isolation, literally, meant death. We still carry that genetic code today—we are hardwired to feel unsafe when we are alone.”

Holland says feelings of isolation and loneliness were already super common pre-pandemic, thanks to our increasingly digitized world. But now that COVID-19 has closed schools, canceled social events, and forced us to work from home, these emotions — and therefore anxiety — have become rampant.

How Havening Helps

Havening (more specifically, the trademarked Havening Techniques) was developed by neuroscientist Ronald Ruden, Ph.D., about a decade ago as trauma therapy. It uses gentle touch of the upper arms, hands, and face, along with constructive messaging, to ‘depotentiate’ or rewire unhealthy neural pathways that have developed due to stressful experiences, putting healthier responses and emotions in their place.

But havening is also a powerful stress-busting technique that anyone can learn and practice at home on themselves or their kids. You basically cross your arms, place your palms on your shoulders, stroke your arms downward to your elbows, and repeat. While doing this, you can recite a simple mantra like “calm and relaxed” over and over, sing a song, or, as Truitt suggests, play a distracting brain game such as thinking of band names starting with letters A through Z. (Check out the official Havening Techniques website for lots of videos demonstrating applying havening to specific situations.)

On a neurological level, havening helps shift the brain into parasympathetic mode. It does this in part by boosting oxytocin, a hormone that is normally conjured up by human touch and bonding — something many of us are sorely lacking these days.

“Havening harnesses the brain’s ability to heal and build itself,” Truitt says. “Use this technique whenever your nervous system starts to feel dysregulated. As soon as you notice a stressful stimulus, such as text messages coming in or CNN popping up on your phone, do havening to bring the system back to a state of calm.” The more you do this, she notes, the more resilient your amygdala becomes and the more easily you can access this calming state in the future.

Havening can also help if you’re anxious about something specific, such as delivering a work presentation on Zoom. “Sit down and do self-havening and ask yourself how you would like to feel,” Truitt says. “If you’d like to feel confident, reflect on a time when you felt confident. Because you have that memory, you can imagine going into the speech with that confident energy instead.”

Parents can also use havening with their kids when they get anxious. “Parents are the nervous system for their children,” Truitt says. “When they regulate their nervous system, the child starts to regulate right along with them. For kids, we teach the ‘don’t worry massage.’ Kids apply touch and the whole family sings songs and applies touch together, which brings the family together.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how the angled deck made carriers deadlier

For almost 80 years, the aircraft carrier has been the most powerful warship on the high seas. Just over six decades ago, the carrier reached a new level of potency when the angled deck was introduced. Some carriers were re-fitted with it while others were designed with the advanced tech from the get-go — but how did a shift in the deck make carriers even deadlier?


First, let’s take a look at how carriers operated in World War II and, to a large extent, in the Korean War. The naval aviation workhorse of those conflicts, the Essex-class carrier, had a straight-deck design. To deliver some hurt to the enemy, carriers would launch “deckload” strikes, sending off most of their air group (in World War II, this consisted of 36 F6F fighters, 36 SBD Dauntless dive-bombers, and 18 TBF Avenger torpedo bombers).

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

USS Intrepid (CV 11) in 1944. Her propeller-driven Hellcats were easy to stop when they landed.

(US Navy)

Carriers, at the time, could either launch planes or land them — they couldn’t do both at the same time. When launching deckload strikes of propeller-driven planes, it wasn’t an issue. All planes would leave at once and, later, all return. When it came time to bring aircraft home, the propeller planes were easy to stop — they were light and slow relatively to the jets that had just started to come online.

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

The use of jets off aircraft carriers changed things – the F9F Panthers were faster and heavier than the World War II-era piston-engine fighters. It is easy to see how a jet that misses the wires could make things very ugly.

(US Navy)

Jets were a game-changer for several reasons: They were faster and heavier and, thus, needed more space to stop. They also didn’t have the endurance to wait for other planes to launch. So, how could they find the runway space needed to operate these new tools of war? Building larger carriers wasn’t a complete solution — this wouldn’t eliminate the issue of stopping jets should they fail to catch the wires.

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

The British decided to create an angled deck, thereby allowing a jet that missed the arresting wires a chance to go around.

(Animation by Anynobody)

Then, the British came up with the idea of angling the landing deck of carriers. Angling the deck gave the jets enough room to land and, if they missed the wires, they could go back around and try again — stopping the jet with a barrier became an absolute last resort.

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

Before and after photos of USS Intrepid showing the angled flight deck.

(Compilation of US Navy photos by Solicitr)

Not only did the angled deck allow for the use of jets, it also made carriers deadlier in general. Now, they could launch and land aircraft at the same time. This meant that a carrier could send a major strike out and, at the same time, land its combat air patrol. All in all, the angled deck had a very unintended (but welcome) consequence on carrier performance.

Check out the video below to see how the Navy explained the angled flight deck to sailors.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEOZi4IZja8

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Navy wants to know who secretly uploaded videos of sailors to Porn Hub

The US Navy is trying to find out who secretly filmed dozens of service members in a bathroom and shared the videos on the porn website Porn Hub, US military officials told NBC news.


An agent from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service found the videos on Porn Hub earlier this month. Some of the videos showed sailors and marines in uniform with visible name patches, NBC reported. The individuals didn’t know they were being recorded and officials were not aware of any sexual acts in the videos.

“We received a removal request from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to remove the material in question and we did. We are currently working alongside them to assist them with their investigation,”Blake White, Vice President of Pornhub, said in a statement to Insider and other outlets. “Here at Pornhub, we immediately remove any content that violates our terms of use as soon as we are made aware of it.”

The clips, which have since been removed, also included civilians.

The officials believe the videos were taken through a peephole in a bathroom, according to NBC.Some of the individuals in the videos were assigned to the USS Emory S. Land, a vessel that supplies submarines and is assigned to a port in Guam, the officials told NBC.

A message left by Insider for a Navy spokesperson was not immediately returned.

In the statement, White said that PornHub employs a team to scan for and remove content that violates their terms of service.

The company also uses “Vobile, a state of the art third party fingerpringing software,” to make sure new uploads don’t match videos that have already been removed from the site, White said.

This isn’t the first time that US service members have been targeted by voyeurs looking to share nude photos of them online.

In a 2017 scandal, the US Marine Corp. opened an investigation after hundreds of nude photos of female service members from every military branch had been posted to an image-sharing message board.

The discovery of the photos and investigation resulted in a change in US Marine and Navy laws banning revenge porn.

Violators who are found to have shared an “intimate image” of a colleague without their consent can face consequences ranging from administrative punishments to criminal actions.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This pilot describes what it was like to shoot down an Su-22 in first Super Hornet fighter kill

The day started out with a close-air support mission and ended with the first Navy air-to-air “kill” since 1991.


Three months after an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the carrier George H.W. Bush shot down a Syrian Su-22 Fitter near Raqqa, Syria, on June 18, 2017 the four Navy pilots who participated in the mission offered a blow-by-blow account during a special panel at the Tailhook 2017 Symposium.

In a recording first uncovered by The Drive, the pilots describe an operating environment that had become more unpredictable and dynamic.

The George W. Bush, which had been launching daily airstrikes from the Persian Gulf, had moved into the Mediterranean in early June, just days before the mission.

“Everyone’s kind of heading to the same place that day, to Raqqa,” said Lt. Cmdr. Michael “MOB” Tremel, a pilot with Strike Fighter Squadron 87, the “Golden Warriors,” who would ultimately execute the shoot-down that day.

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

“At that point in time, the [area of responsibility] was pretty hot in that general vicinity and a lot of guys were dropping bombs,” he said.

Walking to the jets, the mission of the day was close-air support, and that’s what the pilots on board the Bush were prepared for.

But there was time en route for a cup of coffee — both Tremel and his wingman, VFA-87 training officer Lt. Cmdr. Jeff “Jo Jo” Krueger, enjoyed some java at 22,000 feet inbound to Raqqa, Tremel said.

“Again, we briefed to CAS and that was going to be our mission that day, so we felt like it would be in our wheelhouse, what we were doing,” he said. “But we also trained to all the air-to-air contingencies we might have and we talked about that.”

Eventually, the aircraft arrive in the region and coordinated with two other Hornet pilots, all in a “stack” above the area of operation. All four were communicating about events playing out on the ground far below.

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

“We’re hearing that the situation’s getting more heated on the ground with some of the friendly forces getting closer to some of the Syrian forces so, based on that, we get Jo Jo and MOB on the radio,” said Lt. Cmdr. William “Vieter” Vuillet, a pilot with another squadron attached to the Bush, VFA-37 “Raging Bulls.”

As the pilots prepared to execute their CAS mission, someone spotted a Russian Flanker aircraft circling overhead, an occurrence the pilots said was not unusual in the region.

Throughout the deployment, the pilots said, their interactions with Russian fighters were professional.

But as a cautionary measure, Tremel, who previously had some minor technical issues with his aircraft, volunteered to follow the aircraft and monitor its actions.

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

Picking Up the Syrian Aircraft

“I’ll extend out in air-to-air master mode while these guys are in air-to-ground master mode to monitor the situation on the ground,” Tremel said. “That’s when I’ll pick up an unknown aircraft approaching from the south.”

Observers, including Air Force assets in the region, were sending conflicting information about the identity of the aircraft, but eventually a consensus emerged that it was a Syrian plane.

Tremel decided the best thing he could do is get a visual ID on the aircraft and its activities, so he decided to descend and get a better look.

Meanwhile, Krueger worked to streamline radio communications, shedding secondary tasks and focusing on keeping information flowing as the situation unfolded.

As Tremel neared the Syrian aircraft, he emphasized that he was ready to return to his primary job as soon as he could be sure it posed no danger to friendly forces.

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

“Our whole mission out there was to defeat ISIS, annihilate ISIS,” he said. “So as quickly as we can get back to that mission, that was our goal that day … At any point in time, if this had de-escalated, that would have been great. We would have gotten mission success and [gone] back to continue to drop bombs on ISIS.”

But that was not to happen. The Hornets began putting out radio warning calls to persuade the SU-22 Fitter to turn around, but it kept approaching friendly ground forces.

Krueger then advised that the U.S. aircraft should execute “head-butts,” close overhead passes on the Syrian aircraft with warning flares, Tremel said.

They ultimately did three such passes, with no effect on the Syrian plane.

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

Su-22 Releases Ordnance

“After that third one, he [proceeded] to execute a dive and release ordnance in proximity of friendly forces,” Tremel said.

As the Syrian aircraft climbed after dropping ordnance, Tremel would respond, firing an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile. For reasons he didn’t explain, the sidewinder missed the Fitter.

“I lose the smoke trail and I have no idea what happened to the missile at that point in time,” he said.

Losing little time, Tremel let another missile fly — an AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, or AMRAAM. This time, it had the desired effect.

“The aircraft will pitch right and down and pilot will jump out and left in his ejection seat,” he said.

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army
An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Stingers of Strike Fighter Attack Squadron (VFA) 113 prepares to land on the flight deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt is underway conducting a composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) with the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group in preparation for an upcoming deployment. COMPTUEX tests a carrier strike group’s mission-readiness and ability to perform as an integrated unit through simulated real-world scenarios. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alex Corona/Released)

Wanting to stay clear of the debris field, Tremel executed a quick turn to the left, he said, allowing the ejection seat to pass to the right of his canopy.

The pilots described the events in understated terms, but acknowledged adrenaline was high as they returned to operations.

Vieter, who descended to get a visual following the air-to-air engagement, said he and the pilot flying with him, Lt. Stephen “Scotty P” Gasecki, could not resist getting on a secure communication channel to tell the tanker crew what happened when they went to refuel.

Vieter and Gasecki opted to continue with their mission, while Tremel and Krueger soon decided to return to the ship.

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

‘No Small Feat’

Krueger said it was “no small feat” for Tremel to take the initiative to arm his aircraft and fire ordnance at an armed aircraft for the first time in two-and-a-half decades.

“Looking at the wreckage down below us, It was a different feeling,” Krueger said. “… We had to make some decisions pretty quickly, and I thought that the training and commander’s guidance that we got at that point was a big deal.”

Upon return to the ship, the fanfare was underwhelming; the sentiment was merely that “the show goes on,” Tremel said.

He shook a few hands on the flight deck, then was ushered away, the ordnance remaining on his aircraft quickly reloaded onto other fighters that would launch within the hour.

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

He even completed his scheduled safety officer duties once back aboard the ship, he said.

As he addressed the Navy’s annual convention of fighter pilots, though, the atmosphere was different.

“It’s extremely surreal to be sitting here in this environment,” Tremel said. “I couldn’t have done it without the guy sitting next to me, Jo Jo, and the other guys that were airborne. It was an absolute team effort, to include all the coordination that went on with the Air Force the entire time we were in the AOR.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea just fired off newer, faster missiles

North Korea tested a “new type” of missile on Jul 25 in the first test since President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Korean border last month, South Korea has determined.

North Korea test-fired two short-range missiles, one flying 267 miles and another 428 miles. Seoul assessed the weapons to be “a new type of short-range ballistic missile.”

Many observers quickly determined that the test was an attempt to get the Trump administration’s attention in the wake of several leadership summits that failed to produce an outcome desired by either side or possibly a warning to South Korea as it strengthens its military.


What Would Happen If North Korea Launched A Nuclear Weapon

www.youtube.com

What Would Happen If North Korea Launched A Nuclear Weapon

Evidence from the past couple of months seems to suggest that North Korea is also strengthening its arsenal to counter regional threats to its offensive capabilities — some of the most important cards it holds in ongoing nuclear negotiations.

North Korea twice in May tested a new short-range ballistic missile, a weapon known as the KN-23 which some have compared to Russia’s SS-26 Iskander. It is unclear if the weapons tested Thursday included a modified variant of this weapon or something else entirely.

The North Koreans are “developing a reliable, operable missile that can defeat missile defenses and conduct a precision strike in South Korea,” Grace Liu, a weapons expert at the Jams Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, told Reuters in May.

Jeffrey Lewis, another CNS expert, suggested at that time that the weapon’s maneuverability seemed to indicate it was designed to skirt missile defenses, such as the Patriot and THAAD batteries deployed in South Korea.

Looking at the missiles tested July 25, US officials told Reuters that their preliminary analysis indicated the weapons were similar to the ones tested in May but noted that the latest test appeared to involve missiles with enhanced capabilities.

One official revealed that North Korea appeared to be decreasing the time it takes to launch missiles, thus reducing the time the US and its allies have to detect a launch. North Korea has repeatedly demonstrated an interest in solid-fueled missiles like the KN-23, weapons that can be fueled in advanced and launched quickly for surprise attacks.

The missiles launched July 25 reached an altitude of only about 30 miles, an altitude generally consistent with previous tests of the KN-23.

“If it’s very low and very fast, that shortens warning and decision time,” Adam Mount, director of the Defense Posture Project with the Federation of American Scientists, told CNN. “Those kinds of things could be useful in a retaliatory situation, but it’s even more relevant for a first strike.”

Melissa Hanham, another well-known missile expert, told Reuters in May, that the types of weapons North Korea is testing, weapons deemed by the Trump administration to be less important than the intercontinental ballistic missiles the country was building and testing in 2017, are the types of weapons “that will start the war.”

South Korea described the July 25 missile test “as a military threat and an action undermining efforts to alleviate tensions on the Korean Peninsula,” CNN reported.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

See the Air Force’s beautiful drone light show

The Air Force basically owned the market on drones for decades, so it must’ve come as quite the shock last year when the Super Bowl LI light show featured a few hundred drones making beautiful designs in the sky, eclipsing the best of the Air Force’s drone choreography (but falling well short of the Air Force’s best light shows).

The men and women at Travis Air Force Base got to enjoy a similar light show on July 5, though, when Intel brought their drones to the installation for a special Independence Day Celebration. We’ve got some photos from the event below.


Find the high-res images at dvidshub.net.

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

Drones create a shooting star pattern during a drone light show at Travis Air Force Base, California, on July 5, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Christian Conrad)

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

Drones create a bear pattern during a drone light show at Travis Air Force Base, California, on July 5, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

Drones fly over the base during a light show at Travis Air Force Base, California, on July 5, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Joseph Swafford)

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

Drones create the pattern of cargo planes during a drone light show at Travis Air Force Base, California, on July 5, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Joseph Swafford)

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

Drones create a pattern showing an Air Force unit flying out of California during a drone light show at Travis Air Force Base, California, on July 5, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Joseph Swafford)

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

Drones create a hashtag pattern during a drone light show at Travis Air Force Base, California, on July 5, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Joseph Swafford)

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

Drones create an American flag pattern during a drone light show at Travis Air Force Base, California, on July 15, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Joseph Swafford)

MIGHTY CULTURE

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

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


Eddie Van Halen Tribute

www.youtube.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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