Combat, violence and death cause pain and suffering in the human spirit. Many veterans struggle when they come home — they carry the burdens of war, they endure injuries seen and unseen, they are haunted by the fallen and feelings of guilt, they struggle to find community and purpose. The list of symptoms goes on.
“People think that SEALs are automatons, impervious to the stressors of combat. Unfortunately, no human is impervious to the physiological effects of war.”
Mikal A. Vega on Combat Related Stress
The good news is that there is healing to be found.
More and more, veterans like Navy SEAL Mikal Vega are sharing their stories and showing a way forward for their brothers and sisters in arms. Most recently, Vega created a short film called Message in a Bottle “in an effort to encapsulate the ‘why’ we serve, the ‘what’ is possible and the ‘how’ to get there.”
WATCH THE FILM:
Written and directed by Vega, a 22-year Navy SEAL veteran who can be seen in TV/Film projects such as can be seen in Transformers 3, S.W.A.T., Mayans M.C., and much more, the film was inspired by his own life story. That story may seem familiar to many veterans and it was depicted in this film in order to help others dealing with PTSD find non-pharmaceutical modalities for long-term healing.
In conjunction with Vital Warrior, Vega’s conscious action program designed to serve veterans and empower them with the ability to apply their military training to a healing lifestyle, Message in a Bottle shares Vega’s powerful message. Vital Warrior provides veterans with mental disciplines within the warrior ethos, teaching abilities specifically designed to tap into dormant creative aspects of self to offset and subsequently balance the cumulative destructive physiological effects culminated during a lifetime of service and/or war.
“We made this film with no budget other than what was absolutely required to bring this story to light. My story,” shared Vega on Instagram.
His goal in making the film is to not only help veterans and active duty service members, but anyone dealing with any significant trauma or stress to find inspiration through this film.
“Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan has been, and continues to be, the most difficult and rewarding thing I have done in my life. Naturally, it is the core of Vital Warrior and allows our clients to develop the awareness to learn the subconscious landscape, remove obstacles and choose a positive projection in their day to day thought patterns.”
I’ve taken Vega’s classes before and they were harder than anything I’ve done in a Crossfit or body-building program. The man’s mental discipline and fortitude are impressive and inspiring. I highly recommend them to anyone looking for a mental and physical shift.
Watch his film in the link above and pass it along. The message may reach someone who needs it most and by streaming it, you help support Vital Warrior and The CAMEO Theatre.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
Master Sergeant Bill — and that was his real last name — had a trick back, so he claimed. It seemed to flare up just as we were on the cusp of an unpleasant mission. My gosh, it didn’t seem to trouble him much at all during “good deal” trips, no Sir. Whether or not it was a valid ailment, that we shall never know, but the timing of the affliction sure seemed suspect over the years.
Well sure, I understood as well as the next man, that with all of the non-stop training we did to satisfy our charter to deploy in just a few hours, to deploy to the four corners of the planet and be ready to sustain combat for several days… a brother just needed a break now and then to harness and hold a semblance of sanity — “to each his own,” I often rationalized.
“Woo, yeah brother… I can feel my back getting ready to go out again. Yes sirree I can feel it coming on.”
“$hit Bill, your back goes out more than a hooker on East Central… I don’t suppose your back is just feeling the freezing cold early on, is it?”
“What freezing cold?”
“Yeah, the freezing cold of our trip to Fairbanks Alaska for Arctic weather training.”
“Oh, yeah… well I guess that is coming up, isn’t it…”
“Oh, well yeah… I guess it is, Bill.”
(Arctic warfare training always promised deep snow and freezing temperatures)
There were a few brothers that had a perceived penchant for backing out of what we called “bad deal trips,” in favor of pursuing only the “good deal trips.” They were just slick like that. Again it was just a perception, but perception is the better part of reality in most cases.
Three of the guys earned the following monikers:
Samuel: Good deal Sam, bad deal — scram!
William: Good deal Will, bad deal — chill!
Martin: Good deal Marty, bad deal — departy!
Ah, but Sergeant Bill… now he just carried his maneuvers a smidge farther than the rest, and he didn’t deserve any finesse in his moniker:
Bill: Good deal Bill, bad deal — fake a back injury!
When I look back on some of our more gruesome training missions I am aware, ever so aware, that I do not recollect his presence there. There was the Arctic training in Alaska where we endured temperature plummets as low as -45 degree Fahrenheit while we made death marches on skis and snowshoes all night long.
No Sergeant Bill — threw his dang back out.
There was the trip to British Guyana 100 miles south of the infamous Jones Town where some 950 followers of Jim Jones’ “religion” committed suicide by poisonous Kool-aid in honor of their leader. Triple canopy jungles, All night movements again on foot and by tactical assault boats through snaking inland riverways in the sweltering heat.
No Sergeant Bill — threw his dad-blamed back out.
Hey but the desert mobility training trip where we planned extreme long range patrols… Bill was there! Oh, but his back got to acting up, and he stayed in the rear at the communications relay station — bless his lame heart. If that were not enough, then there was this thing that happened:
Long range tactical patrols meant movement all night long. Before the sun comes up, we stopped and set up camouflage nets. We then performed work priorities, set out guards, and tried to sleep in the frying pan desert as best we could.
(An Austrian Pinzgauer, the vehicle of choice for desert mobility movements)
We played the tactical game to the hilt because we knew there were Russian helicopters flying the desert looking for our Rally Over Day (ROD) locations at this particular state-side training venue. To be spotted was a compromise and we would have to pack up and run from them in daylight— a losing situation.
To the lonely sound of the buzzing of deer flies, punctuated by the omnipresent smacking noise of the swatting of deer flies, was the low rumble of men in fitful sleep. Very suddenly came the booming of the heavy rotor blades of a Russian Hind-D attack helicopter looming at some 75 feet of altitude… with spineless Bill leaning out of a cargo window pointing wildly to us on the ground.
(The very intimidating Russian attack helicopter Hind-D)
“I’m going to kill him pretty soon… I’m going to kill spineless Bill. I’m going to chop him up into pieces then burn each of the pieces to ashes. I’m going to collect up those ashes and tamp them down into the barrel of a 12-pound Napoleon cannon, and fire his ashes out of over a field full of cow sh!t; when the cows come to eat the grass I’m going to kill them too and then burn the grass… and I’m going to do it all on a piping-hot Summer’s day,” projected the oath a particularly agitated brother.
The moral of the story here could possibly be: whether your back injury is real or faked, and perception being the greater part of reality, your shenanigans will not write you a day pass from… THE UNIT CARTOONIST!
At least 14,000 years ago in one of the most fascinating (and adorable) evolutionary events, dogs diverged from their wolven ancestors. The details of the domestication process are still hazy, but the results have changed our relationship with dogs completely. Working dogs even save lives.
While most of us view dogs as lovable family pets, they’re much more than that. Dogs have much of the same biological advantages as their evolutionary predecessors, including intelligence and a remarkably keen sense of smell. They’re also highly trainable, making them perfect candidates for jobs that are beyond human capabilities- including jobs in the military.
Military working dogs have been serving the US for over 100 years.
In the earliest years of our country’s history, dogs were out on the battlefield alongside their companions. Come World War II, the first formally trained military working dogs were deployed- over 10,000 of them. They’ve played a role in every war since, with some studies estimating that more than 10,000 human lives were saved by working dogs in Vietnam.
Not all breeds are suited to being military working dogs.
No offense, but a Shih-Tzu is better designed to be a pillow than a working dog. Many breeds have been used over the years, including Dobermans, Boxers, Rottweilers, and different types of terrier. In recent years, the staple breeds have leaned towards German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds, and Belgian Malinois. Why? These breeds are fiercely loyal, loving, and obedient, with an insanely powerful bite. Perfect.
These special pups take on several essential, life-saving roles in the field. These are some of the most common.
Trained to work silently, patrol dogs search for snipers and alert troops of possible ambushes. Having them around is a powerful deterrent to enemies. Because they’re so good at what they do, soldiers are often more at ease in their presence.
Sentry dogs are most often used to detect approaching enemies at night. The Coast Guard has even used them to alert ships of enemy submarine activity.
Messenger working dogs are trained to carry messages from one handler to the other. At times, they carry sensitive information through enemy territory, so they must travel as quietly as possible.
Bomb dogs start training when they’re just a year and a half old, and they’re practically made for the job. Their noses have 300 million olfactory receptors compared to just six million in humans, and over a third of their brain is used to process smells. These finely-tuned sniffers learn to detect the presence of dozens of chemical ingredients. When they recognize an ingredient, they’re trained to sit- can’t have a puppy pawing at TNT, can we?
The most heartwarming of all military working dogs are the ones who literally save lives. Their incredible sense of smell enables them to find injured soldiers in locations a human would never be able to guess. Armed with protective gear and tiny cameras, the dogs scout the scene to lead their human partners to critically injured companions.
After the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, over 300 search and rescue dogs helped out at ground zero. They sniffed out several injured civilians buried under feet of rubble. Rescue workers were so impressed by one dog that they saved his DNA. A few years later, they made five little casualty dog clones!
These dogs aren’t tools of the trade. They’re partners.
Ask any military dog handler, and they’ll tell you that working dogs are more than military assets. They work alongside their human companions with every bit as much loyalty and brotherhood as any other service member, except on four legs and with a much better schnoz. Their comparatively short lifespans make their devotion even more poignant; they truly dedicate most of their lives to saving ours.
They may not be able to read or speak, but they live up to their unofficial pledge with their actions:
“My eyes are your eyes. To watch and protect you and yours. My ears are your ears. To hear and detect evil minds in the dark. My nose is your nose to scent the invader of your domain. And so you may live, my life is also yours.”
As a new military spouse, one of the biggest changes is your new coverage in health insurance. Whether your spouse’s status is active duty, retired, or with the reserves, you’ll have access to health insurance options that are envied by the rest of the population.
In fact, many cite military health insurance as one of the biggest work perks as a soldier. Considering its span, there’s no wonder, either. Last year, Tricare, the company that’s assigned to military spouses and dependents, covered more than 9 million beneficiaries, accounting for more than $50 billion. Now that’s some serious healthcare coverage!
The power of government pull
If covered services are billed to an in-network civilian provider, Tricare has a final say in how much is charged … and in many cases, they take care of it entirely. Of course, this is completely dependent on the type of coverage, service, and if the beneficiary has a deductible. But if it’s covered, they mean covered!
Oftentimes smaller companies leave the patient with much of the bill, which can be staggering without a big name to cap costs.
(It is worth noting that much of this could change, pending proposed medical billing transparency laws.)
How many of you have stood searching for an insurance card that was inevitably buried in the bottom of a wallet? With Tricare coverage, your military ID serves as your insurance card. This might sound minute, but there’s much to be said about not having to dig for an additional proof of insurance.
Patient advocacy and customer service
If you’re stuck with an unpaid bill, are mistreated, need a service that’s not covered, etc., your pool of resources is deep. Talk to Tricare and get instant movement on your issue, or stop in person for a meeting with patient advocates. You are not even close to being alone in this!
In rare cases, you can even look toward the chain of command to tip the scales in your favor, should logistics hit a stand-still. Look toward available services and divide and conquer until your medical needs have been met.
187FW Medical Airmen Provide No-Cost Healthcare in Training Mission.
Entire hospitals and customer service
Yes, as a military spouse, you’re entitled to be seen at military healthcare facilities. This means additional choices in patient care (and pharmacy pick up), with a quick dose of military history.
Check out stories of soldiers past while you walk the halls of your dedicated spot. This is a unique way of incorporating military-based themes into healthcare, while providing multiple options of qualified services for dependents.
Brandon Clinic provides medical care close to home.
Little paperwork and logistics required of the beneficiaries
In most cases, the paperwork is handled on the back-end, meaning you, the dependant, don’t have to worry about filing this or faxing that. The paperwork is handled on your behalf. There are, of course, exceptions to everything, but in comparison with civilian providers, you have a reliable resource to help keep bookwork in check.
As a current or upcoming beneficiary of military healthcare benefits, there’s much to be thankful for. What are some of your favorite perks of Tricare coverage?
Several shootings involving police have occurred this year, bringing on an outpouring of civil unrest in the form of widespread protests or riots, and cries for reform to reduce police brutality and institutional racism.
“Defund the police” has become a common refrain throughout the US and has grown in popularity in several cities. New York City shifted approximately $1 billion away from the New York Police Department. The Seattle City Council approved a 14% decrease in the Seattle Police Department’s budget.
A main focus of the discussions surrounding police reform has been to call standards in law enforcement training into question. Both sides of the debate have proposed suggestions — from banning chokeholds to preventing police from carrying firearms.
Coffee or Die spoke with Mark Mireles, a veteran of both the US Marine Corps and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), about what he believes would help law enforcement in situations that lead to the use of lethal force.
Mark Mireles by his squad car during the 1992 Rodney King riots in LA, to the rear of the Foothill police station, the epicenter of the Rodney King beating. Photo courtesy of Mark Mireles.
Mireles served as a Marine for four years in the 1980s. He worked as an LAPD police officer for 28 years before retiring and entering the private security industry.
His nearly three-decade-long career in the LAPD unfolded across Los Angeles’ most violent years. Mireles has engaged criminals in all varieties of hand fighting, less lethal deployment, and lethal deployment. Three times he earned the Medal of Valor, which is the highest award for personal bravery bestowed to LAPD’s officers.
Mireles trained under the legendary Jean Jacques Machado and is a third-degree black belt in Brazilian jiujitsu (BJJ). Mireles also holds a black belt in judo, which is the parent art of BJJ. He won the World No-Gi Championship in the masters black belt ultra-heavy division in 2019. He is also a four-time Gold Medalist in the World Police and Fire Games in both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, and earned All American honors in the Olympic-style Greco-Roman wrestling.
There is a movement gaining momentum for law enforcement officers to be trained in Brazilian jiujitsu. This form of martial arts has been around for centuries and has been used by a wide variety of professions, from your average security officer in a mall to the most highly trained US military special operations soldier.
BJJ is defined by GracieMag as “a martial art of Japanese origin in which one essentially uses levers, torsions and pressure in order to take one’s opponent to the ground and dominate them. Literally, jū in Japanese means ‘gentleness,’ and jutsu means ‘art,’ ‘technique.’ Hence the literal translation by which it’s also known, the ‘gentle art.'”
Mireles explained why he believes law enforcement officers should receive the best training possible in “handcuffing, arrest and control, defensive tactics, and I’m talking about outside of less lethal” because “officers — and this is nationally — put their hands on people every single day, but they get the least amount of training for that.”
He highlighted two recent examples that drew international attention: the Kenosha, Wisconsin, shooting of Jacob Blake and the Atlanta shooting of Rayshard Brooks. One major factor he pointed out in both situations is that the police officers involved failed to fully control the suspect with their first physical contact.
In BJJ, there are multiple levels of proficiency deemed by the color of belts. Beginners are white belts, followed by blue, purple, brown, and black. Black belts are considered masters of BJJ.
“If the officers were trained in tactics to a blue belt level, they would have been successful, I believe,” Mireles said about the Atlanta and Kenosha incidents. “To thwart the problem by being able to take the suspect and control them and take them down to the ground rather than getting into these extended tussles.”
Mark Mireles won a silver medal in judo during the 2017 World Police and Fire Games. Photo courtesy of Mark Mireles.
Mireles believes the primary mission of law enforcement is to “save and preserve human life, and to do everything that you can to do that.” BJJ is a practical approach to add as an additional step in the escalation of force before an officer has to resort to their pistol in a use-of-force event. Mireles specified there are obvious circumstances where an officer goes straight to their pistol or police rifle during active shooter or hostage scenarios.
In Mireles’ view, the officers involved in the Rayshard Brooks shooting did an “above and beyond job on verbalization” in their attempts to keep Brooks calm during the encounter. He added that there is a lot of speculation as to whether the officer should or should not have returned fire after Brooks shot the Taser at police, but he wants to focus on the point where the Atlanta officers could have stopped the situation from reaching the deployment of lethal force.
He believes that hand fighting — anything involving physical contact from the forearms to the hands — is critical for officers to know. Handcuffing a suspect is performed by law enforcement daily, and it’s at that point when suspects fight and/or try to run away, according to Mireles. In his opinion, BJJ teaches you how to manipulate the hand to control a person’s body, and this hand manipulation is crucial during the process of handcuffing a suspect or during other physical contact. This is when the Atlanta officers could have stopped the escalation from going further.
The Kenosha Police Department shooting of Jacob Blake is a similar situation in which the officers on scene lost control during an arrest attempt. Over his 28-year career, Mireles has implemented his experience in martial arts and has been involved in events just like those leading to the Kenosha and Atlanta shootings.
Las Vegas POLICE Officer Uses JIU-JITSU to Control Larger Suspect (Gracie Breakdown)
“I would offer, and I could be wrong, but these officers in Atlanta and Kenosha — in that time where they’re trying to hold on to the suspect — that they don’t have, they could have much better training in hand fighting to better control their suspects,” said Mireles.
He said his experience helped him gain control of suspects he was pursuing, preventing a further escalation of force. Mireles believes BJJ would possibly have helped these officers from having to resort to lethal force. He added that from what he could see and according to the state laws in Wisconsin and Georgia, these officers were justified in their use of lethal force.
Mireles combined his law enforcement, military, and martial arts experience to start a BJJ academy, where 70% of his attendees are either police officers or firefighters. He has received positive feedback from his trainees on how directly applicable the training is and how it has helped them in their careers. To Mireles’ knowledge, very few police academies actually train their cadets in hand fighting or BJJ.
Something that Mireles teaches at his academy is what he feels is the only way to approach a suspect who is resisting arrest. He said, “You’re trying to get a noncompliant person to become compliant through verbalization, but when it comes time to use force, that force has to be decisive and explosive.”
Mireles taking on his Russian competitor during the 2017 World Police and Fire Games. Photo courtesy of Mark Mireles.
Mireles described a blue belt in BJJ as “life insurance” for officers. “It’s going to go a long way on the street, and if it’s not your thing, do it anyway, because it’s life insurance,” he said. “If you love your wife, your significant other, your kids, you have to do everything you can to make sure that you go home safe at the end of watch, and hand-to-hand combat skills are very important to do that.”
“Going home safe” doesn’t just mean being physically safe; it also means protecting your job and reputation when it comes to policing. Mireles believes the use of BJJ to prevent an escalation to less lethal or lethal force with a suspect resisting arrest is a way to ensure that.
Setting up a national, standardized level of hand-fighting training for the entirety of law enforcement would be a difficult and time-consuming task. Mireles recommends that law enforcement officers join their local BJJ gyms and start learning on their own personal time while waiting for their department to implement training procedures for hand fighting.
“If you’re a true professional, you’re going to do everything to push yourself to the highest level of proficiency, and that’s only going to occur through training,” said Mireles. “Invest in your survival rate, both literally and through civil liability, by training in hand fighting.”
As Lt. Col. Mike Drowley says in his TEDx Talk, he’s an attack pilot, but he sees himself as also being a Marine rifleman, Army infantryman, and Navy SEAL, because when he’s flying in support of those people, he has to fly like its his own boots on the ground, his own face catching the heat and shrapnel from enemy artillery. And he wants to spend 15 minutes describing that world for you.
There Are Some Fates Worse Than Death: Mike Drowley at TEDxScottAFB
Drowley is now a full colonel and the commander of the 355th Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. But don’t let the name fool you, the 355th primarily operates A-10s and, while Drowley has flown F-15s, F-16s, and training aircraft, his career has centered on the beloved Warthog.
He restored the A-10 Demonstration Team after its five-year hiatus, and he led a surge of A-10 pilot training that resulted in 175 aviators getting certified to fly it. Even today, the aircraft that bears his nameplate is, you guessed it, an A-10.
But he wasn’t always a famed A-10 pilot, and in this TEDx Talk from 2012, then Lt. Col. Drowley talks about his first combat mission in the A-10, hearing that dreaded call of “troops in contact” come over the radio, the stress of juggling weather and terrain problems while trying to save the guys on the ground, and the relief he felt when he was successful.
Col. Mike Drowley renders his first salute to Airmen of the 355th Fighter Wing during a change of command ceremony at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., June 29, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force Air Force Airman 1st Class Giovanni Sims)
And he also, grippingly, tells the story of when he was sent to rescue Chief Warrant Officers David Williams and Ronald Young, Jr., Apache pilots shot down during a failed raid on Karbala, Iraq. It was a mission that didn’t go so well.
While Drowley and the other A-10 and rescue pilots were desperate to save the downed Apache crew, the fire from the ground was just too dense, and the situation was just too dangerous. He had to make the call to save his own men, bringing 40 Americans out alive even if it meant leaving those two Americans on the ground.
Artillery, the “King of the Battle,” has been crucial to land warfare since cannons were made of wood, but recent developments with battlefield sensors and networking may ensure that artillery sits atop the heap during a future war with China or Russia.
Oscar Battery, 5/14, blast through ITX 4-17
While World War III might be fought in megacities, where infantry and cavalry will reign supreme, a fight in the South China Sea or on the plains of Ukraine pretty much guarantees that soldiers and Marines will be looking to get high explosive warheads raining on the enemy, and recent Army and Marine Corps breakthroughs are ensuring that the artillery troops will be ready for the challenge.
First, in case of war over the South China Sea, America needs to be ready to fight where the enemy has local superiority of forces and is on near technical parity. America’s ships are larger and stronger on average than China’s, but China has 300 more ships and can focus nearly all of it forces on a fight in the Pacific and Arctic while the U.S. will still have obligations in the Middle East and the Atlantic.
Army fires HIMARS in support of Air Force operations during Red Flag-Alaska in Alaska in October 2018.
(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jonathan Valdes)
So, if the Navy gets into a fight, the Marines can fire long-range rockets in support, essentially turning amphibious ships into over-sized missile destroyers. And that’s before the Marines land the rockets on islands and then impede Chinese naval operations in a wide area around the land.
The High-Altitude Research Project, or HARP, featured a massive cannon that tested firing rounds with extreme force, once launching a round 112 miles into the air, but it still paled in power compared to what the Army would need to fire rounds laterally 1,150 miles.
(Department of Defense)
If successful, a handful of cannons in the Philippines, Taiwan, and Japan could strike targets across the Russian and Chinese coasts. A weapon south of Seoul, South Korea, could cover all of North Korea, Northeast China, and could even strike targets in Mongolia, if it came to that. Beijing lies well within range of a Strategic Long Range Cannon in South Korea.
But of course, these weapons would likely have to be stationary. All cannon shots that flew over 100 miles have been fired from artillery built into a site. And Chinese and Russian forces would focus on destroying artillery with the ability to pelt their cities with constant bombardment.
So, the Army would need to defend these weapons and fortify them, but it would be worth it for land-based artillerymen to be able to have a direct effect on any naval battles in the disputed waters in the Western Pacific.
But all of these weapons and upgrades would also have a great effect on combat in Eastern Europe. A Strategic Long Range Cannon west of Berlin could strike over 100 miles into Russia. Build them in Finland, Estonia, or Latvia, and you can hit as deep as Volgograd, crossing Moscow in the process. And HIMARS receiving targeting data from F-35s can likely have just as much impact on Arctic fighting or conflict in Europe as they could in the South China Sea.
When the fighting of World War III moves into the cities, artillery may be too destructive, too imprecise to rule the day. But when it comes to conflict in the ocean and open grasslands, artillery may be the most potent weapon that ground pounders can bring to the fight.
Come April 1st, it’s time to keep your ears opened and your eyes peeled, ready for whatever mischief might come your way. It’s a day where folks of all cultures plan and perform their best tricks, service members from all branches included. From physical pranks, to things that are somehow out of place, to flat-out destructive jokes, April Fools’ Day is known for mischief. There are even historical events, including elaborate and heart-stopping examples of how soldiers took advantage of this day of lighthearted fun.
Take a look at these fun pranks among the military community for a good laugh and possibly some ideas for weeks to come.
German Camp, 1915
On this day in 1915, the Geneva Tribune reported a French plane dropped a large object over a German camp. From a distance, the object appeared to be a huge bomb. Upon seeing it, soldiers ran for cover, though no explosion took place. Eventually, they approached the object, which was actually a giant football. On it was a tag that read, “April fool!”
Europe, 1943, the 30-Day Furlough
In a newspaper article in Stars and Stripes, a European publication for overseas soldiers, readers learned of a 30-day furlough available for overseas service members. They were said to be brought home by the newly refurbished ship, Normanie, which would be manned by Women’s Army Corps. What’s more is it stated on-ship entertainment provided by Gypsy Rose Lee and Betty Grable, two big names at the time.
Did you know that Irish bearskin helmets grow hair, so much so that it became a problem wherein they needed trimming? Specially requested by the staff of Buckingham Palace. That was the subject of an April Fools’ article in Soldier, a British magazine published in 1980. They even included scientific evidence on how the hair was able to grow once removed from the animal.
While members on the USS Kennedy suspected nothing more than a delivery of mail during a six month deployment in the Mediterranean, jokesters had other intentions. Navy members planned a surprise drop off on April Fools’ Day in 1986. The helicopter landed and released three greased piglets — each painted red, white and blue — who ran across the deck. The event was even filmed for future generations to see!
Old Guard Virginia, 2013
There are working dogs in the military, so why not working cats? Back in 2013 an announcement was made via the U.S. Army that they were launching a trained cat program, wherein felines would help the military moving forward. Specifically, their duties were to help Military Police track narcotics and catch criminals in their tracks.
Okinawa, Japan 2019
In perhaps one of the most widespread pranks in history, on April Fools’ Day, 2019, the Marine Corps base in Okinawa announced via social media that service members could grow facial hair openly … and have pets in their barracks rooms. Putting safety first, the post even mentioned that pets would need to wear reflective belts to ensure their visibility, likely during early morning hours of PT. Funny enough, right? The problem is people believed it! Some went as far as to throw out razors or take on pets, not realizing the whole announcement was a joke.
Traditionally, April Fools’ Day has been a time to bring in jokes and laughter, often with creative pranks. It’s a look back at how military members still saw the bright side of things, whether in time of war, deployment or simply in everyday situations.
Do you have a favorite military-related April Fools’ Day prank? Let us know about it!
Quality of gear aside, when the U.S. military is equipping its troops, it tries to ensure they have everything they need to defeat the enemy and – if funding permits – not be entirely miserable in the meantime. Given the Pentagon’s track record with winning battles, one would have to concede they’re doing a pretty good job. Operationally, however, the troops figure out very quickly what’s going to work and what they need to improvise.
1. Mosquito Nets – Vietnam
One private in the Army who was deployed to an aircraft maintenance detachment in Vietnam mentions using the mosquito net diligently, just as he was trained. Except, when the base was attacked, he stumbled in the dark looking for the zipper, nearly getting himself killed in the process.
He, like many in Vietnam, never used the mosquito net again.
2. Army Cold Weather Mask
3. Black Berets
Are you into bondage? Then this is the issued gear for you. If you hate how much it itches your face or if you wear glasses, it definitely is not.
Patrol caps and boonie hats serve the dual purpose of protecting your head from the sun while giving your kevlar a place to rest. They’re also both breathable and prevent the interior of the hat from becoming a swampy mess. The beret did none of these things, but the Army insisted every soldier wear one.
4. Sun-Wind-Dust Goggles – Iraq & Afghanistan
The only Sun-Dust-Wind goggles that couldn’t protect your eyes from sun, dust, or wind. All that and after a while, the padding slips out of place, the elastic wears out, and they become unwearable. Which isn’t a big deal because they get so scratched up you can’t see from them anyway.
5. NBC Gear – U.S. Navy
The U.S. military’s old MOPP system used what is essentially a charcoal suit to protect troops from chemical agents in the air. The only problem was they were useless when wet – which is exactly what happened to the sailors during nuclear, biological, chemical warfare drills when they had to start cleaning the ship.
6. Black Leather Gloves with Wool Inserts
The dual glove system pretty much meant any fine motor skills you needed weren’t going to happen while wearing these things. Many troops would take off the leather gloves to use their fingers, which promptly froze because the liners themselves were useless in the cold.
7. M65 Field Jacket
Speaking of things that are useless in the cold, there was a time when the only jacket issued for the battle dress uniform was this cruel joke.
8. Load-Bearing Equipment
Presenting the most miserable troop of the 1980s.
This is a great way to carry many different kinds of gear. Until someone starts shooting at you and you need to get down on the ground, stay low, and/or maneuver while you’re down there.
Twitter’s “head of editorial” in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa also serves as a part-time officer for the British Army’s information unit in the UK, a new report revealed.
Middle East Eye, which was first to report the news, shared a screenshot of Gordon MacMillan’s LinkedIn page in which he listed his dual roles. His role in the army has since been removed from his page.
A source familiar with the matter told The Financial Times that MacMillan spends a few days a year acting as a consultant to Britain’s information warfare unit, the 77th Brigade.
The 77th Brigade was created in 2015 with the intention of using psychological operations and social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook to help fight wars “in the information age.” It is made up of reservists and regular troops.
It writes online: “Our aim is to challenge the difficulties of modern warfare using non-lethal engagement and legitimate non-military levers as a means to adapt behaviours of the opposing forces and adversaries.
“77th Brigade is an agent of change; through targeted Information Activity and Outreach we contribute to the success of military objectives in support of Commanders, whilst reducing the cost in casualties and resources.”
MacMillan’s LinkedIn page has since been edited to remove his secondary role.
Neither MacMillan nor the UK Ministry of Defense (MOD) immediately responded to Business Insider’s request for comment when contacted.
In a statement shared with The Financial Times, a spokesperson for the MOD said: “We employ specialist reserve personnel from a variety of civilian occupations in order to utilize the skills and experience of senior professionals.
“There is no relationship or agreement between 77th Brigade and Twitter, other than using it as a social media platform.”
A spokesperson for Twitter told Business Insider that “Twitter is an open, neutral, and independent service.
“We do not allow our data services to be used for surveillance purposes or in any other manner inconsistent with people’s expectation of privacy. Employees who pursue external volunteer opportunities are encouraged to do so in line with company policy.”
In most cases, reservists would need to provide their employer’s details to their commanding officer. However, according to the UK government guidelines, they do have the right to not to tell their employer they are a reservist if there’s a good reason for it. For example, if it would put them at a disadvantage if their employer knew.
Twitter confirmed, however, that MacMillan’s dual role was reviewed by its compliance teams and is not currently in violation of its policies.
MacMillan joined Twitter in 2013 after working at various media companies. He previously trained at Sandhurst, the British military academy before studying journalism and then media studies at Cardiff and Bournemouth universities.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Whether you have lived in your house 10 days, 10 months or 10 years (is that even possible?!), there is always a need for more organization.
Military spouse or not, becoming more organized is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions. Pinterest, TLC and Mari Kondo capitalize on these goals and provide wonderful ideas, tips and tricks. In addition to these marvelous tools, we have a few of our own military spouse-specific organization tips to help you get set in 2020.
1. Label all drawers, baskets and cupboards
Have you ever planned to put an item away only to realize you were envisioning its location in your previous home? Labels help us remember where we store things as well as inform our significant others. After deployment, readjusting is hard enough without having him/her put things away in areas they do not belong. Use a label maker to help clear your own brain fog and prevent lost items as result of misplacement.
(Photo by Tim Gouw)
2. Utilize a scanner
Medical records and school records are very important. Utilize scanning abilities to import documents into organized computer files and/or print documents to manually file them in a binder or a filing cabinet.
3. Update your Addresses
Perhaps you have a collection of ‘return to sender’ Christmas cards from military friends who moved within the last year. Now is the time to register with an online address collector (make your friends do the work), update your excel spreadsheet or use a pencil in an address book. Be sure to also include addresses from each home you have lived in. This will ease the task of filling out job applications that have you list each residence within the past five years (insert facepalm).
(Photo by Alejandro Escamilla)
4. Schedule everything
Just kidding. We all know once your calendar gets organized, duty will call and everything will need to change.
5. Add information to the contacts in your phone
When you scroll through your phone and find three Sarahs and two Johns listed, but you cannot remember who these people are, it is time to organize your contacts with more than just first and last names. Try listing the installation you were at, the city you lived in or some kind of description. This way you can identify the caller quicker than five minutes into the conversation when she finally mentions something that sparks a memory in your brain.
Moving may seem like the complete opposite of getting organized, however, it offers a great opportunity to purge, the first step in organization. Consider a PCS as a Personal Clearing of Stuff, and thank the military for allowing you to ask the question ‘does this spark joy?’
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
The art of sniping is more than just proper cover, concealment and sight alignment; it demands vigilant situational awareness, flawless timing and solid arithmetic skills.
U.S. soldiers had a five-day Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) with Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers at a base outside of Amman, Jordan, in October 2019. The Military Engagement Team-Jordan (MET-J), 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard; in collaboration with Jordan Operational Engagement Program (JOEP) soldiers; 1st Squadron, 102nd Cavalry Regiment, 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 42nd Infantry Division, New Jersey National Guard.
“As a group, we [MET-J, JOEP] were able to collaborate and come up with a good exchange,” said U.S. Army Master Sgt. Johnny Vidrio, with MET-J, 158th MEB, AZANG, “The sniper field is a perishable skill so you have to use it a lot to retain it. We are working with the JAF to keep our exchanges going.”
A U.S. Army soldier, with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, adjusts the scope of a Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers’ rifle during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
Snipers are known for their specialization in shooting targets from long-range distances with a modified weapon, as well as their reconnaissance abilities. Vidrio, who served as the Sniper SMEE team lead, has more than 20 years’ experience with various weapons systems through his civilian and military occupations.
A U.S. Army Soldier, with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, discusses a mathematical equation with Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) Soldiers during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
Vidrio explained how the MET-J shared information on how the U.S. Army executes sniper tasks and in turn, the Jordanians shared their way of doing the same task. The exchange not only reviewed basic sniper skills but incorporated different approaches to instruct the material to other soldiers. The two nations were able to work through the Jordanians’ Basic Sniper Manuel which provided a platform for the Jordanian snipers to hone their basic skills and enhance their teaching techniques.
A rifle faces downrange during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange between Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, and the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
“The more you teach with a group, the more comfortable you will feel teaching by yourself,” explained Vidrio, “That’s what we were doing, helping them feel comfortable about teaching.”
MET-J facilitates and conducts military-to-military engagements with regional partners within the U.S. Army Central area of responsibility in order to build military partner capability and capacity, enhance interoperability and build relationships.
A Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) sniper looks downrange through a tactical monocular during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
Areas covered during the Sniper SMEE included setting up a comfortable firing position, weapons maintenance, correcting malfunctions, zeroing and determining wind values, to name a few. The snipers discussed how half value, full value, tail and headwinds affect the drift of a bullet. They examined techniques to find the directional movement of wind, such as observing the path of dust, smoke, trash or mirage waves, that are near an intended target. Target range estimation was calculated through a mathematical equation, but each nation used a different formula.
Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers practice setting up firing positions during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
“They [JAF] have a different calculation for range estimation, this was new to American snipers,” said Vidrio “We learned a whole new way of estimating distance and ranges.”
SMEEs allow open information flow and an opportunity for coalition soldiers to work together, learn and grow from one another, which is beneficial to both counties. The United States is committed to the security of Jordan and to partnering closely with the JAF to meet common security challenges.
Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers hold certificates of appreciation given to them by U.S. Army Soldiers after the completion of a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
One soldier who expressed favor in ongoing SMEEs with U.S. Army was JAF Sgt. 1st Class Ghareeb Alaomary, sniper instructor and logistics coordinator. He too specifically found value in the transfer of knowledge with the arithmetical equation calculations for target distance and range. “The mathematic equation formulas given [by the U.S.] were new information for us,” explained Alaomary, “It added to their [JAF snipers] knowledge to help make more accurate calculations.”
Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers pose for a photo after the completion of a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at Joint Training Center-Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
According to Alaomary, the exchange between the two countries was engaging and an abundance of wisdom was shared, which resulted in a successful exchange. They plan to take the knowledge gained through the Sniper SMEE back to their individual units to cross-train with their comrades.
“I would like to give a special thanks for the effort you [U.S. Army] have dedicated to the students and the valuable information you have provided,” said Alaomary.
A U.S. Army Soldier, with 1st Squadron, 102nd Cavalry Regiment, 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 42nd Infantry Division, New Jersey National Guard, looks downrange through a tactical monocular during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange between the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) and Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
The U.S. military has a long-standing relationship with Jordan to support our mutual objectives by providing military assistance to the JAF consistent with our national interests. Our people and governments have a historic, unbreakable, strategic relationship that spans decades and different administrations. Jordan is not only one of the United States’ closest allies in the region but in the world as a whole. This isn’t going to change.
The 6th Marine Regiment color guard marches towards the parade field at Aisne-Marne American Memorial Cemetery in Belleau, France, May 29, 2016. The ceremony marks the 98th anniversary of the Battle of Belleau Wood and continues as a symbol of the everlasting brotherhood between the U.S. Marines and the French military. The cemetery, lined with epitaphs, marks hundreds of plots where military members from all around the world rest after giving the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Photo/Preston McDonald
I nearly died just days after arriving in Iraq. This was my first deployment and although I had never seen combat, I was a well-trained, physically fit, mentally prepared Marine. None of that mattered when a grenade landed near us. Luckily, we all walked away. That first patrol seemed like a blur at the time but years later the memory is still scarred into my brain, like a small burn on a child’s hand. It’s not about what happened that day but the reminder of what could have.
That reminder came just days after I returned home. One of my fellow Marines, a friend, was killed by a sniper’s bullet, then, another fell from a roof and died, and yet another lost his legs in an IED attack. I had survived months without a scratch but my friends who were just as well-trained were killed and injured within a week. My brain couldn’t understand the logic of what happened … because there is no logic in war.
You don’t get to pick where the bullet goes, you just have to face it. Since the founding of the United States, thousands of men and women have stared down our enemies. Many have paid the ultimate sacrifice and are still buried on the battlefields where they said their last words.
Sunrise in Section 35 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, Oct. 25, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser/ Arlington National Cemetery / released)
Today, the living reminder of the fallen remains in places like Gettysburg, Arlington National Cemetery and Aisne-Marne, France. Over 100 years before I stepped foot into Iraq, thousands of Marines patrolled the forests of Belleau Wood. They were all that stood to protect Paris, and the war effort, from a German assault. Outnumbered, isolated and low on ammunition, they fought and held the line. Their tenacity in battle earned them the name “Teufel Hunden” or “Devil Dogs” by the Germans. This is a name that Marines proudly still use today.
In battle, words matter. “Covering fire” has a completely different meaning than “take cover.” “Fix” is different from “flank” and so on. In peace, words matter even more. When we think of war in terms of winning and losing, we not only do ourselves the disservice of simplifying the chaos of battle but we negate the reminder that the fallen give us.
A Sailor assigned to Special Operations Task Force West folds an American flag during a memorial marking the anniversary of the death of Petty Officer 2nd Class Tyler Trahan, an explosive ordnance disposal technician. Trahan was killed in action April 30, 2009 in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. U.S. Navy photo/Aaron Burden
While war may have a clear victor, there are no winners on the battlefield. The gravestones, memorials and scars – both physical and invisible – that veterans carry are the reminders of that.
We are the land of the free because of the brave. Countless men and women have raised their hand to serve our country with nothing expected in return. As it’s said, “All gave some, some gave all.” The very least we can give those who paid the ultimate price is to honor their memory, acknowledge their unyielding patriotism and cherish their last great act with awe and humility, for they willingly gave their lives in service of our great nation.