Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

Have you ever considered sending a care package to your loved one or seen festively decorated ones and wondered how the heck did they do it?

I’m here to put all your nerves at ease and make creating a care package a fun project to spread the holiday cheer to your service member.

To ensure that your package gets to your service member on time make sure to check out holiday care package deadlines.


First things first.

At any United States Postal Service location, you can grab boxes for your care packages. You do not need to pay for them until you mail it out, and I always grabbed Priority Mail boxes. It will be incredibly more expensive if you use a box that is not Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express, as those already have set prices and you can ship domestic or international for same price.

Create a theme for your care package.

Scrapbooking paper is a great and easy way to decorate the inside of your box. Pinterest is also a great resource for looking up different ideas for care packages. For instance, decorating the inside of the box with candy corn scrapbook papers, a quote from Hocus Pocus, stuffed with candy and beef jerky topped with fake spider webs and fake spiders.

Some examples for decorating the inside of Thanksgiving boxes may be decorating the inside of the box with brown and orange scrapbook paper with cut-outs of pumpkins and leaves. Another fun thing to add to your box is a secret message at the very bottom. Whether it is something funny or simple like “Gobble Gobble” or “I’m thankful for you.”

For Christmas care packages it could be themed around How the Grinch Stole Christmas or Merry Christmas. Take a look at Instagram and Pinterest for various ideas of fun ways to decorate your box.

NEVER decorate the outside of the box if they are packaged in the Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express boxes. The USPS staff will ask you to remove it, so don’t waste your time in the first place.

For domestic packages ensure that you are following the guidelines in the US to ship and do not include items such as; aerosols, alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, cigars tobacco, cremated remains, dry ice, firearms, fragile items, glue, lithium batteries, live animals, matches, medicines prescriptions drugs, nail polish, paint, perfumes, perishable items or poisons. For more information make sure to visit here.

Below are ideas that you can add to your care package that are military approved. If shipping overseas, make sure to add a general overview of what items are the package to your customs forms.

Toiletries

  • High-quality socks
  • Foot powder
  • Hand Warmers
  • Baby wipes
  • Deodorant
  • Dental Floss
  • Lip Balm
  • Sunblock
  • Toothbrush
  • Cough drops
  • Icy hot
  • Vicks

Entertainment

  • Board games
  • Deck of cards
  • Reading materials
  • Pencils
  • 3M wall hooks
  • Photos from home
  • Letters

Food

  • Hot sauce
  • Packets of condiments
  • Water flavoring packets
  • Hot cocoa mix
  • Instant coffee
  • Powdered creamer
  • Granola bars
  • Tuna fish
  • Candy
  • Beef jerky
  • Slim jims
  • Protein bars
  • Gum
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Spam
  • Non-chocolate candy (it melts way to easy in the packages)
  • Dried fruit
  • Trail mix
  • Cookies
  • Fresh baked holiday treats

Change up your care packages and add fun surprises every once in a while. Always add extra items for the service members to share with their battle buddies.

Make sure to tape up the sides of your box to be nice and secure and mail off. If you need assistance filling out the customs forms the staff are very helpful.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

At a family reunion several years ago, my uncle asked, “What unspoken vows do you have in your marriage?”

He was referring to the vows that respect each other’s pet peeves, and we all laughed as people shared their promises of keeping the cap on the toothpaste or using separate knives for the peanut butter and jelly.

At the time, I’d been married for only a couple of years, and I added that I’d promised not to meddle in my husband’s tools. But over the years, my uncle’s question echoed in my mind. As deployments came and went, I discovered that my unspoken vow was more complex, and in fact, I had more than one.


Deployment adds a unique dynamic to military marriages. As Army spouse and 2015 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year Corie Weathers writes in her memoir, Sacred Spaces, “Deployment, by its very nature, creates highly significant yet separate experiences for military couples.”

Deployment ushers us into a strange space, asking us to exist without each other and to accept that we can’t share each other’s experiences or even fully understand them.

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

I’ve often thought of it as living parallel lives.

Others have thought of it this way, too. Air Force wife Alane Pearce writes of parallel lives in her piece “Committed,” which appears in Faith Deployed… Again, and Weathers addresses “gaps” that separate couples in Sacred Spaces. Surely, more wrestle with this notion in their hearts.

However we might term it, the awareness of separateness is a reality in deployment, presenting us with a veritable mountain to climb. Although we’ll encounter tough passes of doubt and aloneness, I believe we have the ability to make it through these obstacles with sure footing. In my own experience, the first step is simple but powerful: I give voice to my unspoken vows.

1. I promise I will let you go.

We all know that prior to deployment, our service members become laser-focused on pre-deployment trainings, preparations and briefings. Like kids on Christmas morning, they sit amidst their gear, organizing, packing, unpacking, and repacking.

Meanwhile, we file powers of attorney, wills and crisis notification forms. We make arrangements with friends to be the ones we can call in case of an emergency.

Suddenly, we realize that we are preparing to be alone. That awareness is grim. It can induce fear, crank our grip tighter and make us ask why. It’s a force manipulative enough to make us feel left behind.

But, the power is within us to pause, take stock and refocus our lens.

As I reflected, read and spoke to other spouses, it struck me that by focusing on the aloneness ahead of us, we can set ourselves up for a long, lonely climb. Some spouses recalled that simple expressions of compassion have eased the road toward deployment.

Air Force wife Katie Spain, who has been married for four years and faced two deployments, reflects on the difficulty service members must feel being so far removed from their families: “While the military may be their first responsibility, it is not the first priority in their hearts,” she says, “and I can’t imagine the internal conflict being easy to remedy.”

Weathers echoes such compassion in her book, when she recalls preparing for a unique experience to accompany former Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and his staff to visit American personnel deployed to the Middle East.

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Sharla Lewis)

As she finds herself mirroring her husband’s pre-deployment motions, she realizes that she is also experiencing guilt in leaving her family.

Having been in her shoes, her husband empathizes with her position. Weathers describes this interesting role-reversal as an example of the value that spouses’ compassion can have in releasing service members to their mission.

“We play an awesome role to love them that way,” Weathers said in a recent interview. “We do have the ability to release the anxiety that they have not chosen deployment over their family.”

It seems to me that this compassion releases the military spouse, too, as it eases tension and draws us closer to our service members in a shared experience. It helps us understand that we are not alone in our feelings, it reaffirms our love with our service members and it allows us to approach deployment with clearer sight and firmer footing.

2. I promise I will be my best for you.

As military spouses, we know that once our service members leave, our role suddenly changes. We go from being part of a pair to being a “Class-B bachelorette” or a “pseudo-single parent.” Whether we dub it “flying solo” or “geo-baching,” no cute new title fills the emptiness left by our service members. The impact of their sudden absence can knock us off balance, making us struggle to find our grip without them.

All home front responsibilities immediately fall to us, and it seems that the same mystical force visits every household immediately following a service member’s departure, breaking every appliance and infecting every child with the stomach flu. Suddenly, we are swamped trying to work a two-person job, to nurture, discipline, organize, clean, counsel, and perform damage control. The sheer magnitude of this responsibility can be overwhelming.

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Leanna Litsch)

This is the time when the feeling of living parallel lives is perhaps the most acute. The sense of separateness is seemingly insurmountable. Personally, I find myself angry with it. Angry with the feeling of separateness. It’s a strange, unwanted feeling to have in a marriage.

But it doesn’t have to be so bleak. I believe we have the power to overcome the feeling of separateness, to find an intersection, even when that seems impossible.

Reflecting on her experience as a licensed counselor working with military couples, Weathers describes many military spouses as “resilient, positive and resourceful” when going through a deployment.

“They push through and make things happen, and grow in their independence,” she says. “And the service members can trust that. It makes for a trusting relationship. They can focus on their mission.”

Although deployment changes my role temporarily, I am still married to my husband. Whenever I am overwhelmed, I owe it to him to push forward, because the obstacle he is facing doesn’t let him stop to dwell on his aloneness.

A friend once told me that her priest described marriage not as 50-50, but as 100-100. Each spouse must give 100 percent. Never is there a time when this is truer than during deployment. By actively choosing to give 100 percent, I am enabling my husband to do the same.

3. I promise I will seek you out.

When our service members return, many of us might feel out of sync as we try to walk in the rhythm of each other’s footsteps again. While we might expect this after so much time apart, we don’t have to accept our separate rhythms as the new normal; it can be our chance to recommit.

In these times, Weathers says, “Pursue your spouse.”

Army spouse of 16 years and 2015 Fort Huachuca Spouse of the Year Cynthia Giesecke agrees, saying that when couples seek out an “intentional period of reconnection,” they are better able to move forward honestly and lovingly.

Just as showing compassion and pushing forward through struggles can draw us closer despite our separateness, purposeful engagement with each other during reintegration can soon align our footsteps.

Looking back, I don’t know why I never thought of deployment this way before. This mindset allows me to reach past the anxiety of separateness. It empowers me to pick up the parallel lines and lay them back down across each other. It enables me to stand at the intersection with my husband, give voice to my vows and know that we’re a team that no battle – ever – can separate.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How an Iraqi translator risked his life to reunite with American flag

How far would you go to reunite with a symbol you love?

For one Iraqi man, it took 13 years, 7,474 miles, help from a family member, a trip to an isolated field, and a rusty can to reclaim a treasured part of his life — an American flag.

Staff Sgt. Ahmed* shared how reuniting with the America flag changed the course of his life as he spoke to the Iron Soldiers of 1st Battalion “Bandits,” 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division Sept. 11, on East Fort Bliss.

More than 200 soldiers listened intently as Ahmed gave tribute to the Bandits he served and fought with during the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


Remembering the Bandit legacy

In 2003, Ahmed was serving as the official military translator for the Iron Soldiers of the 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT. His assignment was to translate for the unit’s command team during meetings with local dignitaries and special missions. After a few months, however, the Iraqi native began to work heavily with infantry troops and accompanied them on raids, night missions and surveillances through downtown Baghdad.

The now 37-year-old vividly described the core of his job as working with U.S. soldiers, becoming part of their team and sharing in their comradery.

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

Staff Sgt. Ahmed speaks to Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division during a ceremony held at the 1-37 AR motor pool Sept. 11, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Michael West)

“I wanted to help these U.S. soldiers,” he said. “I wanted to be a part of rebuilding the Iraqi police and the Iraqi Army. When I got the chance to become a linguist for the Bandits, I witnessed, learned and experienced many things.”

Ahmed recounted images filled with watching local streets in Iraq swarmed with Bradley Fighting Vehicles, tanks, convoys and barbed-wire fences. He said that even at a young age, he had a drive to bring change into his country. He added that although his own family was proud, and they respected his decision to help U.S. troops, he had to remain cautious, as the war-torn county remained in turmoil.

Loyality

Ahmed continued his work with the American soldiers, who believed in him enough to invite him into their inner circle of trust during his time with the 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT. They continued working together on missions and conducting local surveillances. During this time, he began to appreciate the strength and core values of the U.S. Army and its soldiers.

“I began to see the Army as a melting pot,” he said. “There was so much diversity and different nationalities, and yet they fought together, they served together and they mourned together. Although I was from a different culture, they trained me and respected my background and ethnicity. As my role as their translator increased, so did our brotherhood.”

Ahmed said the Bandits’ last ambush toward Fallujah was a memory that will always stay with him. It was an intense mission and not every soldier survived.

“You are never prepared to lose a comrade,” he said. “On that mission, I lost my best friend, Sgt. Scott Larson. It was hard to believe. These soldiers were the same age as me and we all bonded; we formed a team.”

When the Bandits’ deployment was extended and assigned to a different area of operation, the soldiers presented Ahmed with an American flag. Each of the soldiers signed the flag to solidify their loyalty and friendship. He recalled how proud and honored he felt to receive it.

“It meant so much to me to become a part of the team with these great soldiers,” he said. “I saw their discipline and integrity every day, and I was honored that they gave this U.S. flag to me.”

Courage

Ahmed continued his work with the American soldiers. In 2005, two years after his time with the Bandits, he decided to take the flag to his home in Baghdad; he wanted to hang it in his room. He protected the flag with two heavy-duty plastic bags and then hid it inside a gym bag. But, while traveling home, his bus driver received a call that there was an anti-American checkpoint ahead.

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division with Staff Sgt. Ahmed pose after a ceremony held at the 1-37 motor pool Sept. 11, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Michael West)

Ahmed knew he could lose his life if he was caught with an American flag. In a panic, he decided to descend the bus and walk off the freeway. He continued walking until he got to a residential neighborhood. He then quickly buried the bag using and old-rusty tin can as a shovel.

Why I serve

Ahmed moved to the United States in 2008. Inspired by his time with the Bandits and seeing their dedication for upholding the Army values, he took the oath of enlistment to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and become a U.S. soldier. He now lives in California and serves as a staff sergeant in the Active Guard Reserve.

In 2016 Ahmed’s parents made a special trip from Iraq to visit him and celebrate his accomplishments. But before his parents departed the country, Ahmed called his father with one special request – locate the buried flag and bring it with him to the United States.

“Even though more than a decade had passed since I buried the flag in Iraq, I knew exactly where it was buried, and I instructed my father to please bring it to the U.S.,” said Ahmed. “When my father told me he had located the flag, a part of me was alive again.”

The proud father and husband said his dream came true when he arrived at Fort Bliss Sept. 11 carrying the framed flag and sharing its legacy with a new era of Bandits.

“The flag finally made it home,” said Ahmed. “I think of these soldiers every day when I put on my Army uniform and display the flag on my shoulder. Today, I did not see faces and ranks, but as I looked around, I saw the Old Ironsides patch and friendships that will last a lifetime. Larson did not live to see his flag again, but these soldiers did.”

For Cpl. James Klingel, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT, seeing and hearing Ahmed was inspirational.

“I was shocked that the flag was buried for so long, had traveled so far, and still looks amazing,” he said. “It showed us that it doesn’t matter how much time passes by. We still have the same Army traditions and the same Army values that should always be upheld, and deeply respected.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch Navy SEAL Jocko Willink break down combat scenes

“If your reserve parachute doesn’t work, the procedure is…basically you’re gonna hand salute the world and you’re gonna hit the dirt…because you’re gonna die,” said former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink without much to indicate whether he’s cracking a joke or not.

The retired Lieutenant Commander and recipient of the Silver Star and Bronze Star saw multiple combat deployments, including the Battle of Ramadi in Iraq. After his military career, he created a popular podcast, Jocko Podcast; co-founded Echelon Front, a premier leadership consulting company; and co-authored books like the #1 New York Times bestseller Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win.

He’s nothing if not a commanding presence, which makes his commentary on combat scenes from movies all the more entertaining. Willink doesn’t hold back.


Navy SEAL Jocko Willink Breaks Down Combat Scenes From Movies | GQ

www.youtube.com

Willink starts by breaking down the HALO (High Altitude Low Open) jump from Navy SEALS. He goes pretty deep into the mechanics of a HALO jump and mission logistics that are worth watching in the video above, but here’s a highlight:

“In all branches of the military, you rely on each other to make sure you’re safe. The guy’s checking the other person’s pins on his rig to make sure they’re going to deploy the parachute properly…and then he’s messing with him, which is pretty normal, too. If you know someone’s scared of parachuting, then he’s gonna get messed with a little bit more. Never let anyone know you’re scared of something. Just keep it to yourself,” Willink shared — and again…if he’s amused, you’ll never know. The guy has a straight-up poker face.

He goes on to describe what happens when a parachute malfunctions.

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

“There’s a bunch of things that can go wrong with a parachute. I had one malfunction in my career,” Willink reflected. “What do you do when your parachute doesn’t open? You follow procedures. We train really hard to know what the procedures are.”

He shared his own story of cutting away his main chute and pulling his reserve — which is also demonstrated in the Navy SEALs clip in the video above.

Willink moved on to the amphibious operations of Act of Valor.

“Just because you’re on the SEAL Teams does not mean you’re a sniper. Sniper is a specialized school that guys go to. And there’s a bunch of different schools: you could be a communication expert, you could be a medic…” Willink illustrated.

Willink had a few problems.

“Let me pause it right here. It’s just kind of … not realistic at all. I guess they’re trying to make it look cool. It always surprises me a little bit because … it’s the best job in the world. You don’t really need to do anything to make it look cool. It is cool,” he affirmed.

From ghillie suits to breaching operations to catching a target before he hits the water, Willink has something to say — and it’s not always a critique. He has a lot of knowledge and experience, so it’s cool to hear him break down what’s going on in the scene and why the operators are doing what they do.


Check out the video above to see Willink’s thoughts on additional films like American Sniper, Zero Dark Thirty, Captain Phillips and Lone Survivor.
MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are the 2020 USPS holiday shipping deadlines

Whether you hit Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday or just a random Tuesday night after a cocktail because #quarantine, tis the season to be jolly … and to make sure you meet the 2020 military mail holiday shipping deadlines. Deadlines are quickly approaching to get those care packages put together and in the mail for your loved one to open in time for the holidays.

Here are the USPS holiday shipping dates for military mail:

2020 USPS holiday shipping deadlines for military mail

For a full list of USPS holiday shipping deadlines this season, visit USPS.com. And to see what items your service member actually wants in their care packages, click here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of August 16th

The Air Force was recently considering a new strategy to its PT tests. In a nutshell, it’s going to give any airmen who might fail a PT test a “mulligan” and list the test as a diagnostic instead of a record test. It may possibly be allowed for an airman to list a failed test as off-the-books, but that part isn’t set in stone.

The Air Force was surprisingly serious (to the other troops who use phrases like “Chair Force”) about failed PT tests and other branches also have a practice test system in place. But I can’t help but point out the bad optics on this one.

I mean, I get it. Any notion that the Air Force might someday consider being a fraction more lenient in comparison to the other branches or older vets will cause outrage. On the other hand, I know I would have killed for something like that back in my lower enlisted days…


Anyways, here are some memes while I ponder how much weight I’ve gained since getting out of the Army…

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

​(Meme via Private News Network)

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

(Meme via On The Minute Memes)

True story: I had an E-6 MP live in the apartment next to me off-base…

You know the type, the kind that called in a “noise violation” for my TV being “too loud.” Seeing him get an eviction notice was one of the happiest days of my life in the Army.

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

(Meme by Call for Fire)

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

(Meme via Not CID)

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages
Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

(Meme via Victor Alpha Clothing)

MIGHTY CULTURE

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

It’s particularly poignant when members of the military community share their own stories. Hollywood has a fascination with depicting battles, wars, and heroes, but there’s an intimacy and truth that comes from the minds of those who actually lived those experiences.

Who better to explore war than those that fought it? Than those that are haunted by it? Than those who lost someone on the battlefield?

In honor of Veteran’s Day, we are proud to amplify the stories of three members of our own community who are exploring the military experience from very different, and yet very universal, perspectives. From memoirs to war poems to coffee digital publications, these storytellers are contributing to the dialogue about what it means to serve.

You won’t want to miss their work:


Just got my copy of #TheKnockattheDoor. I’ve read #BrothersForever and am looking forward to reading this. @TMFoundation @rmanionpic.twitter.com/adIdbBkBs3

twitter.com

Ryan Manion

Ryan Manion has devoted her life to carrying on the legacy of her brother, 1st Lt. Travis Manion, who was killed in the line of duty while serving in the United States Marine Corps. On April 29, 2007, Travis was ambushed in the Al Anbar province of Iraq, along with his fellow Marines and their Iraqi Army counterparts. “Leading the counterattack against the enemy forces, Travis was fatally wounded by an enemy sniper while aiding and drawing fire away from his wounded teammates,” reads his bio on the website of the Travis Manion Foundation, which empowers veterans and families of the fallen to thrive.

Ryan, who has served as the President of the foundation since 2012, is a well-respected member of the military community. On Nov. 5, 2019, Ryan joined Heather Kelly and Amy Looney Heffernan to release Knock at the Door, a book that shares their experiences about joining the Gold Star family and the inspiring and unlikely journey “that began on the worst day of their lives.”

BABGAB It’s time to caffeinate the troops! For every bag of BRCC coffee you buy through November, we’ll donate a bag to the deployed troops overseas spreading freedom on a daily basis. #brcc #americascoffee #babgabpic.twitter.com/vBANDYQnmL

twitter.com

Logan Stark, U.S. Marine Corps

Logan Stark trained as an Infantry Assault Marine with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines before becoming a Scout/Sniper on multiple deployments, including one to Sangin, Afghanistan. After his military service, he earned a degree in Professional Writing from Michigan State University, where he directed For the 25, a film about his Afghanistan deployment.

As the film garnered attention, Stark went on to write for USA Today and the New York Times’ At War blog. Now, he’s the Producer of Content at Black Rifle Coffee Company, where he manages the creation and dissemination of caffeine and freedom social media content. BRCC recently launched Coffee or Die, their online magazine sharing military stories and humorous anecdotes from the vantage point of veterans.

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

2019 Gannon Award Winner “The Art Of Warrior Poetry”

Justin Thomas Eggen, U.S. Marine Corps

Justin Thomas Eggen’s military career within 2nd Route Clearance Platoon, Mobility Assault Company, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division includes operating as a heavy machine gunner during Operation Moshtarak and clearing the IED threat for Operation Black Sand and Operation Eastern Storm in Sangin, Afghanistan. Like most veterans, Eggen struggled with many invisible wounds when he returned home from combat.

He decided to face the emotions straight on and became a writer, using pen and ink to explore his deployments through poetry. Since the release of his first book, Outside The Wire: A U.S. Marine’s Collection of Combat Poems Short Stories Volume 1, Eggen has released several volumes of work and connected with other veterans on speaking engagements, book tours, and a spoken word book tour with two other veteran poets they dubbed “The Verses Curses Tour.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Boulder Crest Foundation announces $1 million matching donation challenge to support veterans

A long-standing Washington, D.C. donor has pledged to donate $1 million to the Boulder Crest Foundation in a matching challenge. The goal is to extend their ability to serve through vital services that target the needs of the military community. 

Ken Falke is the founder and Chairman of Boulder Crest Foundation. He’s also the co-author of the best-selling book, Struggle Well: Thriving in the Aftermath of Trauma. Falke served in the United States Navy for 21 years where he was an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician before retiring as a Master Chief Petty Officer. Early in the War on Terror, he began to see the increasing numbers of wounded EOD troops. He started a consulting company that worked to serve their needs. “After taking care of about 11 families, my wife and I started something known as the EOD Warrior Foundation,” he shared. Falke spent 16 years taking care of physically wounded EOD troops before leaving the foundation. 

Falke while serving in the Navy as an EOD Technician

Falke and his wife began hosting military families at their home for cookouts and nature trips. “One day my wife said, ‘Rather than having these families in our house, why don’t we build some cabins in the meadows?’ “We had 200 acres,” he explained. That idea his wife had is what started the whole initiative. In 2011, the Foundation was established with the mission of utilizing Post Traumatic Growth to target issues impacting the military community as a whole.

“It was the nation’s first privately funded wellness center for veterans and their family members. Our biggest donor was the Clark family of Clark Construction. They came to us three and half years ago and gave us a $10 million dollar gift and we bought a second facility in Arizona,” Falke shared. “We now have two beautiful centers and we do the exact same thing at both centers.”

Kathryn Buckland is a major in the United States Army, stationed at Fort Irwin, CA. She personally knows the power that the support and resources Boulder Crest Foundation can provide. “Boulder Crest and the PATHH program gave me the permission to openly admit that I was struggling and that it was okay,” she explained. “For years, I would tell myself that I was unworthy of seeking help because there were others in more dire situations or who had experienced more trauma than I have that needed those resources and opportunities more. As an athlete, student and now Army Officer, I have spent the majority of my life training, yet I was never trained on how to struggle well.”

Struggling well is a key concept that the Boulder Crest Foundation teaches within their programs for the military community. They don’t do this alone either. Falke shared that it is through partnerships with many nonprofits and organizations that they are able to truly make a difference. “You can go a lot further together than you can on your own,” he stated. 

Another thing the Foundation is working on is to remove the stigma associated with getting help, even if you haven’t seen combat. “I vividly remember when I did reach out for help, the individual peered over my shoulder to look at my uniform for either a combat action badge or combat medical badge, as if they could not understand why I was struggling if I had not been in engaged in combat over my deployment,” Buckland shared. “Not all veterans deploy and of those that do – not all have trauma directly related to their combat experiences, which is why it is critical to change the narrative about what our society perceives to be reasons for why our veterans are struggling.”  

Although veterans have struggled for years with invisible wounds, it has continually worsened over time as the wars raged on. When the Boulder Crest Foundation saw the numbers increasing for suicides among veterans as the world battled the COVID-19 pandemic, it was spurred into action to do more. One of the ways they will be able to tackle the needs of so many is through the generosity of others through the matching challenge. When this $1 million dollar gift is matched, it will allow the organization to serve over 300 more veterans. 

The organization has come a long way since its founding and has even opened their programs to the nation’s first responders and their families. The statement on their website says it all: We envision a world where all combat veterans, first responders, and their families have the training, skills and support they need to transform their struggle into lifelong Post-traumatic Growth.

To learn more about this organization and how you can support its efforts, click here

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

Marines love video games. It’s no secret that games like Battlefield had an influence on many of us as we decided to sign up in the first place. Slowly, you’ll come realize that life in the military is nothing like video games 99% of the time. But that still leaves that sweet, sweet 1% — which is experienced mostly during the Integrated Training Exercise.

When you’re at ITX, your battalion is put to the test to see if they can operate in combat environments. This is the thing that makes or breaks your unit. It’s what tells the Marine Corps that you’re ready to be sent on cool, important missions during deployment.

There’s a lot at stake when your unit arrives at Camp Wilson, make no mistake about that. It’s also some of the most fun you’ll have while training for a deployment. At times, the experience can feel like you’re in a video game. The types of things you do at ITX are the very reason you joined the infantry in the first place — to shoot guns and blow stuff up. This is Battlefield live.


Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

Even some of the company assault ranges were pretty cool.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samantha Schwoch)

You go on cool missions

Conducing helicopter-supported raids and clearing through a large town populated with both enemies and civilians sound like objectives out of latest Rainbow Six. Sure, not all of the exercises are this cool, but even video games have their dull levels.

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

There’s not much to do there, either.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Natalia Cuevas)

Camp Wilson is basically the game lobby

When playing a game online, between matches, you often get sent to a “lobby,” where you wait with other players and get prepared for the next mission. This is essentially the role of Camp Wilson: it’s a place you relax and get ready for the next event.

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

You were lucky if you mostly rode in helicopters.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samantha Schwoch)

You use vehicles to attack objectives

This isn’t the case for every mission but, for the most part, you’ll be taken to and from a staging area by vehicle to get as close as possible to your objective before you get out and attack. On the large assaults, you’ll be riding in Amphibious Assault Vehicles.

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

The explosions are better in person.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samantha Schwoch)

You finally get to witness air strikes

Twentynine Palms offers a cool training experience for units undergoing ITX evaluation — you get the ability to use and witness air strikes. That’s right: We’re talking planes flying overhead and dropping bombs that you get to watch explode. And you thought calling in an airstrike in Call of Duty felt good?

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

They’re like mortars but, bigger.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo illustration by Sgt. Justin A. Bopp)

You have artillery support

In some games, you can call for artillery support. This probably wasn’t the case during a lot of your pre-deployment training cycles. You definitely get mortars, but watching a 155mm Howitzer drop warheads in the distance is amazing. Just like air strikes, these are even better in person.

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

You’ll burn through more ammo than you thought you’d ever touch.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dallas Johnson)

You fire a lot of bullets

Video games give you a lot of ammunition and so will your unit at Twentynine Palms. You’re going to get everything you need for every mission you take on, and you might get more than you know what to do with. Hopefully your trigger finger is prepared for the cramp it’s going to experience.


MIGHTY CULTURE

How the elite PJs rescue troops in the mountains of Afghanistan

US Air Force Pararescue specialists, or PJs, are one of the most elite special operators in the world.

Consisting of about 500 airmen, PJs “rescue and recover downed aircrews from hostile or otherwise unreachable areas,” according to the Air Force.

These “highly trained experts perform rescues in every type of terrain and partake in every part of the mission, from search and rescue, to combat support to providing emergency medical treatment, in order to ensure that every mission is a successful one.”

“One of the challenges [in Afghanistan] is the altitude and terrain because we are surrounded by mountains,” Maj. Jason Egger, 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron commander at Bagram Airfield, said in a Defense Department news release on the training.

“We overcome that challenge by working with the Army pilots, which gives us the capability to get to the altitude we need and insert the teams,” Egger added.

Here’s how PJs rescue troops in the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan.


Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

US Air Force PJs on the ground during a training mission in Afghanistan on Nov. 5, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

A CH-47 Chinook helicopter takes off during a PJ training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

After getting a call, the PJs load into an Army CH-47 Chinook, which they often use for transports in rescue missions in Afghanistan.

“Most of the central and northern Afghanistan area is very high altitude, and that’s where the CH-47s can really provide some special capability because of their ability to get to that high altitude area and insert the team,” Eggers said.

Read more about Chinooks here.

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

A CH-47 Chinook helicopter flies over an MRAP during a PJ training mission on Nov. 5, 2018 in Afghanistan.

(US Air Force photo)

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

An Air Force PJ fast-ropes down to the ground during a training mission in Afghanistan on Nov. 5, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

At the site, PJs fast-rope down to the ground to get the troops in need.

PJs can also insert from higher altitudes, and therefore train in high altitude jumps from fixed-wing aircraft.

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

PJ operators perform rescues during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

A PJ operator helps an service member with a simulated injury during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

PJs provide first aid to wounded service members during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018. The wounds were simulated for the training’s realism.

(US Air Force photo)

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

PJs flying in Chinook helicopters during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

PJs carrying a service member with a simulated wound during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

PJs conduct combat arms training Nov. 1, 2018 at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

(US Air Force photo)

But PJs also undergo intense combat arms training as well, which is needed in certain rescue scenarios.

“The PJs and the combat rescue officers have a pretty broad skill set, and it’s pretty difficult to stay sharp on all those skills,” Eggers said. “So continuing to keep them engaged through training, it keeps those skills sharp throughout the entire deployment.”

Watch the full interview with Eggers here, and the PJ training videos here, here and here.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 steps to take if you find a boot Marine on your Army base

There you are, happily performing a police call through the training areas and thinking about how great it will be to get off at 1600 when you all are done, just like first sergeant promised. Then, you see something that dooms your whole night.

A single Marine sits in a pile of crayon wrappers and empty Rip It cans. Looks like a lack of Marine oversight just became your problem. Here’s what you do next:


Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

The hat will look like these ones.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Justin Rodriguez)

First, look for a Marine sergeant

Hopefully, the Devil Dog has a devil master (or whatever they call themselves) nearby who can police him up and bundle him out of there. Marine sergeants can be quickly identified by the loud string of profanities, like an Army sergeant but with a strangely rigid hat on. They will likely punctuate their profanities with, “OORAH!

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

Too much running around in the woods, too much beer, not enough showering.

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Antonio Rubio)

Don’t touch it

If you can’t find a Marine sergeant, then, for the love of god, don’t touch the boot. It’s not that the sergeants won’t accept it after it gets some Army on it, it’s that you don’t want to get any Marine on you. Sure, Marines are famous for some of their grooming standards, like haircuts, but there are only so many pull-ups you can do with beer sweating out of your pores before becoming a walking Petri dish.

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

You can let it pick its own, but remind it that Army MREs have no crayons whatsoever.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Scott L. Eberle)

Feed it (MREs, not DFAC)

The easiest thing to do with a lost Marine is get it some food while you’re waiting for some embarrassed platoon leader to show up. Don’t give it DFAC food or it’ll spend all day complaining about how bad the food is in their chow halls and kennels. Give it MREs — the older the better. If you have ones with Charms, give them those, but expect them to throw the Charms away and then tell you how cursed they are.

No, it doesn’t matter that the boot is too young to have possibly been deployed, let alone deployed with Charms. They have all seen Generation Kill, just like all soldiers have seen Black Hawk Down and all sailors have seen Down Periscope.

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

Don’t worry. They won’t drown. They’re super good with water.

(U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Scott Thompson)

Throw it into a pool or small lake — NOT AN OCEAN!

If the Marine has been with you for more than an hour or two, then it probably needs a swim or its pelt will dry out. The trick here is to find a small body of water, nothing larger than a large lake.

If you throw it into an ocean or sea, it will likely try to swim out and find the “fleet.” No one is entirely sure, but the fleet is likely the original Marine spawning grounds. More research is required. But Marines who attempt to swim to the fleet will nearly always drown.

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

Yeah, these’ll make some booms. The machine gun .50-cals are good as well.

(U.S. Army Spc. Andrew McNeil)

Give it something loud to play with

You can ask the Marine what type it is; artillery, infantry, water purification specialist, etc. Regardless of their answer, know that all Marines like loud noises. If there are any rifle, machine gun, or howitzer ranges going on, that’s ideal. Just dig the Marine a small hole just behind the firing line and let it lounge there. Hearing protection is recommended but not required.

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

They like being in the cages. It reminds them of home.

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Charles Santamaria)

If it has to stay overnight, build a turducken of cages

If night’s about to fall and there’s still no one there to claim the Marine, you’re gonna have to house it overnight. If your base has a veterinarian unit or working dog kennels, that’s fine. If not, you might have to house it in the barracks. If you do so, you need to have two locks between the Marine and any alcohol. Get a supply cage or dog kennel (large) if need be.

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

The other Devil Dogs will be happy to see it.

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Jessica Quezada)

If all else fails, ship it back to the nearest Marine base

It’ll probably whine about whether or not it’s a Hollywood Marine or whatever, but address it to whicever Marine installation is closest. Just pack it up with some dip and cigarettes and its mouth will be too busy to complain for a few hours. Don’t worry, you can’t put too much in there. Their tolerance is too high for a lethal dose.

And they’ll be happier back on the Marine farms. They like to be with their own kind.

MIGHTY CULTURE

DARPA wants AI to dogfight, but not for reasons you think

The futurists over at DARPA are pursuing a vision that most of us knew was coming: creating artificial intelligence that can outperform human pilots in dogfights, can survive more Gs in flight without expensive life support, and can be mass produced. But it turns out, DARPA doesn’t think dogfights are the real reason the technology is needed.


DARPA is working “mosaic warfare,” a vision of warfighting that sees complex systems working together to overcome an adversary. Basically, a military force would be deployed across a wide front, but the sensors and command and control would be split across multiple platforms, many of them controlled by artificial intelligence.

So, even if the enemy manages to take out multiple armored vehicles, planes, or other platforms, the good guys would still have plenty of sensors and computing power.

And those remaining platforms would be lethal. The humans making the decisions would be in tanks or other vehicles, and they would have their own weapons as well as control of the dozens of weapons on the AI-controlled vehicles. Think multiple armored vehicles, a couple of artillery platforms, and maybe some drones in the sky.

In this vision of the future, it’s easy to see why dogfighting drones would be valuable. Human pilots could stay relatively safe to the rear while commanding the weapons of those robot dogfighters at the front. But the real reason DARPA wants the robots to be good at dogfighting is just so human pilots will accept them.

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

A DARPA graphic illustrates how manned and unmanned systems could work together in fighter engagements.

(DARPA)

From a DARPA release titled Training AI to Win a Dogfight:

Turning aerial dogfighting over to AI is less about dogfighting, which should be rare in the future, and more about giving pilots the confidence that AI and automation can handle a high-end fight. As soon as new human fighter pilots learn to take-off, navigate, and land, they are taught aerial combat maneuvers. Contrary to popular belief, new fighter pilots learn to dogfight because it represents a crucible where pilot performance and trust can be refined. To accelerate the transformation of pilots from aircraft operators to mission battle commanders — who can entrust dynamic air combat tasks to unmanned, semi-autonomous airborne assets from the cockpit — the AI must first prove it can handle the basics.

Basically, DARPA doesn’t want robot dogfighters so they can win dogfights. After all, dogfighting is relatively rare now, and it doesn’t matter much if we lose one or two robots in dogfights because they’re cheap to replace anyway. But DARPA knows that pilots trust good dogfighters, so an AI that would be accepted by them must be good at dogfighting.

Once they’re in frontline units, the robots are more likely to act as missile carriers and sensor platforms than true dogfighters. Their mission will be to hunt down threats on the ground and in the sky and, at a command from the human, destroy them. It’s likely that the destruction will be conducted from beyond visual range and with little threat to the robot or the human pilot that it’s protecting.

This may sound like far future stuff, but it’s likely DARPA will find solid proposals fast. They’re soliciting proposals through May 17, but University of Cincinnati students created an AI named ALPHA in 2016 that repeatedly defeated a retired Air Force colonel in simulated dogfights. If that AI and similar tech can be properly adapted to work in current or future fighter aircraft, then we’ll be off to the races.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What happens when door breaching goes explosively wrong

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.

Five… four… three… two… one — BANG!

Bang?

We slung mutual glances from our lineup outside the door we were trying to explosively breach. Door charges weren’t supposed to go bang; they were supposed to go “BOOM!


“GO, GO, GO!” came the call as we rushed to the still-closed breach point. Moses Bentley was the man who built and fired the charge. He crashed through the still-closed door like Thing from the Fantastic Four. We piled in behind him and quickly cleared and dominated the interior of our target building.

A post-assault inspection of the door charge revealed that the explosive had gone “low-order;” that is, only a small portion of the charge and detonated, leaving the remainder still stuck to the door. “Don’t touch it…” Moses cautioned to us, “…it’s likely still sensitized from the initiator. Let’s leave it alone for about 30 minutes before I recover it.”

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

Moses (running) and the author training in Hereford, England, with the British 22 Special Air Service Regiment (22 SAS).

The setting was a condemned and abandoned residential neighborhood in New Orleans, “The Big Easy,” Louisiana. Our operations bros had found this hood and prepped it for a couple of days of absolutely realistic assault training with live breaches. We cut doors, blew through walls, blasted through chainlink fences… even through a shingle roof, which was more just something fun to do rather than a legit thing of tactical value, as breaching a shingle gable roof puts you in… an attic — doh!

Back at our breaching table, Moses (Mos) took the flexible sheet explosive he had collected from the door and packed it into a lumped pile. He added a little “P” for “plenty” and voila, the “Bentley Blaster,” as he entitled it, was born: “I’ll slap this Bentley Blaster between the doorknob and the deadbolt and punch all that sh*t through the jamb; right in, right out, nobody gets hurt!” Mos bragged.

“Right in, right out, nobody gets hurt,” was the meta-assault plan composed largely of anti-matter and existed in a parallel universe. The plan applied to all actions on every assault objective after the real-world assault plan was formulated. We recited it to together just before we went in on every objective.

It was a B-Team thing. Our A-Team began their assaults with the Team Leader turning to his men announcing in an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice, “I am the cleanah!” to which his men replied in kind and in unison, “And we are the cleaning crew!” Just a thing.

The Ryder rental truck with our assault teams crept through an alleyway, coming to a halt behind a cluster of houses. Inside, B-Team waited as the cleaner and the cleaning crew lowered themselves to the ground and padded their way to their target house. Team Leader Daddy-Mac turned to us and began: “Ok, what’s the plan?” to which we chanted, “Right in, right out, nobody gets hurt,” and we moved to our objective.

The team stacked just behind the corner from the front door. Mos and I emerged and moved to the breach point. Mos worked on the door where I covered him with my assault rifle in case anyone opened the door.

Mos fired the five second delay fuse to the initiator, turned 90 degrees to his left, and moved off quickly with me following. It struck me odd that he had turned his back to the charge. The SOP we followed dictated that we always backed away from our breach points.

Mos pushed into the stack with me next to him and, still with my AR trained on the corner we had turned. Our Troop Commander stood 20 feet away in an administrative observation posture. He had seen, at the very last second, something none of us realized, something which horrified him.

When Mos did his 90-degree turn, his pistol holster had caught and stripped the powerful Bentley Blaster door charge off of the door and it hung there on his person where he crouched in the stack.

To be continued in part II…

Just kidding! In a very split second, the Commander knew that if he had called out a warning to Mos, that Mos would most assuredly have tried to strip it off… and he surely would have lost his hand. Mos would certainly fare better to endure it where it was — whatever “fare better” meant in this case, anyway.

BOOM” not “bang” went the charge this time. I found myself suddenly facing the opposite direction, spitting something warm and salty out of my mouth. Turning about, I saw that Mos had been violently cartwheeled with his head angered into the ground. His body was in the most impossible position; his legs were in the air against the wall… you couldn’t have manually placed him in that configurations no matter how hard you tried, and he was out cold.

Daddy-Mac was the first to respond calling Mos’ name, pulling him down from his morbid stance. I turned to our officer and hollered from him to pull the med kit from the pouch on my back. He pulled it then stood there, frozen, with the med kit in his hands and a horrified look on his face. Disgusted, I grabbed the med kit from him and turned to the scene.

Markey-Marcos was the newest man out our team. He looked at me with a nervous grin and shook his head, over and over, exclaiming: “Whew… whew… whew!” I was annoyed again and slapped him on the back, “Snap out of it bro; that’s the way it’s going to get in this business — get used to it!” I chided in some pretentious, hardened-vet sort of way.

Markey-Marcos turned his back to pick up his AR, which had been blown out of his hands by the Bentley Blaster. He was the rear man in the stack, so he had his back to Mos to provide security to our rear. I saw immediately that both legs of his assault trousers were completely shredded and Marcos was bleeding from dozens of tiny puncture wounds.

Shocked, I immediately put my arm around his shoulders and, with a much more humane tone, I told him, “Here, take it easy Marcos… let’s have a seat; it will be alright.” Our troop medic was already on the scene, cutting clothing and bandaging trauma and burns to Mos, mostly to his legs.

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

Doc (left) and an Operations Cell NCO work on Moses right were he “blew up”; the wall behind them is blackened by the explosion.

Mos and Daddy-Mac argued:

Daddy-Mac: “Damn bro, you were out cold!

Mos: “No I wasn’t; I was awake the whole time.

Homes, I’m telling you I saw you and you were completely knocked out!

Bullsh*t, I was never knocked out; I was conscious for the whole thing.”

Daddy-Mac turned to our medic, disgusted but relieved, “Doc, he appears to be fine; back to his usual contrary pissy self.

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

Marky-Marcos was patched up and returned to us with no training time lost. Mos was hurt pretty bad but refused to be sent back home to Fort Bragg. He insisted on staying in our hotel promising he would be back the next day. That didn’t happen. Mos didn’t walk for several days. When he finally could, he only came to hang out for training with no participation.

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

Moses debriefs with senior representatives from the Master Breecher’s office before being driven back to the hotel to take it easy. To the right is the door where the Bentley Blaster charge had been stripped off and attached to Mos’ pistol holster.

Back at Bragg, Mos continued to heal, a process that took several weeks. He routinely reported to the clinic to have yards of Curlex bandage pulled from cavities in his legs and have fresh Curlex packed back in, and extraordinarily painful process, one that the rest of us wouldn’t have missed for the world.

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

Back at Ft. Bragg Moses Bentley stand behind his assault uniform as it was pulled off of him on the scene. Speculation revealed that his pistol and holster likely spared him from losing his left leg.

I’m put squarely in mind of the words of one of our training cadre from a trauma management class during our training phase:

“Pay attention to this, guys… if you stay in Delta for any period of time, you will be putting this training to good use.”
Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

Healing back at Ft. Bragg.

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

Scars from the blast as they remained.

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