5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving

So you’re spending Thanksgiving downrange (again) and it’s looking like instead of being home, surrounded by family, friends, liquor and an impressive spread, you’ll be “camping” and dinner will be an MRE. Kind of samesies, right?

We know you’d rather be watching football with your dad and making fun of your creepy uncle in real time, but if you can’t be home, bring home to you with our MRE Thanksgiving cooking hacks. That’s right: We’re taking boring to the next level of slightly less boring by combining some of your ingredients to give you 5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving. It kind of feels like cooking, right?


5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving

Pad Thai

We know you are well aware that everything is better with sriracha. Douse your chicken, noodles and vegetables dish with as much of that godsend that you can handle and then stir in the surprise ingredient: warmed peanut butter. Sprinkle with some peanuts and it’s almost like you’re sitting in Thailand or at least somewhere in Chicago. (We said almost.)

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving

Orange chicken

We know the burrito bowl doesn’t really even do the name justice. Take your orange powdered drink, mix it with the hot sauce and stir that concoction into your chicken and rice. We’ll wait while your tastebuds rejoice at something different.

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving

Crunchy wrap

It’s not quite Taco Bell and you might already be south of the border, but if you heat up your cheddar cheese spread and put it on a tortilla, top with crumbled cheddar crackers and then roll it all up into a little taquito situation, we promise you won’t be mad. Let’s be honest: you’d be eating that same thing at your bachelor pad back in the States if your leave wasn’t approved to go home anyhow.

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving

No, we don’t really know what this would look like, so here’s the traditional all-American classic instead.

Chocolate apple pie

We are using the term “pie” pretty loosely here, but if you take mocha cappuccino drink mix and add just a tiny bit of water and stir, it makes the consistency of frosting. Spread that bad boy on your spiced apple cake and you can practically feel the fall air around you. If by fall we mean July 132nd. Still delicious! And isn’t it fun to pretend you’re in a place with seasons?

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving

Yeah, we know. You’re probably hungry now. Sorry.

Key lime goodness

Mix the lime beverage powder with vanilla pudding and spread it on top of crackers. Just like mom used to make. Sort of. Fine, not really, but it is good. And maybe next year instead of pumpkin pie, you can make her this key lime MRE treat.

We know it’s hard to be away from family, especially on a day that’s dedicated to being thankful for them. Whether you’re experimenting with drink powder as frosting or making taquitos, we hope your meal is shared with great friends. Happy Thanksgiving.

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 Americans released from North Korea are finally home

President Donald Trump welcomed the arrival of the three Korean-Americans held captive in North Korea at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on the early morning of May 10, 2018, following weeks of speculation about their release.

Authorities released the three detainees — Kim Dong-chul, Kim Sang-duk, and Kim Hak-song — after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in North Korea and met with leader Kim Jong Un on May 8, 2018.


Walking out of their plane without assistance and onto the tarmac, the detainees appeared in good spirit and waved at a cheering crowd. On the ground, two firetrucks hoisted an enormous American flag, giving the impression of a major political victory for the US and Trump.

“We would like to express our deep appreciation to the United States government, President Trump, Secretary Pompeo, and the people of the United States for bringing us home,” the three said in a statement released by the State Department.

“We thank God, and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return. God Bless America, the greatest nation in the world,” the statement continued.

Trump called the former detainees “incredible people” and said their release “was a very important thing to all of us.”

“This is a special night for these three, really great people,” Trump said as he shook their hand. “And congratulations on being in this country.”

“It was nice letting them go before the meeting,” Trump continued. “Frankly, we didn’t think this was going to happen, and it did.”

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving
Then-CIA director Mike Pompeo and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Korean Central News Agency, North Korea’s state-run media outlet, said that Kim “accepted an official suggestion of the US president for the release” and granted “amnesty” to them.

The alleged crimes that landed them in custody in North Korea ranged from committing “hostile acts” to subvert the country and overthrow the government. Criminal charges in the North are typically exaggerated and disproportionate to the alleged offenses.

The three men were previously held in labor camps, with Kim Dong-chul being held captive the longest after his arrest in 2015.

“You should make care that they do not make the same mistakes again,” a North Korean official said to Pompeo. “This was a hard decision.”

Their return to US was a long time coming. Discussions between South and North Korean officials during the 2018 Winter Olympics earlier this year culminated in a historic summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un in April 2018 — the first such meeting between leaders of the North and South in more than a decade.

The mens’ release and Pompeo’s trip to North Korea, his second since April 2018, are seen as the latest signs of warming relations on the Korean Peninsula, and a prelude to the upcoming US-North Korea summit. After months of missile launches from the North and chest-beating from the US in 2017, Trump and Kim began to soften their rhetoric after the Winter Olympics.

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un andu00a0South Korean President Moon Jae-in

“I appreciate Kim Jong Un doing this and allowing them to go,” Trump said to reporters after the release of the three captives.

Trump announced that the date and location of the US-North Korea summit had been set; however, did not reveal specifics other than that he ruled out the Demilitarized Zone as one of the options.

Still, the US president remains cautious: “Everything can be scuttled,” Trump said of his scheduled meeting with Kim.

“A lot of good things can happen, a lot of bad things can happen. I believe that we have — both sides want to negotiate a deal. I think it’s going to be a very successful deal.”

The release of the detainees may be a reason to celebrate, but it comes too late for some — in 2017, Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old American student, died shortly after his release from a North Korean prison.

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving
Otto Warmbier appears before a North Korean trial.

After serving a year of his 15-year prison sentence for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster, Warmbier returned to the US in a comatose state. Unable to see and react to verbal commands, Warmbier succumbed to his condition and died.

Warmbier’s parents have since railed against the regime, despite it’s recent overtures of peace. Recently, the Warmbiers filed a wrongful death lawsuit against North Korea and alleged it tortured and killed Otto.

“I can’t let Otto die in vain,” Cindy Warmbier, Otto’s mother, said on May 8, 2018. “We’re not special, but we’re Americans and we know what freedom’s like, and we have to stand up for this.”

Upon the arrival of the former prisoners, Trump offered his condolences to the Warmbier family: “I want to pay my warmest respects to the parents of Otto Warmbier, who is a great young man who really suffered.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force dental techs get rare chance to treat adorable canines

Members of the 386th Expeditionary Wing dental team were given a unique opportunity to join forces with the Army veterinary clinic to provide support to the K-9 unit at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Dec. 8, 2018.

In most instances in a deployed environment the medical group supports the vet by providing medications and food related support, but on this day it was to perform a teeth cleaning on Military Working Dog Vviking.

“I am very grateful to do this out here,” said Staff Sgt. Torri Olivieri, 386th Expeditionary Medical Group dental services noncommissioned officer in charge. “Working with a military working dog and supporting the mission in this aspect is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”


In a deployed location, the veterinary clinic leans heavily on the medical group in emergencies to support the K-9 unit if the veterinary clinic is unavailable.

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving

Army Capt. Carolyn Scholl, 719th Medical Detachment Veterinary Services veterinary core officer, prepares to insert a breathing tube in military working dog Vviking’s throat during a routine teeth cleaning at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Dec. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy L. Mosier)

“I called the dental tech and dentist down here today so they could get hands-on experience with the MWD, because if there is an emergent situation they would be the ones taking care of the dog,” said Army Spc. Caitlin Hinds, 719th Medical Detachment Veterinary Services vet technician.

While the veterinary clinic is a role three facility, which means they are able to support a majority of surgeries, they aren’t specifically trained to perform routine cleanings.

The vet clinic takes the opportunity to invite both medical clinic staff and dog handlers to many routine visits, such as blood draws and check-ups, to ensure they have the knowledge and are comfortable to do these things if they are unavailable, Hinds explained.

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving

Air Force military working dog Vviking receives a belly rub from his handler before his teeth cleaning at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Dec. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy L. Mosier)

Staff Sgt. Angelina Borges, 386th Expeditionary Medical Group military working dog handler, discussed an incident in 2018 when her partner, MWD Vviking, was having issues lying down and sitting and the vet was there to help her every step of the way to help improve his health.

“I am really thankful for the vet clinic here and how they have explained everything to me,” Borges said.

The trust and willingness to accommodate one another has really bolstered the partnership between the Army and Air Force and Hinds looks to keep improving that relationship.

“I can go to the kennel master and medical group and say, ‘I need this,’ and they are more than willing to help,” Hinds explained. “It makes me feel good, because I am building the bonds back.”

The cohesiveness between units at ‘The Rock’ stems from these bonds and has developed with trust and partnership with one goal in mind — to complete the mission.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the truth behind the creepy Philadelphia Experiment

The Philadelphia Experiment is one of the most grotesque military urban legends ever — and it has endured as an infamous World War II conspiracy theory. But is there any truth to it? Let’s take a look.

According to legend, on Oct. 28, 1943, the USS Eldridge, a Cannon-class destroyer escort, was conducting top-secret experiments designed to win command of the oceans against the Axis powers. The rumor was that the government was creating technology that would render naval ships invisible to enemy radar, and there in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, it was time to test it out.


Witnesses claim an eerie green-blue glow surrounded the hull of the ship as her generators spun up and then, suddenly, the Eldridge disappeared. The ship was then seen in Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia before disappearing again and reappearing back in Philadelphia.

The legend states that classified military documents reported that the Eldridge crew were affected by the events in disturbing ways. Some went insane. Others developed mysterious illness. But others still were said to have been fused together with the ship; still alive, but with limbs sealed to the metal.

That’ll give you nightmares. That’s some Event Horizon sh*t right there.

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving

I’ll never sleep again.

(Event Horizon | Paramount Pictures)

Which is actually a convincing reason why the Eldridge’s story gained so much momentum.

In a 1994 article for the Journal of Scientific Exploration, Jacques F. Vallee theorized that deep-seated imagery is key to planting a hoax into the minds of the masses and of the educated public.

But before we break down what really happened that day, let’s talk about the man behind the myth: Carl M. Allen, who would go by the pseudonym, Carlos Miguel Allende. In 1956, Allende sent a series of letters to Morris K. Jessup, author of the book, The Case for the UFO, in which he argued that unidentified flying objects merit further study.

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving

Jessup apparently included text about unified field theory because this is what Allende latched onto for his correspondences. In the 1950s, unified field theory, which has never been proven, attempted to merge Einstein’s general theory of relativity with electromagnetism. In fact, Allende claimed to have been taught by Einstein himself and could prove the unified field theory based on events he witnessed on October 28, 1943.

Allende claimed that he saw the Eldridge disappear from the Philadelphia Naval Yard, and he further insisted that the United States Military had conducted what he called the Philadelphia Experiment — and was trying to cover it up.

Jessup was then contacted by the Navy’s Office of Naval Research, who had received a package containing Jessup’s book with annotations claiming that extraterrestrial technology allowed the U.S. government to make breakthroughs in unified field theory.

This is one of the weirdest details. The annotations were designed to look like they were written by three different authors – one maybe extraterrestrial? According to Valle’s article for the Journal of Scientific Exploration, Jessup became obsessed with Allende’s revelations, and the disturbed researcher would take his own life in 1959. It wasn’t until 1980 that proof of Allende’s forgery would be made available.

Inexplicably, two ONR officers had 127 copies of the annotated text printed and privately distributed by the military contractor Varo Manufacturing, giving wings to Allende’s story long after Jessup’s death.

So, what really happened aboard the USS Eldridge that day?

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving

Somewhere in Delaware there are secret military canals that have all the answers…

According to Edward Dudgeon, who served in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Engstrom, which was dry-docked in the Philadelphia Naval Yard while the Eldridge was, both ships did have classified devices on board. They were neither invisibility cloaks nor teleportation drives designed by aliens, but instead, they scrambled the magnetic signatures of ships using the degaussing technique, which provided protection from magnetic torpedoes aboard U-boats.

How Stuff Works suggested that the “green glow” reported by witnesses that day could be explained by an electric storm or St. Elmo’s Fire which, in addition to being an American coming-of-age film starring the Brat Pack, is a weather phenomenon in which plasma is created in a strong electric field, giving off a bright glow, almost like fire.

Finally, inland canals connected Norfolk to Philadelphia, allowing a ship to travel between the two in a few hours.

The USS Eldridge would be transferred to Greece in 1951 and sold for scrap in the 90s, but Allende’s hoax would live on in our effing nightmares forever.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force claims latest sky penis was the result of a dogfight

US Air Force F-35s accidentally left behind phallic contrails in the sky after air-to-air combat training this week.

Two of the fifth-generation stealth fighters went head-to-head with four additional F-35s during a simulated dogfight, Luke Air Force Base told Business Insider.

In the wake of the mock air battle, the contrails looked decidedly like a penis. Media observers out in Arizona said it “vaguely resembles the male anatomy.”

But unlike a rash of prior sky penis sightings, the base has concluded that this was not an intentional act. “We’ve seen the photos that have been circulating online from Tuesday afternoon,” Maj. Rebecca Heyse, chief of public affairs for the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke, told Air Force Times in an emailed statement.


“56th Fighter Wing senior leadership reviewed the training tapes from the flight and confirmed that F-35s conducting standard fighter training maneuvers Tuesday afternoon in the Gladden and Bagdad military operating airspace resulted in the creation of the contrails.”

“There was no nefarious or inappropriate behavior during the training flight,” the base explained.

There have been numerous sky penis incidents in recent years, with the most famous involving a pair of Navy pilots created a phallic drawing in the air with an EA-18G Growler. The 2017 display was the work of two junior officers with Electronic Attack Squadron 130, according to Navy Times’ moment-by-moment account of the sky drawing.

Last year, an Air Force pilot with the 52nd Fighter Wing was suspected of getting creative with his aircraft, as some observers believed the contrails left behind were intentionally phallic. The flight patterns, according to Air Force Times, were standard though.

The latest incident is the first time a fighter as advanced as the F-35 has left behind this type of sky art.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

In a world of vet-owned coffee, Rakkasan Tea has a mission of its own

Brandon Friedman wants you to know that just because coffee has the reputation of being the military’s beverage of choice, tea isn’t reserved for Brits in silly hats enjoying crumpets. For Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, their wars have centered mostly around having tea. After all, foreign fighters and tribal leaders hold court over tea, not coffee. Friedman thought it was strange that tea isn’t more associated with the military experience. He founded Rakkasan Tea Company with that in mind.

Friedman was commissioned as an Army infantry officer in 2000 and was assigned to the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division — known as the “Rakkasans,” the old Japanese word for “parachute.” By March, 2002, he and his unit were in an air assault into Afghanistan’s Shah-e-Kot Valley as part of Operation Anaconda. In 2003, he was part of the initial invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and eventually became part of the force that held Tal Afar and Mosul.


By 2004, he was out of the Army and taking his career in a different direction. His now-business partner in Rakkasan Tea was then-Pfc. Terrence “TK” Kamauf, whom Friedman met in his unit. Kamauf was a machine gunner then, but stayed in long after Friedman left. Kamauf went on to become a Green Beret and was in another six or seven years. Now, the two import tea together.

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving

Friedman’s partner in Rakkasan Tea, Terrence “TK” Kamauf (left), in Iraq.

(Courtesy of Brandon Friedman)

But Friedman’s love for the leaf began in Iraq. As many veterans can attest, all business was conducted over tea. It was an introduction to what Friedman calls the “social experience of tea.”

“It’s hard to find that in the U.S. because this is such a coffee country and coffee is really a solitary drink,” He says. “Tea brings people together and we think the U.S. is ready for that. I know we won’t convert everyone, but the veteran community should certainly give tea a serious look.”

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving

Friedman with his platoon of Rakkasans in Iraq.

But where Rakkasan Tea Company gets its tea is central to its ongoing mission. The company imports solely from post-conflict countries as a way to promote peace and economic development.

“As a veteran-owned and veteran-staffed company, we understand what conflict does to communities,” Friedman says. “And we want to get as many veterans into this business as we can. So, we often describe our mission as being one that helps communities recover from war at home AND abroad.”

Rakkasan Tea comes from places like Nepal, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Laos. With the exception of Sri Lanka, these are difficult to find on American shelves. The tea imported from Laos is significant because it comes from one of the areas most devastated by American bombing during the Vietnam War — more ordnance was dropped on Laos than in the entirety of Europe during World War II.

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving

One of Rakkasan Tea Company’s Vietnamese tea pickers.

(Courtesy of Brandon Friedman)

The latest effort in Laos centers on small farms in the mountainous Xiengkhouang Province and on the Bolaven Plateau in southern Champasak Province. The teas come from some of the oldest trees in the world and you won’t find this quality at Starbucks or Whole Foods.

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving

To Friedman, tea is like wine: its character, flavor, and aroma are all greatly influenced by its environment. That might be why he sells tea both by the type of tea and its place of origin.

“Rainfall, altitude, soil content, processing techniques, and more all factor into the taste and quality,” Friedman says. “So when we say we have premium tea grown in Rwanda’s volcanic soil or tea grown on northern Vietnam’s 400-year-old tea trees, that’s of interest to tea enthusiasts. Because it’s really good.”

He wants you to know how good it is and he wants you to be a repeat customer. He obsesses over the returns from his customers. Their feedback really does have an influence on the direction of the company.

“First, I hope we’re living up to the Rakkasan ideal of honor, justice, and commitment,” he says. “But meeting people who enjoy our product is best part of doing this.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

UAP recently sat down with Gunnery Sergeant Joshua Negron, an active Marine Raider and veteran of the Marine Reconnaissance community.

Negron enlisted in the Marine Corps on December 4, 2000, and his personal decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device, Joint Service Commendation Medal, U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and three Combat Action Ribbons.

Here is the exclusive interview.

What led you to join the Marine Corps and then later Recon and MARSOC?

Well, I have family members that have prior military service, but it all started with my grandfather who served and fought in WWII. Like most during that time he answered the call and joined the US Army who then deployed him to Africa. After the German forces were defeated, the Allied forces advanced, and my grandfather moved with his unit into Italy to continue fighting until their surrender in 1943. Not long afterwards, my grandfather met my grandmother in Italy. That’s how my whole story even became possible.

However, the biggest contributing factor to why I wanted to join the military is largely because of my father who joined the Marine Corps in ’57, fought in the Dominican Republic in ’65, and got out in ’68.   Shortly after, I believe, he served in the Army National Guard from ’70-’90. During that same timeframe he was a full-time police officer in California. My father was always extremely patriotic and loved serving his country. I admired my father so much growing up that I knew my calling in life would eventually guide me down a similar path.  All his police buddies had military backgrounds, predominantly from the Vietnam timeframe which resonated with me.  All this ultimately directed my path to a very early preparation to join the Marine Corps Infantry, with the ambition of pursuing a more specialized background.

But early on, I didn’t know if I was good enough to go Recon or Force Recon and MARSOC didn’t exist at the time. When you aspire for something like that, you know, sometimes the people who are in those fields almost look superhuman-like, and sometimes you wonder, “do I really have what it takes, go that route?”

My first unit I joined in the Marine Corps was LAR – a light armored mechanized infantry unit.  I learned some valuable things there and met some great Marines, but I also ran into some terrible Marines too. In my first platoon I had really bad leadership, which later on taught me a valuable lesson: Exactly how not to be like as a leader!

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving
Negron during a deployment.

And then right before I left LAR, I had excellent leadership. 1st Sergeant Loya who retired as a SgtMaj, was a big contributing factor to the reason why I got my opportunity to go over to Recon. He was a prior Force Recon Marine. The guy was built like a spark plug, and for somebody that was probably in his early 40’s, he could still practically outperform the large majority of the battalion in PT (physical training). Beyond all that, he genuinely loved the men that he led. His leadership style was more that of a father but also someone that was highly respected and that you did not want to disappoint or piss off.

He was very inspirational and helped motivate me to seek something further for myself in life – to seek out a higher challenge. So, I reset my sites back on Recon, and after making it I realized I had found my home.  Six great years and three deployments later in Recon I looked to the next progression for my career. MARSOC was already up and operating with an aggressive training cycle in preparation for the next big fight in Afghanistan.  A lot of my friends from Recon had already transferred over there.  It looked like the next best thing, a new challenge, and one I gladly accepted.

What, if anything, do you miss about being in the Recon community versus being in MARSOC at this point?

There was just an atmosphere in Recon that, for that time, I don’t think you can really replicate or replace.  There’s a real brotherhood there, and warfare bonded us closer together.  Ultimately, I just miss the camaraderie with the Recon guys. There was always just a healthy, competitive spirit that everybody had about them. You were always competing against your brother, but there wasn’t any sort of animosity. It was all in a loving way. For lack of better words, you always challenged each other, especially in training, and even in combat. Every platoon was trying to outdo the other ones but we all mutually supported one another.

Everyone worked hand-in-hand together. Our SOP’s (standard operating procedures) were practically the same, and we also worked together inside the house with (close quarters battle) tactics which was all dynamic. Even though our platoons were separated, our tactics were the same. When we operated in the house, we would often times mix teams together with other platoons just because combat could call for that very same thing.

You may have to take on a large structure or multiple structures to where one platoon isn’t enough to cover all the ground, so we would incorporate another platoon for additional support. And the more familiar you guys are with each other the better. There was just a unique, I guess, working spirit that everyone had together and really in a way embodied the term “gung-ho”, which translates to “working together in spirit” or as my father would say “working together in harmony”.  Recon Marines – and Marines in general – always look after their brothers, and you always looked after their best interests.

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving
Negron and his wife, Erika, at a birthday celebration for their wonderful little daughter.

Do you have a favorite moment from your time in uniform – something that you’re particularly proud of?

All of my deployments with Recon were great. I mean, some of the workups weren’t necessarily fun at times and the actual deployments definitely had their own suck factor, but my overall favorite experiences of being in the military were the two times that I deployed as a Recon team leader. My first team and combat deployment was great, but as a point man I didn’t grow.  I just did what I was told to do, as by design.  Being thrown into a leadership position really forced me to take a deeper look into myself. Having seen firsthand great and terrible leaders I wanted to ensure that I did not repeat past mistakes from others as I re-evaluated my AAR (after action report) of life experiences.  At that time, it was the next door for me to walk through, and for me, this one was very personal.

One of the greatest pieces of advice that I ever received was from a father figure of mine growing up named Dave Deluca, who was a Ranger that served as a 1st Lt. with the 82nd Airborne in Vietnam. Dave was a great friend of my fathers who I went to see just before I left on my first deployment.  He said three things to me: first, “never tell your men to do something that you have never done yourself or don’t have the balls to do yourself”, “if it scares you to do something as a leader, you should not send one of your men to do it for you, do it yourself and your second in command should be ready to take over should anything happen to you”, and the last was “don’t ever think at any time point in time during combat that you’re not going to make it, no matter how bad it gets, always believe that you’ll live no matter what, even if wounded, and always take care of your men and do whatever you need to survive, nothing more”.

One of the biggest things that I wanted to do as a leader other than the obvious was to ensure that I actually listened to and mentored my men.  Evaluating them was vital and something that I was intimately involved in.  Any opportunity that presented itself turned into a quick on the spot lesson.  At the same time, I encouraged them all to be free thinkers and to partake in mission planning.  Like any leader I believe that I’m tactically sound and proficient, but I’m not the smartest, nor can I think of everything.  So, I made it clear to my men that at any point in time If I ever made a mistake or need correction, by all means do so regardless of rank but please do it professionally. I’m not above reproach and if I’m making decisions in combat that can affect whether or not we make it back alive, then everyone needs to have trust in me and my ability if I’m truly going to lead.  If I’m messed up in anyway, or if there’s a better way to get the job done, I want to know.  Their voices were equally as important as my own, as there’s always a risk when you step outside the wire and the enemy always gets to vote.  In combat, life and death is weighted and measured by seconds and inches, and anything can get you killed – including doing nothing.  My team needed to know that I would always look after them no matter what and they could approach me at any time about anything.  I did not know how to put it into words at the time, but I was encouraging and strengthening trust within my team.

You have to sharpen both sides of the sword. On one side, you learn and improve yourself. On the other, you teach your guys so that they grow in the direction that they’re supposed to.

– GySgt Joshua Negron

Aside from war, I wanted my men to grow professionally and become great leaders themselves.  By the time I was a team leader with my second team, it wasn’t uncommon for a Recon Marine to be promoted to Sergeant within his first two years. It happened very quickly and was normal.  Afterwards though, it can take four to five years to get Staff Sergeant or more (laughs).  By this time, I had eight years in as a newly promoted Staff Sergeant. My main goal was to train my men to be better by the end of that deployment, as Sergeants with three and a half years in the Marine Corps, than I was as a Sergeant when I was at my seven-year mark.

This was possible because I was giving them information willingly and freely. I wasn’t withholding anything from them, but at the same time, I’m also not fire hosing them with information.  As simple as this is, it was not very common from what I previously saw in the infantry. What I saw were a lot of keepers of the badge. At the time when I was a junior Marine there wasn’t a whole lot of mentoring going on, and if there was, it was very little. It was only,” I’m going to give you just enough information to where you learn something, but I’m also going to purposely withhold information from you because I don’t want you to grow beyond and possibly outshine me.”

You have to sharpen both sides of the sword. On one side, you learn and improve yourself. On the other, you teach your guys so that they grow in the direction that they’re supposed to.  This rarely happens as everything in the military is performance driven. The byproduct of freely teaching and giving all information by default forces that leader to take a deeper look into themselves and identify what they’re deficient in and find ways to improve. Otherwise, if this step is missed as a leader who freely mentors their personnel without withholding, eventually their men and woman are going to grow past them – resulting in promotions above them.  If I’m going to keep up with them, I’ve got to continue to look deeper into myself and see what I can make better.

This is the way of giving back to the community.

A true leader doesn’t make more subordinates, they make more leaders.  They’re humble in nature and they take responsibility over things that aren’t even their fault in regard to those within their command. They’re stern when needed but also compassionate towards those they lead.  Members of any command are not just numbers to do your bidding as a leader, they are family – the lifeline and heartbeat of the community.  If this is lost, you lose trust, and if that’s lost, you have nothing as a leader.  You will use your men and woman as tools to build and promote yourself instead of using your position and instruments to further develop, and hone those that you are blessed to lead.  This is Esprit de Corps, this is Gung Ho!

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving
Negron with his incredible wife, Erika.

What special operations skillset came most naturally to you?

The things that came most naturally to me was shooting and really just being and operating in the bush – your basic infantry concepts and tactics. And really anything related to R&S (reconnaissance and surveillance) and SR (special reconnaissance).

I kind of had a knack for it even though I have a love-hate relationship with R&S because it always involved carrying a pack that was over 100 pounds, deuce gear that was like another 50 pounds, and then my weapon. I practically carried myself in body weight every single time we stepped out (laughs). I kind of hated that aspect of it, but I loved once we got on site and we started our reporting, started collecting information on our target site. I just love that aspect of it.

At the end of the day, you’ve got to treat your training like it’s real.  You never know when it will be.  Plus, during training you’re always competing against your counterparts that are inserting into the bush as well – oftentimes with you – but they’re just taking another piece of the objective. And so, you have that friendly competition going, but at the same time, you’re both performing exceptionally well and doing a great job on target site. So, you’re adhering to the Recon creed of honoring those who came before.

Which skillset took the most work to master in spite of not being very good at it initially?

Things that I wasn’t that great at? Well, I was never really that fast in the water and I’m still not that fast in the water.

Diving (school) sucked for me, especially going into it with an injured ankle, but it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t do. I just wasn’t fast in the water. Actually, one of my good buddies that I joined Recon with – he was a big dude at 6’4, 220-240lbs – he was slow on land but fast on the water, and I was slow in the water but fast on land. So, when we were getting thrashed in pre-BRC (Basic Reconnaissance Course), I was the one smiling on the runs because he was typically the last dude coming in. Then when we got to the pool, it reversed. I was like the last guy to finish while he was one of the first ones out.  He just sat on the pool side and laughed at me.

In a way, it motivated us to not quit. We both suffered in silence and suffered uniquely together, and that camaraderie bonded us. We both saw each other in some of our worst moments and our best moments as we fought to solidify our place within the Recon community.

Do you have a favorite place that you’ve visited?

Deployment-wise, I would have loved to have seen more of Australia, but unfortunately didn’t get to see too much during one quick stop in Darwin.

Dubai was cool and that area was really nice.

I really like anything with history, especially anything that has long history. So, when I went to Jordan, I got an opportunity to take a trip over to Petra. If you’ve ever seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, it’s the city that’s carved into the rock. That’s Petra. The movie only shows one spot actually, but there are multiple places like that and it’s a massive city that’s carved into other rocks all around. It’s got a bunch of what seemed to me like hundreds or possibly thousands of little homes in between some of those larger dedicated sites.

What is something unique about you that most people don’t know?

As most men involved with self-defense, I was inspired by Bruce Lee.

My favorite film he did was “Enter the Dragon”. That was definitely one of the best ones for me, but I really enjoyed more of his documentaries and reading books on him – he is just very inspirational.

He obviously had this amazing physical ability that dazzled the world, but people who had the opportunity to meet him were oftentimes more impressed by his spoken words.

He wasn’t just a martial artist; he was poet, a father, a husband, who lived and embodied a warrior spirit that is very uncommon.  At the end of it all Bruce did not embrace the illusion of fame, he wanted to be remembered as a real human being who was fully alive.  In his own words, “Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving
GySgt Joshua Negron. (Photo credit: Lloyd Wainscott)
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9 most irritating things vets hear when they head off to college

Life in the military is fantastic, but being a lifer isn’t for everyone. One of the greatest pieces of legislative success for the veteran community was the creation of the GI Bill. It opened the door for countless veterans to finally spread their wings and get a leg up in the civilian marketplace, rewarding their service with a launchpad.

Because of the GI Bill, many civilians who went straight to college from high school have their first interactions with a veteran. And it’s a good thing. You’re both in school, so there’s some common ground — thus helping bridge the ever-growing civilian-military divide. However, not all civilians approach veterans with the best opening lines.

The following are questions and comments that make veterans grit their teeth almost immediately.


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These dumb-ass discussions are made even better when no one but the veteran understands that they’re f*cking with everyone just to watch their reactions.

1. “You’re a vet. What’s your opinion on the war/politics/the latest hot-button issue?”

In a smaller, more intimate setting, it’s fine to ask us about our opinions on things. Hell, we’re kind of known for making 30-minute-long rant videos from the front seats of our trucks.

But putting us on the spot in the middle of a classroom discussion is not cool. If the conversation is clearly leaning to one side, you’re setting the veteran up to be the enemy for standing up for anything military related. Ask this question and you’re either going to get an extremely heated debate or a completely zoned-out vet.

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Not everyone can get their dream job — but vets with the GI Bill are given a chance, and you’re damn right they’re going to try.

2. “Why are you going for X degree and not something in security?”

The great thing about the GI Bill is that it can be applied for any college degree course. If the veteran wants to get out and follow their childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian, an artist, or whatever — more power to them. They earned that right by serving their country.

Bringing up the fact that they’re going to be making far less money by doing what they love as opposed to doing what they did in the military all over again isn’t going to make that realization any easier.

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The sad truth is that most veterans will keep their demons to themselves. Some random d*ckhead isn’t going to sudden change that.

3. “So, like, did you see some bad stuff over there?”

Ranger Up hit this one on the head perfectly. No veteran wants to talk about that kind of thing with some random stranger they just met. Either they didn’t and harbor some guilt over the fact that they didn’t share the same burden as many of their brothers, they’re dealing with very real, resulting stress in a highly personal manner, or they’re going to overload the curious civilian with the grim details they actually don’t want.

After months of friendship, a veteran might be willing to open up about what happened out there — probably over a beer or seven — but never when it’s said in a half-joking manner.

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving

College life may be stressful, but have you ever had someone in your company lose a pair of NVGs in a porta-john? I thought so.

4. “Why are you veterans so…”

Offensive? Overly polite? Loud? Reserved? Drunk? This one is a catchall for the wide spectrum of awkward questions that lump veterans into a single box.

Veterans come from literally all walks of life, from every place in the United States (and abroad), and are made up of the same folks that make up the rest of the population. Pretty much the only unifying thread that can be accurately applied to every single veteran is that we’re comfortable in bad situations.

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Yep.

(Combs)

5. “It’s alright bro. You got back in one piece!”

Post-Traumatic Stress is called an invisible wound for a reason. Vets who live with the pain of what happened back in the day won’t easily show it and walk around wearing a happy mask around people they don’t know.

Just because that veteran made it back alright doesn’t mean that their buddy did, too. Even if that veteran wasn’t anywhere near the front line, saying something so ignorant trivializes the experiences of troops who didn’t have the same luxury.

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving

Also, if you really want to get specific, a large percentage of the prolific killers who were in the service were kicked out before even serving a single enlistment. So…

6. “You’re not one of those crazy vets who’ll snap at any moment, right?”

Here’s a piece of news for you: If you compare the veteran population average to the civilian average in terms of homicides and other violent crimes, veterans are actually less likely to commit such acts.

In fact, veterans with combat experience who have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress are, once again, far less likely to commit violent crime than the average civilian. So, no, I’m not going to snap — are you?

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We may have taken a detour, but we’ll get there.

7. “I would have joined, but I came here instead”

The veteran you’re talking to signed up and now they’re in the exact same boat as you! Except instead of having student-loan debt, they’ve got a few more years of life experience on you.

The reason this statement bothers veterans is that there’s an underlying assumption here that veterans are uneducated or that they wouldn’t have been able to get into college without Uncle Sam’s help. Oh boy, is that wrong. Fun fact: The ASVAB, the test required by all troops to qualify them into military service, is actually much more difficult than the college SAT or ACT.

The absolute lowest ASVAB score that will allow you to enlist is 31, which means you must be in the 69th percentile of scores among the general population. When SATs were graded out of 1600, the 69th percentile was roughly a 950 — which gets you into about 2/3rds of all universities and colleges around the country.

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Just keep in mind that if you mess with one of our sisters, she was trained to shoot at targets at a max effective range of 300 meters.

8. “You don’t look like a veteran”

Just like the “lumping all veterans in one box” comment, this one implies that there’s this singular build for all troops. Well, there are skinny troops, there are fat troops, and there are muscular troops. There are troops of every race, religion, and creed. It’s the uniform and hair-cut standards that make us all alike.

But as bad is this one is for most troops, it’s almost always flung at our sisters-in-arms. Even though women make up 17 percent of the U.S. Armed Forces, male civilians tend to act shocked when they learn that a female served. It’s belittling.

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving

Maybe one day when I finally put that underwater basket-weaving degree to good use… maybe…

9. “You’re so lucky you got the GI Bill”

Wrong. And f*ck you. That’s not how it works. Luck had nothing to do with all the hard work it took to serve in the military the minimum of three years required to get 100% access to the GI Bill. Luck, in my opinion, is being born into a family where mommy and daddy can pay for everything — but that’s none of my business.

If you want to be technical, a lot of veterans still take out student loans to help make ends meet. The GI Bill pays for a lot, but it doesn’t pay for everything.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Army is paying to train soldiers for new jobs and for their spouses to get licenses

Soldiers and their spouses now have two big ways to advance their professional goals, thanks to two new Army initiatives. Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston recently spoke with We Are the Mighty to explain the Army’s new Credentialing Assistance Program and the changes to the Army’s Spouse Licensure Reimbursement Program, both designed to give soldiers and their spouses better career options.


Grinston said that under the Army Credentialing Assistance Program, active, Guard and Reserve soldiers would be able to receive up to $4,000 annually to use toward obtaining professional credentials, in much the same way that tuition assistance is currently available. In fact, a soldier can use both tuition assistance and credentialing assistance, but the combined total cannot exceed $4,000.

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“The world has evolved and some of these credentials are equally important to a college degree,” Grinston said. “We want to give all opportunities to our soldiers, and not just limit them to a 4-year degree. We have the best soldiers in the world and they do incredible things in the Army, and they should be able to keep doing those things when they get out. It’s good for them and it’s good for the military – we’re making better soldiers, as well as better welders and better medics.”

Soldiers are now able to use credentialing assistance for any of the 1,600 professional credentials currently available in the Army Credentialing Opportunities Online (COOL) portal, and the credentials they pursue do not have to align with the soldier’s military occupational specialty (MOS). Right now, the most popular credential soldiers choose to pursue is private airplane pilot, he said.

“We allow you to get a credential in your interest because your interests may change over time. I don’t think we should limit our soldiers to their MOS. It’s all about making a better soldier, and at some point, everyone leaves the military, so I don’t think we should limit them to their MOS.”

Grinston said the Credentialing Assistance Program reflects the priority Chief of Staff of the Army James McConville set to put people first, and he said that commitment extends beyond the soldier to the soldier’s spouse and family, too. That’s why the Army is doubling the maximum amount available under the Spouse Licensure Reimbursement Program from 0 to id=”listicle-2645503326″,000 and expanding the program so that spouses who move overseas will also be eligible to be reimbursed for licensing fees.

“We ask a lot of our spouses, we ask them to do a lot of things. We want them to be able to get relicensed, but we’ve been making them pay for that out of pocket,” Grinston said. “If we’re going to put people first, we need to put resources behind that.”

The motivation for changing the spouse licensing reimbursement program came from experiences Grinston has seen with his wife, a teacher, as she tries to re-enter the workforce.

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving

He also said it arose out of the small group meetings he regularly holds with Army spouses around the country. During a session at Ft. Knox, a military spouse told him that she was a behavioral health specialist and that when they moved, the state of Kentucky required her to take more credits in order to be licensed.

“We still have a long way to go, but I’m working with state reciprocity so we can do more for spouses as we move them from one location to the next,” Grinston said, noting that that particular spouse’s story really struck him. “We need behavioral health specialists to work. We need them right now.”

He said that the Army is working with every state to align licensure requirements so that a spouse who is licensed and working in one state will be able to continue working when their family moves with the Army. Internally, the Army is also looking at ways to streamline the screening process for jobs at Army Child Development Centers (CDCs) so that a spouse who has already passed the background screening and is working at one CDC will not have to resubmit to the screening process when the family moves.

“If you’ve already gone through the background screening for, say, the CDC at Bragg and now you’re moving to Hood, you shouldn’t have to go through the screening again,” Grinston said. “We need CDC caregivers, now. If we hire more, we can add a classroom, and that’s 10 more kids off the waitlist. Less of our kids on the waitlist, that’s another way we can put people first. People first is something we’ve always tried to do, and now we’re trying to do it even better.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

World War II Coast Guard veteran turns 100

Born in 1920, Anderson Washington just celebrated his 100th birthday. A Coast Guard veteran of World War II, he’s experienced a lot during his lifetime.

Washington grew up in New Orleans during a time of deep segregation. As a Black man, it was especially difficult for him and his family. When he was asked what it was like as a young boy growing up, he shook his head in sadness. “It wasn’t pleasant,” he shared. Washington said that he tries not to think of those times because they were so bad. He continued, “I try to avoid remembering certain things. So much unpleasantness that I try to block it all out.”


Later in his life during his early 20s, World War II broke out and he watched the United States join the fight after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Washington knew that he would most likely be drafted and wanted to retain some manner of control over where he went. “The day I enlisted was a couple of days after the segregated laws were changed in the military. I chose to join the Coast Guard rather than the Army, where I felt I was sure to have disadvantages,” he explained.

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving

Following basic training, Washington was assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Comanche in 1942. Although often referred to as the “lifesaving service,” the Coast Guard was so much more than that. Much of the American public may not even realize how involved they were during World War II and how integral their service was to the nation. During the spring of 1940, Nazi Germany had taken over Denmark. Greenland, a Denmark territory, was then assigned to be a part of a defense system.

President Roosevelt put the Coast Guard in charge of it.

In Greenland, the Coast Guard was responsible for search and rescue operations, convoy assignments and defending it from Nazi invasion. One of the cutters assigned was Washington’s. One of the others, the Northland, was actually the first American unit to engage with the enemy during World War II. They would go on to support land, air and sea forces in all of the combat theaters during the war.

When Washington was asked what it was like to serve in the Coast Guard as a Black man, he was conflicted. “At the time, it was pretty bad with ups and downs throughout. Looking back, it was a good experience for me though. It was a great chance to see the world,” he said.

Washington was a Coxswain during his time in the service. “We were on troop transport, bringing troops overseas,” he explained. He remembers bringing soldiers and marines to places like North Africa and along various stops in Europe. In 1943, a German submarine launched torpedoes on the convoy his cutter was escorting. A torpedo hit the USAT Dorchester on her starboard side.

It exploded and sank almost immediately.

Washington’s cutter sped ahead alongside the Escanaba to rescue survivors. Together, they managed to save the lives of 229 men. Hundreds died in the water, mostly likely due to hypothermia. Four of the men that would perish aboard the Dorchester were Army Chaplains, who gave up their own life preservers for others. Reports later detailed this heroic act and how they came together in prayers as the ship sank.

The Coast Guard is often overlooked when discussions of the Battle of the Atlantic arise. But her fleet served a vital and important role in convoy escort and combat. Her warships not only protected allied convoys but sank enemies and captured their crews.

The Coast Guard even helped plan the naval operations for the D-Day Invasion of Normandy.

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving

In 1945, the war was ending. The Coast Guard captured the first enemy vessel once American joined the war and then she captured the last of them as it ended. Washington left the Coast Guard in 1946 and came home to a segregated United States. “It was miserable,” he said. Despite serving his country proudly during the war, he was still looked at as less than due to the color of his skin when he returned.

Washington would become integral in the fight for Civil Rights. “I was one of three plaintiffs who fought and sued to desegregate New Orleans,” he shared. He is the only plaintiff still alive from that successful suit today.

When asked what advice he would give to activists who are still fighting for social justice and equal rights, Washington got right to the point. “Any way you cut it or talk about it, it boils down to voting,” he explained. He encouraged those championing causes to find their platforms, use their voices and vote.

Washington never dreamed he’d make it to 100 years old.

Despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the city of New Orleans and the United States Coast Guard came together to safely celebrate his big day. Washington also didn’t realize how many lives he had touched with his own. At his celebration, he was saluted by Captain Michael Paradise, the commanding officer of Coast Guard Base New Orleans and thanked for his dedicated service.

Washington is grateful for his long life and hopeful for the future for this country. He knows the best is yet to come.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Paralyzed for 27 years, veteran walks with exoskeleton

Since being paralyzed almost three decades ago, Dean Juntunen has competed in more than 90 wheelchair marathons, continued snowmobiling and four-wheeling, and taken up kayaking.

Now, Juntunen is taking another significant step. And then another step. And then another.

“Just standing talking to you is interesting,” Juntunen said. “I had not gone from a sitting position to a standing position in 27 years. I got injured in ’91, so just standing is fun. I like just standing up and moving around.”


The medically retired Air Force captain is walking with the aid of a wearable exoskeleton robotic device as part of a study at the Spinal Cord Injury Center at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

About 160 veterans are participating in the program at 15 VA Centers across the country. After completing a series of rigorous training sessions, veterans in this study will take the exoskeleton home for use in everyday life.

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Juntunen executes a challenging 180-pivot with the aid of VA trainers Cheryl Lasselle (left) and Zach Hodgson.

Participants must meet certain criteria, including bone density. Users should be between about 5-foot-3 and 6-foot-3 and cannot weigh more than 220 pounds.

“Most paralyzed people, if not all, lose bone density,” Juntunen said. “So, you have to pass a bone density scan to qualify for this program. I happen to have unusually good bone density and I’ve been paralyzed for 27 years.”

Juntunen was on active duty when he was injured in between assignments from Malmstrom AFB in Great Falls, Montana, to Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, when his life changed.

Fell 30 feet, broke spinal cord in two places

An avid hiker and outdoorsman, Juntunen’s life changed when a tree branch gave way and he fell 30 feet to the ground.

“I landed on my back in a fetal position,” said Juntunen, who lives near Mass City in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. “Spine folded in half, broke five vertebrae, wrecked my spinal cord in two spots.”

“Well, I have a hard time saying no and they strongly asked me to do it. So, I decided, that’s probably going to be fun playing with that robot. I guess I’ll make a bunch of trips to Milwaukee.”

Juntunen, who has an engineering degree, said the hardest part of mastering the robotic device was developing balance.

“One of the hardest things about getting paralyzed is relearning your sense of balance because you can’t feel anything through your butt,” he said. “I’m paralyzed from the base of the rib cage down, so it’s like I’m sitting on a stump all the time.”

Turns and pivots presented challenges, as did going up an incline, he said.

“I liken this to walking on stilts for an able-bodied person because you have to feel the ground through wooden or metal legs. That’s basically what I’m doing in this thing.”

“I don’t really describe this as walking, more like riding the robot,” he said. “The interesting thing is, my brain feels like it’s walking. I’m a complete injury, so I can’t feel anything. My brain has no idea what my legs are doing, but nonetheless, it feels like I’m walking in my head.”

Not all participants are able to sufficiently master the nuances of the 51-pound device to meet the requirements of the study.

Basic training needed to master balance skills

“Some people don’t get past what we call the basic training,” said Joe Berman, Milwaukee VA project manager. “To be eligible to go into the advanced training, you have to be able to master some balance skills and do five continuous steps with assistance within five training sessions. That’s been shown by previous research to be a good predictor of who is going to succeed in passing the advanced skills that we require to take the device home.”

The training sessions at Milwaukee last about two to two-and-a-half hours, usually twice a day. With the aid of certified trainers, Juntunen walked up to a quarter mile, starting with the lightly trafficked tunnel between the main hospital and the Spinal Cord Injury Center.

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When Juntunen takes the device home, companions trained to assist will replace the VA trainers.

He eventually progressed to one of the main public entries to the hospital, which had inclines, carpeted areas, and pedestrian traffic.

“The inclines are harder,” Juntunen said. “Here, you’ve got short incline, then flat, then incline, so the transitions are harder. You’re in balance going down and when it flattens out, you have to change where your balance is, so the transition is a little trickier. Coming up is the worst, up the ramps is the hardest. You kind of have to reach behind you with the crutches. It’s more exertion and more difficult on the balance because the robot is always perpendicular to the surface.”

Mastering use of the device in the public space was part of the requirement before Juntunen can take it home.

“In order to take the device home, they need to be able to navigate up and down Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant ramps and go through doorways,” said Zach Hodgson, a physical therapist at the Milwaukee VA and part of the certified training team. “Right now, we have three trainers, but at home, he’ll need a companion to walk with him at all times. It’s looking at all those skills we need to get to and then making plans based on how he’s progressing.”

“He’s going to use this device in his home and community so we really get a good idea about how useful these devices are,” Hodgson said.

At home, companions replace the VA trainers to help with the device. In Juntunen’s case, he’s getting help from his kayaking buddies.

“They’ve seen me transferring and stuff,” he said. “They know I can sit and balance, sit on the edge of my kayak before I transfer up to the seat. So, that’s all normal for them.”

After completing training in Milwaukee, Juntunen is scheduled to have another session at a shopping mall in Houghton, Michigan, tentatively followed by another session in the atrium of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The complete guide to not being a Blue Falcon

Seriously, you wouldn’t think this would be that hard. But, for some reason, people keep pulling stunts or snitching on members of their own platoon and screwing the unit as a whole. So, here we are, writing a guide to teach everyone how to not Blue Falcon.

For anyone out there who doesn’t know the code, Blue Falcons are “Buddy F**kers,” folks who screw over their peers by being either overly zealous, overly lazy, or just a straight up jerk.


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This photo of a dental technician is included because it frightens me — and I find that funny.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Collette Brooks)

Dental/Medical Appointments

This is likely the biggest source of inadvertent Blue Falconing, so let’s go through it. It usually starts with a unit dental screening, resulting in a few Joes and Jills getting the same appointment date — and there’s the rub. When the appointments are done, all of the troops have to decide what to do: Go back immediately or dawdle for a few hours?

Who, exactly, is the Blue Falcon here is conditional. If, and only if, the unit has vital stuff going on, everyone should go back to the unit, and anyone trying to dawdle is screwing the unit, performing Blue Falconry.

But the unit will almost certainly have nothing going on. Then, most of the guys will want to go to the barracks and one “high-speed” will want to go back to the unit and sniff the platoon sergeant’s butt. In this case, he’s the Blue Falcon. Seriously, dude/dudette, if you really have to do Army stuff right now, do some correspondence courses in your barracks while everyone else plays video games. Stop making everyone else show up to sit around the company for no reason.

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Personal tents help protect your buddies from your Blue Falconry in the field, but it’s still your job to not be a dick.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck)

Living in the field

There’re all sorts of ways to screw over your buddies while living in the field. First, while preparing for the field, pack the entire packing list unless:

  1. You’re sure leadership won’t check, and
  2. That neither you nor your unit will need the missing item.

This means that you always bring items like ponchos, which the squad or platoon may need to protect gear from water, even if you don’t think you’ll wear it.

Also, if there’s anything in MREs or hot rats that gives you indigestion, do not eat it before everyone piles into cots or Ranger graves right next to each other. If you smoke, chew, dip, or use snuff, you bring your own. Bring your cleaning kit, bring your own hygiene items, and adjust your sleep schedule to the mission. No one wants to give up their supplies or carry your weight.

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving

Green berets carry their weight. Blue Falcons don’t. Always go green.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)

Ruck marches

Speaking of carrying your own weight: do it on ruck marches, you Blue Falcons. This is especially true on real patrols where the unit is likely carrying more weight than during training marches. If it’s gear that the platoon needs and you can’t carry it, fine; you can work with your buddies to redistribute the weight. But if you have 10 pounds in personal electronics and comfort items, you’re on your own.

This goes double for any support personnel who are sent to maneuver units to provide a service. You do not add to the unit’s weight. Do not bring anything you can’t carry. I mean, sure, if you’re bringing a Wolfhound with you, you might have to share some weight. But if you’re carrying an extra aid bag or a video camera, ruck up. The infantry has enough weight.

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving

Army troops get a safety brief. It’s one of the most sensible and important formations of the week.

(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Craig Norton)

Formations

This one is simple: You go to formations at the assigned time in the assigned uniform with the assigned gear. Otherwise, your entire formation is left waiting around or getting smoked while you try to run and grab it.

And sometimes, there’s an agreed-upon piece of gear you bring even if it’s not assigned. If it’s a cold morning but the word is no pants in formation, you stow those in a car or behind the formation anyway. If first sergeant is feeling cold and offers to wear pants on the run, but you’re the only one without the whole uniform, then you deserve the heckling during the run.

Oh, and if you ask a question during a formation that doesn’t apply to the whole formation, screw you so hard with threaded objects.

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving

Weird that this guy wore his uniform during the police chase. Looks more like a training event than anything. It’s almost like we have to illustrate this with stock photos.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chase Sousa)

Alibis

And if you’re in a Saturday at 0300 formation because first sergeant suspects that the 20-ish white male leading the police on a chase with a captured panda bear is a member of your company, you keep your mouth shut or you say that you’re pretty sure Jenkins is at a video game launch party that night (assuming first sergeant doesn’t know that games release on Tuesdays).

You do not mention his panda posters, key chain, and tattoos, or the fact that he had been bragging about a new kind of spice that doesn’t show up on drug tests. If he’s not leading the police on a chase, your unnecessary snitching is screwing him. If he is, the police can catch him without your help. Develop some tactical patience.

5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving

This gear is laying out on purpose. Don’t steal his crap.

(U.S. Army Pfc. Charles Thorman)

“Gear adrift”

Look, if you leave gear — personal or government-issued — laying out, you’re taking risks. But, if someone in your platoon or squad leaves stuff out, your job is to secure it and then call them an idiot later. You don’t steal from within the unit. That “gear adrift is a gift” thing is Navy shenanigans. And even then, you shouldn’t do it in your own shop or section.

But, guys, if your buddies keep having to secure your sh*t, then get a handle on your sh*t. It’s not your section’s job to keep track of your stuff. Blue Falcons leave their stuff lying around. Real adults are able to take care of their own lives.

MIGHTY TRENDING

UFOs, aliens, and the Navy—oh my!

A recent increase in UFO sightings has caused the Navy to revamp guidelines with which to report a UFO sighting officially. This comes on the heels of a 2018 sighting that was reported by the Washington Post and then seemingly disappeared back into the national never-before-truly-confirmed zeitgeist alongside bigfoot and infants that don’t cry on airplanes.


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“advanced aircraft” is a farcry from the traditional UFO explanation of weather balloons (pictured)

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Politico has reported that the Navy is developing a formal process, with pilots and military servicemen, to report UFO sightings.

This move is directly related to the recent spike in what has been referred to by Navy officials as “a series of intrusions by advanced aircraft on Navy carrier strike groups.”

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B-2 Bombers have been the subject of many a “UFO” sighting

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A Navy spokesperson told Politico, ” There have been a number of reports of unauthorized and/or unidentified aircraft entering various military-controlled ranges and designated air space in recent years […] For safety and security concerns, the Navy and the [U.S. Air Force] takes these reports very seriously and investigates each and every report.”

The current process has led to some gridlock and complications with reporting ‘unidentified flying objects’ so the format is being streamlined by the Navy to make sure that “such suspected incursions can be made to cognizant authorities.”

Obviously, one possible knee-jerk public reaction is going to use this as military confirmation about the possibility of extraterrestrial life or “aliens” on earth. However, the Navy has made no such comment on the matter, as it is far more likely that these “UFOs” are either allied/enemy covert aircraft.

Ex-UFO program chief: We may not be alone

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This is not to say that the possibility hasn’t been explored in a military context. In fact, the Department of Defense established a program entirely dedicated to further investigation of UFO sightings: The Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program.

However, the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) only ran from 2007-2012. Its eventual folding in 2012 was because it was “determined that there were other, higher priority issues that merited funding and it was in the best interest of the DoD to make a change.”

Former military intelligence official Luis Elizondo, who apparently led the AATIP, is in favor of ramping up UFO sighting efforts.

He describes the paradox with military sightings in relation to civilian UFO sightings, “If you are in a busy airport and see something you are supposed to say something” he said.

“With our own military members it is kind of the opposite: ‘If you do see something, don’t say something. … What happens in five years if it turns out these are extremely advanced Russian aircraft?”

Chris Mellon, an associate of Elizondo’s and a co-contributor to the upcoming docuseries “Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation” piggybacked on Elizondo’s comments.

“Right now, we have a situation in which UFOs and UAPs are treated as anomalies to be ignored rather than anomalies to be explored,” he told Politico. He continued on saying that it is a common occurrence that military personnel “don’t know what to do with that information — like satellite data or a radar that sees something going Mach 3.”

It is unclear what military officials believe these anomalies could be, but one thing is for certain now—they’re on the radar.

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