After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

Stats? Projections? F$%k that noise. Numbers can’t guarantee wins, but being as tough as nails sure helps. As the 2018 NFL Season enters its third week and fantasy football fans continue to debate advanced metrics, the veterans at We Are The Mighty are taking a different approach to finding the best players across the league.

This week, our team of self-declared fair-weather fans scouted the NFL to find the players worthy of serving on one the military’s most elite units: the Army Special Forces — Operational Detachment Alpha, known exclusively as the “A-Team.”

A Special Forces team is full of quiet professionals, each of whom has a set of unique, special skills, ranging from demolitions to weapons to communications. Earning your place on a Special Forces team takes training, time, and a little luck, but it ultimately comes down to one simple question: Can you perform under pressure?


This results-based mentality is exactly the same approach used by NFL players across the league and, in the season’s opening week, five players have distinguished themselves worthy of making the inaugural “A Team Report.” Some earned this distinguished honor by breaking records while others made the list via sheer, viking-level badassery. Either way, all the players on this week’s A-Team Report stepped up when it mattered.

Here are this week’s picks

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

(NFL YouTube)

Tight End Vance McDonald – Pittsburgh Steelers

TE Vance McDonald deployed a mean stiff arm and completes a Touchdown.

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

(NFL YouTube)

Wide Receiver Paul Richardson – Washington Redskins

WR Paul Richardson executes a perfect combat roll into the end zone

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

(NFL YouTube)

Quarterback Josh Allen – Buffalo Bills

Rookie QB Josh Allen halo jumps for a Touchdown

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

(NFL YouTube)

Wide Receiver Albert Wilson – Miami Dolphins

WR Albert Wilson blitzkriegs through the Oakland Raiders defense for a 74 yard Touchdown.

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

(NFL YouTube)

Defensive End JJ Watt – Houston Texans

DE JJ Watt breaches the Giants O-Line for a sack.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How ‘walking blood banks’ will save lives on the battlefield

While carrying a ruck sack may sometimes feel like the equivalent of carrying a refrigerator on your back, a ruck sack is not able to provide a stable, temperature-controlled environment for lifesaving blood products that might be needed in remote or deployed environments.

The XVIII Airborne Corps and the Armed Services Blood Program are partnering to identify soldiers with blood type O who have low levels of antibodies in their blood. These individuals have the ability to provide an immediate blood donation to an injured person of any blood type that needs a transfusion at or near the point of injury.

“We are taking individuals with type O blood, who are already considered universal donors for packed red blood cells, and testing the levels of antibodies in their blood,” said Lt. Col. Melanie Sloan, director, Fort Bragg Blood Donor Center. “Everyone has antibodies. They are naturally occurring and can attach themselves to transfused blood cells. The titer testing helps identify individuals with lower levels of these antibodies.”


The Army is currently using the standard of 1 to 256 for the level of antibodies in the individuals identified as low titer O. When a person with blood type A or B needs blood and is receiving blood from a type O donor, the lower level of antibodies will make it easier for the body to accept the different blood type. Low titer O blood can be given to anyone in need, regardless of their blood type.

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

Sgt. Charles Moncayo, 82nd Airborne Division Band, get his blood drawn as part of the low titer O testing at a blood drive hosted by the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery (DIVARTY), June 7, 2019.

(Photo by Eve Meinhardt)

1st Lt. Robert Blough, the physician assistant for the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery (DIVARTY) and a former Special Forces medical sergeant, arranged for soldiers in his unit to get tested for low titer O and also helps with mobile training teams to teach others how to perform field blood transfusions. He said he is passionate about implementing this program across the force because he has seen first-hand how it can save a life.

“In 2007, I had an Iraqi get shot in lower abdominal area,” said Blough. “He was bleeding out internally, not overly fast, but there was nothing I could do to stop the bleeding inside him. The MEDEVAC got delayed. We were sitting on a mountaintop with this guy and I did not have the ability to transfuse blood to save his life.”

Blough said that experience led him to volunteer for the working group spearheading the efforts to identify and screen fresh whole blood donors within the XVIII Abn. Corps.

The ability to transfuse blood while on the battlefield or at a remote location is hardly new and its effectiveness has been proven throughout history.

“We were doing this in 1918 during World War I,” said Lt. Col. George Barbee, deputy corps surgeon, Task Force Dragon, XVIII Abn. Corps. “We were still doing whole blood transfusions in World War II up through the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam.”

Barbee said that the Army transitioned from whole blood to component therapy in the 1970s. He said that while breaking the blood down into components is effective for treatment of some disease processes, it’s not a feasible option for an immediate need for blood in the field.

“We have done a lot of studies to see what the best method was for saving lives through transfusion,” he said. “They pointed back to whole blood.”

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

Sgt. Charles Moncayo, 82nd Airborne Division Band, get his blood drawn as part of the low titer O testing at a blood drive hosted by the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery, June 7, 2019.

(Photo by Eve Meinhardt)

The ability to identify low titer O soldiers provides an agile and flexible approach to accessing the lifesaving measures that whole blood provides. The ASBP is increasing the amount of low titer O whole blood that it stocks on its shelves for rapid deployment and emergency measures.

However, blood needs to be stored in a temperature-controlled environment and bags of blood are not always readily available in a time of crisis. The pre-screened and identified soldiers provide an instant supply if one of their peers is injured and needs a transfusion.

Each of the identified soldiers is regularly tested for a variety of blood-borne diseases to ensure their safety and the safety of others. Patient privacy still applies for identified donors. If they are removed from the roster, the information is kept confidential and only revealed to the patient.

While the identification of being a “walking blood bank” might seem a little odd for the soldiers who have this universal blood type, they are instrumental to efforts to improve survivability and mobility for the Army. Barbee hopes to someday see the program implemented across the Department of Defense.

“We completely support the XVIII Airborne Corps’ whole blood initiative,” said Col. John J. Melvin, chief nurse and chief of clinical operations, U.S. Army Forces Command Surgeon’s Office. “It closes the gaps that we see on the battlefield for blood supply at role one and conditions of prolonged field care. In order to provide the best opportunity of survival for our soldiers, the whole blood program is essential for our successful treatment of combat casualties.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

It’s Official: The Space Force is now the 6th Military Branch

President Donald Trump has directed the Pentagon to create a “space force” as a new, sixth military branch to oversee missions and operations in the space domain.

“We must have American dominance in space,” Trump said during a speech at the National Space Council meeting, held at the White House on June 18, 2018. “I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense to immediately begin the process to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.”


“We are going to have the Air Force, and we are going to have the space force,” Trump said. “Separate, but equal. It is going to be something so important.”

Trump then directed Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, to “carry that assignment out.”

“Let’s go get it, General,” he added to Dunford, who was at the council meeting.

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week
Gen. Joseph Dunford

The Air Force did not immediately have a statement in response to the announcement, and directed all questions to the office of the secretary of defense.

In March 2018, Trump first revealed he had an idea for a “space force,” or separate military service for space.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, has been in a months-long debate over an additional branch.

Trump shared his vision for the force during a visit to troops at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California.

“Because we’re doing a tremendous amount of work in space, maybe we need a new force,” he said. “We’ll call it the space force.”

Trump’s comments came a few months after discussions had wound down in the Pentagon about a separate military force for space.

Lawmakers have pushed the Air Force to stand up a branch for space within the service in hopes of taking adversarial threats in space more seriously.

Both Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein have been trying to discourage talk of a separate military branch, maintaining that the Air Force has the means and the personnel to meet current requirements for space.

“This [Air Force] budget accelerates our efforts to deter, defend and protect our ability to operate and win in space,” Wilson told a House Appropriations Committee panel days after Trump’s first announcement. “There are a number of different elements of this with respect to the space — the space portfolio.”

Goldfein agreed with the secretary during the March hearing, and added there is no question space is a warfighting domain in need of better protection. The Air Force has overseen the domain since the mid-1950s.

“As a joint chief, I see that same responsibility as the lead joint chief for space operations is making sure that we have those capabilities that the joint team requires. And so, as the president stated openly, this is a warfighting domain,” Goldfein said. “That is where we’ve been focused. And so I’m really looking forward to the conversation.”

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week
Gen. David Goldfein

In 2017, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Alabama, and Rep. William “Mac” Thornberry, R-Texas, first created language in the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act which would have required the service to stand up a “U.S. Space Corps.”

Soon after, Goldfein, Wilson and even Defense Secretary Jim Mattis publicly downplayed the idea, citing costliness and organizational challenges.

And while lawmakers ultimately removed language requiring such an overhaul of the Air Force’s mission, they still required a study of a space force and also backed changes to the management of the space cadre.

Rogers and other key lawmakers believe it is still possible to stand up a “space corps” within three to five years, and have still chastised the Air Force for not creating something like it “yesterday.”

“The situation we are in as a nation, the vulnerabilities we have to China and Russia, I’d like for the American public to know more, [but] I can’t because I don’t want to go to jail for leaking classified info. But we’re in a really bad situation,” Rogers said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event in March 2018.

Rogers has looked to Trump for support on the new space mission.

“Looking forward to working with @realDonaldTrump on this initiative!” he tweeted March 14, 2018.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what it is like to be a 16th century war reenactor

Kevin Baetz was born in Westwood, New Jersey and raised in Hollywood, Florida. He served with 1st Battalion, 9th Marines Regiment and deployed on the 24 Marine Expeditionary Unit where he earned the Humanitarian Service Medal during the 2010 Haiti earthquake crisis. He also served in Marjah, Afghanistan in 2011 alongside We Are The Mighty’s interviewer Ruddy Cano. Upon relocating to St. Augustine Florida with an Honorable Discharge, he took up a job at the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park as a Blacksmith, reenactor and grounds keeper. It was here that he got into reenacting the Spanish colonial life of the 16th century in the state of Florida.

Fountain of Youth Archeological Park is home to the first Catholic mission in the United States. The cross of coquina and other weathered documents were found in 1909 that verify that this site was contemporary with Ponce de Leon’s landing in Florida in 1513. Dr. Luella Day MacConnell’s mission, the owner in 1909, was to prove that her property was the location of Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth. The archeological site has been a window into the past with findings such as the earliest known remains of Christian burials of indigenous people, artifacts, and even a prehistoric finds 500 years before the Spanish arrived.

war reenactor in costume

WATM: How did you first become interested in being a war reenactor?

I did reenactment before the Marine Corps. I got into the 16th century reenactment because I worked at the original 16th century settlement site that the Spaniards had here in St. Augustine. It is the longest continuous settlement since 1565, its part of the job and I’m really into it.

WATM: What kind of gear do you usually work with?

Well, it depends. A lot of the clothing is custom by this tailor we know out in Italy, Luciano. The clothing is really important but weapon wise; it’s matchlock arquebus, cannons, long swords – it all depends what we’re portraying for the day. As a job it’s either cannoneer or shooting off the matchlock.

WATM: What kind of historical training do you receive?

Training as a job is basically: show up and work with the other reenactors here at the site. For someone who’s new-new, like they want to get into it, they should do it for fun to see if they like it. For example, my buddies and I go downtown dressed up to drink. That part isn’t so much reenacting but reliving that style of life — we wear funny clothing, order wine, play card games. If someone comes up to us and wants to get involved and wants to hang out, just like anything else, we have loaner gear. If they’re serious enough they start to buy their own gear.

As far as weapons training, it’s like any other weapons. Safety, this is how one of these things works. Carrying the weapon as a display, walking around downtown as a soldier. We do not shoot the weapons at people, we don’t do a lot of that. As reenactors, you give people the run down; how it works, how much powder you’re supposed to use, but in town you’re not going to do that.

WATM: What was your favorite battle to reenact?

A lot of the stuff we do out of here is two [main] 16th century battles. The big one is the recreation of Drake’s raid, [his English expedition] came into the town and burned it to the ground. One of [Francis Drake’s] guys got killed fighting the Spaniards, so, he took revenge. He came back and rebuilt it. It’s really the only true battle we recreate in the United States from this era and St. Augustine specifically.

The more intense ones are over in Europe. You have the Battle of Grolle in the Netherlands, That’s a massive one. You got some that go on in Spain…the anniversary of the Battle of Pavia in Italy is coming up. That one puts all other to shame – full contact, shock and smash, regal.

WATM: Is there anything you want to say to the military audience?

I don’t know, it’s fun! (laughs) I enjoy reenacting, it has put me in contact with a good number of veterans. Especially guys my age that miss the comradery and get the chance to put on funny clothing, drink, pretend gamble and have a good time. People should try it out, I enjoy it.

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

The park is open from 09:00 am to 06:00 pm daily and has attractions such as the navigator’s planetarium, blacksmithing, Timucuan burials and village, Nombre de Dios mission, cannon firing, classical boat building excavations, the 1565 Menendez settlement, and drinking from the Fountain of Youth itself.

Be it known by this that I, Alonzo Soriano, shareholder and resident of Brillar, contributed and certify to the public that I was present at the beginning of the rising and setting of the Sun. By order of the Royal Crown of Aragon he made his description at the Fountain which is good and sweet to the taste. It was in the year 1513. – FROM THE SORIANO VELLUM AT PONCE DE LEON’S FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK

MIGHTY CULTURE

Cyber awareness if it was designed for actual soldiers

Hey, remember in your last cyber awareness re-certification when you had to click through a whole scenario based on whether or not you would share industrial secrets on message boards with friends you had met at a science and engineering convention? Has anyone besides a senior officer or civilian engineer ran into that particular conundrum literally ever?


If the security pros were really going to prepare standard soldiers on the line for how to defend Army networks from unsavory actors, they can probably jettison entire sections of the cyber awareness training and add a short text document like the one below:

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

Seriously, everyone, we let the USO build so many centers on our bases for a reason. Get some pizza, watch the game, and do your shady downloads there.

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Eric M. Fisher)

Download your movies (porn) on the USO or morale networks

Yeah, we know you guys find more and more ways to download things you shouldn’t on the Army networks. We try to limit the sites you can connect to, the types of files you can download, and even what ways you can get the files off of the computer afterwards. But still, you find ways to email each other .jpgs and .movs of disgusting stuff.

Disgusting stuff that has viruses hidden in it. No, not HPV — computer viruses. We let the USO set up wifi on base, we set up morale wifi on base. And we don’t monitor what you download directly to your personal devices. Please, please stop downloading your movies to the government computers.

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

Please. STAHP.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)

Stop clicking on email links. Just stop. Google the sites and stories you want.

We’ve given so many warnings about phishing and spear phishing attacks, but soldiers keep getting caught in these kinds of attacks. So, from now on, when you see an email you want to click on, please just Google the keywords for the site you wanted to visit.

Google will typically screen out malicious sites, making it much better at this than you are. So stop even trying to decide which links are safe and which aren’t. Just stop clicking on things.

Stop clicking past all the security warnings

The Army has a problem with security certificates, meaning that you’re going to have to tell a few of your browser tools to make security exemptions for the army.mil sites. Obviously not best practice, sorry about that, but please stop adding security exemptions for other sites all over the web.

Army.mil sites flag security checks because it takes an act of Congress to update all of our certificates. The other sites you visit flag security checks because they’re trying to turn on your camera while you’re watching the vids so they can blackmail you with the resulting imagery. Oh, speaking of blackmail bait:

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

Civilian teaches a soldier how to use a tactical smartphone without sending pictures of his junk to social media contacts who aren’t actually hot girls.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. James Avery)

The 19-year-olds messaging with you aren’t real and don’t want your dad bod

Hate to tell you this, but most of you’ve gotten up in pounds as you’ve gotten up in rank, and even those of you who have not have gotten up in age. And, I know it’s a big surprise, but 19-year-old girls are typically into college boys with six packs. So, please, start feeling more suspicious than horny when you get texts, Tinder matches, or private messages from people way too attractive to be interested in you.

Otherwise, these people engage in lengthy conversations where you incriminate yourself in conspiracies to meet them in hotels, and then they blackmail you for money or government secrets. Just watch adult sites instead. (But, again, use the morale or USO internet, not the NIPR. Not. NIPR.)

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

Sgt. Hercules can lift any load, but can he set a secure password?

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brian Cline)

Change your passwords and stop using nicknames for your genitals

Whether you’re accessing your premium subscription on that adult website, getting into your email, or opening a new Grindr account, please stop using the same passwords for everything. And please, please stop using your children’s names, birthdates and anniversaries, and favorite car manufacturer for passwords.

No, your genital nicknames aren’t any better, especially since you all keep bragging about the names on Reddit and Facebook.

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

We’re tired of putting up pictures of soldiers in front of computers or holding smartphones, so here’s an Army colonel addressing a conference as a video game avatar.

(U.S. Army)

Why do you update your Steam games every day but virus scans only when you buy new computers?

You know how your Steam library is automatically updated, all you gamers out there? For everyone else, it’s sort of like when Flash player needs another update. It happens frequently, you won’t notice the difference unless you read the patch notes, and it’s actually essential that you do the updates.

So, new rule, please set your virus protections to automatically update. If you won’t or can’t do that, then update your virus definitions every time Flash or Steam initiates an update.

Also, please figure out how computers work

This, by the way, gets to a larger issue that isn’t necessarily a direct cyber threat, but it’s honestly just sort of grating, and even the game-playing nerds aren’t immune to this: figure out how your computers work. Not only would this help you avoid cyber threats better, but it would also cut down on the number of times we hurt ourselves biting our tongues.

It’s just so exhausting hearing people talk about buying a new hard drive to improve their frame rates or graphics, or people getting 4K monitors when their video cards can’t support it. Just, please, learn how computers actually work before you get a new MILITARY STAR card to fill with ill-considered purchases.

Seriously, PC Building Simulator is a thing now.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Female sailors will get a lot of new hairstyle options

Female sailors can soon sport several new hairstyles including locks, ponytails and options that fall below the collar in certain uniforms, according to new approved regulations announced July 10, 2018.

Lock, or loc, hairstyles and buns that span the width of the back of a female sailor’s head will now be authorized for women in all uniforms. Ponytails will be OK in service, working or physical-training uniforms — provided there’s no operational safety concern. And hairstyles that hit beneath shirt, dress or jacket collars will be approved in dinner-dress uniforms.


The changes were approved by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Bob Burke, and announced by six members of a working group during a Navy Facebook Live event.

Richardson credited the working group, which took feedback from the fleet, with coming up with and presenting the new grooming recommendations.

“We just demonstrated that a recommendation can make things happen, so I want to hear from you,” he said.

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zane Ecklund)

If a female sailor’s hair falls beneath the collar now, she’s limited to buns, braids or cornrows. Ponytails were only previously authorized in PT uniforms.

In 2017, Richardson approved a move to allow female sailors wearing ball caps to wear their bun through the hat’s opening rather than underneath it.

The Marine Corps was the first service to approve locks for women in 2015. The Army also authorized dreadlocks for women in early 2018

Some black female service members have complained that they’ve been forced to wear wigs in uniform in order for their hairstyles to meet military standards. Hairstyles like locks give those women more options for styling their natural hair.

Richardson said policies and regulations shouldn’t just make the Navy more lethal toward its adversaries, but should also make the service more inclusive.

Full details, including a timeline on the changes and implementation guideline, will be announced in an upcoming service-wide administrative message.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines go viral with video of dancing to Da Pump’s ‘USA’

The US Marine Corps Installations Pacific Command’s Japanese language twitter account posted a video in August 2018 of Marines dancing to Da Pump’s “USA,” which has since gone viral.

The video shows several Marines replicating the dance moves to the chorus of the Japanese pop band’s “USA,” jumping on one foot and kicking out the other.


As of early Aug. 2018, the video has been watched 6.57 million times and has been retweeted nearly 148,000 times.

“We expected this video to be popular,” Marine Corps social media manager Ike Hirayasuon told Stars and Stripes, but “we’re overwhelmed with just how successful it’s been.”

The video was filmed over a few days at several installations on Okinawa, Stripes reported.

“Our hope is that this video allows viewers to see a different side of the U.S. Marines living on Okinawa,” a Marine Corps spokesperson told The Japan Times, adding that it shows “the positive impact the people and culture of Japan have on Marines stationed in Okinawa” and that Marines have embraced Japan’s culture.

Over the last few years, there have been at least a few high profile incidents in which US Marines have committed crimes that has raised tensions with locals.

In late January 2018, a Marine was arrested after punching an Okinawa hotel employee. In 2017, a Marine was arrested in connection with a fatal car crash, in which alcohol was apparently involved, that killed an Okinawa resident.

www.youtube.com

Watch the original Da Pump video below:

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health

Steve Houghton’s rugged face shone orange in the firelight as he pulled in a deep breath of the frigid Montana backcountry air and shifted in his chair before taking his turn at a personal story. The stress lines of an often-furrowed brow and eyes tinged with sadness advertised the toll of an especially bruising year for the former motor transportation Marine. 

The snipers and special operations soldiers around the campfire were half-expecting a familiar tale of combat trauma and trouble transitioning to civilian life. If anyone in the group of 17 military veterans had a thousand-yard stare, it was Houghton.

Marine Steve Houghton veteran hunting, Coffee or Die
Former motor transportation Marine Steve Houghton listens to a campfire discussion during the first camp hosted by the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Armed Forces Initiative Nov. 8. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

A crackle from the fire disturbed the brief silence as the circle waited for him to speak. 

“You know, I didn’t know how much I needed this,” Houghton said with a somber Montana drawl as he opened up to the men and women who two days earlier were complete strangers. “It’s been a rough 2020 for me, and before I came out here, I was in pretty bad shape. I went through a divorce, and I’ve struggled with other issues. But the last two days have put a smile on my face even while I was sleeping.” 

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Armed Forces Initiative, Coffee or Die
Base camp at BHA’s first Veteran Dual Skill Acquisition Camp Nov. 9. Composite photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Houghton and 16 other military veterans traveled to eastern Montana’s vast swath of public lands Nov. 6 through 10 for an inaugural event hosted by Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA), a nonprofit committed to preserving North America’s outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting through education and advocacy on behalf of wild public lands and waters. 

After launching its Armed Forces Initiative in June, BHA developed its first-ever Veteran Dual Skill Acquisition Camp, where BHA mentors covered skills such as e-scouting, shot placement, field-dressing, meat considerations, carcass disposal, and education about public lands and related legislative issues. But as Houghton and the others quickly learned, the best parts of camp weren’t listed in the promotional materials that drew them to the event. 

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers veterans initiative, Coffee or Die
Veterans warm themselves and listen to campfire discussions during the cerebral portion of the camp Nov. 8. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

“I’ve been on my own for quite a while now, and I was kind of getting into a real rough spot just before I came out here,” Houghton continued. “But getting out in the woods with a bunch of veterans has made a world of difference. I feel supported on multiple levels, and it just feels really good. I’ve learned so much, and I think this is about the most therapeutic stuff I’ve experienced since I got out of the Marines. It gives you back that sense of camaraderie and that mission that, once you’re out, you just lack in life.

“This gives me hope for the future with myself and other veterans that are struggling to find a sense of meaning again. Just being around everybody and seeing that you’re not alone, it’s been absolutely incredible — absolutely lifesaving. You’re saving lives with this.”

Morgan Mason, BHA, Coffee or Die
BHA Armed Forces Initiative coordinator Morgan Mason leads a campfire discussion Nov. 8. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Knowing nods and grunts of approval from Houghton’s newfound tribe validated his sentiments. There was the sergeant major from the 19th Special Forces Group, the recently retired special operations pilot, Marine snipers and grunts, Army snipers and other soldiers, sailors, National Guard members, and an Air Force member who cheerily absorbed all the standard trash talk that always gets heaped on extra thick for members of the “Chair Force.” 

Morgan Mason, BHA’s Armed Forces Initiative coordinator and a former Army intelligence analyst, coordinated the camp. Mason was 20 when he participated in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. 

veteran Morgan Mason, BHA Armed Forces Initiative, Coffee or Die
Army veteran Morgan Mason is the Armed Forces Initiative coordinator for BHA. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

“When I left the Army, I just wanted to head West and break free of everything,” Mason said. “I spent a lot of time on public lands, and they were my source of decompression. I thought it was amazing that I could go do all these outdoor activities — whitewater rafting, mountain biking, climbing, hunting.” 

Mason said his experiences led him to the path he’s on now. His passion and mission are to make sure all military members and veterans can have the same experiences outdoors that were integral to his transition and that continue to enrich his life. For BHA’s Armed Forces Initiative, he focuses on three pillars: active-duty programming, veteran programming, and legislative efforts.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Armed Forces Initiative, Coffee or Die
From left, Washington National Guardsman Tyr Symank, BHA Armed Forces Initiative coordinator Morgan Mason, retired Army special operations pilot Ryan Burkert, and former Army infantryman Tyler Jensen take a break to scan the ridges for deer and crack some jokes in eastern Montana Nov. 8. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

BHA has forged a unique relationship with the US military to develop its active-duty programming initiative. It has partnered with several major military installations, including Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Camp Pendleton, California, to promote outdoor activities on public lands among military members at those locations and others. 

“Spending time outdoors is like a reset button for your brain,” Mason said. “For military members and veterans who are dealing with issues like post-traumatic stress, survivor’s guilt, or opioid addiction, outdoor activities like hunting aren’t a cure-all, but having these experiences makes you a better person because they destress your mind by dumping some dopamine into your brain and making you feel good. We want people to feel the weight of the world drop off their shoulders and feel that stress melt away, and public land makes that possible for everyone.”

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Matthew Carlock, right, mentors Andrea Nofio while hunting mule deer and whitetail deer Nov. 9. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Mason put together the veteran camp as a pilot program for the veteran programming pillar, picking a diverse group of veterans — both mentors and mentees — from a pool of candidates who applied for the mule deer and whitetail hunt in Montana. 

“We tried to bring folks of various skill levels and experiences,” Mason said. “Some are first-time hunters — never shot a deer until this camp — and some have been hunting since they were kids.”

Mason organized the camp around two focus areas: tactile and cerebral. The tactile portion covered skills such as stalking, glassing, and other field tactics. The cerebral portion consisted of campfire talks and bonding over shared experiences and public lands education. 

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Andrea “Eagle-Eye” Nofio and “Two-Shot” Steve Houghton glass the terrain while hunting mule deer and whitetail deer Nov. 9. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

One of the topics around the campfire was the Accelerating Veterans Recovery Outdoors Act, which advanced through the US Senate Nov. 10. The bipartisan legislation would require the secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish an interagency task force on the use of public lands to provide health and wellness for veterans through outdoor recreation. That means if President Donald Trump signs the act into law, the federal government will study the health benefits of trips and activities like BHA’s veteran hunt.   

It didn’t take long for fast friendships to form in the teams and hunting parties Mason organized. Houghton hooked up with BHA mentor and former Idaho National Guardsman Matthew Carlock and husband-and-wife-duo Andrea and Patrick Nofio — both Navy veterans — to form “Team Send It.” 

veterans, field-dressing deer, Coffee or Die
Mentor Matthew Carlock, left, demonstrates for other military veterans how to properly field-dress a deer while Steve Houghton helps. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Carlock’s stocky frame and boundless energy in the backcountry terrain earned him the moniker “The Mountain Goat,” and after Houghton bagged his first of four deer, Carlock helped pack the whole animal back to camp so he could give a demonstration on how to field-dress a deer, a vital skill that several first-time hunters put to use in short order. 

On the second day of camp, Andrea earned her nickname, “Eagle-Eye Andrea,” when she spotted at about 300 yards a beautiful six-pointed mule deer buck at the 11th hour of a long day of following the Mountain Goat up and down endless ridges and valleys in frigid conditions. The Alaska native said she “saw every wild animal you could ever see” growing up in the Great North State, but her father, who raised four daughters, never took her hunting. 

Patrick and Andrea Nofio, women veterans, hunting, Coffee or Die
Andrea “Eagle-Eye” Nofio and her husband, Patrick, pause to glass the terrain while hunting mule deer and whitetail deer Nov. 9. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

“I’d been thinking about it for a long time, but there’s so many barriers to entry,” Andrea said about finally learning to hunt with BHA’s support. “Hunting is expensive. You need a mentor, and you need to just be really intrepid.”

Andrea said she and Patrick jumped at the opportunity when they heard about the Montana hunt because it removed a lot of the intimidation factor they felt.

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Mentor Matthew Carlock instructs other military veterans during a demonstration on how to properly field-dress a deer. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

“The vast knowledge that is shared freely by everybody here has just been amazing,” Patrick said. “We’re checking off bucket list items with this trip, getting out here and finally putting the miles down, and being able to share in the pride and camaraderie of harvesting an animal with all these awesome veterans — it’s really meaningful and just an absolutely phenomenal experience.”

Around the campfire each night, a common theme kept permeating the conversation: Nobody gets veterans like other veterans. 

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A view from public lands in eastern Montana Nov. 9. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Healthy competition, trash talk, and crude humor were sources of bonding throughout the weekend. 

After former Army sniper Jim Vinson shared his personal story around the fire one night, he couldn’t help but end with a flex: “I smoked a doe last night at 511 yards, so somebody needs to top that.” 

veteran Matthew Carlock, BHA hunting, Coffee or Die
Matthew “The Mountain Goat” Carlock treks through the hills while hunting mule deer and whitetails Nov. 9. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

On a long hunt the day after Andrea bagged her buck, Carlock — The Mountain Goat — promised Team Send It they’d likely find deer if they’d follow him for yet another long push to a far-off ridge. 

“Yeah, we’ve heard it before, Matthew,” she said. “Just the tip, just for a second, just to see how it feels.” 

veteran Steve Houghton, Coffee or Die
“Two-Shot” Steve Houghton shares a laugh with his new veteran friends while hunting mule deer and whitetail deer Nov. 9. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Houghton, who needed eight rounds to bag his four deer and was dubbed by his Team Send It brethren “Two-Shot Steve,” howled at the joke. “I love veterans,” he said. 

Andrea, who is currently enrolled as a college student in Montana, said, “Yeah, I don’t usually get to make those kinds of jokes these days. I really miss being around veterans.”

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Armed Forces Initiative, Coffee or Die
From left, Morgan Mason, Patrick and Andrea Nofio, Steve Houghton, Zach and Jessi Condon, Tyr Symank, Matthew Carlock, and the author Nov. 10. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

After three days, on the Marine Corps birthday, the veterans broke down the camp. A handful of them held a small ceremony, taking down the American flag that had flown proudly at the entry path and folding it in accordance with military tradition. Together, they had killed 18 deer over three days and would feed their friends and families for months to come. 

They shared some hot coffee on a final cold morning together, traded hearty hugs, handshakes, and contact information, and left for home — batteries recharged by new friendships and experiences and with plenty of great stories and newfound respect for public lands to share with friends and family. 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Marine veteran Dan Duitsman, Camp Valor Outdoors

Previously in episode 152, Borne the Battle’s guest was Denise Loring from Camp Valor Outdoors. She gave a brief overview of the nonprofit, Camp Valor Outdoors – which included the competitive shooting program. Camp Valor Outdoors’ shooting team competes in professional matches all over the country.


CMP National Matches at Camp Perry Promo

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This week’s interview is Dan Duitsman. He is a Marine veteran and Camp Valor Outdoors’ Shooting Sports Program Director. His role is to get disabled veterans into competitive shooting – no matter the disability.

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Camp Valor Outdoors Shooting Team at the Civilian Marksmanship Program Nationals, Camp Perry, OH.

(Photo Courtesy of Camp Valor Outdoors Facebook Page)


While in the Marine Corps, Dan worked in security forces, counterintelligence and the infantry. Prior to his role at Camp Valor Outdoors, he was a weapons instructor with the U.S. State Department. In this episode he talked about his career, his transition, the recreational-therapeutic benefits of the shooting and how to get involved in Camp Valor Outdoors’ shooting program.

2019-11-20 Full Committee Hearing: Legislative Hearing on HR 3495 and a Draft Bill

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This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy’s oldest nuclear-powered attack sub arrives in port one last time

The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia (SSN 717) arrived at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton to commence the inactivation and decommissioning process on Oct. 29, 2019.

Under the command of Cmdr. Benjamin Selph, the submarine departed Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for a final homeport change.

“We are happy to bring Olympia back to Washington, so that we can continue to build and foster the relationships that have been around since her commissioning,” said Selph. “The city loves the ship and the ship loves the city, I am glad we have such amazing support as we bid this incredible submarine farewell.”

Olympia completed a seven-month around-the-world deployment, in support of operations vital to national security on Sept. 8, 2019.


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Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Olympia returns to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, after completing its latest deployment, Nov. 9, 2017.

(US Navy Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Shaun Griffin)

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

Sailors assigned to Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Olympia load a Mark 48 torpedo from the pier in Souda Bay, Greece, July 10, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelly M. Agee)

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

Machinist’s Mate (Weapons) 3rd Class Raul E. Bonilla, assigned to fast-attack sub USS Olympia, prepares to load a Mark 48 torpedo for a sinking exercise during the Rim of the Pacific exercise, July 12, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Michael H. Lee)

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia transits the Puget Sound, arriving to Bremerton, Washington, where it’s scheduled to begin the inactivation and decommissioning process at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, October 29, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Foley)

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia transits the Puget Sound, arriving to Bremerton, Washington, where it’s scheduled to begin the inactivation and decommissioning process at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, October 29, 2019.

(US Navy photo Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Foley)

The boat’s mission is to seek out and destroy enemy ships and submarines and to protect US national interests. At 360 feet long and 6,900 tons, it can be armed with sophisticated MK48 advanced capability torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why medics telling you to change your socks is actually sound advice

If you’ve ever gone to see a medic or corpsman, chances are they’ve offered up their standard set of advice: drink some water, take a knee and change your socks. Troops use this “profound medical expertise” as a catchall for any kind of ailment you may have.

Your feet are starting to boil over from this ruck march? You should have a pair of socks in your pack. Starting to vomit profusely? Change your socks and down some Motrin. Here’s a pair of socks with your name on it, buddy!

All jokes aside, when medics recommend you change your socks, here’s why you should heed their advice.


After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week
“Huh. That doesn’t look good. You should change your socks about that,” said every medic ever.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Michael Merrill)

It doesn’t matter if you’re the laziest airman in the chAir Force or the most intense operator in SOCOM, wearing the same pair of socks two days in a row is extremely unhygienic. Regardless of how active you are, your feet will get nasty and socks just collect all those germs and bacteria.

Being in the military means that your feet are constantly put to the test, exposed to all the crud that troops walk through in the field. If you shower and put on a fresh set of clothes every morning, you’ll be fine. But if you’re constantly on the move and have to skip your morning routine, all that bacteria is left with nowhere to go but into your skin.

Letting that nastiness build up on the soles of your feet can lead to a fungal infection, which leads to countless other foot-related problems. I’ll spare you the graphic details (and images), but it’s not pretty. Just know that trench foot is a very serious condition that will take you out of fight and it can happen if you wear dirty, sweaty socks too long.

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week
It really can cure (almost) everything!

But let’s not forget one of the biggest concerns of foot health: popped blisters. Over the course of a ruck march, the friction of your boots constantly hitting the pavement could cause your feet to form blisters. Those blisters may be painful, but they’re actually your body’s way of trying to heal the damage your feet sustained.

If that blister were to pop, though — which, if you’re on a ruck march with no rest stop in sight, is highly likely — then all that bacteria in your socks could infect that tiny, seemingly insignificant wound. That wound could turn gangrenous by the time you finish the 24-miler. In the worst possible scenario, the bacteria then makes its way into your bloodstream and you go into septic shock, which is very much life-threatening.

The only way to prevent this from happening is to take the advice from your medic or corpsman and change your socks at every occasion.

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘Mayans MC’ star Vincent Vargas ‘didn’t think it was fair’ that Adam Driver was bullied for serving in the war

Lockdown measures have meant that almost everyone is spending nearly all their time on Twitter. Those familiar with the social media platform would know that every new day during these difficult times sees a new celebrity being canceled. One of those celebrities was Adam Driver, for his supposed Islamophobic sentiments for enlisting.

On April 20, the hashtag #adamdriverisoverparty started trending on Twitter after a 2019 interview of the actor resurfaced. In the interview, Driver spoke about how he joined the Marines after 9/11 because he felt a deep desire for retribution against an invisible and unknown enemy.


“It wasn’t against Muslims,” he said. “It was: We were attacked. I want to fight for my country against whoever that is.”

What followed was a horde of Twitter users using Driver’s comments to accuse him of being Islamophobic and launching the hashtag. “#AdamDriverIsOverParty forget that ugly Islamophobic troll stream my amy adams fancam,” said one.

‘Mayans M.C.’ actor Vincent Vargas spoke to MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) on what he thought about Driver being subjected to the cancel culture. He said, “I think right now, people are completely polarized and completely divided on opinions on everything in the world. I believe they took Adam Driver’s quotes on what he talked about, why he wanted to serve our country and turned it against him as if he [were] an Islamophobe.”

He added, “I just didn’t think it was fair to someone who [served] our country, someone who decided to join for whatever reasons that might be and then to turn around and try and damage his career because of unpopular opinions of other people. It’s a small demographic of individuals that use social media to essentially bully someone on their own opinion.”

Vargas also said that Driver’s 2019 interview might have resurfaced as people are bored of being on quarantine and stuck indoors. He added that Driver is “a brilliant actor,” and that he did not think “any kind of assumption of his character is going to ruin his career.” Vargas said, “Whatever they took out of context, that’s on them.”

He said, “For it to kind of blow-up again was kind of weird. I was almost amazed by it and kind of blown away that someone who serves in America, who [makes] the kind of entertainment that we enjoy that is mostly made in America — the land of opportunity that actors from other countries come to — was [bashed].”

Vargas believes that it’s “honorable and commendable” that Driver chose to serve in the war, whether “people believe in the [purpose of the] war or not.” He said, “[Driver] was trying to serve a greater purpose than himself.”

Vargas himself is a veteran. The actor enlisted for the military and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2007 and did three tours. At the time, Vargas enlisted partly for financial reasons. He had a child he needed to support, but also because he wanted to do his part to help. He said, “I wanted to try and do it the right way and try and do special operations.”

The actor was part of both Operation Iraqi Freedom (the United States’ invasion of Iraq from 2003 to 2011) and Operation Enduring Freedom (what the Global War on Terrorism was called by the United States government).

Vargas was sent to learn Pashtu for several months so he could communicate with the Afghani population in the hills. He said he would check on them to see how things were going as well as to establish that “we’re here looking for terrorist fighters.”

Vargas said there was an interesting dynamic between the soldiers and the civilians of those countries. He told MEAWW, “Are we there for the right reasons? That’s a question to answer, but I’m here to do [the] job that has been asked of me by the military.”

On being asked his opinions on the civilian casualties during the United States’ operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Vargas said, “I think we all know and [have] seen that there are civilian casualties in war all the time and it’s a super unfortunate thing to happen.”

He added, “It’s obviously not something I condone or support but I also know that there’s this crazy thing that happens in the fog of war and it’s unfortunate. It’s unfortunate that a lot of terrorist acts happened in our country and some civilians, innocent people, and bystanders get hurt in those as well. When you have a country at war, those things are to be expected and it’s not a good thing. It’s not something to be proud of, but it is something that we have to acknowledge exists.”

Vargas plays the role of Gilberto “Gilly” Lopez on FX’s ‘Mayans M.C.’. Crucially, he also serves as a technical advisor on the show. Vargas tells us that it is just him and Tyler Grey (of ‘SEAL Team’) who are veterans who served in active combat duty who work as actors on mainstream television today.

Vargas said, “I believe it’s kind of my place to make sure that veterans are represented in the right light and not to be bashed on for serving our country. Think about Hollywood. In the 50s and 60s, it was [run] by veterans who served in Vietnam and before that in World War 2.”

As the technical advisor, Vargas helps make sure that everything done on the show regarding law enforcement, military, and border patrol are authentic. When the writers want to include material on those aspects, Vargas, makes sure that it is something that is correct and “valid toward the truth.”

While it may seem that veteran representation in Hollywood is aplenty, veterans often lament that their on-screen counterparts are often portrayed in extremes. Veteran Chris Marvin told the New York Times that veterans were being stereotyped by what he believes has become the dominant image on television and in Hollywood today: the “broken hero,” as he puts it, “who once did incredible things but is now forever damaged and in need of help.”

“The truth is, 99 percent of us are neither heroic nor broken,” Marvin said. “We are people — people the public has invested in who have a lot of potential. And it’s time to get over the pity party.”

Marvin believed that the portrayals may color the public’s perceptions, causing people to think that veterans are more likely to be unemployed and to commit suicide than their civilian peers, which he insisted is not true.

This article originally appeared on Meaww. Follow @MeawwOfficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Do people really have repressed memories?

Astryx_x asks: Do suppressed memories actually exist?

We’ve all seen it in movies — a character will be going along in their lives blissfully unaware of some extremely traumatic event in their long distant past… that is, until a bit of syrup dribbles onto their cheek and they are transported back in their mind to that time they were abducted by aliens. Suddenly, they remember everything. But do such repressed memories actually exist?

It turns out that while only a few decades ago the idea of repressed memories was an extremely popular notion among psychologists, including many a person being thrown in prison when someone would randomly recover such a traumatic memory from their childhood after undergoing psychotherapy to retrieve it, the issue is a fair bit more controversial today.


According to a study conducted at the University of California, Irvine, published in the Journal of the Association for Psychological Science in 2013, approximately 60%-90% of psychologists (varying based on therapist type) who are clinicians still believe that repressed memories exist in some cases, though generally considered to be rare. Further, 43%-75% think these repressed memories can be retrieved with proper methods. In stark contrast, approximately 70% of research psychologist believe there is no such thing as repressed memories. So what’s going on here?

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

(Photo by Hal Gatewood)

To begin with, on the research psychologist side, their stance is largely backed by the fact that, as noted by famed psychologist Chris French of the University of London, “There is no convincing evidence to support the existence of the psychoanalytic concept of repression, despite it being a widely accepted concept.”

Despite this, many clinicians still believe it is. As to why, Lawrence Patihis of the aforementioned study illustrating the divide between clinicians and researchers speculates:

clinicians are more apt to trust clinical experience, while researchers tend to trust experimental research… there are many anecdotal reports of cures coming from retrieving repressed memories, but at the same time, credible experimental evidence of it does not exist…

Further stacking the evidence on the side of the researchers, it turns out that traumatic events that induce a strong emotional response, which are so often the subject of supposed repressed memories, tend to be the ones we remember the best.

That said, traumatic events can, and often are, ultimately forgotten, particularly when said events don’t actually induce a significant emotional response — for instance, if a child and not really understanding the event was of what would normally be categorized as the traumatic variety and thus there isn’t an associated strong emotional response. These tend to be forgotten at much higher rates, similar to what you’d expect from any given memory.

In fact, in one study Recall of Childhood Trauma: A Prospective Study of Women’s Memories of Child Sexual Abuse, published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, it’s noted that 38% of the adults studied who had a high probability of being abused as children based on documented evidence had forgotten about it as adults.

In one case, one of the participants who was adamant she was never sexually abused, was asked a follow up question if she knew anyone that had been “in trouble for his or her sexual behavior”. Eventually the woman did remember her uncle had. She stated: “I never met my uncle, he died before I was born. You see, he molested a little boy. When the little boy’s mother found out that her son was molested, she took a butcher knife and stabbed my uncle in the heart, killing him.”

In fact, that is exactly what happened, except in this case, the woman being interviewed was one of three children the uncle had allegedly done this to, resulting in the mother of one of the children murdering him with a knife. The now adult woman in the study had only been four years old then — a time when few remember anything of their lives, traumatic or not.

Similarly, in a case study reported by The Recovered Memory Project, a woman named Claudia was involved in a group therapy session to help with weight loss when for whatever reason she began remembering being sexually abused by her older brother when she was little. Her brother had died in Vietnam approximately 15 years before, and their parents had essentially left his room and belongings alone. When she returned home, Claudia searched the room and found not only a set of handcuffs in his closet, but a diary in which he supposedly recorded his, to quote, “sexual experiments with his sister.”

From many such cases as these, as should come as no surprise to anyone — humans forget things all the time, and later sometimes remember them. It’s just that studies to date don’t really demonstrate that the brain is actively repressing these memories as is so widely believed among the general public, and to a lesser extent clinical psychologists.

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

(Photo by jesse orrico)

While this might otherwise be a mundane issue only worth psychologists arguing over, it turns out it’s actually a pretty pernicious one thanks to the way clinicians classically tried to recover these memories, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s when the idea of recovering repressed memories was en vogue. This was often done in cases when forgotten traumatic events were thought by the therapists as the cause of things like depression and anxiety in a given client.

It turns out, many of the methods used by psychologists came to be discovered as textbook ways to get people to create false memories.

To begin with, to illustrate how easy it is to plant a false memory, in one early study, now famed memory researcher Dr. Elizabeth Loftus and co. decided to see if they could implant a false memory into people of having been lost at a shopping mall when five years old. Their method here, as explained by Dr. Loftus was,

We prepared a booklet for each participant containing one-paragraph stories about three events that had actually happened to him or her and one that had not. We constructed the false event using information about a plausible shopping trip provided by a relative, who also verified that the participant had not in fact been lost at about the age of five. The lost-in-the-mall scenario included the following elements: lost for an extended period, crying, aid and comfort by an elderly woman and, finally, reunion with the family.

What they ultimately found was after asking people to recall the events with as much detail as possible (a question many a clinical psychologist would ask, among other methods), almost 1/3 of the people involved remembered this experience.

In yet another similar study at Western Washington University, parents of students reported various events that had happened to their children. The researchers then asked the students if they could give their version of the story to illustrate how people remember things differently. They also planted a false story within these real ones about either being hospitalized as a child or having had a birthday party with a clown and pizza at the age of 5. It was also confirmed with the parents that neither of those things had ever happened.

Illustrating the power of suggestion, not a single student remembered the false event the first time they were interviewed about it. Yet in the second interview 1/5th of them remembered it after thinking about it for a while. Some even eventually remembered the event in incredible detail, including specific people visiting them in the hospital, for instance.

In yet another study by that same research group, this time they went with the subjects having to evacuate a store as a child when the sprinkler system went off, drenching everyone, or having spilled a giant bowl of punch at a wedding directly on the parent’s of the bride. Once again, nobody remembered the false memory the first time. But the second time almost 1/5th did, including, again, with some remembering remarkably vivid and small details.

Going yet more traumatic and somewhat controversial, there have been studies where researchers implanted false memories of everything from people almost drowning as children to being demon possessed — all with similar results.

Of course, in many of these cases, the idea was fed to the subjects and some of them then created the detailed false memories based on that suggestion. So how did this correlate to methods used by clinical psychologists in the late 20th century and to a lesser extent now?

As one example, we have imagination therapy, where patients are asked to imagine an often traumatic event and not worry about whether it happened or not — a once very popular method for trying to draw out repressed or forgotten memories.

For example, as famed sex therapist Wendy Matlz once stated, she would tell her patients to “Spend time imaging that you were sexually abused, without worrying about accuracy proving anything, or having your ideas make sense …. Ask yourself … these questions: What time of day is it? Where are you? Indoors or outdoors? What kind of things are happening? Is there one or more person with you?… Who would have been likely perpetrators? When were you most vulnerable to sexual abuse in your life?”

In studies looking at whether this type of imagination therapy increases the likelihood of implanting a false memory, one study’s subjects were asked a series of questions about a made up event of running toward a window as a child then tripping and breaking the window with their hand as they fell. It turns out the act of imagining that it happened increased about 1 in 4 of the participant’s confidence that the event had actually happened, vs. only about 1 in 10 reporting an increase in confidence when not asked to imagine the event had occurred.

Other studies have shown that the more frequently subjects were made to imagine a made up event, the more and more likely they are to later state that the event actually happened.

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

(Photo by Robina Weermeijer)

In yet another study, using these type of guided methods as well as hypnosis, participants were made to supposedly recover memories from directly after they were first born. Of course, the researchers at Carleton University actually simply implanted specific memories. Incredibly, 95% of the people being studied using guided mnemonic restructuring came to remember some memories from directly after birth and on the other hand, 70% who were subjected to hypnosis also recovered these so-called “impossible memories”. Also important to note was that about half of both groups also remembered the specific memory from shortly after being born that the researchers had completely made up.

Dr. Loftus states of all this,

Research is beginning to give us an understanding of how false memories of complete, emotional and self-participatory experiences are created in adults. First, there are social demands on individuals to remember; for instance, researchers exert some pressure on participants in a study to come up with memories. Second, memory construction by imagining events can be explicitly encouraged when people are having trouble remembering. And, finally, individuals can be encouraged not to think about whether their constructions are real or not. Creation of false memories is most likely to occur when these external factors are present, whether in an experimental setting, in a therapeutic setting or during everyday activities.

This very unfortunately resulted in cases like Nadean Cool. In 1986, she went to see a psychiatrist who in turn used a variety of popular techniques including hypnosis to try to see if she had any repressed memories about being abused as a child. In the end, what surfaced were memories of being raped, being forced into bestiality, eating babies, watching her friend get murdered, being forced to be involved in a satanic cult, etc. At one point the psychiatrist in question even decided she had at least 120 distinct personalities, one of which was somehow that of a duck. And then to add to the bizarreness of the whole thing, the psychiatrist had an exorcism performed on her to get Satan out of her body…

Of course, after years of this, it ultimately became clear none of these things had actually happened to her and they were simply false memories inadvertently implanted by her psychiatrist over time using these various methods.

In another famous case, one Beth Rutherford’s therapists used similar methods to try to recover repressed memories in 1992, only to have her vividly remember her mother holding her down while her father, a minister, raped her countless times over the course of seven years, starting when she was just seven years old. This included twice getting her pregnant and then painfully aborting the pregnancies using a coat hangar…

Naturally, the whole thing ruined her father’s career and reputation, among other devastating effects on all involved. But it turns out none of that actually happened either, which Beth ultimately discovered, among other evidence, when she went in for an examination and it turns out not only was it very clear she’d never been pregnant, but it was also the opinion of her doctors that she was clearly still a virgin.

Naturally, in both the cases of Beth and Nadean, neither were too pleased at having been put through all that mental trauma, plus having put others they loved through similar stress and hardship, when it was eventually demonstrated that none of these recovered memories ever happened.

Perhaps the most famous case of all of these was that of Eileen Franklin, who would later go on to author a book called Sins of the Father documenting the saga as she saw it. In her case, when she was a child one of her friends, eight year old Susan Nason, was raped and murdered. Nason’s body was discovered two months later, but the killer never identified. That is, until Eileen was an adult and her own daughter allegedly turned to look at her one day and reminded her so much of her friend, that suddenly she remembered witnessing her own father, George Franklin, raping and murdering Nason right in front of her.

Soon enough, Franklin was arrested, tried and convicted, despite there being no real evidence other than this recovered memory.

Finally, six years after being imprisoned, the ruling was overturned by a federal appeals court who, among other things, noted that the prosecutors’ entire case depended on the accuracy of repressed memories which were unreliable. Yet, in this case were taken as absolute fact, despite the lack of corroborating evidence. The appeals court also criticized the judge involved for not allowing the defense to introduce evidence that all of the pertinent facts of the case Eileen supposedly remembered had actually appeared in news accounts of the crime which Eileen was privy too.

This was particularly important as much of the confidence that Eileen’s memories were real came from the fact that many of the details she recalled did indeed match up with the evidence in the case.

Not long after Franklin was released after six years in prison, prosecutors were initially going to forge ahead to attempt to get Franklin thrown back behind bars. But then a few pertinent pieces of information came out that resulted in them moving to dismiss the charges.

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First, Eileen had alleged that she had recovered another memory of her father raping and murdering someone else, this time an 18 year old woman whose murder at that point was also unsolved. However, when a DNA test was done on the semen recovered in the case it didn’t match George Franklin’s DNA. Further, minutes from a meeting at his work at the time this particular murder took place showed Franklin had been at that meeting at the fire station he had worked at. Thus, unless he had discovered a way to be two places at once, he couldn’t have done it.

The nail in the coffin on the origin case was when Eileen’s sister, Janice, told the prosecutors that Eileen allegedly told her that she’d remembered the events of the case in question while being hypnotized, contrary to what Eileen and Janice had stated during the trial. If true, this made those memories unreliable in the eyes of the court thanks to a Supreme Court ruling on a similar case, and thus the prosecution finally decided to have the charges dismissed.

Eileen still, however, at least at that point, firmly maintained she remembered these things happening and was still convinced her father was guilty of this and other alleged crimes from later recovered memories she had of him raping her as well. But as the aforementioned psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, who was called to testify in this particular case, noted during the whole ordeal,

I have little doubt that Eileen Franklin believes with every cell of her being that her father murdered Susan Nason. But I believe there is a very real possibility that the whole concoction was spun not from solid facts but from the vaporous breezes of wishes, dreams, fears, desires. Eileen’s mind, operating independently of reality, went about its business of collecting ambiguities and inconsistencies and wrapping them up into a sensible package, revealing to her in one blinding moment of insight a coherent picture of the past that was nevertheless completely and utterly false. Eileen’s story is her truth, but I believe it is a truth that never happened.

Illustrating the potential scope of the problem of false memories and court cases, Dr. Loftus would later state in her TED talk,

In one project in the United States, information has been gathered on 300 innocent people, 300 defendants who were convicted of crimes they didn’t do. They spent 10, 20, 30 years in prison for these crimes, and now DNA testing has proven that they are actually innocent. And when those cases have been analyzed, three quarters of them are due to… faulty eyewitness memory.

Of course, moving back to recovered memories, there really are people who were abused or witnessed or endured traumatic things as children and then later completely forgot about it, so few are willing to reject the memories of everyone who has such recollections later in life, even when “recovered” through therapy. It’s just that, as Dr. Loftus states,

The one take home message… is this: Just because someone tells you something with a lot of confidence and detail and emotion, it doesn’t mean it actually happened. You need independent corroboration to know whether you’re dealing with an authentic memory, or something that is a product of some other process.

She goes on, “…many people believe that memory works like a recording device. You just record the information, then you call it up and play it back when you want to answer questions or identify images. But decades of work in psychology has shown that this just isn’t true. Our memories are constructive. They’re reconstructive. Memory works a little bit more like a Wikipedia page: You can go in there and change it, but so can other people.”

So to sum up — while some psychologists still think repressed memories are a thing, there really isn’t presently much data backing up the notion vs the simpler explanation that people have just forgotten things like they forget most of what happens in their lives. Further, given that it’s absurdly easy to get people to remember things, even of the extremely traumatic variety, that never actually happened, trying to distinguish between real and false memories is something of an effort in futility without outside hard evidence.

In the end, it turns out human memory is incredibly fallible, but few of us want to accept that so much of what we remember in life didn’t happen quite, or in some cases at all, like we remember it. This, unfortunately, occasionally leads to people being convicted of sometimes even extreme crimes that they didn’t actually commit.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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