This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

Perry Yee knew there was a way he could help his fellow veterans but wasn’t sure how. There are plenty of charities and programs out there that claim to help veterans with issues like PTSD, anxiety, loneliness and isolation, and the sometimes difficult transition into the civilian world. The call to do something was there, but he wasn’t sure what the path was.


So Yee and his wife, Jamie, did what a lot of people who want to help do….they prayed.

Soon after, the idea for Active Valor was born.

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

Active Valor is a non-profit that pairs veterans with Gold Star children. Based out of San Diego county, veterans apply to be a mentor for a child that belongs to a Gold Star family. The intent isn’t to take the place of the father who has passed away, but to be a mentor, guide, confidant and teacher while honoring the parent that passed away. Active Valor does this in several ways. First, they host events throughout the year that keep veterans engaged. This is not a once a year event. This is not a one time meet up. Once paired with a kid, the veteran commits to participating in events throughout the year, and most go further developing a relationship with the child and family. They will end up having weekly conversations, taking the child to sporting events, and being involved with the kid’s life. But more than a “Big Brother” program, Active Valor serves the veteran too and helps them with their struggles.

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

Yee himself knew all about that struggle. He enlisted in the Navy in 2005 on a BUDs contract. Twice he went through Hell Week and had to be rolled back. Once for nerve damage to his arm, and once for pneumonia. But like most warriors, Yee didn’t give up, and in true “third times the charm fashion” graduated in Class 262. He was eventually assigned to SEAL Team 7 out of Coronado, Calif.

Yee did a combat tour and earned himself a Navy Commendation with “V” and Army Commendation with “V.” He left the service in 2011 and embarked on the next chapter of his life. After flirting with college, Yee ended up with the Competitor Group, which runs the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathons nationwide. After a year, he ended up as a Range Safety Officer in Poway, Calif., before getting a job at the Warfighter Academy in Escondido, Calif.. It was here that Yee taught classes in CQB and other warfighting techniques. It was also here where he started connecting with veterans and learned that his rough journey into the civilian side wasn’t just his own experience. Yee learned that many other veterans struggle to connect with coworkers, classmates, family and spouses, and few had outlets which they could express themselves and connect with others.

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

The events the Active Valor puts on helps veterans do just that. They are specifically tailor-made to allow the veteran to use skills and experiences he/she learned in the military and put them to use in a setting that allows the kids to have fun.

How?

By hosting amazingly fun and badass events.

One of the events Yee organized was a treasure hunt for the kids. However, this particular treasure hunt required veterans to use their land nav skills so that kids could find the treasure. Veterans taught their kids how to read maps, use a compass, use a pace count and other tricks so that they could find the treasure that was buried. For those of us that served, it is a bit more fun to do land nav when it helps a kid win a prize as opposed to the torture of doing it as part of training.

Other events include a capture the flag event, field day events, jewel heist adventures where the kid has to recover stolen property, and the most popular of all….’The Zombie Hunt.’ This was a one-off event, where Gold Star kids and their veteran mentors navigated a course full of zombies. Armed with Nerf guns and lots of close combat experience, the pairs went around killing zombies and making memories. The event is so popular it went from a one-off to an annual event (although next year might feature aliens instead of zombies).

Seriously how fun is this:

For the Gold Star families, the events and mentorship provide fun events for the kids while giving them a chance to develop a rapport with someone that walked in their dad’s shoes. A big piece of why the events are successful for both the kids and the veteran is simple. The vet gets to teach the kids about the skills they learned in the military – the same skills their dad knew. That lays the cornerstone to a bridge between their fathers’ life and their life now.

For many Gold Star families, when they lose their loved one, they lose the one connection they had with military life. Active Valor helps reestablish that connection too. Perry has had a lot of positive feedback from mothers saying their kid was in a shell or detached after losing their dad. Having an Active Valor mentor and participating in the activities, give the child an outlet and someone they can talk to. Yee and his wife want to make it clear; Active Valor is not about bringing up the trauma the child had in losing a parent. It is about giving them a day of fun to celebrate the parent and, well, be a kid.

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

Active Valor is a two-person show. Perry is the CEO and does most of the leg work when it comes to organizing the events. His wife Jamie uses her media and design background from her job to do all the marketing, social media, and photo and video work that is needed to spread the word. They are local to San Diego right now, but bring in kids from Northern California, Arizona and Texas. Perry and Jamie are working on expanding the program and engaging more veterans and Gold Star families as they have seen the positive benefits of their program and know they can do more. Right now, they have 45 kids paired with 45 veterans. The process of signing up revolves around the families. Once they sign up, they are then paired with a veteran based on several factors, including interests and hobbies. The key is to make sure the kid feels trusted, and the veteran is going to be a long-term positive influence on the child in the years to come.

The biggest obstacle they face is funding and getting the word out to Gold Star families that this program exists for their kids. If you would like to learn more and if you want to get involved, visit here!

MIGHTY SPORTS

Service members face off in a battle of strength

Members of the U.S. military community competed against one another Sept. 29, 2019 in another installment of Okinawa’s Strongest: Battle of the South on Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.

The event was held to determine who were some of the strongest men and women on Okinawa.

“Today went great,” explained Taryn Miller, an adult sports specialist for Marine Corps Community Services. “The weather was awesome. The competitors had a lot of energy. There was a lot of camaraderie along with a competitive edge among everybody.”

Okinawa residents and service members traveled from all across the island to participate in this event.


The competitors were divided into five different weight classes. Two female weight classes and three male weight classes.

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids


U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ian Dernbach, a heavy equipment operator with III Marine Expeditionary Force Support Battalion, lifts an atlas stone during the Okinawa’s Strongest: Battle of the South, Sept. 29, 2019 on Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Brennan Beauton)

The first event was the yoke carry, which consisted of a competitor carrying a set weight 50 yards in a race against time. The second was a farmer’s carry 100 yards followed by 10 log cleans and presses for time. The third event was the atlas stone lift, which involved the competitors lifting three different stones and placing them on a platform for time.

Competitors with the highest combined score in their weight class at the end of the competition were declared the winners.

The champion from the female weight class up to 150 pounds was U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Kathryn Quandt, a future operations officer with 9th Engineer Support Battalion.

The champion from the male weight class up to 150 pounds was U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ezekiel Garza, a motor transportation mechanic with III Marine Expeditionary Force Support Battalion.

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ezekiel Garza, a motor transportation mechanic with III Marine Expeditionary Force Support Battalion, executes a log clean and press during the Okinawa’s Strongest: Battle of the South, Sept. 29, 2019 on Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Brennan Beauton)

The champion from the male 150-to-200 pound weight class was U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Kermeen, a faculty advisor with the Staff Noncommissioned Officer Academy on Camp Hansen, and the champion from the male over-200-pound weight class was U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ian Dernbach, a heavy equipment operator with III MEF Support Battalion.

The island-wide Okinawa’s Strongest competition will feature winners from both the Battle of the North and South and will take place in November 2019 on Camp Foster.

“Today’s event had a lot of similar movements that you will see in the event coming up in November 2019 which will have eight different stations as opposed to the three that we had here today,” said Miller. “This was a great way for competitors to get a feel for what it’s going to be like at the big one.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Kelly Clarkson Show highlights WATM ‘10 WEEKS’ series and GivingTuesdayMilitary movement for Veterans Day

For the first time in Army history, video cameras were allowed inside boot camp, and WATM was there to capture every minute. ‘10 WEEKS’ follows recruits as they make it through the Army’s grueling boot camp. Different storylines will captivate viewers as they get to know these real life soldiers in the making. One of those soldiers was featured on the Kelly Clarkson Show’s Veterans Day special, discussing the filming and her boot camp experience. Also on the show was one of WATM’s writers, Jessica Manfre, as she shared the mission of GivingTuesdayMilitary. 

For many, the desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves propels people to give back and to serve. It’s why many service members join the military. The deep desire to make a difference and positively impact the world is another. That’s something that is extremely unique to the military community and why GivingTuesdayMilitary was created.

The global GivingTuesday movement was founded in 2012 after its founders lamented their frustration with the lack of generosity or kindness following Thanksgiving. They saw America jump from that holiday straight into the craziness of shopping, leaving little room for gratitude and kindness. Since its inception, which is always the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, they’ve grown exponentially. In 2019 alone their campaigns raised over $500 million dollars for charities. It was also the same year that a few military spouses decided to join in, and put their own spin on things. 

Manfre is one of the co-founders of GivingTuesdayMilitary. Their mission and purpose is to promote intentional acts of kindness, all across the globe. The thought was that due to the deep reach of the military spanning the world, spreading kindness would have a ripple effect that could be felt everywhere. Their original goal was 1 million acts and they reached 2.5 million. For 2020, they are more determined than ever to spread kindness.

“We recognize that we are in a perilous climate with the divisiveness of the election, COVID-19 virus and issues regarding inequality running rampant throughout our country,” Manfre explained. “To combat this, there really is a new urgency on our message of kindness. Despite our differences, we can unite behind kindness. Kindness doesn’t care what you look like, who you love or who you voted for. It’s something that brings us together, no matter what.” 

So, what do you have to do to join in on the movement? Be kind. Go into your communities and see where there is a need and fill it. This could mean organizing drives for the homeless or foster children; writing letters for hospice veterans through Operation Holiday Salute; or, it can be the beautiful but equally vital things like leaving encouraging notes for strangers. The message is simple: you can make a difference.

Co-founder Samantha Gomolka lives by the quote, “Create the world our children already believe exists.” We couldn’t agree more and it starts with you. This December 1 — be kind.  
To watch episodes of The Kelly Clarkson Show, click here. To learn more about GivingTuesdayMilitary and how you can be a part of it, you can find them on all social media platforms under @GivingTuesdayMilitary or check out their website.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of January 17th

In case you missed it, a 59-year old OEF veteran is reenlisting after a nearly ten year break in service. It took about a year to get the waivers and to cut the red tape, but Army regulations still require him to go through Basic Training all over again in June. I mean, that is what it is, but his military record kinda shows even more of how pointless that is…

His story begins when he enlisted in the Marines in ’78, got out and became a cop, reenlisted during Desert Storm as an infantryman, stayed in long enough to go to Afghanistan as PSYOPs, got out again to become SWAT, and now he’s looking to do it all over again.

I’m just saying – I know that the drill sergeants probably give him the appropriate amount of guff that’s required in Basic and understand that his knowledge of previous conflicts can be instrumental to teaching the younger troops. But imagine being that young, dumb trainee who thinks they’ve got jokes for the “old dude in his platoon” only to learn that he’s been kicking in door before their parents were born.


If only to be a fly on that wall… Anyways, here’s some memes.

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

(Meme via Vet TV)

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

(Meme via United States Veteran Network)

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

(meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

(Meme via Call for Fire)

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

(Meme via Not CID)

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

(Meme via Leatherneck 4 Life)

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

(Meme via ASMDSS)

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Let this Swedish metal band be your war history teacher

Even the band’s name is a reference to medieval knight’s armor – the Swedish metal band Sabaton makes music about war, history’s greatest battles, and daring feats of combat badassery. Their latest album, The Great War, features songs about just World War I. If you’ve never had an interest in military history, Sabaton might make the difference for you.

Also, their music videos are pretty great.


Their songs are poetic and thoughtful, about real historical events. From the Serbians fighting in World War I, to Poland’s legendary Winged Hussars, and even the Russians at Stalingrad – the heroes aren’t Swedish, they’re anyone who did something amazing for their comrades on the battlefield. Other songs are about the Night Witches (Russian female aviators who terrorized the Nazis), the Brazilian Expeditionary Force in World War II, and Audie Murphy’s postwar struggle with PTSD.

I know the video below looks like a broken link, but it’s really a music video for a Sabaton’s heavy metal song about the 101st Airborne at Bastogne, called “Screaming Eagles.” The music video begins with Gen. Anthony MacAuliffe’s now-famous reply to the German surrender demand – “Nuts.”

The band’s entire fourth album was inspired by Sun Tzu’s Art of War, another album is about World War II and the Finnish-Russian Winter War. They have released singles about the World War II-era battleship Bismarck and World War I’s Lost Battalion; nine companies of the United States 77th Infantry Division who lost more than half its manpower at the Argonne Forest in 1918.

Sabaton has won almost every metal award for which they were nominated, including Best Breakthrough Band, Best Live Band, and they were nominated for the 2012 “Metal as F*ck” Award for their album Carolus Rex, which actually was about the rise of the Swedish Empire under King Charles XII.

The song below is about 189 Swiss Guards who defended the Vatican during the Sack of Rome in 1527.

SABATON – The Last Stand (Official Music Video)

www.youtube.com

SABATON – The Last Stand (Official Music Video)

Heavy metal bands re-enacting famous battles is all I’ve ever wanted in life. Thank you, Sabaton.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Navy SEAL has a novel solution for the North Korea crisis — and it just might work

When Jocko Willink, a former US Navy SEAL who is now an author and occasional Business Insider contributor, was asked on Twitter how he would handle the North Korean crisis, he gave an unexpected answer that one expert said just might work.


Willink’s proposal didn’t involve any covert special operation strikes or military moves of any kind. Instead of bombs, Willink suggested the US drop iPhones.

“Drop 25 million iPhones on them and put satellites over them with free WiFi,” Willink tweeted Sept. 6.

While the proposal itself is fantastical and far-fetched, Yun Sun, an expert on North Korea at the Stimson Center, says the core concept could work.

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids
Jocko Willink. Image from TEDx Talks YouTube.

“Kim Jong Un understands that as soon as society is open and North Korean people realize what they’re missing, Kim’s regime is unsustainable, and it’s going to be overthrown,” Sun told Business Insider.

For this reason, North Korea’s government would strongly oppose any measures that mirror Willink’s suggestion.

Sun pointed out that when South Korea had previously flown balloons that dropped pamphlets and DVDs over North Korea, the Kim regime had responded militarily, sensing the frailty of its government relative to those of prosperous liberal democracies.

For this reason, North Korea would turn down even free iPhones for its entire population, thought to be about 25.2 million.

Such a measure, Sun said, would also open the West to criticism “for rewarding a illegitimately nuclear dictatorship” that “we know has committed massive human rights against its people.”

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids
Photo from North Korean State Media.

And as North Korea puts the Kim regime above all else, any investment or aid would “be exploited first and foremost by the government,” Sun said, adding: “We will have to swallow the consequence that of $100 investment, maybe $10 would reach the people.”

North Korea harshly punishes ordinary citizens who are found to enjoy South Korean media, so there’s good reason to think providing internet access or devices to North Koreans could get people killed.

But in a purely practical sense, the US has few options. War with North Korea could start a nuclear conflict or otherwise introduce a more long-term proliferation risk.

“They’re not going to denuclearize until their regime changes and society changes,” Sun said. “This approach may be the longer route, but it has the hope of succeeding.”

popular

5 problems Space Marines deal with

The Space Marines of Warhammer 40,000 are some of the most beloved, fictionalized versions of our beloved, real-life Marine Corps. Whether it’s the hyper-masculinity or the gratuitous violence dispensed against the Chaos-worshiping heretics, WH40K’s Space Marines are a logical place to start when imagining how our Marines might fare 37,982 years from now.


That being said, it’s easy to see the bright side of dropping onto a planet bringing nothing but a Storm Bolter and unbridled fury against the enemies of mankind. No one ever imagines the all of the bullsh*t details that would inevitably happen in the Adeptus Astartes.

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids
Just because you were perfectly fit at 18 years old doesn’t mean you can charge into battle perfectly fine at 87.
(Games Workshop)

Physical Training

Keeping your Emperor-like body in peak condition takes plenty of work. After all, that 350+ lbs armor isn’t going to carry itself.

It’s kind of understood that Space Marines undergo rigorous training before they earn their futuristic equivalent of The Eagle, Globe, and Anchor — which is an organ from one the Emperor’s clones. As much of an edge as that would give a Space Marine over their purely human counterparts, they still need to do an insane amount of sustainment training.

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids
“And remember, if you or your battle buddy feels like committing heresy, my office is always available.”
(Games Workshop)

Safety Briefs

Space Marines are also supposedly hyper-intelligent warriors who are bred for battle. It can be assumed they wouldn’t be grilled on the exact means of how they’re going to fight. Thankfully, they wouldn’t deal with “pre-drop” safety briefs.

What they would deal with is countless classes on why they shouldn’t desert or turn to chaos. Even if they’re the most devout Chaplain, they’d have to hear the same PowerPoint slide on why heresy is bad every weekend.

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids
If you’re going to model yourself after intergalactic vikings, you have to drink like intergalactic vikings.
(Games Workshop)

 

Alcohol-related incidents

Remember those Emperor-cloned organs we mentioned? Apparently, one is implanted to purify any toxins from Space Marines’ system. For it to work, a Space Marine must manually activate their liver. This would come in handy because, apparently, the alcohol in the Warhammer Universe is insanely strong.

One could only imagine the parties that are thrown in a Space Marine barracks after a glorious battle…

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids
Don’t even get me started on how much of a pain in the ass it would be to clean out all the xeno blood from a chainsword.
(Games Workshop)

 

Weapons maintenance

No matter what kind of future tech you’re using, if you’re constantly training with weapons, you’re going to have to clean them.

No matter how much the Space Marine cleanses, purges, and kills with their weapon, they still run the risk of hurting themselves (a one-in-six chance, to be precise) if they don’t keep things clean.

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids
Go ahead: Guess which one is the officer. Take as much time as you need.
(Games Workshop)

Morale is entirely based off a unit’s leader

It doesn’t matter how devout a Space Marine is, how many battles they’ve fought, or how many comrades they lost, Space Marines still run the chance of defecting every turn fight because of low morale.

The only way to counter this is to have a good leader. But, since Space Marines leaders have never heard the term “sniper check,” it’s easy to pick them off and ruin a squad.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The very best in portable coffee-making gear

Maybe you’re going on a family vacation. Maybe you’re taking the kids camping. Whatever the case, in this season of travel, a good cup of coffee is necessary. As you’ll be away from your home pot and your regular place that knows exactly how you like your morning cup, and as vacations shouldn’t mean subjecting yourself to another cup of burnt gas station coffee, Fatherly spoke to Brent Hall, the Business Development Manager for VP Coffee, Inc. in North Carolina and an Executive Council Member of the Barista Guild of America, to piece together a list of the best travel coffee gear.


“There are plenty of ways to make a great cup of coffee while away, forced or not, from your home or favorite local shop,” he says. “All you need are the right tools for the trip.” Here, then, per Hall, is the best portable coffee gear, including grinders, mugs, and scales, for getting your buzz on the road.

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

Acaia Coffee Scale and Timer

Is it neurotic to take a coffee scale with you on the road? Maybe. But if you want to craft that perfect cup of pour-over coffee, the little details matter. This compact scale from Acaia provides instant readings and will also act as your timer for your steep. “I like the Acaia for road trips because it is accurate and has a good size footprint without being too large and cumbersome,” says Hall. “The design allows it to be tucked and cushioned easily avoiding possible damage.”

Buy now 0

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

Presse by bobble

This all-in-one mug might just be the perfect travel accessory for any coffee lover. A mash up of coffee maker and travel mug, it allows you to whip out a fresh cup of Joe in three minutes. You just drop your grounds into the main compartment, pour the boiling water in, and then slide the microfilter in separating the grounds from the liquid. It’s made from stainless steel, can be washed in the dishwasher, and up to 13oz of liquid can be poured in. The mug’s three layers of insulation, per Hall, keep coffee hot for hours.

Buy now

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

Kalita Wave Dripper

Small enough to be tossed into a briefcase or overnight bag this dripper offers you a simple solution for getting a good cup of coffee. “The Kalita wave is stainless steel, durable, and foolproof,” says Hall. “If you have a groggy morning it doesn’t take much technique to make a good cup of coffee.” All you have to do is park the dripper over your cup, drop in a filter, fill with grounds, and pour in the water.

Buy now

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

Porlex Mini Grinder

Pssst. One of the best ways to have an amazing cup of coffee? Grind your own beans. This stainless steel grinder from Porlex is small, compact, and enables you to pulverize your beans to the desired level. The ceramic conical burrs inside can crank out a fine espresso grind in a few minutes or a coarser French Press level in 30 seconds. The large grinder hopper and easy-to-use crank are favorites of Hall.

Buy now

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

Bonavita 1.0L

Now, Hall admits it’s a little big to bring this brushed stainless steel electric kettle on the road but he says it’s durable enough to survive a stint in a suitcase. He also swears by it because it heats water to the exact temperature you need for a quality cup of coffee (205 degrees F) and all it requires is a plug or A/C outlet. The gooseneck spout ensures you can precisely pour the water over your grounds to get the most flavors from the beans.

Buy now

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why ‘Best Soldier’ competitions actually matter for junior enlisted

Within the United States Army, each unit will routinely hold competitions to determine which soldier is the best at their given role. There’s a competition for best warrior, best Ranger, best medic, best cook, soldier of the month, NCO of the quarter — you name it. The list goes on to include nearly every MOS, ranked each month, quarter, and year.

But when it comes time for the first sergeant to get the names of those who will nobly represent the company, you’ll hear nothing but crickets from the joes that are busy waiting until close-of-business formation. It’s like pulling teeth each and every time. In fact, you’d hear less groaning and complaining if you voluntold them to go fill sandbags with spoons.

Yes, you’ll have to put in some effort, but even if you rank somewhere around 10th place, getting in on these competitions is a more rewarding experience than nearly anything else you’d otherwise be doing. Here’s why:


This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids
I mean, giving any kind of blood, sweat, and tears in the name of the unit will keep them happy.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mason Cutrer)

One of the most important steps in getting promoted is getting your name out there in a positive light. That doesn’t mean you need to be Captain America, but any (positive) means of getting your chain of command to know your name, face, and think higher of you than the dirtbags in formation is a good thing.

Your squad leader should obviously know who you are and everything about you — they write your monthly counseling statements after all. Your platoon sergeant should know a bit about you, your first sergeant should probably know whether you’re a dirtbag or not, and your battalion sergeant major probably only knows that you exist.

Go any higher than that, and they’ve got way too many troops to keep track of.

Best Soldier competitions give you that “in” without resorting to underhanded brown-nosing.

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids
Just try to make them proud. They’re using you to insult their fellow NCOs’ ability to lead and train soldiers.
(U.S. Army photo by Timothy L. Hale)

When you arrive at a Best Soldier competition, you’re always escorted by your immediate chain of command. If you happen to be the only joe brave enough to try, that means you’ll be walking in with just your squad leader, platoon sergeant, and first sergeant — all ready to cheer you on.

Here’s a fact for you: Once you’ve reached a certain rank on the enlisted side, you’ll have to stomach the fact that your personal glory days are behind you. Your entire career, from that point forward, depends on your men and how well you lead them. When you’re out there at a Best Soldier competition, the NCOs aren’t just cheering you on — they’re out there collecting bragging rights. “See that dude? That’s my guy!”

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids
Oh? You thought those questions you’ve been studying for months actually mattered? Well… That’s a discussion best saved for another time…
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Raquel Villalona, 2ID/RUCD Public Affairs)

For obvious reasons, if you come out of that challenge with a shiny gold medal or trophy, you’re going to become the giant middle finger your NCOs will raise at their peers. Their pride in you will open whatever doors you wanted opened in your career. You want to go to airborne school? Win Soldier of the Year and your first sergeant will fight for you when that slot comes down from battalion. Want to get promoted? Your first sergeant probably won’t even ask you any questions at the board. They’ll nod to their fellow first sergeants and sergeant major and say, “that soldier’s good. That’s my guy.”

A glowing recommendation like that could mean no other questions will be asked and you get your (P) status with a snap of the fingers.

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids
But, you know, there’s far more praise if you bring that award home for your platoon sergeant’s desk.
(National Guard photo by Master Sgt. John Hughel, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs)

It is a competition though, and it’s far from guaranteed that you’ll win — or even medal. While your platoon sergeant may knifehand your ass and threaten you with a 24-mile ruck march for getting “the first place loser” (better known as “second place”), that’s just incentive to push you. Try your hardest and you’ll be okay.

I really don’t want to sound like a corny, motivational 80s sports flick, but it really doesn’t matter if you win or lose. It only matters that you gave it your all. Your chain of command will respect you far more for coming in a hard-fought second place than if you shriveled out of the competition to begin with. Hell, come in last place — as long as they know you honestly give it everything you had, everything will be fine in the end.

Your chain of command now knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that you will push yourself to the limit when needed — and that’s truly the greatest thing a leader could ask of their troops.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch this taste-test review of a 120-year-old ration

Steve from MREinfo has long been the go-to source for all things related to rations, but he may have just made his the most interesting discovery to date: an emergency ration from the Second Boer War, which ran from 1899 to 1902. Now, he’s going to taste it.

Viewer discretion is advised.


His website is beloved by many troops trying to figure out exactly which MRE offers the best snacks and which can be tossed to the FNG. Through his YouTube channel, he receives rations from all around the world and tries them out on camera for the world to see. It’s a great way to see how the other armies of the world treat their troops.

First, here’s a sample of his work with a 2017 Chicken Burrito Bowl to cleanse your palate.

Occasionally, he gets a ration that is well beyond its shelf life and, in the face of putrefaction, he bravely takes a bite — for science. In the past, he has reviewed rations from many historical conflicts, ranging from the Vietnam War to the present.

Recently, he checked off “Second Boer War” from his list of history taste tests. For context, this War happened well before the advent of refrigerating food, it was the war in which Sherlock Holmes’ author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, fought in, and, at the time, spreading the idea that people might someday watch a man eat a ration via a device that fits in your pocket would get you burnt for witchcraft.

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids
You know, definitely an era you wouldn’t associate with long-lastingu00a0food.
(Imperial War Museum)

The British Emergency Ration he opens is in remarkable condition. The meal contains dried beef broth that needs to be boiled and cooked before eating. To best satisfy our curiosity, he tries it before and after boiling. Before boiling, it has a flavor profile similar to a packet of instant ramen noodle seasoning — just without any flavor. He says, “it tastes like pulverized beef jerky and bread crumbs mixed with cardboard and a little bit of chlorine.”

He later prepared the broth as intended. The smell of it cooking is horrendous, but he bravely carries on with his experiment.

Seriously. You might not want to watch this unless you have a strong stomach. We won’t take it personally if you can’t handle it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Never miss the drop zone when the Unit Cartoonist is watching

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

(Feature cartoon: Delta’s Marinus Pope is grilled for missing his intended touch down point by a significantly wide margin East by Northeast [E/NE]. His reconnaissance brothers approached me about roasting him for all eternity in the Unit Cartoon Book; an ask I joyfully accepted.)

My Special Mission Unit did a lot of parachute training, almost exclusively jumping from very high altitudes pulling out our parachutes at low altitudes, a technique called High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) drops. The technique leverages the high altitude to help cover the presence of the delivery airframe, and the low opening to keep the view of parachutes in the sky at a minimum.


To this day, I have a clinical fear of heights. That kept me away from trying out for elite units for the longest time, but after two years in a regular infantry unit, I was heading to airborne with or even without a parachute.

A modification of the HALO drop is the High Altitude High Opening (HAHO). In this scenario, paratroops exit at ~18,000 feet and pull immediately. Now the troops are under a parachute at nearly 17,000 feet!

At that altitude, a parachutist can travel a staggering lateral distance, even as far as from one end of a state to the other. (A point of humor: in addition to the HALO and HAHO capability we invented a faux elitist group of jumpers called OSNO men; Outer Space No Opening)

Under such conditions a man will descend under (parachute) canopy for an extended period of time — upwards of nearly an hour — and as you might already imagine, the higher the altitude, the greater the propensity for navigational errors.

Once I had a canopy malfunction at 17,000 feet, causing me to lose position in the group formation and drift so far away from my Drop Zone (DZ), that one of our ground support crew had to jump in a truck and race to where I hit the ground to pick me up. My impact was many (MANY) miles off target. I recall free-falling over a near-solid cloud cover and watching my shadow race across the top of the cloud bank toward me at great speed until it met me just as I penetrated the cloud top. Just me and my shadow I say, though I did not know it at the time; I had never heard of or experienced the phenomenon, and rather thought it was another jumper on a collision course toward me. I braced the bejesus out of myself for impact.

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Anyhoo… I came down in a cornfield, which was odd, in that there were no cornfields in the state that my jump aircraft took off from. A fine American patriot came screaming up in a really large, really old all-metal Impala:

“I seen ya coming’ down in that-there parachute. Me, I ain’t nevah see anything like it ’round this cornah of Nebraska!”

“Nebraska?!?” Yeah, that was not a good day; that wasn’t where I started from in Colorado.

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Did I mention the time I collided with a fellow jumper at night at 24,000 feet? Yeah — pretty much hated it! It was already stressful enough, as we were all breathing pure oxygen through a pilot’s face mask since there was not sufficient breathable oxygen at that extreme altitude. In the collision, my oxygen supply valve had been shocked shut, leaving me with only the rarified atmospheric gas I could suck through the seal of my mask.

Drastic circumstances call for drastic measures, and I did what any other warrior would do — I passed out. Since I was not conscious, I don’t know exactly what happened in the next 16,000 feet or so, but I estimate that I fell flat and stable. When I was low enough for breath-worthy air, I came to, only to find a brother was falling right with me some three feet away staring me in the face intently, ready to pull my reserve for me if I failed to snap back to reality. A glance at my altimeter strenuously urged me to pull my ripcord immediately.

Another thing that happened during the time I was “away” from my fall, was that it had begun to lighten up on the horizon as the sun crept in. The aurora made it able for me to see the details of the men around me and the ground below. It all looked so so so much like a cartoon… but I had my sense about me and saved my own life; oh, but that doesn’t count for a medal.

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

Submariners practice lifesaving rescue techniques

Undersea Rescue Command (URC) and the Chilean submarine CS Simpson (SS 21) completed the submarine search and rescue exercise CHILEMAR VIII off the coast of San Diego, Aug. 3-7, 2018.

CHILEMAR is a bilateral exercise designed to demonstrate interoperability between the United States submarine rescue systems and Chilean submarines, which includes a search and rescue phase. This is the eighth exercise of its kind and is conducted off the coast of San Diego biennially with the exception of CHILEMAR VII, which took place in 2017 off the coast of Talcauhano, Chile.


“CHILEMAR and similar exercises with our foreign partners are extremely important to Undersea Rescue Command as they provide nearly all of our opportunities to operate with an actual submarine,” said Cmdr. Michael Eberlein, commanding officer, Undersea Rescue Command. “These exercises provide assurance to our Navy, allies, Sailors and families, that URC can bring a real capability to rescue distressed submariners worldwide if a tragedy occurs.”

At the start of the exercise, Simpson bottomed off the coast of San Diego to simulate a disabled submarine that is unable to surface. Once bottomed, Simpson launched a Submarine Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (SEPIRB) which transmits the initial GPS position and other distress data to indicate a submarine in distress.

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Undersea Rescue Command deploys the Sibitzky Remotely Operated Vehicle from the deck of the Military Sealift Command-chartered merchant vessel HOS Dominator during the submarine rescue exercise CHILEMAR VIII.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Derek Harkins)

MH-60R helicopters from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35 and 45, a P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft from Patrol Squadron (VP) 9 and unmanned undersea vehicles from the newly established Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Squadron (UUVRON) 1 conducted simulated searches of the ocean floor to hone their ability to identify a bottomed disabled submarine.

With Simpson located, the Military Sealift Command-chartered merchant vessel HOS Dominator positioned itself over their location to launch the Sibitzky Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV). During a rescue, the Sibitzky ROV provides the first picture of a disabled submarine to URC. Using two robotic arms, the ROV is able to clear any debris from the hatch used for rescue and cameras provide critical information necessary for conducting a rescue such as the hull integrity of the submarine and its position on the ocean floor.

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Navy Diver 1st Class Michael Eckert, assigned to Undersea Rescue Command (URC), serves as the aft compartment controller for URC’s pressurized rescue module (PRM), as the PRM mates with the Chilean Submarine (CS) Simpson (SS 21) on the ocean floor during CHILEMAR VIII.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Derek Harkins)

“Over the years, we have built a great relationship with the Chilean Submarine Force through the DESI program,” said Cmdr. Josh Powers, Submarine Squadron 11 deputy for undersea rescue. “This partnership allows us to continually build upon our rescue capabilities and the proficiency of both countries that comes with routine exercises such as CHILEMAR.”

Once the Sibitzky ROV has completed its assessment of the disabled submarine, the Pressurized Rescue Module can be deployed from the back of the Dominator. The PRM is a remotely operated submarine rescue vehicle capable of diving to depths of 2,000 feet and mating with a disabled submarine on the sea floor. The PRM is capable of rescuing up to 16 personnel at a time in addition to the two crewmembers required to operate it.

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Chilean Cmdr. Federico Karl Saelzer Concha, commanding officer of the Chilean Submarine (CS) Simpson (SS 21), climbs into the pressurized rescue module (PRM) of Undersea Rescue Command (URC) during the submarine rescue exercise CHILEMAR VIII.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Derek Harkins)

Undersea Rescue Command deploys the Sibitzky Remotely Operated Vehicle from the deck of the Military Sealift Command-chartered merchant vessel HOS Dominator during the submarine rescue exercise CHILEMAR VIII.

During CHILEMAR VIII, the PRM completed three open hatch mattings with the Simpson, allowing U.S. and Chilean Sailors to traverse between the PRM and the submarine to shake hands with each other on the ocean floor.

“The exercises conducted during CHILEMAR demonstrated the advanced rescue capability our Navy provides the world,” said Lt. Cmdr. Pat Bray, Submarine Squadron 11 engineering officer. “The operations carried out by the dedicated URC and Phoenix team were impressive!”

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Undersea Rescue Command deploys the Sibitzky Remotely Operated Vehicle from the deck of the Military Sealift Command-chartered merchant vessel HOS Dominator during the submarine rescue exercise CHILEMAR VIII.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Derek Harkins)


URC’s mission is worldwide submarine assessment, intervention and expedient rescue if there is a submarine in distress. The PRM is the primary component of the Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System (SRDRS), which can be transported by truck, air or ship to efficiently aid in international submarine rescue operations.

Simpson is operating with U.S. 3rd Fleet naval forces as part of the Diesel-Electric Submarine Initiative (DESI). DESI enhances the Navy’s capability to operate with diesel-electric submarines by partnering with South American navies equipped with these vessels. This provides a degree of authenticity and realism to exercises, providing the Navy with opportunities to build experience both tracking and operating with them.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What exactly is Iran’s shadowy Quds Force?

For many Americans, it can be tough to understand exactly how Iran’s military apparatus stacks up against our own. Both nations manage their defense efforts in fundamentally different ways due to necessity, cultural differences, and internal politics. The U.S. Military does not operate within America’s borders except under very specific circumstances, it receives its funding through Congress, and perhaps most importantly, there’s no question as to where its loyalties lie.


The Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, however, function in a very different way, with its elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) overlapping many of the roles occupied by the nation’s formal Army and garnering the vast majority of the nation’s defense budget. The IRGC also operates a number of legitimate Iranian businesses, securing alternate funding sources while compounding power and influence over the nation’s economy and government. When Iranian citizens take to the streets to protest, it’s the IRGC that suppresses their efforts with brutal precision.

In April of this year, the United States chose to designate the IRGC as a terror group, but deep within the organization’s structure, a small sect of the IRGC has already carried that distinction for over a decade: the IRGC’s secretive foreign intervention arm, the Quds Force.

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Quds Force operations are divided into 8 directories, shown here in different colors.

(WikiMedia Commons)

The Quds Force are tasked with clandestine operations outside of Iran

Because Iran isn’t capable of fielding a large and modern military that can stand toe to toe with giants like the U.S., the IRGC’s Quds Force has adopted a unique approach to projecting the nation’s power beyond Iran’s borders. The Quds Force operates entirely within the shadows, supporting foreign terror groups and militias, conducting attacks and assassinations, gathering intelligence, and doing anything else Iran needs to keep hidden behind a veil of plausible deniability.

Some Quds Force operatives could be compared to CIA handlers tasked with developing local intelligence assets. Others are more like American Green Berets, tasked with training and equipping foreign military forces. These troops are also known to engage in unconventional warfare operations themselves, often in the form of terror attacks, assassinations, and kidnappings.

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Quds Day celebration in Iran, 2017.

(Mohammad Ranjbar via WikiMedia Commons)

They get their name from the city of Jerusalem

Iran’s long-standing beef with Israel permeates throughout the nation’s military apparatus, but none so directly as the Quds Force, also commonly referred to in Iran as Al-Quds. In Arabic, Al-Quds actually means Jerusalem, or literally translated, “The Holy One.” They didn’t adopt this name as a respectful nod to the ancient city under Israeli control, but rather as a lasting reminder of their long-standing goal to recapture Jerusalem for the Arabic People.

Iran also celebrates Quds Day, though not as a direct affirmation of support for the military unit. Quds Day, which has now spread throughout like-minded groups of the Middle East and even as far off as London, is a day dedicated to parades, fiery speeches, and other demonstrations meant to denounce Israel and Zionism. This year, Iran’s Quds Day celebrations also included burning American flags and effigies of President Donald Trump.

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Iran can’t go toe to toe with the U.S. and they know it, so they found a way around it.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clayton Cupit)

They specialize in asymmetric warfare because they know the U.S. is stronger

Asymmetric warfare is, in a nutshell, a war between opponents with vastly different levels of resources or capabilities. Iran lacks the technological, diplomatic, and financial strengths the United States leans on to both deter and win armed conflicts, and as a result, they’ve opted not to fight on those terms.

In the modern era, this asymmetric approach has earned the Quds Force close friends in the form of terror organizations with similar extremist goals. Some, like Hezbollah, were even founded through Quds Force interventions. Even the Taliban, a group the Quds Force once fought side by side with American force against, has become an ally, bolstering Iran’s defenses along Afghanistan’s Western Border.

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We’re pretty sure they make their ghillie suits out of confetti though.

(Javad Hadi via WikiMedia Commons)

No one is sure exactly how many troops are in the Quds Force

America’s Special Operations Command (USASOC) maintains a total force of about 33,000 troops, but it’s nearly impossible to tell how those numbers stack up against the Quds Force. Because of the secretive way in which subset of the IRGC operates, estimates have ranged from the low thousands to as many as 50,000 total troops, but to a certain extent, either number would be misleading.

Because a primary role of the Quds Force is to establish friendly militias and fighting forces inside the borders of other nations, the Quds Force total number doesn’t actually reflect the group’s force projection capabilities. With operations ranging from Syria to Venezuela, Iran’s influence over loosely affiliated fighting organizations the world over makes the danger presented by the Quds Force more difficult to quantify than conventional, or even many unconventional, military units.

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Specialized IEDs purpose built to penetrate armor began appearing in Iraq as a result of Quds Forces.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The Quds Force is already responsible for hundreds, if not thousands, of American deaths

Declassified defense documents have linked the Quds Force to a rash of IED attacks in Iraq that claimed the lives of hundreds of U.S. service members during combat operations in recent years. These attacks utilized an explosively formed projectile, or EFP, designed specifically to be effective against armored vehicles like American troops utilize in combat zones. Iran’s special operations troops have also been involved in a number of insurgent attacks against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq since 2003.

The Quds Force was implicated in the bombings of the U.S. Embassy, annex, and Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 and 1984, along with a long list of other terror attacks. It’s important to note, however, that the Quds Force tends to advise and support rather than directly participate in these operations, granting Iran the deniability they need to avoid open war with the United States.

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