Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

“Santa 31 is headed your way!!”

For those on the island of Woleai, and other islands throughout the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau, it’s radio calls like that from the North Pole that make Christmas come a little early every year thanks to Santa’s C-130 Super Hercules from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, participating in Operation Christmas Drop.

“When we get that call saying it’s our drop-day and word gets out, the island has a different feel to it,” said Allentino Riugiufmal, Northern Islands Central High School vice principal on Woleai. “The island just has this pure feeling of excitement that is shared across the community, like a child just waiting to see what’s under the tree.


“After the news is radioed in, it’s just a matter of time before the only C-130 we see all year long (graces) our skies, delivering the bundles we’ve come to rely on throughout the years. When the day finally does come, and that plane is in the sky, it’s just like Christmas has come early.”

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

A U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, delivers five low-cost, low-altitude humanitarian aid bundles filled with critical supplies as part of Operation Christmas Drop to the island of Woleai, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 10, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

Now in its 68th year, Operation Christmas Drop has not only served as the world’s longest running airdrop training mission, providing critical supplies to 55 Micronesian islands like Woleia, but has also served as a coming together for elders and their communities on their respective islands across approximately 1.8 million square nautical miles throughout the Pacific.

It is that gathering of the elders that determines who gets what goods that has created so many memories for all who have shared in the Operation Christmas Drop magic, memories that have lasted almost as long as the event itself.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

A group of villagers work together to carry a low-cost, low-altitude humanitarian aid bundle through the jungle as part of Operation Christmas Drop, Woleai, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 10, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

“Every Christmas drop is special for the island,” said Santos Bugoman, an 18-year resident of Woleai. “We all have our own memories of (Operation Christmas Drop’s) past. I got my first pair of shoes in one of my first Christmas drops and it’s something I will always remember and cherish. I wore them until I had completely outgrown them and blisters were forming because they were too small. Maybe I was being just a little bit sentimental, but they were so special to me I didn’t want to let go of them.”

While memories of toys and shoes are what the children cherish, for the elders it is the food, medicine and other supplies that have meant the most over the years.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

A pair of village elders on the island of Woleai in the Federated States of Micronesia, sort through one of five low-cost, low-altitude bundles airdropped as part Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

“We all have childhood (memories) of seeing the planes fly over head,” Riugiufmal said. “As we each grew older, we truly understood how important (Operation Christmas Drop) is for the islands. These bundles have toys, yes, but they more importantly carry bags of rice to help feed the 500 villagers we have here. The parachutes and their rigging is used to make sails for our boats and the wire for our spear guns. Some of our bundles were sent solely for our school and contained the educational supplies our students need to thrive.

“Those items are what matter to us and what we appreciate most. Those items, and (Operation Christmas Drop) in general, is what brings us together as a community. I saw some school children saying “Thank you Christmas drop” for the camera. That does not do it justice. On behalf of everyone on this island, our Chiefs, our elders (and) our school children, thank you (Operation Christmas Drop), thank you for all that you have shared with us over the years.”

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These Dutch villagers wait years to adopt US graves from World War II

There are so many rich, incredible facts surrounding the World War II-era Netherlands American Cemetery near Maastricht. It lies along a highway that saw some of history’s most memorable names – Caesar, Charlemagne, and Napoleon, just to name a few. In the 20th Century, Hitler’s Wehrmacht also used the road to capture the Netherlands and Belgium and bring them into the Nazi Reich.

What rests there now is a memorial and cemetery to those who fought to liberate the country from the grip of the Nazi war machine. The locals have never forgotten who died there and, from the looks of things, they never will.


The cemetery is meticulously well kept. A memorial tower overlooks a reflecting pool and at the base of the tower is the stature of a mother grieving over her lost son. Elsewhere on the grounds is a list of the battles and operations fought by U.S. servicemen during World War II, the names of those 8,301 men buried on the grounds, and the names of those 1,722 who went missing while fighting in the Netherlands.

Among the honored dead are seven Medal of Honor recipients and a Major General. In all, it’s a remarkable site with historic significance. The most significant thing about the 65-acre Netherlands American Cemetery is who takes care of each American gravestone.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit
Wikimedia Commons

Since 1945, the Dutch people in the area have adopted individual graves, keeping the site clean and maintaining the individual memorials. They ensure that flowers adorn their adopted grave and that the name and deeds of the American interred there are never forgotten. They actually research the entire life of their adopted fallen GI. Some of them adopt more than one.

Ever since the end of WWII, people have adopted the graves of these men and women out of a deeply heartfelt gratitude for the sacrifices that they made for our freedom,” local Sebastiaan Vonk told an Ohio newspaper. “They truly are our liberators and heroes.”

The Foundation for Adopting Graves at the American Cemetery Margraten has 300 people waiting to join them.

 

The American Cemetery is one of the largest in the world. Its upkeep and memory are so important to the locals whose families saw the horrors of Nazi occupation. Even those separated by the 1945 liberation of the Netherlands by a generation or more still hold those names dear and are taking their remembrance project one step further – remembering their face.

A new effort, The Faces of Margraten, seeks to collect photos of the men who died or went missing in liberating the Netherlands from Nazi occupation. On Dutch Memorial Day, the group displays personal photos of more than 3,000 of those interred in the cemetery, holding an event that “brings visitors face-to-face with their liberators.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

First naval aviators graduate new USAF pilot training program

The first two student naval aviators graduated from the U.S. Air Force’s Pilot Training Next (PTN) program at Randolph Air Force Base (AFB) just outside of San Antonio, Aug. 29, 2019.

The PTN program is a course of instruction designed to train military pilots at a lower cost, in a shorter amount of time, and with a higher level of proficiency leveraging emerging technologies to create a dynamic training environment.

The PTN program individualizes training, adjusting to each student pilot’s strengths and weaknesses. It integrates virtual reality (VR), advanced biometrics, artificial intelligence (AI), and immersive training devices (ITD) with traditional methods of learning.


“The most appealing part of this program is we step away from the common denominator or one-size-fits-all training that has to be done on a certain timeline,” Det. 24 Commander U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ryan Riley said. “With PTN we have been able to focus more on competencies and the focus of the individual student. We tailor the training to you, and that is a very different mindset shift and that is what I am most excited about.”

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

A T-6A Texan II aircraft prepares to conduct a tough-and-go landing on Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st. Lt. Pawel Puczko)

Navy instructors selected Ensigns Charles Hills and Seth Murphy-Sweet for the PTN program in lieu of the standard Navy Primary Flight Training phase. This joint training effort is a step toward integrating emerging technologies into Navy’s flight training curriculum. Now Hill and Murphy-Sweet are ready to move forward to the advanced stage of flight training with the Navy’s Training Air Wing 2 at Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas.

“I think a big thing with this program was the ability to utilize the VR, get the experience and pacing down for each flight realtime,” Hill said. “This benefited all the students – being able to chair fly while being able to see the whole flight rather than to have to use your imagination. This helped in getting the motor skills while we were able test it out in VR and see how the exact input corresponds to a correct output.”

The relatively new program is being improved with each iteration and allows a more tailored approach to learning in comparison to traditional flight training from the instructor’s perspective. Instructors use a collaborative learning environment to evaluate and analyze students and subsequently make corrections and improvements.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

Ensign Charles Hill (left) and Ensign Seth Murphy-Sweet stand with their graduating Pilot Training Next (PTN) class on Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st. Lt. Pawel Puczko)

PTN First Assignment Instructor Pilot (FAIP) U.S. Air Force Capt. Jake Pothula shared his views on just how the program differs from the traditional syllabus.

“I went through traditional training,” he said. “The biggest difference with the PTN program is the fact that we aren’t tied to a very rigid, unforgiving syllabus, so students have the ability to choose their own training or have it be molded by instructor pilots who have the students’ individual best interest in mind. In traditional Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) you get more flying hours, but PTN students get a lot more simulator time. The students probably get three times as many hours in the sim than a traditional UPT student would. It’s something they could do at their own pace and choose what they want to do. I would say that these students have a very different set of skills. They excel at understanding their place in a larger mission and understanding what their aircraft is going to do especially in the cases of large field or large force exercises. I feel they definitely have a better grasp on more abstract concept such as mission management.”

Integrating new technologies such as ITDs allows students to gain experience using real-world scenarios. Students can not only fly the strict patterns and procedures they learn from their books, but also integrate air traffic control decondition as well as other aircraft.

“I think the unique and most exciting aspect with where PTN is going is the partnership with the Navy and Air Force,” Riley said. “With this partnership the Navy has loaned us eight T-6B Texan II aircraft. The manufacturer modified the avionics to what we call the T-6B plus, which has software specifically built for the PTN program mission.”

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

Commander Air Force Recruiting Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt speaking at the Pilot Training Next (PTN) class graduation on Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st. Lt. Pawel Puczko)

Adding Navy instructors and students to the PTN program brings a unique perspective since training in the T-6B Texan II is new to the Air Force. VR simulators add a new and exciting element to the PTN program and draws parallels to the gaming industry, which could help attract new accessions.

Today the Navy’s Primary Flight Training phase uses simulators and VR trainer devices to augment the traditional curriculum, which allow students better familiarity with aircraft controls and their areas of operations. Technology within fleet aircraft and the aviation community at large is constantly advancing, and as we move forward simulators and ITDs will play an increasingly significant role in the way we train our military aviators.

CNATRA, headquartered in Corpus Christi, trains the world’s finest combat quality aviation professionals, delivering them at the right time, in the right numbers, and at the right cost to a naval force that is where it matters, when it matters.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 of the worst things about getting promoted

Making rank has its privileges. Getting promoted means you get a new ID, you get to wear your upgraded rank insignia, your title officially changes, and, most importantly, you get paid more.


With all of the perks that come with picking up a rank, there are a few common aspects that service members would love to avoid — but won’t be able to.

Getting a promotion is considered an event epic, but these are the top 4 downsides to your career advancement.

1. Getting “tacked” or “pinned”

We do it as a celebration, and it’s a tradition to encourage us to never lose that rank — but advance onward. But for as steeping in tradition as it is, the whole ‘getting tacked’ can be super uncomfortable, too. Getting promoted also means you’re going to get tacked. That means your fellow service members, who are either the same rank or higher, can walk up to you and respectably strike your newly pinned rank.

It’s practically considered a birthright and it’s a way for your unit to show that they see the effort you’re putting into your career.

But with all that respect comes a downside. The jab could poke the pins into your skin through your shirt. Get smart and have your new rank sewn on your OCPs. This way, your unit colleagues will be forced to acknowledge your rank change with a love-tap on your arm.

2. Taking sh*t for your troops

Getting promoted means that now you’re in charge of a few troops, you’re also responsible for the mistakes they make.

If they get in trouble at the front gate for doing something wrong, your phone will be ringing to pick them up. You might be cursing your new rank change and you’re probably going to have to answer up for anything your subordinates have done.

military woman getting promoted

3. Your promotion means you won’t be able to date that E-2 anymore

Fraternization is a real offense and can kill a military career.

Depending on the branch, you can’t date a rank that’s three pay grades above or below you. Picking up an NCO rank just might ruin your social life, especially if you live in the barracks.

Also Read: Dress uniforms from every military branch, ranked

4. You’re not a part of the E-4 mafia anymore

Remember when you first showed up to boot camp all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed?

After multiple years or of excellent service, you’ll realize you’re no longer seen as a person anymore. With your new rank comes a whole new identity  — now you’re a senior staff NCO.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 Things you can do outside while social distancing

One of our biggest saving graces during the pandemic is the opportunity to catch some fresh air! Whether you’re cooped up at home with kids or are working overtime to fill a need for essential employees (or both!), catching that fresh vitamin D is good for the body.

In fact, going outside can boost your mood and jumpstart your immune system; it can reduce pain and all the scents can do wonders for your endorphins. But don’t take these scientific reasons into account all on their own, experience the outdoors for yourself and keep everyone busy during the pandemic.


Here are 6 things you can do while social distancing:

Go on a walk

Simple, easy, and done with minimal planning. Steer clear of any neighbors, of course (especially if you live on post or in tight quarters), but now is the perfect time to get in your steps! Explore your neighborhood and find areas you’ve never visited or just breath in that fresh oxygen while taking a few laps around the block. Repeat as needed.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

Have a picnic

You’re eating at home anyway, so why not take the party outside? Lay down a blanket to keep the bugs at bay, then enjoy some fun and breezy meals out in the yard. Repeat as weather allows.

Go on a scavenger hunt

These lists are swarming the Internet, so luckily you won’t have to work hard to find your objectives. Whether you’re taking kids or are looking for a more sophisticated list of items, a scavenger hunt is a great way to get creative outdoors.

Don’t forget the neighborhood bear hunt either.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

Bust out the old fashioned games

Tag, Frisbee, wiffle ball and more will turn into family favorites during the pandemic. Your family is already in close quarters, so don’t fret about a few passings of the ball.

However, don’t be afraid to be firm with neighbors and let them know they can’t join. Hellos from a distance remain kosher, but passing objects between households is a strict no-no.

Go for a drive

Weather not going your way? For the days you need a change of scenery, head to the car. This is a great time for an automated car wash (don’t forget to Lysol any buttons that need to be pushed), or a cruise to somewhere new.

Roll down the windows and feel the breeze while everyone jams to favorite tunes.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

Sit and talk

Weeks ago this might have sounded boring, but today, it’s a nice change of pace! Sit with your morning coffee, FaceTime a friend, let the kids play and simply enjoy being outside and enjoy the fresh air.

Being outdoors can do wonders for your mood and endorphins. Take advantage of this easy but proven mood booster!

MIGHTY CULTURE

Should we change the name of Army bases named after Confederate generals?

With Confederate statues coming down across the nation, it’s time to ask: Should we change the name of Army bases named after Confederate Generals?

I think it’s a good discussion for us to have as a nation and an Army. When we can assess the problem and make rational decisions, I trust the Army leadership to make the best decision for our force and nation. We may not all agree on that or those decisions, but one of the greatest parts of America is civil discourse. It’s not difficult to see the pain these names may cause or why the current names don’t matter.


I’ve been to countries where they’ve torn down statues and changed names, erasing history without dialogue. There were many more significant issues, but none of those places have peace and prosperity. A statue or name change alone will not change society or bring a land of opportunity. When not done correctly, it divides people. However, this is an opportunity to do something right for the current and future generations.

We can have discussions and study our Civil War for years. There are a few undeniable conclusions. The Confederates attempted to succeed from the Union and the score was Union – 1, Confederates – 0. The Confederates implicitly or tacitly endorsed slavery of people based upon the color of their skin. We can learn from these difficult times in our nation’s history, so as not to repeat them. We should not honor these generals that fought against their country and therefore the right to own slaves.

In my 20-plus year military career, I never once cared about a base’s name, let alone whether the name of a general inspired me. What motivated me were the units that called those bases home. The famed 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne, 10th Mountain Division and United States Army Special Forces — these and other storied units are what inspired me. We stand on the shoulders of giants. I’d read about these units in books and watched them in movies. The unit lineage is what mattered to me, and I’m willing to bet most of those I served with would agree.

I also didn’t care that they were named after famous generals. They didn’t inspire me or give me a sense of pride. Truthfully no generals, living or dead, ever inspired me. I had the privilege to work with some of the finest generals of our time. I have immense respect for these men and what I learned from them is invaluable. However, I wouldn’t say I was inspired. Why, you might ask? These generals are so removed from the fight that I find it hard to gain inspiration. Those that inspired me were leaders closer to us out conducting missions in the dirt, and my brothers and sisters that I served with.

I will not lose sleep if we change the names of our bases to Fort Tomato or Fort Pine Tree. I hope that we make these decisions with a thorough process. If Army leadership is considering such a process, I do have some excellent suggestions. Medal of Honor recipient, MSG Roy P. Benavidez, Fort Benavidez. Commander of the Tuskegee airmen, General Benjamin O. Davis, Fort Davis. The list of worthy American soldiers is much longer than the number of bases.

The truth is, we are hurting as a country. If this can help our nation heal, I’m all for it. It’s absurd not to have the discussion. Let’s reinvigorate patriotism and pride in our Army. We can run major marketing campaigns sharing the stories of these worthy soldiers. We can all be proud to say “I’m reporting to” or “served at” Fort (insert great American name).

I leave you with only one question: Will you be part of the discussion with me?

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why these combat vets turn to CBD for injuries and recovery

As states continue to reduce restrictions on cannabis use, more and more military veterans are rejecting opioids and prescription pain medications while experiencing positive results from cannabis products. CBD products are being used over prescription drugs to help treat pain and symptoms of PTSD, as well as for anxiety or sports recovery.

Combat veterans, like world-record base jumper and skydiver Andy Stumpf and Omar “Crispy” Avila, are huge proponents of CBD, specifically the hemp-derived offering available from Kill Cliff, a veteran founded/run organization that makes clean sports beverages.

I had the chance to chat with both guys and find out a little more about their military background and why they turn to CBD, as well as which strands/methods they prefer to utilize.

Former Navy SEAL Andy Stumpf set world records as a BASE jumper and skydiver.

(Courtesy photo)

Andy Stumpf enlisted in the U.S. Navy while he was still in high school, hell bent on becoming a Navy SEAL. While on a combat deployment, he was shot at close-range by an insurgent. Despite the severity of the injury, Stumpf continued his SEAL career by becoming a BUD/S instructor and the first E-6 selection commissioned through the Limited Duty Officer Program in the history of Naval Special Warfare. After commissioning, he joined SEAL Team Three for his final combat tour in Afghanistan. He was medically retired after seventeen years of service and hundreds of combat operations throughout the world.

In 2015 he jumped from 36,000 feet and flew over 18 miles in a wingsuit in an effort to raise one million dollars for the Navy SEAL Foundation.

“In the military, if you went to the medic with any symptoms, whether headache or bodyache, they used to give — and I’m not judging when I say this — a literal sandwich bag of 800mg Motrin, which certainly works for pain suppression but also liver liquidation and stomach upset. I could have asked for narcotics, but my body never responded well to it,” reflected Stumpf.

Now, he uses hemp-derived CBD for pain relief and the ability to sleep. He enjoys the Kill Cliff CBD drink after a two-hour training session to help “round the edges.” The 25mg CBD recovery drink gives him zero neurological suppression which is why he prefers it over something like a sublingual edible or a topical product.

“I’ve tried everything from topicals, salves, pills, and they all have a time and place. What I like about this product is that I can use it to maximize my recovery and health,” he shared.

Omar “Crispy” Avila on active duty before his life-threatening attack.

(Courtesy photo)

Omar “Crispy” Avila shipped out to Iraq in 2004 for what would be his first and last deployment. Near the end of his 11 months in country, his convoy was ambushed and his Humvee was struck by an IED that hit the fuel tank and exploded violently, propelling the vehicle into the air and killing one soldier instantly.

Avila climbed into the turret of his Humvee to provide cover fire for his team as flames engulfed the vehicle. He caught fire as grenades and ammunition succumbed to the heat, forcing him to jump from the roof of the burning vehicle. He broke both of his femurs and attempted to extinguish the flames.

He woke up three months later at a VA hospital in Texas. More than 75 percent of his body was covered in third and fourth degree burns and part of his right foot had been amputated.

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“I weaned myself off a lot of medications and I find myself waking up every single day with a lot of pain. I’m not saying that this CBD drink is the cure for everything but at least for me, it brings the pain and anxiety down,” Avila stated.

Avila opened up about anxiety (“it creeps up on you like a mother f***er”) and said the Kill Cliff drinks help him at the end of the day or when anxiety builds but he still wants to feel productive.

Launched in June 2019, Kill Cliff CBD is the fastest growing CBD brand in the country. The bioavailability of a CBD beverage is superior to other forms of CBD. It is nano-encapsulated and easily dissolved in the stomach before going straight into the bloodstream. Kill Cliff offers three flavors: The G.O.A.T., Orange Kush and Mango Tango.

For what it’s worth, I had the chance to try out the (very delicious) Mango Tango and it launched me into a calm state of concentration. Their promise that it “won’t alter your routine” held up remarkably well.

Anyone curious about trying it out for themselves can find the CBD products and other Kill Cliff clean energy drinks online and take comfort in knowing that the company was founded and is run by former Navy SEALs as a sustainable way to give back to the special warfare community through the Navy SEAL Foundation. Since 2015, Kill Cliff has donated over one million to military charities.

MIGHTY CULTURE

NASA selects new missions to study how our Sun effects space

NASA has selected two new missions to advance our understanding of the Sun and its dynamic effects on space. One of the selected missions will study how the Sun drives particles and energy into the solar system and a second will study Earth’s response.

The Sun generates a vast outpouring of solar particles known as the solar wind, which can create a dynamic system of radiation in space called space weather. Near Earth, where such particles interact with our planet’s magnetic field, the space weather system can lead to profound impacts on human interests, such as astronauts’ safety, radio communications, GPS signals, and utility grids on the ground. The more we understand what drives space weather and its interaction with the Earth and lunar systems, the more we can mitigate its effects — including safeguarding astronauts and technology crucial to NASA’s Artemis program to the Moon.


PUNCH

“We carefully selected these two missions not only because of the high-class science they can do in their own right, but because they will work well together with the other heliophysics spacecraft advancing NASA’s mission to protect astronauts, space technology and life down here on Earth,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “These missions will do big science, but they’re also special because they come in small packages, which means that we can launch them together and get more research for the price of a single launch.”

The Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere, or PUNCH, mission will focus directly on the Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, and how it generates the solar wind. Composed of four suitcase-sized satellites, PUNCH will image and track the solar wind as it leaves the Sun. The spacecraft also will track coronal mass ejections – large eruptions of solar material that can drive large space weather events near Earth – to better understand their evolution and develop new techniques for predicting such eruptions.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

A constant outflow of solar material streams out from the Sun, depicted here in an artist’s rendering.

(NASA)

These observations will enhance national and international research by other NASA missions such as Parker Solar Probe, and the upcoming ESA (European Space Agency)/NASA Solar Orbiter, due to launch in 2020. PUNCH will be able to image, in real time, the structures in the solar atmosphere that these missions encounter by blocking out the bright light of the Sun and examining the much fainter atmosphere.

Together, these missions will investigate how the star we live with drives radiation in space. PUNCH is led by Craig DeForest at the Southwest Research institute in Boulder, Colorado. Including launch costs, PUNCH is being funded for no more than 5 million.

TRACERS

The second mission is Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites, or TRACERS. The TRACERS investigation was partially selected as a NASA-launched rideshare mission, meaning it will be launched as a secondary payload with PUNCH. NASA’s Science Mission Directorate is emphasizing secondary payload missions as a way to obtain greater science return. TRACERS will observe particles and fields at the Earth’s northern magnetic cusp region – the region encircling Earth’s pole, where our planet’s magnetic field lines curve down toward Earth. Here, the field lines guide particles from the boundary between Earth’s magnetic field and interplanetary space down into the atmosphere.

In the cusp area, with its easy access to our boundary with interplanetary space, TRACERS will study how magnetic fields around Earth interact with those from the Sun. In a process known as magnetic reconnection, the field lines explosively reconfigure, sending particles out at speeds that can approach the speed of light. Some of these particles will be guided by the Earth’s field into the region where TRACERS can observe them.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

Artist concept of MMS, a mission to study how magnetic fields release energy in a process known as magnetic reconnection.

(NASA)

Magnetic reconnection drives energetic events all over the universe, including coronal mass ejections and solar flares on the Sun. It also allows particles from the solar wind to push into near-Earth space, driving space weather there. TRACERS will be the first space mission to explore this process in the cusp with two spacecraft, providing observations of how processes change over both space and time. The cusp vantage point also permits simultaneous observations of reconnection throughout near-Earth space. Thus, it can provide important context for NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, which gathers detailed, high-speed observations as it flies through single reconnection events at a time.

TRACERS’ unique measurements will help with NASA’s mission to safeguard our technology and astronauts in space. The mission is led by Craig Kletzing at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Not including rideshare costs, TRACERS is funded for no more than 5 million.

Launch date for the two missions is no later than August 2022. Both programs will be managed by the Explorers Program Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The Explorers Program, the oldest continuous NASA program, is designed to provide frequent, low-cost access to space using principal investigator-led space science investigations relevant to the work of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in astrophysics and heliophysics. The program is managed by Goddard for the Science Mission Directorate, which conducts a wide variety of research and scientific exploration programs for Earth studies, space weather, the solar system and universe.

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

A birthday celebration was held at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans on Oct. 2, 2018, for retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima. A man with bright eyes and heartwarming laughter, 95 years old never looked so youthful.

Williams watched as his brothers were drafted into the U.S. Army and decided he wanted to become a U.S. Marine. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1943 and retired after approximately 17 years of service.


“I joined the Marine Corps primarily because I knew nothing about the Marine Corps,” Williams said. “I was totally uneducated about the armed forces. The Marines were always very sharp, neat, polite, treated women very respectfully, and it caught my eye.”

Williams joined the Corps with the ambition to protect the country he called home. Little did he know, he would end up on enemy territory fighting for the freedom he loved so dearly.

“I thought that we would stay right here in the United States of America to protect our country and our freedom, so nobody could take this country away from us,” Williams said. “In boot camp, I was being trained by individuals who had been in combat. They were teaching us that if we were going to win, if we were going to survive, we had to fight a war.”

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

Brig. Gen. Bradley S. James, commanding general of 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, reads a letter written by Gen. Robert B. Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps, addressing retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Tessa D. Watts)

A boy from West Virginia working on a farm, Williams underwent the same honorable transformation endured by those before him and those after him; becoming a U.S. Marine headed overseas to enemy territory to defend his country.

“In boot camp, a person’s life completely changes,” Williams said. “From the time they arrive to the time they graduate, they become a new person. There is a spirit created within us that I cannot explain. It makes you so proud to be a Marine.”

Every Marine a rifleman, Williams had another asset that made him valuable to the Marine Corps and the war effort. He was selected to carry and use a flamethrower during World War II.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

Retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima, explains the importance behind the Gold Star Flag and the Blue Star Flag to the attendees of his 95th birthday party at the National World War II Museum, Oct. 2, 2018. Williams established the “Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation” in 2010. The foundation encourages the establishment of Gold Star family Memorial Monuments.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tessa D. Watts)

“Naturally, we were all trained to be a rifleman first,” Williams said. “I was selected to be in a special weapons unit with a demolition flamethrower. Flamethrowers were being used a lot in the Pacific because of caves, and on Iwo Jima there were many reinforced concrete pillboxes that bazookas, artillery, and mortars couldn’t affect.”

Little did he know, his actions with that flamethrower would earn him the Medal of Honor on Oct. 5, 1945, for his heroic actions during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

“At that point in time, I did not understand what I was receiving,” Williams said. “I had never heard of the Medal of Honor. I didn’t even know such a thing existed. As far as I was concerned, I was just doing what I was trained to do at Iwo Jima. That was my job. It wasn’t anything special.”

After receiving the Medal of Honor at the White House in Washington, D.C., Williams was called upon to speak to the 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Alexander Archer Vandegrift. A conversation of a lifetime, something very specific stuck with Williams despite the fear of speaking to a man known to never crack a smile.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

The Victory Belles, a vocal trio, sing the Marines’ Hymn during the 95th birthday party of retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient of the Battle of Iwo Jima, at the National World War II Museum, Oct. 2, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Tessa D. Watts)

“When the commandant spoke to me, much of what he said I do not recall because I was too scared,” Williams said as he laughed. “One of the things he did say that registered and has never escaped me is ‘that medal does not belong to you. It belongs to all of those Marines that never got to come home. Don’t ever do anything that would tarnish that medal.’ I remember those words very well.”

Williams joined the Marine Corps with a pure heart, dedicated to perform his duty to his country. Those duties ended up being significant enough to earn himself the Medal of Honor. A hero in the eyes of many, when he looks in the mirror he sees a man who was simply doing his job and caring for the fellow Marines around him.

With the distant gaze of a mind recalling nostalgic memories, “We were just Marines looking out for each other,” Williams said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

When was the last time you chose Deliberate Discomfort?

There’s a reason why elite Special Operations courses always begin with intense physical training. The shock value of initial stress overload is the best discriminator while assessing an individual or group’s willingness and capacity to accomplish difficult tasks. It’s because after twenty minutes, when you are tired of holding a log over your head, you can’t fake it any longer. When the pressure is on and the stress increases, your true personality comes out.


The vocal, motivated cheerleader types who try hard to encourage others? They suddenly shut up. The pessimists who are there because they were told to be there but don’t really want to be there? They suddenly quit. The eternal optimists who are always positive and see the good in everything? They suddenly wonder if they have what it takes to make it in the first place. The playing field is now even because everyone is in survival mode and doing whatever it takes to get by. Fatigue makes cowards of us all.

Eventually, there is a moment when everybody is miserable and focused on themselves. Our heads are down, and we are contemplating when the suffering will end. As the level of stress increases, our brains narrow our focus, and our sensory attention goes inward. Our body language reflects, as the pupils dilate, heart rate increases, breathing intensifies, heads go down, shoulders slump, and our thoughts begin to race: What in the hell did I get myself into? When will it all end? How much longer can I keep this up? Is it all worth it?

During log PT on day one of selection, for whatever reason, almost counterintuitively, even though it spent energy on something that was risky, I looked up. I looked up and looked around. I deliberately chose discomfort. The guys around me were all suffering just as badly as I was, if not worse. In that moment, my friend Pat lifted his head up as well. He looked around, and we looked at each other. He shouted, “Let’s go, J. You got this!” I shouted words of encouragement back at him, even though it required energy that could have been used on myself.

More guys lifted their heads and looked around. We began to focus on one another rather than on ourselves. Looking up became infectious. Strangely enough, we began to forget about our pain, the time seemed to move faster, and the log felt lighter. The reality is that nothing changed about the situation except our attitudes. The conditions still sucked, it was hot as hell, our bodies still strained, and the logs didn’t get any lighter. It was our minds that had changed. We began choosing how we thought, deciding where to direct our attention and energy.

In these difficult moments, situations that make or break individuals and teams, we find our collective purpose. When the pressure is on and you’re on a team, it’s never about you. It’s about the people to your left and right who are going through the experience and process with you. In this moment, I found purpose. My purpose was to make the team succeed.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

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Misery is suffering without a purpose. The guys who make it through these types of courses are the guys who experience an aha moment. When they realize that they’re not alone. That they are on a team and the success of the team is more important than their own personal success.

The people who don’t make it are the guys who are self-centered, who don’t risk any energy that doesn’t immediately serve their own interests. The people who don’t look up.

The secret to the elite mind-set of Special Operations Forces, no matter how many books you read or podcasts you listen to, is to look up.

The same “look up” mind-set applies to the everyday mundanity of real life. As a lot of well-intending families do, my wife and I are committed to attending church services every Sunday. As a couple with young children, parenting lessons come early and often. Our daughter is a toddler with boundless energy, which means that we spend a good majority of the service outside in the foyer. Whenever she acts up, screams, or causes a distraction during the sermon or in Sunday school, we do the polite and sensible thing and remove her from the situation.

After several months of faith in the foyer went by, my wife and I looked up at each other and asked ourselves, “What are we doing here?” We don’t hear the sermon; we don’t hear the Sunday school lesson. We just sit out in the foyer and distract our daughter. What’s the point of getting up early and getting dressed to come to church and play with our daughter in the foyer?

I thought back to my experiences during log PT. I was embarrassed that I had forgotten that critical lesson from years ago. I realized that I wasn’t going to church for myself. I was going for the other members of the congregation. I asked myself, “What can I do this Sunday to serve the church and church members’ needs?” Sitting out in the foyer with a screaming daughter, maybe all I could give was a hello or a smile. If that was all I could give, then I would give that. For me, Sundays are sacred because they represent our commitment to spending that quality time together in fellowship to reflect and celebrate our common values and beliefs. This is the foundation of our collective purpose. Is the quality of time we invest now showing an immediate return? Certainly, not immediately, but that’s a limited and short-sighted way of looking at the situation. That’s the same reason why people decide to quit: the log is too heavy right now, and they want to make the pain stop. It’s not about the log, and it’s not about the foyer. It’s about the people to our left and right.

We chose a different perspective and approach to the situation. Through this choice, we realized that if we continued our routine, our daughter’s behavior would eventually improve. By the time she is old enough to know better, this routine as a deliberate and weekly choice will not just be something she does but an integral part of who she is. Suddenly on Sundays, chasing my daughter in the foyer doesn’t seem as bad as it once did.

MIGHTY CULTURE

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

I’ve already made up my mind that if the Space Force starts opening up its doors to include combat arms within my lifetime, I’d be at the recruiting office in a heartbeat. It doesn’t matter that knowing how I’d react, I’d probably be a random Red Shirt who’d have his back turned at the worst possible moment and say something ironic like “the coast is clear!” before getting eaten by something.

Then Senator Ted Cruz in a Senate hearing advocating the Space Force planted the ultimate idea in my head… Space Pirates. Sure, the memes were taken slightly out of context because he was referring to rogue nations attacking satellites and not the swashbuckling buccaneers we’re thinking of. But is it a bad thing that kinda makes me want to join the Space Force even more?

It’ll take far too long for us to make first contact with aliens yet it’ll only take a few decades for space travel to be affordable enough for us to get down on some Firefly or Babylon 5-type action. We’re counting on you, Elon Musk. Make this dream come true!


While we wait for the cold dark reality that the Space Force will probably be far less exciting in our lifetimes than pop culture expects, here are some memes.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Meme via Not CID)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

“I don’t know, Hanz, he said something about my mother being a hamster and my father smelling like elderberries.” 

Fun fact: The insult from Monty Python was actually implying that King Arthur’s mom reproduced fast like a small rodent and his father was a drunk who could only afford the lowest quality wine. The more you know!

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Meme via U.S. Veterans Network)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown

This week’s Borne the Battle episode features Mike Fisher, the Chief Readjustment Counseling Officer for VA’s Health Administration, who discusses some of the unique and generous benefits that Vet Centers offer.

Vet Centers began in 1979 when Vietnam veterans had difficulty readjusting to civilian life. Vet Centers seek to help and equip veterans by offering a community-based counseling center that provides a wide array of services. In addition, these Vet Centers actively help veterans to simply get started, set goals, and eventually accomplish them.


Vet Centers have quickly expanded and is now celebrating its 40th anniversary. There are currently over 300 Vet Centers, 80 mobile Vet Centers, and a Veteran Call Line as well. This model seeks to make readjustment smoother and more effective.

This week’s episode covers:

  • Mission, Vision, and Peer-to-Peer Model of Vet Centers
  • Expansive services of Vet Centers, including all types of counseling, opportunities, and trauma rehabilitation resources
  • Inclusive Eligibility requirements, including grandfathering of Vietnam veterans and inclusion of all, regardless of character of discharge

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

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