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.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide

To shed light on the epidemic of veteran suicide, BraveHearts — the nation’s leading equine rehabilitation program for veterans — started its first of three Trail to Zero rides Sept. 7, 2019 in northern Virginia.

The 20-mile ride in each city commemorates the number of veterans lives lost on average each day. The ride educates people on equine-assisted services benefits and healing effects.

Army veteran Tim Detert was one of the Trail to Zero riders. Detert served from 2005-2010 with the 82nd Airborne, deploying to Iraq twice for 18-month and 13-month tours. Following his service, Detert said he started suffering from depression and anxiety, turning to alcohol and opiates. Four friends ended their lives. After a suicidal spell, a friend recommended equine therapy to him.


“It’s completely turned around my life,” said Detert, who has been sober two years. “It’s given me a lot of hope and joy. I was so depressed and down before I came to this program. I was just looking for something and I hadn’t found it until I started working with the horses.”

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

Army Veteran Mitchell Hedlund, one of the Trail to Zero riders, served in Afghanistan in 2011-2012 and now uses equine therapy.

The BraveHearts president and chief operating officer said she’s seen veterans greatly improve their well being through equine therapy.

“I can’t even tell you now how many times I’ve heard veterans tell me personally that they wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the horses,” said Meggan Hill-McQueeney. “They find peace with the horses, they find hope with the horses, and they find purpose with the horses. Alternative therapies like equine therapies are tremendous opportunities.”

Equine programs

Currently, 64 VA medical centers across the country participate in therapeutic riding programs. These programs use equine assisted therapeutic activities recreationally to promote healing and rehabilitation of veterans for a variety of physical disabilities and medical conditions, said Recreation Therapy Service National Program Director Dave Otto. These include traumatic brain injury/polytrauma, blind rehabilitation, other physical impairments, post-traumatic stress disorders and other mental health disorders.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

Children on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall talk to a BraveHearts rider Sept. 7, 2019, during the Trail to Zero ride.

Additionally, VA awards adaptive sports grants annually for organizations and groups that provide adaptive sports opportunities for veterans with disabilities, Otto said. These grant recipients also partner with VA facilities within their region to coordinate such adaptive sports opportunities for Veterans. During fiscal year 2018, VA awarded nearly id=”listicle-2640279831″ million to 12 grant recipients providing equine assisted therapy to Veterans with mental health issues. VA will award up to id=”listicle-2640279831″.5 million of these grants in fiscal year 2019.

BraveHearts is the largest Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) program in the country and serves veterans at no cost to veterans. The program offers equine services to provide emotional, cognitive, social and physical benefits. Veterans at BraveHearts have reported increased self-esteem, self-worth, trust for others, community integration, and decreased depression, anxiety, post traumatic disorder symptoms and self-inflicting thoughts.

In addition to the Sept. 7, 2019 ride, Trail to Zero plans rides for Sept. 14, 2019, in New York City and Sept. 28, 2019, in Chicago.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 tips for all military spouse job paths

If there’s one thing we know about military spouse careers, it’s that they rarely follow a set path. Work from home? Full-time job? Part time? Retail? Home sales?

But military spouses don’t just forge their own paths, they willingly share the lessons they’ve learned on the way to make working easier for everyone else. And that was exactly the theme during an employment help panel at a military spouse town hall event in May before the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year awards.

The employment panel featured spouses who work for nonprofits, work from home, spend time on the road or operate their own multi-level marketing business, popularly known as home sales.

Here are some of their best tips.


Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Photo by Christin Hume)

1. Show up.

Working from home can be isolating; operating a home sales business requires keeping a robust network; and getting a new gig after your next move could be all about who you know. Those are just some of the reasons the panelists said spouses should make the extra effort to show up at networking events in person, no matter what kind of job they have.

But it’s especially important for those in home sales, said Mary Nelson, a former Coast Guard spouse of the year who has long operated her own home-based business. She even suggests attending your home sales company’s conference whether you are making enough to cover the cost or not.

“Always make an effort to attend functions. You never understand what that company is about unless you make it a point to spend that money you may not have,” she said.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Photo by Domenico Loia)

2. Have a designated work space and keep work hours.

Work from home? Make sure you set aside a space in your home as an office, even if it’s just a corner, and only do work there. And be careful to work only during designated work times, not around the clock. By setting work hours and a work space, you can keep your job from taking over your entire life, even if it’s based in your home.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Photo by Patrick Perkins)

3. Use all the tools you can.

Meal kit delivery? Amazon Subscribe and Save? Curbside grocery pick-up? Asking a friend for help? All of these are important tools military spouses should be using to keep life simple, especially during deployments or training absences, panelists said. It’s not about working harder — it’s about working smarter.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Photo by Harry Brewer)

4. Do things that make you happy.

Lindsey Bradford, a former Navy spouse of the year, said she keeps her sanity as a remote worker with a heavy travel schedule by doing things throughout the day that bring her joy. On the road, for example, she finds a local coffee shop to work from and sample. It’s all about the little moments, she said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Air Force’s ‘Dirt Boyz’ keep bases working and jets soaring

Continuously working out in the sweltering Arizona heat, pouring concrete and maintaining the flight line, the airmen assigned to the 56th Civil Engineering Squadron here are nicknamed the “Dirt Boyz” — and for a good reason.

“We get dirty and run heavy equipment,” said Tech. Sgt. John Scherstuhl, 56th CES horizontal construction section chief. “We have stockpiles of dirt and many dump trucks. We do a lot of ground work for building pads and sidewalks.”

For Luke’s mission of training the world’s greatest fighter pilots and combat-ready airmen, the runways have to be clear for the jets to takeoff and land. “Dirt Boyz” assist in keeping the runways clear of foreign objects. They also continuously monitor for cracks in the runway’s concrete, repairing any damage they discover in approximately three hours.

“Our main priority is the airfield,” said Airman 1st Class Anibal Carrillo-Farias, 56th CES constructions and pavement heavy equipment craftsman. “We have to keep those jets in the air. Our mission to keep the runway in perfect condition so it doesn’t hurt the jets in any way, shape or form.”


Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Aaron Jones, a 56th Civil Engineering Squadron pavements and heavy equipment operator, shovels dirt, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Aug. 12, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman Brooke Moeder)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

Airmen assigned to the 56th Civil Engineering Squadron fill an obstacle with water before the 56th Force Support Squadron’s 2018 Jump in the Mud 5K, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, June 22, 2018.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Newton, left, and Tech. Sgt. Ronnie Jamison, right, 56th Civil Engineering Squadron pavements and heavy equipment operators, use an asphalt road cutter to remove chunks of asphalt, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Aug. 12, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman Brooke Moeder)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

Tech. Sgt. Ronnie Jamison, 56th Civil Engineering Squadron pavements and heavy equipment operator, uses a mini excavator to dig in the road while Staff Sgt. Robert Newton, 56th CES pavements and heavy equipment operator, ensures the mini excavator doesn’t cause damage during a valve-replacement project, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Aug. 12, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman Brooke Moeder)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

Staff Sgt. Winston Spears, 56th Civil Engineering Squadron heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning technician, checks his soldering work at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, July 20, 2018.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Zoie Rider)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

Firefighters from the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron and Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field, prepare to participate in a joint aircraft and structural live fire training, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Nov. 14, 2018.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

Airmen from the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron participate in a drill testing the BAK-12 arresting system at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Feb. 22, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Zoie Rider)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

Luke firefighters assigned to the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department and Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field, listen to a safety brief before igniting a training structural fire at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, November 14, 2018.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

Firefighters with the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron and Gila Bend Fire Department spray water onto a fire during training at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Dec. 7, 2016

(US Air Force/Senior Airman James Hensley)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

Fifty-sixth Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters use a rapid intervention vehicle to respond to an aircraft fire during training at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Dec. 7, 2016.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman James Hensley)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

Senior Airman Jerrad Bailey, 56th Civil Engineer Squadron operations management journeyman, works on the Interim Work Information Management System at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, July 15, 2016.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman James Hensley)

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The top 10 perks of being an Army wife

Deployments, moving, nights in the field, hardship tours – there are lots of reasons to hate the Army. No one promised that Army life would be easy, in fact, everyone said it would be hard. But if it were all bad, if there were no perks, so many of us wouldn’t have opted to stay in for ‘life’ – if by ‘life’ we mean about 20 years.

In fact, for some of us now nearing that magical 20-year mark, a future spent as something other than an Army spouse is actually kind of scary.


Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

10. It’s easy to find your underwear

Stay with me. You know the really pretty Victoria’s Secret thong you spent on just to wear to meet him when he got home from Afghanistan (and you’ve worn for all the ‘good’ date nights since)? Yeah, that one. It’s on his shoulder, stuck to the velcro on his ACUs, probably as he gets called in to a very serious meeting with his CO.

Same goes for you, male spouses. Your Frederick’s of Hollywood elephant trunk thongs will get stuck, too – ugh. Never mind. Let’s all try to get that image out of our heads…

Bottom line (pun intended): Every delicate unmentionable you will own as an Army spouse will get stuck to and shredded by the velcro – and mentioned by all the other soldiers – if you wash your clothes with your soldier’s. Honestly, just be glad it was the sexy ones. It could have been the granny panties you save to wear during deployments.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

9. Woobies

‘Cause without them you ‘would-be’ cold. Take a look at your couch. There’s no lovely chenille throw and no handmade quilt spread across the end. Oh no, you’re an Army spouse. That means you have a green camouflage poncho liner, better known as a “woobie”, adorning your relaxing space.

No one is quite sure where woobies come from, they just appear, and then they multiply – like Bebe’s kids, or maybe gremlins. Pretty soon you realize that there’s one on each of your kids’ beds, at the foot of your own bed and even in the dog’s bed. But there’s no better blanket for sneaking in an afternoon nap and, should you dare to argue that the woobie is inferior in any way, your soldier will set you straight.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(U.S. Army Europe photo by Spc. Joshua Leonard)

8. Eye candy

For reals. We’re not supposed to talk about it, but you know you look, we all do. We get to live in towns where the male to female ratio makes sports bars look like wine cafes. And, though there are nowhere near as many female soldiers, mandatory PT tests mean that there’s eye candy for the male spouses, too.

Soldiers have to work out for their jobs. Every year at Fort Bragg the entire 82nd Airborne Division runs together, all 22,000 of them, for the Division Run. And you know what the spouses do? We bring folding chairs, snacks and drinks, and get there early so we can nab a good viewing spot. Then we watch.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Robert Jordan)

7. Way off base

We get to correct the other branches when they call ours a ‘base’. One of these kids is not like the others – and it’s us. The others have “bases” we have “posts”. Why? Who knows? Who cares? Maybe it’s so we can annoy everyone else when we call their Base Exchange a “PX”.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Klika)

6. Dibs on ‘soldiers’

Along the same lines, we get to watch the others cringe when civilians refer to all service members as “soldiers”. Even though everyone in the military world understands that the word ‘soldier’ only applies to a member of the Army, this little drop of wisdom hasn’t managed to trickle down to our civilian friends – and we in the Army family think that’s just hilarious.

“How’s your ‘soldier’ doing on his cruise, Navy wife?”; “There are a lot less ‘soldiers’ in the Marine Corps, no?”; And, “It must be hard to be on that Air Force Base all by yourself when your ‘soldier’ is gone.” Comments like these always make us chuckle – because we know that a soldier by any other name is, well, not a ‘soldier’ at all.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

5. Size matters

Okay, so maybe the Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps families get to live by the ocean and the Air Force families get better, well, everything (don’t act like you haven’t noticed). We’re the biggest. By far. (O’Doyle Rules!) The Army is about the same size as the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard – combined.

In fact, the entire Coast Guard could fit on just one Army post – with room left over for a few Army brigades. Fort Bragg even has an Air Force installation fully contained inside the Army post. So take pride in knowing that we’re the biggest. Maybe that knowledge will help you get through a long winter in middle of nowhere, because most Army posts seem to have all been built on the largest piece of crap land the federal government could afford.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Photo by Hiro Chang)

4. The military balls

(And, no, this is not a rehash of number 8.) Most people get to go to the prom once, maybe twice in their lifetimes. (Three or four times if they were the freshman high school hussy who dated seniors.) We get to go every year. And there’s booze. And decent food.

And we can slow dance without being separated by a chaperone, and we’re even encouraged to get a hotel room. Military balls give us excellent reasons to go shopping, get our hair and nails done, and have our pictures taken with our spouses. Or, if nothing else, to give the yoga pants a night off.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

3. We’ve got friends EVERYWHERE

Ever have this conversation? “Oh, you’re from Jeezbekneez, Kansas? I have a friend who lives there.” And one in Japan, and one in Hawaii, three in Alaska, two in Italy, four in Germany, one in Korea, and so forth and so on. Grade school classes could use our Facebook friends’ lists for geography lessons. Army families move. A lot. The upside: On a lonely night during a deployment we know we can get on Facebook and find one of those friends online, because 3 a.m. our time is 9 a.m. in Germany.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

2. Never-ending hijinks

When kids play war, they play Army. Well, guess what? People who join the Army tend to never let go of that wild (ahem) spirit. The Army: Where the boys are men, the men are boys, and the women aren’t afraid of snakes. If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you already love a wild man or woman and are likely to view living somewhere surrounded by jokesters as an adventure.

(Note: This also applies to the Marine Corps, but it does not apply to the other branches. Those who volunteer for boots-on-the-ground duty tend to be a bit more devil-may-care.)

The soldiers around you will be the sweetest, most helpful versions of Steve-O and Johnny Knoxville imaginable, and that makes life very fun – and very funny. Living in an Army town means you will never have to open a door for yourself; you won’t linger on the side of the road with a broken down car; and if a disaster strikes there will be more volunteers than there is need.

But it also means your daily commute will resemble a NASCAR race and you shouldn’t be surprised when you stumble upon stupid human tricks involving nakedness, port-a-potties, 100-mile-an-hour tape, 550 cord and, occasionally, explosives.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Photo by Elizabeth Alexander)

1. Family

Whether you come from a big family, a small family or no family at all, rest assured that you just joined the biggest family in America. Really. Your family is now more than a million strong – Army strong. There is no black, white, brown, red or yellow in the Army – just Green. It doesn’t matter if you’re from the north, south, east or west, educated or not so much, fresh out of high school or edging towards retirement.

I come from a big, tight-knit, family – and I love my family – but more than once I’ve cut short my visits “home” to go back to my Army home because I needed the support and understanding only my ‘Big Green Machine’ family could provide. My Army wife sisters were my newborn daughter’s first hospital visitors, they met her months before her own father did.

They opened their arms wide to me when I told them my dad was dying of cancer. They sent flowers to his funeral. They’ve helped me pack, clean and hold yard sales. They’ve, quite literally, picked me up when I was too weak to stand on my own. And they have laughed with me – oh, how they have laughed with me. We have watched each other’s babies grow, sometimes from afar, and we have shared so much of each other’s lives that the word ‘friend’ is simply not enough anymore. We are family.

A single thread is easy to break, but when you weave a bunch of threads together you get 550 cord, which is strong and secure enough for parachutes. That’s the Army. And we are Army Strong – because none of us stands alone.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

One of the scariest tasks for pilots is to land in rough seas

What’s the most dangerous part of the mission for a Navy pilot? Flying over enemy forces? Dodging hostile jets? Well, when the enemy isn’t ready for the full might of the U.S. Navy and what the sea state is, the most dangerous part of the mission might be landing on the ship when it’s time to go home. That’s because the sea can move the ship’s deck 30 feet.


PBS: Carrier – Landing on a Pitching Deck Pt. 1

www.youtube.com

PBS had a documentary team out on the USS Nimitz when it hit rough seas in the Pacific and got to watch pilots, many of whom had experience flying missions over Iraq and Afghanistan, get nervous when they were sent out for some peaceful training.

But it was still some of the riskiest flying that many of the young pilots had done, because the waters were so rough that the ship’s deck—the thing the pilots had to land their planes on—was heaving up and down and rising as high as 30 feet. Just dealing with that altitude is a big deal, but it also means that the angle of the deck their landing on or taking off from is changing as well.

Time it wrong, and a takeoff could throw you straight into the water.

“This is absolutely more dangerous than it was flying missions in the gulf,” an unnamed pilot told the film crew. “We got lucky in the Gulf; the seas are calm. But out here, pitching decks, this is scarier. Still gotta get back and land on the boat.”

“It’ll kill you in a second,” said a Navy commander.

But it’s still worth it to the Navy to do risky training like this, because it needs the pilots able to fly and fight in the worst seas they can possibly handle, because that reduces the types of weather that can weaken the Navy against an enemy like China.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Which special operators make the best CIA agents?

There are more rumors and myths floating around about the Central Intelligence Agency then there are actual facts. “The Agency” or “The Company” is charged with preempting threats and furthering national security objectives by collecting and analyzing intelligence and conducting covert action while simultaneously safeguarding our nation’s secrets. It’s a broad mission, and a lot of trust has been granted to them by the American people to carry it out.

But it takes a special kind of person to thrive in the CIA.

Who, or what, are they looking for? And do those who served at the tip of the spear while in the military have a competitive advantage? If so, is a U.S. Navy SEAL better than a U.S. Army Ranger? Or does a Green Beret’s experience hold more weight when competing for one of the few spots available as a gray man?


The CIA doesn’t publicly answer any of those questions, instead opting to keep their ideal candidate’s qualifications vague. So we reached out to a few veterans of the Agency to see if they noticed any trends.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

Hafer while deployed to Africa.

(Photo courtesy of Evan Hafer)

Evan Hafer, former CIA contractor

Evan Hafer is in the coffee business these days, but he started out as a U.S. Army Special Forces NCO (noncommissioned officer) before transitioning to contracting for the CIA. He’s deployed dozens of times around the world on their behalf, and he even assessed and trained those who were trying out for the Agency’s elite high-threat, low-visibility security force toward the end of his career.

“It all depends on what kind of officer you’re looking for,” Hafer said. “When you look at paramilitary operations, they have a wide variety of objectives. A good portion is working by, through, and with foreign nationals while conducting covert action. For a long time, Special Forces did a lot of covert action, so they made for the best agents in that respect.”

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

Hafer while deployed to Afghanistan.

(Photo courtesy of Evan Hafer)

Hafer went on to explain that there are different types of jobs at the Agency that require different skill sets. “Typically a good Ranger NCO will make a great guy for on-the-ground, high-threat, low-visibility security work. And Marines across the spectrum are pretty good at a lot of different things.”

Hafer made sure to note the difference between conducting direct action (DA) in the military’s special operations units and gathering intelligence for the CIA. “If you like blowing doors down, intel will bore the fuck out of you,” Hafer said. “It’s a lot of writing, and regardless of background, guys who enjoy DA might not like the intel job.”

“If you’re a hammer and every problem is a nail, then you won’t like being the pen.”

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Photo courtesy of Bob Baer)

Bob Baer, former CIA case officer

You may recognize Bob Baer from his work hosting investigative shows on the History Channel or delivering commentary on CNN, but before that he spent 21 years as a CIA case officer. He deployed around the world, speaks eight languages, and even won the CIA’s career intelligence medal.

“It’s almost always Special Forces,” Baer said about the ideal background for working operations in the CIA. “These guys are out in places training locals. I found the SF guys, especially the ones who have experience working in strange places, to be most effective.”

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Photo courtesy of Bob Baer)

He even went so far as to say that elite Tier 1 operators (that many would assume to be perfect for the job) often don’t work out. “For them, it’s so low-speed — there’s not as much excitement as they’re used to. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Delta or SEAL Team Six guy make the adjustment.”

Baer echoed Hafer’s sentiment toward the U.S. Marines, saying, “It seemed the Marines did a good job adjusting.” And admitted that he usually preferred a military background over a straight academic: “All in all, people who were in the military were best because they learned about dealing with government BS, while the least equipped were always the academics.”

We are the Directorate of Operations

www.youtube.com

Robyn, former CIA case officer

Robyn, like Baer, was a case officer for the CIA and spent years running sources around the world — to include active combat zones. She asked that we not use her last name but was happy to offer her thoughts on not just the ideal military resume, but also what it actually takes to be a successful case officer regardless of background.

“At the end of the day, you’re selling a lemon. You’re convincing someone to commit espionage and provide intel against their country in exchange for whatever is valuable to them,” Robyn explained. “You have to convince them that you care, that their life matters — whether it does or not.”

“So the guys that do well are the guys that understand the human factor,” she continued. “They have to understand what makes someone tick and pretend to be concerned. People are not going to put their lives at risk for someone who doesn’t care. You have to care.”

Robyn recalled a former state trooper who she worked with that did well, noting that a law enforcement background laid a solid foundation for talking to people who can be difficult to extract information from, such as witnesses and victims.

“The militant guys don’t do well,” Robyn said, noting that there’s a difference between being militant and being from the military, and that it takes a unique person to operate in the gray for months or even years at a time. “They’ve gotta operate without mental, emotional, or personal boundaries. There’s no commander’s intent, and the mission isn’t always clear. A renaissance man will do better than the fire-breather, even if they both come from Special Forces. We need the guys who can jump between philosophy and tactics while maneuvering in all different environments.”

The one thing that Hafer, Baer, and Robyn all agreed on is that no single bullet point on a resume qualifies someone for the difficult work of the CIA. They all emphasized that it takes a special person, and the best people at the Agency often have certain intangibles that you either have or you don’t. It seems it takes much more than a trident or a tab to make it into the nation’s most elite intelligence agency — and that’s a good thing.

Trojan Footprint: Embedded with Special Forces in Europe

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Air Force is taking on new challenges in the Arctic

According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the Arctic sea ice extent has declined by 40% since 1979. The loss is transforming Alaska’s climate while also accelerating coastal erosion.

“In a diminishing ice environment in the Arctic region, we’re seeing there’s more opportunity for industry, more opportunity for resource extraction, if done in a very careful manner,” said Randy Key, Arctic Domain Awareness Center executive director.


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that the Arctic houses 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil, 30% of its undiscovered gas and an abundance of uranium, rare earth minerals, gold, diamonds and millions of square miles of untapped resources.

Both of the United States’ near peer adversaries — Russia and China — present challenges to U.S. national security as they establish a larger strategic footprint, both commercially and militarily, in this newly accessible environment.

Washington strategists have turned their gaze towards the Arctic and determined that the need to enhance U.S. operations and capabilities there has become clear and immediate.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas A. Bussiere, left, the commander of Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Command Region, Alaskan Command, U.S. Northern Command, and the 11th Air Force, converses with a visiting representative of the Bangladesh Air Force while participating in Red Flag-Alaska Executive Observer Program at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, June 14, 2019.

(US Air Force photo Alejandro Peña)

“We have two operational squadrons of the F-22 Raptors here at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and starting next April we’ll begin fielding two operational F-35 Lightning (II) fighter squadrons at Eielson Air Force Base (Alaska),” said Lt. Gen. Thomas Bussiere, Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Command region commander.

He went on to say, “The United States has the ability to defend land, maritime, and the air over and around the joint operating area of Alaska.”

The changing environment in the Arctic is also providing unique challenges to infrastructure on U.S. installations. Ground that continues to shift due to thawing permafrost creates unique problems.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

The 23rd Space Operations Squadron, Det. 1 is located more than 700 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The detachment is the northernmost Air Force Satellite Control Network site and is responsible for collecting data and pushing commands to AF satellites.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Whitely)

The solutions being used are derived from the problem itself — manipulating the permafrost, thawing or freezing where needed to ensure the ground can support the infrastructure.

“Really, it’s more about adapting, I think, than trying to hold back the change, because I don’t think we can,” said Gary Larsen, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineering Resource Development Center’s Cold Regions Research Engineering Laboratory operations manager. “The changing climate is going to affect military infrastructure in the Arctic and around the world.”

“The engineers and the professionals that build our facilities have really refined it to a unique science to manipulate the permafrost to build facilities to operate in this very cold environment,” Bussiere said. “I have no doubt in my mind that we’ll be able to meet any challenge head on.”

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

A 210th Rescue Squadron HH-60G Pave Hawk transports cargo in support of Ice Exercise 2018. ICEX 2018 is a five-week exercise that allows the Navy to assess its operational readiness in the Arctic, increase experience in the region, advance understanding of the Arctic environment, and continue to develop relationships with other services, allies and partner organizations.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Kelly Willett)

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force Wounded Warrior program partners with Ukrainian vets to find healing in war-torn country

Exercise and adaptive sports have been proven to build resiliency among wounded veterans. Through new purpose, unwavering support, rekindled determination, and a focus on ability and not disability, these warriors can heal. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported that 13,000 people had been killed in the Ukraine conflict as of 2019. Upward of 30,000 soldiers have been badly wounded since the war began in 2014.


These injured soldiers come back with burns covering much of their bodies, extensive brain damage, and chronic phantom pains from amputations. Around half of them are also suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Once home, their new war is just beginning.

The Ukrainian government struggles to provide basic care for these veterans, with private non-profits often stepping in to pay for things like prosthetics. Seeking help for mental health illnesses, like PTSD, carries a strong stigma for Ukrainian society. Psychologists and non-profit wounded warrior programs in Ukraine have been working hard to change that.

In 2015, Col. (Dr.) Vsevolod Stebliuk introduced the first complex psychological and physical program for the rehabilitation of war veterans at Irpin Military Hospital in Ukraine. It’s there that veterans are introduced to things like exercise therapy to build resiliency. Wounded Warrior Ukraine also teaches PTSD workshops, deep breathing and exercise therapy to Ukrainian veterans.

In 2017 the Ukraine team made its debut at the Invictus Games. This was monumental for these veterans who were struggling with devastating visible and invisible wounds from war. The Invictus Games helped them by not only building a community of support, but by giving them purpose and passion through adaptive sports. The word “Invictus” is Latin for unconquered – implying that although forever changed by war, they will not be overcome.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

Marsha Gonzales, a retired United States Air Force veteran and current Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2) Branch Chief for Warrior Care Support, is the manager of Team US for the 2020 Invictus Games. While at a meeting for the games, she met the manager for Team Ukraine, Oksana Horbach. Horbach shared with Gonzales her concern for her team, as Ukraine did not have the same access to financial resources as other countries. Gonzales decided to help.

When discussing different options of support, Gonzales remembered that AFW2 had equipment that was to be recycled. It was at this moment that AFW2 helped establish Team Ukraine’s first-ever wheelchair basketball team to compete in the 2020 Invictus Games.

Ten specialized wheelchairs were delivered to Ukraine in February, and with them came two AFW2 coaches and five sports ambassadors to not only train the Ukrainians with sport-specific knowledge, but also directly engage with local veterans. The AFW2 group visited the Ministry of Veteran’s Affairs, Ministry of Defense, and engaged with local media to share stories of resilience through adaptive sports.

According to Gonzales, many tears were shed during the visits with veterans. She shared that while visiting veterans in one local hospital, it was hard not to be overcome by their stories. American Veterans who came on the trip with AFW2 also felt an overwhelming sense of appreciation for the care and support they receive in the United States. All involved wished there was more they could do for these incredible Ukrainian veterans.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

One Ukrainian veteran shared during a visit that they had just received word of increased fighting, and that some of their friends had been killed. Gonzales said it was hard to remain unemotional, knowing that not far away, more Ukrainian soldiers were dying in the conflict.

While providing wheelchairs and giving their time might not seem like much to some, to the Ukrainians it was everything. “We are giving these veterans hope for their future,” Gonzales said.

Team US co-captain, retired Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joshua Smith, was one of the ambassadors on the international trip. He made a Facebook post on Feb. 22 sharing that the visit was a humbling and profound experience for him and others taking part.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

“Letting other wounded, ill, and injured service members/disabled veterans know that we can adapt, overcome, and persevere with absolute resiliency in the face of challenges, obstacles, and trials we suffer due to military service for our countries,” he wrote.

Smith said that they went into this trip with Team Ukraine appearing very unsure of why they were there to help. However, by the time AFW2 left, Ukrainian veterans were referring to them as “our Americans.”

It was no longer Team US and Team Ukraine – it was “Our Team.”

To see all of the things AFW2 is doing to support wounded warriors, click here. Also, check out Team Ukraine’s Invictus Team page.

MIGHTY CULTURE

From military might to misery: The failing fortunes around an abandoned Russian base

A decade ago, Russia’s Defense Ministry closed down a military base in Pskov Oblast, leaving hundreds of people unemployed. Without income or investment in infrastructure, the town began to collapse around its residents. (Current Time)


MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why a ‘senior lance corporal’ is absolutely a thing

Lance corporal is the most common rank in the Marine Corps. It’s the upper-most junior-enlisted Marine; the last step before becoming an NCO. It’s at this rank that you truly learn the responsibilities that come with being an NCO — and it’s when you start to shoulder those responsibilities. But Marines can be lance corporals straight out of boot camp. But how can someone with no experience possibly be ready to lead others Marines? This is why we created an unofficial rank — “senior lance corporal.”

Lifers everywhere will tell you that there’s no such thing. They’ll say something along the lines of, “being a senior was a high school thing and it ought to remain there.” But the truth is that there are very valid reasons for the distinctive title.

No matter your reason for stating otherwise, one thing’s for sure: senior lance corporals exist. This is why.


Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

This Lance Corporal still has a lot to learn.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Catie Massey)

The “junior” lance corporal

The “junior” lance corporal is the guy who picked up rank during boot camp because they were an Eagle Scout or some sh*t. Regardless, they didn’t earn real Marine Corps experience while waiting for that rank. Hell, the only experience they have in the Marine Corps is with marching — which is important, sure, but there’s a lot more to being a Marine than marching.

There are exceptions, of course. You could have spent time in the service prior to deciding that whatever branch you were in was a group of weaklings compared to the Marines. In that case, you do have experience, but this is pretty rare. The majority of “junior” lance corporals haven’t led Marines yet — not really, anyway — nor have they been to any leadership courses.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

They spent a lot of time doing things by the book, which isn’t typically how things go in a real unit.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

They spent their time learning the basics which, if we’re being honest, are great building blocks, but your unit’s standard operating procedure may render a lot of what you learned basically useless.

Anyone who’s reached NCO before their first term and has led Marines knows that you can’t trust a junior lance corporal to clean their room the right way on their first attempt. How could that lance corporal possibly be the same as the one who went through leadership and/or advanced schools and has a deployment under their belt? Hint: It’s not.

Enter the “senior” lance corporal.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

These guys have been around a minute.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

The “senior” lance corporal

When a junior Marine gets to their unit, even if they’re a lance corporal, this is the guy they refer to as “lance corporal.” The junior will quickly come to understand that, while they may hold the same rank, they are not the same. The difference, in fact, is rather large.

A senior lance corporal has been on a deployment. Regardless of whether that deployment was into combat or not, that lance corporal has real leadership experience. They went to a foreign country and they were responsible for leading Marines to success. Then, before you got to the unit, they went to leadership schools. These Marines have a lot more experience than a greenhorn fresh out of boot camp.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

So ask yourself, are you treating your Marines a certain way based on experience — or rank?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo Cpl. Aaron Patterson)

Realistically, there are plenty of senior lance corporals that don’t give a f*ck anymore. But for every one of those, there are ten who strive to be good Marines and great leaders. To diminish their hard work and reduce them to the same level as some fresh boot does nothing but destroy their spirit.

The fact is, a “senior” lance corporal could be a squad leader — a job that is meant to be held by a sergeant, but is more commonly held by a corporal. You could not take a “junior” lance corporal and say the same. The difference is clear.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of August 30th

In case you didn’t know, the former Secretary of Defense, Chaos Actual, Gen. James Mattis (ret.) wrote an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal and it’s just ahead of his memoir covering how he learned leadership from his time as a young buck Lt to his time leading the Pentagon.

Of course, Mattis makes a very in-depth analysis into why America’s allies are vital and some insight into his resignation last December – but he also makes a case against the tribalistic political-sphere that seemed to envelope 2019. He’s always remained apolitical, despite sitting in the Trump cabinet. The petty squabbling and BS just distracts from the mission.

I know reading lists were sort of his thing – and it’d be kind of awkward for him to put his own book on his own reading list for people to buy and read. So just assume it’s on there since I don’t think he’s even updated it since he was last in the office.


Anyways, here are some memes to get your extended weekend started while I shamelessly give an unsponsored plug for the Patron Saint of Chaos’ new book.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Meme by Call for Fire)

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 Team Non-Rec)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Meme via On The Minute Memes)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Meme via PT Belt Nation)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Meme via ASMDSS)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

​(Meme by Ranger Up)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why we need you to rally around the military spouse community

News broke earlier this week that a military spouse shot and killed her child before turning the gun on herself, dying by suicide.


The news hit the community hard and military spouses are left wondering, where is her movement? Where is her foundation? Where are the bills being passed to help people like her? Silence. As America prides itself on patriotism and strength, we neglect to support the nurturers our foundation was built upon: the military spouse.

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies and holiday spirit

Tristen Watson and her son Christopher. Watson was also pregnant with her second child at the time of her suicide.

So many military spouses have silently struggled; myself included. Our community claims to be uplifting and empowering, but when do we really support us? After it’s too late? Once the person is gone, then do we band together for support and strength?

It’s time we put as much energy into someone’s life as we do in mourning their deaths.

Up until recently, the Department of Defense did not keep track of the number of suicides committed by military spouses. Why? Because it wasn’t important. We have always been an afterthought in this community. Our struggles have been minimized as we are called “dependa” and other derogatory slurs that paint an incorrect image of our lives.

According to the Department of Defenses’ first ever study on dependent suicide, in 2017, nearly 200 military dependents committed suicide, that year. Of that, over 100 were military spouses. Knowing that these men and women were spouses of a military member and internally battled something we knew nothing about is not okay. Did they ask for help? Maybe. Our community is pretty tough and often times asking for help may result in actions that are not helpful at all, like bullying.

Our lives aren’t easy. The images of military spouses you see on television aren’t completely accurate. We hurt, too. We face mental health issues like every other human. Yes, we endure hardships within military life. We work, we go to school, we solo parent, we struggle with PTSD, and yet we still find the strength and courage to care for our service members. Many military spouses have college diplomas that are collecting dust, as our student loans collect interest, because we cannot obtain gainful employment. We are turned down by employers because of gaps in our resumes or lack of longevity.

New military spouses receive briefings from members of the Military and Family Readiness Center and Key Spouses during a spouse orientation seminar April 5, 2018, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

We volunteer within the military community as Soldier and Family Readiness Group Leaders, Crisis Response team members, and so many other positions that help keep our military strong. We are a valuable asset to the military that is often overlooked and underserved. We deserve to have a voice. You need to hear our stories.

Remember, when you are sharing that meme and berating the struggles of our military spouses, you are contributing to the destruction of an already under supported community. Our stories matter. We matter. Let’s spread this message of love and support to our sisters and brothers living their lives with wounds we cannot see. Be the voice of the silent. Speak up!

If you are a military spouse struggling, reach out. Know that your sisters and brothers love you and want you to be okay. We are a village. It’s time to embrace one another and uplift each other during these tumultuous times.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information