6 steps to organize your military life this year - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

6 steps to organize your military life this year

Whether you have lived in your house 10 days, 10 months or 10 years (is that even possible?!), there is always a need for more organization.

Military spouse or not, becoming more organized is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions. Pinterest, TLC and Mari Kondo capitalize on these goals and provide wonderful ideas, tips and tricks. In addition to these marvelous tools, we have a few of our own military spouse-specific organization tips to help you get set in 2020.


1. Label all drawers, baskets and cupboards

Have you ever planned to put an item away only to realize you were envisioning its location in your previous home? Labels help us remember where we store things as well as inform our significant others. After deployment, readjusting is hard enough without having him/her put things away in areas they do not belong. Use a label maker to help clear your own brain fog and prevent lost items as result of misplacement.

6 steps to organize your military life this year

(Photo by Tim Gouw)

2. Utilize a scanner

Medical records and school records are very important. Utilize scanning abilities to import documents into organized computer files and/or print documents to manually file them in a binder or a filing cabinet.

3. Update your Addresses

Perhaps you have a collection of ‘return to sender’ Christmas cards from military friends who moved within the last year. Now is the time to register with an online address collector (make your friends do the work), update your excel spreadsheet or use a pencil in an address book. Be sure to also include addresses from each home you have lived in. This will ease the task of filling out job applications that have you list each residence within the past five years (insert facepalm).

6 steps to organize your military life this year

(Photo by Alejandro Escamilla)

4. Schedule everything

Just kidding. We all know once your calendar gets organized, duty will call and everything will need to change.

5. Add information to the contacts in your phone

When you scroll through your phone and find three Sarahs and two Johns listed, but you cannot remember who these people are, it is time to organize your contacts with more than just first and last names. Try listing the installation you were at, the city you lived in or some kind of description. This way you can identify the caller quicker than five minutes into the conversation when she finally mentions something that sparks a memory in your brain.

6 steps to organize your military life this year

6. Move

Moving may seem like the complete opposite of getting organized, however, it offers a great opportunity to purge, the first step in organization. Consider a PCS as a Personal Clearing of Stuff, and thank the military for allowing you to ask the question ‘does this spark joy?’

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

New amendments would promote Tuskegee Airman and last Doolittle Raider

House lawmakers have introduced legislative amendments to promote two military pilots who made great contributions to aerial battles during World War II.

Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, and Ruben Gallego, D-Arizona, recently created an amendment to the Fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization legislation that would posthumously promote Richard “Dick” Cole from lieutenant colonel to colonel.

Cole, who died in April 2019 at age 103, was the last surviving Doolittle Raider and flew alongside then-Lt. Col. James “Jimmy” Doolittle. The raid was famously named after Doolittle, who led 16 B-25 bombers and 80 crew members from the aircraft carrier Hornet in the western Pacific on a strike targeting factories and military installations in and around Tokyo on April 18, 1942.


Cole, a lieutenant at the time, received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his role in the bombing.

Rep. Chip Roy, a Republican from Texas, introduced similar legislation. The news was first reported by Air Force Magazine on July 10, 2019.

Separately, Rep. Anthony Brown, a Democrat from Maryland, created a measure to promote retired Air Force colonel and distinguished combat aviator Charles McGee to brigadier general. McGee, who was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, flew 409 fighter combat missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

6 steps to organize your military life this year

Retired Col. Elmer Jones and retired Col. Charles McGee address an audience during an open forum at the 2009 Air Force Association Air Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 15, 2009.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Andy Morataya)

“This distinguished, decades-long career in the Air Force, which saw Col. McGee become the first African-American to command a stateside Air Force wing and base, serves as an inspirational legacy to hundreds of African-American service members and aviators,” Brown told Military.com in a statement July 10, 2019. “This honorary promotion would be well-deserved recognition of a dedicated patriot.”

Both McGee and Cole spoke to Military.com in recent years about their service.

“The flight was designed to do two things: One, to let the Japanese people know that they could be struck by air. And the other thing was the morale, and we did that, so we were very proud of that,” Cole told Military.com in 2016.

That year, the Air Force announced it would name its next-generation B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber the Raider after the Doolittle Raiders. Cole made the announcement for the service.

6 steps to organize your military life this year

(U.S. Air Force graphic)

The experience was much different for the Tuskegee Airmen: They were the first African-American pilots, navigators and support personnel to serve during World War II, often escorting and protecting bombers.

McGee said he was just doing his job.

“It came from the basis of doing something for our country — for me, doing something I liked, knowing that’s what I’d pass on to young people now,” he said during an interview in 2017.

“We accomplished something that helped lead the country,” McGee said. “We didn’t call this civil rights. It was American opportunity.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

From homeless to hopeful: Veterans thrive with peer specialists’ support

Five years ago, Marine Corps Veteran Frederick Nardei returned to service, but not the military. He became a certified peer support specialist, dedicated to helping fellow Veterans whose futures were as uncertain as his had once been.


Nardei served as a peer specialist for a recent study at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, helping Veterans enrolled in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) manage their mental health and substance misuse challenges. The study was also conducted at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Mass., where it was led by Dr. Marsha Ellison.

Actively and significantly engaged in their own recovery from mental health issues, VA peer specialists serve as success stories for their fellow Veterans. Their experience using mental health services, combined with their VA training and certification, have made them valuable additions to VA’s mental health offerings.

“My own experiences with homelessness, drug abuse and mental illness had prepared my heart to serve in ways that the Veterans could easily relate to… When I share my recovery story, they say that they are inspired and empowered because they can see that I am the evidence that recovery is possible and achievable,” said Nardei.

The study, led by Pittsburgh VA’s Dr. Matthew Chinman, found that formerly homeless Veterans who worked extensively with peer specialists had greater improvements in their symptoms than those who did not work with a peer specialist. When asked about their work with a peer specialist, both the Veterans and the other HUD-VASH staff expressed great satisfaction. Veterans reported being less isolated, more integrated into their community, and more involved in recovery activities as a result of their work with a peer specialist.

Who better to help other Veterans on their recovery journey than someone who has been in their shoes?

“The Veterans who struggled with the shame and stigma of being homeless were able to overcome those barriers… because I was able to share with them my own experience with being homeless for seven months after my wife left, because of my heroin addiction,” said Nardei, one of an estimated 1,100 Veterans serving as VA peer specialists.

Recover, heal, grow

The peer support program inspires and empowers participants to recover, heal and grow. Nardei believes that there is nothing more powerful than seeing someone accomplish the things that once seemed impossible.

He’s the proof he inspires in others.

To become a VA-trained peer specialist, visit the VA Careers webpage for details.

To learn more about peer specialists and their how they improve Veterans’ lives, download the Peer Support Toolkit.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The complete guide to not being a Blue Falcon

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

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


6 steps to organize your military life this year

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

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

Dental/Medical Appointments

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

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

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

6 steps to organize your military life this year

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

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

Living in the field

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

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

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

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

6 steps to organize your military life this year

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

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

Ruck marches

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

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

6 steps to organize your military life this year

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

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

Formations

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

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

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

6 steps to organize your military life this year

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

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

Alibis

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

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

6 steps to organize your military life this year

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

(U.S. Army Pfc. Charles Thorman)

“Gear adrift”

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

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the US Army could win a war all on its own

The U.S. military most certainly has the capability to project force almost anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice. They’re always ready for war. The Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps are on constant alert for the order to break through another nation’s defenses and start aggressively installing a democracy. 


Sure, the services usually work together to win wars. But what if a single branch were tasked to do the entire job on its own?

From destroying enemy air defenses to amphibious assaults, the Army could go it alone. Here’s how.

The Air War

The air war is one of the areas where the Army would struggle most, but it wouldn’t be a deal breaker. First, the Army has led an invasion force in support of the Air Force before. Apache helicopters fired some of the first shots of Desert Storm when they conducted a 200-mile, low altitude raid against Iraqi air defense sites.

The Army hit radar stations with Hellfire missiles, air defense guns with flechette rockets, and surviving personnel and equipment with 30mm grenades on the first night of the liberation of Kuwait. The raid opened a 20-mile gap in Iraq’s air defenses for Air Force jets to fly through.

In an all-Army war, the first flight of Apaches could punch the hole in the air defenses and a second flight could fly through the gap to begin hitting targets in the country.

The biggest complication would be missions against enemy jets. Even if the Army purchased air-to-air weapons systems for the Apaches, they lack the range and speed of Air Force fighters. While they’re capable of going toe-to-toe against enemy jets and winning, their relatively low mobility would make it challenging to be everywhere at once.

6 steps to organize your military life this year
An Avenger missile system is capable of firing eight Stinger missiles at low-flying enemy airplanes and helicopters. (Photo: US Army Sgt. Anthony Hewitt)

The Apache commanders would have to coordinate carefully with ground forces and other air assets to ensure they were providing anti-air at the right locations and times. To make up for the shortfall, Avenger, Patriot, and Stinger missile units would need to be stationed as far forward as possible so that their surface-to-air missiles would be able to fight off enemy fighters and attack aircraft going after friendly troops.

Amphibious Assaults

6 steps to organize your military life this year
The U.S. Army’s Landing Craft Utility 2000s can carry the weight of five Abrams tanks. (Photo: US Army Lt. Col. Gregg Moore)

The U.S. Army does not specialize in amphibious operations, but it has conducted a few of the largest landings in history, including the D-Day landings.

The Army has three types of boats that can land supplies and forces ashore without needing help from the Navy. The Army crews on these boats are capable enough that the Navy considers them to be roughly equal to their own craft and doctrine calls for them to assist the Navy in joint amphibious assaults.

The star of an Army amphibious landing would be the Landing Craft Utility 2000, a boat capable of sailing 6,500 nautical miles and delivering 350 tons, the equivalent of five armed Abrams tanks and their crews.

The Army also rocks the Landing Craft, Mechanized 8 which can carry as much cargo as a C-17 and deliver it to an unimproved beach or damaged dock.

Finally, each of the Army’s eight Logistic Support Vessels can carry up to 24 M1 tanks at a time, almost enough to deliver an entire armored cavalry troop in a single lift.

6 steps to organize your military life this year

Army Logistics Support Vessels are heavy lifters that can drop a bridge to the coast, allowing trucks and armored vehicles to roll right off. (Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon)

Of course, soldiers would struggle against fierce beach defenders without the Marine Corps’ Harriers or Cobras flying in support. The Army would have to rely on paratroopers dropped from Chinooks and attacks by Apaches and special operations Blackhawks to reduce enemy defenses during a beach landing.

Logistics

The Army is a master of long-term logistics, but an Army that couldn’t get help from the Merchant Marine, Navy, and Air Force would need to be extremely careful with how it dealt with its supply and transportation needs.

While helicopters and trucks could theoretically deliver everything the Army needs in a fight, they can’t always do it quickly. A unit whose ammunition dump is hit by enemy fire needs more rounds immediately, not the next time a convoy is coming by.

To get supplies to soldiers quickly without Air Force C-130s and C-17s, the Army would need to earmark dozens of Chinooks and Blackhawks for surging personnel and supplies based on who needs it most.

This additional strain on those airframes would also increase their maintenance needs, taking them away from other missions. Logistics, if not properly planned and prioritized, would be one of the key potential failure points that commanders would have to watch.

So the Army, theoretically, could fight an entire enemy country on its own, using its own assets to conduct missions that the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps typically handle today. Still, the Army will probably keep leaning on the other branches for help. After all, the Air Force has the best chow halls.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Ready for a new tattoo? The Air Force now has its own tattoo shop

No matter if you’ve been in for two months, two years or you are two generations removed from the military, everyone knows that tattoos and the service go hand in hand. Ever since the first tattoo shop opened its doors in America in 1846, ink has had a well-deserved place in the hearts and on the skin of service members.

Of course, tattooing didn’t get its start in America. Warriors from Maori tribes in New Zealand, to ancient Greeks, marked themselves to show strength, courage and confidence. Viking raiders tapped magical symbols into their skin using the ink made from sacrificial animals.


Even service members in the Revolutionary War were getting new ink to reflect their units and identities (not to mention to prevent being illegally conscripted by the British).

During the Civil War, pioneer tattooist Martin Hildebrant traveled to battlefields and inked various patriotic designs into service members’ skin. Records show that by 1925, as much as 90 percent of all US service members were tattooed; the Navy made up the bulk of those decorated. Apparently, sailors used new tattoos to showcase where they’d been, as a sort of secondary service record, and to showcase their achievements.

For example, a shellback turtle meant they’d crossed the equator, a golden dragon meant they crossed the International Date Line, and a golden shellback turtle meant they’d crossed both at the same spot.

But for as much as there’s always been ink in the military, there have also been regulations. It seems like every few years, some leadership gets it in mind that a new tattoo policy is in order. For years, there was a limit to the number of tattoos soldiers could have on their arms, but that’s no longer the case. However, the Army still doesn’t allow face, neck or hand tattoos, though a small ring tattoo can exist on each hand. As with all branches, there are always a few waivers that are granted by recruiters each year if it seems like a tattoo isn’t too distracting.

Just like the Army, the Air Force is revisiting some of its strict tattoo policies and lessening the regulations a bit. Before 2017, Airmen weren’t allowed to have tattoos on the chest, back, arms and legs that were larger than 25 percent of the exposed body part. Now, they’re allowed to have full sleeves or large back pieces, which is a big deal for anyone who’s been stuck halfway through getting a tattoo only to have to stop because of regulations.

So it goes without saying that getting a tattoo is as much a rite of passage in the military as is getting that first haircut in basic training. Of course, barbershops have been embedded at installations worldwide for decades, but for new ink, service members have always had to go off base. That’s led plenty of people to wonder why there isn’t a place to get new ink and a fresh fade all at the same place. Now, that’s no longer the case.

Nellis Air Force Base, located just outside Las Vegas, now has its own tattoo shop, making it that much easier to get a new tattoo. Senior leadership at Nellis said in a press release that they’re always looking for ways to improve the quality of life for Airmen and to lead from the front. So naturally, an on-base tattoo shop makes sense.

This is the first tattoo shop to be inside any Air Force or Army installation, making it incredibly unique. Now, we can’t speak to the quality of work you might receive there, but it’s still pretty cool that leadership is finally recognizing that there’s a very real, inky culture within the military and are taking steps to provide that service.

Maybe the decision to open the tattoo shop on base is a signal that leadership hopes artists and the Airmen can better handle the Air Force guidance on tattoo size and placement. Of course, that’s not to say whether or not the tattoos will be any good, but at least they’ll be within regs.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The story of Atos, a heroic K9 killed in action

Military and law enforcement working dogs are vital. They not only add capabilities for the units they serve with, like finding the enemy faster due to their powerful sense of smell; they also save their lives in the process. These dogs willingly sacrifice themselves in the process of saving their team. Atos was one of them.


Randy Roy served four years in the 2nd Ranger Battalion of the Army in the 1980’s and went on to become a law enforcement officer in Iowa. He began working with the K9 unit and training dogs. In 2007 he was approached by the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) to become a Contract Trainer for their military working dogs. Roy and his family left their home in the Midwest and settled outside of Ft. Bragg in North Carolina shortly after that.

Atos was the first military working dog he trained.

6 steps to organize your military life this year

Roy shared that USASOC acquired Atos in the summer of 2007. “Atos was a goofball, hard head, Malinois. He was awesome. Atos was kind of stubborn but very trainable and learned quickly,” said Roy. He continued on saying, “He was very sociable with everyone. They truly become part of the team and he certainly became a team member.” When Atos finished his training, he deployed to Iraq.

It was while in Iraq that he was assigned to his handler. The handler had just lost his previous military working dog, Duke, who was killed in action during a firefight. Roy shared that at first, Atos’ handler didn’t want to like him, most likely because the loss of Duke was so fresh. But Atos grew on him quickly.

Jarrett “Fish” Heavenston and Roy connected on that deployment, with Heavenson often volunteering for Atos’ training and happily donning a bite suit. Heavenston joined the Army at seventeen in 1991 and completed seven years as a ranger. He also worked in jungle warfare and USASOC. Heavenston wanted to do something different, so he left the Army and joined the Air Force in 2001 as a Combat Controller where he stayed until he retired in 2016.

6 steps to organize your military life this year

“They [working military dogs] recognized who their tribe or pack was and they were very protective of them. We are kind of look, dress and walk the same; if you weren’t part of that pack they were alert and watching you and on guard,’ said Heavenston. As a Combat Controller, he was with many different dogs; he shared that some dogs were approachable, and friendly and that’s how Atos was described.

On Christmas Eve in 2007, Heavenston and his team were tracking enemy combatants. The brush was incredibly thick and woody. “It was very tough to move in the brush. We knew they were in there and waiting for us,” he shared. Heavenston said that he was helping to guide the handler as he was casting Atos out. The dog was able to find and track the guy they were looking for because of his keen sense of smell; but that meant that the team lost sight of Atos.

Although Atos quickly made his way through the brush, the team moved behind him much more slowly due to the difficulty of navigating the tough terrain. “You have the best-trained guys in the world out there, but it doesn’t negate that what you are doing is really hard,” said Heavenston. He shared that between the rough terrain and fading daylight, it was a tough operation.

6 steps to organize your military life this year

“The dog is on him the dog is on him” is what Heavenston remembers hearing from the communications with an aircraft above them. They didn’t realize it was Atos at first, but eventually, they heard the commotion.

Shortly after that, the enemy combatant blew himself up, killing not just himself, but Atos.

Four members of their team were wounded that night, some grievously. “Had Atos not done what he had done, it would have been much worse,” shared Heavenston. He knows that if Atos hadn’t engaged with the enemy and forced him to detonate his bomb early, there would have been certain loss of human life that Christmas Eve.

6 steps to organize your military life this year

“There are hundreds of dogs out there who have made the ultimate sacrifice. There are many of us within the military that are here today because of what they did,” said Heavenston. It was with this in mind that his company, Tough Stump Technologies (which Atos’ trainer, Roy, became a part of), decided to hold an event in Atos’ honor.

Touch Stump Technologies partnered with K9 for Warriors to raise money through their event for the organization, which is working to end veteran suicide and return dignity to America’s heroes by pairing them with service dogs. Dogs are paired with veterans who are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), or have suffered military sexual trauma (MST).

The event will celebrate the life and sacrifice of Atos and all working dogs on March 13, 2020.

Heavenston also shared that his company is working hard to develop technology that would allow the military to better track their military working dogs. “If we had this on Atos that night, that narrative would have been a lot different,” said Heavenston. The hope is that with specialized GPS tracking capabilities, they won’t lose dogs like they lost Atos.

Working dogs are an integral part of the military and law enforcement. On this K9 Veteran’s Day, take a moment to remember the dogs like Atos that willingly sacrificed their lives to save their people. Every loss is felt deeply, and the gratitude for the lives they’ve saved is unmeasurable. Don’t forget them.
MIGHTY CULTURE

A beginner’s guide to snowshoeing

Blinded by the wind and stung by the cold, we set up our camp as the day grew dark around us. The two of us had snowshoed to Dogsled Pass, deep in the Talkeetna Mountains of south central Alaska. We hoped to explore nearby alpine valleys over the next two days.

Despite the uncooperative weather, we were not disappointed — to see Alaska in the winter is to see the real Alaska.

Snowshoeing is unlike regular hiking. Everything is heavy, from the extra insulating layers to the snowshoes themselves. Movement is slower, more deliberate. And risks like avalanches and hypothermia have to be considered.


But despite the challenges and risks, snowshoeing opens up an entirely new world for outdoors enthusiasts. Terrain considered impassable during the summer — such as muskegs, bogs, and boulder-fields — becomes traversable when everything is frozen or buried in snow.

6 steps to organize your military life this year

The author’s cousin, Esther, rests for a moment near Dogsled Pass.

(Photo by Garland Kennedy/Coffee or Die)

While walking in snowshoes is an acquired skill, once you get used to wearing clown-sized shoes, walking over even the deepest, most powdery snow feels like gliding.

Imagine a snow hike without post-holing into snow drifts every few steps. And most modern snowshoes, like the MSRs we wore, have spikes on the bottom, so walking on ice becomes trivial. While modern snowshoes may lack the iconic look of vintage snowshoes, the modern ones are lighter, narrower, and stronger.

The area of the wilderness that my cousin, Esther, and I chose to visit last winter is notoriously rough. In 2018, a Russian hiker went missing, presumably dead, only a few miles from where we set our snow camp. The wilderness is always indifferent to people, and winter adds a new dimension to that calculus.

The Hatcher Pass area is an iconic hiking destination in all seasons. From the Independence Mine State Historical Site to the towering granite peaks that dot the region, the Southern Talkeetnas are a magical place. There’s even a crashed TB-29 Superfortress on a nearby glacier.

6 steps to organize your military life this year

Finding shelter from the wind behind a boulder. Staying well-fed and hydrated is even more important when it’s below zero.

(Photo by Garland Kennedy/Coffee or Die)

Our route took us from the Independence Mine over Hatcher Pass (not easy with the full weight of a winter pack!), then north up Craggie Creek. Dogsled Pass, where we camped, separates the headwaters of Craggie and Purches Creeks.

From there we snowshoed the upper rim of Purches Creek to the headwaters of Peters Creek. Here’s a warning: walking in snowshoes is … unique. It forces you to take very wide steps, and doing so repeatedly over so many miles caused me quite a bit of knee pain.

A doctor later informed me that I had managed to pull my patella sideways. It was painful, but not enough to stop me from walking.

The lesson? Ease into snowshoeing. I pushed too hard too fast and got hurt. Build your strength over time, preferably by doing day trips instead of extended expeditions. A day pack weighs little and causes a lot less strain, whereas a pack for a winter overnight trip is quite heavy.

6 steps to organize your military life this year

An abandoned mining shack near the headwaters of Craggie Creek. The area experienced a tremendous mining boom in the early 1900s.

(Photo by Garland Kennedy/Coffee or Die)

And as usual for winter excursions, dress in layers, manage your temperature well, and drink lots of water! Proper hydration aids in temperature regulation. I’m a fan of hydration bladders for hiking, just make sure that the outlet hose does not freeze.

As a general safety rule for winter hiking, carry some sort of emergency beacon device, as well as extra layers.

For a new snowshoer, try to find a flat, scenic trail and keep things moderate. Walking with all that extra weight on your feet takes acclimation. As a rule, avoid snowmachine trails (snowmobile trails, in the lower 48) to make sure you don’t get run over. One of the big perks of wearing snowshoes is that you are not forced to stick to the main trail network.

If done right, snowshoeing is a wonderful experience. To see the world draped in snow is something special and very much worth the added effort.

The Liberation of Normandy in WW2 [D-Day 75th Anniversary, Part II]

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Social credit and the Chinese military: counting the PLA’s troubles?

‘If you’re a soldier in China, applying to leave the army is likely to leave a black mark on your social credit score.’ This was the striking opening line of a Sixth Tone article from April 2018 reposted on the Chinese military’s official website. The article was about the use of a social credit system by the People’s Liberation Army. However, it garnered surprisingly little attention for such a hot topic.


Excellent research has already been done on the various prototype social credit systems in China, but a big gap in that research is the question of how a social credit system might be applied to the PLA, particularly at a time when President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party are increasingly concerned about the military’s loyalty to the party.

The 2015 Chinese defence white paper stated that the PLA is enjoying a period of strategic opportunity and can therefore modernise through ongoing reforms. However, China has faced growing domestic and international criticism and pushback in recent months. The CCP is trying to put out fires on multiple fronts: continued freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea; a slowing economy; crises in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan; and the coronavirus outbreak.

The PLA is being pushed to be combat-ready as soon as possible, but military reforms haven’t been welcomed across the board. Changes in promotion structures, preferences for highly skilled labour and a new focus on high-tech joint operations have challenged the ways in which the PLA has operated for decades. However, the party’s longstanding battle to ensure that its army is loyal to it is an increasing priority under Xi, and the CCP continues to emphasise that the party controls the gun: 党指挥枪 (dang zhihui qiang). Under Xi, disloyalty to the party has been made illegal in order to protect the CCP’s power.

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In the light of that threat perception, the PLA version of a social credit system seems to be a new tool for punishing betrayal, dissuading dissent and rewarding allegiance to the military.

The Sixth Tone article reports that 17 military personnel were ‘blacklisted’ in China’s social credit system in Jilin City and restricted from travelling by air and rail and from seeking civil service employment. Their names and addresses were posted in Chinese news articles and on the WeChat account of the Jilin City military recruitment office. They apparently ‘lacked the willpower to adapt to military life’. According to the article, they were prohibited from taking out loans and insurance policies and banned from enrolling in educational institutions for two years.

Similar examples have been reported in other provinces, where one-off punishments such as fines have been accompanied by permanent ones. For instance, two men in Fujian Province were punished by having their registration documents permanently marked with a note that read, ‘refused military service’.

More recently, in March 2019, Weihai City prefecture in Shandong published its own ‘Implementation Plan for the Evaluation of Personal Credit Scores in the Field of National Defense Mobilization’, which outlined how a social credit record could be used as both a carrot and a stick in domestic military matters. Punishments were listed for those deemed to be acting against national defence interests.

China’s 2019 defence white paper and other government documents state that ‘China’s national defense is the responsibility of all Chinese people’, so punishments for disloyalty aren’t directed solely at soldiers but also at civilians.

Until Xi’s reforms, the PLA was left to set and manage its own institutional priorities, but now it has to address corruption and tackle vested interests to take the military modernisation program forward. It seems that the application of a social credit system in the military is a potential additional measure to enforce strict compliance with new military guidelines.

The social credit system, which both co-opts and coerces, might also be used as a recruitment tool as the PLA competes against China’s private sector for highly skilled graduates. Weihai City’s system not only rewards those who join or extend their service in the military with bonus social credit points for them and their families, but also punishes those who do not.

Weihai’s military-related social credit system is integrated into the city’s ‘credit joint disciplinary mechanism’. Those who contribute positively or negatively to national defence have points added to or deducted from their personal records. Credit records are reportedly correlated with overall credit ratings, from AAA (integrity model) to D (dishonest). The repercussions of dissent extend beyond the soldier to his or her immediate family members. The naming and shaming is also becoming ever more public: transgressions are announced not just on government websites (such as the local military recruitment offices and the prefecture’s Credit China website), but also on social media accounts.

The link between Weihai’s social credit score and national defence suggests that the PLA is also more concerned about its ability to mobilise the military in a national crisis than previously thought. If Xi’s anticorruption campaign was also a tool to address the CCP’s control over the military, then the targeting of those in PLA logistics roles further suggests a concern in the military’s leadership about the force’s ability to mobilise when needed.

Just as a civilian social credit system might be used by the party-state to incentivise or force individuals, companies and other entities to ‘act in line with policies, directions and will of the CCP‘, the military equivalent could be used to similar effect in the PLA.

It’s important to note that the PLA’s experience with social credit is based on isolated pilot projects and not a complete institution-wide program. However, the published examples indicate that those projects might be a strong indicator of a future system by which the PLA’s leadership ensures that the PLA remains the party’s army.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The oldest recruit to complete Marine Corps boot camp

Today, the average Marine recruit attending boot camp at MCRD San Diego or Parris Island is 21 years old. However, when Paul Douglas attended boot camp in 1942, he was 50.

Douglas was born in 1892. He worked as an economics professor from 1916-1942. He also ran for and won a seat on the Chicago City Council in 1939. By the time WWII broke out, Douglas had become acquainted with many high-profile politicians including future Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox. With Knox’s help, Douglas enlisted in the Marine Corps five months after Pearl Harbor. Driven by the surprise attack on American soil, Douglas was determined to become a Marine and see combat.

Leaving behind his wife, child, and career, Douglas reported to Parris Island, South Carolina for boot camp. Despite being old enough to have fathered his own drill instructors, Douglas shined during training. He completed boot camp and earned the coveted title of United States Marine. “I found myself able to take the strenuous boot camp training without asking for a moment’s time out and without visiting the sick bay,” he wrote of his experience at The Island.

Following completion of boot camp, Douglas was assigned to the personnel classification section at Parris Island. With some help from his political influence in the Roosevelt administration, Douglas was promoted to corporal after three weeks, and staff sergeant a month after that. After seven months as an enlisted Marine, Knox and Douglas’ CO recommended he be commissioned as a Marine Corps officer. He became a captain and served as division adjutant to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines.

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Every Marine is a rifleman and Douglas was no exception (U.S. Marine Corps)

During the Battle of Peleliu, despite his position as an adjutant, Douglas made several trips to the front to help evacuate the dead and wounded. During one of these mercy missions, he noticed that the Marines were low on flame thrower fuel and ammunition for their rocket launchers. After grabbing the supplies, Douglas braved heavy mortar and machine gun fire to resupply his fellow Marines. For his actions, he was awarded the Bronze Star. Later during the Battle of Peleliu, Douglas was wounded by shrapnel and earned his first Purple Heart.

Douglas later served during the invasion of Okinawa. He was promoted to major, but still ran around the battlefield with the vigor and energy of a younger Marine. While carrying out another resupply mission for Marines at the front, Douglas was hit in his left forearm by machine gun fire. Pfc. Paul E. Ison was part of the resupply mission. “If I live to be 100 years old I will never forget this scene. There, lying on the ground, bleeding from his wound was a white-haired Marine major. He had been hit by a machine gun bullet. Although he was in pain, he was calm and I have never seen such dignity in a man,” Ison recalled. “He was saying ‘Leave me here. Get the young men out first. I have lived my life. Please let them live theirs.'” Douglas was evacuated and, despite his protests, returned to the states.

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Douglas is presented with his Bronze Star (U.S. Marine Corps)

He was sent to a hospital in San Francisco before he was moved to Bethesda. After more than 14 months, he was dismissed from the hospital and medically retired from the Marines. Douglas only partially regained use of his left hand. However, in recognition of his courage in combat and exemplary service, Douglas was promoted to Lt. Col. in 1947.

He returned to Chicago as a war hero and was elected as an Illinois State Senator in 1949. During the race for the senate seat, his opponent notably refused to debate him. Making light of the situation, Douglas debated himself, switching chairs to answer his own questions. During his time in office, Douglas proudly displayed the flag of his beloved Corps in his office. He served as a state senator for 18 years until he retired at the age of 74. He died in his home in 1976.

In recognition of this exemplary Marine, the Parris Island visitor center is named for Paul Douglas. The memorial marker on the building reads, “By his personal courage, fortitude and leadership, the Honorable Paul H. Douglas demonstrated the personal traits characteristic of Marine leaders.”

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Douglas (third from the left) meets with President Truman in 1949 (Public Domain)
MIGHTY CULTURE

The 3 reasons why ‘Generation Kill’ feels so authentic

Any post-9/11 Marine could easily sit down and binge through all seven episodes of the HBO miniseries, Generation Kill. In fact, if you’ve sat in your squad bay at Camp Wilson while there for a training exercise, you’ve probably already watched it a few times. Why is it so popular with the Devil Dogs? Simple: it feels pinpoint accurate.

There aren’t a whole lot of accurate depictions of Marines out there. At least, not many that really, 100% capture the true nature and mannerisms of Marines — the Infantry-type especially. That’s what sets Generation Kill apart from the rest. Based on the novel written by Evan Wright, a reporter for Rolling Stone, who was embedded with the 1st Recon Battalion during the invasion of Iraq, Mr. Wright set out with the goal of showing Marines as they were, unfiltered.

And that he did — but the miniseries adaptation took it a few steps further. There were aspects in production that not only honored Mr. Wright’s material, but Marine culture as well:


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If he’s portraying himself, is this still considered his costume?

(HBO Films)

1. Military advisers

A lot of people give Hollywood sh*t when incorrectly depict aspects of military life — likely due to the lack of someone on set who knows (from experience) what they’re talking about. In this case, they had two guys on the job — Rudy Reyes, who plays himself in the series, and Eric Kocher, both Recon Marines. They went as far as having the actors go through a six-day mini-boot camp to learn all of the basics.

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A side-by-side comparison of the real-life Brad Colbert with Alexander Skarsgard, who played Colbert in the series.

(HBO Films)

And the actors took it seriously. They dedicated themselves to honoring the memory and the experiences of the real-life Marines they portray in the series. Rudy Reyes himself said,

“… These guys have shown incredible discipline and attention to detail as well as commitment and camaraderie.”

Which goes to show that they picked the right actors for the job. But, in many cases, an actor can only be as convincing as the material they’re given.

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Lee Tergesen as Evan Wright.

(HBO Films)

2. Source material

As previously stated, Evan Wright set out to portray the Marines as they were. He’s gone on record as saying he didn’t aim to depict them as heroes or villains — but just as they were. If you were to go to Rolling Stone to read through his original series of articles, you’ll notice that they, too, are extremely accurate.

From reading his writing, you get a sense that he wanted to show the world that Marines are people, just like anyone else. Such authentic source material meant that the production team had some big shoes to fill — they needed performances that felt real. Really real.

Evan Wright on Generation Kill

www.youtube.com

Thankfully, HBO at this point had already done Band of Brothers, which was another accurate depiction of troops in war. For Evan Wright, that kind of pedigree was comforting; he know that HBO would do their best to faithfully adapt his work.

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Also, notice how the actors have learned to keep their booger hooks off the bang switch.

(HBO Films)

3. Cast and crew

And, of course, Generation Kill has a great cast of actors. As mentioned before, they were extremely dedicated to their roles and understood what it was that they were doing. Of course, that’s partially credited to the Reyes and Kocher, but the actors themselves played their roles brilliantly.

Beyond that, every department understood what they were making and made sure to get a lot of the details correct, including costumes.

Generation Kill: Becoming A Marine (HBO)

www.youtube.com

When it comes to getting things accurate, Generation Kill does an outstanding job. It would be great to sit here and write all of the amazing things the actors and crew had to say about it, but to hear them say it is even better:

MIGHTY CULTURE

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

When Johnson Beharry was awarded the Victoria Cross, it was the first time a living soldier received the award in over 30 years. It’s not an easy award to pick up, and perhaps Lance Sgt. Beharry should have died in Iraq – but he didn’t. And because he survived, so did many, many men from his unit.


In May 2004, Beharry was driving an armored vehicle to help rescue a foot patrol that was caught in an ambush. The Warrior, an armored infantry fighting vehicle used by the UK military, had taken so many RPG hits that most of his crew were injured and he was unable to see using his periscope.

So, he popped open the hatch.

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A British Army MCV-80 Warrior Infantry Tracked Fighting Vehicle.

He drove the rest of the way with his head outside of the protection of the vehicle. In doing so, he exposed his head to the same nonstop barrage of bullets and RPG fire that wounded most of his fellow soldiers. He drove the Warrior right through the ambush until he got to the threatened foot patrol.

He drove through multiple ambushes, small arms fire, heavy machine gun fire, several RPGs, and even improvised explosive devices. His commander and gunner, along with others in the crew, were wounded and incapacitated. Beharry didn’t know their status because the Warrior’s communications system was damaged in the initial ambush. With smoke pouring into his vehicle, he drove through the Iraqi night.

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Beharry’s Warrior fighting vehicle after arriving at Cimic House outpost.

At one point, he could see an RPG flying at him, directly toward his face. He quickly pulled down the lid of the hatch with one hand, while driving the vehicle with the other. The blast pulled the hatch out of his hand but allowed the force and flame to pass over him.

Next, a 7.62 round hit Beharry in the head, lodging into his helmet, but miraculously not wounding him. Beharry pressed the vehicle on, away from the ambush area. He saw another Warrior from his unit and followed it through the dark streets of al-Amarah until they reached their destination: a British Army outpost. Still under intense fire, Beharry lifted his platoon commander and then his gunner out of the vehicle’s turret and into the safety of the other Warrior. He then went back into his Warrior and drove it to the outpost.

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Lance Sgt. Johnson Beharry poses with one of two captured Chinese cannons used to create Victoria Cross medals.

Once inside a defended perimeter, Beharry secured the Warrior, pulled the fire extinguisher, and moved to the other, seemingly undamaged Warrior, where he passed out from sheer exhaustion. But his story doesn’t end there – Victoria Crosses, the UK’s equivalent to the Medal of Honor, are exceedingly difficult medals to earn. A month later, Johnson Beharry was back in action in Iraq.

The coalition base in al-Amarah was under attack from a mortar team in June, 2004. Beharry was part of a quick reaction force sent to neutralize the threat to the base. Driving again through the city at night, Beharry’s armored vehicle was ambushed on its way to the attackers. The initial volley of that ambush saw an RPG explode just six inches from the young soldier’s head, causing serious injury.

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Beharry is presented with the Victoria Cross by Queen Elizabeth II.

Other RPGs rocked the vehicle, and the turret, again incapacitating and wounding the vehicle commander and the others in the crew. With blood pouring into his face, Beharry stayed in control of the vehicle. He drove the vehicle out of the ambush area – in reverse – until it became lodged in the side of a building. Only then did he lose consciousness from loss of blood. But in moving out of the ambush zone, other Warriors were able to come to their aid. All of them survived both of the deadly attacks.

The attack put him in a coma, and his wounds ultimately required him to leave the service. Before that, he was presented with the Victoria Cross by Queen Elizabeth II on Apr. 27, 2005. Since then, he has made a number of public appearances and implored veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to seek mental health assistance for post-traumatic stress. These days, he runs a youth foundation to keep kids away from gangs and rehabilitate former gang members.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Marines and Japanese soldiers train with military working dogs

U.S. Marines with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force soldiers conducted military working dog detection training exercises at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Nov. 21, 2019.

JMSDF MWD handlers visit MCAS Iwakuni quarterly for training. The purpose of the training is to give them the opportunity to train their dogs with U.S. Marine Corps training aids, use different facilities on the air station and share knowledge between the two different services regarding MWDs.


“Training with the JMSDF is a great experience for everybody,” said U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Justin Weaver, operations officer of the Provost Marshal Office. “They learn from us and we learn from them.”

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U.S. Marine Corps military working dog with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force soldier conduct military working dog detection training at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Nov. 20, 2019.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Triton Lai)

The PMO military working dogs train almost four hours every day depending on the specifics of the working dog. They train for real life scenarios, patrolling, odor detection, and to increase physical fitness.

“Our K-9 units perform very well,” said Weaver. “They are in charge of every kind of customs sweep that comes through for every event.”

Weaver said that in the future, there may be the opportunity for PMO Marines from MCAS Iwakuni to use JMSDF facilities for more bilateral exercises and to further build their relationship with JMSDF.

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