Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond

As 2020 came to an end, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston reached out on Instagram for help improving leadership and morale going forward.

“Seeing a lot of pages on here that don’t seem to think we are talking to or actually caring about our Soldiers. Here are the core tenets of This Is My Squad – have been since Spring 2019. These are what we’re asking JR Leaders to do. I’m open to the feedback on what we’re missing … you can be part of the solution.”

The post attracted hundreds of comments, many of them from popular military meme pages.

“When we look at how soldiers get information, I have to meet them where they are,” Grinston told Coffee or Die Magazine through email. “The internet flattens communication in a way we’ve never seen before. Official communication channels are still important, but social media offers another venue to hear what is important to Soldiers.”

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond

Responses to Grinston’s experiment ranged from positive and productive to comical and cynical.

“The issues in the Army today aren’t from the squad level,” a retired senior NCO wrote in one comment. “Hold Bn and Brigade level leaders accountable. That will inspire and empower squads and teams. Not a slide on just being a good dude.”

The wildly popular meme page tiktokbootz wrote, “Why is tiktok making not included here.”

“Next time,” Grinston responded.

As the conversation continued through the weekend and spilled over into follow-up posts, several topics stood out in the comments: destigmatizing behavioral health, improving leadership and morale, and suicide prevention.

“This weekend, I took a big gamble and called the milMeme community to the carpet,” Grinston wrote in a follow-up post Jan. 2. “What they brought was possibly one of the best command climate surveys you’ll get all year. If you’re in charge of Soldiers, you owe it to yourself to take a look through the comments and apply it to your formation.”

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond

One commenter said the “alarming rate of suicides” at his unit were being “swept under the rug.”

“Leaders that actually care, can’t fix the issues,” he wrote. “They have their hands tied or are blocked out by caustic leadership […] that only care about the mission. The OP tempo is so constant and without pause that soldiers in the formation turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism. Any of your Junior NCO’s or E6’s that attempt to call it out openly are blacklisted and their progression halted. It’s what continues to force your good leaders out. They realize they cannot fix the formation […] That is why they turn here. There is, across Instagram, a fantastic source of leadership that comes here to vent. These men and women are who we need to stay in.”

The soldier behind the Hunter Seven Foundation Instagram page told Coffee or Die Magazine that the Army has a serious suicide problem that requires Grinston and Army leaders to “take command from the front and lead by example.” He said the conversations happening on Instagram are often more valuable than traditional surveys and communications about improving command climate and leadership.

“In the annual January briefings, we’ll hear all about ‘safety this and that’ and ‘say no to drugs’ and suicide awareness,” he said. “And then a month later during workup, your command turns a blind eye to your drinking problem and serious steroid use and doesn’t want to hear about your divorce and two kids and nightmares. And if the command does hear about it, they’ll yank you from your team. So yeah, this is extremely valuable.”

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston speaks at media briefing at the Pentagon, Washington, DC, Oct. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Ferdinando/Department of Defense.

One commenter suggested implementing a system by which leaders could be rated by their subordinates and that input be included in performance reports.

“The Army likes to talk about servant leadership, but when it’s time for leaders to get their grade, the very people who they are in charge of don’t have any input,” Patrolbasehero wrote. “I think it would help the culture of leaders continually looking up without realizing what (their Soldiers) they are standing on.”

Another post said soldiers should be able to seek behavioral health services and not be vilified for it.

“You shouldn’t have to suffer in silence until you break,” it said. “Leadership HAS to be better.”

In one follow-up post promoting the value of behavioral health services, Grinston posted, “Things can’t change until the stigma does. When you’re ready to talk, reach out. It’s a very small step, but the link in the bio will get you to a counselor for free. If you’re a leader and you think this makes your people weaker, go ahead and DM me.”

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond

The Hunter Seven Foundation page commented, “THATS WHAT IM TALKING ABOUT SMA! Creating change, curving the stigma from the top down.”

“I think this type of engagement is valuable because there’s no repercussions because it’s anonymous,” the soldier behind Hunter Seven’s page said. “No one wants to be the guy known for calling bullshit. Sadly, the command climate frowns upon that. So if literal meme pages need to bog down the sergeant major of the Army’s account to get a response, I mean, strength in numbers. I know a lot of the guys behind these meme pages that have been interacting with the SMA, and they are solid men — operators who have really been there and done that. Most are senior NCOs or E-6 or E-7. Our NCO backbone is jammed between a rock and a wall.”

Grinston said he prefers to go out and talk to soldiers in person, but between the COVID-19 environment and time constraints, social media gives him more ways to listen and interact.

“I think the volume of messages we received showed that people were willing to share,” Grinston said. “There were a number of valid concerns they’d like addressed, and we’re working to address actionable items and identify where leadership may be able to provide support.”    

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston and New Zealand Army Sgt. Thomas Grant, New Zealand soldier of the year, sit on a panel July 10 in Auckland, New Zealand. Grant interviewed Grinston on professional development, personal insights and life advice. Photo by Staff Sgt. Monik Phan.

The follow-up post Grinston shared Jan. 2 was a screen grab of a comment from an active-duty senior NCO:

“WE NEED SUPPORT AND EMPOWERMENT […] I am charging all SGMs out there to truly dig into their formations and reengage back to their commanders to FIGHT for the very best of what the soldiers and people deserve. Be a voice for those at the bottom, FIGHT for them until you’re blue in the face and have ALL your 1SGs standing behind you to take up the filibuster.”

Grinston expressed his full support for the comment. “Our Soldiers are speaking,” he wrote. “LEADERS, the ball is in our court.”

He told Coffee or Die the overwhelming response he received on Instagram shows that social media is a valuable space to engage with soldiers and that leaders should be present on digital platforms.

“Soldiers want to see their leaders advocating and fighting for them,” he said. “And those first sergeants and command sergeants major have to be able to give NCOs time and space to operate and then have their backs when they take an action. I hope that being present and engaging people to hear from them will go a long way to show that Army leaders do care and are working to address legitimate concerns. I’m listening and taking action where I can, and leaders at every level, from team leader to the Sergeant Major of the Army owe that to our Soldiers.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s the latest on the new US Air Force uniforms

Trainees entering into basic military training at the 37th Training Wing the first week of October 2019 were the first group to be issued the new Operational Camouflage Pattern uniforms.

When Air Force officials announced last year they were adopting the Army OCP as the official utility uniform, they developed a three-year rollout timeline across the force for the entire changeover. Last week put them on target for issue to new recruits entering BMT.

“Each trainee is issued four sets of uniforms with their initial issue,” said Bernadette Cline, clothing issue supervisor. “Trainees who are here in (Airmen Battle Uniforms) will continue to wear them throughout their time here and will be replaced when they get their clothing allowance.”


The 502nd Logistics Readiness Squadron Initial Issue Clothing outfits nearly 33,000 BMT trainees every year and maintains more than 330,000 clothing line items.

“We partner with Defense Logistics Agency who provides the clothing items upfront to be issued,” said Donald Cooper, Air Force initial clothing issue chief. “Then we warehouse and issue to the individuals’ size-specific clothing.”

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond

U.S. Air Force basic military training trainees assigned to the 326th Training Squadron receive the first Operational Camouflage Pattern uniforms during initial issue, Oct. 2, 2019, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

After taking airmen feedback into consideration, the uniform board members said they chose the OCP for the improved fit and comfort and so that they will blend in with their soldier counterparts’ uniforms in joint environments, according to Cooper.

“Right now, if someone deploys, they’ll get it issued,” Cline said. “And now that everyone is converting over to this uniform, (the trainees) already have the uniform to work and deploy in.”

Following the timeline, the OCP should now be available online for purchase as well.

The next mandatory change listed on the timeline, to take place by June 1, 2020, will be for airmen’s boots, socks, and T-shirts to be coyote brown. Also, officer ranks to the spice brown.

Switching from two different types of utility uniforms to just one, multifunctional uniform could also simplify life for the airmen.

“I think the biggest value is going to be the thought that they aren’t required to have two uniforms anymore once they convert to a uniform that is for deployment and day-to-day work,'” Cooper said.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what would happen if China attacked the US

Experts at the cutting edge of simulated warfare have spoken: China would handily defeat the US military in the Pacific with quick bursts of missile fired at air bases.

The exact phrasing was that the US was getting “its ass handed to it” in those simulations, Breaking Defense reported the RAND analyst David Ochmanek as saying earlier in March 2019.

“In every case I know of,” Robert Work, a former deputy secretary of defense, said, “the F-35 rules the sky when it’s in the sky, but it gets killed on the ground in large numbers.”


Against China, which has emerged as the US’s most formidable rival, this problem becomes more acute. China’s vast, mountainous territory gives it millions of square miles in which to hide its extensive fleet of mobile long-, medium-, and short-range missiles.

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond

An F-35 is much more capable than the jet shown on the left, but on a runway, the F-35 is just a more expensive target.

(US Navy)

In the opening minutes of a battle against the US, Beijing could unleash a barrage of missiles that would nail US forces in Guam, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and possibly Australia. With China’s growing anti-ship capability, even US aircraft carriers in the region would likely come under intense fire.

For the US, this would be the feared attack in which F-35s and F-22s, fifth-generation aircraft and envy of the world, are blown apart in their hangars, runways are cratered, and ships are sunk in ports.

The remaining US forces in this case would be insufficient to back down China’s air and sea forces, which could then easily scoop up a prize such as Taiwan.

Additionally, the US can’t counter many of China’s most relevant missile systems because of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty it signed with Russia, which prohibits missiles with ranges between 310 miles and 3,400 miles — the type it would need to hold Chinese targets at equal risk. (The US is withdrawing from that treaty.)

So given China’s clear advantage in missile forces and the great incentive to knock out the best military with a sucker punch, why doesn’t it try?

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond

The ranges of Chinese ballistic and cruise missiles, air-defense systems, and warships.

(Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments)

Politics

China could light up much of the Pacific with a blistering salvo of missiles and do great harm to US ships and planes, but they likely won’t because it would start World War III.

China wouldn’t just be attacking the US. It would be attacking Japan and South Korea at a minimum. Whatever advantage China gained by kicking off a fight this way would have to balance against a combined response from the US and its allies.

The US is aware of the sucker-punch problem. In the event that tensions rise enough that a strike is likely, the US would simply spread its forces out among its bases and harden important structures, such as hangars, so they could absorb more punishment from missiles.

Potential targets China needed to strike would multiply, and the deployment of electronic and physical decoys would further complicate things for Beijing. For US ships at sea, the use of electronic decoys and onboard missile defenses would demand China throw tremendous numbers of missiles at the platforms, increasing the cost of such a strike.

Key US military bases will also have ballistic-missile defenses, which could blunt the attack somewhat.

The US also monitors the skies for ballistic missiles, which would give it some warning time. Alert units could scramble their aircraft and be bearing down on China’s airspace just after the first missiles hit.

Justin Bronk, a military-aviation expert at the Royal United Service Institute, pointed out at the institute’s Combat Air Survivability conference that when the US hit Syria’s Al Shayrat air base with 58 cruise missiles, planes were taking off from the base again within 24 hours.

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond

A US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)

Payback is a … consideration

Missiles brigades that just fired and revealed their positions would be sitting ducks for retaliation by the US or its allies.

Japan, which will soon have 100 F-35s, some of which will be tied into US Navy targeting networks, would jump into the fight swiftly.

China would have to mobilize a tremendous number of aircraft and naval assets to address that retaliatory strike. That mobilization, in addition to the preparations for the initial strike, may tip Beijing’s hand, telegraphing the sucker punch and blunting its damage on US forces.

While China’s missile forces pose a huge threat to the US, one punch isn’t enough to knock out the world’s best military, but it is enough to wake it up.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why its important for troops to go through the CS chamber

Corson-Stoughton Gas, commonly known as “CS gas” or tear gas, has been a part of military culture since it was first mass produced in the 50s. Technically, it’s less-than-lethal — death from inhaling CS gas is rare, but it still hurts like hell to breathe in. You’re going to cry and all of the mucus in your body will try to escape at once. It’s not pretty.

So, why not subject troops to it regularly, on a every-six-months basis? What could possibly go wrong?

No really, I’m not being sarcastic. There are actually many good reasons to subject troops to a bi-annual deep cleanse in the CS chamber — and it’s a much more valid reasoning than the standard “it builds character” excuse that first sergeants use.


The very first moment troops are exposed to CS gas is the most important one — during initial training. This serves many different functions.

For starters, it builds confidence in your equipment. All of the “lowest bidder” jokes tend to go away when you realize that the mask you were assigned is perfectly capable of stopping the painful gas from entering your lungs.

It also serves as a way of teaching troops that pain is temporary. Troops have nothing to fear from temporary discomfort. Yeah, it’s going to hurt like hell, but you shouldn’t cower from it — just accept it and move on. Think of it like the scene in Dune when Paul Atreides faces the pain box.

“Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.”

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond
This is one of those moments where the phrase “suck it up, buttercup” is completely applicable because it will get easier the more you do it.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Caleb Barrieau)

Troops will walk in with their mask on, knowing that they’re to take it off in the middle of the chamber. And before you start coming up with a plan, no, you can’t just hold your breath to escape the pain. The drill sergeant will likely ask you to recite the Soldier’s Creed, sing the Marines’ Hymn — whatever gets you to open your mouth and take in a breath. And then you can leave.

Feeling the pain of CS gas is universal experience throughout the U.S. Armed Forces — but it doesn’t last long. Twenty or thirty minutes later and you’re back on your feet — until the exercise is put back on the training calendar.

Heading into the CS chamber twice a year can actually help you build up a tolerance to the gas that lasts a lifetime. The first time hurts like a motherf*cker. The second time just hurts like hell. The third time is a little better than that, and so on, until it just makes you slightly uncomfortable. It’s not a complete immunity, but it’s a strong tolerance.

Your eyes will still water but you’re not vomiting in the corner at the very least — so that’s good.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

This week’s Borne the Battle podcast features Marine Corps veteran Chris Burke and the youngest head coach in NCAA Lacrosse, Mitch Shafer.

Burke discussed his service in the Marines, including his injury and recovery from an IED explosion in Afghanistan. However, Burke’s real story begins on what he did after serving in Afghanistan.


When Burke left service, he went back to school, where he planned on joining the lacrosse program in hopes of playing with his younger brother. But his plans didn’t go the way he had hoped. Instead, he found a new sense of purpose, one that reminded him of the camaraderie that he experienced in the Marines. In time, that new sense of purpose led to Burke accepting the position of defensive coordinator at Maryville University.

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond


Marine Veteran Chris Burke is now mentoring youth as a the defensive coordinator for the Maryville Lacrosse Program.

Now, at Maryville, with Shafer’s help, Burke uses his Marine Corps leadership experience to to mentor and coach his college lacrosse players for more than just on the field. From visiting local VA hospitals to sending care packages overseas, Burke and Shafer lead the lacrosse team in bridging the military-civilian gap.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans are the most civic-minded group in America for the 3rd year in a row

It should come as a surprise to no one that the men and women who fought for the United States are the ones who care most about how it’s run — and the people who run it. For the third year in a row, American military veterans are shown to volunteer, assist neighbors, join civic groups, vote, and engage public officials at rates higher than non-veterans.

The finding comes as a result of the 2017 Veterans Civic Health Index, a study conducted in cooperation with Got Your 6, a veteran’s empowerment nonprofit designed to encourage and enable veterans to continue serving in their local communities while fostering greater cultural changes in the United States, and the National Conference on Citizenship, a Congressionally-chartered national service project dedicated to strengthening civic life.


Civic health, defined as a community’s capacity to work together to resolve collective problems, has been shown to positively impact local GDP, public health, upward income mobility, and has other benefits that strengthen communities. By releasing this annual study, Got Your 6 and its partners aim to eliminate common misconceptions about veterans, while highlighting the civic strength of America’s returning servicemen and women.

The study found that veterans are what it calls “the strongest pillar of civic health” in the United States and calls on the country to adjust the way it frames veteran reintegration. Consistent with Got Your 6’s mission, the study aims to help in changing the perception of veteran transition from one of a series of challenges to the opening of a potential source of leadership and training.

Significant findings from the study include:

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond

(2017 Veterans Civic Health Index)

Voting

73.8 percent of veterans always or sometimes vote in local elections versus 57.2 percent of non-veterans.

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond

(2017 Veterans Civic Health Index)

Service

Veteran volunteers serve an average of 177 hours annually – more than four full work weeks. Non-veteran volunteers serve about 25% fewer hours annually. Delivering critical services to a community without regard for wages or reward is a vital service to local areas in the United States.

In this, specifically, the female veteran population goes above and beyond the call of duty.

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond

(2017 Veterans Civic Health Index)

Civic Involvement

In terms of involvement, 11.5 percent of veterans have attended a public meeting in the last year versus 8.3 percent of non-veterans. The rate at which veterans belong to a local or national civic association was significantly higher as well. These groups can have a large collective impact on American communities.

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond

(2017 Veterans Civic Health Index)

Community Engagement

Some 10.5 percent of veterans worked with their neighbors to fix community problems, compared to 7.7 percent of non-veterans. But engagement goes beyond fixing problems, it’s also about stopping them before they start — something veterans are proactive in doing.

More than that, engaging one’s community forms the bonds that can bring people together in good times and in bad. Veterans who transition from the military tends to miss the closeness and brotherhood aspects of their service, leading them to more often reach out within communities.

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond

(2017 Veterans Civic Health Index)

It should also come as no surprise that the youngest generation of veterans (23.4 percent of all veterans are younger than 50) is a diverse one, inclusive of more females (one in six) and ethnic minority groups. The United States, as a whole, is becoming more diverse and the veteran population is a reflection of that diversity.

As a subset of U.S. population (just nine percent of Americans are veterans), vets are more likely to lend a hand to their neighbors and fellow citizens, leading the charge in recovery operations for the multitude of natural disasters that affected the U.S. in 2017.

With these numbers, we can reasonably expect veterans to continue being at the forefront of civic action in American communities. This is the country veterans earned through hard work and, in some cases, sacrifice. The maintenance of the nation understandably means a great deal to this relatively small group of Americans.

If the result of this study predict a trend for the future, the country is in good hands.

For more information, be sure to read the full study.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Carry The Load is partnering with VA’s national cemeteries to honor and remember America’s heroes during Memorial May, the third year in a row.

Carry The Load provides an active way to honor and remember the fallen. During visits across the nation, people can join to hike or bike alongside members. This connects Americans to the sacrifices made by military members, Veterans, first responders and their families. Participants many times carry a paper affixed to their back or backpack, highlighting a fallen hero. This shows who they honor by “carrying the load.”

The Carry The Load team stopped at Culpeper National Cemetery in Virginia May 10. The group was part of the East Coast relay team that started in West Point, New York. One of the team members was Andrew DeLeon, a Marine Corps Veteran who is a current Air Force Reservist and firefighter in Dallas, Texas. He said the relay hits home because he’s lost teammates both in the military and as a firefighter.

“Our mission is to raise awareness across America to bring back the true meaning of Memorial Day,” DeLeon said. “We are honored to be here at one of the national cemeteries. I, along with my fellow teammates, are just trying to pay back, even if it’s just a small piece of appreciation for those that laid down their lives.”

The Culpeper National Cemetery director, an Army Veteran, said the partnership is mutually beneficial by honoring the fallen.

“Carry The Load events enhance the true meaning of the National Cemetery Administration by bringing even more awareness to the sacrifices made by our nation’s heroes,” Jason Hogan said. “Seeing a giant American flag through Culpeper and being a Veteran myself, it gives me a great sense of pride of the millions of people who have sacrificed for this great nation.”

Want to participate?

The partnership started April 29 and runs through Memorial Day weekend. Carry The Load marchers will visit 43 national cemeteries in all.

Carry The Load invites people to hike or bike alongside them. Upcoming dates include national cemeteries in the following states:

East – North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas

Midwest – Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas

West – California, Arizona, Texas

Mountain – South Dakota, Montana, Colorado, Oklahoma

Carrying the load
Screen capture from Veterans Affairs video on Youtube

In keeping with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19, people wishing to participate in different legs of the Carry The Load march should register in advance at www.carrytheload.org.

Upon registering, participants can participate several ways. People can host a Carry It Anywhere experience, organize a youth Carry The Flag activity, walk in the National Relay, attend a City Rally, or take part virtually throughout the 32-day event.

The event ends May 31 in Dallas, Texas.

Cemetery guidelines

While visiting any VA national cemetery, participants should wear face masks and exercise social distancing. Gatherings at national cemeteries will also be subject to size limits.

The list of national cemeteries participating is at https://www.cem.va.gov/docs/National_Cemeteries_along_CTL_Relay_in_2021.pdf.


-Feature image: U.S. Army Photo by Rachel Larue

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 reasons vets who never served together still make great friends

It’s a bitter-sweet day when troops leave the service. It’s fantastic because one book closes and another opens. Yet saying goodbye to the gang you served with is hard. Vets always keep in contact with their guys, but it’s not the same when they’re half way around the country.


Instead, vets have to make new friends in the civilian world. Sure, we make friends with people who’ve never met a veteran before, but we will almost always spot another vet and spark some sort of friendship.

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class China M. Shock

They get our jokes

Put just plain and simply, vets generally have a pretty messed-up sense of humor. The jokes that used to reduce everyone to tears now get gasps and accusations that we’re monsters.

There’s also years of inside jokes that are service wide that civilians just wouldn’t get.

They can relate to our pain

No one leaves the service without having their body aged rapidly. Your “fresh out the dealership” body now has a few dings in it before heading to college.

Civilian classmates just don’t get how lucky they are to have pristine knees and lower back.

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

They side-eye weakness with us

Military service has taught us to depend on one another in a life or death situation. If you can’t lift something like a sandbag on your own, your weakness will endanger others. If you can’t run a minimum of two miles without tiring, your weakness will endanger others.

The people we meet in the civilian world never got that memo. Together, we’ll cull the herd the best way we know how as veterans — through ridicule. Something only other vets appreciate.

They can keep partying at our level

If there is one constant across all branches, it’s that we all know how to spend our weekends doing crazy, over-the-top things with little to no repercussion.

Civilians just can’t hang with us after we’ve downed a bottle of Jack and they’re sipping shots.

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond
Image by Jair Frank from Pixabay

They share our “ride or die” mentality

Veterans don’t really care about pesky things like “norms” if one of our own gets slighted in any way. Some civilian starts talking trash at a bar? Vets are the first to thrown down. Some piece of garbage lays a hand on one of our own? Vets’ fists will be bloodier.

All jokes aside about scuffing up some tool, this doesn’t just lend itself as an outlet for unbridled rage. Back in the service, we all swore to watch each other’s backs on an emotional level too. Your vet friend will always answer the call at three AM if you just can’t sleep.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the only female Harrier pilot in the Corps

When people meet Capt. Kelsey Casey, they don’t initially think the petite, young woman with an energetic personality is a pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps, but once she starts talking, her charisma becomes apparent, and it’s understandable why she’s the only female AV-8B Harrier pilot in the Marine Corps.

Her dream of flying started at space camp at a young age. To her delight, she was picked to be the simulated pilot and climbed into a small, fake cockpit built to simulate a spaceship taking off.


“Coming out of the final mission, we walked down a hall and all along the walls were these giant posters with every single astronaut team that had been to space,” Casey’s voice changed as she remembered, her eyes searching for the memory. “There were women in some of the later ones. I looked up at that and thought, ‘if they can do it, maybe I can too.’ That’s where it started.”

Casey attended the U.S. Naval Academy following high school. She planned to major in aerospace engineering and Chinese, but learned she would have to attend a year longer than planned, putting her at the bottom of the list to be a pilot. This eliminated her goal of becoming a pilot via the academy route. To fulfill her dream, Casey had only one option — leave the academy.

Casey found herself trekking across the country with everything she owned, trying to navigate her way through a snowstorm. She was alone, scared and her dreams seemed unattainable.

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond

Capt. Kelsey Casey.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeanette Mullinax)

It was her insatiable tenacity and refined grit which led her through the years that followed.

“I’m driving across the country, calling my mom for directions while she also signs me up for courses at a community college in California,” Casey said. “All I could think was ‘wow, my family is going to disown me, I just left this amazing school with a full-ride scholarship, what am I going to do?’ It was a scary thing to go through as a 19-year-old, but it made me better.”

The way Casey saw it, she had only two options: give up or complete her degree and fly. She chose the latter, and like all Marines, attacked the obstacles in front of her to accomplish her mission.

“She was always a little fireball and tireless,” said Nyna Armstrong, Casey’s mother. “She never grows any moss, she’s always moving and is always going in whatever direction she wants despite what challenges she might [face].”

After leaving the academy, Casey made her way to the Bay Area to attend San Francisco State University. During her senior year at SFSU, Casey found herself longing to return to the Naval Academy to fulfill her dream. Again she applied to the academy but was denied. At this point in her life, she was accustomed to adversity and was experienced at overcoming it.

Refusing to give up, she sought out information and spoke to mentors, who encouraged her to pursue a career as a military officer. As a result of her unwillingness to quit, she found a way to accomplish her dream. After she earned a Bachelor of the Arts degree in political science at SFSU, Casey left for Marine Corps Officer Candidate School.

“My daughters and I never look to have special treatment because we are women,” said Armstrong. “The fact she is the only female is a testament to her skill and her drive and her work ethic.”

Though her experience with the Marine Corps has been mostly positive, there have been interesting moments for Casey.

While sitting at breakfast with her Marines, a nice older gentlemen with a veteran hat approached them, Casey explained. They all were in flight suits and wearing the same patches when the gentleman asked their table if they were all pilots. He seemed surprised to see Casey and specifically asked her if they let her fly. She laughed and informed him that not only was she a pilot, but she was also the one in charge.

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond

Capt. Kelsey Casey.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeanette Mullinax)

Interactions like these are somewhat common and highlight a misconception of gender roles in the military; situations such as this motivate Casey to keep proving them wrong.

“As you move, you just keep on making that shift until you finally look around and realize you’ve made it,” she said. “But I don’t feel like I’ve really made it until I’m at an event somewhere and someone comes up to me, and they say ‘I want my daughter or my son to be like you, you are a fantastic role model.'”

Casey believes that the most important lesson is to keep moving forward — an ethos she learned from her uncle, who told her “they can’t kill you, and they can’t stop time.” This advice has helped her overcome many obstacles.

“It’s okay if it doesn’t work out the first time, and you make horrible mistakes because the next thing you know, I ended up getting internships, worked at the state department as an intern, and I worked in a congressman’s office,” said Casey. “I also moved to Colorado to be raft guide for a while before going to The Basic School because I could and then I still ended up going to TBS, commissioning as an officer and becoming a pilot.”

Casey has come a long way since being that wide-eyed little girl with aspirations of flying.

“I don’t think I’m better than anybody else ever,” she said. “I’m very good at failing but I don’t give up after I fail. Just don’t give up. It might take way longer than you thought, it might be really, really hard but anything that’s worth it is going to be hard but it will be worth it.”

Despite a difficult start, Casey succeeded and continued to excel. She completed her training and earned her wings of gold.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Image shows pair of black holes stuck in a collision between galaxies

It takes more than a billion years for a pair of galaxies to merge.

But in the constellation of Ophiuchus, about 400 million light-years from Earth, two galaxies are almost ready to become one.

The galaxies are in the process of violently crashing into one another. Astronomers estimate it will take them another 10 to 20 million years to fuse completely; at that point, they’ll form a new galaxy called NGC 6240.


Both galaxies contain a supermassive black hole in their center, and those are expected to merge as well.

This whole process is difficult to capture on camera, however. Black holes’ gravity is so strong that nothing can escape — not even light — so astronomers attempting to see them have to rely on light from the matter that gets sucked in (before it disappears). The first-ever photograph of a supermassive black hole was published in April 2019.

But an international team of astronomers recently captured a sharp photo that shows how two supermassive black holes are caught in the galactic collision that’s forming the NGC 6240 galaxy.

The astronomers used the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), a powerful telescope funded in part by the US National Science Foundation, to assemble the image. They presented their research at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday.

The black holes themselves aren’t visible in the photo, but you can see the glowing gas that surrounds them (the blue stuff in the images below).

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond

NGC 6240 as seen with ALMA (top right) and the Hubble Space Telescope (bottom right).

(ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), E. Treister; NRAO/AUI/NSF, S. Dagnello; NASA/ESA Hubble)

That gas is located within the black holes’ “sphere of influence” — the innermost region of a galaxy where the black hole is the dominant force of gravity. The two black holes are feeding on the gas, which causes them to grow bigger as the galaxies merge. Previous images weren’t able to capture this gas in such detail.

‘A chaotic stream of gas’

Ezequiel Treister, an associate astronomy professor at Pontificia Universidad Católica in Santiago, Chile, told the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) that the gas doesn’t form a rotating disk, as some scientists anticipated.

“We don’t find any evidence for that,” he said. “Instead, we see a chaotic stream of gas with filaments and bubbles between the black holes. Some of this gas is ejected outwards with speeds up to 500 kilometers per second. We don’t know yet what causes these outflows.”

Gas that isn’t ejected from the sphere of influence will likely get sucked into the black hole.

Revolve Around a Black Hole Accretion Disk in Amazing Visualization

www.youtube.com

The black holes are less massive than researchers expected

The image also challenges astronomers’ ideas about the masses of these particular black holes. By observing the photo, the team found that a lot of the gas was stuck in the spheres of influence instead of the black holes themselves. That means the black holes are much less massive than anticipated.

Until recently, astronomers believed that the supermassive black holes in the NGC 6240 galaxy had a mass equivalent to about 1 billion suns. The new photo suggests, however, that the black holes are about as massive as a few hundred million suns.

The finding suggests black holes involved in other galaxy collisions could also be smaller than expected.

“This galaxy is so complex that we could never know what is going on inside it without these detailed radio images,” Loreto Barcos-Muñoz, a researcher at the NRAO, said in a statement. “We now have a better idea of the 3D structure of the galaxy, which gives us the opportunity to understand how galaxies evolve during the latest stages of an ongoing merger.”

Our own Milky Way galaxy is expected to merge with the nearby Andromeda galaxy in about 4 billion years.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The top 5 scams that hurt military families

It seems so urgent. You receive a call saying your deployed or traveling military member has lost their ID, needs cash, and has asked this trustworthy person to contact you. While you may recognize this to be along the lines of the Nigerian-prince-asking-for-money email, some other scams that hurt military families may be more difficult to spot.

Military members are often young and financially inexperienced, have reliable income, and frequently move around, a combination which may make them and their families seem like easy targets to scammers, especially since it might take them some time to notice an irregularity in a bill or credit report.

Can you spot a would-be scammer? Here are a few to watch out for, as you protect your loved ones, your personal information, and your wallet.


Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob Barber)

1. Scams Preying on Deployed Families

What it is: Scammers contact the spouse or parents of a deployed service member and pretend to be someone in authority, claiming the military member has been injured/lost their wallet/is held up somewhere traveling. Using the fear that families already feel about their loved one or lack of knowledge about military processes, the scammer hopes family members will give up personal information to “prove who they are” or even cash.

Why it matters/what to do: The military won’t ever contact family members via phone or email asking for personal information or money. Military members won’t need cash from their families to travel to or return from deployment. Don’t let fear compel you to share your personal information with strangers.

2. Rental Scams

What it is: You’re due to PCS in a few months and have decided to start looking at homes online. You come across what seems like the perfect house for your family–a rental decorated with that farmhouse style that would meet Joanna Gaines’ approval, with four bedrooms, amazing upgrades, new appliances, and in the school district you’ve been hoping for…all with amazingly low rent! The kicker? The landlord pushes for a security deposit or money to hold the property before you or a representative can even view the home in person, because “it’s going to go fast.” And you need to send that money, like yesterday.Hurry!” they press, “I’ve already got someone else looking at it!”

Why it matters/what to do: This sense of false urgency should be a red flag. While it could be legit, it’s possible the person listing the property simply copied it from another listing, isn’t the actual property manager, and is using the compressed military move timetable to try to make a quick, dishonest buck.

Stick with reputable sites or trusted referrals. Better yet, wait until you arrive to tour the home yourself. If that’s impossible, see if you have a friend in the area who can Facetime you while touring the home or hire a MILLIE Scout to do the legwork (the company hires military spouses just for this purpose!). Get more details about online rental scams.

3. Tickets or High-Priced Items at a “Too Good to Be True” Discount

What it is: Crooks hide behind all the goodwill and discounts offered to military by many businesses around Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Putting ads on Craiglist or other sites, sellers offer “great deals” for active duty on everything from tickets for professional sporting events to home goods. The seller, of course, requires money to be wired first to hold the item at this phenomenal price (seeing a pattern here?) and then when the item is to be picked up or transferred, disappears.

Why it matters/what to do: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Stick to well-known business and sites when you see military or veteran deals around holidays, especially for big ticket items like cars or in demand concert or event tickets.

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond

(Photo by Jeff Drongowski)

4. Scams Targeting Extended Family

What it is: Along the lines of the scams targeting deployed family members, this one preys on elderly relatives of service members. One scammer contacted a soldier’s 84-year-old grandmother and asked her to wire money in order to assist him, with the caller claiming that her grandson had lost his ID card on his way home from Iraq and couldn’t get home without her help. Thankfully, she realized the request was not legitimate.

Why it matters/what to do: The military doesn’t require funds from family members to transfer wounded back home (another scam) or help with getting ID cards or other belongings. There’s a system in place that would not involve contacting the member’s spouse, parents, grandparents, or anyone else for money. Educated your elderly relatives about how the military handles emergencies and advise them to call authorities if they are contacted by a scammer or suspicious person.

5. Catfishing

What it is: Recently, I noticed a Facebook friend request from a high ranking service member I’m friends with, who I know is not on social media. I let him know and quickly deleted and reported it, since the photo showed him in uniform in his official photo. His comment about the situation was sad, “It happens all the time.”

Why it matters/what to do: Scammers assume identities of military members in order to befriend, lure, or get money from strangers. With many official military photos online, this is not difficult to do. In fact, over 30,000 military consumers reported identity theft in 2017.

Help protect your identity and those of people you know. Monitor your own social media for obvious duplicate accounts and let friends know if you see a duplicate account of theirs. Use identity theft protection and credit monitoring from reputable providers such as Lifelock or Experian to get real-time notifications of data breaches.

A New Meaning to the Phrase “Trust but Verify”

A couple of good rules to follow: never send money to an unknown entity, no matter how urgently they appeal, and never share your personal information over the phone or by email, even to an “official” sounding person. Family members, double check with the military member’s unit if you receive an urgent call regarding their situation.

As long as there have been phones and the internet, there have been people bent on using it for harm. While it can seem like a losing battle, staying vigilant about your personal information and trusting your gut will go a long way towards protecting yourself. Changing passwords frequently, monitoring your accounts regularly, putting a security freeze on your credit reports to prevent unwanted access to your information, and even not listing your birthdate on social media are some simple ways to thwart the scammers. Deployed members can put an ‘active duty alert’ on their accounts, which will notify businesses to take extra steps before offering credit in their name. For more ideas to protect yourself, see Consumer Report’s “Protect Your Identity.”

If you’ve been the victim of a scam or need to report suspicious activity, get more information from:

Federal Trade Commission Consumer Phone Scam Information

FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to use bow-drill to start a lifesaving fire


There have been plenty of stories where people get stranded in the middle of nowhere and go to insane lengths to survive. Since the majority of the population doesn’t prepare for getting get stuck out in the elements, they typically don’t find themselves with extensive survival kits.

If you find yourself marooned in an area that doesn’t get good cell-phone service and you’re unable to contact a lifeline, things can start getting a little stressful. Luckily, most people can find the right material in their surroundings to at least start a fire, but may not know how to go about creating the one.

Well, we’re to teach you how to create the spark you’ll need without burning through tons of energy to achieve that warm fire. Introducing the bow-drill.


First, you need to gather a few things.

A small piece of flat wood that can fit inside the palm of your hand (the socket), a longer but thin piece of wood (the fire board), a wooden peg (spindle), a curved piece of wood, and a cord make up the bow-drill.

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond
All the natural lifesaving materials you’ll need.
Ultimate Survival Tips/ YouTube

Fasten the ends of the cord to the tips of the curved piece of wood, then single-wrap the cord around the spindle. Place the tip of the spindle onto the fire board and start moving the bow-drill in a sawing motion while continuing to secure the spindle in your hand with the socket.

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond
The full-bow drill configuration.

Note: all these materials need to be as dry as possible.

After easily rotating the spindle with the bow-drill, the wooden peg will create a noticeable notch in the fire board. Shortly after, friction will cause smoke to build. Once the smoke starts to billow, add some very dry tinder into the mix as well as plenty of oxygen. Once the tinder ignites, lightly blow on the flame and feed it with the additional dry brush.

Quickly feed the fire with more dry wood and secure the burning area with rocks to prepared unwanted spreading. The fire can also be seen from far away, so that will only aid in your rescue.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2Fl3JDnePt8MlFnFApq.gif&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.giphy.com&s=153&h=fe25099dd419537f5fd68cc45d4f39b6a375467e677bd4902df691164596ce15&size=980x&c=131676986 image-library=”0″ pin_description=”” caption=”Fire!” crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252Fl3JDnePt8MlFnFApq.gif%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.giphy.com%26s%3D153%26h%3Dfe25099dd419537f5fd68cc45d4f39b6a375467e677bd4902df691164596ce15%26size%3D980x%26c%3D131676986%22%7D” expand=1 photo_credit=””]

Congratulations! Since you made a legit fire, you just might survive through a night in the wilderness.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The legal argument for Willie Pete as a weapon

White phosphorous, often known by the nickname “Willie Pete,” is possibly one of the oddest and most controversial weapons on military frontlines, including in American units. Its use as a chemical weapon is banned, but its use as an incendiary weapon is simply limited, and use as a signaling device is fine.


Recent use of phosphorous weapons in Israel has brought this weird dynamic back to the forefront. And the U.S. came under fire for using phosphorous rounds in Iraq. So, what’s going on? And is everyone involved now a war criminal?

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond

U.S. Air Force drops a white phosphorous bomb on a Viet Cong position in 1966.

(U.S. Air Force)

First, let’s look at why some weapons are illegal, especially chemical weapons. Chemical weapons work by interrupting human processes, some via very gruesome means. Mustard gas causes extreme respiratory irritation, sometimes to the point that those hit by it will develop fatal lung infections. Sarin gas can cause muscle convulsions, paralysis, and respiratory arrest. Both can permanently disfigure people.

In other words, gruesome ways to be wounded or killed.

As a chemical weapon, phosphorous can be released as a gas that is breathed in by the enemy, burning the insides of their lungs and killing them by cooking them from the inside out. Or, it can be introduced into enemy water supplies to poison them. It’s illegal to use phosphorous in either of these ways.

But phosphorous is a peculiar beast because, while there are no legally accepted military uses for sarin or mustard gas, there are accepted uses of white phosphorous, because it can also burn people externally or its white smoke can be used to screen troop movements or mark battlefield locations.

The chemical burns at about 86 degrees Fahrenheit. And, when burning, phosphorous emits 5,000 degrees of heat. So, it can spontaneously combust on a warm day, and it can easily sustain its own reaction once it gets going. If it’s cold outside, then even a small charge in an artillery shell can ignite the reaction.

Once it’s burning, phosphorous emits clouds of thick smoke. For infantry and other maneuver troops attacking an enemy position, that means phosphorous smoke can block the view of defenders trying to kill them. This use of phosphorous is completely legal. It can also be used to mark enemy positions which, again, is completely legal.

(In fact, the 1980 treaty limiting incendiary weapon use specifically does not include weapons used predominantly for marking targets or screening movement.)

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond

Shells from M777A2 155mm Howitzer cannons rain white phosphorous on a target during a four-day, live-fire exercise following the conclusion of Talisman Saber 13 in Australia on Aug 3, 2013.

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Paul Robbins Jr.)

But if you release still-burning phosphorous into the air and get that onto people, then it’s extremely dangerous. Phosphorous, again, will continue burning as long as it’s exposed to oxygen and above 86 degrees. So, if a chunk lands on a person’s shoulder, it will stay above 86 degrees and will keep releasing 5,000 degrees of heat until it runs out of fuel or is drowned in water or mud.

But even drowning phosphorous won’t work long-term in human skin, because it will re-ignite from the body heat the moment the water stops flowing. So, in Vietnam, American troops learned to cut the chunks of phosphorous out with knives if any friendlies were hit.

This use of phosphorous is legal, as long as the shooter takes “care” to prevent exposing civilians to the weapon.

And this is the thing that some groups will point to as insane. If it’s illegal to use it as a chemical weapon, how can you use the chemical as a weapon without it being a chemical weapon?

Well, first, everything is a chemical, and pretty much all weapons that aren’t iron or stone rely on chemical reactions of some kind. Bombs are explosive chemical reactions. Napalm and other incendiary weapons rely on chemical reactions that release a lot of heat, burning the flesh of enemy troops. It’s not a chemical reaction that is banned, or the release of heat. Chemical weapon laws really only apply to those weapons which directly interact with the target’s cells.

But heating the cells up, as you would with napalm, is legal.

And that’s how white phosphorous, as an incendiary weapon, works. It’s stored safely encased, then fired against an enemy, exposing it to the air and igniting it in the process. Once the burning phosphorous hits enemy troops, it sears them. A World War II test of phosphorous smoke screens found that, when fired against mock German defenders, the smoke screen would kill or seriously wound 40 percent of the defenders before the U.S. infantry arrived to fight them.

War Dept Film Bulletin 55 White Phosphorus VS High Explosive 1943 (full)

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War Dept Film Bulletin 55 White Phosphorus VS High Explosive 1943 (full)

And that’s why, as long as the weapon is legal in any context, there will be an incentive for commanders to use it. Without overhead cover, 40 percent of the defenders could be knocked out by the smoke screen. By the smoke screen. High explosive mortar rounds used in the same World War II test generated only 24 percent casualties.

Remember, the point of war is to force an enemy into submission to achieve some political goal. It’s gruesome, but it always includes humans killing humans, and explosions and burning are accepted methods of killing each other in war.

And so, the question that will confront investigators looking into Israel’s actions will be, “How was the weapon used? And did it cause undue damage to civilians?” Those are the same questions they would have to look at if a bomb was dropped on a church or hospital.

Was this a valid military act, or maybe a valid act that went awry? Or was a commander deliberately harming civilians?

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