These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

Within the military, being airborne comes with a special brand of badassery that you won’t find within any non-airborne unit, or, as we call them, “legs.” Even more badass are the troops that have proven themselves by jumping directly into combat — like the paratroopers over D-Day or the 75th Rangers at Objective Rhino in Afghanistan.

But jumping into certain danger with nothing but your gear and a parachute isn’t something exclusive to the military. There exists a certain breed of firefighters who are so fearless that they are always on-call to jump into newly-formed wildfires.

Meet the Smokejumpers.


These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires
The relationship between the smokejumpers and Army paratroopers really does run deep.
(U.S. Forest Service photo by E.L. Perry)

Born of a need to quickly get firefighters into middle-of-nowhere locations, the first smokejump was made on July 12th, 1940, into Nez Perce National Forest by Rufus Robinson and Earl Cooley. They dropped allegedly on a dare, equipped with just enough gear to establish a fire line and hold off the flames until more help could arrive.

That first jump was so successful that smokejumping was quickly adopted throughout many major Forest Services located in rural areas susceptible to wildfires. Then-Major William C. Lee of the U.S. Army saw the smokejumpers training and adapted their methods into the Army’s newly formed airborne school at Ft. Benning — and later into the 101st Airborne Division.

The U.S. Army assigned the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, the only all-black airborne unit in U.S. military history, as smokejumpers as a precaution against potential fire balloon bombs that Japan supposedly had at the ready, poised to burn down American forests. The Japanese “Operation Firefly” never came to fruition, but the men of the 555th helped fight natural wildfires, thus further proving the need for smokejumpers

There are countless hoops a firefighter must go through before becoming a smokejumper today. Typically, they’re only selected from firefighters who’ve proven themselves capable as part of both a conventional firefighting unit and a hotshot crew, a small, elite team made up of 20 of the country’s best wildland firefighters who go into the heart of the flames. Then, they must go through a rigorous training schedule, which includes pararescue jumping — regardless of whether they’re an airborne-qualified veteran or not.

Despite the many dangers that smokejumpers face, fatalities within the ranks are infrequent because of the insane amount of planning that goes into each jump. They’ll only jump into a location that is a safe distance away from the flame itself — as the updraft from the flames could catch and incinerate any firefighter — and into areas area clear of slopes or trees. This could require the smokejumper to ruck miles out of the way while carrying up to 150lbs of gear.

When they finally arrive at the fire, they must then determine the likely route the flames with travel and keep clear the way for reinforcements.

For a more in-depth look at how smokejumpers conduct a wildfire mission, check out the video.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The top 10 perks of being an Army wife

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

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


These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

10. It’s easy to find your underwear

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

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

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

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

9. Woobies

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

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

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

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

8. Eye candy

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

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

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

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

7. Way off base

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

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Klika)

6. Dibs on ‘soldiers’

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

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

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

5. Size matters

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

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

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

(Photo by Hiro Chang)

4. The military balls

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

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

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

3. We’ve got friends EVERYWHERE

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

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

2. Never-ending hijinks

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

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

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

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

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

(Photo by Elizabeth Alexander)

1. Family

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

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

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

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

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

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

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

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


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

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

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

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

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

(US Air Force photo Alejandro Peña)

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

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

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

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

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

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

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

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

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

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

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

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

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Partially paralyzed sailor finds release in adaptive sports

Navy Veteran Gabriel George came to the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic in 2018 filled with energy and excitement. Returning for his second time to the clinic, George says his first time at the clinic was life-changing.

He joined the Navy in July 2004 where he served as a corpsman and deployed twice.

A few weeks after arriving home from his second deployment, he was involved in a devastating motorcycle accident. While heading home from bible study, a car pulled out in front of him. He awoke three weeks later in a hospital to find he had broken his C2 and C5 vertebrae, six ribs, his collar bone and scapula; he had collapsed both his lungs; suffered a traumatic brain injury; and permanently paralyzed his right arm.


After the injury, George says he spent a lot of time living on the couch and watching tv.

But then he was introduced to the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic by Katie Blunk, his recreation therapist at North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System, and says his life changed forever.

initially, he had low expectations at the clinic, and thought his paralyzed arm would prevent him from doing many activities.

“No way. I can’t do that,” he said, when he learned archery would be one of the sports he’d be introduced to.

But instructors showed him how to draw the bow by biting down on a mouth tab, and with that first pull and release of the arrow something woke within him.

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

Navy Veteran Gabriel George returned for his second time to participate in the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic. George says the clinic got him moving and off the couch after suffering injuries from a motorcycle accident.

After archery, he went to sailing. As a Navy Veteran, George had lived aboard ship, but he’d never sailed a small vessel. He found the experience exhilarating, and says he felt connected with the water, pulling lines and working the sail.

“(It’s) at the top of the list of healing. Being able to find something you can do, moving just one body part, the rest of the body wants to follow and move too,” George said.

By the end of his first clinic, he was looking for a way to extend the experience. With Blunk’s help, George signed up for a sailing clinic near his home in Florida before the week in San Diego was finished.

“The very next morning I went out and found an archery shop and bought a bow,” he said about the moments after he arrived home.

Blunk says George’s experience is similar to many of the Veterans she’s seen benefit from adaptive sports therapy.

“Often I hear so many people saying I can’t do that. And then once they do try, it’s healing,” she said. “Once a Veteran sees they can do one sport they are inspired to keep trying other sports.”

George continues to participate in sports programs whenever and wherever he can.

“I was doing nothing before the (National Veterans) Summer Sports Clinic,” he said. “I bought a house and I don’t know why, because now, I’m never home.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This boot camp helps veterans grow tech start-ups

Basic Training — often called boot camp — introduces new service members to military life and customs. Boot camp “accelerates” a citizen’s transformation to a soldier, sailor, airman or marine.

A Colorado-based company, Techstars Accelerator, created Patriot Boot Camp (PBC) to help service members transition out of the military. More importantly, PBC helps transitioning service members and entrepreneurial veterans turn their business ideas into tech start-ups.

The 15th installment of Patriot Boot Camp was held in Lehi, Utah on Aug. 23-25, 2019. Veterans, active duty service members, and military spouses with business ideas or existing businesses gathered for three days to learn from industry leaders. The event was hosted MX Data, and sponsored by MetLife Foundation, USAA, and Jared Polis Foundation.


The PBC connected the event’s attendees to a community of over fifty mentors — many of whom traveled from across the nation to make entrepreneurship tangible. A testament to the dedication and belief in this program was that the mentors all volunteered their time, at their own expense, to provide one-on-one mentoring.

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

Patriot Boot Camp founder Taylor McLemore address the veteran entrepreneurs.

More than 850 veterans have gone through the program, and they have hired over 1,600 employees and raised 0 million in venture capital while generating millions in revenue.

By the numbers

  • Jobs created: 1,600+
  • Hours of mentorship: 2,500+
  • Alumni entrepreneurs: 850+
  • Entrepreneurs attending PBC Utah: Coming from 23 states, one from Austria
  • Capital raised by alumni: 0 million
  • Diversity: 50% service-connected, disabled Veteran-owned business
  • Female founders: 23%

According to an article in TechCrunch, PBC graduates show “…that startups aren’t the sort of crazy risk that they first appear. Indeed, after what many of these men and women have just been through, it may not be all that daunting of a next mission after all.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

LinkedIn or CheckedOut: How to live your best life after service

Retiring from the armed forces can be a very stressful transition because there is no magic crystal ball that allows you to see into your future as a civilian. Veterans often have strong networks built over the course of their military service, but as useful as these networks are, they are also apt to keep you from branching out into something new, or taking time off to pursue uncharted possibilities. You don’t know what you don’t know, so it is easy to fall into a trap where income becomes the driving force behind career decisions rather than a deep introspective look into what you really want out of life. This leads to a pursuit of employment rather than fulfillment, and ends in a contract that forces you to trade more of your precious time for money. After giving so much to your country, and asking your family to sacrifice just as much or more, taking time to reconnect with them and yourself before a second career is worth your consideration. You might be pleasantly surprised where it will lead.


Consider the following in your calculus:

  • Military service didn’t leave much room for hobbies and passions. Do you have any languishing in the recesses of your life?
  • Military regulations and culture compelled you to identify yourself by an all-consuming job title, which in turn suppressed your identity as an individual. You were the Admiral, the Colonel, Skipper, Warrant, Chief, Senior, Top, OPSO, COS, the LPO, the First Sergeant. Do you really know who you are anymore without a job title to define you?
  • Time keeps ticking, but money comes and goes. Is time more valuable than money when you realize that you can bank one but not the other?
These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

This last thought is the one that gave me the most pause. If you are shackled to a life dictated by consumerism and workism, your “one day” list becomes less and less achievable. This is paradoxical, because chances are you might be making a decent salary on top of your retirement income, but you don’t have time for you, your spouse, your kids, your dog, your forgotten hobbies, or your wild and crazy ambitions. Why? Because your new job might provide a comfortable existence and a title to impress your friends, but it doesn’t guarantee you will have time for anything on your bucket list. How many successful people have all the toys in the world but no time to use them? More than you think. In this article, I will argue that as a veteran, you have been given all the resources you need to thrive in a life of your choosing. To be clear, I am not suggesting that you become completely “checked out” and retreat from society never to work again. Instead, I am advocating for a period of time that prevents you from rushing headlong into a second career. This will give you some “maneuver space” to sort through the stress, the noise, and the pressure that is screaming at you to immediately get a job and keep slogging forward. That space might be a few months, or it might be a few years, but either way, it is time well-spent.

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

Try this little exercise. Mentally fast forward to the end of your life. You are looking back on your experiences wondering why you worked your whole life, yet missed out on so much living. Maybe you wanted to take a year and surf the south Pacific, or fish the great rivers in Alaska, or hike the Appalachian Trail, or follow the Tour de France, or start a business, or write a novel, or raise alpacas, or sell it all and buy a sailboat…but you didn’t, and now you are too old and tired to do anything but look back with sadness and regret. You realize there was always something standing in the way; there were always reasons why you couldn’t. So, instead of doing, you resigned yourself to watching others as you scrolled through your social media feeds and groused about your boss, staff meetings, the person who chews their food too loudly in their cubicle, the jerk who cut you off on your commute, and the endless mundane aspects of life in “The Matrix.”

As you contemplate those lost dreams, you might be asking yourself with a twinge of frustration, “Why didn’t I go for it? What was I afraid of? What was the worst thing that could have happened to me if I had unshackled myself from the ‘golden handcuffs,’ put down the electronic tether, and lived the life I always imagined?” You might be surprised to learn the worst thing that could have happened was nothing from which you could not have quickly recovered.
These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

Now, rewind to the present. Ask yourself this question, “Have I ever allowed myself to fail?” If you made it all the way through a 20-year (or more) career, chances are the answer is a resounding no! So why do you think you will start failing now? I’ll let you in on a little secret…you won’t. You already know how to succeed. The sad truth, however, is that many of us never take a chance, because we focus on the reasons we shouldn’t…the fears…rather than the reasons we should…the inspiration.

Every military member goes through transition class on their way out of the service. You learn that it is possible to reinvent yourself, but it isn’t easy. You are instructed to make a list of your assets, your liabilities, and any gaps you have in your skill set, then cross-reference it against what you need to break into a sector outside of what you have been doing for the past twenty-plus years. You are told to be willing to move to an area where that sector has a presence, be patient, be willing to evangelize yourself, build a network in your new community, use your hard-earned benefits to get the education or certifications you need to fill in any gaps, and be willing to start at the bottom. If you do these things while exhibiting all the qualities that made you successful on active duty, you will succeed.

What if I told you that same blueprint for reinventing yourself professionally is just as useful for reinventing yourself personally, and going after those “one day” dreams before you blindly (or deliberately) trade one overlord for another. With a little bit of planning and foresight, you can do it, and if I haven’t made my position clear, I think you should. When else will you get a planned break in your professional life to do something crazy?

I started my transition playing by the rules. I spent hours…no, weeks…working on a resume. I went to career fairs. I interviewed for jobs. I received job offers. None of it felt right in my gut. I started terminal leave in June 2018 in a panic-stricken state, grasping for a lifeline. At my wife’s urging I had been exploring the idea of trade school using my GI Bill benefits, but I was afraid to commit. “It’s not what I am expected to do,” was my typical reason, which was ridiculous. I was afraid of the unknown and everything that came with it. That was the truth. I had reached the first portal of fear, and with my wife’s encouragement, I stepped through it.

In September 2018, I enrolled in a six-month program at the IYRS School of Technology and Trades in Newport, R.I. that ended with a one-month internship and American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) certifications as a Marine Electrician, Diesel Mechanic, and Systems Technician. I wrote about how beneficial that was for me as a veteran while I was serving as a student ambassador at the school. But as I approached the end of the program, I realized I had only deferred my dilemma. I still had to figure out my life after the military.
These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

Once again, I found myself grasping for the familiar and hiding from my fears. I applied for a government job overseas, knowing it wasn’t what I really wanted. A friend was recruiting me to come back to the staff I had left a year and a half earlier, but after I submitted my resume, there were knots in my stomach. “What am I doing,” I asked myself. “Is this what I really want?” I wasn’t ready for staff meetings and point papers again. I wasn’t ready for days when I went to work at dawn and came home after dinner just to get up and do it all over again while my life ticked away a second at a time.

My wife had a dream that we could sell it all and go sailing. I was adamantly opposed. “If there is one thing I learned at the marine trade and technology school,” I joked, “it is don’t buy a boat!” The truth of the matter is I was terrified of selling everything and buying a boat. There were too many voices in my head telling me it would be our ruination…MY ruination. I hid behind my biggest fear – money. We couldn’t afford it. End of story.

But, it wasn’t.

It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it. As I tell my children, there is a solution to every problem, we only need to outthink it. So we looked at the problem again and realized we could afford it. But, I still wasn’t ready to commit. I needed a push.

Fate intervened on my behalf. Much to my surprise, my resume never made it through the initial screening for the civil servant position, so I never got the job interview on the staff overseas. Despite my ego being bruised, I actually breathed a sigh of relief. I was a free man again. A few weeks later, after some long, introspective conversations with my wife, I agreed to the sailing adventure. Failure had somehow opened a pathway to an outcome I did not think possible. That was in March 2019. Four months later, we would be boat owners after an exhausting push to sell, donate, or repurpose just about everything we owned. Three months after that, we would be getting underway from Hampton, VA for a 1,600 nautical mile ocean passage to Antigua.

How did we go from “normal life” to “boat life” so quickly? We followed the same blueprint I received in the transition seminar. We laid out a plan, prioritized our resources, and focused everything we had on the achievement of our goal. I had already filled in the knowledge gaps by becoming a certified marine mechanic. Anyone who knows boats will tell you that 90% of boat ownership is boat maintenance, so I felt confident I could handle that responsibility with my new skills. I grew up sailing, so that wasn’t an issue, but living aboard a boat full-time was another story. We hired a couple who had twice circumnavigated with their kids as “cruising coaches.” We built a network by talking about our plans with people who could help and guide us. We made sure we were able to fund our dream by paying cash for a boat and living within the means of my retirement income. Using our new and growing network, we found a boat, brokered the deal, and moved aboard on July 31, 2019.

It was not an easy transition from land life to sea life. In fact, it was harder than anything we had ever done. Being a military family, we were used to relocating and starting over every couple years, so we put all that experience to good use. But, this time it was different. It was all on us to get it done. There were at least three distinct points when we wanted to quit. We didn’t, largely due to the encouragement and instruction we received from people who had walked the same path. The rewards for persevering are too many to list. Suffice it to say, I answer to no master. I have learned more about myself and my family in six months than I have in six years. I have swum with a whale in 19,000 feet of water halfway between Bermuda and the Leeward Islands. We have sailed our way through 50-knot squalls and come out the other side stronger and more resilient. I have made lifelong friendships with people I would never have met had I stayed in my “safe” bubble. I have gained valuable perspective by using this time away from the rat race to sort myself; to be a better husband, father, and friend.

A good counterargument to this conversation would go something like this – “My professional stock is highest immediately after I retire. It will be irresponsible for me not to take advantage of that transition point and start building my professional resume in the real world. Statistics support the fact that I most likely will change jobs several times as I find my niche, so it doesn’t matter what I do. The important thing is to get into the ring and make a name for myself.” So you get a job and a fancy-sounding title that you eagerly post on LinkedIn. You beef up your profile with a power photo that has you leaning into the camera with a smile that says, “I’m a go-getter!” You add a description underneath that says something like, “I’m a results-oriented leader with a proven track record of astonishing accomplishments, fiscal maturity, operational prowess, cunning initiative, etc, etc, etc.” It becomes your identity, and it is the right thing to do, isn’t it? I certainly thought it was. But for me, at least, it wasn’t. I am not getting any younger. Neither are you. The counterargument doesn’t hold up, in my opinion. You can always get a job and make money, but you can’t make more time. Another aspect of this counterargument is that your network will abandon you if you take time for yourself and your family. I also believe that this is invalid, and would go so far as to suggest that your network will respect you more for leading in this manner.

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

We as Americans have it all backwards. We work and work and work until we hit the “golden years,” then we retire with the idea that we are going to take off from our empty nest and explore the world. I have heard so many tragic stories about people who FINALLY get some time to do the things they have always wanted to do only to be sidelined by unexpected health crises that leave them debilitated or worse. Derek Thompson, a senior staff writer for The Atlantic wrote a compelling article in February 2019 titled, “Workism is Making Americans Miserable,” where he argues that work has become, unfortunately, the, “centerpiece of one’s identity and purpose.” It’s an excellent, thought-provoking read.

Work, pay taxes, then die.

As a retiring military member, you have the resources to do what you want – healthcare, education opportunities, steady income, and many more benefits to jumpstart your second life. You only need to face down your fears and embrace the possibilities that lay before you. I am not done working, but I guarantee whatever employment I pursue in the future will be far different than what I thought I had to shoehorn myself into when I first transitioned from service. We have had a lot of people tell us how amazing our life is…how lucky we are…how courageous we are to be out sailing with our kids full time. We don’t see ourselves as different or special. We are just us, living a life of our choosing. We realized in hindsight that fear had been holding us back, not resources. Once we made our decision, we were flabbergasted by how everything suddenly seemed to align behind us. It was all there to begin with, but we were blinded by our fears of the unknown, and therefore too afraid to take a chance.

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

Fear is paralyzing, and in the weeks surrounding my transition there were days when I didn’t want to get out of bed and face reality. In the middle of those dark moments, a very wise friend of mine asked me to stretch my hands out in front of myself palms up, then she had me clench my fists. She looked at me and said, “There won’t be room for anything new in your life if you are holding onto everything so tightly, afraid to let go. You have to open your hands and be willing to release – toxic relationships, needless possessions, clutter, the wrong career, convenience, the safe and easy path, money. But more importantly, you have to open your hands so what you really want has a place to land.”

I stood there for a moment clenching and unclenching my upturned hands. I am not a particularly spiritual person, but I was shocked at how profoundly her simple exercise struck a chord. “Money comes and money goes, and it should,” she concluded, “but even though we have had our backs to the wall a number of times, we always believed we would be fine because we kept our hands, figuratively of course, upturned and open.” She and her husband are better now than ever after launching their own business nearly twenty years ago. They had been let go from their previous jobs at the same time, when their kids were still young, and their stress levels already high. In that moment of darkness, they chose to open their own business and live life according to their own terms. It wasn’t easy, but looking back, they wouldn’t want it any other way.

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

In the final analysis, it’s not about how much you have, but what you do with it. Achieving your ambitions means making decisions, prioritizing and leveraging resources, and aligning efforts. Do you want to be linked in right away, or checked out to gain some perspective and clarity? The choice is yours, and it doesn’t matter how big your proverbial or actual boat is. It only matters that you believe in yourself and face down your fears. Trust me, someone always has a bigger boat. You can find dozens of YouTube channels where people are sailing the world on every manner of boat imaginable. I used to watch some of them and say, “Look at their boat. It’s so ugly, or small, or dilapidated.” My wife would answer, “Yeah, sure is…but they are doing it!” How true. Would you rather be sitting in a staff meeting wishing you were doing it, or actually doing it?

I’ll close with this final thought. Many, if not all of us, who are retiring from a career in the service lost shipmates, close friends, and comrades in training and combat. A few years ago, standing on a beach in Italy looking out into the Adriatic Sea, where a friend in Air Wing 17 had perished during a nighttime training flight off the USS George Washington (CVN-73) in 2002, I made a promise that if I somehow made it through my military career, I would not squander the opportunity to fulfill dreams and live an amazing life. I felt like I owed that to those who couldn’t. Life is short, and precious. Don’t let fear hold you back. Don’t let a false sense of obligation keep you from doing the things on your “one day” list. If you do, that list will go unfulfilled.

We keep a sign on our boat that reads, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” It is a constant reminder for us to keep pushing forward. You can, too.

Glenn Robbins is a retired Naval Officer cruising full-time on a 46-foot catamaran named FEARLESS with his wife Andi and their two children, Gavin and Alexis.

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘1917’ is going to be the coolest World War I movie ever

After a century, World War I is finally getting the treatment in American cinema it so richly deserves. While some of the best war movies were World War I movies, Paths of Glory, All Quiet on the Western Front, and Lawrence of Arabia, there were also many misses. What’s surprising is that there are relatively few WWI movies, when compared to those depicting other wars.

No longer. 1917 is a new movie based on the Great War, coming in December. And it looks like it could be the definitive WWI movie.


The film takes place during the Third Battle of Ypres, where a British contingent of 1,600 men is due to walk into a German trap. Two Tommies are given the assignment to proceed on foot to warn the unit about their orders – the ones that take them directly into an ambush. Their mission takes them across the Ypres battlefields and through the deadly trench warfare that is now synonymous with the Great War.

What’s more remarkable about 1917 is that it’s based on a true story, one told to director Sam Mendes by his own grandfather, Alfred. Alfred Mendes received the Military Medal for “acts of gallantry and devotion to duty under fire” during the war. The Military Medal was replaced by the Military Cross in the UK armed forces in 1993, and would be the fifth-highest medal awarded by the United Kingdom today.

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

Relentless rain, mud, and death marked the Battle of Ypres.

The elder Mendes ran through snipers, trenches, moving artillery barrages, and machine-gun fire to deliver messages for two full days during the Battle of Poelcappelle. Mendes’ grandfather was raised on the Caribbean island of Trinidad but left to join the fight against Germany, joining the British Army in 1916, at the age of 19. He saw action at the WWI Battles of Passchendaele (Ypres) and Poelcappelle. He was sent to go find survivors of a failed attack during Poelcappelle. It was a dangerous assignment, one his commander said he might not return from.

Despite encountering all of World War I’s signature death traps, he still managed to find survivors while surviving himself. He made it back to his company’s shell hole intact.

“In spite of the snipers, the machine-gunners and the shells, I arrived back at C Company’s shell hole without a scratch but with a series of hair-raising experiences that would keep my grand and great-grandchildren enthralled for nights on end,” he would later write in his autobiography.

1917 is based on Medes’ experiences on this mission. The film is set to release on Dec. 25, 2019.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the first museum to tell the entire history of the US Army

The U.S. Army announced on Aug. 28, 2019, that the National Museum of the United States Army will open to the public on June 4, 2020.

The National Museum of the United States Army will be the first and only museum to tell the 244-year history of the U.S. Army in its entirety. Now under construction on a publicly accessible area of Fort Belvoir, Virginia, admission to the museum will be open to the public with free admission.

The museum will tell the Army’s story through soldier stories. The narrative begins with the earliest militias and continues to present day.


“The Army has served American citizens for 244 years, protecting the freedoms that are precious to all of us. Millions of people have served in the Army, and this museum gives us the chance to tell their stories to the public, and show how they have served our nation and our people,” said acting Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy.

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(US Army photo)

In addition to the historic galleries, the museum’s Army and Society Gallery will include stories of Army innovations and the symbiotic relationship between the Army, its civilian government and the people. The Experiential Learning Center will provide a unique and interactive learning space for visitors of all ages to participate in hands-on geography, science, technology, engineering, and math (G-STEM) learning and team-building activities.

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

(US Army photo)

“This state-of-the art museum will engage visitors in the Army’s story — highlighting how the Army was at the birth of our nation over 240 years ago, and how it continues to influence our everyday lives,” said Ms. Tammy E. Call, the museum’s director. “The National Museum of the United States Army will be stunning, and we can’t wait to welcome visitors from around the world to see it.”

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

(US Army photo)

The museum is a joint effort between the U.S. Army and the Army Historical Foundation, a non-profit organization. The Army Historical Foundation is constructing the building through private funds. The U.S. Army is providing the infrastructure, roads, utilities, and exhibit work that transform the building into a museum.

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

(US Army photo)

The Army will own and operate the museum 364 days a year (closed December 25). Museum officials expect 750,000 visitors in the first year of operation. A timed-entry ticket will be required. Free timed-entry tickets will assist in managing anticipated crowds and will provide the optimum visitor experience. More information on ticketing will be available in early 2020.

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

(US Army photo)

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines go viral with video of dancing to Da Pump’s ‘USA’

The US Marine Corps Installations Pacific Command’s Japanese language twitter account posted a video in August 2018 of Marines dancing to Da Pump’s “USA,” which has since gone viral.

The video shows several Marines replicating the dance moves to the chorus of the Japanese pop band’s “USA,” jumping on one foot and kicking out the other.


As of early Aug. 2018, the video has been watched 6.57 million times and has been retweeted nearly 148,000 times.

“We expected this video to be popular,” Marine Corps social media manager Ike Hirayasuon told Stars and Stripes, but “we’re overwhelmed with just how successful it’s been.”

The video was filmed over a few days at several installations on Okinawa, Stripes reported.

“Our hope is that this video allows viewers to see a different side of the U.S. Marines living on Okinawa,” a Marine Corps spokesperson told The Japan Times, adding that it shows “the positive impact the people and culture of Japan have on Marines stationed in Okinawa” and that Marines have embraced Japan’s culture.

Over the last few years, there have been at least a few high profile incidents in which US Marines have committed crimes that has raised tensions with locals.

In late January 2018, a Marine was arrested after punching an Okinawa hotel employee. In 2017, a Marine was arrested in connection with a fatal car crash, in which alcohol was apparently involved, that killed an Okinawa resident.

www.youtube.com

Watch the original Da Pump video below:

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army Recruiting Command honors D-Day in Hollywood

“It’s important that we honor those that gave all. It’s important that we honor those who came before us. They are the reason we have a future. They are the reason why we flourish. We owe our life and the pursuit of happiness to that Greatest Generation,” shared Command Sergeant Major Gavia at American Legion Hollywood Post 43.

On June 6, 1944, over 156,000 Allied troops invaded Normandy France from the air and the sea. The scale of the assault was unlike anything mankind had ever attempted — and through great effort and great sacrifice, it would turn the tide of the war against Nazi Germany.

On June 6, 2019, the United States Army Recruiting Command invited veterans to Post 43 to honor the 75th anniversary of the attack.


Top 10 Most Intense Battles in US History

www.youtube.com

The event included a guest speaker, a screening of The Longest Day, and a very lively World War II veteran who served with General George S. Patton.

“It’s important to remember events like this because the generation that is coming up will be expected to accomplish the same sort of things so the more they can connect and meet some of the veterans while they’re still around to tell their stories,” U.S. Army Lt. Col. Flood shared with We Are The Mighty’s August Dannehl, a Navy veteran.

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Jimmy Weldon, a World War II veteran in the audience speaks with We Are the Mighty team bout D-Day and Gen. Patton

The U.S. Army Recruiting Command chose the right venue for the event. American Legion Hollywood Post 43 is making strides toward bring veterans from all wars together. While the American Legion has traditionally been populated by older generations of vets, Post 43 has exceptionally high numbers of Post-9/11 service members in its midst.

Events such as these allow Post-9/11 veterans to talk with the heroes from ‘the greatest generation’ and hear their incredible stories firsthand.

After all, it’s not every day you meet someone who actually served with Patton himself.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of January 11th

Now that the military life is thoroughly back into full swing after the new year lull, I’m going to make a wild guess and assume that a large portion of the grunts are now going to go out into the field “to make up for lost time.” Have fun with that.

To a certain extent, I understand summer field problems. Go out and train for what you’ll do on a deployment. And I get that there are certain parts of RC-North, Afghanistan, that get cold as balls, so acclimatizing makes sense. But winter field exercises back stateside just teaches troops one crucial thing: never second guess the packing list.

You’ll be doing the exact same as thing you’ll do during every other field exercise, but if you, for some reason, forget gloves… Well, you’re f*cked.

For the rest of you POGs who’re still lounging around the training room on your cell phones, have some memes!


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(Meme via PT Belt Nation)

Five bucks says that Adam Driver still has a poncho liner on his couch. 

Very Related: 5 Marine things Kylo Ren would do if he was a Lance Corporal

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

(Meme via Private News Network)

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

(Meme via On The Minute Memes)

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires
These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans everywhere agree: You can mourn Kobe Bryant

Only a few hours after the tragic news broke of famed basketball player Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crashing, killing all nine passengers (including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna), the social media debates started: Why are we so sad about a celebrity dying but when our service members are killed in the line of duty seemingly no one notices?

An article from 2005 began circulating again, reminding us all of another helicopter tragedy: the horrible Al-Anbar CH-53E crash that killed all 31 troops when it went down outside Ar-Rutbah in Iraq this same weekend, 15 years ago.

Veterans everywhere concur: you can, and should, be sad about both.


We’re all allowed to feel empathy at a wife losing her husband and daughter and three girls losing their dad and sister, not to mention the other families on board. You’re allowed to grieve someone who inspired thousands and thousands of kids and adults alike to pursue their dreams. At the same exact time, as Americans, we all should know the names of our service members dying for us every day.

And: That’s not why anyone signs up to serve.

Veterans took to the internet to express their sympathy as well as their own experiences with Kobe and his support for our military community.

These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires


These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires
These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires
These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires
These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires
These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires
These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires
These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires
These are the airborne firefighters that handle the most intense wildfires

Rest in Peace, Kobe.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran Vices: Green Feet Brewing

In our upcoming issue, we recapped our top picks for interesting and innovative products in the RECOIL Best of SHOT 2020 awards. The awards themselves were provided, in part, by the company behind this installment of Veteran Vices: Green Feet Brewing.


For those unfamiliar, the symbol of Green Feet has been the calling card of Air Force combat rescue since Vietnam. The HH-3 “Jolly Green Giant” helicopters used by combat rescue units at that time would touch down in muddy rice paddies, leaving impressions in the mud that looked like footprints. Scott Peterson, owner and operator of Green Feet Brewing, spent nearly three decades in the USAF combat rescue community as a Flight Engineer on MH-53J Pave Low and HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters. In 28 years of service, he’s deployed “too many times to count,” but cites one of his most rewarding deployments bring a trip to Afghanistan as part of a Combat Search and Rescue crew.

His professional interest in beer started as a home brewing process. Says Peterson, “I … loved the process and creativity that making beer allows. In 2012, I called my wife from Afghanistan and asked her if she wanted to open a brewery.” Eight years later, the Petersons continue to man the Green Feet tap room. Located in an aging industrial park just outside of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, home to an Air Force Rescue Squadron, it’s easy to miss. But once inside, the cozy space, VIP locker wall, and the sprinkling of military certificates and decorations creates an atmosphere that’s part barracks rec room, part Cheers bar. “We had a nice following of USAF Rescue folks from the local community to help us out,” he says. “That community is a small, but very loyal community and wanted to see one of their own succeed.”

In this same vein, Green Feet Brewing also gives back to the community that has supported them over the years. They donate primarily to the That Others May Live foundation, which provides immediate tragedy assistance, scholarships for the children, and other critical support for familiar of Air Force Rescue units who are killed or severely wounded in operational or training missions. Green Feet also supports Wreaths Across America, an organization local to them in Tucson, Arizona. Wreaths Across America is dedicated to helping lay wreaths on veterans’ graves at Christmas.

At time of writing, Green Feet Brewing is strictly a local operation. They distribute to some other tap rooms and businesses around the city of Tucson, but aren’t available outside of that area. If you find yourself passing through, stop in, grab a pint, and raise one up for those who sacrifice their health and well-being That Others May Live …

Green Feet Brewing
3669 E. 44th St.
Tucson, Arizona
(520) 977-1691
www.instagram.com/greenfeetbrewing

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

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