How to support the military community without leaving home - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How to support the military community without leaving home

COVID-19 has left people facing new levels of stress and feelings of isolation. This may be especially true for members of the military, veterans, and their families. But as the need for support has grown so has a desire to pitch in, particularly among those finding themselves with more time available as get-togethers and social outings are curtailed. 

Enter virtual volunteering: a way to give back to the military community while following social distancing and other healthy practices.

Amy Palmer is president and CEO of Soldiers’ Angels , a national nonprofit organization that has been providing aid, comfort and resources to service members, wounded heroes, veterans of all generations, and military families since 2003. In 2019 alone, some 50,000 volunteers, or “angels,” devoted more than 170,000 hours to the cause, offering support to almost half a million members of the military community. 

“When the COVID-19 crisis began,” Palmer says, “we quickly pivoted, highlighting activities that volunteers could do in their pj’s at home.” 

Here are some of the virtual volunteering opportunities available to angel team members or on your own:

Write letters. Tired of communicating by email or tweet? Writing letters to service members deployed overseas is a low-commitment way to brighten mail call. 

Send a care package of homemade goodies. Pandemic baking, as many of us have learned, may be creatively satisfying, but it’s not all that kind to our waistline. As part of an Angel Bakers Team, you can enjoy the pleasure of whipping up a batch of your celebrated cookies, brownies or scones and then ship the sugary treats to service members who are eager for a taste of home. 

Put your sewing machine to use. There’s an ongoing need for masks at VA hospitals across the country. With just basic sewing skills you can help front-line healthcare workers protect themselves, their co-workers and their patients against the spread of COVID-19.  This video shows how to sew the preferred type of mask that has a pocket for the insertion of a filter.

Make a no-sew blanket. You don’t need a sewing machine, a needle or even thread to make a cozy blanket for injured service members, a military mom who’s snuggling with a newborn, or deployed troops who will welcome warmth from home. The video on this website demonstrates how to make the blanket with only two large pieces of fleece fabric, scissors and tape, and, ideally, a helper. 

Weave paracord bracelets. Tucked into a care package, a paracord bracelet may seem like a small token but it can be a valuable survival tool. Unraveled, the nylon line of cord can be put to use as a fishing line, boot laces, floss or even emergency sutures. Most likely, this won’t be necessary, and the homemade paracord bracelet will remain a treasured item that service members carry on them at all times. Crafting these bracelets can be a fun at-home activity for the whole family or a company-wide volunteer action. 

“The bracelets take about 15 minutes to make,” Palmer said. “Companies like Lockheed Martin have sent us thousands.” (Paracord bracelets for military service members must be made from MIL-SPEC cording in the colors black, olive green, tan, or camo only.) 

Help pamper a deployed female warrior as part of a Ladies of Liberty team. The all-female volunteers send a monthly care package to an “adopted lady” that includes personal care items, treats like body scrubs and facial masks, haircare products and leisure materials like books, magazines and adult coloring books and colored pencils. 

For the holidays

Gather Treats for Troops. Want to put all those packets of candy corn and fun-sized chocolate-peanut bars to better use than keeping your kids up at night from a sugar rush? Donate excess Halloween candy, or if you’re a small-business owner, become a candy collection site, so our heroes can enjoy a sweet reprieve.

Join the Holiday Stockings for Heroes program. Stuff holiday stockings with small gifts like beef jerky, playing cards, puzzle bucks, holiday candy, caps, travel-sized games and a handwritten note and drawings from the kids. 

Adopt a military family for the holidays. Military and veteran families often balance tight budgets, and those budgets might be stretched even more than usual with the pandemic leading to furloughs, job losses or reductions in hours. The Adopt-a-Family program is a way to spread some cheer during the winter holidays. For each family adopted, you’ll be expected to provide a minimum $50 – $100 grocery gift card for a holiday meal and gifts for each child in the family. Can’t adopt a military family on your own? Consider teaming up with another family, or with members of your church, workplace or community group.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

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

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


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

So, he popped open the hatch.

How to support the military community without leaving home

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

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

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

How to support the military community without leaving home

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

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

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

How to support the military community without leaving home

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

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

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

How to support the military community without leaving home

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

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

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Navy SEAL wants to inspire kids to reach their full potential

Marc Lonergan-Hertel grew up in Massachusetts with the dream of becoming a Navy SEAL — a dream he made into a reality. But he had a long way to go before achieving such a feat. He decided he needed to toughen up first, so he joined the Marine Corps, where he eventually found himself in Force Recon.

His military career took him through some of the toughest training the military has to offer. And he wrote about it in his memoir, Sierra Two: A SEAL’s Odyssey in War and Peace.

But Lonergan-Hertel didn’t stop there. He continued a life of adventure and service after leaving the military and today, he wants to call attention to real-world heroes he met along the way. He wants his transformative journey to help inspire others — namely, our nation’s youth — so they can maximize their full potential and achieve their dreams.

He calls himself a Protector.


How to support the military community without leaving home
Lonergan-Hertel’s Book is available on Amazon.

How to support the military community without leaving home

Lonergan-Hertel and 1st Force Recon.

(Courtesy of Marc Lonergan-Hertel)

Those who fight monsters inevitably change,” Lonergan-Hertel says, explaining what he means by the title “Protector.” It’s from a popular saying about post-traumatic stress, written by an unknown author. The quote goes on to note that if you stay in the fighting long enough, you will eventually become the monster. The former Navy SEAL wants to keep Protectors from getting that far.

“There is a cost to being a protector. Love is the only way to heal the wounds [that change you]. Remember this: As a protector, you run toward the things that others run away from. You go out to fight what you fear. You stand between others and the monsters on the other side of the wall.”

How to support the military community without leaving home

Lonergan-Hertel in his world-record paraglider flight, 70 South Antarctica.

(Courtesy of Marc Lonergan-Hertel)

You can read about his adventures fighting monsters in his book, Sierra Two. After his time in Force Recon, he left the military and worked as a Emergency Medical Technician in Los Angeles as well as a hunting guide in Colorado. Eventually, he decided to explore the Army and join the Special Forces. Shortly after joining the California National Guard, he was able to wear a maroon beret in support of 19 Special Forces Group and prepared to try out for Delta Section. He didn’t make Delta, but it did prepare him a selection packet he could submit to the Navy. He graduated from BUD/S in 1996 and joined SEAL Team Four. He left the military in 2000, but didn’t leave behind the adventurer’s life.

“My platoon chief recommended me for an around-the-world expedition through the Cousteau Society,” Lonergan-Hertel says. “I ended up getting the position as a team member and expedition leader and scout for NatGeo and Discovery Channel programs to Antarctica the Amazon jungle, where I had experience as a SEAL.”

How to support the military community without leaving home

Lonergan-Hertel and his NatGeo Team. Lonergan-Hertel is center, in the cowboy hat.

(Courtesy of Marc Lonergan-Hertel)

During his military career and post-military adventuring, he began to question what he valued most in life. He began to look for his true purpose. As his journey sharpened his self-awareness, he was soon transformed into a new person. He became a Protector – and wanted to be the best Protector he could be. His life took him to rescue hurricane victims, assess the environment in Antarctica while diving under the ice shelves, hike up the Amazon River Basin alone and encounter endangered tribes along the way — he even lost his best friend to pirates along the same river.

“I wrote my book because I realized how much our life journey sharpens our awareness of what really matters in life,” Lonergan-Hertel says. “Real life experiences transform us as human beings and gives us an understanding of risk and sacrifice.”

He even has a line of survival gear, that includes a heat reflective thermal field blanket sleep system, called First Line Survival. Lonergan-Hertel calls it “base camp in a bag” and all the proceeds from First Line Survival benefit his Protectors tour.

But the longtime adventurer is more than just an author. He’s crossing the country with fellow Protectors to tell their stories in stage presentations, meant for school-age children but meaningful to parents as well. He wants children to grow up with the confidence to realize their abilities and potential, to see a personal path toward a positive future, and realize they have the power to do this within themselves at all times.

“I understand very clearly that the gift of life can be away very quickly,” Lonergan-Hertel says. “The best thing I can leave behind is to inspire others to have confidence in themselves and to help others who have a more difficult journey in life.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

The COVID-19 effect: Navy ships

When the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) returned to sea in late-May following a two-month long battle against the novel coronavirus, the aircraft carrier was ground zero for a new normal for Navy ships at sea.

In the early months of the global pandemic, the Roosevelt had become itself a COVID-19 “hotspot.” The virus ultimately cost one Roosevelt crewmember his life and infected 1,150 sailors. As the ship resumed its mission with a scaled-back crew, facemasks, frequent handwashing, enhanced cleaning measures, reduced mess deck seating, one-way corridors and other protocols to mitigate COVID-19 had become the norm within the fleet.


“We can protect our force, we can deploy our Navy, and we will do both,” Vice Adm. Phillip Sawyer, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans and Strategy, told reporters on an April 15 call. “Face-coverings, hand-washing, ship-disinfecting are now part of our daily routine throughout the Navy.”

Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, argues the pandemic has served as a wake-up call for the Navy.

“The Navy trains for all sorts of contingencies but if operating during a global pandemic was one, it was so far down the list as to be irrelevant,” Rubin said. “Politicians thought we were past this age and flag officers and civilian planners were no different.”

How to support the military community without leaving home

Navy Seaman Kyle Pavek stands lookout watch aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during a replenishment-at-sea with the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197). Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Julian Davis.

Less than a month after the first sailor aboard the Roosevelt tested positive for the coronavirus, the Navy issued updated guidance aimed at maintaining ongoing fleet operations and defeating “this unseen enemy.” The Navy’s “Pre-Deployment Guidance” and a “COVID-19 Recovery Framework” outline shipboard changes that will be experienced by sailors:

Pre-deployment:

  • Mandatory medical screenings for existing medical conditions that place personnel at higher risk for COVID-19 complications.
  • Daily personal screening questionnaires and temperature checks.
  • Testing and isolation of anyone with flu-like symptoms.
  • 14-to-21-day restriction of movement (ROM) period for potentially asymptomatic people to present symptoms.
  • 14-day ROM period before external crew, ship riders (contractors, technical representatives) and direct support personnel can embark during an underway.

Deployment:

  • Enforcement of personal hygiene practices and, whenever possible, physical distancing.
  • Ongoing screening for potential COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Maximum personal protective equipment (PPE) use.
  • Separate and segregate cleaning teams from critical watchstanders.
  • Restrict visitors.
  • Minimize contact with delivery personnel.

Additional guidance outlines specific steps to be taken to clean a ship or facility following a COVID-19 outbreak, using three categories of requirements depending on the degree to which the space is operationally significant and the level of access required.

“These measures allow fleet leadership the ability to monitor the health of the force in a controlled and secure environment so they are ready to accomplish assigned missions and support to the goal of preventing the spread of the COVID virus to U.S. forces, allies, partners and the community. These frameworks cover testing for personnel as well,” Cmdr. Patrick L. Evans, Public Affairs Officer for Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in an email response. He noted commanders have the authority to issue more specific guidance to units within their areas of responsibility.

“In addition, our ships are enforcing social distancing, minimizing group gatherings, wearing PPE and cleaning extensively,” he added. “Quarterdeck watchstanders are screening anyone who walks on board and referring sailors with symptoms to medical evaluation.”

How to support the military community without leaving home

Navy Quartermaster 3rd Class Patrick Souvannaleut, left, and Quartermaster 3rd Class Elizabeth Weil, right, stand spotter lookout during a replenishment-at-sea as the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt approaches the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197). Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Wheeler.

Navy officials have acknowledged “day-to-day actions must assume COVID is present” because asymptomatic personnel are likely to be aboard all ships. That point was driven home in mid-May when 14 Roosevelt sailors who previously contracted the virus tested positive a second time after returning to the ship following a mandatory quarantine period and two negative COVID-19 tests.

Retired Navy Capt. Albert Shimkus, a registered nurse and certified nurse anesthetist who previously commanded the hospital ship USNS Comfort, maintains sailors must take individual responsibility for following COVID-19 prevention protocols and “recognizing you could potentially be a carrier that could affect and infect your shipmates.”

As the Navy adjusts to the operational realities the pandemic presents, Shimkus, whose views are his own and do not represent the U.S. Naval War College, U.S. Navy or Department of Defense, stresses the Navy’s core values must ring true.

“Given the nature of what this crisis is ‘Honor, Courage and Commitment’ speak volumes about how we will treat ourselves and each other and about doing the ethically and morally correct thing,” said Shimkus, Associate Professor, National Security Affairs, Naval War College. “That’s all related to a command environment that is healthy and a command environment that is willing to do what’s right for the members of their command.”

Shimkus is confident Navy leaders at sea and ashore will rise to the challenge.

“Good leadership in the context of this crisis is being transparent to their crew and members of their organizations,” he explained. “Telling the truth and being able to be understood by your crew, opening up questions and answering them to the best of your ability is part of good leadership and commitment to doing the right thing.”

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans will get access to Commissary, Exchange, and MWR services

The Commissary is about to get a lot busier on Saturdays. Starting in January 2020, veterans with service-connected disability ratings, Purple Heart recipients, and former POWs will be able to access Exchange and Commissary services both in-person and online. Designated caregivers of eligible vets will have access too. The benefit goes into effect for all Exchange services, including NEX, AAFES, CGX, and MCX. But that’s not all.

Veterans will get access to on-base Morale, Welfare, and Recreation services too.


How to support the military community without leaving home

This could be you.

(MWR Life)

To get access to the AAFES Exchanges, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Exchanges, Commissary, and MWR facilities, including the American Forces Travel site, all you need is a Veterans Health Identification Card, the one issued to you by the VA when you enroll in VA Healthcare. This will give you access to on-base facilities. For veterans who aren’t enrolled in the VA system, they will not be able to access U.S. military installations, but will still have access to the Exchange websites.

What’s especially great about the new rules is expanding access to veteran caregivers. Designated primary caregivers for eligible veterans will be able to get on base to these facilities without their veteran being present as long as they have the eligibility letter they will receive from the VA’s Office of Community Care.

These are just the new recipients of these benefits. Medal of Honor recipients and 100 percent service-connected disabled veterans have always had access to Exchange and Commissary services, and they still will.

How to support the military community without leaving home

.00 haircuts for everyone!

The move comes from the passage of the Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act of 2018 that funds the improvement of physical access control on military installations to give expanded access to these facilities to disabled veterans and their caretakers. It’s a smart move for the Exchange services and the Defense Commissary Agency, both of which have struggled to expand their customer base over the past decade. After the success of allowing vets to use online Exchange services in 2017, the new bill expanded access to physical locations as well.

With the MWR facilities included in the new benefit, this means veterans and caretakers will also have access to RV campgrounds, recreational lodging, bowling alleys, movie theaters, and more.

Anthony’s Pizza, here we come.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The best holiday gifts for military service members

This holiday season is looking a little different than all the others, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to make it just as special. In fact, we might want to make even more special because of the circumstances. But don’t worry — this year we won’t leave you to think about what to get yourself all on your own. We have the perfect gifts for service members so that everyone in your spend-every-waking-minute-together-since-March family has something they will totally love under the tree or for Hannukah. 

Gifts for service members

5.11 Tactical

How to support the military community without leaving home

5.11 Tactical is a tactical clothing brand that offers clothing, footwear and accessories for those with the military and law enforcement mindset. This Pathfinder Watch is perfect for your military guy while the Ammo Queen t-shirt will quickly become your military girl’s favorite tee. 

Rheos sunglasses

How to support the military community without leaving home

Who doesn’t love a pair of sunglasses for the holidays? These floating sunglasses from Rheos are perfect for a military guy or girl. They are scratch-proof, smudge-proof and won’t get lost in the pool during their liberty weekends. They have a variety of styles and colors for everyone. 

Strong Women Supply

How to support the military community without leaving home

Created by a Marine Corps veteran, Strong Women Supply was started with a simple idea of adding a Ruth Bader Ginsburg quote to a back of a olive drab t-shirt to be worn by female veterans under their uniform. Now Strong Women Supply offers a variety of products including t-shirts, water bottles and mugs.

Gerber

How to support the military community without leaving home

You can’t go wrong with a new knife or multi-tool for your service member, and Gerber Gear makes the highest quality ones for military, first responders, and law enforcement. This multi-plier tool is a perfect addition to their pack for field exercises. 

Light therapy lamp

How to support the military community without leaving home

Is your service member coming back from deployment, or do they work in a bunker or on a submarine? A light therapy lamp is a great tool to help regulate sleep patterns or get the necessary daylight needed to help with sleep and mood. 

Allegiance Flag Supply

How to support the military community without leaving home

Nothing says “America” more than an American flag. But these aren’t any old American flags. The flags by Allegiance Flag Supply won’t get worn out or wrapped around your flag pole with every gust of wind. Each flag is hand-sewn with the highest quality fabrics to ensure that America is displayed proudly. 

Portable massager

How to support the military community without leaving home

After a long training session in the field, a hard day of PT, or a ruck hike with their platoon, your service member needs to take the time to recover their muscles. A portable percussion massager like this one is a great gift this holiday season. 

Chuck Box Camp Kitchen

Your service member goes out in the field for days at a time, but their love for the great outdoors remains. This Chuck Box Camp Kitchen is a great addition for family camping trips, days spent by the lake or for your RV. 

Nomader

How to support the military community without leaving home

No matter if they are in the field, out for a run or you are getting ready to PCS- space is sacred when it comes to military life. The Nomader Collapsible water bottle is perfect for when you need it, and even easier to store when you don’t.

Nine Line Apparel

How to support the military community without leaving home

A nine-line is a medevac for an injured service member, and Nine Line Apparel is the place to go for all military-inspired clothing and accessories. Super patriotic doesn’t even cut it as a description of their stylings for men, women, and even kids. 

Grunt Style

How to support the military community without leaving home

Looking for some new PT gear for your service member? Grunt Style has some of the coolest and most comfortable lines of fitness wear (and other clothing and accessories). How can you go wrong with American flag Ranger panties for the holidays?

Customized pilot image from The Eclectic Boutique

How to support the military community without leaving home

Is your service member a pilot? Take their favorite image with their aircraft and have it made into a cool silhouette by military-spouse owned shop, The Eclectic Boutique. 

Black Rifle Coffee 

How to support the military community without leaving home

Veteran-owned Black Rifle Coffee is a great gift for your service member this year. You can get them a bag of their favorite roast to send to them while they are forward deployed, or get a monthly subscription box for them to enjoy while they are home. 

BRAVO SIERRA

How to support the military community without leaving home

Daily shaving. Hard days of PT. Weeks-long exercises with no showers. BRAVO SIERRA is a veteran-owned business that makes hygiene products that work with a service member’s needs in mind. Each product is tested by a member of the U.S. military so you know they work. 

The Jewelry Republic

How to support the military community without leaving home

If you are looking for a unique jewelry gift for your service member, look no further than The Jewelry Republic. They have cufflinks and customizable rings for men, and branch-specific bracelets like these for women. It is a great option for an end-of-service holiday gift.

Looking for more holiday gift ideas? Download our 2020 Holiday Gift Guide now!

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the ‘deadliest recruit’ ever to pass through Parris Island

On Thursday, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island issued a press release identifying Marine Recruit Austin Farrell as the deadliest recruit ever to pass through the Corps’ infamously difficult rifle qualification course. Farrell grew up building and shooting rifles with his father, and when it came time to qualify on his M16A4 service rifle, the young recruit managed a near-perfect score of 248 out of a maximum possible 250 points on Table One.

“I grew up with a rifle in my hand; from the time I was six I was shooting and building firearms with my dad, he was the one that introduced me to shooting, and when I got to Parris Island, what he taught me was the reason I shot like I did,” said Farrell.

The Marine Corps is renown for its approach to training each and every Marine to serve as a rifleman prior to going on to attend follow-on schools for one’s intended occupational specialty. As a result, Table One of the Marine Corps’ Rifle Qualification Course is widely recognized as the most difficult basic rifle course anywhere in the America’s Armed Forces.

All Marines, regardless of ultimate occupation, must master engaging targets from the standing, kneeling, and prone positions at ranges extending as far as 500 yards. In recent years, the Corps has shifted to utilizing RCOs, or Rifle Combat Optics, which aid in accuracy, but still require a firm grasp of marksmanship fundamentals in order to pass.

While no other military branch expects all of its members to be deadly at such long distances, for Farrell, 500 yards wasn’t all that far at all. While new to the Corps, this young shooter is no stranger to long-distance shooting.

“I would go out to a family friend’s range five days a week and practice shooting from distances of up to a mile, it’s a great pastime and teaches you lessons that stay with you past the range.”
How to support the military community without leaving home

Recruit Austin Ferrell with Kilo Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion fires his M16A4 Service Rifle during the Table One course of fire on Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island S.C. July 30, 2020. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shane Manson)

As all recruits come to learn, being a good shooter isn’t just about nailing the physical aspects of stabilizing yourself, acquiring good sight picture, and practicing trigger control along with your breathing. Being a good shooter is as much a mental activity as it is a physical one. As Farrell points out, being accurate at a distance is about getting your head in the right the place. Of course, getting relaxed and staying relaxed is one thing… doing it during Recruit Training is another.

“Practice before I got here was definitely a big part of it, but getting into a relaxed state of mind is what helped me shoot… after I shot a 248 everyone was congratulating me, but when I got back to the squad bay my drill instructors gave me a hard time for dropping those two points,” Farell laughed.
How to support the military community without leaving home

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shane Manson)

The young recruit is expected to graduate from Recruit Training on September 4, 2020 and while it’s safe to say most parents are proud to see their sons and daughters earn the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, Farrell’s father George is already celebrating his son’s success.

“I’m so proud of him, no matter what I’m proud of him but this is above what I expected,” said George. “I always told him to strive to be number one, and the fact that he was able to accomplish that is just a testament to his hard work.”

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Vietnam veteran Dr. Robert Primeaux, Lakota Warrior

Native American Vietnam veteran Robert Primeaux shared his journey from a Lakota reservation to the Army and even to Hollywood.

As a young man, Primeaux was eager to get off the reservation and see the world. To leave, he decided to join the Army. He trained in Fort Lewis and Fort Knox before joining the 101st Airborne Division and sent off to Vietnam.

In 1972, Primeaux returned to the United States. His younger brother had been killed in a car accident, leaving Primeaux as the sole male survivor of his family.


However, he did not stay in the Army long. A car accident of his own put him in a coma for three weeks. After he recovered, he was discharged.

Primeaux then lived on his grandmother’s ranch while he recovered from his injuries. To help with his recovery, he began to self-rehab by working with the horses on the ranch. His love for horses gave him the opportunity to go to school through a rodeo scholarship from the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA).

Between school and living on his family ranch, Primeaux met Michael Apted on the set of Thunderheart in South Dakota. Through this meeting, he landed a stunt role on Thunderheart and become eligible for access to the Union of the Screen Actors Guild.

Later, Primeaux moved to LA to begin his film career where he landed roles in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and a more prominent role in Rough Riders. This role as Indian Bob was special to Primeaux because the director John Milius specifically created it with him in mind.

Recently, Primeaux has worked as an advocate for fallen service-members.

Throughout his life, through thick and thin, Primeaux credited the Four Cardinal Lakota Virtues for helping him recover from the Vietnam War and his car accident. He listed the Lakota Virtues as:

  1. Bravery. “Individual valor meant more than group bravery, and the warrior who most fearlessly risked his life earned the admiration of all the people and received the most cherished honors.”
  2. Generosity. “If you have more than one of anything, you should give it away to help those persons.”
  3. Fortitude. “All had to be borne without visible signs of distress.
  4. Wisdom. “A man who displays wisdom, displays superior judgment in matters of war, the hunt, of human and group relationships, of band and Tribal policy, and of harmonious interaction with the natural and spiritual world.”

From childhood, Lakota Warriors were taught these four virtues. Primeaux stated that warriors who were taught the true meaning of these virtues learn to treat their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

The US military has a host of awards and medals for its service members.

Some awards, like the Medal of Honor and the Silver and Bronze Star awards, are given to service members who display bravery in combat.

Others are given for serving in specific operations or even missions — these are known as campaign awards.

Depending on the medals a service member or veteran wears, it’s typically possible to determine which wars or regions of the world they have served in.

Scroll through to see campaign awards for operations and missions since the Korean War.


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The National Defense Service Medal is automatically awarded to anyone who signs up to serve during wartime.

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The medal awarded for support of Operation Inherent Resolve was authorized for service starting in 2014.

(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lyle Wilkie)

The ISIS fight

Service members who have supported Operation Inherent Resolve, the US mission in Syria to combat the Islamic State, are now eligible for a medal.

The medal was approved in 2016 — prior to that, service members who supported OIR were awarded the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary (GWOT-E) medal.

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Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Global war on terror

There are two different campaign awards for service in the US’s war against terror.

The GWOT Service medal is awarded to service members who serve in either a direct or indirect role in support of operations during the global war on terror, including personnel stateside who process paperwork for deployed troops.

The GWOT Expeditionary Medal, seen on the left, is more specific — service members must deploy for service in an anti-terrorism operation. Ground troops deployed to Somalia for over 30 days, for example, would qualify for this medal.

A service member who qualifies for the GWOT-E typically also qualifies for the service medal.

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The Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terror Expeditionary medal are not authorized for the same period or action.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

Afghanistan

The Afghanistan Campaign award is given to service members who complete at least 30 days in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

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The Iraq Campaign Medal.

(Army Institute of Heraldry)

Iraq

The Iraq Campaign Medal is awarded to service members who deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

For both the Afghanistan and Iraq campaign awards, service members are only eligible for one of each, regardless of how many times they deployed to the country.

Stars may be worn on the ribbons as indicators of participation in specific, designated missions during the operation.

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The Antarctica Service Medal and ribbon are awarded to people who spend at least 30 consecutive days in the Antarctic or fly 15 missions into or out of the continent.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

Antarctica

The Coast Guard and Navy have Arctic equivalents, which differ slightly but both reverse the color scheme of the Antarctic ribbon and medal, with black or dark blue in the center and white on the outer edges.

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The Kosovo campaign medal was awarded to service members who served during the Kosovo Defense Campaign, which began in 1999.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. John Valceanu)

Kosovo

The NATO bombing campaign led to the retreat of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo. A peace-keeping force remains there to this day.

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The Kuwaiti Liberation Medal, government of Kuwait.

Liberation of Kuwait

Depending on their specific mission and location, service members who participated in the liberation of Kuwait may have qualified for awards presented by the governments of Saudi Arabia or Kuwait.

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The Kuwaiti Liberation Medal, government of Kuwait.

Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm

The government of Kuwait authorized US personnel to wear this award if they served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the early 1990s.

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Southwest Asia Service Medal.

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An arrangement of medals made during a military ceremony honoring Vietnam veterans.

(Photo by Jonathan Steffen)

Vietnam service

The Vietnam service ribbon has a yellow background with three red lines in the center and a green line on each side.

The award was given to service members who served in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, or air or water space in that region between 1965 and 1973.

Other medals depicted here are the Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal, and Purple Heart.

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Republic of Vietnam Campaign medal.

South Vietnam

This medal was awarded to service members who provided direct combat support to South Vietnam’s Armed Forces during the war.

Criteria included those who served for six months or more in South Vietnam or who were injured, captured, or killed in the line of duty.

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The Republic of Korea Korean War Service Medal.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

Korean war

The Republic of Korea Korean War Service Medal was authorized in 1999 to honor the sacrifices of Korean War veterans.

This award specifically designates veterans who served in the country of Korea during the war.

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The Korean Defense Service Medal is awarded to any US service member who has served in the Republic of Korea after July 1954.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

South Korea

Recognizing that the Korean War never ended, the Defense Department authorized the Korean Defense Service Medal for service members who deployed to or served in the Republic of Korea after July 1954.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 photos vets wish they took while still serving

Veterans seldom live a life of regrets. We live well and we’ve made Uncle Sam proud. One of the few things that makes us wish we could do things differently, however, is a lack of photos from while we were still in.

This can happen for a variety of reasons. Maybe operations security prevented us from taking that awesome photo to use as our profile pic on Facebook. Or maybe we just didn’t have a camera handy to show our family exactly how we lived. Maybe we just didn’t like taking photos, but now we want the proof to back up our humble-brags.

Whatever the reason, those of us who are out still hold dear the handful of photos we took. If you’re still in, don’t make the same mistakes. Snap a few photos of these moments — if permitted, of course.


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It’d be in poor form to laugh at a photo of some random troop during their most cringe-worthy “tacticool” moment… So, instead, I’ll upload my own for the world to mock. Enjoy a picture of my first day in-country.
(Photo of yours truly)

 

The boot AF photo

You don’t want to be pinned as the most boot guy in the unit because you borrowed two of your buddies’ M240-Bs just to take a picture of you rocking one in each arm. Everyone in the unit will call you a dumb*ss boot, but that same photo’s going to turn a lot of heads from civilians who don’t know any better.

The more outrageous the better. Who knows? Maybe the photo will help back up your “no sh*t, there I was” story that is 100%, totally not embellished.

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Back in the day, this was comfy!
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Heidi Agostini)

 

Relaxing in the living conditions photo

Those who haven’t served will never really understand what you mean when you say that, for a while there, the only pillow you had to rest your head on at night was a pile of rocks under the Humvee. Nor can they really grasp that the only place you could handle your business was in porta-john/sauna for the duration of your deployment.

These photos will definitely come in handy when you’re trying to shoot down your civilian coworker that brags about how “hard” it was when they went camping for the weekend.

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If your chain of command has an issue with it, just be sneaky.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)

 

On-mission photos

Depending on your unit, taking photos while you’re outside the wire is either a slap on the wrist or a UCMJ-worthy offense. If you’re smart about it, however, you can still manage to grab a photo of you doing what you tell everyone you did.

Because you run the risk of getting NJPed over a single photo, it’s not recommended that you take it when you’re in the heat of things. That’s stupid — get back to the fight. But a quick photo of you while you’re patrolling through a bazaar shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

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Especially when it you can point out the accompanying challenge coin that goes with the event.
(Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jason A. Boyd)

 

Ceremonial photos

You don’t need a photo of that random award ceremony where you almost passed out because you forgot that locking your knees was a bad thing, but you might want to look back on a photo of you being promoted or receiving an award. Those are proud moments you can hang on your wall years.

Even if it’s a minor award or your promotion from E-1 private to E-2 private, it’s worth remembering.

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“That little ol’ sticks and stones? It means I wasn’t a POG.”
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Paris Maxey)

 

Dress uniform photos

You can tell a lot about a troop’s career just by looking at their ribbon rack. If you know what each ribbon means or how they’re typically earned, you know everything about that person. There’s no better way to showcase your entire military career in one moment than the final moment you don your dress uniform.

The ribbons and medals themselves might not mean a whole lot, but the stories behind them do.

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If you look extra careful, you can see me in the right-of-center.
(U.S. Army photo)

 

Group photos

No one wants to get the squad together and take an obviously staged photo, but that picture will end up being, by far, the most valuable.

The sad reality is that some day, not everyone in the unit will be around to share stories. Having that one photo of you all together, happy, will mean the world to you later on.

If you’re still in and you’ve taken a few of these or if you’re out and you have a couple good ones, tell us! We’d love to see them.

MIGHTY CULTURE

More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It’s Because Navy Culture Is Changing

The Navy is moving away from the “suck it up, buttercup”-style culture of the past to appeal to the millennial generation and beyond — and new retention numbers indicate the approach is likely working.

The service blasted past its 2019 retention goals for enlisted sailors in their first 10 years in uniform. It held onto nearly 65% of Zone A sailors, or those with less than six years in. And 72% of Zone B sailors — those with six to 10 years in — re-upped.


The Navy set out to keep at least 55% of sailors in Zone A and 65% of those in Zone B. When combined with Zone C sailors, those who’ve been in the service for 10 to 14 years, the 2019 reenlistment rate was 74% across the three zones.

Fleet Master Chief Wes Koshoffer, with Navy Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education, told reporters the high re-up rates are a result of an ongoing culture shift in the Navy. Leaders are listening to rank-and-file sailors, he said, and the Navy is focused on developing policies based on what’s easier for the individual and their family.

“When I was a very, very young sailor in the Navy, facing a particularly challenging … family situation, the moniker was, ‘Family didn’t come in your seabag, shipmate. We need you,'” Koshoffer said. “That is no longer our mantra.”

The entire military faces recruiting and retention challenges when it’s up against a booming economy. People have job options outside the service, Koshoffer said. Being an appealing career choice for today’s generation of sailors is crucial as the Navy builds its force back up to 340,500 personnel as it faces more sophisticated threats.

That’s up from a 2012 end-strength low of 318,000 enlisted sailors and naval officers.

“We’re going to need a bigger Navy,” the fleet master chief said. “[We have] a different national strategy, a different military and Navy strategy. … In order to really grow at the pace we want to grow, you have to have these high retention numbers.”

Yeoman 2nd Class Thomas Mahoney and Personnel Specialist 1st Class Holly Tucker say they’ve seen Navy culture change during their time in the service. Mahoney, 26, will soon reenlist for the second time. Tucker, 25, re-upped last year.

Mahoney was on an aircraft carrier when two destroyers in the Pacific suffered separate fatal collisions. When lack of sleep was found to have contributed to the accidents, Mahoney said leaders in 7th Fleet reacted immediately.

More rotational watch schedules were added, and other steps were taken to ensure people were getting good sleep while deployed, he said.

That’s a big shift, Koshoffer said. “Our attitude toward sleep [used to be], ‘You’ll sleep when you’re dead,'” he said. “We’ve changed that.”

Tucker cited the military’s 12-week maternity leave policy as contributing to her decision to stay in the Navy. The service’s maternity leave policy briefly tripled from six weeks to 18 under former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. In 2016, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced all the services would receive 12 weeks.

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“I think that’s a great incentive for women specifically,” Tucker said, adding that she values her leadership’s support and understanding on family matters.

The millennial generation is also focused on career progression and flexibility, the Navy found. Koshoffer said leaders are shifting the service’s culture to show sailors they’re listening and responding to what they’re looking for in a Navy career.

After years of complaints about the Navy’s career detailing program being too secretive, for example, the service unveiled a new online database called My Navy Assignment. The tool is meant to give sailors more information about requirements they’ll need for their jobs of choice so they can build up their skills well before their detailing window hits.

So far, about 11,000 sailors have used the tool to bookmark 27,000 jobs.

“The reason why we show every job available to the sailors was sailor demand for transparency,” Koshoffer said. “… We heard you, we listened, we made the change.”

Change is what the Navy must do in order to compete for top talent, the fleet master chief added. The service still relies on reenlistment bonuses to entice those in hard-to-fill jobs to stay in uniform. Tucker, for example, was eligible for an extra ,000 when she reenlisted.

But the Navy must also embrace telework, flex hours and job-sharing options, Koshoffer said.

“The nature of work is changing,” he said. “… That would be heresy in some circles that in the Navy, we would allow somebody to telework. Are you kidding me?

“But we recognize that we’ve got to adapt to a modern lifestyle and world out there.”

— Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Team Rubicon recruits medical volunteers to serve Navajo Nation

Team Rubicon, the disaster response organization known for mobilizing Veterans in response to tornadoes, hurricanes and other disasters, has once again begun deploying its Veteran volunteers to the Navajo Nation to provide medical relief and assistance.

It’s the second time this year that the Tribe and Team Rubicon have worked together. Over 91 days, beginning in April, Team Rubicon placed 128 volunteers – including 47 Veterans – within the Navajo Nation, where they helped treat more than 3,000 patients.

woman volunteer
One of many Team Rubicon volunteers helping with disaster recovery.

With hospitals and medical centers across the U.S. beginning to stagger under a growing wave of coronavirus infections, the remote Navajo Nation is being especially hard hit. To help meet the needs, Team Rubicon is deploying former military medics, physicians, nurses and more to the Navajo Nation to serve alongside Indian Health Services medical teams in hospitals and clinics, and to help staff ambulances.

That it is primarily military Veterans who are volunteering at the Nation is perhaps appropriate as the Navajo tribe has a legacy of military service: In addition to the famed Navajo codebreakers of World War II, the Nation boasts approximately 12,000 Veterans among its ranks.

With no end to the pandemic in sight, and relief operations from the most active disaster season ever ongoing, Team Rubicon is actively recruiting medically trained volunteers – including VA clinicians and former military medics – to join it in helping serve Veterans and civilians across the U.S. In the future, Team Rubicon’s medical volunteers will also be needed for international operations, such as on Team Rubicon’s 2014 mission treating refugees in Greece, and its 2019 mission to the Dondo District in Mozambique where it provided medical support to residents impacted by Cyclone Idai.

What is Team Rubicon?
Team Rubicon is a Veteran-led disaster relief organization that serves communities by mobilizing Veterans, first responders, and civilians to help people prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters and humanitarian crises.

How Medical Providers Can Volunteer with Team Rubicon
From disaster medicine to pandemic relief, Team Rubicon deploys EMTs, nurses, paramedics, physicians and more to serve people in need in the U.S. and around the world. Visit www.teamrubiconusa.org and sign up to put your medic skills to work for good.

How Veterans Can Volunteer with Team Rubicon
Want to put your experience in the military to new use? Team Rubicon helps Veterans of all stripes find new ways to serve. To volunteer, visit www.teamrubiconusa.org/volunteer.

The sharing of any non-VA information does not constitute an endorsement of products and services on part of the VA.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

What 24 hours is really like for recruits at US Marine Corps boot camp

Marine Corps boot camp is legendary. But is it anything like the movies show?

The commercials make it look like constant action, with obstacle courses, gladiator style fighting, jumping off high dives, and crawling through the dirt commanding most of the airtime.

In reality, these things are sandwiched between hours and days of monotony and boredom.

I spent the summer of 2012 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, and here is a sample day that a recruit might experience in the first phase of training.


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A recruit writes in the log book as he stands watch at night.

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Caitlin Brink)

0330: Officially, 0400, pronounced as “zero four,” or “oh four hundred,” is the time to wake up and get out of bed. Unofficially, you’re up 30 minutes before that.

The drill instructor woke you up by barking commands at the firewatch. The firewatch, which you will also stand every few days, is the interior guard. They are members of the platoon who are awake for one or two hours at a time throughout the night. The first and last shift aren’t so bad, but the 0000 to 0200 shift is brutal. The drill instructor is yelling at them, asking them why they messed up the log book, making them give the report until they get it right, or just making them run around the squad bay, looking for things that are amiss. You take this time to use the bathroom, as there won’t be time later. There are around 50 recruits to six toilets, so it’s best to go when you have time. Officially, you will have time to go after the lights come on, but it’s best to go now. It’s also best to brush your teeth before the lights come on.

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A drill instructor storms through the squad bay as recruits stand “on line.”

(U.S. Sgt. Jennifer Schubert/US Marine Corps)

0400: Lights, lights, lights! That’s what firewatch yells as they throw the switches, turning on all the lights.

There’s no time for stretches or yawns, you get up and stand on line and stick your hand out. You better be ready, because the count starts immediately. Every time your platoon goes anywhere, you are counted. They have to make sure nobody took off in the middle of the night, even if firewatch is there to make sure this doesn’t happen. The recruits are standing “on line,” meaning standing in front of their beds, called “racks,” at attention, awaiting instruction. You will spend a lot of time here on line, so get used to it. The drill instructor runs down the line of recruits, around 25 on the left, and then back down the right, 25 there too. You have to yell your number and snap your arm back down at lightning speed. If somebody messes up, you start over. This counting process takes forever in the first few weeks, as recruits mess up by shouting the wrong number, pausing too long, or skipping over somebody. You do this counting process until you get it right.

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Recruits race to put on their uniforms.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dana Beesley)

0401: After 30 seconds to get 50 recruits in and out of the bathroom, now called the head, it’s time to get dressed.

However long it takes you to get dressed in the morning, it takes longer now. You are about to get dressed “by the numbers.” This process was the single most frustrating part of boot camp for me, since it was so tedious and you would inevitably end up with a sock inside out all day. This process looks like this: the drill instructor names a piece of clothing, say trousers, and all the recruits get that item and bring it on line. The uniform items, or cammies, are hung on the back of the racks overnight, meaning you have to run to the back, get it, and make it back on line, arm outstretched, before the drill instructor gets to zero. If somebody doesn’t make it, you put it back.

You finally get your trousers on, but somebody didn’t get them buttoned by zero, so you take them off and put them back. Once you get your trousers on, it’s time for the blouse. Then it’s time for the boots. You can get to the last item of clothing, say your left boot, and have to start all over. This process takes as long as the drill instructor needs it to. If there is a gap in the schedule, it takes forever. The countdown goes as fast or as slow as they want. You can sometimes tell when the games have gone on too long, as they start counting down slightly slower. But in the beginning, you will finish with a few buttons undone, your boots untied, and you’ll be rushed onto the next task. You are expected to fix it on the fly. Not surprisingly, tying your boots while trying to run down the stairs is not easy.

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Recruits “scuzz” the floor of their barracks.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink)

0415: Time to clean house.

With around 50 recruits constantly running in and out of the squadbay, dirt is always present. You will spend many hours “scuzzing” the deck, meaning sweeping the floor with a little hand held “scuzz brush.” This process works much like getting dressed, (“Scuzz brush on line, ready, move!”) but you have to run to the wall, squat down, and push the dirt to the middle of the squadbay. You are in boot camp though, so you have to do so at “parade rest” with your non-scuzz brush hand behind your back. And don’t even think about letting your knee hit the deck. You squat and duck walk your way to the middle. If you don’t get there in time, you do it again. Either before or after this, you make your bed, aka “rack.” In years past, recruits got wise and started sleeping on top of the sheets so as to leave the rack pristine. This was not allowed in the summer of 2012. You either slept under your sheets, or you would have to tear them up in the morning anyway. Making the bed can be as fast or as slow as getting dressed, depending on what’s happening that day. They can let you get it done fast and move on, or they can have you rip all the sheets off and bring them on line. It’s always a surprise.

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Recruits at Parris Island march in formation.

(U.S. Marine photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink)

0430: Somewhere during that time, you got your boots tied, and it’s time to get outside and “form up.”

Forming up is the process of getting outside and standing in formation, ready to move to the next place. For right now, it’s breakfast. All meals in boot camp are referred to as “chow.” This is morning chow. You are formed up in the correct order, rifles in hand, and you are ready to march to the chow hall.

This isn’t a leisurely walk though, this is a chance to practice drill. The drill instructors call the commands, and you execute. Depending on how early in the process of learning drill you are, you could be marching at a snail’s pace, your foot hitting the ground only when the drill instructor allows it. You eventually get to the chow hall, you stack your rifles outside, since they don’t go in, and get in line. You leave a couple of guards on the rifles, who will have a chance to eat when the first two in your platoon come out.

While waiting in line for the chow hall, you will study your knowledge. Knowledge is just the word that the Marines use to describe any of the things that will be on the tests. This can be history, land navigation, first aid, marksmanship, drill, uniforms, customs and courtesies, or rank structure. This is usually done at top volume, with the drill instructor shouting the question, and the recruits shouting the answer. For example, the answer to “Two Marines, two medals,” is “Dan Daly, Smedley Butler Ma’am!” at top volume. The question is looking for the two Marines who have been awarded the Medal of Honor twice. The answer will be shouted at top volume, or it will be shouted again.

Eventually you get inside, get your food, and sit down to eat. You eat as fast as possible without choking, since the drill instructor is yelling at you to get out. There is no time here for butter on toast. If you want butter on your toast, you stuff the toast in your mouth, then stuff a pat of butter in after it. You finish eating and go back outside to pick up your gear.

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Welcome to the sand pit.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Sarah Stegall)

0500: Your platoon got into the chow hall first, and now you are done. Your next activity doesn’t start until 0600, so it’s time for drill.

Your platoon marches back and forth on a concrete square, called a parade deck, learning how to turn, start and stop, or reverse direction as a unit. If anybody messes up, you start over.

If you are struggling more than they would like, you might be sent to the pit. There is a sand pit conveniently located right next to the parade deck, and you are about to go do exercises in it. You do pushups, sit-ups, mountain climbers, side straddle hops, or hold a plank while screaming at the top of your lungs. Usually you are screaming the number of reps completed. If you aren’t loud enough or you aren’t performing up to their expectations, you just stay in there until you do.

If there is more than one of you in there, it’s a group effort. This is one of the most effective ways to break a recruit down. Maybe I don’t care about getting yelled at or being seen as weak, but there might be five of us in the pit, and nobody gets to leave until I hold that plank for 60 seconds. After 8 or 9 solid minutes of planks, 60 seconds gets a lot longer. They force you to care, because now you’re letting the team down. (“Oh good, Ohlms wants to let her knees touch the deck. Start over.”) The funny thing is, they will say you cheated a move just to piss off your fellow recruits, and you can’t say anything about it. Eventually you get back to your unit, just in time to mess up the next drill move.

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Recruits attend classroom training.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jennifer Schubert)

0600: Time for class.

This should be a relaxing time. You go into a classroom, sit in the air conditioning, and learn about topics that the Marine Corps will test you on later. You may be a huge history buff, and this may be a history class, but it will not be fun. You drill over to the classroom and get inside as fast as possible, lining up by a desk. You don’t dare sit down, as you weren’t told to yet. Your rifles get stacked in racks at the back of the room, and you take off your day pack, holding it out parallel to the deck, arms straight out, both thumbs hooked under the carrying handle. You stand there until the drill instructors deem you worthy of sitting.

If you don’t get that day pack under the chair and your book on the desk fast enough, you pick them back up, arms parallel to the deck. All the while, a constant stream of yelling. You try again and maybe this time you make it. You sit when told to and you open your book. The teacher is another drill instructor, but the class isn’t so bad. He isn’t yelling at you, unless your eyes start to droop or your head starts to bob. Then you get put on a list. After about an hour, it’s time for a break. Those who were pointed out in class are rushed outside to the pit, while the rest of you are given a chance to go to the head and refill your canteens with water. Everywhere you go, you are screamed at. You are screamed at to fill your canteen faster, pee faster, wash your hands faster, get back in the classroom faster. You get back to the classroom to pick up your pack and hold it out again. As soon as everybody is back, some covered head to toe in sand, the next class starts.

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A drill instructor inspects a recruit’s weapon.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Anthony Leite)

0900: Class is over and there is an hour until afternoon chow. Time for more drill.

This time, the sun is beating down on you, adding to the experience. The sweat makes the sand stick so much better.

1000: Afternoon chow. The bugs have come out now, making standing outside the chow hall unbearable. You dare not swat at a bug crawling on your face, as you know that earns you a trip to the pit later. You just stand there screaming knowledge as the sweat drips into your eyes and the bugs crawl on your neck and face. Eventually you get inside, stuff down as much food as you can in 60 seconds, and get back outside.

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A recruit in the basic warrior stance during martial arts training.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brooke C Woods)

1100: Time for MCMAP, the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.

You move to this football field-size lot of chopped up rubber and slip a mouth guard in. You are about to do the Marine Corps version of karate. You partner up and practice punching, kicking, chokes, escaping from chokes, slamming your partner to the ground, and trying to enunciate with a mouth guard in. If the drill instructors feel like you aren’t going hard enough, they will make you do it again and again until you do. Your partner will thank you to do it right the first time.

1300: Time to go back to the house, but you’ll stop by the parade deck first to get in a little drill.

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A drill instructor inspects recruits.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Anthony Leite)

1500: You get back to the squad bay.

With your first inspection coming up, the drill instructor shows you exactly how everything is going to look in the squad bay. Everything has to match. Every recruit has a foot locker, a sea bag, and a rack, and they all must be marked and arranged in exactly the same way. If one person marks their foot locker in the wrong spot, the tape is ripped off of all of them and it is done again.

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Recruits line up for chow.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dana Beesley)

1700: Evening chow.

1800: Back to the squad bay. It’s time for all 50 recruits to take a shower.

1805: Done with showers. Get out.

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Recruits are responsible for cleaning their rifles.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Maximiliano Bavastro)

1806: Rifle cleaning time.

One piece at a time, and everybody cleans the same piece until they are all done. Also, somebody was slouching, so you are scrubbing with both arms fully extended up over your head.

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A recruit reads letters from his family.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Mackenzie Carter)

1900: You get one hour of “free time” before bed.

This is when they hand out letters, you have time to study for the upcoming history test, you can practice drill movements that you are having trouble with, or somebody might forget to announce a drill instructor as they enter the room and you spend most of your free time at attention waiting for forgiveness.

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Even sleeping involves discipline.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Vaniah Temple)

2000: Bedtime.

You lay at the position of attention in your rack until you are given permission to adjust. You will get used to falling asleep in the position of attention. Another day down, only seventy-something left.

Sweet dreams!

Sara Ohlms spent 13 weeks feeding the sand fleas of Parris Island in the summer of 2012. She then spent the next four years as a military working dog handler. She is now a freelance writer based in St. Louis, Missouri.

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

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