How to take care of your mental health this Christmas - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

Christmas is just around the corner — for many, a time of cheer.

But the holidays are also tough for many who know spending several days with their families brings chaos, judgment, and the reopening of old wounds — particularly now the political chasm between the generations seems wider than ever.

It’s always vital to look after your mental health, but Christmas get-togethers with family members you only see once a year and too much wine can bring about unpleasant moments that burn us out.


Niels Eék, a psychologist for the mental health platform Remente, told Insider there are some key coping mechanisms that can ease us through the holiday season with less stress and angst this year.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(Photo by Paola Chaaya)

“A lot of the time, stressful situations can make us feel helpless and trapped,” he said. “Always trying to think about possible solutions will not only keep you calm and rational, but will also help you solve the problem at hand.”

‘Sometimes people can say hurtful things without noticing’

Firstly, he said arguments usually arise from miscommunication or rash responses, which often aren’t intentional.

“If you want to avoid a row, it’s often beneficial to take a step back and try to understand all of the viewpoints involved,” he said. “Examining the bigger picture is key. What is everyone trying to achieve?”

For example, if tensions are running high around the Christmas preparations, write all the tasks down and delegate them by priority. Or if a relative has said something you think is hurtful, try and work out what they meant without reading between the lines. In other words, be diplomatic, Eék said.

“Sometimes people can say hurtful things without noticing,” he said. “Instead of adding fuel to the fire, put it out by answering with a diplomatic response, such as ‘thank you for your opinion, I’ll think about it’ or ‘what did you mean by that, could you explain a bit further?'”

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(Photo by Toa Heftiba)

Listening is always your friend when it comes to communicating with someone who has different beliefs to you. It’s better to attempt a base level of respect before firing shots that aren’t going to get you anywhere.

Of course, if you’re not being granted the same respect in return, you’re well within your rights to excuse yourself and no longer interact with that person.

“Even if forgiveness is impossible, take a deep breath and try to stay calm,” Eék said. “After all, you’re unlikely to see them again for a long time, and it might be worth it for the sake of everyone else’s Christmas to just smile and power through it.”

Don’t spread yourself too thin this year

As we get older, we realize there is no real obligation to spend time with people who have hurt you. Unfortunately, for some people, that includes their families.

But whatever your situation, the excitement around Christmas can mean spreading yourself too thin. That’s why Eék said it’s important to say “no” around this time of year. Trying to cram everything in means you can lose out on resting, which can make everything else more frustrating and exhausting.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(Photo by Drew Coffman)

It’s just as justified to make time for what’s important to you — whether that’s getting enough sleep, exercising, or reading a book — as it is to spend time with friends and family. So never apologize for taking some time to take care of yourself, and for making decisions about the events you actually want to attend.

“Knowing the motivations behind your decisions will help you figure out what you want to do this Christmas,” said Eék. “And who you want to spend your time with.”

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on

The U.S. has some of the best special operations units in the world, but they can’t do everything on their own. The American military relies on allied special operators from places like Britain, Iraq, and Israel to collect intelligence and kill enemy insurgents and soldiers. Here are 6 of those special operations commands.

A quick note on the photos: Many allied militaries are even more loathe to show the faces of their special operators than the U.S. The photos we’ve used here are, according to the photographers, of the discussed special operations forces, but we cannot independently verify that the individuals photographed are actually members of the respective clandestine force.


How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

A British Special Forces member from the 22nd Special Air Service at Hereford, England, uses binoculars to locate a target down range.

(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Rick Bloom)

1. SAS and SBS

These could obviously be two separate entries, but we’re combining them here because they’re both British units that often operate side-by-side with U.S. forces, just with different missions and pedigrees. The Special Air Service pulls from the British Army and focuses on counter-terrorism and reconnaissance. The Special Boat Service does maritime counter-terrorism and amphibious warfare (but will absolutely stack bodies on land, too).

Both forces have deployed with U.S. operators around the world, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan where they were part of secretive task forces that hunted top Taliban members, ISIS, and Iraqi insurgents.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

The Sayeret Matkal does all sorts of hush-hush missions for Israel, everything from intelligence gathering to direct action to hostage rescue.

(Israel Defense Forces)

2. Sayeret Matkal

Israel’s Sayeret Matkal has generated rumors and conjecture for decades, and it’s easy to see why when you look at their few public successes. They rescued 103 Jewish hostages under gunpoint in Uganda after a plane hijacking. They hunted down the killers who attacked Israel’s 1972 Munich Olympic team, killing 11 coaches and athletes. The commandos in the unit are skilled in deception, direct action, and intelligence gathering.

The U.S. is closely allied with Israel and Sayeret Matkal is extremely good at gathering intelligence, which is often shared with the U.S. One of their most public recent successes came when they led a daring mission to install listening devices in ISIS buildings, learning of a plan to hide bombs in the battery wells of laptops.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

French Army special operations troops conduct a simulated hostage rescue during a 2018 demonstration.

(Domenjod, CC BY-SA 4.0)

3. French Special Operations Command

French special operations units are even more close-mouthed than the overall specops community, but they have an army unit dedicated to intelligence gathering and anti-terrorism, a navy unit filled with assault forces and underwater demolitions experts, and an air force unit specializing in calling in air strikes and rescuing isolated personnel behind enemy lines.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis has said that France deployed its special operators to Syria in April where they helped defeat ISIS.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

A German Special Forces soldier lines his sites on a target 500 meters away, and awaits direction from an International Special Training Centre instructor to engage the target in 2006.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gina Vaile-Nelson)

4. Kommando Spezialkräfte

Germany’s Kommando Spezialkrafte is a unit of elite commandos split into four companies with five platoons each, and each platoon specializes in a specific mission types, from airborne operations to sniper to polar. A support company provides medical, maintenance, and logistics support.

The commandos have reportedly deployed to Syria in recent years to fight ISIS. And while Germany is fairly tight-lipped about the unit, they have confirmed that the unit was deployed to Iraq for a few years in the early 2000s. On these missions, they help U.S.-led coalitions achieve success.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) operators demonstrate forward repelling during the 2nd School graduation in Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 1, 2018. The ceremony included a ribbon cutting for the repelling tower, which will be used by future 2nd school classes.

(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

5. Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service

The Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service was created by the U.S. and, oddly, does not fall within the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, making this one of the few special operations units that isn’t part of the traditional military. It has three special operations forces brigades and, in recent years, has largely focused on eliminating ISIS-controlled territory and the surviving forces.

The operators have also fought against other groups like Al Qaeda-Iraq. The unit was originally formed in 2003, meaning it has only existed while Iraq was at war with insurgents, so the force has operated almost exclusively within Iraq’s borders. It earned high marks in 2014 when its troops maintained good order and fought effectively against ISIS while many of the security forces were falling apart.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

An Afghan National Army Special Operations Commando instructor assesses Commando recruits in training as they perform security duties during a training exercise in Camp Commando, Kabul, Afghanistan, May 6, 2018.

(U.S. Army Master Sgt. Felix Figueroa)

6. Afghan National Army Commando Corps

Afghanistan’s National Army Commando Corps is one of the great bright spots in its growing military. While it’s had growing pains and the Taliban has infiltrated it at some times, it has a reputation for professionalism and skill and has led the way on top-level operations. It’s even capable of the rapid nighttime raids that U.S. forces became famous for when they were in the lead in that country.

The Afghan president ordered the size of the unit be doubled between 2018 and 2020 because the soldiers, all expert marksmen and commandos, have a reputation for getting results. Afghanistan also has the Ktah Khas, a counter-terrorism unit known for daring raids like their 2016 rescue of 59 prisoners in a Taliban hideout.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These veterans in ‘adult entertainment’ want to put a smile on your face

Transitioning into civilian life can be tough. Veterans are often advised to look for a job in a field they’re passionate about and excited to join. Remember the old career day adage, Do what you love and you’ll never work a day?

One USMC veteran took that advice to heart and, being a Marine, decided not to do it halfway. As a result, the entertainer known as “Will Pounder” was recently honored as “Best Newcomer” at the AVN Awards. The Adult Video News Awards.

(Do we have to spell it out? He’s in X-rated films, people. You know, the kind you watch in your barracks alone. Not with your mom.)


Reached for comment for this story, Pounder said, “Best Male Newcomer to me means that I’m doing my job well.” He continued, saying, “I like to provide a safe experience that allows my scene partners to explore themselves sexually and to overall have a fun day so that everyone leaves with a smile on their face.”

His award got us wondering, how many other veterans have decided to earn their keep in the adult film industry?

Spoiler: A lot.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

We can speculate on the reasons why, beyond the really obvious reason: sex. Maybe it’s because veterans are already used to frequent, random medical tests and they’re already comfortable with being naked in front of people? Maybe they just miss having close camaraderie with their co-workers? For the record, Pounder said he thinks the percentage of veterans to non-veterans working in the adult industry is probably about the same as in any other industry.

Regardless of their reasons, Pounder is far from the first to trade fatigues for his birthday suit. He wasn’t even the first vet to score that Best Newcomer award. Brad Knight—a Navy veteran—brought it home in 2016. That’s right. A sailor got it done before a Marine.

But we don’t even have to speculate on why some veterans are drawn to this particular industry. Brick Yates, a Navy veteran who runs a company that produces adult films about and starring military service members and veterans, agreed to answer the why question for us, at least as it applies to his films, in which service members and veterans perform.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

“Active service members are always being told not to fraternize, but we all fantasize about good-looking people we work with,” Yates said. “So, it’s natural for a Marine or sailor or soldier to want to have sex with another service member because the military makes sure that is a very taboo subject still.”

Yates said that, though he understands that some people might find adult films featuring uniformed service members offensive, his company has the exact opposite intent. “We respect the uniforms these people don to the fullest,” he said, noting that he believes a military fetish is no different than a fetish for police officers or, that plot-staple, the pizza delivery guy. “People can disagree with me and that’s okay. I know not everyone is pleased with my work, but it is truly not meant to be degrading or disrespectful in any manner. We aren’t out here to make the service look bad in any way.”

Though typing your MOS into a job translator isn’t likely to yield a result of “X-rated movie star,” there does seem to be something of a …pipeline. (Sorry.) And while adult entertainment recruiters probably won’t have a table at any on-base hiring fairs, there are active efforts to recruit vets into the industry, ensuring that the supply of veterans-turned-adult-entertainers never dwindles.

Besides, military veterans have been starring in adult entertainment for decades, since even before X-rated film legend Johnnie Keyes took off his Army uniform in the early 1970s. Again, we’re not going to post links here, but the by-no-means complete list of vets who’ve gone on to adult entertainment fame includes, Johnni Black (Army), Dia Zerva (USMC), Chayse Evans (USMC), Julie Rage (Army), Nicole Marciano (USMC), Fiona Cheeks (USMC), Amber Michaels (Air Force), Kymberley Kyle (Army), Viper (USMC), Amanda Addams (Army), Misti Love (Army), Loni Punani (Air Force), Sheena Ryder (Army), Sheena Shaw (Army), Alura Jenson (Navy Army), Kim Kennedy (USMC), Alexis Fawx (Air Force), Lisa Bickels (Army) and Tiffany Lane (Army). Cory Chase (Army), is a vet even non-adult film viewers know as the female film star Ted Cruz got caught peeping.

And Diamond Foxx’s name might also be recognizable to those who aren’t familiar with her work. She was discharged from the Navy for “sexual misconduct” but entered military news again earlier this year when a West Point cadet tried to raise money online so that he could bring her to the Yearling Winter Weekend Banquet as his date.

With all we’ve said about vets in adult entertainment, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention retired LTC David Conners, aka “Dave Cummings”. After 25 years of service to the U.S. Army, he went on to service… sorry, sorry… he started his career in the adult entertainment industry at age 55, appearing in hundreds of adult films, and being inducted into both the AVN and XRCO (X-rated Critics Association) Halls of Fame, before his death last fall. Which, we suppose means that while Will Pounder and Brad Knight are USMC and Navy veteran adult film stars who certainly started their second careers strong, it was the old Army guy who really had the staying power. Hooah!

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

Loni Punani, Air Force veteran and adult entertainer.

Though adult films are totally legal for veterans to film, it’s a UCMJ violation for active duty service members to have a side job—any side job— without obtaining prior permission from their command. And commands have a long history of punishing, and even discharging, service members who engage in activities that prejudice “good order and discipline or that is service discrediting,” risk potential “press or public relations coverage” or “create an improper appearance.”

Yates said the “is this allowed” question can be tricky. “I have spoken with a few officers about their Marines being in my films and it really depends. It’s more the details of the film than it is the general fact of them doing (adult entertainment). Military brass are people, too, and some don’t care if their personnel do (adult entertainment), but some do. As long as they are safe, not reflecting poorly on their branch of service and not in their own uniform, they are usually fine.”

Still, in 2017 an active duty-but-almost-retired, long-time happily married, SEAL known as “Jay Voom” got caught starring in an X-rated film with his wife, and a few others, and nearly lost his retirement pension because of it.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Michelle Manhart received a formal reprimand, was removed from her position as a training instructor and was demoted after she posed nude in a 2007 Playboy magazine spread.

And in 2006, seven paratroopers from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division were court martialed on charges of sodomy, pandering and engaging in sex acts for money. According to reporters who covered the case, the soldiers were not gay but, because they engaged in homosexual acts on screen at a time when the military was still under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, they were punished for the activity.

Yates also warned that service members and veterans who are interested in entering the adult industry should be savvy and a little suspicious. He said that while there are some really great people in the industry, there are also some bad ones. Potential adult film stars should verify that the companies that recruiters claim to represent are real and should ask to see references and examples of previous work before engaging in any onscreen work themselves.

All to say, if it’s your dream to turn your night passion into your day job, it might be safest to wait until you’ve got that DD-214.

Until then, feel free to enjoy the talents and attributes of your brothers and sisters in arms who’ve found their futures in a whole different kind of service.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What it’s like to be honored as ‘Hero of the Game’ for the LA Kings

“The Hero Of The Game program is a season long commitment made by the LA Kings to pay tribute to local military personnel and their families. The LA Kings host one military family at each home game to show our gratitude for their continued commitment and sacrifice. As the Hero Of The Game, honorees are treated to dinner in the Lexus Club prior to the game and are recognized on ice during the National Anthem and again during the second period.” — The Official Site of the LA Kings

On March 18, 2019, I was honored by the LA Kings — and it was one of the most patriotic moments of my life.

Here’s why:


What it’s like to be Hero of the Game!

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Being the ‘Hero of the Game’ really wasn’t about me — it was about the service of our nation’s military. The truth is, most of the veterans I’ve spoken with have an uncomfortable relationship with the word “hero.” Few of us personally feel like we live up to the title.

What I tell every veteran who carries survivor’s guilt or who feels like they didn’t do enough is this: you answered your nation’s call. You volunteered, you took an oath, and you were ready to give your life to protect and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies. That’s pretty heroic.

Still, deep down, I don’t personally feel heroic.

I think most of us struggle with this, so when I was informed by a representative of the L.A. Kings that they would like to honor me, I wasn’t really sure what to expect — and honestly, I wasn’t really sure if I deserved it.

Here’s what the night entails:

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

From left to right: Pin-Ups for Vets founder Gina Elise, U.S. Air Force veteran Shannon Corbeil, Forest Corbeil, Monica Kay

The L.A. Kings have this process down. I was given a very clean itinerary for the evening, including details about complimentary parking, when to pick up my tickets (for myself and three guests), and where to meet a rep from the L.A. Kings who would escort my group to dinner.

In fact, the process is so streamlined that Kings fans know about it and wait to greet that night’s Hero. One woman with season tickets likes to meet the service members and take photos before the game with a touching art print of what it means to be a hero.

Before we even made it inside the Staples Center, patriotic fans were eager to meet me and thank me for my service.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

We had no idea what was in store.

The Kings treated us to a delicious (and customized) dinner at the Lexus Club with a great view of L.A. Live and Downtown Los Angeles. We had an hour to eat (and grab some candy) before our rep came back for us and brought me to the ice.

I was informed ahead of time that I would stand on the ice during the National Anthem — and as the Kings were playing the Winnipeg Jets, both the Canadian National Anthem and the U.S. National Anthem would be performed.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

The National Anthem during the opening ceremony of the Kings vs Jets.

(Photo by Simone Lara, California Army National Guard)

I don’t know if I should admit this, but I probably cared more about proper protocol and uniform standards during this event than I ever did while on active duty. It was very important to me to reflect well upon my branch and the military as a whole. Strangely, Air Force Instruction 34-1201 doesn’t expressly state uniform guidance for the Hero of the Game — an indoor event with a formation of…me…so I was left to interpret the manual for myself (with the help of previous honorees).

I decided to wear my cover so I could salute the flags during both anthems — and I found myself proud that it is tradition in the United States to infuse a moment of patriotism into our sporting events.

I had been nominated for my work in the veteran community — and specifically for my volunteer efforts with Pin-Ups for Vets, a non-profit organization that helps hospitalized and deployed service members and their families. To make the night even more special, the Kings offered Pin-Ups for Vets ambassadors and their guests free tickets, so after this high-visibility moment, I started receiving messages from fellow vets in the crowd.

Then we were escorted to our holy sh** seats.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

One of our neighbors said we were in Eric Stonestreet’s seats — and if this is true, someone please thank him for me.

Seats for the Hero of the Game are graciously donated by a patriotic donor for the season. We got lucky that night because our seats were upgraded further — right up against the glass. That’s how we discovered that hockey is exhilarating and completely vicious.

If it wasn’t the puck flying at my face and ricocheting off the glass, it was the players slamming each other into the wall twelve inches from where we were sitting. Most of the other fans seated next to us held season tickets, so this was normal for them — but for us, it was thrilling.

Oh — and you’re allowed to bang on the glass. I highly recommend it.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

As I walked around, people approached to greet me and thank me for my service or, my favorite, tell me about their own time in the military or their family’s service. It was great to connect with people who were excited about the military. It made me realize how far our country has come.

Hero of the Game – Los Angeles Kings

youtu.be

Hero of the Game – Los Angeles Kings

Then, during the first period I really learned what it meant to be the Hero of the Game.

My name came up on the Jumbotron and I looked up, a bit embarrassed, as pictures of me in uniform flashed across the screen. I turned to give my sister a disparaging look and realized she was standing.

The entire arena was standing.

At that moment, I didn’t feel like me, Shannon — I felt like a veteran of the United States Air Force.

As someone who shares military stories on We Are The Mighty, I’m well-versed in how poorly our country treated our Vietnam War Veterans. I have stood witness to the devastation that has been inflicted upon the men and women who have worn the uniform throughout history. I’ve watched my fellow veterans struggle with seen and unseen wounds. I’ve experienced them myself.

Yet that night, as thousands of people stood to honor the Hero of the Game, I felt a deep sense of gratitude and hope. I’m thankful that our countrymen and women support the troops and that Americans recognize and appreciate the sacrifices of our military and want to give back.

I felt so grateful that there are advocates for veterans and that there are non-profits serving them. It was as if I was in a room of people who want the best for each other, which is why we have a military in the first place.

The military stands for the best in the American people, and that night, the American people were standing for the military.

Thank you to the LA Kings, not just for the incredible experience you gave me, but for supporting the military all season long. It means more than you know.

You can nominate a deserving service member as Hero of the Game right here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What started as a way to honor the fallen is now Wreaths Across America

Every year, families across the country have empty seats at their tables. Beds are no longer filled and stockings no longer have owners. These empty spots – they exist every day of the year, not just on Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day. Lost heroes have given their lives, and it’s a reality that impacts Americans every day, not just national holidays. That fact is the foundation for Wreaths Across America, a nonprofit organization that places wreaths on hero graves each December. 

Their goal is to honor the fallen – whether lost in war or decades after their service – with a beautiful, thoughtful wreath, complete with a signature hand-tied red ribbon. Today, WAA places wreaths in more than 2,100 locations, mostly cemeteries, including at sea and abroad.

A girl and a Navy service member lay a wreath during Wreaths Across America

How they got started

Before WAA got its start as a national and notable nonprofit, there was a business owner in the Northeast, Morrill Worcester, who owned the Worcester Wreath Company. When Worcester was a 12, he won a trip to Washington, D.C. where he visited Arlington National Cemetery.

Fast forward to 1992, where he operated his business in Harrington, Maine. This year was notable, as the company was met with extra wreaths during the holiday season. Worcester remembered his trip to Arlington as a child, and arranged for the extra wreaths to be delivered to veteran graves. He worked with Maine Senator, Olympia Snowe, to have the wreaths placed in an older section of graves that received few visitors.

The good deed was met with more volunteers, including trucking company Blue Bird Ranch, Inc., whose owner, James Prout, transported the wreaths. Then, members from the local American Legion and VFW locations who tied and added red bows. Finally, volunteers put together a wreath-laying ceremony, including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

This continued annually, until an image went viral in 2005. Thousands of volunteers stepped forward to help, with others asking to recreate the program at their own local cemetery. Their efforts were expanded and wreath laying ceremonies took place across the nation, sparking a holiday, National Wreaths Across America Day.

A soldier pays his respects at a cemetery

Creating a seasonal nonprofit

After attention continued to spread, Wreaths Across America was formed in 2007. The nonprofit was founded by Worcester and his family, veterans, and other volunteer groups. Their mission to: Remember. Honor. Teach. Has been celebrated every year since.

Volunteers can purchase wreaths online or over the phone, along with dedicating wreaths to a specific loved one. Pages of messages remember the fallen and loved ones through the purchase of a wreath.

Remembrance Tree Program

As Gold Star families visited the tree farms where future wreaths are grown, it was soon found that there was a sense of calming in the process. To help spread this comfort to more families, the Remembrance Tree Program was founded. Free for veteran families, members can visit the evergreen trees in Columbia Falls, Maine. Here they can choose a tree to dedicate a living memorial to their fallen soldier. Dog tags are printed with custom messages and placed on a tree trunk. Balsam tips are harvested every three years to make wreaths, while the trees remain standing.

Find more by emailing dogtags@wreathsacrossamerica.org or calling 877-385-9504.

Visit the WAA Museum

Columbia Falls, Maine is also home to the Wreaths Across America Museum, which opened in 2001. The museum features awards, memorabilia, and photos honoring its fallen soldiers and their missions. Visitors also can take in a video that explains the organization’s history.

Volunteering with WAA

Volunteers who want to donate their time to having wreaths donated, or to laying wreaths on National Wreaths Across America Day, December 19, 2020, can learn more at https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/ or by calling 877-385-9504.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The best tactical gifts to buy dad this year

Enough messing around. Dad’s got the gag gifts and the cushy hunting gear. He doesn’t need another beautiful knife or the latest gizmo for convenience in the field. No, what Dad wants is to be ready for when shit hits the fan, dammit. Time to get tactical.

That means simple, effective gear that’s built to be tough and trustworthy in the field. Finding the gear you can trust your life with is the tricky part, friends. That’s why we went to our experts: The entire team here at SOFREP put our heads together to pick our favorite tactical gear. So whether it’s a solar panel that will never fail, a contingency knife that’s always ready to go, a tactical boot that’ll help you pound ground, or the ultimate loadout box for all the important stuff you’ve already got, here’s the gear we stand by. It certainly stands by us.


How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

1. Overland Solar Bugout Panel

When things go south, power is… well, power. Overland Solar makes the daddy of all solar chargers for a serious off-the-grid setup. It’s good for 130 watts of power in various conditions and produces seven amps an hour thanks to high solar cell efficiency. It charges in low angle light, and when it’s overcast, rainy, and even lightly snowing. Plug and play with your camper, or throw it on the roof of your micro-cabin for solid power basics.

Overland Solar: 5

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

2. Browning Range Kit

Everything needed for a range kit, nothing more. Polycarbonate shooting glasses, soft foam earplugs, adjustable fit muffs. It’s the perfect replacement gear for the old, beat up shit you’ve had for years. The earmuffs and earplugs are good for 31 and 27 decibels, respectively. And anyway, the best gift you can receive this year is healthy eyeballs and eardrums in old age.

Cabela’s:

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

3. Bulldog Quick Vault

What’s the right level of protection for your bedside equalizer? This thing. It’s got just the right pairing of quick access and safety: open it using RFID access card or keycard or LED-backlit access code. Its Soft Stop door technology means you can open it silently, or set it to a decibel mode for family safety. Oh, and it’s heavy-duty 12-gauge steel.

Cabela’s; 0

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

4. Real Avid Armorer’s Master Wrench

Nobody in the movies ever needs to fix a jammed rifle or disassemble one for cleaning. This is not the way of the world, though. The Real Avid Armorer’s Master Wrench has everything you need for rifle housekeeping: torque wrench attachment point, armorer’s hammer, castle nut wrench, multiple hammerheads, muzzle brake wrench, and more. With it, as long as you have ammo, you’ll be fine.

Cabela’s:

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

5. Sig Sauer Red Dot Sight

Zese Germans make a sehr gut firearm. They also make a prime red dot sight for MSR platforms of all calibers. It’s waterproof, runs off one included battery for up to 20,000 hours, has 10 daytime brightness settings, and two for night vision use. At just a hair over a Benjamin, it might be the perfect tool for target acquisition at close and mid-range.

Cabela’s: 0

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

6. WK Contingency Knife

Curved handle, simple sheath, skeletonized, full-tapered tang, and a 3.5-inch blade: this knife is ready to go when it needs to be. It’s intended as an everyday carry, but you’d be forgiven for showing off its maple handle and black oxide no-glare finish 80CrV2 steel blade. Its beauty is terrible to behold, especially if the beholder is trying to fuck with you.

Tactical Distributor: 0

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

7. Rapid Dominance Carbon Fiber Knuckle Combat Gloves

What does a glove buy you? Try serious hand protection in a combat situation thanks to carbon fiber knuckles, a reinforced synthetic leather palm, and rubberized grip padding. Gloves so affordable rarely come with bonus features, but these ones do: their four-way spandex helps with a comfortable fit, and each glove has two-way touchscreen-friendly fingertips. They’ve got everything you need to throw hands without hesitation.

Sportsman’s Guide:

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

8. VISM Soft Body Armour Panel

Ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene is a hell of a material. Ask a scientist if you want the nitty-gritty, but basically, it’s got the highest impact strength of any thermoplastic humans can currently manufacture. It can stop 9mm and .44 rounds up to 1,400 fps, which means you want it in your vest. And because it’s flexible and lightweight, you won’t mind it in your carry-on luggage, or wherever else you have to take it.

Sportsman’s Guide: 0

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

9. Smith & Wesson Tactical Range Bag

SW’s Recruit Tactical Range Bag is made out of ballistic fabric, with oversized zippers and rubber foot skids for protecting your gear. Its two internal pockets are big enough for your handguns, and the main compartment has all the room you need for ammo, ear protection, and the like. External pockets include seven magazine slots, plus tons more room for all the extra crap you’re lugging around.

Smith Wesson:

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

10. Otis Elite Gun Cleaning Kit

The best way to get serious about cleaning your gun properly is to get all the right gear. This one has everything you’ll ever need, and then some: 22 bronze bore brushes for every caliber of shotgun, rifle and pistol, cleaning patches, memory-flex cables, obstruction removal tools, precision cleaning tools, and quality solvent. It totals over 40 components and comes in a nylon case. If you don’t keep everything clean with it, well, that shit’s on you.

Cabela’s: 0

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

11. Viridian TacLoc Holster

Viridian makes a mean laser sight. Their Tacloc holsters pull triple duty: they secure your weapon; aid in a smooth, accurate, quick draw; and activate the integrated laser sight instantly when that draw happens. The company makes them for your Beretta, Glock, MP 45, Sig Sauer, and several other guns. And, thanks to rugged Kydex construction and a seven-year warranty, it’ll last.

Viridian:

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

12. Salomon Quest 4D Tactical Boot

The perfect tactical boot is well suited to any situation. That’s what makes the Salomon Quest 4D our go-to. It’s got the support and grip of a mountain boot, thanks to a serious outsole and supportive midsole. And its uppers are built for combat: anti-reflective, with anti-debris mesh, mudguard, and waterproofed materials like Goretex. Oh, and the Ranger Green looks damn sharp, too.

LA Police Gear: 0

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

13. Notch Brim Multicam Operator Cap

Finally, a fix for the annoying, simple problem: you can’t get your brim low enough when you’re wearing your eye protection. A simple notch in this cap fixes that problem. But it’s also just a quality cap: button-less at the top, so your hearing protection fits smoothly, 98 percent breathable, stretchy cotton, moisture-wicking headband, low profile fit, hook-and-loop for your patch of choice. It might be the last ballcap you ever buy.

McGuire Army Navy:

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

14. Hackett Equipment Tactical Plate Carrier

Minimalistic in all the ways you want, full protection where you need it. That’s the deal with this plate carrier, which is fully adjustable to fit all body types, holds a front and backplate, and is made of durable, rigid, weather-resistant 600D polyester with PVC coating. The straps are padded so you’ll stay cozy, princess.

Hackett Equipment:

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

15. Darn Tough Socks

When it comes to thinking tactically, it’s easy to forget your feet. Don’t. Darn Tough makes some of the best socks out there today. They’re built around performance merino wool with durable, breathable, comfortable design elements. They’re the perfect tool for staying light on your feet all day, no matter the terrain or operation.

Darn Tough: +

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

16. Kelty Tactical Redwing 50 Pack

Kelty’s been the name behind top U.S. forces tactical gear for decades. This one is issued to spec ops soldiers, and its features make it clear why. It’s got easy access through top and side loading panels, storage options for all your gear, and then some, and its aluminum suspension system is lightweight but durable. And 50 liters of storage is just right for most ops.

Kelty Tactical: 9

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

17. PMAG 30 Round Magazine

It’s the best AR-15 mag on the market. What else is there to say?

Palmetto State Armory:

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

18. Grey Man Tactical Vehicle Weapon Rack

This modular vehicle rifle rack and rigid MOLLE panel will mount to any vehicle to help you haul your gun plus MOLLE pouches and extra accessories. It’s made of injection-molded glass-reinforced nylon, perfect for holding plenty of weight. The panel can be installed in under a minute with no tools thanks to mounting straps.

Grey Man Tactical: 0+

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

19. YETI LoadOut GoBox 30

Our favorite cooler company already makes indestructible boxes to keep stuff cold — so the pivot to indestructible boxes for important gear is an easy one. This is our favorite gearcase around: it’s waterproof, dustproof, and stackable, and can be outfitted with dividers and caddies to organize and store your gear just the way you like.

YETI: 0

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

20. SOFREP Team Room Subscription

Stay up to date on the latest news, insider info, and the best tactical gear and equipment reviews. Annual subscribers to the Team Room get full access to all SOFREP stories, plus the TeamRoom’s award-winning military documentaries, SPEC OPS training footage and war stories, forums and community chats, podcasts, and exclusive interviews.

SOFREP:

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.


MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The hyperspeed of military spouse friendships

Part of the Air Force wife gig is making and losing friends constantly. It’s a revolving door of meeting people, forming fast friendships and saying goodbye. The whiplash pace of hails and farewells has conditioned me to act quickly in forging relationships, more easily done in Mil-world because of the high-pressure situations we find ourselves in together.


The average time spent at an Air Force assignment is two years and six months before PCSing (Permanent Change of Station) to the next. That’s 30 months to find a place to live, receive your household goods, pick up your vehicle from the nearest VPC (Vehicle Process Center), enroll your kids in a new school and get familiar with a new doctor before packing it all up and doing it again.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(U.S. Army photo)

So there you are, standing on the steps of the Coffee, glass slipper in hand. Do you chase after a fast friendship or let her go? There’s only one answer for me.

“Hi, my name is Rachel. Let’s be friends.”

The great part of the military spouse culture is other wives get it. You show up, and you start getting invited to events. Two and a half years is already a short time to make a meaningful connection with someone, but odds are you don’t have that long. When you meet that special person you want to get drunk with at the Christmas party, either they are probably halfway through their assignment, or you are.

I went to a wedding at Shaw and hit it off with another pilot’s girlfriend who just moved there from out of state. She laughed at my jokes. I laughed at hers. We got our phones out to exchange numbers, but when we realized I was PCSing in under a month, we both just shrugged and put our phones away. The same thought went through our heads. “Damn. I liked her.”

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

Heather Miner, president, Officers’ Spouses’ Club, left, speaks to a guest during the Havana Nights Gala Benefit Auction hosted by Smith’s Ranch in Twentynine Palms, Calif.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo/Preston L. Morris)

For the past eight or so years, moving around as an active duty Air Force spouse, I’ve been trained to nose out my new friend in a crowd then get to making her realize we are friends as quickly as possible. The downside of Hi-my-name-is-Rachel-let’s-be-friends is that I forget that it scares civilians. It’s just too aggressive. Time is a luxury I can’t afford, and I suspect most civilians don’t have that kind of pressure. I have to dial it down or else I come on too strong, which is very easy for me to do.

Where are you from? Did you like your high school? These questions are okay.

What illnesses run in your family? How often do you guys have sex? Did your episiotomy go all the way to your butthole? These questions are nooooot okay in the civilian world. Sure, they are a little wobbly in the military world too, but when you live overseas for a few years with roughly the same 100 people, things heat up quickly, especially when alcohol is involved. If I’m being honest, it’s more fun that way.

After a series of cringe-worthy fails, I’ve untrained myself from using Hi-my-name-is-Rachel-let’s-be-friends with civilians, even when I want to be friends with you now. Like, right now. But the truth is if in my heart I like you, I still don’t want to waste time. I’m ready for us to be friends. Let’s get to it.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Pentagon discloses its count of China’s nuclear warheads and says the arsenal could double this decade

The Department of Defense disclosed its count of China’s nuclear warheads for what is believed to be the first time in a new 200-page report on China’s rapidly growing military power and said that the country’s stockpile of nuclear warheads may double this decade.

The department assesses that China has an operational nuclear warhead stockpile in the low 200s, a small but deadly force that could make an adversary with a larger arsenal think twice. “Over the next decade, China will expand and diversify its nuclear forces, likely at least doubling its nuclear warhead stockpile,” the Pentagon argued in its annual China Military Power report, the latest of which was released Tuesday.


The Pentagon report explains that China is believed to have “enough nuclear materials to at least double its warhead stockpile without new fissile material production.”

Discussing the report at a virtual American Enterprise Institute event Tuesday afternoon, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for China Chad Sbragia stated that “just looking at number of warheads by itself is not the entire picture.”

He said that “China is expanding and modernizing and diversifying its nuclear forces across the board.”

“China’s nuclear forces will significantly evolve over the next decade as it modernizes, diversifies, and increases the number of its land-, sea-, and air-based nuclear delivery platforms,” the new Pentagon report states.

The newly-released report also noted that China intends to put at least a portion of its nuclear forces, particularly its expanding silo-based force, on a “launch on warning” status, which would mean that some weapons would be armed and ready for launch with limited notice during peacetime, as the US does with its intercontinental ballistic missile force.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper previewed the Pentagon’s expectation that China’s nuclear warhead stockpile will double over the weekend, writing in a social media post that “as Communist China moves to at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile, modernizing our nuclear force and maintaining readiness is essential to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The US is in the process of modernizing the various legs of the nuclear triad in response to advances by China and Russia. At the same time, the US has been pushing China to join an arms control agreement placing limits on nuclear arms expansion.

“If the US says that they are ready to come down to the Chinese level, China would be happy to participate the next day,” the head of the Chinese foreign ministry’s arms control department said in July, the South China Morning Post reported. “But actually, we know that’s not going to happen.”

The US has several thousand more nuclear warheads than China has in its stockpile. The Federation of American Scientists estimates that the US has a total nuclear weapons inventory of about 5,800, an arsenal only rivaled by Russia.

In addition to its assessments on China’s evolving nuclear force, the Pentagon also reported that “China has already achieved parity with—or even exceeded—the United States in several military modernization areas.”

In particular, China is outpacing the US in shipbuilding, land-based conventional ballistic and cruise missiles, and integrated air-defense systems.

The Department of Defense says that China has “the largest navy in the world” and “is the top ship-producing nation in the world by tonnage and is increasing its shipbuilding capacity and capability for all naval classes,” it has over 1,250 ground-launched ballistic missiles and ground-launched cruise missiles, and it has “one of the largest forces of advanced long-range surface-to-air systems.”

China’s objective as it modernizes its fighting force is to achieve a world-class military by the end of 2049, a goal publicly stated by China’s leadership.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Nasa caught Hurricane Dorian and three other cyclones in one awesome image

It’s peak hurricane season, as Hurricane Dorian has been reminding us.

But Dorian isn’t the only strong storm swirling: Four cyclones churned over the oceans this week. On Sep. 4, 2019, they lined up for a satellite camera.

The GOES 16 satellite, operated by that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with help from NASA, captured the above image of the Western Hemisphere on Sep. 4, 2019. It shows Hurricane Juliette, Tropical Storm Fernand, Hurricane Dorian, and Tropical Storm Gabrielle lined up across the globe.

At the time the photo was taken, Juliette in the East Pacific and Dorian in the Atlantic were Category 2 hurricanes. Fernand and Gabrielle were tropical storms with sustained wind speeds 45 mph and 50 mph, respectively.


How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

Labeled image of the chain of tropical cyclones lined up across the Western Hemisphere on Sep. 4, 2019.

(NASA Earth Observatory/Joshua Stevens; NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service)

The image shows 2 hurricanes and 2 tropical storms

Dorian made a record-tying landfall in the northwestern Bahamas on Sep.1, 2019, as a Category 5 hurricane with 185-mph sustained winds. It ground to a halt on Sep. 2, 2019, flooding islands with a wall of water up to 23 feet high, ripping buildings apart with wind gusts as strong as 220 mph, and killing at least 23 people.

In the NOAA image, Dorian can be seen traveling north along Florida’s east coast, towards Georgia and the Carolinas. Since then, it has brought heavy rains and flash floods, lashed the southeastern US coast with powerful winds, caused tornadoes, and even caused bricks of cocaine to wash up on a beach. One man was reported dead in North Carolina after falling off a ladder while preparing for the storm.

Tropical Storm Fernand, meanwhile had just made landfall over northeastern Mexico at the time of this satellite image. The storm caused heavy rainfall, with a threat of flash flooding and mudslides, but it has since dissipated.

Hurricane Juliette has stuck to the open ocean in the East Pacific, and is expected to weaken over the next few days.

Tropical Storm Gabrielle has wandered harmlessly through the open Atlantic, and on Sep. 5, 2019, was “struggling to maintain thunderstorms near its center,” the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

Hurricane Dorian moves slowly past Grand Bahama Island on Sep. 2, 2019.

(NOAA)

An above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic

NOAA recently revised its forecast for this year’s Atlantic hurricane season — it now projects a 45% chance that this year will see above-average activity. That could mean five to nine hurricanes in the Atlantic, with two to four of those expected storms becoming major hurricanes (defined as Category 3 or above, with winds greater than 110 miles per hour).

On average, the Atlantic sees six hurricanes in a season, with three developing into major hurricanes (defined as Category 3 or above). Hurricane season peaks in August through October, with especially high activity around September 10. The season ends November 30.

Hurricane category numbers don’t necessarily indicate the full destructive power of a storm, however, as they’re based solely on wind speeds. In Hurricane Dorian’s case, the storm has traveled slowly, so its effects have been prolonged.

Slower, wetter storms like this are becoming more common as the planet warms. Over the past 70 years or so, the speed of hurricanes and tropical storms has slowed about 10% on average, a 2018 study found.

Dorian is now the fifth hurricane to reach Category 5 over the past four hurricane seasons in the North Atlantic. In the last 95 years, there have been only 35 Category 5 hurricanes in the North Atlantic, so this frequency of strong storms is far above average.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 of the best military discounts you need to know about

You and your family sacrifice a lot in serving the country. Missing big events like graduations, birthdays, and even births themselves are not uncommon after you raise your hand and swear to protect and defend the Constitution. Private businesses recognize the sacrifices made by American service members, and often give special discounts to the men and women of the armed forces. Here are some of the best discounts out there to save you and your family some dough.


How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(Disney)

1. Disney Parks

While the Disney parks offer a small discount on regular ticket prices, the real deal here is Disney’s Armed Forces Salute ticket. The Salute ticket is a special offer that has been offered yearly since 2009. In previous years, the Salute ticket has been offered at both Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida.

However, with Disneyland still closed as of the writing of this article, Disney is only selling 2020 Salute tickets for Disney World. That said, when they were available, 3 and 4-day Park Hopper Salute Tickets were sold for 4 and 4 respectively. Compared to the standard prices of 5 and 5 respectively, that’s one heck of a salute from the mouse. At Disney World, 4, 5, and 6-day Park Hopper Tickets are available for 5, 3 and 1 respectively, whereas regular prices for these tickets are in the 0 range. Take note that, though the ticket is sold as a Park Hopper, park hopping is not currently allowed in Disney World. Normally, Park Hopper Plus Tickets are also available under the Salute ticket and give guests access to other Disney locations like the Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon Water Parks. However, like the Disneyland Tickets, Park Hopper Plus Tickets are not currently being offered. While there is no guarantee that Disney will continue the Salute Ticket for 2021, 2020 Salute Tickets can be purchased until December 18, 2020 and are valid until September 26, 2021.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(Lululemon)

2. Lululemon

Best known for its yoga apparel, the Canadian-based athletic wear retailer shows its appreciation for service in a big way. Though the prices of their products can run a bit high, Lululemon offers a whopping 25 percent for military service members and spouses. It’s worth noting that this discount also applies to first responders. Unfortunately, this discount cannot be applied online. However, it is valid on sale and clearance items…and Lululemon outlets. Trust us, there are some serious deals to be had there.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(Nike)

3. Nike

It’s surprising how many service members walking around on base wearing Nike products don’t know about the company’s military discount, especially since it’s double the more common discount of 10 percent. That’s right, your next pair of Nikes could be 20 percent off with your military ID. Like with Lululemon, the discount is still valid on sale and clearance items as well as outlets. However, unlike Lululemon, Nike offers the discount online as well through SheerID verification. After verifying your service, you’ll get a one-time code that you can apply to your online order, and the process can be repeated for future orders. Yes, it’s an extra step, but not a terrible sacrifice of time for 20 percent off. Like with in-store purchases, the discount can also be applied to sale and clearance items online. Whether you’re looking for new running shoes or a pair of Coyote Brown SFB Tactical Boots, don’t forget to apply your military discount when you’re shopping for something with the Swoosh.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(SeaWorld Parks Entertainment)

4. SeaWorld/Busch Gardens

Through the Waves of Honor program, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment offers service members free admission to any of their parks. The annual offer also includes free tickets for up to three dependents. Tickets are acquired online and verification is done through ID.me. The offer applies to SeaWorld San Diego, SeaWorld San Antonio, SeaWorld Orlando, Busch Gardens Tampa, Sesame Place Langhorne, and Discovery Cove.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(Apple)

5. Apple

While this discount isn’t substantial, it made the list because of its relative obscurity. Apple offers a veterans and military purchase program through an exclusive online storefront. After verifying your service through ID.me, you’ll be granted access to a separate online store with the 10 percent discount applied to all items available for purchase. Since many military bases are a few hours’ drive from an Apple store, an online purchase may be more convenient.

This list is by no means all-inclusive and the discounts and offers mentioned are subject to change. Whatever you’re in the market for, be sure to see if there’s a military discount or offer that you can take advantage of. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to inquire about it. After all, any discount or offer is in appreciation of service.


MIGHTY CULTURE

4 times the National Guard saved the day

On Dec. 13, 1636, the National Guard was officially formed, combining militia regiments from Massachusetts into one organized unit. The Massachusetts National Guard — pictured above at its first muster in the spring of 1637 — has the four oldest units in the US Army: 181st Infantry Regiment, 182nd Cavalry Regiment, 101st Field Artillery Regiment, and the 101st Engineer Battalion. Since the National Guard’s inception, these citizen soldiers continue to serve the nation’s call. 

On the National Guard’s 384th birthday, we put together a list of four times it has saved the day.

The 30th “Old Hickory” Division

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas
An M8 reconnaissance armored car of the 30th Infantry Division rolls through the streets of Kinzweiler, Nov. 21, 1944. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Fast-forward 281 years from its birth to 1917. The entire National Guard was drafted into the US Army for service in World War I. This meant 17 divisions were off to Europe for the first time in the nation’s history. Among the most famous and battle hardened was the 30th “Old Hickory” Division, aptly named in honor of general and former President Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson. He had ties to North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, the three states from which the initial draftees were pulled. 

The Old Hickory Division earned more Medals of Honor — 12 — than any other division during the war. They were called other names out of respect for their ferocity in combat, including “The Workhorse of the Western Front” and “Roosevelt’s SS Troops,” the latter coinage by the German High Command. 

In World War II, the men who made up the Old Hickory Division lived up to their name, serving 282 total days on the battlefield. The division had 3,435 soldiers killed in action and 12,960 wounded. They received six Medals of Honor, 65 Distinguished Service Crosses, 1,718 Silver Stars, 6,319 Bronze Stars, and 20,000 Purple Hearts. Some soldiers received the Purple Heart more than once.

The Guard Tanks of World War II

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas
Staff Sgt. Emil Morello’s M3 Stuart smashing into a roadblock toward an Imperial Japanese Army anti-tank gun, in a painting by Don Millsap. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The first tank-to-tank combat was fought by the 192nd Tank Battalion in the Philippines in 1941. First Lt. Benjamin Morin was the first tank commander to engage enemy forces in World War II. The battle was not a victorious one, as his M3 Stuart Tank was disabled and caught fire, forcing him and his men to surrender to the Japanese. He went on to endure three and a half years as a prisoner of war.

The Guard tanks of the 192nd Tank Battalion were later asked to hold their position for six hours to cover the retreat of forces to Bataan. They held the position for three days. There were 596 soldiers who answered the call of duty, and among them 325 were killed in combat, executed, died in POW camps, or were killed by American submarines aboard unmarked “Hell Ships” tasked with transporting POWs. The 194th Tank Battalion also saw action in the Philippines. Staff Sgt. Emil C. Morello earned the Silver Star for ramming his tank over an enemy roadblock, destroying a Japanese weapon position, and firing his main gun until his tank was disabled. His crew pretended to be dead and escaped on foot, only to be killed or captured in Bataan, where the rest of the battalion forces would later surrender. 

The Air National Guard

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas
In Paktia Province, Afghanistan, March 4, 2002, Tech Sgt. Keary Miller of the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, Kentucky Air National Guard, not only managed to drag a wounded helicopter pilot to safety at Takur Ghar, but also orchestrated the establishment of multiple casualty collection points. This painting by Keith Rocco depicts the events of the Battle of Takur Ghar. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

When the US military must move heaven and earth in response to a crisis, they call the Air National Guard. Even before the unit was officially established alongside the Air Force in 1947, it was involved in the Border War between the US and Mexico. The 1st Aero Company, New York National Guard, mobilized in 1916 to provide assistance. The Air National Guard has earned a proud reputation, both in combat and for disaster relief.   

Master Sgt. Keary Miller, a pararescueman assigned to the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, was first awarded the Silver Star for bravery in the 17-hour gunfight during the Battle of Takur Ghar in Afghanistan. He provided lifesaving aid to a wounded helicopter pilot and set up multiple casualty collection points for Army Rangers on that snowy mountaintop in 2002. He also distributed ammunition to his teammates while under heavy enemy fire. In recent years, this battle has come under the microscope of the Defense Department to properly award these airmen, Rangers, and SEALs for their heroism that day. Miller’s Silver Star was upgraded to the Air Force Cross; John Chapman, an Air Force combat controller, and Britt Slabinsky, a Navy SEAL, each received the Medal of Honor.

In the midst of the Global War on Terror, the Air National Guard also responded to international and domestic crises such as the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. These are a few notable exploits, but the Air Guard has long provided aid and support as well as rescued countless victims in distress. The 210th Rescue Squadron of the Alaska Air National Guard, famously known as the “Guardians of the North,” are one of the busiest search and rescue units in the world.

The National Guard in 2020

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas
An Army National Guard UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter waits on the tarmac in heavy smoke at the Aurora State Airport, near Aurora, Oregon, on Sept. 9, 2020. Photo courtesy of Maj. Leslie Reed, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs.

We may not think of this immediately because we are currently living through it, but the National Guard has saved the day countless times this year. They remain on the front lines to provide aid during the current pandemic, entering the battle against COVID-19 in March. The Tennessee National Guard flew 500,000 swabs to Memphis to resupply COVID-19 test kits, and the New York National Guard helped with distribution of food in hard-hit areas. 

They have also deployed to suppress wildfires in the Pacific Northwest. In September, a 1,000-member force was sent to Oregon to give assistance. California National Guard aircrew members responsible for rescuing 242 people from the Creek Fire were each awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism. They flew in Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters on three daring flights to carry the trapped campers to safety. 

In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic and the wildfires in 2020, the National Guard has also served to support public safety amid the civil unrest across the country, including in Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd. The year isn’t over yet, but the National Guard is equipped to handle any problem that may arise with the same professionalism and dedication it has exhibited thus far.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how WW2 Marines made ice cream at 30,000 feet

Every job has its unexpected perks. Even being a Marine Corps aviator in World War II had some unexpected benefits. This is because Marines make do, as the saying goes, and are used to making the most out of whatever Uncle Sam provides them to get the mission done. They will even make miracles happen when it’s not part of the mission.

That’s just what Marines do, even when it comes to ice cream.


How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

You read that right.

Everyone loves ice cream and I state that firm belief as someone who has been lactose intolerant his entire life. Marines these days give the Air Force a lot of smack for (almost) always having sweet treats present wherever there’s an Air Force dining facility. But let’s be real, after a few days, weeks, or however long being deprived of even the simplest luxury, a bit of ice cream goes a long way. Marine aviators in the Pacific Theater thought so, too.

The United States captured the island of Peleliu from Imperial Japan after more than two months of hard fighting toward the end of 1944. Marines on Peleliu were within striking distance of the enemy, but since there was no real threat at the time, they were not on combat patrols or supporting operations elsewhere in the theater. The Marines were getting bored and if you’ve ever made it past basic training in any branch of the military, you know there are few things more inventive or more dangerous than bored Marines.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

The crew of the USS Lexington raided the ice cream stores after being torpedoed by the Japanese in 1942. That’s not a joke.

One squadron commander, J. Hunter Reinburg, figured he could probably raise morale among his men if he could fix one of his F4U Corsair fighter-bombers to become a high-altitude ice cream maker. It wouldn’t be that hard. His crews cut the ends off a drop tank, created a side access panel, and strung a .50-caliber ammo can in the panel. He instructed the mess sergeant to fill the ammo can with canned milk and cocoa powder. All he had to do was get it cold enough to freeze – no problem for a high-altitude fighter.

There was something to Reinburg’s thinking. Ice cream has long been a staple of American morale. During the years of Prohibition, ice cream and soda jerks replaced bar nuts and bartenders for many Americans. Ice creams were marketed toward helping people cope with suffering during the Great Depression. When World War II broke out, other countries banned ice cream to enforce sugar rations — but not the United States. Americans loved the sweet treat so much the U.S. military even planned to build a floating ice cream factory and tow it into the Pacific Theater.

For Marines stranded on a hot island with no fresh food and no refrigeration, high-altitude ice cream was a great idea.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

I need to get me one of those old-time ice cream makers.

Army Air Corps bombers had been making the sweet treat in the same way for years, flying at frigid high altitudes while the hum and vibrations from the engine churned the milk and sugar into frozen ice cream. For the Marines, the first run was a disaster. Reinburg circled the island at 33,000 feet for 35 minutes. When he landed, the mixture was still liquid. But Marines don’t give up so easily.

The second run saw ammo cans bolted onto the underside of wings to keep the ice cream base far from the hot engines. The mixture froze, but didn’t have the creamy texture the men wanted so badly. The third run was the most inventive of all. This time Marines rigged the ammo cans themselves with propellers which turned a screw inside the ammo cans, churning the ice cream as it froze.

This time the ice cream was perfect. The only hitch was they forgot to let the Operations Officer, a Colonel, have a ration of ice cream.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 of the best jungle warfare training sites in the Marines

Marines are known for their versatility in combat — we even flex that fact in our hymn, boasting that “we’ve fought in every clime and place.” One thing’s for sure, no matter where the enemy is, Marines will find a way there to punch ’em in the face — even if that place is a rainy, hot, unforgiving jungle.

But, like a professional sports team, we need a home field in which we can practice. To get our devil dogs ready to fight in the thick of the jungle, we’ve got a few sites where they can get the reps they need. These are the best of ’em:


How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

It also looks like a post-apocalyptic suburb, which is a plus.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nichelle Griffiths)

Andersen South AFB — Guam

Once used by the Air Force, Andersen South is an abandoned housing base that the Marines now train in. Not only is the area filled with an extensive amount of jungle, there’re also plenty of buildings. This means you can combine jungle warfare with urban training in the same location. It’s the best place for force-on-force training, hands down.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

The jungle here isn’t that bad, though.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

Bellows Air Force Station — Oahu, Hawai’i

Another space acquired from the Air Force, the base is mostly used for recreation. The Marines stationed at nearby Marine Corps Base Hawai’i, however, use it as a training site for jungle patrols and land navigation.

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Those in the Advanced Infantryman Course go here to enjoy the wrath of their instructors.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Andrew Morris)

Kahuku Training Area — Oahu, Hawai’i

Kahuku Training Area features one of the best examples of jungle environments. This training area is home to a road referred to as “The Devil’s Backbone” because of the rolling hills over which it spans. The jungle here is incredibly thick and it always rains. No, really. This isn’t some “if it ain’t rainin’, we ain’t trainin'” sort of thing — it just always rains.

In addition to a lush jungle environment, Kahuku also includes some urban environments.

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This place also has some gnarly hills.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler Ngiraswei)

Camp Schwab — Okinawa, Japan

Even though it doesn’t seem very large and the Okinawan people protesting outside the front gate can make you feel a little unwelcome, Camp Schwab has some great training sites. Whether you want to sharpen your offensive tactics in the jungle or just do some good ol’ fashioned land nav, this base has plenty of space for both.

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You might even get to go and raid one of their tiny jungle villages.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo Lance Cpl. Jessica Etheridge)

Camp Gonsalves — Okinawa, Japan

Anything you can’t do at any of the other bases, you can definitely do here. This is home of the Jungle Warfare Training Center, so it’s not hard to figure out why Camp Gonsalves tops the list. Here, in addition to the jungle survival training, you can practice rappelling down a cliffside and learn what it really means to fight in a jungle.

If you’re lucky, you’ll also take part in mock raids on small, nearby villages, which is a fun, immersive experience. Also, because this place is used primarily for training purposes, it’s guaranteed to rain throughout your visit.