Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

It could be said that high school senior and military kid Nilah Williamson has her head in the clouds — literally. While many teens were pursuing their driver’s licenses, this Arlington, Virginia teen has been so singularly focused on flying that she ended up flying a plane before ever driving a car. 

The 17-year-old has not yet taken a driver’s classes or test. 

“I have different priorities than other teenagers,” she said.

Williamson says the love of aviation was sparked when she attended a leadership program in the sixth grade. Through Leadership LINKS, a program that exposes young girls to opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, she was able to take a practice flight in a simulator. One flight and she was hooked. 

“It’s the age when you can’t decide if you’re going to be a vet or a doctor,” she said. 

“It changed my life and I knew this is what I wanted to do.”

Since that time, Williamson continued to thrive in her pursuit of STEM activities. Last year, she took a year-long aviation class at a local career center. 

“The aviation portion of the class is everything I hoped for,” she said. “The physics, the engineering — it ended up being exactly what I wanted.”

After studying throughout the spring and summer, Williamson passed her written pilot exam in September. 

“I’m really proud that I did this one thing during COVID,” she said. 

Nilah Williamson Military Families Magazine
High school senior Nilah Williamson with her mentor Retired Adm. Arthur Johnson, a former Naval aviator.

Retired Adm. Arthur Johnson, a former Naval aviator, became Williamson’s mentor after the two found themselves routinely crossing paths at different STEM and aviation events in the Washington, D.C. area. Over the years, he watched Williamson achieve her goals. 

“This child is committed. She’s not talking a good game. She’s walking that talk,” he said. 

“That’s what really motivates me about Nilah. She is not afraid of hard work. She’s driven and I have no doubt in my mind that she’s going to get it done. I’ve got years of experience watching her achieve goals that she set for herself,” Johnson said. 

Johnson’s company, Destiny Aviation Services, introduces aviation and aeronautics to elementary through high school students via classroom education, simulator training, flight instruction and aviation operations. The company focuses on showcasing aviation career opportunities to populations who may not have had access to airplanes. “The goal is to introduce kids to the thrill of aviation,” he said.  

The introduction of technology, including flight simulators, has disrupted the previous model of aviation training, making careers attainable more than ever before. Johnson says that sim training is a great way to show kids that aviation can be a possibility for them.  

“A young person can decide early and spend time preparing themselves for that endeavor. . . by the time they get a little old enough to get a license, they can actually be quite skilled,” he said. 

Read: Military kids lauded for accomplishments in academics and volunteer work

This is the case for Williamson, who currently serves as a high school ambassador for Destiny

“Seeing things in action allows people to embrace and pursue. She’s inspiring a lot of kids,” Johnson said. 

Both Johnson and Williamson see mentorship and the values of the military as important aspects of their connection. 

“Kind of like Nilah, I was a military brat growing up and I had a lot of people who touched my life in significant ways and so that’s the opportunity I have today by helping people identify what it is they want to do and track a course to get there,” he said. 

Williamson’s ultimate goal is to become a Naval aviator in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Nilah Williamson Military Families Magazine
High school senior Nilah Williamson’s ultimate goal is to become a Naval aviator in the U.S. Marine Corps. Photography courtesy of RLJ Photography.

“I have four generations of military service in my family,” she said. “I just am inspired by the people in my family who also were in the military.”

“For me, the values of the Marine Corps are the values of success,” she said. 

In the meantime, Williamson is finishing up her senior year and applying to college. While her extracurricular activities, including MCJROTC, varsity track and cross-country and National Honors Society keep her busy, aviation remains her focus. She’s working towards gaining the 40 hours of flight time required for completing her pilot’s license and hopes to have it completed before graduation. 

Williamson said that she’s grateful for this time during COVID and for the lessons she’s learned from Johnson while working towards her pilot’s license. “It’s perfect that I get to go through this journey will him,” she concluded. 

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Believe it or not, your CO can order you to be a human guinea pig

Many of us have heard the expression, “Canary in a coal mine.” It refers to a time when miners would carry caged birds with them as they entered mine tunnels. If the miners encountered dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners, allowing them to escape safely. It turns out the military has a similar warning process in the event of a chemical attack, but instead of using canaries, they could use… you.


That’s right, Field Manual 3-11.4 “Unmasking Procedures Without the M256-Series Chemical Detector Kit” states: “If an M256-series kit is not available … the senior person should select one or two individuals. They take a deep breath, hold it, and break the seal for 15 seconds, keeping their eyes wide open.” The procedure is called, “Selective Unmasking,” which is surprisingly calming for what is actually happening.

Basically, if the $H%T hits the fan, you can be ordered by your command to take off your mask and take one for the team … just like a human canary. (Worth noting: the U.S. Air Force determined that this process is not within their acceptable range of risk. Not shocking.) Now, before you decide to run for your DD-214, know that we can’t find one recorded event of Selective Unmasking ever happening with deadly consequences. There have been false alarms, such as during the chemical threats from Saddam’s forces during the 2003 invasion, but everyone walked away safely, except for a few angry individuals.

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

While seemingly insane, Selective Unmasking is based on the same logic used to test poisonous plants in the wild, I.e., expose yourself to a limited dose for a short period of time and wait to see what happens. According to the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense handout from the Marine Corps The Basic School, senior leaders will use the following steps when ordering a Selective Unmasking:

  • Designate two-three Marines
  • Brief them on the procedures to be followed
  • Have them sit in a shaded area out of direct sunlight
  • Ensure they are unarmed ——(Wonder why?)
  • The selected Marines will:
    • Take a deep breath.
    • Keep their eyes open.
    • Break the seal of their masks for fifteen seconds.
    • Then reseal and clear their masks.
    • Wait for ten minutes.

Now, if you’re a gung-ho hard charger you can always volunteer to be a human canary. But, if you’re facing some real chemical threats such as Anthrax, Sarin or Mustard, you might want to think twice. Certain agents can cause blistering, choking or even seizures. To avoid the chance of being chosen, you will have to play some unit politics.

Here’s our advice on how to avoid Selective Unmasking:

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

1. Rank has its privileges.

Officers, NCOs and unit leaders are mostly vital to the mission and will most likely not get picked. That leaves junior enlisted or new arrivals to the unit. So take promotion seriously before you enter a chemical battlefield.

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

2. Don’t be a dirtbag (or the new guy).

Your CO and NCO’s know how much value you are bringing to the unit on a daily basis. Dirtbags can cause their chain of command endless hours of paperwork and new arrivals haven’t even had a chance to prove themselves. If you aren’t fitting into the team good luck and on that note.

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

3. Luck

In a chemical attack, get your MOPP gear on and keep your head down. That being said, fighting during a real chemical attack is going to suck so start racking up karma points now.

Selective Unmasking is by far a last resort in one of the worst situations on earth. All of this can be avoided with proper planning and pre combat checks so bottom line….bring your test kits!

MIGHTY CULTURE

Heroic weapons sergeant to receive Medal of Honor

A weapons sergeant with the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) who heroically fought up a mountain through a barrage of enemy fire to help rescue his detachment members will receive the Medal of Honor.

The White House announced today that Master Sgt. Matthew O. Williams went above and beyond the call of duty during an operation on April 6, 2008. Williams — a sergeant at the time of the operation — was assigned to Special Operations Task Force-33 in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Williams will receive the highest military award for valor at a White House ceremony, Oct. 30, 2019. A “Hall of Heroes” induction ceremony at the Pentagon is slated for Oct. 31, 2019.


In April 2008, Williams joined 14 other Special Forces operators and roughly 100 Afghan commandos on a mission to take out or apprehend high-value enemy targets that were operating out of a mountain-top village within Shok Valley.

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

Then-Sgt. Matthew Williams with other team members assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), wait on a hill top for the helicopter exfiltration in eastern Afghanistan, late spring 2007.

(Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)

Shortly after the joint force dropped into the area and organized into elements, the lead command and control team started their treacherous hike up a near-vertical mountainside toward the objective.

It did not take long for the adversary to respond. A barrage of heavy sniper and machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades rained down on the team’s location.

In the ensuing chaos, the lead element was pinned down at a higher elevation and isolated from the larger military force. Further, they had sustained injuries and were requesting support.

In response, Williams organized a counter-assault team and led them across a waist-deep, ice-cold fast-moving river, and fought their way up the terraced mountain to the besieged lead element’s location.

Joined by his team sergeant, Williams positioned his Afghan commando force to provide a violent base of suppressive fire, preventing the enemy force from overrunning the team’s position. In turn, the actions of Williams and his team allowed the first command and control element to consolidate and move the casualties down the mountain.

As Williams worked to defend the force’s position, an enemy sniper took aim and injured his team sergeant. With disregard for his safety, Williams maneuvered through an onslaught of heavy machine-gun fire to render aid.

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

Then-Sgt. Matthew Williams assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), conducts long-range weapons training at Camp Morehead, Afghanistan, during the fall of 2009.

(U.S. Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)

Once his team sergeant was secure, the joint team egressed off the mountainside. Williams descended with his team sergeant off a near-vertical 60-foot cliff to a casualty collection point and continued to provide first aid.

With more injured soldiers coming down the mountainside, Williams ascended through a hail of small arms fire to help with their evacuation, and also repair his operational detachment commander’s radio.

As Williams returned to the base of the mountain with three wounded soldiers, enemy forces maneuvered to their position in an attempt to overrun the casualty collection point. Williams and the Afghan commandos quickly responded with a counter-attack and courageously fought back the attacking force.

As the medical evacuation helicopter arrived, Williams exposed himself to insurgent fire again to help transport casualties. Once the injured were secure, Williams continued to direct Commando fires and suppress numerous enemy positions. The team’s actions enabled the evacuation of the wounded and dead without further casualties.

The entire Shok Valley operation lasted for more than six hours. During that time, Williams and the joint force fought back against about 200 adversaries, all while they were subjected to a series of friendly, danger-close air strikes.

Williams is the second member of his detachment to receive the Medal of Honor for this operation. The president presented Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony Oct. 1, 2018.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Former Navy SEAL commander: You have to know when to follow

Former Navy SEAL commander Leif Babin knows that, as a leader, it can be difficult to keep an ego in check. But it’s necessary.

“As a leader, you’ve go to be decisive, you’ve got to make calls, you’ve got to be ready to step up and lead even in the most difficult circumstances,” he told Business Insider. “And yet, if you want to be the most effective leader, you absolutely have to be a follower as well.”

Babin was one of two platoon leaders reporting to Jocko Willink, who led US Navy SEAL Team 3 Task Unit Bruiser in the Iraq War. The two founded the leadership consulting firm Echelon Front in 2010, and their firm has worked with more than 400 businesses.


In their new book, “The Dichotomy of Leadership,” Babin shares a story of a mission that illustrates his point of how a leader must also be a follower.

During the 2006 Battle of Ramadi, Babin led a night mission where his SEALs were providing cover for Army soldiers and Marines. The late Chris Kyle, of “American Sniper” fame, was Babin’s point man. At one point, the team gathered on a roof to determine where they would set up a sniper overwatch. Babin and his leaders decided they would move to a certain building for that, but Kyle countered with a different selection that was not close to Babin’s choice.

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

Jocko Willink.

Babin outranked Kyle, but he also recognized that Kyle had the most experience with sniper missions of anyone on the team, including himself.

“‘Leading’ didn’t mean pushing my agenda or proving I had all the answers,” Babin wrote. “It was about collaborating with the rest of the team and determining how we could most effectively accomplish our mission. I deferred to Chris’ judgment.”

It was a call Babin said turned out to be the right one, and led to a successful mission. In the book, Babin reflected on a moment when he was a fresh platoon leader, and a stubborn refusal to acknowledge a suggestion from a team member who was lower in rank but had more experience led to a failed training exercise. It was fortunate he learned the lesson before deploying.

“Had we gone with my initial choice — had I disregarded Chris and overruled him because ‘I was in charge’ — we would have been highly ineffective, disrupting virtually no attacks, and that might very well have cost the lives of some of our brethren,” Babin wrote.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The delicious history and evolution of MREs

Since its official field debut in 1983, the MRE has come a long, long way. Today’s current iteration seems like veritable fine dining compared with previous versions, but they’re still widely considered “Meals Rejected by Everyone,” and “Meals Rarely Edible.” Take a look at how MREs have evolved over time and what the DoD is doing to make them more palatable.


1907: The Iron Ration becomes the first individual combat ration issued to military personnel and included three 3-ounce cakes made from beef bouillon powder and cooked wheat, three 1-ounce bars of chocolate, and salt and pepper.

1917: Reserve Rations are issued to soldiers during the end of WWI. These included 12 ounces of fresh bacon or one pound of canned meat, two 8-ounce cans of hardtack biscuits, 1.16 ounces of ground coffee, 2.4 ounces of sugar, and .16 ounces of salt—no pepper in sight.

1938’s C-Ration is closest to what many now think of as the MRE. It consisted of an individually canned, wet, pre-cooked meal. Service members had three choices: meat and beans, meat and vegetable stew, or meat and potato hash.

Just four years later, the 1942 K-Ration saw an increase in both calories and options. This MRE included meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but the choices (canned ham and eggs, bacon and cheese for lunch, and a beef and pork loaf for dinner) weren’t that appetizing.

By 1958, the Meal, Combat, Individual (MCI) included canned wet rations averaging about 1,200 calories each. The majority of all service members disliked the MCI, but this remained the only field option available for almost twenty years.

Adopted as the official DoD combat ration in 1975, large scale production of Meals Ready to Eat began in 1978, and the first delivery went out just three years later. The 25th ID ate nothing but MREs for 34 days, and service members rated the food “acceptable,” but only about half of the meals were consumed. Translation: the food was super gross, and the soldiers only ate them out of necessity. Three years later, the same experiment was performed … with the same results.

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

(U.S. Air Force Photo)

So, starting in 1988, the DoD made some changes. Entrée size was changed from 5 ounces to 8 ounces, and nine of the 12 entrée options were replaced. Candies were added to four choices, as was hot sauce, and for all 12 menus, cold beverage choices were made available.

But the MREs were still pretty gross.

Field testing and early feedback from Operation Desert Storm (ODS) brought another round of changes. This time, the DoD replaced old mil-spec spray-dried coffee with commercially freeze-dried coffee. Hot sauce was made available to all 12 menus, dehydrated fruits were swapped out for wet-pack fruit, and candy was made available to an additional four menus choices.

During ODS, service personnel ate MREs for as many as 60 days in a row, which resulted in another round of changes. Shelf-stable bread inside an MRE pouch was created, a chocolate bar able to withstand high heat was developed, and flameless ration heaters were developed as an easy method for service members to heat their entrees since the only thing grosser than eating MREs for two months is eating cold MREs for two months.

In 1994, more changes were field-tested. The DoD decided that commercial-like graphics should be added to increase consumption and acceptance. MRE bags became easier to open, and biodegradable spoons were added.

1996 saw MREs available for special diets to help increase calorie intake for service members in the field. Menu counts increased to 16 items and included ham slices and chili. One year later, there were 20 entrée items, including cheese tortellini and boneless pork chops with noodles.

Current menu offerings include southwest style beef and black beans, pepperoni pizza, creamy spinach fettuccine, and vegetable crumbles with pasta in taco style sauce. While none of those sound exceptionally appealing, they’re far better than beef bouillon cakes of 1907.

Ranked as the best MRE available, the chili mac menu comes with pound cake, crackers, a jalapeno cheese spread, and candy. The worst choices tie between the veggie burger (which includes a knockoff Gatorade powder, two slices of snack bread, and a chocolate banana muffin) and the Chicken a la King, which sounds yummy but is, in fact, just a gelatinous goo of shred of “chicken.”

MREs are useful for FTXs and good to have on hand in case of natural disasters. They’re convenient and shelf-stable, so they’re a good addition to emergency preparations. But don’t count on them tasting that great.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This WWII veteran evaded 4,000 enemy troops over 4 months

Some of our nation’s greatest treasures aren’t places, they are people. Leo LaCasse survived three crash landings and evaded 4,000 enemy troops during World War II. He now lives at a VA Community Living Center in Salem, Virginia. Here is his story:

Born on July 4, 1920, Leo LaCasse was one of five children–all of whom were born on birthdays of former presidents. At the age of 15, he joined the New Hampshire National Guard, and later the Army Air Corps, where he was assigned to a recruiting command. The private was soon promoted to corporal, then sergeant, as he traveled New England recruiting pilots from colleges and universities.

One day, Leo learned that he was accepted to flight school. It was a reward from his commanding officer who had submitted the application on his behalf. Despite never having gone to college, the Army sent Leo to college under an accelerated learning program, and when he graduated, he became a B-17 bomber captain.


Soon, flying planes “felt like home” to Leo.

“Some of them [planes] were cramped, but it didn’t make any difference to me because I was the pilot. When you’re packed in an aircraft and don’t have the room to move your body in the cockpit, any airplane you fly after that is good.”

In June 1943, Leo was assigned to the 8th Air Force, Bomb Group 548th in Suffolk, England, where he served under General Curtis Lemay.

Leo LaCasse flew 35 missions over Germany and other occupied countries, and survived three crash landings. During World War II, Leo evaded 4,000 enemy troops over 4 months.

One of Leo’s crashes landed in France, which was then occupied by Germany. He instructed his crew to head for the front lines, to surrender and tell whoever interrogated them that he was headed for Berlin. Instead, Leo left for Luxembourg to meet up with the French Resistance, where he crossed the Pyrenees Mountains, and made his way to Portugal.

In all, he spent four months avoiding Nazi capture. When the war was over, he was sent to Berlin for debriefing. That’s where he met and befriended a German general who recognized Leo’s name and revealed there had been 4,000 German troops looking for him following the crash landing in France.

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

Captain Leo LaCasse in front of his B-17 Bomber.

Leo retired from the military as a Brigadier General. For his service he has received numerous medals including the Silver Star Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, Legion of Merit Air Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Combat Medal, Joint Services Commendation Medal, World War II Victory Medal, European and Middle East Campaign Medal, Army Air Force Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, and the American Defense Medal.

On June 5, 2016, Leo received the Legion of Honor Medal, France’s highest honor.

Leo now resides at Salem VA Medical Center’s Community Living Center located in Salem, Virginia.

On July 4, 2019, Leo will celebrate his 99th birthday.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how Russian military aircraft can fly freely over the United States

In late summer 2017, two unarmed Russian military planes flew over critical American defense areas, completely unescorted, unintercepted, and completely unabated in any way. In Washington, a plane flew over the Pentagon, the Capitol, and even the White House – areas off limits to most other pilots, from the U.S. or elsewhere.

But Russia can fly over them whenever it wants.


Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

Putin will find a way to troll the US with this power.

The Tupolev Tu-154M also flew over the CIA headquarters building in Langley, Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and even the Presidential retreat at Camp David. Another Russian Tupolev Tu-154M military plane flew over Bedminster, New Jersey, where President Donald Trump was taking a break from the White House.

They both left from Dayton, Ohio.

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

Leaving: One of the best things to do in Dayton.

It may sound fishy, but there’s a good reason for the unrestricted flyovers. The United States and Russia are both party to the Open Skies Treaty, along with 32 other member states. It dictates that area controlled by a member state is open to observation by any other signatory. Any unarmed plane can fly over even the most sensitive areas of another country who signed on to the treaty. This is how the United States was able to prove military activity in Eastern Ukraine was a Russian build up over Moscow’s vehement denials.

So Russia can fly right over the White House on July 4th.

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

Usually they just buzz American ships at sea.

The treaty was talked about as early as 1955, but the Soviet Union (rightly) believed it would compromise their national security. It was formally re-introduced after the fall of Communism in 1992 and entered into force in 2002. All aircraft and its sensor equipment will carry home country observers and submit to an inspection to ensure its sensors are in line with treaty stipulations.

Only once was an Open Skies Treaty request ever turned down. In February 2016, Turkey denied Russia an Open Skies flight over NATO airbases in the country as well as areas near the Syrian border. In September 2018, the United States almost denied another Russian flyover by refusing to certify Russia’s latest Open Skies plane. Though the U.S. eventually relented, it said it was a response to Russia’s refusal to allow American flights over Kaliningrad, near the Poland-Lithuania border.

MIGHTY CULTURE

See the Air Force play Santa for thousands of islanders

For people living on remote islands across the Pacific, Christmas is the sound of C-130s roaring overhead as boxes of food, clothing, toys, and more parachuted from the holds drop down from the sky.

Here’s what it looked like this year.


Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

The patch of Operation Christmas Drop 2018 rests on the flight suit of a pilot from the 374th Airlift Wing as he and his crew delivers Coastal Humanitarian Air Drops to the island of Nama, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Dec. 10, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

Operation Christmas Drop, which began during the holiday season in 1952 as a spur-of-the-moment decision by a B-29 Superfortress crew, is the Department of Defense’s longest-running humanitarian airlift operation.

Source: Andersen Air Force Base

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

U.S. Air Force 1st. Lt. Emery Gumapas, a pilot assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan, looks out the flight deck window of a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft during Operation Christmas Drop 2018 en route to the island of Nama, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Dec. 10, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

Now in its 67th year, the OCD mission is supported by the US Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard, as well as members of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Royal Australian Air Force. It serves over 50 remote islands in the Pacific.

Source: Indo-Pacific Command

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

Three villages await Operation Christmas Drop on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 10, 2018. A C-130J Super Hercules from the 36th Airlift Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan, delivered more than 1000 pounds of agricultural equipment, food, clothing, educational and medical supplies to the inhabitants of Fais during Operation Christmas Drop 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

The first drop all those years ago began with a B-29 crew dropping supplies to waving locals on Kapingamarangi island. The program now helps tens of thousands of people living on 56 islands across an area of 1.8 million square nautical miles annually.

Source: Indo-Pacific Command

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

A C-130J Super Hercules with the 36th Airlift Squadron drops three Low-Cost Low-Altitude bundles filled with humanitarian aid supplies during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

US military C-130J Super Hercules aircrews conduct low-cost, low-altitude drops, with parachuted packages touching down on land or at sea, the latter sometimes being necessary to avoid unintended damage to the environment or property.

Source: Andersen Air Force Base

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

Two Low-Cost Low-Altitude bundles filled with humanitarian supplies float to the ground during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

For OCD 2018, military and civilian organizers collected 62,000 pounds of food, clothing, and other supplies for around 30,000 islanders.

Source: US Navy

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

Islanders carry a box of humanitarian supplies from the air-drop site to their village center during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

“My father experienced this drop when he was a little kid back in ’77, I believe, and in that drop, he got his first pair of shoes,” airman Brandon Phillip recently said. “I get to give back to my dad’s island while serving my country. It just makes it all special.”

Source: Department of Defense

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

Islanders carry a box of humanitarian supplies from the air-drop site to their village center during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

Many military personnel and civilian volunteers work for months putting together packages for the annual OCD drops across the Pacific.

Source: US Navy

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

Islanders carry a box of humanitarian supplies through their village during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

The OCD supply drop came a little over a month after the Marianas were hammered by the 180 mph winds of Super Typhoon Yutu, the worst storm to hit any part of the US since 1935.

Source: The Washington Post

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

Island children wait and watch while their village chiefs sort and divide humanitarian supplies for equal distribution during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

The islanders use every part of the delivery, including the parachutes and parachute cords. They reportedly use the parachutes to make boat sails.

Source: Stars and Stripes

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

Island children wait and watch while their village chiefs sort and divide humanitarian supplies for equal distribution during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

“This is what Christmas is for,” Bruce Best, who has been part of the OCD mission for four decades, told Stars and Stripes. “When they hear the rumble of the plane engines, that’s Christmas.”

Source: Stars and Stripes

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

A soldier faked his way into the 82nd Airborne – and almost everything else

Jumping from a perfectly good airplane is inherently dangerous, even for qualified Army Airborne personnel. Why someone would fake their way into jumping without being certified or trained is anyone’s guess, but there was Staff Sgt. Joshua Stokes in August 2014, making the jump. Somehow, he landed like a paratrooper, and no one would figure out his entire Army life was a sham.

Not yet, anyway.


Stokes was on his way to a staff position at his battalion headquarters when his company’s Air NCO noticed something was off about his Airborne Graduation Certificate. His was the only one in the entire 82d whose name wasn’t printed in all caps. It was just the first in a long line of falsified documents that Stokes had in his service record. The Air NCO wasn’t going to let it go. When Stokes wouldn’t produce the paperwork for his parachutist badge, he called Fort Benning’s Airborne School.

That’s when the 82d Airborne discovered Staff Sgt. Joshua Stokes had never attended Airborne School. And the long effort to unravel all of Stokes’ false records began. It wasn’t only that he wasn’t jump qualified. There was much, much more, according to an Army Times story from 2018.

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

A U.S. Soldier jumpmaster, assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division instructs Paratroopers from various units during pre-jump training at Pope Army Airfield, N.C., Aug. 7, 2019. Paratroopers perform routine airborne proficiency training to maintain their skills and keep readiness alive.

(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Gin-Sophie De Bellotte)

An Army investigation discovered the soldier had been sending false documents to the Electronic Military Personnel Office for almost as long as he’d been in the military. Some falsehoods were small, like claiming to have attended Sniper School and even being an instructor there for three years. Others were egregious, like claiming to have received the Purple Heart and Good Conduct Medal – for a time period before he was ever in the Army.

Stokes’ graduation certificate was dated for a Sunday, not a Friday as per Airborne tradition. HIs jump log lists dates of jumps he made when he was actually stationed with the 10th Mountain Division. He had never attended Sniper School, let alone work as an instructor. Stokes claimed to have finished Jump School, but he had never received jump pay. For all his denials, there are photos of Stokes wearing the Purple Heart in his dress uniform. Stokes’ Good Conduct Medal dates back to January 1992, when he was still in high school. He not only faked his way into the famed unit, he had faked his way through almost his entire Army career.

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

U.S. Army Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division go through pre-jump safety procedures, Aug. 7, 2019, at Pope Army Airfield, N.C. During this procedure strong emphasis is placed on the way troops exit the Paratroop door to maximize their safety during the operation.

(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Gin-Sophie De Bellotte)

The real Stokes entered the military in the California National Guard with the name Asche before changing his name to Stokes. As Stokes, he entered active duty in May 2003. His first assignment was at Fort Drum with the 10th Mountain Division. His record shows he was a sniper then, but the Army’s Sniper School has no record of that. Army investigators found that at least ten false documents had been added on a single day in 2007.

Army Times found Stokes on Facebook and reached out for comment, but none was forthcoming. The Army confirmed with Army Times that Stokes was administratively separated from the Army sometime between the start of the investigation and the writing of the Army Times story, but could not explain why, as those records are protected by privacy laws. One thing is for certain, the Army believes Stokes falsified all the questionable documents and added them to his record on his own.

And he almost got away with it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why the 1st Marine Division ships out to ‘Waltzing Matilda’

When considering music that we’d want to play as we ship out to a combat zone, very few of us would think of choosing a 19th century Australian folk song about a hobo who stole a sheep. And yet, that’s exactly what the Marines of the 1st Marine Division do en masse. It may seem odd that United States Marines choose to deploy using Australia’s unofficial national anthem, but a closer look at the history of the unit (and how the song ends) helps make sense of it all.

During World War II, the Marines of “the Old Breed,” the 1st Marine Division, famously began the first Allied offensive against Japan in the Pacific at Guadalcanal. Armed with old Springfield M1903 rifles and meager stores of food and ammunition, the Marines wrested control of the island from Japan in just over six months, earning them their first of three Presidential Unit Citations in WWII and a well-deserved rest in Australia.


Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

Say “no” to Bull Halsey. See what happens.

After the months of fighting and privation, the Marines were looking worse for wear. Sick from dysentery and weak, the men were just worn out. When they first docked in Brisbane, they were housed in what amounted to a series of shacks in swampland.

When the Marines’ commander, General Alexander Vandegrift, ordered that the entire division be moved, the Navy told him there was no way to spare the number of ships needed — and they had nowhere to go, anyway. That’s where Admiral William “Bull” Halsey and the city of Melbourne came in. Australia’s second-largest city offered to take them with open arms and Halsey would get them there.

Camps of already-pitched tents and bunks were waiting for them as they landed in Melbourne. The sick and wounded were transferred to a newly-finished hospital in nearby Parkville and the rest were given unlimited liberty for the next 90 full days. One account says the citizens of Melbourne opened their homes to the Marines. It was a mutual love affair for the guys who left their homes in the U.S. to fight with and for the Aussies.

On George Washington’s birthday, Feb. 22, 1943, the Marines marched a parade through Melbourne. During this parade, the 1st Marine Division Band decided to play the Australian folk favorite, Waltzing Matilda. The Australian onlookers loved it and cheered loudly for the procession.

Thus began the love affair between the 1st Marine Division and Australia.

When winter came, the Australians even gave the Marines their winter jackets, which were soon adopted by the USMC uniform board (no small feat). This is also where 1st Marine Division’s now-famous blue diamond patch was designed. Aside from the the red “one” and “Guadalcanal” markings, the patch also features the constellation Southern Cross, which is a symbol of Australia.

Every camp set up by the 1st Marine Division is called “Matilda.”

Marines hit three feet of rough water as they leave their LST to take the beach at Cape Gloucester, New Britain.

(National Archives)

The Australians were jubilant for the Marines’ victory on Guadalcanal. It was bad news for the Japanese who had invaded nearby Papua New Guinea, an Australian protectorate. After their rest, the Marines’ next move prevented the Imperial Japanese Navy from invading mainland Australia by taking the war to them yet again, invading New Guinea via Cape Gloucester.

As for the sheep thief in Waltzing Matilda, he was confronted by police for his theft and refused to surrender, instead throwing himself into the nearby body of water, a billabong, to evade capture.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These hot rod racers are made from military drop tanks

Military drop tanks are attached under fighters and bombers, giving them extra fuel to extend their range, but easily falling away if the plane gets in a fight and needs to prioritize agility and weight over range. The drop tanks are light, aerodynamic, empty shells when not filled with fuel, and that actually makes them a great starting point for hot rods.


Why Warplane Fuel Tanks Make Great Hot Rods

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And the hot rod community noticed these tanks during the Cold War, with some innovative spirits snapping them up to create tiny, fast cars. Now, these “lakesters” are quick racers that humans will cram themselves into to race across salt flats and other courses.

Many of these racers are made from World War II tanks like those used on the P-38 Lightning, the plane the F-35 Lightning II is named for. The P-38’s drop tanks were made of steel, like many of them in World War II, and its 300-gallon capacity was just big enough to allow for a motor and driver.

Getting ahold of a steel drop tank to convert was easy for a few decades after World War II, but enthusiasts now have to look harder for longer to find one of the few remaining, unconverted drop tanks.

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

A P-38 Lightning with its drop tanks during World War II.

(Public domain)

And they aren’t likely to get much help from the military. Modern militaries have often opted for more exotic materials for new drop tanks, reducing their weight and, therefore, the fuel usage of the plane. A lighter drop tank costs less fuel, and so provides more range, but the composite materials aren’t always great for racers.

It will only get worse, too. Drop tanks have a massive drawback for modern planes: They increase the plane’s radar signature while reducing the number of weapons it can carry. So the military and the aviation industry are shifting away from drop tanks, opting instead for “conformal fuel tanks.”

These are auxiliary tanks made to fit like a new, larger skin on an existing plane. They’re a little harder to install, and they can’t be jettisoned in flight, but they extend range with less drag and a much lower radar penalty. And they can be packed tighter to the body of the jet, allowing the plane to keep more of its agility than it would have with heavy tanks hanging from its wings.

Sorry, racers. Keep looking for the World War II-classics.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 7 universally important things to know before any boot camp

Everyone who enters the US military these days will go through basic training. Although each branch of the military (including the Coast Guard) has a markedly different experience in their initial training days, there are things a young would-be troop can know and do to prepare themselves mentally and physically for whatever service they’re about to enter, regardless of gender.

Prepare to fear and then respect the campaign hat, pukes.


Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

Tech. Sgt. Edroy Robinson, 331st Training Squadron military training instructor, observes as new Air Force basic training arrivals prepare to get a haircut May 20, 2015, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Johnny Saldivar)

Show up with a neat appearance.

Your fellow trainees/recruits will appreciate this. You will appreciate this eventually. You probably know before going that part of basic military training means you will be stripped of your hair and your civilian clothes. You will be given the same haircut as everyone else and wear the same clothes as everyone else. But before that happens, there’s a lot of waiting.

When you get off the bus, you will be tired and maybe dirty from traveling all day. You will feel gross. None of that will matter, though. Your introduction to military service begins with a hurry up and wait that could take most of a day and into the next. You may not see a rack or shower for some time. If you prepared for this, you and those around you will be grateful.

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

New recruits with Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, make their initial phone calls home at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, May 21, 2018.

(MCRD San Diego)

Dress conservatively.

This goes double for Marine Corps recruits. The goal is to not draw attention to yourself, to try to blend in. The whole time you were tired from getting to basic training, the drill instructors/drill sergeants/training instructors/recruit division commanders were watching you. The first thing they notice about you could stick with you for the entire time you’re in boot camp.

Consider a plain-colored tee shirt or other comfortable gear to wear to basic training.

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

Don’t take it personally.

The men and women in charge of shaping your civilian lump into a part of the world’s best combined-arms fighting force have been doing it for some time. They know exactly what it means to be a part of your entry in the U.S. Military. As a matter of fact, their basic training to teach your basic training was much, much more difficult than your basic training.

Training new recruits is one of the hardest jobs to get and keep in the U.S. military, and those who wear the Smokey Bear hat went through a lot to be there. No one cares more about making you a capable fighter than the person under that hat. If they’re giving you a hard time, there’s a reason for it.

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

A basic combat training soldier acting as a casualty is carried by members of his squad toward their command post after a simulated attack on their patrol July 20, 2016, during his BCT company’s final field training exercise at Fort Jackson, S.C.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Javier Amador)

Move like you mean it.

They’re awake before you are and they go to bed after you do. They put all their time and effort into molding you into the shapes of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. The least you can do is act like it means something to you. If you aren’t “moving with a sense of urgency” by the end of the first week, you’re showing total disrespect to everyone around you who is.

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

(U.S. Navy)

Be in some kind of shape.

Compared to most of the other things you’ll do with your life – especially your military life – basic training is rather easy. But it will be a whole lot more difficult for you if you were so out of shape in your civilian life that you may not hack it as a U.S. troop. But your window for getting in shape doesn’t have to be limited to the eight to twelve weeks you’ll spend in basic military training. If you can show up halfway there, you’ll be doing yourself a real favor.

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

An Air Force Basic Military Training dining facility.

(U.S. Air Force)

Learn how to address others.

Every branch has different rules for this in basic training, but it’s one of those little things that can show your instructors some respect while opening doors for you – literally. You will have to learn how to refer to your instructors, how to refer to yourself, and how to speak to those in your chain of command. You will have to do this for almost everything from answering questions to eating to going to the bathroom.

Life is so much easier when you know how to respond in these situations.

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

It gets better.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Do not ever think of giving up.

When you arrive, there will likely be a quick flash where you wonder just what the hell you’ve gotten yourself into. A quick situational awareness check will tell you that there are hundreds of others around you, doing the same thing, probably having the same idea. Everyone else will push past the defeatism and embrace the situation – and you will not be happy until you do the same.

For most people who go through the military, finishing basic training is one of the most satisfying achievements of their lives. For the people that quit, it becomes their biggest regret. The choice is simple.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Top 10 things you’ve been putting off that you should do during quarantine

Welp, let’s get real. We’re stuck at home. We can sneak into eerily quiet grocery stores in hopes of acquiring even a single role of elusive toilet paper, go for a walk and pick up an emotional support latte at the Starbucks drive-thru, but aside from that, we’re required to stay the heck away from each other.

As disarming as it may feel, when we’re stuck at home, we’re not really stuck at all. Just think of all the things you’ve told yourself you’ll get around to “some time.” Instead of feeling stuck, consider quarantine life as a chance to slow down, look within and get around to some overdue self-care. Here are 10 ideas to get you started!


Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

Cook more

Sure, it might be hard to find eggs and rice, but there are still plenty of recipes you can make. Cooking is time-consuming, which means most of us let the grocery stores do a lot of the food prep for us. While there is an increasing number of healthy, pre-made meals on the market, they can’t compare to making meals from scratch. Learning to cook can be meditative and it gives your family a chance to spend time together and appreciate the food you share.

Exercise

Exercise is not a new concept, but juggling work and family makes it a challenge to fit in consistent exercise. When you’re not in the habit of it, it’s natural to forget or put it off…what’s one more day? But in quarantineville, there’s plenty of time! You can learn to do the splits, work on your mile time or beat your squat record. Or just go for a walk. It doesn’t matter where you start. Just pick something enjoyable that you can maintain once regular life has resumed.

Break a bad habit

It takes 21 days to break a habit. Do you bite your nails? Drink Diet Coke on the reg? Have an adult beverage a little more frequently than the doc recommends? Take note of what triggers the behavior, like boredom or stress. Whatever your bad habit is, try replacing it with a different, healthier habit to make the change a little easier.

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

Learn a new skill

Another great health booster is using your brain in a new way. Learn a language, pull out the guitar that’s been gathering dust, try a drawing tutorial or learn how to fix that hole in the wall. Whatever you’re interested in, give it a shot!

Plan out financial goals

Look over your spending habits. Your career goals. Your retirement plans. Are you on track for where you’d like to be in five years? If you haven’t checked up on your finances, now’s a great time to buckle down and get serious about it.

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

Spring cleaning

Marie Kondo the whole house. That itchy sweater you never wear? Old textbooks you’ll never look at again? Your mother-in-law? Boy bye. (Okay, maybe the mother-in-law can stay. But the rest…get ’em outta here!)

Call old friends and relatives

We all have those two (or 10) people we always intend to call and never do. You’d be amazed how much light it brings someone when you simply pick up the phone and reach out. It’s a tiny action that shows you care. Especially when people are cut off from their normal social circles, a phone call can change someone’s entire day!

Surprise the ones you love

Not with presents…with your time! Make your partner a special meal or give them a massage. Get down on the floor and build a fort with your kids or bake cookies together as a family. Leave notes for each member to remind them what you love about them.

Teen flies plane before driving car and sets sights on military career

Read

We love these military-themed novels, but don’t be afraid to broaden your horizons, either! If you’re used to non-fiction, try reading a fantasy novel. Maybe a little poetry or romance. Reading opens worlds, and you finally have time to jump into one!

Get a good night’s sleep

Last summer, I went on a 10-day camping trip. No work. No internet. No electricity. When it got dark, we would gather around the fire and tell stories. By 9:00, we were out cold. For the first time since I was a kid, I woke up feeling refreshed and energized — no coffee needed. While 9:00 pm is a little extreme, use this time to settle into a routine that helps you feel your best.

The quarantine won’t last forever, so make of it what you can! Rest, reset and get ready to jump back into life with a clean house and a full battery.

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