What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

The United States’ northernmost military base, The Thule Air Base, is located in Greenland. Established in 1941 to aid Denmark in its defense against Germany, the base is just 947 miles away from the North Pole

The US established the Thule Air Base in 1941 to help Denmark defend its colonies from increasing German aggression. Later during the Cold War, the US had planned to place hundreds of nuclear-armed ballistic missiles in tunnels under the ice, but the ice wasn’t stable enough to complete the project. 

Today, Thule Base is effectively a US space base. 

Operated jointly by the US Air Force Space Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the base has replaced underground missile plans with high-tech space surveillance sensors, delivering remarkably precise early missile warnings. It also has increasing strategic value as Russia continues its quest for military control of the Arctic.

So what’s it like to live there? 

Cold, mostly. Really freaking cold. Located about halfway between Moscow and NYC, the polar base is home to about 140 American military staff along with a few hundred Danes, 50 Greenlanders, and a handful of Canadians. The base is unlike any other, and the residents basically just learn to deal. 

The only enemy to fear at Thule Air Base is the weather.

thule air base

The Arctic temperatures are frigid, but the cold air isn’t the only risk. Destructive snow storms can come out of nowhere, trapping everyone on the base inside their dorms. Thule is virtually inaccessible most of the year, as the waters surrounding it are frozen solid. Each summer, an icebreaker ship from Canada clears the bay, allowing ships to deliver massive stocks of food and supplies. 

You’d think nature would lighten up in summer, but nope; the season usually brings massive swarms of mosquitos. Then, in October, the sun stops rising. For the rest of fall and winter, Thule is pitch black. Come February, there’s about a month of “normal” sunrises and sunsets, before the sun decides to never set instead. It’s like Vegas, minus the vacation. 

Everyone at Thule lives in dorms, both because of a lack of space and for their own protection. If anyone goes missing, finding them would be almost impossible. Polar bears also frequent the area, so going for a snowy stroll alone is ill-advised. 

When you’re surrounded by miles of inhospitable ice, you learn to have fun with what you’ve got. 

At most military bases, traveling off-base to visit local cities is pretty routine. Thule’s insanely remote location is 65 miles away from the closest town, so there’s really nowhere to go. Because of this, the Air Force takes special care to make life at Thule as comfortable and pleasant as possible. 

Personnel is supplied with UV lamps to prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder during the dark season, and everyone has free Wi-Fi. A community center provides tons of gaming consoles that you can enjoy around the clock- sometimes with complimentary pizza! There’s also a fitness center, activities center, a bowling alley, and a club that hosts seasonal parties and events.

 If you love to run, you can sign up for the annual Thule marathon, or visit the skeet shooting range if that’s more your thing. Supposedly, Thule’s tourism center also offers guided hikes, bike rides, kayak excursions, and visits to hot springs! Thule Air Base also celebrates Armed Forces Day each year, welcoming native Greenlanders to the base for dog sled racing and other festivities. Those who have experienced life at Thule don’t deny its challenges, but they also believe the location’s otherworldly beauty makes it worth the trouble. It may not be the easiest base to be stationed at, but it’s definitely the coolest! Pun intended. 

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force lab in charge of processing COVID-19 samples from military facilities around the world

(Editor’s Note – The following is an updated repost of a story on the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine Epidemiology Reference Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, which was originally published on March 27, 2018. It contains new information on the lab’s mission during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

For the latest Air Force information and guidance on COVID-19 go to https://www.af.mil/News/Coronavirus-Disease-2019/

UPDATE – COVID-19 AND THE USAFSAM EPI LAB

The United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine’s epidemiology laboratory is the Air Force’s sole clinical reference laboratory, and as such, is testing and processing samples of COVID-19 sent from military treatment facilities around the world.


EPILAB

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The lab was authorized by the Defense Health Agency to test samples from Department of Defense beneficiaries for COVID-19 in early March, and received its test kit from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention shortly after.

“The USAFSAM Epi Lab is currently working long hours, testing and processing samples of COVID-19 that are coming in from MTFs globally,” said Col. Theresa Goodman, USAFSAM commander. “If you ask anyone on this team how they’re doing, they’ll tell you they’re fine–that they’re just doing their jobs. But I couldn’t be more proud of them right now — their selfless and tireless dedication to this mission. COVID-19 testing is our primary mission right now and the members of the Epi Lab are my front line to this fight.”

USAFSAM’s epidemiology laboratory, nested in the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 711th Human Performance Wing, has a long history of testing and identifying various infectious respiratory diseases, including those that occur on a regular basis like influenza, and the ones similar to COVID-19 that become a public health issue, spreading globally. Because of this, the team works closely with the CDC and other agencies.

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

Col. Theresa Goodman

“We have been in operation for approximately 30 years, and therefore involved with many other infectious disease outbreaks, for example SARS,” said Col. Dana Dane, USAFSAM Public Health Department chair.

This laboratory is only authorized to test samples coming in from DoD beneficiaries, but those outside this demographic have the support of their state public health departments for testing purposes. USAFSAM is working closely with public health professionals across the DoD, as well as with the CDC as the situation evolves. Per CDC guidelines, reference laboratories are no longer required to submit samples to the CDC for further testing and final confirmation. If the tests do show as positive, the USAFSAM Epi Lab marks the sample “confirmed positive.”

USAFSAM’s laboratory is not participating in vaccine development. It also is not the type of laboratory where people go to get blood drawn, nasal swabs, etc., like a CompuNet or clinic at a doctor’s office or in a hospital. USAFSAM’s clinical reference lab is set up to receive these samples from military treatment facilities. They run the tests on those samples and log the data.

“We’re all sensitive to those around the world who are grieving losses due to this awful virus as well as to others who are just downright scared. Our hearts go out to you,” said Goodman. “But just know that our epidemiology laboratory here in USAFSAM is waiting at the door 24/7 for any and all samples that come in from our DoD family.

Goodman also stated that the team is lockstep with public health personnel around the world as well as with our partners at the CDC.

“We truly are all in this together,” she said. “Fighting this virus will take all of us doing our part–from those staying at home washing their hands a little more often and checking on neighbors to USAFSAM’s public health team testing samples and getting the data where it needs to go.”

THE DISEASE DETECTIVES (ORIGINAL POST – MARCH 27, 2018 )

After slowly using a blade to cut through thick tape, a technician in a protective gown and glasses opens the flaps of a cardboard box revealing a polystyrene container. As her gloved hands cautiously remove the lid, a wisp of vapor rolls slowly over the edge of the box, clinging to its surface as it descends onto the tabletop.

The technician gingerly reaches through the fog and removes a plastic bag filled with clear vials from the container. This process is repeated over a hundred times each morning as carts filled with boxes of clinical patient specimens arrive at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine’s Epidemiology Laboratory Service at the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Created in 1990, the Epi Lab, as it is referred to at USAFSAM, focuses on clinical diagnostic, public health testing and force health screening, performing 5,000 to 8,000 tests six days a week (or about 2.1 million tests a year) for clinics and hospitals treating active duty service members, reservists and National Guard members and their dependents and beneficiaries.

The data collected from these tests not only enables the analysis of disease within the joint force, but is shared with civilian public health agencies contributing to the tracking of diseases, such as influenza and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), as well as supporting disease prevention efforts, such as the formulation of vaccines.

While the lab receives most of its medical samples from Air Force bases around the world, it also tests specimens sent by Navy and Army hospitals and clinics, totaling more than 200 military medical facilities around the globe.

The Epi Lab’s workload is a result of its efficiency and economics, according to Elizabeth Macias, Ph.D., a clinical microbiologist, and director of the Epi Lab.

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

Elizabeth Macias, Ph.D., is a clinical microbiologist, and director of the Epidemiology Laboratory Service, also known as the Epi Lab, at the 711th Human Performance Wing’s United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine and Public Health at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio. The lab, which receives between 5,000 and 8,000 samples, six days a week, for analysis, routinely reports results to Department of Defense hospitals and clinics around the world within 48 hours of a sample being shipped to the lab.

PHOTO BY J.M. EDDINS JR.

“A lot of the testing is very specialized, and in some cases can be very expensive. Many of our Air Force clinics and laboratories are small and don’t have the personnel to do that kind of thing or the funding to get all the specialized instruments that we have,” Macias said. “Our personnel are comprised of military, government civilians and contractor civilians, so we have the expertise and the personnel to handle the workload.”

Nearly 30 people work throughout the morning, removing samples packed in dry ice from their boxes, ensuring the patient information on the specimen tubes and paperwork match the orders on the computer system and then re-labeling them for the lab’s computer system before sending the samples to the appropriate testing departments.

“The laboratory consists of three branches; Customer Support, Immunodiagnostics and Microbiology. Immunodiagnostics and Microbiology perform testing, such as immune status and screening for STDs, like Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), gonorrhea, syphilis and hepatitis and some other serology assays,” said Tech. Sgt. Maryann Caso, noncommissioned officer in charge of the immunodiagnostic section of the Epi Lab.

Just over a year ago, the Epi Lab adopted fourth-generation HIV testing, which enables the lab to detect an HIV infection two weeks sooner after a patient is exposed. This newer technology allows patients to receive treatment and counseling sooner.

There is a constant flow of samples requiring STD screening and immune status testing, as these are gathered as part of the in-processing screening for each new service member. The tests help screen for potentially infectious diseases as well as establish a baseline of antibody types and levels for each new recruit to precisely target which vaccines they need.

“For example, all the new recruits are tested for measles, mumps, and rubella. So if they have antibodies to those diseases then they’re not vaccinated again. This saves the Department of Defense because they don’t waste manpower and money to vaccinate somebody that is already protected against those diseases,” Macias said.

The lab has become more efficient and safer for laboratory technicians after the installation of an automated testing system last year.

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

Laboratory technicians unpack and log in blood serum, fecal, urine or respiratory samples which arrive from U.S. Air Force hospitals and clinics around the world, as well as some other Department of Defense facilities Jan. 30, 2018. The Epidemiology Laboratory Service, also known as the Epi Lab, at the 711th Human Performance Wing’s United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine and Public Health at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio, receives 100-150 boxes a day, six days a week. The lab, which tests between 5,000 and 8,000 samples daily, is a Department of Defense reference laboratory offering clinical diagnostic, public health, and force health screening and testing.

PHOTO // J.M. EDDINS JR.

“The samples come in now and are put on an automated line. It will actually uncap the sample, spin it down, aliquot it (divide the sample into smaller portions for multiple tests) and sort it to whatever section and analyzer it needs for a particular test,” Caso said.

“Before, our techs had to manually uncap the tubes, aliquot the samples and sort them. When you have thousands of samples that you have to uncap and then recap by hand, you get repetitive-motion injuries to the wrist – such as carpal tunnel. The whole idea is to have automated processes and to eliminate or mitigate pre-analytical errors, such as specimen contamination.”

Once tested, the results are automatically returned to the submitting hospital or clinic via computer, unless the system notifies a technician to intervene and manually certify the test result.

“Specimens are collected at hospitals and clinics around the world and sent to us,” Macias said. “We receive the boxes within 24 hours and most of the results are completed within 24 hours… So, generally, we get those results back to the submitting clinic within 48 hours from when they are shipped to us, so the docs can then treat their patients appropriately and with a good turnaround time.”

In addition to the immunology testing that is performed in the lab, the Microbiology branch performs testing on bacterial cultures, examines fecal samples for parasites that cause intestinal disease, and performs influenza testing.

The Air Force began an influenza surveillance program in 1976 to collect data about disease and its spread in response to an outbreak of what was called “Bootcamp Flu.” In the close quarters of basic training, the virus spread through many barracks, according to Donald Minnich, technical supervisor for the Virology and manual testing section at the Epi Lab.

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

Donald Minnich, technical supervisor for the manual testing section, oversees the influenza surveillance program at the Epidemiology Laboratory Service, also known as the Epi Lab, at the 711th Human Performance Wing’s United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine and Public Health at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio.The lab identifies and sequences the genome of influenza samples received from U.S. Air Force hospitals and clinics around the world, as well as other Department of Defense facilities. The data collected on active flu strains contributes about 25 percent of the total data used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to formulate its yearly influenza vaccine.

PHOTO // J.M. EDDINS JR.

To combat illness, recruits needed to be regularly monitored, giving birth to Operation Gargle, in which recruits gargled with a solution and spit it back into a specimen cup which was then tested for influenza and other respiratory pathogens.

The Air Force program is now part of the Defense Health Agency’s Global, Laboratory-Based Respiratory Pathogen program which grows, sequences and collects data on influenza, parainfluenza, adenovirus and the Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV.

The flu surveillance program at the Epi Lab has approximately 95 submitting laboratories scattered across the continental United States and the globe, from deployed areas to Europe, Japan and Guam.

In a typical flu season, the surveillance program receives between 5,000 and 6,000 specimens. This year, the Epi Lab has received 5,000 specimens in just the first few months of the flu season, according to Minnich.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 hysterical realities of being a ‘Zoom Soldier’

It’s finally here — the point in which playing Call of Duty might actually become relevant to your military career. In the extra weird era of “Zoom soldiers,” virtual training (to no one’s surprise) isn’t as great as it likely sounded when some general in the Pentagon thought it up (sorry, sir). Get soldiers together over their computer screens and execute training as usual. What could go wrong? Well, a lot actually.


What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

Virtual missions

Congratulations, you have been selected to lead today’s attack on a Taliban stronghold. You are in charge of a 40-man infantry platoon and have at your disposal the most lethal and casualty-producing weapons available to the U.S. Army. Ready? Oh, one more thing: The Taliban stronghold is imaginary and your platoon is ten of your peers linked up over computers. Welcome to combat training in the Zoom era.

Everyone’s a super soldier

You are handed a map with your location and the location of the enemy and after planning, start your movement. Cue the unrealistic battlefield conditions and superhuman feats by you and the enemy. Do you have a 5-click movement to the objective? Too easy, you can “walk” that in two minutes over Zoom for “time constraints.” Need to call for air support? They arrive within 15 seconds tops and damn, your grid is on point.

Cadre are unsurprisingly biased

Recocking sucked before but reaches a whole new level of stupid in a virtual training lane. Unfortunately for you, the guy running the Zoom room is being a really d-bag today and all 20 rounds you fired on your pre-planned targets were misses. Instead of safety violations or hitting the wrong building, getting a pass depends on who’s feeling bored AF in their pajamas this morning.

There’s a mute button for that

The best thing ever just happened to safety briefs, newly promoted monologues from Sergeant Smith, and all the other pointless crap you had to listen attentively to before…a mute button. Is there anything more satisfying than muting your superior while playing COD on silent under the desk? I think not.

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

No one’s looking this put-together every morning anymore.

What grooming standards

We’re not saying it’s true, but grooming accountability may or may not be as easy as a few outfit changes after you finally get around to shaving. No fresh haircut? Sorry, my camera function isn’t working today for the call.

Dang, my internet broke 

Have you ever had to face the wrath of showing up late, oversleeping or just plain forgetting? Virtually, there’s an excuse for that. Due to “unforeseen” circumstances, that 7 am phone call I missed was because of the Wi-Fi going down. Definitely not because I overslept, no way.

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

When did PT become a group fitness class?

“PT is the most important part of every soldier’s day” – Every CSM in history. Oh, you thought COVID19 would let you slack off a little on working out? Well you thought wrong. Your Platoon Sergeant has made it very clear you will still execute PT every day and you have to show proof of doing the exercises. Better be ready to both hold your phone for video and do push-ups at the same time. You haven’t experienced true horror until you hear the words “the bend and reach” over a Zoom call and realize it’s not a joke.

MIGHTY CULTURE

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

My grandparents valued our nation’s history, and they did everything they could to ensure they passed down their knowledge and understanding of that history to the next generation. So, each summer from 5th Grade through my freshman year of high school, they took my cousins and I on road trips across the United States. Every trip ranged from two weeks to a month, traveling everywhere from the old Civil War battlefields in North Carolina to the cobblestone roads of River Street in Savannah, Georgia.


Even though we were just kids, we soaked up every bit of information we could about our nation’s convoluted and conflicted history. We learned to value our past, and the men and women who made our nation what it is today. For me, those trips laid a foundation I wouldn’t come to fully appreciate until years later … riding shotgun through Afghanistan.

My Grandfather was born in September 1939, too young for World War II or Korea, and too old for Vietnam by the time it came around. Grandpa was a model American though, at least as far as I was concerned. He worked a 30-year career with the phone company, raised three beautiful children, and married his high school sweetheart. He was eventually diagnosed with throat cancer; within a few years of diagnosis they removed all the cancer cells as well as his voice box.

But that didn’t stop him from doing what he thought was right.

Speaking with a mechanized voice box, he told his kids — including my mom — that he wanted to take the grandkids on a road trip to travel and explore our nation that summer. That led to many days and late nights in the passenger seat of my grandparents’ motorhome holding a Rand McNally road atlas while listening to my grandpa speak about his family’s legacy of military service with genuine admiration.

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

Grandpa told us about his oldest brother — they called him C.F. — who was an Infantryman that stormed Normandy’s beaches on D-Day. His brother Byron drove a tank through Italy, France, and Germany before almost being sent to Okinawa after the war in Europe had ended.

Against all odds, they somehow stumbled across each other during the war. Bryon was sitting on his tank as C.F. walked by with his unit; they were shocked at the sight of each other and took a moment to shower each other with questions before saying their good-byes and good lucks. That story stayed with me for a long time.

And then there was grandpa’s brother-in-law, Curtis. He rode on horseback behind enemy lines to establish communication lines in France during the war.

My grandpa spoke briefly but highly of his father-in-law — my great-grandfather, saying he served in World War I as an artilleryman. He struggled with shell shock; we call that PTSD these days. He’s standing next to an artillery cannon in France in the only picture we have of him.

My mind was doused in imagination; these men … these giants were the igniter. I had known them as kind, old southern gentlemen my entire childhood; my grandfather’s stories forced me to re-envision them as gigantic, unstoppable figures who changed the course of the world. These men were my heroes.

I still cherish every moment we spent together on the road discussing how our robust nation came to fruition, how our 16th President is revered as one of the best Presidents given the circumstances, and how FDR handled one of the greatest conflicts the world has ever experienced. My grandfather spent the waning years of his life passing down this historical knowledge to my cousins and me, and for that he will always be my hero.

From a very young age, I understood that our nation and livelihood was only attainable and sustained because of men like my relatives. Whether it was the moment Japan bombed Pearl Harbor or when Wilson brought us into WW1, these men answered the call willingly and selflessly. They understood what needed to be done to keep our nation’s virtues safe and guarded.

I was born in 1989, so a world-changing event like Pearl Harbor wouldn’t come into my life until a fall morning in 2001. I was in my 7th grade social studies class. Our teacher frantically rolled in the television and turned on the news. We sat as a class and watched one of the two towers burn in front of our eyes. A second plane came into frame, flying directly into the second tower. The gasps and cries in the room that day have never left my mind.

After about thirty minutes, the principal came over the intercom and cancelled classes for the day. I rushed to my bicycle, unlocked it, and pedaled home as fast as I could while images of the second plane crashing into the building devoured my thoughts. The front door of my house didn’t stand a chance; I unlocked it faster than I unlocked my bike, turned on the news and didn’t leave the living room until my mother got home from work.

She asked me if I’d been watching the tragic news all day. “Of course,” I told her. “If whatever happens is still happening when I turn eighteen, then I’m going to go and fight.” It was 2001 and 18 (the minimum age to go to war) was so far off in the distance that my mother didn’t argue. She knew I had a passionate love for this nation and respected the military tradition that our nation, and our family had cultivated.

Time went by. Days became months, months became years, and 2001 became 2005. My grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at the same time my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. On October 31, 2007, Julean Hatcher, my beloved grandmother who was the rock for all of us, passed away.

My life had not amounted to anything by that point. I wasn’t actively trying to pursue college … or anything to better myself for that matter. I finally held myself accountable for the oath I made to my mother as a 7th grader in 2001 and signed a contract with the Marine Corps. On Mother’s Day 2008, I left for Parris Island, South Carolina to begin my journey toward becoming a U.S. Marine.

Over the course of recruit training we were told numerous times we weren’t going to go anywhere, that we would go to Iraq if we were lucky. Would I follow in Grandpa’s footsteps and miss the war?

The war in Iraq was nearing its end (or so we thought), but what no one saw coming was President Obama taking office and ordering 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. That changed my life and the course of hundreds of thousands of lives. From my great-uncles to my great-grandfather, to every single man and woman that ever served this nation prior to this moment, I could feel our history was about to be written.

In January 2010, I was sent to Afghanistan as a combat replacement to Route Clearance Platoon 2. I spent the next four months operating in and out of Marjah, Afghanistan looking for and disposing of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

Department of Defense

In April 2011, we deployed again to Helmand Province. But this time we were pushing into the now-infamous Sangin Valley, where we met heavy resistance. I spent so many days covered in a salt stained F.R.O.G. top wondering if my lineage would be proud of what we were doing, if they would be proud of the men and women who came after them to fight the good fight. I guess I’ll never truly know, but I’m confident they would be proud of every single one of us who raised our hands, recited that oath, and waved goodbye to family members as we loaded busses headed for war — just like they did.

I spent many days and late nights in the vehicle commander’s seat of a 4X4 MRAP truck building overlays on my map, marking the IED hits, SAF locations, and crater positions for hours on end. I sat there, navigating our platoon all throughout our area of operations, while reflecting on the times I spent with my grandfather learning about C.F. running through a curtain of steel while fighting his way up the Norman beaches. Thinking about Byron maneuvering his tank in just the right way to survive in the throes of battle. Imagining Curtis on horseback, evading the Nazis while setting up communications.

And my great-grandfather in France fighting against some of the worst evil the world had seen.

I couldn’t help but draw inspiration, motivation, and reasoning from my family’s history while fighting my generation’s war. They pushed me to excel and pursue becoming the type of American that might be somewhere … anywhere near the caliber of men they were.

I will always admire my grandfather for teaching me and captivating me with these stories of giant men and women who made a real impact on the world with their actions, all while leaving an impact that resonated to my core, shaped my thought process, and guided me to where I am today. We stand on the shoulders of giants, becoming giants for our children and their children to climb.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to make restaurants a healthy part of your meal plan

Whether it’s dinner from your neighborhood carry out or going to lunch with friends, eating out is a part of everyone’s life. Having diabetes can make this tough, but with planning and thoughtful choices, you can enjoy a variety of healthy foods away from home. Use these tips to enjoy eating out while still sticking to your routine of eating healthy for diabetes.


Plan ahead

While restaurants are in the business of selling food, and not necessarily helping you stick to your diet, many offer healthy food choices and alternatives. You can plan what you want to order ahead of time by looking at menus online. It’s also easier to make healthy food choices if you’re not starving, so before a party or dinner, enjoy a diabetic-friendly snack. If you are going to a friend’s house, ask if you can bring food to share. That way you’ll know there are healthy options to eat.

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

Know the amount of carbs you should have in each meal.

If you have diabetes, it’s important to know the number of carbohydrates you should have in each meal. Carbs can raise blood sugar levels more than other nutrients, so it’s best to monitor them. Try limiting cheese, bacon bits, croutons, and other add-ons that can increase a meal’s calories, fat, and carbohydrates.

Mind your portions

Many restaurants pack their plates with portions that are often twice the recommended serving size. You can avoid the temptation to overeat by:

  • Choosing a half-size or lunch portion.
  • Sharing meals with a dining partner.
  • Requesting a take-home container to put half your food in before you start to eat your meal.
  • Making a meal out of a salad or soup and an appetizer.
What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

Fresh fruit and vegetables promote healthy eating habits.

When at parties, choose the smallest plate available or a napkin to keep from overeating. A good rule of thumb is to fill half of your plate with vegetables or salad. Then split the other half of your plate between protein and non-starchy carbohydrates. If you have a sweet tooth, fruit is a good choice for dessert. Since you likely don’t have a measuring cup or food scale handy, you can estimate serving sizes based on your hands:

  • 2 to 3 ounces is about the size of your palm
  • ½ cup is about the size of your cupped hand
  • 1 cup is about the size of your full fist

Healthier alternatives

As you decide what foods to add to your meal, consider how they are prepared. Rather than ordering something breaded or fried, ask that your food be:

  • Broiled
  • Roasted
  • Grilled
  • Steamed
What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

Don’t settle for the side dish that comes with your meal. Instead of fries, choose a side salad with fat-free or low-fat salad dressing, or extra vegetables. You can also control how much fat you eat by requesting butter, sour cream, gravy and sauces on the side. If you choose a sandwich, swap house dressings or creamy sauces for ketchup, mustard, horseradish or fresh tomato slices. Drinking sugar-sweetened soft drinks is an easy way to rack up calories, so instead opt for water or unsweetened ice tea. If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to one serving and choose options with fewer calories and carbs, such as:

  • Light beer
  • Dry wines
  • Mixed drinks made with sugar-free mixers, such as diet soda, diet tonic, club soda or seltzer

Add it to your food journal

Keeping a food journal is a great way to stay aware of what you eat each day. Diabetic veterans can track both their meals and vitals with My HealtheVet’s Track Health feature. Before your meal, take and enter your blood sugar level. Once you are done eating, record the foods you chose. This will help you – and your doctor – understand your eating habits and create a diabetes meal plan that meets your lifestyle and health needs.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Arctic Strategy Unveiled

In his last public appearance in 1935, Billy Mitchell, a former U.S. Army brigadier general and airpower visionary, testified before Congress that Alaska was the most strategic place in the world. From there, he said, U.S. Army aircraft could reach any capital in the northern hemisphere within nine hours. Mitchell cited, “Whoever holds Alaska will hold the world.” An Arctic presence enables global reach for whoever holds this region and the same is true today – although the flight times have drastically decreased.


Arctic – Strategic Importance

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Activity in the Far North is heating up, both environmentally and with competing sovereign interests. With the changing of maritime access due to receding land and sea ice, Russia has been refurbishing airfields and infrastructure, creating new bases, and developing an integrated network of air defense, while seeking to regulate shipping routes. China is also seizing the chance to expand its influence to obtain new sources of energy and faster shipping routes.

“The Arctic is among the most strategically significant regions of the world today – the keystone from which the U.S. Air and Space Forces exercise vigilance,” said Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett.

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein, left, Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett and Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond attend a video conference at the Pentagon with members of the Atlantic Council think tank to discuss the rollout of the Arctic strategy, Arlington, Va., July 21, 2020. They discussed the Department of the Air Force’s first guiding strategy for operating in the Arctic region. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // ERIC DIETRICH)

Barrett unveiled the new, comprehensive Department of the Air Force Arctic Strategy July 21. The strategy outlines the Department’s unique regional role and efforts to optimize Air and Space Force capabilities throughout the region in support of the National Defense Strategy.

“This Arctic Strategy recognizes the immense geostrategic consequence of the region and its critical role for protecting the homeland and projecting global power,” Barrett said.

The strategy outlines how the Air and Space Forces will enhance vigilance, reach and power to the nation’s whole-of-government approach in the Arctic region through four coordinated lines of effort: vigilance in all domains, projecting power through a combat-credible force, cooperation with allies and partners and preparation for Arctic operations.

Vigilance

The number one Department of Defense priority is homeland defense.

“The strategic value of the Arctic as our first line of defense has reemerged and (U.S. Northern Command) and (North American Aerospace Defense Command) are taking active measures to ensure our ability to detect, to track and defeat potential threats in this region,” Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee. He is the commander of NORAD and USNORTHCOM.

As the combatant commander charged with homeland defense, O’Shaughnessy is seeing the front line of homeland defense shifting north, making it clear the Arctic can no longer be viewed as a buffer. In a recently published commentary, O’Shaughnessy stated, “The Arctic is a potential approach for our adversaries to conduct strikes on North America and is now the front line in our defense.”

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

North American Aerospace Defense Command F-22s, CF-18s, supported by KC-135 Stratotanker and E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft, intercepted two Russian Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone on Monday, March 9th. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO)

When it comes to the Arctic, U.S. Air and Space Forces are responsible for the majority of DoD missions in the region, including the regional architecture for detecting, tracking and engaging air and missile threats. Space Professionals in the region are responsible for critical nodes of the satellite control network that deliver space capabilities to joint and coalition partners, as well as the U.S. national command authority.

“Integrating space capabilities into joint operations fuels the joint force’s ability to project power anywhere on the planet, any time,” said Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond. “The Arctic is no different. Spacepower is essential to Arctic operations, allowing us to see with clarity, navigate with accuracy, and communicate across vast distances.”

Projecting Power

Protecting America’s interests in the homeland and abroad entails more than a vigilant defensive posture. Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, present combat capability with fifth-generation fighters as well as mobility and refueling aircraft. The Air Force provides the capability to reach remote northern locations via the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing which operates ski-equipped LC-130s that can land on ice.

“Our unique positioning in locations like Alaska, Canada and Greenland are integrated with multi-domain combat power,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “These locations harness powerful capabilities, and their unwavering vigilance to protecting the homeland represents a strategic benefit that extends well beyond the region itself.”

Cooperation with Allies and Partners

Alliances and partnerships are key in the Arctic, where no one nation has sufficient infrastructure or capacity to operate alone. Interoperability is especially critical in the Arctic due to the terrains, limited access, and low density of domain awareness assets. Many regional allies and partners have dedicated decades of focus to the Arctic, developing concepts, tactics and techniques from which the joint force can greatly benefit. Indigenous communities possess millennia of knowledge about the Arctic domain passed down through generations. Working with indigenous communities helps Air and Space Forces understand the Arctic environment, enriches training and exercises, and ensures recognition of their contributions to Department of the Air Force activities.

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

Airmen with the 109th Airlift Wing cooperate with the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 440th Squadron to load equipment on their Twin Otter aircraft in support of Air National Guard exercise Arctic Eagle February 23rd, 2020. (U.S. AIR NATIONAL GUARD PHOTO // TECH. SGT. JAMIE SPAULDING)

“Strong relationships with regional allies and partners, including at the local level, are a key strategic advantage for the U.S. in the Arctic,” Barrett said. “U.S. Air and Space Forces are focused on expanding interoperability with peers that value peaceful access in the region, and we appreciate our local hosts that have welcomed Department of the Air Force installations, Airmen and Space Professionals as part of their communities for decades.”

Preparation for Arctic Operations

The Arctic’s austerity requires specialized training and acclimation by both personnel and materiel. The ability to survive and operate in extreme cold weather is imperative for contingency response or combat power generation.

“Spanning the first airplane flights in Alaska in 1913 to today’s fifth-generation aircraft and sophisticated space monitoring systems operating in the region, the Arctic has consistently remained a location of strategic importance to the United States,” Barrett said. “While the often harsh weather and terrain there call for appropriate preparations and training, Airmen and Space Professionals remain ready to bring the nation’s Arctic air and space assets to bear to support the National Defense Strategy and protect the U.S. homeland.”

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

354th Security Forces Squadron Combat Arms Training and Maintenance (CATM) instructors oversee Airmen preparing to fire an M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Jan. 9, 2020. CATM instructors are responsible for training Airmen how to use various small arms weapon systems. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // SENIOR AIRMAN BEAUX HEBERT)

Eighty-five years have passed since Mitchell’s proclamation about Alaska, made just eight days before his death, and his words still ring true. The same could be said about his foretelling of the attack on Pearl Harbor or his vision of building the world’s mightiest Air Force. During his military career, his outspoken predictions were met with ridicule, which ultimately led to him resigning his commission. Mitchell’s strategic foresight on Alaska is no coincidence to the Air Force’s long history and appreciation to the Arctic, which has now led to the forward-looking approach by leadership to stabilize the region for years to come.

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


MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet Mighty Milspouse Ashley Keller

Ashley Keller was frustrated. Why was every prenatal workout she found on YouTube too slow or beyond extreme and not safe for her baby?

The triathlete Army officer was no stranger to fitness. Upon her graduation from West Point, she was offered the opportunity to train for the Olympics, but turned it down to pursue serving her country in a traditional way.


What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

“My husband Luke got his mid-tour leave from a year long deployment and a government paid ticket to anywhere in the world,” Keller explained. “He sacrificed that ticket on a flight to West Point, New York to support my graduation from the Academy. We got married two days later, honeymooned to Costa Rica and he flew back to Iraq and I headed to Fort Leonardwood for Engineer Officer Basic Training. The Army then gave me a choice: go be a platoon leader like I had spent the last four years at West Point preparing to do or be sponsored by the Army to train at the World Class Athlete Center in Colorado for the next triathlon Olympics. [Training in Colorado] would mean not serving our country as I hoped to do, and it would post me across the country from Fort Bragg, where my new husband was stationed. I also knew one injury in triathlon [training] could foil all Olympic prospects and didn’t want to sacrifice my marriage for it.”

Keller had forfeited her Olympic dreams in favor of service, but never sacrificed her love of sport, representing the U.S. Army in NBC’s Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge and competing in the notoriously grueling Ironman races. When she became pregnant with her first baby, Keller longed for workouts that were challenging, yet effective.

“So I got certified and nerded out on scholarly articles about training,” Keller says. “I’d rush home over lunch breaks, change out of my Army uniform, and record ten to fifteen minute prenatal workouts with a cheap camera propped up on index cards on my countertop. I thought there might be some women out there who also wanted more challenging prenatal workouts.”

As it turns out, there were quite a few women. Keller quickly built a community of online followers and her passion for fitness and educating women online grew. After five and a half years of active duty service and a deployment to Afghanistan, she separated from the Army to pursue fitness full time and GlowBodyPT was born.

Today, Keller has an online following of more than 40,000 on social media and offers free workout videos on her Youtube channel, as well as customized plans through her website, featuring specialized workouts for prenatal and post-pregnancy.
What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

“A couple of months ago I launched my newest and favorite plan to date: The 10 Minute Plan,” Keller said. “It was a year in the making while my husband was deployed, raising a newborn and running GlowBodyPT.”

When asked why specifically targeting the mom community is so important, Keller smiled knowingly.

“Fitness does more than just make your body look good, it transforms how you feel about yourself,” she said. “Fitness empowers you to have patience, more energy and more drive, to pour into your marriage and your kids. Staged workout videos in white studios don’t resonate with me. When you follow my workout videos it’s like working out with a friend in your living room who says it how it is, teaches you how to train and makes the best use of every single minute of your time, because I know you don’t have time to waste.”

5 MIGHTY QUESTIONS

What piece of advice would you give to fellow military spouses?

Put yourself out there to make a couple of good friends every time you move. I tell my friends, “You are my people!” Give them your number and let them know, sincerely, you are here for them day or night no matter what they need. Follow through. Having your tribe and fueling those relationships is what makes the military community what it is.

What is your life motto?

God, use me for your purpose.

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

What inspires you about the military community?

Only military families know the sacrifices we make as service members and spouses. How it feels to wonder if your spouse got back safe from a mission. Wondering if everybody is okay when there is a communications blackout. Missed holidays and birthdays. Lonely nights. Phone calls as you try to make conversation without talking about sensitive information related to your spouse’s everyday life. Consoling crying children who miss Daddy. I love the military community because there is a shared sense of respect, reverence, family and sacrifice.

What has been your toughest professional challenge?

I got my front teeth knocked out, elbow broken, wrist casted, stitches across my lips, chin and both palms during a Half Ironman bike crash a couple of years ago. The top four athletes racing all got rushed to the ER. The injuries lasted for months and I didn’t get permanent teeth for over a year. My husband was away at a military school when the crash happened and I came home the next day to two kids, one of which I was potty training and the other who put on my socks for me the next morning because it hurt to move my hands.

What’s your superpower?

I actually care about every single woman who does my plans, and her progress. Bigger companies just don’t have the capacity to pour into others at this level.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Ready for a new tattoo? The Air Force now has its own tattoo shop

No matter if you’ve been in for two months, two years or you are two generations removed from the military, everyone knows that tattoos and the service go hand in hand. Ever since the first tattoo shop opened its doors in America in 1846, ink has had a well-deserved place in the hearts and on the skin of service members.

Of course, tattooing didn’t get its start in America. Warriors from Maori tribes in New Zealand, to ancient Greeks, marked themselves to show strength, courage and confidence. Viking raiders tapped magical symbols into their skin using the ink made from sacrificial animals.


Even service members in the Revolutionary War were getting new ink to reflect their units and identities (not to mention to prevent being illegally conscripted by the British).

During the Civil War, pioneer tattooist Martin Hildebrant traveled to battlefields and inked various patriotic designs into service members’ skin. Records show that by 1925, as much as 90 percent of all US service members were tattooed; the Navy made up the bulk of those decorated. Apparently, sailors used new tattoos to showcase where they’d been, as a sort of secondary service record, and to showcase their achievements.

For example, a shellback turtle meant they’d crossed the equator, a golden dragon meant they crossed the International Date Line, and a golden shellback turtle meant they’d crossed both at the same spot.

But for as much as there’s always been ink in the military, there have also been regulations. It seems like every few years, some leadership gets it in mind that a new tattoo policy is in order. For years, there was a limit to the number of tattoos soldiers could have on their arms, but that’s no longer the case. However, the Army still doesn’t allow face, neck or hand tattoos, though a small ring tattoo can exist on each hand. As with all branches, there are always a few waivers that are granted by recruiters each year if it seems like a tattoo isn’t too distracting.

Just like the Army, the Air Force is revisiting some of its strict tattoo policies and lessening the regulations a bit. Before 2017, Airmen weren’t allowed to have tattoos on the chest, back, arms and legs that were larger than 25 percent of the exposed body part. Now, they’re allowed to have full sleeves or large back pieces, which is a big deal for anyone who’s been stuck halfway through getting a tattoo only to have to stop because of regulations.

So it goes without saying that getting a tattoo is as much a rite of passage in the military as is getting that first haircut in basic training. Of course, barbershops have been embedded at installations worldwide for decades, but for new ink, service members have always had to go off base. That’s led plenty of people to wonder why there isn’t a place to get new ink and a fresh fade all at the same place. Now, that’s no longer the case.

Nellis Air Force Base, located just outside Las Vegas, now has its own tattoo shop, making it that much easier to get a new tattoo. Senior leadership at Nellis said in a press release that they’re always looking for ways to improve the quality of life for Airmen and to lead from the front. So naturally, an on-base tattoo shop makes sense.

This is the first tattoo shop to be inside any Air Force or Army installation, making it incredibly unique. Now, we can’t speak to the quality of work you might receive there, but it’s still pretty cool that leadership is finally recognizing that there’s a very real, inky culture within the military and are taking steps to provide that service.

Maybe the decision to open the tattoo shop on base is a signal that leadership hopes artists and the Airmen can better handle the Air Force guidance on tattoo size and placement. Of course, that’s not to say whether or not the tattoos will be any good, but at least they’ll be within regs.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This non-profit wants veterans to vote

With less than 100 days until the 2020 election, Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) has a core mission of serving America’s post 9/11 veterans. It is with this in mind that they launched The Vote Hub.

“We are absolutely bi-partisan, 100 percent. We got the idea for The Vote Hub from anecdotal things we were hearing from the community… The process is just so confusing,” Hannah Sinoway, Executive Vice President of Organization, Strategy and Engagement for IAVA explained. She shared experiences of moving and hitting roadblocks on even being able to register to vote as a veteran spouse herself. More challenges exist this year with COVID-19.


“This effort was really with one goal: to provide simple and easy access for veterans and civilians alike to be able to register to vote and/or to find polling information,” Sinoway said. “So, we built the tool on our website, which is completely free… we don’t even take anyone’s information.”

She explained that the new IAVA tool is for the people and not for any other reason. “We are excited to have people exercise their right to vote, use their voice and be heard,” Sinoway said.

Voting for military members and their families has long been a struggle, with certain studies finding that as much as 67 percent of their absentee votes haven’t been counted. One study in 2009 called it an obstacle course. “When we look at veterans, they fought for the rest of us along the way for pretty much all of our freedoms. To be able to have this tool available to them and their community, we felt was really important,” Sinoway said.

IAVA is a 501c3 nonprofit organization established in 2004. Founded by Army Iraq War Veteran Paul Rieckhoff, it was created to make a space for resources and community for the veterans of the post-9/11 era. They are headquartered in New York City and have a policy office in Washington, D.C., as well. They’ve grown and evolved to continue supporting veterans and ensuring they are honored.

Membership to IAVA is completely free to veterans. Their website states, “Members all paid their dues while serving our country. Our members are true heroes.” Their 2018 impact report indicates that they are currently connecting, empowering and uniting over 400,000 veterans and allies nationwide.

Sinoway herself is the longest tenured employee with IAVA and has been working for the company for almost seven years. “It’s honestly been the privilege of a lifetime,” she shared. She continued, “The social justice aspect of our work, I kind of have that in my blood. There are groups of people who don’t have a voice or a strong enough voice and we are that strength to bring them beside us — not to fight for them but fight with them. I think that’s been the best part for me.”

IAVA plans to continue the fight to ensure justice for America’s post 9/11 veterans as well as support all veterans with resources and initiatives. To learn more about IAVA and The Vote Hub click here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

3 of the best winter snowshoe adventures

Floating across the frozen backcountry on snowshoes is a unique way to see the wilderness. But finding a place to go out and enjoy the snow can be hard. A good summer hiking trail may not be a good snowshoe hike, but areas that are hard to access in the summer can become ideal playgrounds in the winter.

As a rule, steep terrain is out of the question in heavy snow. Snow angled steeper than 30 degrees is avalanche terrain. If that wasn’t enough to keep your snowshoes on more level snow, taking uphill steps in snowshoes is difficult, even with a heel lift.


While walking in snowshoes will feel clunky at first, they keep you from postholing, or falling into deeper snow drifts. Snowshoes make the backcountry accessible, even in the deepest, most powdery snow. Just be careful to ease into it and let your way of walking adjust to the snowshoes.

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

Snowshoeing provides entry to areas that aren’t always accessible when the snow melts.

(Adobe Stock photo.)

If you decide to head outside in the snow, here are some suggestions for snowshoe-friendly hikes across the colder parts of America. These hikes focus on national parks for several reasons: they offer reliable access, park staff can provide real-time information on snow and trail conditions, and emergency services are closer than at other locations.

Always make a plan, let others know it, and carry the right gear for the conditions. And one more tip from someone who has spent many cold days in the wilderness: a thermos full of coffee is often worth the extra weight!

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

Explore a different side of Paradise on a ranger-guided snowshoe walk.

(Photo courtesy of the National Parks Service.)

Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington

Stunning in all seasons, Washington’s Mt. Rainier National Park deserves attention from any fan of the snow. With trails ranging from easy to tough, there’s a snowshoe hike for most skill levels.

Looking for a beautiful introductory hike? The Nisqually Vista Trail is only a mile, and stays flat and level. The views are amazing on this kid-friendly hike, as the route takes you near the snout of the retreating Nisqually Glacier.

Beginners can also opt for a ranger-guided snowshoe walk, if you’re concerned about heading out into the wilderness on your own.

More ambitious hikers can try Carbon River or the Reflection Lakes, both of which take longer and involve more vertical climbing.

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

When there is adequate snow, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing is a popular activity along the carriage roads at Acadia.

(Photo courtesy of the National Parks Service.)

Acadia National Park, Maine

The old carriage roads of Acadia National Park make ideal snowshoe trails, especially when you consider that the National Parks Service grooms the trails. All told, the prepared trails run approximately 45 miles through forests and by lakes.

Note, the NPS also lays down ski tracks on some of the groomed trails. A snowshoer should stay off the ski tracks. They will slow you down and mess up the tracks for skiers.

Acadia is one of Maine’s highlights, right outside of Bar Harbor, another worthwhile destination.

And the best part of seeing Acadia by snowshoe? No mosquitoes.

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

Root Glacier and Donoho Peak in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

(Photo courtesy of the National Parks Service.)

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Tucked into a corner of Alaska that abuts Canada, Wrangell-St. Elias is something else. With soaring peaks, ancient glaciers, and icefalls the size of skyscrapers, the place defines “grandeur.”

And winter only improves the landscape. Bear in mind that the park is split into two halves, Nabesna in the north and McCarthy in the south, so you’ll have to choose which part you want to see. Both offer world-class hiking and are frigid in the winter. Bundle up for this adventure.

In the McCarthy area, the trails around the old Kennicott copper mine are stunning and take hikers along the Root Glacier. The glacier is NOT safe to cross in the winter without special training and equipment.

Up north around Nabesna, the Caribou Creek Trail offers stunning views on a clear day. But with generally more flat terrain than the south end of the park, an experienced hiker can explore off trail.

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

Mt. Sanford Route in Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is an epic seven- to 10-day one-way route that requires flying to reach and then traversing nothing but ice and rock for the entire trip.

(Photo courtesy of the National Parks Service.)

Hiking in Alaska in the winter is different than most other places. Much of the state is a muskeg, a sort of mossy swamp that is nearly impossible to traverse in the summer. I have sunk up to my chest in muck while trying to line a canoe up a creek, but in the winter, the muskegs are some of the best hiking available. Everything is frozen and snow covered, making parts of the state (like the Mat-Su Valley) accessible.

Also, this far north, the days are very short around the solstice. The ideal time to see Alaska all draped in white is March, when the cold is still in full force, but the days are longer.

Hiking in the winter shows off the wilderness at its most beautiful — and also most brutal. But that is no reason to huddle indoors. Plan and prepare, then strap on the old snowshoes and walk around the woods.

Seeing the world covered in snow, and often devoid of crowds, has a way of making even sub-zero temperatures worth the effort.

Saber Junction: How Green Berets and Paratroopers Will Fight the Next Big War

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are 13 military animals that outrank you

Sure, you may have been in the military for years and you may have worked hard for your rank. But it may surprise you to learn that you will always be outranked by at least one of these animals, who have earned military rank, medals, and awards. And these aren’t just cuddly mascots — some of them have seen combat action!

Here are the most impressive and high-ranking military animals of all time:


1. Nils Olav

Nils Olav, a penguin, is colonel-in-chief and official mascot of Norway’s Royal Guard. In 2008, he was knighted — yes, knighted — by King Harald V. The original penguin named Nils Olav first served in 1972, and was named in honor of two great Norwegians: Nils Egelien and King Olav V. This high-ranking mascot lives in the Edinburgh Zoo, in quarters befitting his rank.

2. King Neptune

King Neptune the pig was originally just Parker Neptune. He received a promotion to King (that’s a rank, right?) during World War II when he was sold to an Illinois Navy recruiter. Although the pig was originally intended to be served at dinner, the Navy instead made him a star by promoting him to King and sending him on tour to sell war bonds. He wore a crown and a blue Navy blanket, and would stand on stage as his parts were “auctioned off” to the highest bidders. Ultimately, King Neptune helped raise over million for the Navy!

When he died in 1950, he received a Navy funeral with full military honors.

3. Sergeant Major Fosco

Sergeant Major Fosco was one of the first military working dogs to complete an airborne jump while being held by his handler. Military working dogs are traditionally awarded one rank higher than that of their handler, as a reminder that the handler must always treat their animal with respect. Because Sgt. Major Fosco’s handler was a 1st Sgt., this dog bears the rank of someone who has already served a full, 20-year career!

Perhaps in dog years, that’s about right.

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

4. Staff Sergeant Reckless

Staff Sergeant Reckless was a Marine pack horse during the Korean War. She was purchased in Korea and carried supplies and ammunition for the Marines of 5/1 Recoilless Rifle Platoon. During one battle, she made 51 solo (unguided) trips to resupply the lines and bring wounded men to safety. During her time in service, she received a battlefield promotion to sergeant, two Purple Hearts, and a Good Conduct Medal. She was the first horse known to have participated in an amphibious landing. After the war, Reckless was brought back to America and promoted to staff sergeant. A metal statue in her honor was recently unveiled at Camp Pendleton.

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

5. Sergeant Chesty XIV

Sgt. Chesty XIV, named after the most highly-decorated Marine, Chesty Puller, is the current official mascot of the Marine Corps. He has his own dog-sized National Defense medal.

He also has sergeant responsibilities, like training the junior Marines in his charge. Private Chesty XV is the official Marine Corps mascot apprentice. I wonder if he causes as much trouble for his sergeant as the average private does on any given weekend?

6. Sergeant Major Jiggs

Sergeant Major Jiggs was the original Marine Corps bulldog mascot. His owner was the famous Maj. General Smedley Butler — one of the only Marines to earn two Medals of Honor. Jiggs began his career in 1922 as a private and advanced through the ranks to reach E-9. If you already have two medals of honor, you can probably give your dog any rank you want, right?

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

7. Lance Corporal Billy Windsor

Lance Corporal Billy Windsor the Goat is a salaried member of the British Army in the Royal Welsh Regiment. The position includes membership in the Corporal’s mess and the right to be saluted by subordinates. However, the goat was demoted to fusilier in 2006 after an unfortunate head-butting incident against a drummer in the 1st Battalion.

8. Sinbad, the Chief Dog

Sinbad, the Chief Dog, was an enlisted member of the U.S. Coast Guard for 11 years and saw combat during World War II. He served on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter George W. Campbell. His handler originally intended to give the dog to his girlfriend as a gift, but soon discovered she wouldn’t be able to keep him. The only way to keep him on board was to enlist him, so Sinbad’s pawprint was stamped onto his own unique set of enlistment papers, and he became an official member of the crew.

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

9. Master Sergeant Big Deuce VI

Master Sergeant Big Deuce VI, the Army’s official donkey mascot, retired after 20 years of service. The Army has long used the donkey as a mascot because it’s a reminder of how the beasts of burden have long moved Army supplies, such as howitzers and ammunition. The 2-2nd FA Battalion “Mule Soldiers” out of Fort Sill, OK, have had a mascot named Big Deuce since 1950. During his 20-year career, Master Sgt. Big Deuce VI received several promotions, but his handlers report that he was demoted twice and received several Article 15s for attempting to go AWOL and for assaulting a commissioned officer in his change of command.

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

10. Corporal Short Round V

Corporal Short Round V is the Army’s goat mascot, who accompanies their donkey mascot Big Deuce at official events. He recently retired, and was replaced by Private Short Round VI, who had her enlistment ceremony at Fort Sill in 2018.

11. Sgt. 1st Class Boe and Sgt. 1st Budge

Sgt. 1st Class Boe and Sgt. 1st Class Budge were the first trained therapy dogs to be deployed to Iraq in 2007. Budge eventually contracted cancer and passed away in 2010. A memorial service was held for him at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Boe was reassigned to Fort Benning, Georgia.

12. Master Sergeant Maverick

Master Sergeant Maverick is a trained therapy dog who works with America’s VetDogs. Since 2009, he has been assigned to the Traumatic Brain Injury clinic at Eisenhauer Army Medical Center.

13. Sergeant Stubby

Sergeant Stubby the dog was adopted by soldiers of the 102nd Infantry Regiment and smuggled to France during WWI. He was trained to raise his paw in salute, which secured his place as the regimental mascot. Stubby helped his unit in the trenches by sniffing out poison gas attacks and warning of incoming artillery. He once helped capture and imprison a German spy, for which he received a medal for heroism.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The relatable joys of having back pain under 30​

Back pain is something that 80% of adults are expected to experience at some point in their life. For some, it comes much, much earlier — and the advantages are endless!

It’s no secret that those who engage in manual labor from a young age are more susceptible to back pain. It makes sense then, that young vets are oh-so-lucky enough to be some of the chosen few with significant back pain while barely being young enough to crack open a cold one (legally).

Here are some of the fun benefits young back pain sufferers all experience!


What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

You know what kinda day it’s gonna be the night before!

Most people have to spill coffee on themselves or pour a bowl of cereal before realizing they don’t have milk before they know they’re going to have an awful day. With chronic back pain, there’s no need to wait until 7am to figure that out — you’ll know by 2am at the latest! Your unending nightmare of discomfort will let you know that tomorrow will, in fact, suck.

What a treat to know in advance!

You’ll accrue advanced stretching knowledge!

Most under-30-year-olds know how to touch their toes. Maybe they’ll occasionally grab a foot and stretch out their quads before a run. Not those with chronic back pain! Those lucky sons of guns have advanced knowledge of stretches so intricate and strange-looking it would make the author of the Kama Sutra blush.

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

You’ll never need another excuse to avoid helping your friend move!

This one goes without saying. Gone are the days of saying, “Oh, uh, actually dude, I have to pickup my uncle from the airport” or “I would, but I actually told my girlfriend I would take her to shop for potted plants” or the vintage classic move of waiting until the day after and hitting them with, “I JUST got this text — still need help?” Nope. Now you can just tell them straight up you can’t help. Not you “won’t.” You physically cannot.

You get a desirable “dad bod” without even trying!

Okay so there’s not a lot of people that try to have a “dad bod.” But for those who do — it can be difficult. Luckily, with chronic back pain, you can get a dad bod before you even have children! Spend hours not being able to get out of your rolly chair. Be unable to go on light jogs without immediately experiencing immobilizing muscle spasms. Then, eat away your feelings through endless bags of Cool Ranch Doritos. It’s like having the opposite of your own personal Hollywood trainer.

You get the best seat in the house to watch your friends have fun!

You’re playing basketball with your friends, you drive in for a layup, nobody touches you, and then wham: your back completely locks up on you for no reason whatsoever. Now you can’t walk, let alone play. Sucks, right? Wrong.

Now you get to sit and watch all your friends air ball uncontested 3s — from the front row! Sound too good to be true? Don’t worry, it’ll happen plenty more times!

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

You can do a perfect impression of the AT-ATs from ‘Star Wars!’

Impressions are hard. Star Wars impressions are especially hard. Don’t believe me? Ask literally anyone to do an impression of Yoda. It will be terrible.

But with insane chronic back pain, you can constantly walk like an AT-AT! The lumbering, stiff, slow movement will wow all your friends. You’ll get the posture of C3P0 for free, too.

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

Oh my goodness.

MIGHTY CULTURE

You can soon sail on the Titanic II, here’s how that could end in disaster

Long ago, ancient Greeks told the tale of the titan, Atlas, who once tried to defy Zeus. He failed spectacularly and, for his hubris, was doomed to carry the sky for eternity as punishment. Later, Atlas tried to defy the gods once more by attempting to trick Hercules into taking on his punishment. He was fooled by the intrepid demigod and wound up shouldering the heavens all over. In short, he gambled with the gods and he lost.

It was only fitting that the largest ship of its time, the Olympic-class liner, RMS Titanic, whose name was rich with Classical symbolism, would suffer such a grim ending after spitting in the face of fate. A shipwright once famously said, “God himself couldn’t sink this ship!” Unfortunately for the shipwright (and all those aboard), the powers that be (perhaps those atop Mt. Olympus) were ready to call his bluff.

Just like Atlas, Sisyphus, Midas, Arachne, and Icarus all learned, it’s really not a good idea to keep trying to tempt fate. Blue Star Line Pty. Ltd, an Australian passenger and cargo shipping company, disagrees. They’re currently in the process of building the Titanic II, a near-identical replica of the famous, doomed Olympic-class liner, as their new flagship.


What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

Logically speaking, you’d think that if they model it after a ship that sank due to striking an iceberg, they’d have a few safety precautions in place for when they sail directly through an area full of them.

(“Sinking of the Titanic,” Willy Stower, 1912)

To be entirely fair, the latest iteration will feature some serious 21st-century upgrades: The hull will be welded instead of riveted, a diesel-electric engine will replace the steam engine, and wooden panels will be replaced with a veneer to keep up with modern fire regulations while maintaining an authentic appearance. Oh, and, of course, it’ll have the proper amount of lifeboats.

As one of its first voyages, the Titanic II will travel the same waterways as did the RMS Titanic, cruising along a route from Southampton to New York City. The path will still go through an area thick with icebergs, but given that it isn’t 1912, they’ll have better technology to spot and avoid them. Icebergs will, at most, probably just inspire tourists to take drunken selfies.

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

You can only do the “I’m flying, Jack!” once before realizing the bow of the ship is friggin’ cold.

(National Park Services)

With the threat of icebergs (hopefully) neutralized, there are three main areas in which things could go wrong for the ship.

The first (and most obvious) threat is financial. The project has been the longtime dream of South African businessman, Sarel Gous. He first announced his venture back in 1998, around the time the Academy Award-winning film, Titanic, hit theaters.

Since then, the project has been on and off. There have been reports that the Titanic II would finally set sail in 2001, then again in 2008, 2012, 2016, 2018, and now, finally, in 2022. It’s been a repeating cycle: They’ll find an investment company willing to foot the bill, that company realizes it’s a pipe dream, and then they abandon the project.

Why are investors backing out? Well, since the new Titanic II will sport the same number of passengers as the original vessel, tickets for the maiden voyage will need to be insanely expensive — from around K to id=”listicle-2614623238″.2 million each — just to dream of making a profit. And, after the initial “cool factor” of being on the Titanic II fades, you’re left with the average, cruise-going crowd who won’t be able to afford tickets.

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

The headlines would just write themselves if the Titanic II were to sink immediately upon hitting the water.

(NOAA)

The next threat to second unsinkable will come the moment the ship is first released into the water. The shipyard constructing the Titanic II, the state-owned CSC Jinling, has no drydock. They intend to side launch the 269m-long, 56,000 gross tonnage vessel directly into the Yangtze River.

This will make it the largest side-launched ship in history by an astronomical margin. When side-launching a vessel, extra care is taken to prevent it from capsizing the very moment it touches water. Weights are added to the ship to make its entry as gentle as possible. It’s fine for more balanced ships, but the Titanic II is extremely top-heavy.

They’re likely addressing this issue behind closed doors, but for the moment, it feels a lot like we’re looking at imminent disaster.

Finally, the Titanic could end in disaster (again) during its maiden voyage — but not due to icebergs. The trip recreating the original route from England to the US is actually the second voyage planned for the Titanic II. The maiden voyage will go from Dubai, UAE, to Southampton, UK, sailing directly through the Horn of Africa.

This is a Somali pirate’s wildest dream. Thousands of millionaires and billionaires are going to sail right through their backyard. You can bring security alongside the vessel while sailing through the region, but that won’t stop pirates from trying to take what’s not theirs.

Obviously, it’d be fantastic if the Titanic II actually manages to set sail and prove naysayers wrong. But unless they’re keeping a lot of solutions secret, it doesn’t seem likely. At the same time, people are genuinely excited for the chance to sail on the Titanic II.

I think most people want to go to enjoy a sense of danger — they may be disappointed when things go well.