What It's Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs - Part II - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

Missed Part I? No worries, check it out here.


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Part II: The Final PCS

Back when you scheduled your move date, it seemed like you had plenty of time to prepare for the movers. But somehow, here you are at 0300 the day they’re supposed to arrive and you’re totally not ready yet. Hey. At least the movers do the actual packing part, right?

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But lo and behold, four hours of slumber and two iced coffees later, you’re ready for the movers. And by “ready” you mean that the cat is locked in a room with a sign marked “do not pack cat.” You know, just in case.

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To save money while you job search and look for your own place, you’re moving back in with mom and dad. Which is actually kind of nice because you missed them. Plus, they have a sweet cable package and your mom makes world-class sandwiches. But beware: Stay too long and you’ll risk Benjamin Buttoning back into your high school self.

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You’re on the fence about whether your next steps should be toward higher ed or directly to the workforce. You check out local colleges and instantly feel one billion years old. Still, the GI Bill is a great benefit and you don’t want to leave it on the table.

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After some research, you’re still not settled on a degree. Plus, if you want to get your own place and be able to afford groceries, you’ll need to make more than your GI Bill stipend. To the workforce!

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Pentagon has been identifying the Korean War remains

Identifying the remains of fallen soldiers from the Korean War is a long and arduous process. Given that it’s been sixty five years since the war ended and the North Koreans weren’t too keen on keeping the bodies labelled, it’s an extremely challenging — but not impossible — prospect.

But each passing year makes the challenge that much greater. Between the years 1990 and 1994, over 400 remains were repatriated back to the United States and, last month, we saw the return of 55 more. There have been many success stories within the identification process over the years, but it takes time.

The DPAA Laboratory at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, is the first U.S. stop for returned remains. The base is home to the largest and most diverse skeletal identification laboratory in the world, staffed by more than 30 anthropologists, archaeologists, and forensic odontologists, according to a United Nations Command release.


What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

Any idea who or what you’re looking at here? Didn’t think so.

(Researchgate.net)

DNA remains one of the best tools for identification — but there is a downside. DNA matching doesn’t exactly work like many people believe. A sample profile looks something like this:

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

My hopes are that the family of Charles McDaniel has found peace.

(Department of Defense)

Without anything to compare it to, you’re just looking at a complex graph. The Department of Defense only starting keeping a library of service members’ DNA after 1991.

As morbid as it might sound, one thing that DNA evidence can catch conclusively is whether the remains are even human. The remains of British Royal Air Force Flight Lieutenant Desmond Hinton were set to be returned to the UK in 2011, but analysis concluded that the North Koreans gave the family back the bones of a dog instead. It is unknown at this time how many of the returned remains were not those of a human.

There is workaround in the case of unregistered DNA, however. A fallen service member’s DNA may still be floating around this world within their relatives. Children and siblings make for the easiest comparisons, but that process can only be done if there’s a way to connect the remains to living family or descendants — you can’t just go testing at random.

Remains that have been kept with their dog tags are, of course, much easier to identify. Given the name of the deceased, it becomes easier to track down anyone who may be a DNA match with the fallen. Bones are analyzed and the DNA is compared to that of the living relatives. If they’re a match, the family can get closure.

Unfortunately, there was only one set of dog tags returned and it still hasn’t been announced whether a successful match has been found.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

For his efforts, he was awarded the Silver Star in 1996.

Another way of identifying a potential match for DNA testing is by comparing the list of the missing troops of a given battlefield to where the North Koreans believed that they found the remains. This is how many of the remains were accounted for after being transferred as part of 1954’s Operation Glory, during which both sides exchanged remains in accordance with the ceasefire treaty. But nearly all of the remains that were withheld were not found on the battlefield, but rather in a prisoner of war camp. The North Koreans have kept the existence of such camps very secretive, along with any associated headcounts or rosters. To date, there has only been one written record of Allied lives lost behind enemy lines — and it was a secret list, penned by Private First Class Johnnie Johnson.

Pfc. Johnson was a prisoner of war held captive by a North Korean major known only as “The Tiger.” For lack of a more polite word, it was a grueling hellhole that held over 700 American prisoners of war. The young Johnson risked his life every day by keeping an accurate record of every single troop’s name, rank, unit, hometown, and date of death if applicable. He was only one of 262 to walk out of that camp alive.

He managed to bring the list back hidden inside a tube of toothpaste. The “Johnnie Johnson List” of those held at The Tiger’s Camp came to light in 1995 and has been instrumental in the identification of the 496 remains.

The process of identifying these new remains will take a long time. The remains of 1st. Herman Falk were positively identified this week and plans are being made to honor the fallen soldier with a proper funeral. It should be noted that his remains were repatriated back in the 90s — and that the positive identification of others may take just as long. But the work won’t stop until each set of remains has been paid their just diligence.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 regulations from von Steuben’s ‘Blue Book’ that troops still follow

The winter of 1777 was disastrous. The British had successfully retaken many key locations in the 13 colonies and General Washington’s men were left out in the cold of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Morale was at an all-time low and conditions were so poor, in fact, that many troops reportedly had to eat their boots just to stay alive. No aid was expected to arrive for the Americans but the British reinforcements had landed. It’s no exaggeration to say that, in that moment, one cold breeze could have blown out the flames of revolution.

Then, in February, 1778, a Prussian nobleman by the name of Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben arrived. He set aside his lavish lifestyle to stand next to his good friend, George Washington, and transform a ragtag group of farmers and hunters into the world’s premier fighting force.


With his guidance, the troops kept the gears turning. He taught them administrative techniques, like proper bookkeeping and how to maintain hygiene standards. But his lessons went far beyond logistics: von Steuben also taught the troops the proper technique for bayonet charges and how to swear in seven different languages. He was, in essence, the U.S. Army’s first drill sergeant.

The troops came out of Valley Forge far stronger and more prepared for war. Their victory at Stony Point, NY was credited almost entirely to von Steuben’s techniques. He then transcribed his teachings into a book, Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, better known as, simply, the “Blue Book.” It became the Army’s first set of regulations — and many of the guidelines therein are still upheld today.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

Given the hours you spend prepping your dress blues, there’s no way in hell you’d bring it to a desert — or do anything other than stand there for inspection.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel Schroeder)

Different uniforms for officer, NCOs, and troops

This was the very first regulation established by the ‘Blue Book.’ In the early days of the revolution, there was no real way to tell who outranked who at a glance. All uniforms were pieced together by volunteer patriots, so there was no way to immediately tell who was an officer, a non-commissioned officer, or solider. von Steuben’s regulations called for uniforms that were clear indicators of rank.

Troops today still follow this regulation to a T when it comes to the dress uniform — albeit without the swords.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

The rifle twirling is, however, entirely a recent officer thing.

(Department of Defense photo by Terrence Bell)

Marching orders

If there was one lasting mark left on the Army by von Steuben, it was the importance of drill and ceremony. Much of the Blue Book is dedicated to instructing soldiers on proper marching techniques, the proper steps that you should take, and how to present your arms to your chain of command.

Despite the protests of nearly every lower enlisted, the Army has spent days upon days practicing on the parade field since its inception — and will continue to do so well into the future.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

If you thought troops back then could get by without hospital corners on their bed, think again!

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Susan Krawczyk)

Cleanliness standards

One of the most important things von Steuben did while in Valley Forge was teach everyone a few extremely simple ways to prevent troops from dying very preventable, outside-of-combat deaths. A rule as simple as, “don’t dig your open-air latrine right next to where the cooks prepare meals” (p. 46) was mind-blowing to soldiers back then.

But the lessons run deeper than that. Even police calls and how to properly care for your bedding (p. 45) are directly mentioned in the book.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

While there arestillpunishments in place for negligencetoday, the armorer would be paying far more than for a lost rifle.

(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa)

Accountability of arms and ammo

No one likes doing paperwork in the military (or anywhere else) but it has to be done. Back then, simple accounting was paramount. As you can imagine, it was good for the chain of command to actually know how many rifles and rounds of ammunition each platoon had at their disposal.

While the book mostly focuses on how to do things, this is one of the few instances in which he specifically states that the quartermaster should be punished for not doing their job (p. 62). According to the Blue Book, punishments include confinement and forfeiture of pay and allowances until whatever is lost is recouped.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

Once given medical attention, a troop would be giving off-time until they’re better — just like today.

(U.S. Army photo by Robert Shields)

Sending troops to sick call

The most humane thing a leader can do is allow their troops to be nursed back to full health when they’re not at fighting strength. The logic here is pretty sound. If your troops aren’t dying, they’ll fight harder. If they fight harder, America wins. So, it’s your job, as a leader, to make sure your troops aren’t dying.

According to the Blue Book, NCOs should always check in on their sick and wounded and give a report to the commander. This is why, today, squad leaders report to the first sergeant during morning role call, giving them an idea of anyone who needs to get sent to sick call.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

“No one is more professional than I” still has a better ring to it, though.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Maria Mengrone)

NCOs should lead from the front

“It being on the non-commissioned officer that the discipline and order of a company in a great measure depend, they cannot be too circumspect in their behavior towards the men, by treating them with mildness, and at the same time, obliging everyone to do his duty.” (p. 77)

This was von Steuben’s way of saying that the NCOs really are the backbone of the Army.

According to von Steuben, NCOs “should teach the soldiers of their squad” (p. 78). They must know everything about what it means to be a soldier and motivate others while setting a proper, perfect example. They must care for the soldiers while still completing the duties of a soldier. They must be the lookout while constantly looking in. Today, these are the qualities exhibited by the best NCOs.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

They probably didn’t think we’d have radios back then…

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Thomas Duval)

The soldier’s general orders

Today, each soldier of the Army has their general orders when it comes to guard/sentinel duty. von Steuben’s rules run are almost exactly the same:

  1. Guard everything within the limits of your post and only quit your post when properly relieved? Check.
  2. Obey your special orders and perform your duties in a military manner? Check.
  3. Report all violations of your special orders, emergencies, and anything not covered in your instructions to the commander of the relief? Kinda check… the Blue Book just says to sound an alarm, but you get the gist.
MIGHTY CULTURE

Pararescuemen stay sharp while training off the coast of Italy

Two boats idled together in the Adriatic Sea just off the coast of Northern Italy, battered mercilessly by the waves as eight pairs of eyes searched the sky. The silence stretched for long moments, a hint of anticipation on the cool sea breeze before a radio crackled to life.

There would be three jumpers in five minutes, transmitted the radio. The information was passed between the occupants of both boats as they caught first sight of the approaching aircraft.

Members of the 57th Rescue Squadron participated in over-water parachute training. July 9, 2019, with a dozen pararescuemen aboard a C-130J Super Hercules from the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, as eight more awaited their descent from below.


First out of the aircraft was a rigged alternate method zodiac, or RAMZ, an inflatable, motorized boat that the jumpers used once they made it to the water. As they worked on setting up their vehicle, the members in the support boats began pulling in the discarded parachutes to be repaired if necessary and reused in the future.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

Pararescueman assigned to the 57th Rescue Squadron parachutes into the ocean during over-water parachute training off the coast of Italy, July 9, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kelsey Tucker)

The 57th RQS participates in jump training at least once a quarter, over both land and sea, to keep their skills and knowledge sharp in case they are ever needed in an emergency. The training not only benefits the pararescuemen, but requires harmonization with the squadron’s support agencies and even other bases – in this case, the C-130 and its crew.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

Pararescuemen assigned to the 57th Rescue Squadron prepare a rigged alternate method zodiac vessel during over-water parachute training off the coast of Italy, July 9, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kelsey Tucker)

“Just for us to do this training, it requires so much coordination from our support shops,” said Capt. Jordan, a combat rescue officer with the 57th RQS. “Just on the water we have boat drivers, people pulling in chutes and medical personnel. We are super grateful to have an amazing combat mission support section.”

Jumping on land is far different than jumping into the ocean, and carries different challenges – not only for the jumpers themselves but also for the support personnel down below.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

Pararescuemen assigned to the 57th Rescue Squadron prepare a rigged alternate method zodiac during over-water parachute training off the coast of Italy, July 9, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kelsey Tucker)

“On land, all you really have to worry about is another aircraft coming into your airspace,” said Staff Sgt. Jared, a 57th RQS aircrew flight equipment technician and drop zone control officer. “On water, you have to worry about boats, airplanes and that you’re constantly moving. You have to go where the jumpers go, and then reset, come back to your position and get ready for the next jumpers.”

Through successful support and coordination, the 57th RQS was able to carry out the required training needed in order to remain proficient in their job, providing day or night personnel recovery operations in any condition, during peace or war.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s everything you need to know about tattoo removal

Whether you’re considering removing your ink or are simply curious, there’s a lot to know about the tattoo-removal process.

INSIDER spoke to some experts to answer some of the most common questions people have about getting a tattoo taken off.


Where do you go to get a tattoo removed?

For your health, safety, and optimal results, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that you go to a dermatologist for your tattoo removal.

Removals are typically done using lasers that the FDA states should be used by or under the supervision of healthcare professionals. Per the FDA, visiting a dermatologist who specializes in tattoo removal is likely your best bet.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

(Photo by Genesis Castillo)

Although some tattoo shops and spas offer laser tattoo-removal services, only dermatologists have medical training in this area, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). And so, you may run a greater risk of experiencing negative side effects if your tattoo remover does not have appropriate medical training, per the AAD.

How long does it take to fully remove a tattoo?

Removing a tattoo will almost always take more than one visit to the removal specialist — sometimes it could even take dozens of sessions.

To figure out how many visits you’d need to get a tattoo removed, you should first consult a professional so they can review your ink and medical history, said Dr. Amy Derick, board-certified dermatologist and medical director of Derick Dermatology, a Chicago-based practice that specializes in tattoo removal.

“Number of treatments vary based on many factors including: age of tattoo, number of colors, size, etc. For picosecond-wavelength tattoo removal — which is considered a gold standard for tattoo removal — most treatments will require seven to 10 treatments six to eight weeks apart,” she told INSIDER.

“The [total] number of treatments [also] depends on your body’s ability to eliminate ink from the skin. This varies for everyone,” added Dr. Debra Jaliman is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York, whose practice offers tattoo removal as a specialty.

Per Jailman, generally, the more colors in your tattoo, the more treatments you will need. In addition, these sessions must be spaced out (typically a few weeks apart), so the process can take quite some time.

How much does it cost to get a tattoo removed?

Removing a tattoo can be costly depending on how many sessions you’ll end up needing. In general, a single removal session can cost around to 0, but the price may vary depending on your tattoo and your location.

To estimate how many treatments you may require for your specific tattoo and skin type, you may want to reference tools like the Kirby-Desai scale. Just keep in mind that the best and most accurate way to figure out how many sessions you’ll need is to consult a professional.

Does getting a tattoo removed hurt?

How much the removal process hurts oftentimes depends on your individual pain tolerance — just like when you first got the tattoo you’re having removed.

“Getting a tattoo is generally more painful than removing the tattoo. Uncomfortable — and there is a certain level of pain — but it’s bearable. It feels like a small rubber band is snapping on your skin,” Jailman told INSIDER.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

(Photo by Matheus Ferrero)

That said, some areas may be more painful to have ink removed from than others. “On certain bony areas, like the wrists, ribs, and ankles, tattoo removal is more painful than on other areas of the body,” Derick added.

Fortunately, there are some ways the process can be made to be even less uncomfortable, said Jailman. “The area is numbed with a topical numbing cream and a small chilling machine that blows cold air on the skin helps to keep pain at bay,” she added.

Are there any risks that come with getting a tattoo removed?

As with any medical procedure, there are some risks associated with tattoo removal.

“Individuals who have light-sensitive seizures, vitiligo, history of poor healing, or an active rash or injury to the area may not be an ideal candidate for laser,” Derick told INSIDER. She said these individuals may be prone to experiencing more tattoo-removal-related side effects.

She also said that all individuals (especially those with darker skin tones) are at risk of experiencing hypopigmentation after laser tattoo removal. “This is when the patient’s normal skin pigment is removed by the laser process, resulting in white-looking scarring that is permanent. This is also known as a ghosting effect,” Derick explained.

Jailman also pointed out that those who have sensitive skin and who are prone to allergic reactions may experience some issues when they have their ink removed. “You could have an allergic reaction as the laser breaks down the pigments in the tattoo,” she added.

Some may also be at risk of experiencing more prominent scarring. “If you are prone to keloids (a type of raised scar), having a tattoo removed could be a problem. The scars from the area treated may definitely develop into a keloid,” Jailman also told INSIDER.

Can all tattoos be removed?

Most of the time a tattoo can be removed — but with certain inks, it may not be possible to entirely remove your design.

“A true black-ink tattoo is by far the easiest to treat. In some cases, red ink can resolve easily as well,” Dr. Will Kirby, board-certified dermatologist and chief medical officer for aesthetic-dermatology group LaserAway. previously told INSIDER.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

(Photo by Ivan Verrengia)

But, he said that colors like maroon, aqua, and teal can be resistant to laser removal. He also noted that some shades like yellow, orange, and brown may not be removed by laser treatment at all.

Do you have to do any special sort of aftercare for a tattoo that’s in the process of being removed?

Derick told INSIDER that, just like with your initial tattoo, when you undergo removal you’re creating an open wound that requires careful treatment to ensure you heal properly and avoid getting an infection.

“After a session, the technician bandages the area just like the patient will be expected to do at home for generally about one week or until the area is healed,” said Derick. “The patient changes this bandage every 24 hours after washing the area with a mild soap. Keeping the area bandaged keeps the tattoo out of the sun and allows for effective healing of the treated skin.”

Those removing a tattoo can also expect to experience a bit of bruising, blistering, and scabbing, said Jailman. She said you should avoid picking scabs, cover blistering skin, and use ointment as recommended by your doctor.

If you’re experiencing any reactions that seem abnormal to you (ie: you have a fever or your skin is severely swelling), you’ll want to reach out to a medical professional.

Do tattoo-removal creams work?

Some special creams and ointments claim to help fade a tattoo by bleaching or peeling away layers of your skin to remove the ink, per Today. But there’s a reason these creams sound too good to be true — they are.

At this time, the FDA hasn’t “approved or cleared any do-it-yourself tattoo removal ointments and creams that you can buy online.” Furthermore, the FDA warns that these creams can cause adverse side effects including scarring, rashes, and burning.

Can you really use salt to remove a tattoo?

You may have heard some people talking about using salt and water solutions to scrub away tattoos in a dated method called salabrasion — but this is potentially a very dangerous strategy, according to the AAD.

Scraping off the top layers of your skin and using salt to try to rid yourself of unwanted tattoos can lead to pain, scarring, and a serious infection, per the AAD.

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

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MIGHTY CULTURE

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

a service member feeds a dolphin

I was a platoon commander with reserve UDT-22 (Underwater Demolition Team 22) in Little Creek, Virginia in June of 1980. I had been promoted to lieutenant (SEAL) following a previous platoon commander tour with UDT-11. The current platoon had 21 men including my assistant platoon commander and chief petty officer.

We formed the platoon into squads of seven men each; a senior NCO or officer was in charge of each squad. We trained for everything daily. Diving, free fall, and static line parachuting, demolition, beach surveys, shooting, rappelling, and surf work with boats kept us busy. A lot of what we trained to do was carry out common tasks, but we were testing new ideas regularly. The fast rope rappelling method to insert from hovering helicopters was new and fun. The IBS (Inflatable Boat Small) “rubber duck drop” had been perfected recently allowing us to jump our rubber boats with motors from aircraft at night. We were innovators and loving it.

A new task came our way when we were asked to plan a mission to attack the USS Lexington (CV-16) moored pier side in Pensacola, Florida. She was a World War II-vintage Essex Class aircraft carrier that would serve until her decommissioning in 1991. But for now, she was going to be guarded by the famed, and then-classified, dolphins that had been trained to detect or attack swimmers in the water. No one had ever successfully evaded them.

The bottlenose dolphins were outfitted with devices on their heads that could “kill” a swimmer when they slammed into them.  The training devices were not dangerous, but the idea of a large mammal swimming out of the dark and bumping aggressively into our wet-suited bodies was downright fearsome. We were expected to die as all others had done in the past. We were to be cannon fodder for the training element that ran this special force of water attack mammals.

There were no previous after-action reports that we could learn from, as all before had failed. Past platoons had tried launching from every direction around the target at once in the hope that one pair might make it in successfully, but this was the dolphins’ backyard and they were very fast and capable. So we began to brainstorm methods that might work. Our solutions focused on what we thought would keep us undetected by one of the most advanced sonar systems in the world — the dolphin.

One pair decided to try paddling on surfboards covered entirely with seaweed in order to look like floating trash. This was appealing to the swimmers as a dolphin attack might just hit the boards instead of their tender underbellies. The other swim pairs decided to make their approach in the rolling surf zone with fins and masks only. No scuba systems had ever worked as the bubbles were too easy to detect. Additionally, the quieter pure oxygen Dragger scuba systems, which produced no bubbles, had likewise already failed since they produced a detectable clicking sound upon inhalation and exhalation. We would also all need to be carrying the magnetic limpet mines that we would use to sink the carrier.

Our window of attack was to be from sunset to dawn. We chose a 0200 attack time in the hope of catching the boat handlers tired and off guard. Another factor that made the event more interesting was that all night the beach would be patrolled by roving guards with night vision scopes and beach capable vehicles. We could not get out of the water undetected. At 0200 we used our motorized launch craft to simulate putting multiple dive pairs in at various places around the target. Our boats had been cruising the area at a safe distance for a few hours, with stops and starts, to confuse the dolphin handlers. During that time, we could hear them giving whistle commands to the dolphins. Our real launches occurred close to shore.Read Next: The US Navy’s Deadly MK6 Attack Dolphin Program

As the seaweed-covered surfboard pair used their fins to move very slowly toward the target, just outside the breaking surf they passed a channel marker pole in the water. Undetected atop the pole was a large pelican. As the pair passed close by, the startled pelican launched noisily in the air and the already very nervous paddlers, fearing a sudden underwater attack, both screamed involuntarily and could be heard easily by all. They did not make it much further before a dolphin suddenly surfaced and squeaked a warning to the waiting handlers who zoomed in and threw simulated grenades at the embarrassed, and now eliminated, attackers. Now they knew we were attacking and one of our pairs was gone.

I was in the surf zone concentrating on staying in the froth of the breaking waves. I could hear engine noises as boat-borne handlers zoomed around. Our planning had included two essential concepts: First, we believed that the crashing surf would mask our presence by interfering with the dolphins’ sonar. (They were reported to always avoid breaking surf.) Second, if we could remain undetected by the beach patrols in the fluffy blackness of the rolling surf, we could then get to, and under, the barnacle-covered pier pilings and work our way slowly to the carrier. There were three long piers that jutted out into the harbor to which other boats and craft could tie up. We had been told that the dolphins would not come under the piers and risk their soft skin on the barnacles. We were counting on that.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II
K-Dog, a bottle-nose dolphin belonging to Commander Task Unit (CTU) 55.4.3, leaps out of the water in front of Sgt. Andrew Garrett while training near the USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) in the Persian Gulf. Attached to the dolphin’s pectoral fin is a “pinger” device that allows the handler to keep track of the dolphin when out of sight.

The swim was exhausting as the surf tried to dash us repeatedly against the shallow bottom while we traversed over 1,000 yards to the pier area. One pair made it safely to the first pier and whispered to each other that perhaps they could save some time and energy by scooting across the open area between piers. They heard no area boats so took a chance by quietly and quickly swimming underwater across the short 30-yard distance between piers. Bad choice. They just managed to cover 20 yards when the dolphins hit them both. Two pairs down.

The two other pairs, including me and my swim buddy, stuck to the plan. We worked under the piers slowly toward the shore, across the gap under the pilings, and up along the next one until we made it past all three piers to the bow of the huge looming carrier. There were guards and vehicles moving above us, but we were invisible in the dark filthy waters under the piers. The carrier sat quietly with a draft of 35-feet. The seawater intakes had been shut down for the exercise, and the ship was entirely on shore power and water.

Four of us made it to the ship and, as briefed, dove down about 20 feet, planted our limpet mines on the metal hull, pulled the time-delayed fuses, and made it back safely under the pier. Separately, and quietly, we retraced our paths back along the pilings and worked back to the nearby surf zone. Once again, we stayed in the rolling, exhausting, noisy surf zone and swam slowly to our extraction point. It took over an hour but we were able to signal, undetected, for pickup by our launch vessels.

The crew was all smiles when it picked us up. Our limpet mines had detonated after the 30-minute time delay producing heavy red smoke that was seen by the pier patrols. Mission accomplished. One carrier sunk or severely damaged.

To this day the dolphin handlers swear we must have cheated!

MIGHTY CULTURE

Increasing Air Force readiness with science, technology, and innovation

Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr. is the commander of Air Force Materiel Command, headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. He handles installation and mission support, discovery and development, test and evaluation, life cycle management services and sustainment of every major Air Force weapon system. The command employs approximately 80,000 people and manages $60 billion of budget authority.

AFMC delivers war-winning expeditionary capabilities to the warfighter through development and transition of technology, professional acquisition management, exacting test and evaluation and world-class sustainment of all Air Force weapon systems.


There are eight AFMC host bases: Arnold AFB, Tennessee; Edwards AFB, California; Eglin AFB, Florida; Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts; Hill AFB, Utah; Robins AFB, Georgia; Tinker AFB, Oklahoma and Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. In addition, the command operates associate units on several non-AFMC bases.

During an interview with Airman magazine, Bunch discussed AFMC’s mission and responsibilities and the roles of science, technology and innovation in increasing Air Force readiness.

Airman magazine: Air Force Materiel Command is a large and diverse command which a lot of Airmen may not understand. Can you talk about the mission of the command?

Gen. Bunch: I would say we are the most diverse (major command) that there is in the Air Force. When you consider the demographics, we are very diverse. AFMC has huge mission diversity as well. What I want to tell the Airmen is, we touch everything that they touch on a day-to-day basis. When a system comes into the Air Force, we do a lot of the (science and technology) research upfront and early. That work is done through the research lab. We do a lot of the acquisition planning either through the Nuclear Weapons Center or through the Life Cycle Management Center and that starts the acquisition process. We test systems and we do all the activities to get it into the Air Force. Then we sustain the system for the long term through the sustainment center, all the way to the point that we get rid of it or retire it and put it at (Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group) in some cases.

So, from the beginning all the way to the end of any system we have within the Air Force, AFMC plays a key role. Underlying all that and at the foundation is the work the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center.

The AFIMSC takes care of all facilities modernization and restoration. They also take care of contracting, security forces, housing privatization, dormitories and military construction. They take care of these things on our installations day-to-day to make sure that our facilities are up to date so that we can project power anywhere in the world.

So our mission diversity ranges from every mission system across the Air Force that we create, develop, test and maintain from the very beginning of the program all the way to the very end of a program’s life to support for the nuclear enterprise, and installation and mission support.. AFMC is involved in all of it, so it’s a very diverse mission.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

Gen. Arnold Bunch Jr., Commander, Air Force Materiel Command, talks with members of the 412th Medical Group during his visit to Edwards Air Force Base, California, Oct. 18.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Giancarlo Casem)

Airman magazine: You talk about the importance of AFMC people. What is AFMC doing to attract top talent, develop and keep the workforce?

Gen. Bunch: Our Airmen, and when I use Airmen, I’m talking about military and civilian. I don’t distinguish within this command. We, more than any other command with (more than) 60,000 civilians, we are Airmen all focused on the Air Force mission. They are our most valuable resource and they are what make this organization tick. They’re the ones that get it done every day and execute their wartime mission each day.

We are trying to speed up the process of bringing the right people in and who we can recruit. We’ve actually taken some steps to speed that process up, to make it go quicker. We’re also doing some unique things where we’re doing job fairs to try to get at the right people. We’re using acquisition workforce development funds to pay off student loans to attract high quality, high caliber people in the skill sets we need. And what I’ve asked the team to start looking at is how do we communicate this so that we can keep people?

We had a lady who worked in the Air Force Test Center in May who retired after 68 years of service. We have 21 or 22 year-old young men and women coming in and I’ve got folks that have worked in the organization for 68 years. How you communicate across that diverse spectrum and how you motivate them all to keep going forward and how do you reward and award. Those are the things that we’re asking our people to take a look at and to help us drive our retention numbers the way we need them to go.

Since October of last year, we’ve seen about an 11% drop in the time to hire civilians. We’re not where we want to be, we’ve got to get better, but it’s a step in the right direction and something that I feel comfortable saying to the workforce. We know we’ve got to do better and we’re working at it.

Congress has been very helpful by giving us some additional authorities and we’re utilizing those authorities to try to go faster.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein congratulates Gen. Arnold W. Bunch, Jr. after assuming command of Air Force Materiel Command commander, shake hands during an assumption of command ceremony inside the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, May 31, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Wesley Farnsworth)

Airman magazine: The (Former Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson) and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein) have called out the “Air Force We Need.” Can you please describe the “AFMC We Need” initiative? What are some focus areas and objectives?

Gen. Bunch: We have the National Defense Strategy that came out that everyone’s focused on and (the Air Force) came out with the “Air Force We Need.” When I came into the job, what I wanted to do was define what do we, as AFMC, need to be to support the National Defense Strategy and to support where the chief and secretary want to go with the “Air Force We Need.”

I didn’t have any preconceived ideas of what we wanted it to be. I wanted to tap into our most valuable resource, our Airmen. They’re the ones that are executing the mission each day. So we wanted to, as Gen. Goldfein says, “squint with our ears” and listen to our men and women about what’s impeding their ability to get the mission done and what do they think it means to speed things up, go at the speed of relevance. So, we formed a team. We sent them out. They did a lot of surveys. We got a lot of results back in and a lot of great ideas that we’re now trying to review and see how we want to implement the suggestions or what we can put in place to move forward.

One of the books I’ve read about leadership is “Primal Leadership.” In the book there is a quote about, “None of us is as smart as all of us.” So, what I wanted to do was capture the essence of what the men and women believe in the organization and then glean through those comments to figure out what we need to get after. So we’re excited about going forward.

Airman magazine: The “AFMC We Need” addressed broad areas across the command. What are some of the challenges identified?

Gen. Bunch: We did do some external interviews and I would say they’re kind of consistent. One of the things is we’ve got to do a better job of communicating our impact and what our mission is. Some of our folks didn’t understand what we do, internally and externally, so we’ve got to do a better job at communicating some of that. A couple other challenges identified were facilities, infrastructure and information technology.

We’re telling people they’re coming to work in this remarkable organization, but they’re having tremendous impacts on a day-to-day basis with how our information technology systems work and it’s causing limitations. So those will be some of the initial challenges that we are going to focus on.

Another challenge we are going to focus on and we are starting to take some actions in is leadership training. Our people want their supervisors to be better leaders.

Last month, we had a senior leader conference where we talked about that with all our center and installation commanders. One of the things we’re trying to find out is who are the “no” people. The goal is to stop some of those noes and see what we can do to get to “yes” to move forward as an organization so we’re better prepared to support the future.

One of the installation commanders gave me a sign and I’ve got it in the office. I asked everybody at the senior leader conference to sign it. It says, “Find out where no lives and kill it.”

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

Capt. Joshua Lee talks with Gen. Arnold Bunch, Air Force Materiel Command commander, about unmanned aerial systems Oct. 15 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The commander visited Air Force Research Lab Munitions Directorate’s newest networking test and design facility during an early stop on his two-day tour of the base.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Airman magazine: You have stated the AFMC has to be better at anticipating Air Force needs. How will AFMC do this?

Gen. Bunch: We have to think forward. We have to think about the future. We can’t get caught up in what is Air Combat Command or Air Mobility Command or Global Strike Command asking for today. We need to focus our science and technology to go forward. (The Air Force) put out the Science and Technology 2030 strategy. We’re building an implementation plan to get after that. How do we create a competitive environment with what we’re doing within the research laboratory so that we are pushing ourselves and we’re scanning that horizon for what’s out there for the future. That’s one way that we can do that.

We also need to capitalize on a lot of what’s going on with commercial industry to get innovative ideas from outside that we may not have thought of. So we’re supporting the pitch days that (Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisitions, Technology and Logistics) implemented in small business innovative research.

We’re supporting the stand-up of consortiums so that we can get good ideas in and see what people can do. So, there are a lot of activities we as AFMC need to work on. We need to continue to look at industry strategies for how they’re doing business and how they develop software. We need to look at how can we do those things in a more responsive manner and change how we hire the workforce and how we recruit and retain them.

We’ve got to get a more operational tie and more linkage with what we’re doing across AFMC, and with the other major commands. How are they employing some of their aircraft? How are they doing their communication? What do we need to do? What can we glean from within to find answers? We need to make our ties stronger.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen W. Wilson, left, and Dr. William Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, center, discuss the April 20 TechStars Autonomous Technology Accelerator for the Air Force Demo Day at the Westin Hotel in Boston with John Beatty, right, executive director of the Massachusetts Military Task Force. Ten startup companies pitched their ideas to potential investors and Air Force senior leaders during the event, which is a partnership between Techstars and AFWERX.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Linda LaBonte Britt)

Airman magazine: How is AFMC utilizing partnerships with commercial tech companies and academia to have a better understanding and mine those advanced capabilities that may be on the horizon?

Gen. Bunch: So there are a couple of different areas that I’ll focus on. We’re working right now and we’ve got some good partnerships with Delta, Tech Ops, and Georgia Tech Research Institute on what we’re doing for condition based maintenance. We’re looking at what the commercial industry is applying in managing their large fleets of aircraft. Also what can we do with machine learning or artificial intelligence so that we can be more predictive for when some of our systems may be going to fail and help us keep the supply lines primed with repair parts. To me, we have great partnerships with a lot of great ideas that we can employ and we’re working down that path together, so that’s good.

We’ve got to get rapid. That’s all part of the Rapid Sustainment Office that we stood up with Lt. Gen. Robert McMurry as the program executive officer. The RSO team is looking at condition based maintenance, additive manufacturing or 3D printing and are there technologies out there we can use and capitalize on. We’re starting to make grounds in those areas. So those are a few of the ideas that are coming from the commercial end that we can utilize.

Airman magazine: You’ve said our peer adversaries are developing new capabilities modernizing existing capabilities, eroding our tech advantage. Please describe how AFMC is responding to the need for speed?

Gen. Bunch: There are a lot of different things we can do to get at that need for speed. But what we also want to make sure of is while we’re speeding, we’re doing it with discipline. We need to go fast, but we also need to put the disciplines in place so that we’re thinking our way through some of those systems and some of the decisions we’re making so that we are looking long term as well as immediate. We’re looking at, can I get a technology to the field faster? That means a viable product that we would evolve over time versus going for the solution that would take 10 years and a lot more effort. Can I give you something that gets me on that path in two years that you would be able to utilize in the field and be able to move out with.

So that’s one area that we’re looking at. Can I turn things faster and build over time? Another one that we’re continuing to focus on is open mission systems. If we can get open mission systems architecture into our weapons systems and into our designs, we can then bring in new technologies as technology evolves or the threat changes, because those are two things that are never going to slow down. They’re going to change. But by having open mission system architecture, we can piecemeal in parts over time as the technology and the threat changes so that we can adapt more quickly. We shouldn’t have to test systems as long. We should be able to be cyber secure. Those are a couple examples of things that we can immediately get after.

A good example of that is R-EGI, our Resilient Embedded GPS/Inertial Navigation System. That’s a program that we’re running out of the Life Cycle Management Center and it’s to get after having a resilient position navigation and timing solution over time. If that becomes threatened, what we have is an enhanced GPS/INS, most folks know. We fly it in all of our aircraft. It’s common with us, the Navy, the Army; it’s in all platforms. It’s something that’s almost universal. What we’re doing in this effort is trying to build open mission system architecture design so if I needed to inject new software or I needed to add a new component, I could evolve that over time as the threat changes and we could be more resilient.

Another good example is we’re using and trying to push to digital engineering and a digital enterprise. Right now, the ground based strategic deterrent team is doing a good job with some model-based systems engineering. We want to digitize and become a more digital enterprise with what we’re doing within AFMC. In digital we can change things in a more rapid manner and do things on a computer and look at options and look into digital areas before we ever start doing some of the other advances. It should eliminate some of our trial and error.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

The Air Force Research Laboratory’s AgilePod is shown mounted on the wing of the Textron Aviation Defense’s Scorpion Light Attack/ISR jet. The AgilePod is an Air Force-trademarked, multi-intelligence reconfigurable pod that enables flight-line operators to customize sensor packages based on specific mission needs. A fit check in late December 2017 provided an opportunity to demonstrate the ability of the pod to rapidly integrate onto a new platform with short notice, highlighting the benefits of Sensor Open Systems Architecture.

(U.S. Air Force photo by David Dixon)

Airman magazine: In fall of 2017, the secretary challenged us to develop a new Air Force ST Strategy for 2030. That document is now published. From your perspective, what are a few of the key takeaways?

Gen. Bunch: Really, it’s about competition and how do I create competition within what we do, within our research laboratory and our ST so that we’re continuing to push the bounds. I think that’s one of the key ingredients. How do we as an enterprise capitalize on the various basic research activities that may be out there so that we’re pushing the envelope and we’re looking at things and going, “That has great promise, I need to continue to work in that area.” Or, “That’s not making the progress I need. I need to off ramp that and I need to go another way.” So I think that one is really important.

The other one is we have science and technology dollars and how do I, over time, take those and shrink the investments so that they’re more focused in game changer technologies that I’m going to put out in the field. How do we capitalize on that knowledge base and how do we drive to where we’re transitioning game-changing technologies and we’re getting them into the field and capitalizing on that transition. I think those are two of the key things that we’re really looking at.

Airman magazine: How are AFMC and AFRL going to support the execution of the strategy?

Gen. Bunch: So there are a lot of activities already underway. Right now, we’re working with AFWIC, Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability, and we’re working with Dr. Roper’s team to come up with an implementation strategy. So that’s in the works. We are also trying to make some changes so that we can handle our money with a little more flexibility, so that we can shift and put our focus where the dollars need to be for those bigger projects.

So we’ve got a great partnership right now. The team is working with me on a regular basis. Our team’s trying to set in place processes to review where our tech focus areas are so we can make the right investments. They’re looking at what we want to do in basic research. They’re looking at what we want to do at the next level and then what we’re doing in our advanced research, where we’re getting to the prototyping and how do we focus.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

A Republic of Singapore air force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft tactical aircraft maintainer assigned to the 425th Fighter Squadron, Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, performs a launch inspection June 10, 2019, on the flightline at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. The 425th FS is at Tyndall to take part in a Combat Archer exercise.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

Airman magazine: Is the Tyndall AFB rebuild an opportunity to take the Base of the Future off the drawing board and make Tyndall a proof of concept for new tech?

Gen. Bunch: We are looking at new technology for Tyndall. Tyndall, as devastating as that was, thank goodness we had a great team doing a lot of great work so that the damages were material damages to things that we can replace and it wasn’t to our Airmen and their families. That’s our number one focus, their safety. But now as we recover, we do have an opportunity to look at what would we want the base to look like for the future. How would we want the information technology system set up so that it’s more efficient? How would we set in the power lines? How would we build the buildings? We are looking at Tyndall as an example of what we may be able to do for the future.

We’ve actually had AFWERX bring in some outside companies to come in and pitch their ideas. So we’re trying to move as quickly as we can to get everything moving forward, to get the mission back to normalcy. We’re also looking at what would we do different now that we can make changes and we can look at the mission from a different perspective. How would we make it better when we rebuild it? How is it more resilient? How do we have a better information technology network? How do we design everything–from are we going to put anything above ground or are we going to put it all underground now that we have the time to be able to do that so that it’s safer and more secure and less likely to be damaged in the future. Those are all things that we’re looking at as we go forward.


Airman magazine: How does AFMC support the Air Force as a hub for innovation?

Gen. Bunch: Innovation’s been a foundation of what we’ve been as an Air Force from the very beginning. And it’s interesting, we have more than 80,000 people within AFMC and you ask them all what innovation means, you’d probably get 80,000-plus different definitions. And I’m good with that. Innovation can mean some groundbreaking revolutionary thing that we’ve never done or it could mean changing a process so that we can go faster because we’ve employed what the Sustainment Center uses which is the ‘art of the possible.’

I’m good with all of it. What we have to create, and I think we are doing a better job of it, is an environment where a good idea can come in. What I want to make sure, as the commander, is that our people understand I’m willing to let them try things. And I’m not talking crazy risks, but if they want to try a new idea or process, I’m okay with that. If it works, that’s great and if it doesn’t work, then we’ll learn from it and we’ll move on. So innovation can take many, many forms. I want people to come in with their good ideas and I want to capitalize on their innovative spirit. That is what we as an Air Force were founded upon.

We also tie in with AFWERX; the Pitch Days to me are innovative. We’re going to be doing an AFMC internal pitch day where we can pitch our own good ideas, not just try to capitalize on what industry does or what venture capitalists are doing. So we’re trying to actually harness those good ideas to go forward.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, welcomed event attendees during the Air Force Space Pitch Day, Nov. 5, 2019, San Francisco, Calif. Air Force Space Pitch Day is a two-day event demonstrating the department’s willingness and ability to work with non-traditional start-ups.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Van De Ha)

Airman magazine: With declining mission capable rates and an aging fleet with an average 28 years of service, what do these numbers mean and do MCRs equate to Air Force readiness rates?

Gen. Bunch: So readiness depends on where you sit as to what you believe the right metric is. The one we’re driving right now, we’re trying to increase, is aircraft availability. That’s one that we’re really focused on with our legacy fleets. And there are multiple factors that play into that. One of the things that we’re finding is, we have, in some cases, a shrinking industrial base. And that’s one that we’ve got to focus on to help grow that industrial base.

What we want to do is make sure that the people who are operating the systems have as much up time as they can so they’re as ready as possible to do their mission. That takes research. How would I go do this? It could take reverse engineering. How do I reverse engineer this component that there’s no longer a vendor for and create it? So we either build it ourselves or we put the drawings out to get it manufactured.

The fact we are flying aircraft as old as they are with the mission capable rates that we have today is because of the Airmen working in the Sustainment Center and the focus of our maintainers out on the line who can keep these legacy aircraft up and running.

At an average age of 28 years, the fact that we keep mobility aircraft taking off and landing, delivering supplies and equipment every two minutes is amazing work by a lot of different people. We’re ready, but we’ve got to continue to try to up that game and continue to try to improve.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

An F-16 jet engine in max power during a test in the 576th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron’s hush house engine facility at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, June 5, 2019. The shop is responsible for performing organizational level maintenance on more than 200 engines per year. The shop’s maintenance tasks include engine inspections, external engine component removal and replacement, repairs, and troubleshooting during flight line and test cell operations.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Alex R. Lloyd)

Airman magazine: Can you identify some of the success stories throughout AFMC in new technologies like additive manufacturing, 3D printing and data analytics to improve readiness and decrease maintenance downtimes?

Gen. Bunch: We had a meeting last month where we were looking at engines. I’ll just use that as one example. We started looking at the performance of the engines over time and as we reviewed data and did the analytics, we started doing scheduled replacements of engines. So we could pull them off at the time that was of our choosing versus downtime required because the engine went too far.

What this allows us to do is control when we do maintenance. It allows us to prime the pump in the supply system so we get the right parts at the right time. That’s just one example that I can say from a data analytics perspective where we are really already seeing some great progress. We’re using condition based maintenance and algorithms right now with the C-5 Galaxy. We’re doing it in some cases in the B-1 bomber and we’re looking at growing it into the KC-135 fleet. So we’re trying to take some of those lessons learned in technologies and capabilities that others are using and apply it into our inventory and we’re starting to see some benefits.

We really want to get to the point if we’re going to send an aircraft down range and it’s going to have something fail in five days and the deployment is for 10 days, let’s fix it before we deploy it. If we can get to that point, we’ll really increase our aircraft availability and our ability to generate sorties and improve the mission dramatically.

On additive manufacturing, that one’s one that’s more challenging. A lot of people look at 3D printing as that’s really something easy to do. When you start talking about airworthiness that becomes a little more challenging. There are components we can build that are not airworthy components, and we’ve already got approval to do those parts. We have innovation centers at each of our three logistics complexes and they can do some of those. We save money and get the mission done in a timelier manner.

So we’re demonstrating some of those. It’ll take more time to get to where we can do a lot of airworthy parts. We’re working on that. We must get the engineers involved and get them the analysis.

We are seeing a lot of ground being made in additive manufacturing and in condition based maintenance. And then the other one, we’re taking technologies like cold spray, which is a repair technique, and we’re actually employing that in some of our depots so that we can minimize the downtime.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

Airmen from the 90th Missile Maintenance Squadron prepare a reentry system for removal from a launch facility, Feb. 2, 2018, in the F. E. Warren Air Force Base missile complex. The 90th MMXS is the only squadron on F. E. Warren allowed to transport warheads from the missile complex back to base. Missile maintenance teams perform periodic maintenance to maintain the on-alert status for launch facilities, ensuring the success of the nuclear deterrence mission.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Braydon Williams)

Airman magazine: Would you talk about AFMC’s support to the nuclear enterprise from both a sustainment and modernization perspective?

Gen. Bunch: Maj. Gen. Shaun Morris is our Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center (AFNWC) commander and his team is doing an outstanding job making sure that our nuclear deterrent is solid and that there is never a question that if they are called are they going to be able to respond. And that goes across the full spectrum.

The Minuteman-III program was built many, many years ago with a short lifespan; well we’re still maintaining them. We’re going to be maintaining them until the 2030 timeframe. We’ve stood up depot maintenance now on our Minuteman-III system, which was never intended to have a depot capability, but we’re doing that so we can sustain it and ensure that it’s reliable if ever called upon to do its mission.

AFNWC is on the front edge of making sure that our nuclear deterrent is really a nuclear deterrent and it’s credible and it’s safe and secure and it can answer the nation’s call.

The other part of the nuclear mission is the air leg; we have to make sure that we’re doing what we need to sustain our bomber force. AFMC is key in making sure that the force is supportable, sustainable, with upgrades where needed, while making sure all the activity we’re doing in the depot is supporting the mission.

Airman magazine: Could you talk about agile software development and the way we buy and develop software and how does this relate to Agile DevOps and cyber protection for all of our weapon systems?

Gen. Bunch: Software is everywhere. We’re going to have to change our mindset about software. The way that industry does it is they’ll modify and continue to push updates on a more regular basis. I don’t ever think we’ll get to the point we’re doing what industry does with our systems, but we have to get into a more Agile mindset. That’s a challenge for a lot of the way we’ve done business. It’s not just that you have to bring in coders and create an environment where they can develop Agile methods, that’s part of it, but you also have to change the culture of the men and women that are working on this because it’s not the way they’ve historically done it.

You’re developing. You’re testing. You’re fielding. You’re correcting deficiencies and it goes on and on. That is a culture change for AFMC and the men and women that are doing the acquisition. It’s also a culture change for all of the test community and anybody involved. It’s a culture change with how you handle your dollars. One of the things that I’ve been a proponent of is the need for money that has not binned by a specific definition of sustainment, development, or production. If you’re really doing Agile or secure DevOps, those money lines are blurry. We need colorless money so that we’re not hindered by some of the rule sets on how the money gets moved around.

So it’s a big change. We’ve got to be able to change that culture. The other thing is you have to be able to attract and recruit software developers. We have to capitalize on that skill set. And a lot of what we’re doing right now, we’re actually bringing in Airmen who just have a propensity and a love for doing software development and we’re putting them to work and they love it. We also have to capitalize on our own capabilities along the way, but it’s one that we’ll have to re-look at how we bring in manpower.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

Pilot Training Next instructor, U.S. Air Force Capt. Orion Kellogg, discuses a future PTN version 3 student’s virtual reality flight with members of NASA as part of a collaborative research agreement between Air Education and Training Command and NASA October 22, 2019, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, TX. The goal of the agreement is to help both AETC and NASA collect physiological and cognitive data and leverage each organization’s knowledge and skills to maximize learning potential for individual students.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)

Airman magazine: With the advancements in AI/VR, how do you see the Air Force further capitalizing on technology to equip Airmen with quality training through simulation scenarios?

Gen. Bunch: AI and VR, those are big areas that we’re going to continue to look at. The best example right now is one that our Air Education and Training Command started with Pilot Training Next. What they’re really doing is they’re capitalizing off of the gaming industry and artificial intelligence to understand and to personalize the training they’re doing for each individual student.

The way they’re building Pilot Training Next allows the student pilots to learn in a simulated immersive AI and VR environment with an individualized training methodology, which really speeds up the learning process.

I think you’re going to see more growing in that area. We’re looking at trying to apply that for maintenance. We’re also looking at other avenues to try to capitalize so we’re better able to train the workforce in a timelier manner.

Airman magazine: You have a lot of experience in your resume in the test community. How do you see the community evolving for the speed of relevancy?

Gen. Bunch: So there are a lot of initiatives here. One of the things we did in my previous job was take the test community leadership to Silicon Valley to expose them to how commercial industry tests software. The goal was to figure out what can we change within our initiatives to be able to test software more quickly to support Agile development ops, secure DevOps and to push things out into the field faster.

That’s now something we’re working on. We’re changing our philosophy. We’re working with the operational test community to set that up. Another area that we’re looking at is how do we combine more developmental tests and operational tests earlier in the process? Gen. Mike Holmes [Commander, Air Combat Command] and I have kicked off an initiative to look at that. We’re looking at how we could combine our developmental tests and our operational tests so that we’re getting more data quicker. We can streamline the amount of testing. We can save costs. We can get things into the field more readily.

There are a lot of great strides going on at the Air Force Test Center with Maj. Gen. Chris Azzano about how do we test things in a more rapid manner. He’s asking the questions: How do we not over test? How do we use digital enterprise, model-based systems engineering? How can we utilize that digital enterprise to get after some of that testing so that we don’t have to do everything in open air and repeat things?

The worst answer you can give me is, “Gen. Bunch, we got to test this much because that’s how we’ve always done it.” That is not a good answer. So anybody out there, that’s not a good answer to give me. There are certain things we’ve got to go test. We want to make sure that it’s safe for the Airmen we’re putting in harm’s way. We want to make sure that they have a good product. But we are making a lot of strides at relooking at how we do our test enterprise.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

Staff Sgt. Ruth Elliot, 412th Medical Group, takes a selfie with Gen. Arnold Bunch, Commander, Air Force Materiel Command, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, Oct. 18. Elliot was a presented a commander’s coin by the AFMC commander.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Giancarlo Casem)

Airman magazine: What has been some of the most rewarding part of your career?

Gen. Bunch: From what I’ve done in the military, I go back to all I’ve ever really wanted to be was a commander and work for Airmen. I firmly believe in servant leadership and that the commander works for everybody in the organization. Right now I work for more than 80,000 men and women within AFMC, the Airmen making the mission happen every day and doing all the hard work. Getting to talk with them, getting to watch them grow and feeding off of their energy is the most rewarding thing I get to do every day.

If you listen to some of our young Airmen when they talk about the great things they’re doing or you watch them respond in a time of crisis with what they do, if that doesn’t put a smile on your face and make it great to put the uniform on every day then you probably got a problem and it may be time for you to go find something else to do.

To me, just the interactions with the our people and watching our Airmen succeed and watching them do the mission every day with the passion they do is just remarkable for me.

Airman magazine: What would you like to say directly to the Airmen of AFMC?

Gen. Bunch: So for the Airmen of AFMC, thanks for what you do each and every day, your wartime mission makes us successful. Remember that what we’re doing is critical to the war fighter and remember that we are the most important major command within the Air Force. If we’re going to achieve the National Defense Strategy and if we’re going to drive to the Air Force We Need, we’re the ones that have to succeed. If we don’t succeed then the Air Force can’t succeed. Remember, the programs and systems we’re working to sustain and test is to make sure America’s most valued treasure, our sons and daughters we send into harm’s way, have the technological advantage they need to do their mission supporting our nation’s defense and to come home safely.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Military spouse life hack: Holiday care packages

Have you ever considered sending a care package to your loved one or seen festively decorated ones and wondered how the heck did they do it?

I’m here to put all your nerves at ease and make creating a care package a fun project to spread the holiday cheer to your service member.

To ensure that your package gets to your service member on time make sure to check out holiday care package deadlines.


First things first.

At any United States Postal Service location, you can grab boxes for your care packages. You do not need to pay for them until you mail it out, and I always grabbed Priority Mail boxes. It will be incredibly more expensive if you use a box that is not Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express, as those already have set prices and you can ship domestic or international for same price.

Create a theme for your care package.

Scrapbooking paper is a great and easy way to decorate the inside of your box. Pinterest is also a great resource for looking up different ideas for care packages. For instance, decorating the inside of the box with candy corn scrapbook papers, a quote from Hocus Pocus, stuffed with candy and beef jerky topped with fake spider webs and fake spiders.

Some examples for decorating the inside of Thanksgiving boxes may be decorating the inside of the box with brown and orange scrapbook paper with cut-outs of pumpkins and leaves. Another fun thing to add to your box is a secret message at the very bottom. Whether it is something funny or simple like “Gobble Gobble” or “I’m thankful for you.”

For Christmas care packages it could be themed around How the Grinch Stole Christmas or Merry Christmas. Take a look at Instagram and Pinterest for various ideas of fun ways to decorate your box.

NEVER decorate the outside of the box if they are packaged in the Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express boxes. The USPS staff will ask you to remove it, so don’t waste your time in the first place.

For domestic packages ensure that you are following the guidelines in the US to ship and do not include items such as; aerosols, alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, cigars tobacco, cremated remains, dry ice, firearms, fragile items, glue, lithium batteries, live animals, matches, medicines prescriptions drugs, nail polish, paint, perfumes, perishable items or poisons. For more information make sure to visit here.

Below are ideas that you can add to your care package that are military approved. If shipping overseas, make sure to add a general overview of what items are the package to your customs forms.

Toiletries

  • High-quality socks
  • Foot powder
  • Hand Warmers
  • Baby wipes
  • Deodorant
  • Dental Floss
  • Lip Balm
  • Sunblock
  • Toothbrush
  • Cough drops
  • Icy hot
  • Vicks

Entertainment

  • Board games
  • Deck of cards
  • Reading materials
  • Pencils
  • 3M wall hooks
  • Photos from home
  • Letters

Food

  • Hot sauce
  • Packets of condiments
  • Water flavoring packets
  • Hot cocoa mix
  • Instant coffee
  • Powdered creamer
  • Granola bars
  • Tuna fish
  • Candy
  • Beef jerky
  • Slim jims
  • Protein bars
  • Gum
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Spam
  • Non-chocolate candy (it melts way to easy in the packages)
  • Dried fruit
  • Trail mix
  • Cookies
  • Fresh baked holiday treats

Change up your care packages and add fun surprises every once in a while. Always add extra items for the service members to share with their battle buddies.

Make sure to tape up the sides of your box to be nice and secure and mail off. If you need assistance filling out the customs forms the staff are very helpful.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part nine

Sapa Valley, Northern Vietnam

The final stop in Rich’s journey through Vietnam. Sapa is a frontier township along the Chinese border, home to the northern highlanders and hundreds of miles of trails. It’s the perfect place to field test MACV-1 prototypes.


What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II
What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

Sapa is considered the trekking capitol of Vietnam and we all know trekking is just rucking in the mountains.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

The secret to the best bowl of pho in Vietnam? Serve it with plenty of Tiger beer halfway through a 15-hour ruck.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

And of course you need to pack a few Tigers for when you get to the top.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II
What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II
What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II
What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

“First impressions?” asked Paul.

“They’re comfortable, they’re lightweight, they’re versatile… and you can drink in them” said Rich.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

Follow Richard Rice’s 10-part journey:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Part Eight

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The ‘Yucca Man’ is a beast that stalks Marines at 29 Palms

There are many versions of the age-old story. A Marine is assigned to a remote area of Twentynine Palms when he suddenly finds himself alone, in the dark, and being circled by a wild, growling beast. He pulls up his weapon and flashlight to see an eight-foot-tall hairy creature on two legs with glowing red eyes. The Marine then is either knocked cold or passes out from fear, awaking to find his weapon bent or broken in half.

Another Marine survives his encounter with the “Yucca Man,” a Bigfoot-like beast of military legend – and the story is given new life.


What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

Yucca Man sightings have persisted among military personnel as late as 2009.

(Desert Oracle)

He goes by a number of names, including the Mojave Bigfoot, the Sierra Highway Devil, and even the slightly endearing nickname “Marvin of the Mojave.” His appearance isn’t limited to the relatively recent arrival of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. The local native tribes have been telling stories of “hairy devils” who have lived in the deserts among the Joshua Trees for as long as native tribes have been around.

As the area around the San Bernardino mountains began to develop in the middle of the 20th century, it seems the wild man, the Yucca Man, were pushed out of their native habitat and headfirst into developing civilization. Strange reports of large, bipedal beasts were reported as far west as Palmdale and Edwards Air Force Base.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

Unlike traditional Bigfoot sightings, the Yucca Man was said to be “huge, scary, aggressive, fast, and threatening.”

It was at Edwards AFB, with its numerous security cameras, that reports of the Yucca Man were said to be captured on video. More strange than that, the wild men were said to have actually been caught on camera, moving through the guarded, secure underground tunnels that hide the U.S. military’s most advanced top secret technology. In the 1960s and 1970s, U.S. Air Force air police units would be sent on wild goose chases in the catacombs of Edwards tunnels after the men, who would suddenly disappear.

On Edwards AFB, however, the beast had blue eyes, not red. The blue eyes, according to one air policeman who was caught alone with the beast, were said to be four inches apart – the eyes of a predator – and rise seven feet off the ground. They glowed blue to the man who was sitting in his police truck. Suddenly, the eyes darted closer and covered half the distance between the animal and the truck in the blink of an eye. As an overwhelming stench filled the air, the airman took a disturbance call and drove off.

The airmen called it “Blue Eyes” for the rest of their time in the desert – and still talk about him to this day.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These World War I troops claimed to be rescued by angels

In August, 1914, British troops were in full retreat from the World War I Battle of Mons in Northern France. The Germans chasing them were far greater in number, and the men were desperate. In a turn of good luck, they happened to pass a celebrated old battle site that turned the tide of their retreat, in an almost supernatural way – and that’s exactly how it was remembered.


The Battle of Mons went as well for the Brits as could be expected. It was the first test of the British Expeditionary Force in continental Europe. They fought hard, and the Germans paid dearly for their advance. But the French Fifth Army gave way to the Germans, and the British could not hold the line on their own. An orderly battle turned into a two-week rout that would end with the epic Battle of the Marne – but not unless the BEF could escape the oncoming Germans. They retreated south as orderly as possible.

On their way, they passed the site of the famous medieval Battle of Agincourt, where King Henry V’s English longbowmen devastated a French Army that outnumbered the English with estimates as high as 6-to-1. The retreating British troops of 1914 were on the run from a numerically superior German force when legend says a British soldier said a prayer to Saint George that changed the outcome of their retreat.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

St. George, the Christian dragon slayer.

George was a Roman Praetorian Guard for Emperor Diocletian, and was executed for not recanting his professed Christian faith centuries before the emperor converted the empire to Christianity. He is probably the most prominent of all soldier-saints. So, when a retreating British soldier asked St. George for help, it makes sense for the men of the retreating army to believe he may have intervened when the Germans suddenly broke off their pursuit.

After the battle, men present during the fighting chalked the sudden turn of events up to a number of supernatural explanations, each more awe-inspiring than the next. In the most prevalent retelling, the prayer to St. George caused an army of spectral English bowmen to appear, which both frightened and slaughtered the pursuing Germans.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

Looks like St. George needs to train his angels a bit.

The claims of the English soldiers were grounded by a fictional short story called “The Bowmen” written by Arthur Machen after the battle. In the book, angelic archers appear after a British soldier prays for help from St. George. Led by the patron saint of England, a thousand archers appeared and mowed down the enemy. Afterward, the German generals determined the BEF must be using a new gas weapon, as there were no wounds on the dead German troops.

Machen’s story was a fabrication, of course, based on a different story by Rudyard Kipling. That one was set in Afghanistan. But veterans of the Battle of Mons soon began to claim they were eyewitness to the spectral event. In each retelling, the story changes: German soldiers are found with arrow wounds, the ghost army was actually a team of angels in the form of medieval knights and led by St. George, or the BEF was able to retreat into a wall of clouds.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

World War I Ex Machina.

The Angels of Mons very quickly entered the lore and legends of the First World War, joined there by stories of ghouls living in No Man’s Land, crucified Canadian soldiers, and the end of the war by Christmas.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why apricots are the most despised fruit in the military

There are many unfounded superstitions within the military. Don’t eat Charms candy. Don’t whistle on a Navy vessel. Pilots won’t take off without being given a thumbs up. The list goes on.

Many of these superstitions have traceable roots that run back to a time when someone did something and terrible results followed, but there’s seldom any empirical evidence behind the practices. To that end, Marines and Marine veterans from all eras and battlefields will all attest to one fruit being such bad luck that even uttering its name will cause them to freak out.

This fruit is, of course, the apricot.


What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

​Vietnam was bad enough. Even if you liked the taste of the fruit, you probably shouldn’t do anything to make everyone ostracize you.

(National Archives)

While most troops tend to stay away from apricots — typically referred to as ‘cots, forbidden fruits, or A-fruits, to avoid being jinxed by uttering its true name — the biggest contributors to this superstition are Marine tankers and Marines on Amphibious Assault Vehicles.

Officially, the myth began in WWII. Many of the AAVs that were hopping around the islands of the Pacific would carry the fruit, as it was often found in rations. All the AAVs that were destroyed with their crewmembers inside were said to have a single piece of cargo in common: apricots. Of course, there isn’t much proof to back up this statement, as many vehicles that didn’t carry the forbidden fruit met the same fate.

The superstition continued into the Vietnam War. There, Marines were hesitant about even being near someone eating a ‘cot because they thought it meant that rockets or artillery were soon incoming. The belief was so strong that Marines would often force someone out of the tent if they tempted fate by biting into one of the stone fruits.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

You still won’t find any of them in a Marine Corps chow hall. Just grab an apple, they taste better and probably maybe won’t cause everything to explode or break down. Probably.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Janessa K. Pon)

It was also said that ‘cots were to blame for many Marines vehicles breaking down during the Persian Gulf War and the early days of the Global War on Terrorism before they were all but banned by the military overseas.

Until apricots were removed from MREs in 1995, many Marine tankers would opt out of bringing MREs into their vehicles altogether on the off chance that the A-fruit was hiding in one of the sealed bags. The myth continues to this day, and most Marines won’t even utter the name of the fruit, let alone touch them.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Guard soldier competes in ‘American Ninja Warrior’

A Pennsylvania National Guard soldier competed in the “American Ninja Warrior” television show in Philadelphia, May 19-20, 2018.

Army Sgt. Tyler Waters, a motor transport operator with the 337th Engineer Battalion, 55th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, 28th Infantry Division, placed 17th in the competition.

“I’ve been a fan of the show for years and I’ve always felt that I had the combination of strength and athleticism to excel on any of the ever-changing courses,” Waters said.


Waters came within seconds of advancing to the national competition held in Las Vegas, which would have required finishing in the top 15.

‘The experience was great’

“The experience was great,” he said. “It was interesting to see the different competitors from different walks of life that excelled in the course. Simply being physically fit, as some of the competitors appeared to be sculpted from stone, wasn’t enough.”

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part II

Sgt. Tyler Waters.

Waters credits both his family and his unit for supporting him through the competition.

“Being in the Army definitely helped to sharpen what I already envisioned as a strength of mine; my mental focus and toughness,” he said.

In his civilian life, Waters is a Pennsylvania State Trooper, which he said has many similarities to a military career and allows him to carry the same mindset he’s cultivated as a soldier at all times.

This mentality enabled Waters’ success in the American Ninja Warrior contest, and he said he hopes to compete again and reach the finals.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

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