Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

The military is known for its diversity among service members. But veteran-branded apparel doesn’t typically reflect that. Introducing Triple Nikel.

Ruben Ayala is a retired Green Beret and owner of San Antonio Healthy Vending in Texas. He had long felt veterans who looked like him weren’t really seen for their service. As he watched the violence and racial divisiveness overtaking the country in the wake of police-involved shootings against Black Americans and watched the outrage over athletes kneeling during the National Anthem, Ayala felt called to do something. He felt compelled to change the narrative of people of color and who they are.

After taking a road trip over the summer with a few Army buddies, Ayala and his friends started sketching ideas for a business. Ultimately, they wanted to create apparel that spoke to all veterans, not just a percentage of them that looked a certain way. The guys especially wanted to highlight the stories of minorities and celebrate the beauty of diversity. Triple Nikel was born. “That was the formulation of it, to send a positive message and tell a different story,” Ayala said. 

Founded by Ayala, Curtez Riggs, Rod Graham and Christopher McPhee – all Army veterans – the business name has a special and historical significance. “The idea came to me from our forefathers. All of the founders in the company, we all started as paratroopers in the 82nd Airborne Division. The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion was the only Airborne unit that people of color could serve in when the Army was segregated,” Ayala explained. A test unit during World War II, they went by the nickname ‘Triple Nickels.’ “It was only fitting to create a company that amplified stories of those who came before us.”

They received the blessing of the 555th Association with the only request being that they altered the spelling to avoid any legal issues. 

Although Ayala knows people could just shrug and say they are just selling t-shirts, he shared that the company is much more than just apparel. “The first thing we want to do with the company is to start a conversation…what we’ve done in 90 days is that we’ve taken four proven leaders who are minorities and we’re taking our stories and amplifying them,” he explained. “We want to change the narrative of what veteran service looks like…You served, too. Anybody can put themselves in women’s shoes or my shoes and can relate to that statement.”

With so many veteran apparel companies creating clothing showcasing things like guns, women in minimal clothing or curse words, Triple Nikel knew they had an opportunity to do something unique. “We really really want to reach the youth that are wanting to serve. If I am a 17 year-old kid looking online for military apparel, I am going to quickly realize that those visuals don’t look like me,” Ayala said. “We want to be able to provide visuals that everyone can relate to. Women, people of color … it doesn’t matter what socioeconomic background you come from. We also want to prove that you don’t have to be the coolest guy in the world with the biggest muscles, biggest beard or the most tattoos to be a veteran.”

Not only does their clothing showcase a diverse side of being a veteran, their apparel also caters beyond one branch of service. “A lot of companies are really segregating certain services and I don’t know why. Everybody should be proud of their service; it doesn’t matter how you did it. We want to amplify that,” Ayala said. 

Triple Nikel launched on Veterans Day, only 90 days after four Army veterans had sketched out their idea for the business. For them, it’s more than an apparel company. It’s a way of life. The founders hope that through their designs and apparel, they can change the narrative of what a veteran may look like and who they are. Their motto is ‘We served, too.’ It’s intentional and direct in order to spread the message that although veterans like them may not be seen as often, they matter. 

To learn more about Triple Nikel and to check out their apparel, click here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Employer support makes activation easier for soldiers

As the number of states impacted by the coronavirus pandemic increased, so did the number of soldiers activated to respond. Mobilizing personnel from the Army Reserve and Army National Guard meant civilian companies would have a deficit in its workforce, a known commitment attached to employers who hire talent from the reserve component. It can also lead to economic hardship for those who take a pay cut to fulfill military obligations — except for employees working in an environment with pro-military employment policies.


PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), as an example, employs over 1,500 veterans — with several activated as part of the COVID-19 response. In addition to maintaining the jobs of those called to active duty, PwC compensates them with 100% of their pay. Within its ranks, soldiers received notification they would be serving in various capacities, such as:

  • Providing epidemiological intelligence
  • Deploying medical resources
  • Helping stage combat hospitals in communities around the country

Capt. Paul Spranger, a PwC Senior Associate, is a staff officer with the Indiana Army National Guard. At the onset of the COVID-19 response, he said several of his colleagues were called to service in one capacity or another, leading different project teams to adjust responsibilities to accommodate them getting pulled in. At the time, Spranger was preparing epidemiological threat intelligence reports to advise his team on secondary and tertiary effects on disease transmission models.

He heard portions of his unit were being activated, then got the call himself for an operations officer-in-charge role for a patient transport task force.

“We have a number of areas within the state of Indiana that have limited capacity in order to transport patients from one care facility to another and as a consequence, essentially they needed additional help to move some of those patients in the event that the hospital system couldn’t facilitate the additional surge in patients,” Spranger said. “So, what I’m doing day to day is planning to prepare all of our different elements and all the different districts in the state of Indiana that have this need, and pre-positioning ambulance assets around the state. And then managing their movements and ensuring those areas have the coverage they need.”

He says soldiers are “ready to respond” to this sort of event.

“I’ve always been in a staff officer type role, and so as a consequence this is very similar — one of the essential elements of an operation that really never really changes. It’s just a lot of administrative, logistical, lots of planning and things like that, so it’s just a matter of putting the right talent — just like the civilian sector — in the right places to do the job that they know how to do,” he said.

PwC launched a Veteran’s Affinity Network in 2008 to support veterans in the workplace. The group, which is led by Lt. Col. Tim Stoner, has grown to more than 1,000 active members and 20 chapters. He said having such a resource makes transition easier on employees leaving active duty or returning to a civilian job after a combat deployment.

Stoner, a PwC Partner, is the commander of the 55th Medical Detachment in Indianapolis, Indiana. Through his civilian position at PwC he works with clients in cybersecurity, but it is aligned to the healthcare vertical. He sees crossover between his careers in and out of uniform.

“Both of those things have strong synergies with the military. From a cybersecurity perspective, everything we do in the military really revolves from a security perspective from three pillars: information security, operational security, and physical security. So, I think a lot of our military members have that in their DNA just based on service to the country and I think that plays well on my civilian career,” Stoner said.

Throughout the COVID-19 response, he had a dual–capacity role with evening calls and weekend duty to prepare the unit he commands for stateside support. He mobilized three teams to three different hot spots to stage Combat Support Hospitals on the east and west coasts. Logistically, he said, this mobilization “has been very easy” because FEMA had the lead on the national response.

Stoner has served in the Army for 32 years across all components, and says this pandemic is unlike anything he has seen.

“It’s unique. I’ve been called up and served many times — been overseas, been mobilized, been deployed. It’s usually with something that’s maybe known or seen, or is traumatic in result — that’s maybe more visible or palpable, if that makes sense,” he said. “We (the military) are great at emergency medicine and trauma medicine, and things like that, but this is obviously a different type of threat where it’s unlike anything I’ve done. It’s less traumatic and dramatic than maybe some of my combat tours, but this is equally as critical and life-taking, as we all know.”

Stoner adds the support from PwC has been “tremendous,” at every step from local levels up the chain to the CEO.

“We have a very supportive military lead policy as well as great things that support our folks, from flexible work arrangements, certainly to child care, emergency support and elder care support for families in need. Mental health resources and capabilities. I’ve never been in a consultancy that has this level of support for their people.”

Visit https://www.pwc.com/us/en/careers/why-pwc/military-veterans.html to learn about career opportunities at PwC for military and veterans.

This article originally appeared on Reserve + National Guard Magazine. Follow @ReserveGuardMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Army drops rapping recruiters video and it’s pretty awesome

In case you missed it, U.S. Army Recruiting Command dropped its newest music video “Giving All I Got,” beckoning all potential recruits to step up and help strengthen the Army team.

Sgts. 1st Class Arlondo Sutton and Jason Brenner Locke, who are assigned to the Atlanta and Houston recruiting battalions, respectively, wrote and produced the new single.

“We’re trying to convey this positive message, [that] you can maintain your individuality and still be a soldier,” Locke said about producing music to support Army recruiting. “[Soldiers] have emotions, dreams, and aspirations, just like anybody else.


“We just decided to throw on a pair of boots, wear this uniform [to help] carry our nation and carry on our family name.”

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

Sgts. 1st Class Arlondo Sutton and Jason Brenner Locke, who are assigned to the Atlanta and Houston recruiting battalions, respectively, wrote and produced the new single.

(Photo by Elliot Valdez)

‘Army changed my life. Gave me a new clock.’

Starting with the track’s hook — “Giving all I got. I’m never going to stop. Army changed my life. Gave me a new clock” — the song highlights the positive impact the Army had on both recruiters, Sutton said.

Sutton had a humbling start to his life while growing up in a single parent home in Norfolk, Virginia.

“Growing up in poverty is very difficult,” he said. “I didn’t know whose shoes I had on, I didn’t know whose clothes I had on. I grew up staying with my grandmother … in one room, and sleeping at the edge of the bed.”

On the cusp of going down the wrong path in life, his high school track coach, who was a retired soldier, reached out to mentor him.

“My father figure: My coach. He [mentored me] when I was going through a hard time,” Sutton said. “He was the one to actually notice my [athletic] talents. I joined the Army to better myself, [and] to follow in [his] footsteps.”

It was long after joining the Army when Sutton realized he had some musical talent.

While deployed to Iraq as a young sergeant, he produced hip-hop tracks to help ease his mind.

A friend later convinced him to compete in a rap music competition and Sutton took third place. This evolved into his new passion and profession, Sutton said.

Similar to his partner, Locke also said he had a rough childhood as he grew up in a “not so great area” of Houston. And while Locke did not share much about his past, he remains focused on the positive in life.

“I just wanted to kind of change the lifestyle I was in. I knew that one of the ways of changing my life was to step outside the confines of comfort,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where I was at. What matters is what the Army did for me and where I’m going now.”

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

A behind the scenes photo of Sgts. 1st Class Arlondo Sutton and Jason Brenner Locke, shooting their new music video titled “Giving All I Got,” at Fort Benning, Ga. Dec. 11, 2018.

(Photo by Lara Poirrier)

Locke admitted hip-hop was not his first choice in music. During his early teenage years, Locke spent most of his time bouncing from band to band, or as he called it, “bandhopping.”

“I was trying to find people that were as invested in music as I was. I never found them,” Locke said.

Locke then turned to a friend for help, who explained to Locke how his talent was better suited for hip-hop. After some changes to his lyrics, Locke was hooked.

“It changed my perception of how to write [music]. It turned into a poetic ordeal and … an emotional outlet for me,” he said.

‘Join A-R-M-Y’

“Giving All I Got” was created as a way to bridge the gap and speak the language of today’s youth, according to both recruiters.

“I think it’s easier to bend someone’s ear when you throw it into a rhythmic pattern,” Locke said. “You’re going to be a little bit more inclined to listen.”

While some may criticize their work, the duo keeps their eyes on the bigger picture.

“The main target audiences are not people that are in the Army,” Locke said. “The main aim is the people that are not aware of the Army, and all the preconceived notions and … stereotypes [they have]. That’s what we, as recruiters, are consistently having to overcome. That is what we’re doing with this music.”

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

U.S. Army Recruiting Command dropped its newest music video “Giving All I Got,” beckoning all potential recruits to step up and help strengthen the Army team.

(U.S. Army Recruiting Command)

In their music video, both recruiters can be seen singing and dancing in locations throughout Fort Benning, Georgia, and the streets of Atlanta. The video features a variety of Army career fields, to include military working dogs, infantry, snipers, and the Maneuver Center of Excellence Band.

Behind the scenes, Army visual information specialists helped put the video together. Moreover, soldier stationed at Fort Benning assisted in bringing the video to life.

‘We just tryin’ to be better’

Recently, the Army identified 22 focus cities with growing populations, known to have minimal exposure to the Army. The new video aims to inspire highly-qualified 18- to 24-year-olds, as part of a larger USAREC led social media engagement effort.

In the end, reaching the Army’s recruitment goals will require all recruiters and soldiers to go that extra mile, Sutton said.

“There are going to be people out there that have a lot of good talent,” Sutton said, commenting on his career and music success. “My talent is just outworking my competitors. We all could get up at the same time, but I choose to get up earlier.”

Giving All I Got

www.youtube.com

Inspired by one of his role models, Sutton is determined to be the LeBron James of the Army, he said, smiling.

“If [James] went out there and said, ‘Hey, I need 50 people to come and join,’ people would join based on his character and his beliefs,” Sutton said. “That’s what I want to do for the Army.”

Likewise, Locke is motivated to leave his mark on the Army, all while solidifying the idea that you can be both an individual and a soldier.

“I want to be remembered as someone that made a difference,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NovaPoint Capital provides investment management with integrity

Joseph Sroka isn’t just an investment specialist, he’s a military veteran and business owner with a passion to assist the veteran community. He is the Chief Investment Officer of NovaPoint Capital, a firm he co-founded, which provides investment management for individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations.


Before getting into the number crunching and chart watching of the investment world, Sroka served as an infantry officer in the Army. After graduating from West Point in 1988, he was stationed in Berlin, Germany and was witness to the iconic fall of the Berlin Wall, reunification of Germany, and collapse of the Soviet Union. As a person who was inspired to serve by Ronald Reagan, seeing the end of the “Evil Empire” seemed like a good time for a career change.

“I grew up in the aftermath of the Vietnam war and was in middle school during the Iran hostage crisis,” Sroka recalls. “President Reagan brought pride back to the country and the military. I was proud to serve.”

After earning his MBA, Sroka spent time working in equity research at investment banks, hedge funds, and asset management firms in Chicago, New York, and eventually Atlanta, the city he now calls home. The investment management industry has proven as lively as the military. Sroka was working at 4 World Financial Center, across the street from the World Trade Center, on 9/11 and helped evacuate his colleagues at Merrill Lynch from the building. He has also managed through the volatility of the markets during the 2008 financial crisis.

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots
Joseph Sroka

His deep experience in the industry helped him develop the tools he needed to go into business with his partner, Alan Conner. Together, they decided the goal of NovaPoint Capital was to provide individuals and institutions with disciplined and transparent investment management.

We’ve both seen the ugly side of the business over the years,” Alan explains, “Excessive fees and complicated investment products seem designed to benefit the investment firms and the brokers, rather than the clients. It is very satisfying to run a firm where we truly put the client first.

As a boutique firm, they offer an aspect that is often lost when dealing with larger firms: the opportunity to build a personal one-on-one relationship directly with their clients. This structure provides clients with direct access to the manager who is handling their money and not sales representatives or relationship managers who are twice or three-times removed from the actual investment.

They recognize that a lot of trust that comes with handling investments. NovaPoint seeks to provide all clients, large and small, with complete transparency in how their money is invested. They have used technology to simplify the process and give clients a window into what the team at NovaPoint is doing every day.

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

NovaPoint shows they are purposeful and disciplined when it comes to the strategies they put forth. Both owners understand discipline. Sroka as a West Point graduate and Army Ranger, Conner as an endurance athlete and three-time IRONMAN triathlon finisher. Conner sees “the discipline in our investment process as a simple extension of the discipline we have in our everyday lives.”

Being a veteran-owned business, NovaPoint understands the value the veteran community provides to the country’s economy and wants to encourage other veterans to pursue their investment and financial goals. To help veterans achieve these goals NovaPoint Capital takes a few proactive steps. They offer special discounts on standard fees as well as waiving minimum investment requirements for veterans. They extend these offers to include retirement plans for other veteran-owned businesses as well as non-profit organizations that serve the veteran community. Additionally, NovaPoint contributes one day of revenue every six months directly to veteran charities.

Beyond discounts and waived requirements, Sroka personally continues to serve veterans in his community by being a mentor through organizations like Veterati and FourBlock. “I am a huge believer that the current generation of transitioning veterans are going to be the leaders in the U.S. economy for decades to come,” Sroka said. He is also working to bring a Bunker Labs chapter to Atlanta to help military and veteran entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses in the area.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 unintentionally hilarious military acronyms

The United States military loves slapping an acronym on anything that moves. Actually, things that don’t move are equally likely to be described with a jumble of letters when words would do the trick just fine.

Sometimes it’s obvious that the acronym-izer should’ve put more thought into the process, and we get some unintentionally hilarious descriptors.


Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

1. PMS

Every Professor of Military Science is used to the giggles because every new set of students is equally immature.

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

2. MANPADS

While we’re on the subject of bodily functions, anyone who’s carrying a Man-Portable Air-Defense System better be ready for a few comments about whether they might need a diaper.

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

A male chicken is usually called a rooster but it’s also known as a cock.

3. MANCOC

Students at the Army’s Maneuver Advanced NCO Course must’ve gotten mighty tired of questions about their MANCOC. Perhaps that’s why it’s now called the Senior Leader Course.

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

Richard Cheney is known as Dick to his friends.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

4. DICC

But those guys likely were not nearly as tired as the intelligence officers answering questions about their Defense Intelligence Collection Cell.

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

John Travolta is king of the disco in “Saturday Night Fever.”

(Paramount)

5. DISCO

Spending an evening processing requests down at the Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office isn’t nearly as glamorous as the acronym might suggest.

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

Aladdin and Princess Jasmine take a magic carpet ride.

(Disney)

6. MAGIC CARPET

OK, maybe the acronym for Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologieswasn’t unintentional. Someone put a lot of effort into making that one work.

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

One Dr. Bob is a noted folk artist. The other co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous.

7. DRBOB

The future of commissaries and exchanges may be in the hands of the Defense Resale Business Optimization Board, but how many New Orleans folk art fans think of the famed painter behind the city’s “Be Nice or Leave” signs? What about the AA members who know Dr. Bob as Bill W.’s cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous?

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

Rick and Morty should be your preferred source for fart humor.

(Adult Swim)

8. FARP

Everyone at the Forward Area Refueling Point is tired of your fart jokes.

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

We can’t really go there.

9. FAP

The Fleet Assistance Program, aside from assigning Marines to extra duties outside the normal chain of command, raises an entire set of issues that we can’t really discuss here.

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

A fine-looking bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich.

10. BLT

Who wouldn’t enjoy a delicious Battalion Landing Team?

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How veterans play an important role at the CIA

Veterans of the United States Armed Forces have always played an important role at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Take CIA’s predecessor organization, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), for instance. Founded by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the outset of World War II — and in the aftermath of the Japanese attack on U.S. naval forces at Pearl Harbor — the OSS began its life as a wartime body tasked with mandates to collect and analyze strategic information and to conduct unconventional and paramilitary operations.

At its peak, OSS employed almost 13,000 people: Two-thirds of the workforce was U.S. Army and U.S. Army Air Forces personnel. Civilians made up another quarter, and the rest were from the U.S. Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. At the helm of OSS was World War I hero, General William “Wild Bill” Donovan. The story of CIA begins — and continues — alongside those of the U.S. military and its veterans.


Today, veterans comprise nearly 15% of CIA’s workforce, and we continue to serve alongside our military partners across the globe. CIA, the broader Intelligence Community, and the American people benefit tremendously from the insight and impact of veterans who bring to their work a wealth of experience and knowledge. They are mission-focused from day one and equipped with the skills CIA is looking for in its officers. Veterans often come into the building with the overseas experiences, clearances, and foreign languages that allow them to dive right into the action. A rich history of close collaboration between the military and CIA makes for a smooth transition from military to civilian service. While CIA is not a military body, its officers share that same commitment to mission and service. Veterans will find a familiar enthusiasm in the air at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

World War I hero, General William “Wild Bill” Donovan, helmed the pre-CIA OSS.

CIA is committed to the continued to developing relationships with veterans, and in May of 2013, it chartered the American Veterans Employee Resource Group (AVERG) to serve as a link between the veteran workforce and Agency leaders. The group is committed to goals that include the hiring and retention of veterans, education and engagement on veteran matters, continued career development and frequent community networking opportunities. AVERG offers veterans an important link to Agency leadership — one that ensures CIA’s continued investment in veterans and the unique perspectives they bring to an important mission.

Every day, but especially this week when we celebrate Veterans Day, CIA honors the commitment of its veterans who continue to serve and continue the fight in defense of freedom.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what the US B-52 bombers flying around Europe have been up to

Four US Air Force B-52 bombers from the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana arrived in England with about 300 airmen on Oct. 10, 2019, for a bomber task force deployment.

The bombers were deployed to RAF Fairford to “conduct integration and interoperability training” with partners in the region and to “exercise Air Force Global Strike Command’s ability to conduct bomber operations from a forward operating location” in support of US Air Forces in Europe and US European Command.


Amid heightened tensions with Russia after its 2014 seizure of Crimea, bomber task force exercises over Europe are also meant to reassure US partners and to be a deterrent to Moscow — this deployment, like others before it, also saw US bombers fly close to Russia in Eastern Europe and the high north.

Below, you can see what US airmen and bombers did during the month they were in Europe.

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

Two US Air Force B-52H Stratofortresses parked after arriving at RAF Fairford in England, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Philip Bryant)

Bomber Task Force 20-1 was “part of a routine forward deployment of bomber aircraft in the European theater that demonstrates the US commitment to the collective defense of the NATO alliance,” a US Air Forces Europe-Africa spokeswoman said.

The Barksdale B-52s’ deployment to RAF Fairford was their first since this spring, the spokeswoman said, and comes not long after a B-2 Spirit bomber task force deployment in August and September that saw the stealth bomber accomplish several firsts over Europe.

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

A B-52H Stratofortress deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana takes off from RAF Fairford, England, Oct. 14, 2019.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

US Air Force Senior Airman Sho Kashara, an Explosives Ordinance Disposal airmen from Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, helps build inert BDU-50 bombs for practice use by B-52H Stratofortresses at RAF Fairford, Oct. 16, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Cason)

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephen Zbinovec, 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron 96th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief, inspects the inside of the engine of a US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress at RAF Fairford, Oct. 18, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

US Air Force airmen from the 2nd Bomb Wing prepare a US Air Force B-52H for takeoff during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, at RAF Fairford, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

“Back home, people are focused on their job and will occasionally help out here and there,” said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Crowe, a B-52 expediter with the 2nd AMXS.

“Here, what seems to work is that everyone is all hands on deck. You may have an electronic countermeasures airman change an engine or an electrical environmental airman helping crew chiefs change brakes,” Crowe added.

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

96th Bomb Squadron aircrew from to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana prepare to board a B-52H Stratofortress at RAF Fairford, Oct. 14, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Cason)

When the bomber is scheduled to land somewhere that doesn’t have maintenance support for B-52s, a maintainer will go along as a “flying crew chief” to make sure the aircraft arrives safely and is ready to fly once it lands.

For a crew chief to qualify for that job, they must be at the top of their career field and complete hanging-harness training, a flight-equipment course, and go through the altitude chamber.

“We are essentially passengers on the aircraft, though we help the aircrew troubleshoot some things,” said Tech. Sgt. Gregory Oliver, a communications navigations technician. “However, when we land, we hit the ground running. We service the jet and get it ready to fly again.”

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

US Air Force 96th Bomb Squadron weapons system officers work in the lower deck of a 2nd Bomb Wing B-52H Stratofortress from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana in the Black Sea region in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 21, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

Three B-52 Stratofortresses assigned to the 2nd Bomb Wing from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana in formation after completing missions over the Baltic Sea for Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by SSgt. Trevor T. McBride)

A few days later, B-52s from Fairford headed to the Baltic Sea, teaming up with Czech fighters for exercises over another European hotspot.

NATO’s Baltic members, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, are between Russia proper and its Baltic Sea exclave, Kaliningrad, where ground and naval forces are based, as well as air-defense systems, ballistic missiles, and what are thought to be nuclear weapons.

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

French air force Dassault Rafales fly next to a US Air Force B-52H over France in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 25, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

Two Polish Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcons engage in a planned intercept of a US Air Force B-52H over Poland during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

A US Air Force B-52 in formation with Royal Air Force Typhoon aircraft from 3 Squadron at RAF Coningsby over the North Sea, Oct. 28, 2019.

(Cpl. Alex Scott/UK Ministry of Defense)

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

A US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana taxis toward the flight line at RAF Fairford in support of Global Thunder 20, Oct. 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s next to a US Air Force B-52H in Norwegian airspace during training for Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 30, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

A US Air Force B-52H and Saudi Arabian F-15C Eagles conduct a low pass over Prince Sultan Air Base in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Nov. 1, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

A US Air Force B-52H and three Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s fly toward the Barents Sea region of the Arctic during Bomber Task Force 20-1, Nov. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride)

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

A US Air Force 96th Bomb Squadron pilot flies a US Air Force B-52H during training and integration with the Royal Norwegian air force in Norwegian airspace in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Nov. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

One flight-tracker showed the B-52s flying into the Barents, turning south near the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic and then flying west near the Kola Peninsula. Both are home to Russian military facilities, including the Northern Fleet’s home base.

The Russian navy and scientists recently mapped five new islands near Novaya Zemlya that were revealed by receding glacier ice.

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A US Air Force B-52H and three Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s fly toward the Barents Sea region of the Arctic during Bomber Task Force 20-1, Nov. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride)

“The mission in the Barents Sea region served as an opportunity to integrate with our Norwegian allies to improve interoperability as well as act as a visible demonstration of the US capability of extended deterrence,” the spokeswoman said.

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A US Air Force B-52H takes off from RAF Fairford to return to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, at the end of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Nov. 8, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

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A US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress takes off from RAF Fairford to return home to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, at the end of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Nov. 8, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

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A US Air Force 2nd Bomb Wing B-52H Stratofortress takes off from RAF Fairford to return home to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Nov. 8, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

BTF “rotations provide us with a consistent and near-continuous long-range weapon capability, and represent our ability to project air power around the globe,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander of US Air Forces Europe-Africa.

“Being here and talking with [our allies and partner militaries] on their ranges makes us more lethal,” said Lt. Col. John Baker, BTF commander and 96th Bomb Squadron commander.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Mighty Talks: MOH Recipients MSG Matt Williams and SSG Ronald Shurer

We recently sat down with Master Sgt. Matt Williams and Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer of ODA 3336, the first Green Berets to receive the Medal of Honor from the same team. The men recount their harrowing experience, and talk about the brotherhood within the Special Forces community, and what the Medal of Honor means to them.


On April 6, 2008, Operational Detachment-Alpha 3336 entered the Shok Valley in Afghanistan with their Afghan Commando partners to capture a high-value target. Almost immediately upon insertion, the team came under heavy RPG and machine gun fire. Within minutes of landing, the team was dealing with their first casualty and began coordinating an evacuation down the side of a mountain in a foreign language, all the while calling in danger close ordnance to repel the enemy onslaught.

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MSG Williams while on a mission in Afghanistan

(Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army MSG Matthew Williams)

Green Beret teams were some of the first Americans into Afghanistan after 9/11, and the unique nature of their mission inspired Williams and Shurer. Both men feel strongly about the brotherhood that is established within the Special Forces community and speak to those feelings throughout the interview. “I’ve read books, and seen movies, but until you’re in the Q Course, you see that the focus isn’t this tough, lone soldier. It’s much more of a team aspect,” said Shurer. “They’ve got to find those guys with the strong personalities but can play as part of a team, that’s why it kind of fit well with me.” Shurer added.

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​MSG Williams receives the Medal of Honor from POTUS

(Photo Credit: Sgt. Keisha Brown)

As with many other Medal of Honor recipients, the award has changed their lives as they are now part of the Medal of Honor Society, and have appeared on national media to share their heroic actions and remember the efforts of others.”You’re not wearing it for yourself, you’re wearing it for all those guys who didn’t come home, and everyone out there who is still doing the job and still doing the mission,” said Shurer. “If nothing else it puts me in a position to highlight great things that are done constantly by SF teams, special forces teams are always, are constantly out there doing these things” added Williams, “I hope you see a representation of the great things that all the men and women that serve the country are capable of doing and do” he added.

Check out the full video above. Click to read the official citation for MSG Williams and SSG Shurer

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SSG Shurer receives the Medal of Honor from POTUS

(White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 pictures of huge cats sitting on the world’s most powerful weapons

Cats are apt to perch wherever they please — on your keyboard, atop the refrigerator, or squished into a box. But a cat on top of a submarine is unexpected, to say the least.

Military Giant Cats (@ GiantCat9 on Twitter) is a bizarre Twitter account that’s exactly what it sounds like — photos of giant cats on top of, playing with, or stalking various militaries or weapons systems.

The account’s creator, a person who identified himself as Thomas, told Insider, “I started this weird account because I love the absurdity of [the] internet, I love the cats, I worked several years in the defense industry.”


“A lot of people send me [cat] pics in the DM,” Thomas told Insider via Twitter direct message. He then Photoshops the cats onto airplanes, submarines, battlefields, and tanks, much to the delight of the account’s 29,000 followers.

Take a look at these felines on fighter jets in the next slides.

(Military Giant Cats)

(Military Giant Cats)

(Military Giant Cats)

(Military Giant Cats)

(Military Giant Cats)

(Military Giant Cats)

(Military Giant Cats)

7. And an NH90 making a very special delivery.

Thomas told Insider he was “surprised by the buzz” around the account, but noted that cats are “easy clickbait.”

(Military Giant Cats)

8. The Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard even got in on the fun.

Or is that Purr-l Harbor?

(Military Giant Cats)

(Military Giant Cats)

10. This is a literal Tomcat F-14B.

Cat puns aside, Thomas told Insider, “I have nothing to sell, no political message, my Photoshop skills are quite modest, I just want to have fun and share a good time with the Twitter community.”

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

Articles

This Civil War veteran served all the way through World War I

Just days after the attack on Fort Sumter in 1861, Peter Conover Hains graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. At a time when officers and cadets were deserting the U.S. military in favor of serving their home states, especially those who seceded from the Union, this Philadelphia native stayed put — and the U.S. Army would get their investment back in spades.


After 26 of his 57 classmates left to join the Confederacy, Hains became an artillery officer, firing off the first shot of the Battle of Bull Run. There, he fought bravely, even though the Union Army lost terribly. After as many as 30 smaller combat engagements, he eventually found himself in the Army Corps of Engineers and the United States would never be the same.

During the 1863 Siege of Vicksburg, the Union’s Chief Engineer fell ill and was unable to fulfill his duties. So, the responsibility shifted to then-lieutenant Hains. The engineering at Vicksburg would be crucial to the Union victory, so there could be no mistakes. The 12-mile ring of fortifications and entrenchments around the city kept the 33,000 Confederate defenders bottled up and isolated from the outside world. The surrender of Vicksburg, after a 40-days-long siege, along with the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg sounded the death knell for the Confederacy.

Grant promoted Hains to captain for his work.

In the postwar years, he was appointed Engineer Secretary of the U.S. Lighthouse Board and his constructions were so sound that many still stand to this day, undisturbed by rising sea levels or tropical storms. He also fixed the foul-smelling swamp that was Washington, D.C. by designing and constructing the Tidal Basin there, a sort of man-made reservoir that flushes out to the Washington Channel.

Still in the Army by the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, he served as a brigadier general of volunteers, but no known record of deploying to fight exists. Before and after the Spanish-American War, Hains served on the Nicaragua Canal Commission and was responsible for successfully arguing that such a canal should be built in Panama.

He retired from the Army in 1904 — but the Army wasn’t done with him. World War I broke out for the United States and in September, 1917, Peter Conover Hains was recalled to active duty one last time. For a full year, he managed the structural defenses of Norfolk Harbor and was the district’s Chief Engineer. At age 76, he was the oldest officer in uniform.

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Just be advised, every veteran who just got off IRR: They will find you.

His sons and their sons all continued Hains’ military tradition, attending West Point and serving on active duty. He, his sons, and his grandson are all interred in Arlington National Cemetery.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Marine Veteran is pioneering a new VA program to help veterans and their families

This post is sponsored by the UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center (VFWC).

The UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center is honored to continue to serve and support the military-connected community during COVID-19! For appointments call (310) 478-3711 x 42793 or email info@vfwc.ucla.edu

Every Marine knows the saying, “Pain is Weakness leaving the body.” It’s the motto that drill instructors use to encourage recruits to dig just a little deeper during boot camp and it’s often repeated when physical training takes a turn from hard to brutally hard. The military, especially the Marines, know that pain is the beginning of resilience, our ability to bounce back from difficult situations and complete the mission. But while some pain often prepares our servicemen and women for strength in war, we are often at a loss for what to do when our families or even children are challenged with pain and stress once we return. So when the VA wanted to start helping veteran families they smartly turned to one of the few and the proud.


Marine Veteran Tess Banko is no stranger to pain. By twenty three years old, she had survived homelessness, a massive back injury (for which she was medically discharged) and the suicide death of her husband, also a Marine. When her world seemed to be coming apart, Tess did the opposite of what most of us would do. Instead of allowing her pain to overwhelm her, she fought back. She dug into her pain both physically and mentally. Along the way, she volunteered to empower and assist others, went to college (she was crowned homecoming queen), and ultimately, found the tools inside to help her (and her family). Tess is the epitome of resilience and now she’s bounced back to take on a new mission.

Today, Tess is the executive director of the UCLA/VA Veterans Family Wellness Center, a one of a kind partnership between UCLA and the West Los Angeles VA system. Tess and her team are part of the first VA program specifically designed to help not only veterans, but their families. To support their work, the team is relying on cutting edge research from UCLA just a few blocks from the VA campus. UCLA, the university which revolutionized kidney transplants and invented the nicotine patch, is now offering veterans and their families a state of the art resiliency program. Families Over Coming Under Stress (FOCUS) is a resiliency training regimen for individuals, families with children and couples facing adversity or issues like traumatic stress.

With Tess at the helm, she’s not only pioneering a new way of thinking for the VA, she’s also helping others find their path through trauma. Tess sat down with We Are The Mighty to discuss her work, passion and journey into resilience.

WATM: First things first, thank you for everything you do for military families. How do you describe yourself and your work here at VFWC?

Tess: Well it’s really easy to give a title. I’m the executive director of the UCLA/VA. Veteran Family Wellness Center. But really, I’m a social worker and public administrator.

WATM: And a Marine? What made you join the Corps?

Tess: I think it was really a lot of wanting to be part of something that made a difference. When I was younger I used to go to the [El Toro] airshow with my grandfather and that’s the first time I ever laid eyes on a Marine standing there in the uniform. You know guiding people, I mean it was airshow duty. I didn’t know at the time probably how much fun that wasn’t, but they were motivating and just really interacting with the public, and there were are all these exciting machines and demonstrations. So, it really made an impact on me as a little girl. The wider world was calling.

WATM: Did your family have a history of military service?

Tess: I didn’t find out until many years later that my own grandfather was actually in the Army. He never told those stories to the family because I think he was embarrassed. He said that a lot of his friends were being sent off to war but he served two years in a non-combat role, got out and went into aerospace engineering and he was one of the first Mexican-American designers of bomb and missile systems at White Sands, NM. I personally saw the military as one of the only places that you could go as far as your own two feet would take you basically or your hard work that you put into it. That’s one of the reasons why I was excited to join.

WATM: Wow.

Tess: And I like a good challenge. The Marine Corps seemed like a good fit. So I joined [as] an engineer.

WATM: Did you find the challenge you were looking for? Especially as a female Marine in the engineers.

Tess: When I joined it was very idealistic. I wanted to be just one of the guys and I saw myself in that way. I never saw myself in terms of being a woman, only a Marine and that actually caused a lot of problems and disappointment at the time as we have only just begun to move more fully into gender integration among the services. And it was really challenging for me because as I said I never saw myself as anything other than a Marine. I always just wanted to do my job.

WATM: What made you transition out of the Marine Corps?

Tess: I got hurt.

WATM: You got hurt?

Tess: Yes. We were training and I noticed that there was something wrong with my back because my leg had stopped functioning. I was in my early 20’s and the command atmosphere gave this impression that you had to white knuckle it through anything. I was told, ‘There’s no problem, there’s no problem. You just need to keep going.’ It turned out that I had a herniated disc in my back and it was it was crushing the nerve to the point where it began to permanently kill the nerves. I was standing there on the rifle range and I just fell over on my side because my leg finally gave up. They called an ambulance and rushed me into emergency surgery in Japan.

WATM: Did you feel like you had the resiliency skills that prepared you for that experience?

Tess: My life growing up was challenging. My parents were very young when they had children. I was the only person in my immediate family to successfully graduate from high school. My parents had dropped out at 17, which kind of spells disaster for a young couple with four children. And so it was really a life of learning to adapt, moving from place to place, experiencing homelessness as a child, living between motels and being chased by bill collectors. You know all that bad stuff for [a child] but even from a young age I adopted a viewpoint of life that was more curious than anything. It was less ‘Oh my God, why is this happening to me?’ and more ‘huh this interesting.’ It was just a minor shift of perspective. I developed that curiosity and a different way of looking at problems and I think that’s a key part of resilience.

WATM: Did you know what resilience was growing up?

Tess: I did not. I think it was something that I saw modeled by example. My grandmother was a very kind and giving woman, she taught me so much. She always went out of her way to help people in the community even when she seemed in the midst of a lot of uncertainty in life. So, paying that forward, even on active duty I was volunteering in the local community teaching English to Okinawan children. I’ve always been so curious about other people and their lives. It’s a great education.

WATM: And then you lost your husband (also a Marine). How do you process all of that?

Tess: It was a surreal experience having the casualty assistance team knock on the door. I can remember I opened it a crack. It didn’t make sense in my mind what was happening so I opened the door a crack and a Marine stuck his foot to keep me from shutting it. Then I saw the Colonel. And then it finally hit me that it was real. My husband wasn’t coming home. When you’re actively experiencing shock, pain or trauma it’s less thinking about resilience and more survival mode kicking in. It was one second, one minute at a time. The days blurred together. I mean being emotionally injured is much like being physically injured, it can take a long time to wrap your head around. There’s no linear pathway. Also, processing trauma is not just about moving through pain but about overcoming fear. There’s the fear that you as a person or things in your life will never be the same. Sometimes you don’t know what other people are going to think. Usually some of the fear ties back to being afraid that people are going to judge you if you feel broken. And I think that really was hard for me to overcome, but it was necessary. I think that being gentle with yourself is a skill.

WATM: You not only survived but thrived? You went back to college and grad school and now you literally work with Neuroscientists.

Tess: The science behind the brain fascinates me because people that are in pain sometimes seem to think, ‘I’m damaged forever and I’m never gonna be able to do or be anything. There is no coming back from this.’ I understand where you’re at if it’s crossed your mind, I’ve been there too, but there’s so much possibility. We can’t change what happened but our brain is essentially plastic and able to rewire. The body and mind actively try to repair themselves, and we can support our own process through building resilience. There are a lot of tools for that belt, resilience isn’t just a buzzword.

WATM: Is that thesis behind your team’s work at the VFWC?

Tess: Exactly. The center is a place of hope and healing. We teach tangible skills, identifiable tools, for veterans and their families to be able to overcome challenges and build better relationships. The FOCUS model that’s our cornerstone is pretty incredible.

WATM: Is there anybody else out there that’s focusing on families like this?

Tess: Not in this way. From a wellness-based resilience perspective this is the first center of its kind, especially paired with the VA which traditionally only sees individual veterans. They took a huge step to open their doors to couples and families too. When you think about it, though, our families, friends and communities are on the front lines supporting after military service.

WATM: So this is a groundbreaking VA partnership all based in science?

Tess: Yep. That’s why UCLA is such an amazing partner because the VFWC is just blocks away from world class researchers. The Center falls under the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and the Nathanson Family Resilience Center which focus on resilience for all families, not just veterans. The research behind our programs is about understanding what drives human behavior and growth. Based on that, VFWC programming is tailored to veterans and their families with really firm research and evidence backing it up.

WATM: Classic, intel drives operations model. But you have specific model for your programs as well. What is FOCUS?

Tess: FOCUS is Families Overcoming Under Stress. It’s a holistic model that was co-created between UCLA and Harvard University and currently in use on over 30 active duty military bases around the world. Our center represents the first wider translation of FOCUS from active duty into the veterans community, which are distinctly different populations. It’s a departure from traditional therapy models.

WATM: What can veterans and their families expect when they come to the center?

Tess: When somebody comes into the center in general we start with a consultation that helps us to really guide veterans and family members to the resources that they might be needing. It’s starting where the individual is. We have individual, couples, early childhood, military sexual trauma, and combat veteran adaptations, plus group sessions and special workshops and events. We keep our doors open for veterans and family members regardless of discharge, benefits or when they got out. The building we’re housed in also offers veterans with VA benefits massage, reiki, mindfulness and yoga. There’s even a drum circle and Taichi.

WATM: And children?

Tess: Especially children. Research that was done as far back as the Holocaust indicates that trauma can be passed down from generation to generation. In cases of post-traumatic stress, suicide and even repeated deployments, the effects of secondary trauma is a very real thing. A lot of the times we see families with children who don’t know how to talk to them about certain issues or there’s not a huge understanding of the developmental piece of what’s behind behaviors. Kids aren’t just mini-adults, the human brain is still developing until the age of 25! So, we support both the parents and children to find a closeness and ability to communicate more as they move through the journey.

WATM: That sounds pretty awesome especially for the VA. How would you describe starting the center?

Tess: It’s been a lot of pioneering. Improvising. Being resilient. There are so many people who care in the VA system and a whole lot of need. Offering another avenue for assistance is important to the team here.

WATM: What is your vision for the center and the future of resilience in the VA?

Tess: I would love to see the VA expand the VFWC’s holistic wellness model to include centers in every facility, especially coupled with a research institution. Veterans and their families would really benefit. Both our families, and wider communities for that matter, are really impactful in our individual wellness. One of the great things about the VFWC is our ability to seek additional community resources. It’s a long table and there is no one size fits all for wellness, reintegration, and healing.

WATM: So now you you’ve gone through your own experience gone through two years here. What does resilience mean to you?

Tess: I think the Marine Corps says it really, well you adapt and you overcome. Sometimes it seems like pull-through comes from out of nowhere because we’re born with it, but sometimes life can bring those levels low. Resilience is that wellspring that allows for course correction and being able to bounce back. Resilience to me also means working on saying, “hey something’s wrong here” and being open to assistance. First step for me personally of breaking the cycle was my own acknowledgment of what I was facing. For instance, I couldn’t talk to my family being sexually assaulted on active duty and I now know that’s common to those who have experienced trauma. I simply didn’t have the vocabulary, I had to organize the words in my own mind. We really need each other to get through hard times, so it’s crucial to develop.

WATM: What does 2019 look like for you and VFWC?

Tess: We’re working on piloting a new transition program, TEAM, for those at any point after active service based on the core FOCUS model paired with the ideas of identity ,mission, meaning and purpose. These are four essential elements of transition. Your perception changes along the transition to civilian life just like my perception changed of myself when I got out of the Marine Corps. It really was a rediscovery of who I was, where I was. I had to find a new mission. For me that happened to be serving people, but it could be different for others. It can be challenging to figure these things our while also providing for yourself or a family. We want to offer veterans and their families the resilience tools before they even need them.

WATM: Do you have any advice specifically to the families

Tess: There is no one size fits all to happiness, health and healing. If one thing doesn’t work, move forward. No matter what you face, keep reaching out and moving forward. Families, you are vital to service. You’re heard and seen. You matter.

Marine Veteran Tess Banko is the executive director of the UCLA/VA Veterans Family Wellness Center (VFWC). To learn more about the center’s work or begin your own resilience training please contact familycenter@nfrc.ucla.edu or Phone 310-478-3711, ext 42793.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 of the most powerful weapons NATO has against Russia

For seven decades, the NATO alliance has practiced collective defense and deterrence against evolving international threats, and over the years, its capabilities have changed accordingly.

NATO’s most “powerful weapon,” according to Jim Townsend with the Center for a New American Security, is the “unity of the alliance,” but the individual allies also possess hard-hitting capabilities that could be called upon were it to face high-level aggression.

Heather Conley with the Center for Strategic and International Studies believes that Russia is likely to continue to press the alliance through low-end influence and cyberwarfare operations. Still, she explained to Business Insider, NATO needs to be seriously contemplating a high-end fight as Russia modernizes, pursuing hypersonic cruise missiles and other new systems.


So, what does that fight look like?

“I’ve always likened it to a potluck dinner,” Townsend told Business Insider. “If NATO has this potluck dinner, what are the kinds of meals, kind of dishes that allies could bring that would be most appreciated?”

“If a host is looking to invite someone who is going to bring the good stuff, they are for sure going to invite the United States,” he explained, adding that “in all categories, the US leads.”

Nonetheless, the different dinner guests bring a variety of capabilities to the table. Here’s some highlights of the many powerful weapons NATO could bring to bear against Russia.

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Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35 Demonstration Team pilot and commander performs a dedication pass in an F-35A Lightning II during the annual Heritage Flight Training Course March 1, 2019, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander Cook)

1. F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter

“The air side of the NATO equation is led by the United States with the F-35 and other various aircraft,” Townsend told BI.

The fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is an aircraft that rival powers have been unable to match its stealth and advanced suite of powerful sensors.

While some NATO countries are looking at the F-35 as a leap in combat capability, others continue to rely on the F-16, an older supersonic fighter that can dogfight and also bomb ground targets. And then some countries, like Germany, are considering European alternatives.

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Royal Air Force Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon F2.

2. Eurofighter Typhoons

The Eurofighter Typhoon is a capable mutli-role aircraft designed by a handful of NATO countries, namely the UK, Germany, Italy, and Spain, determined to field an elite air-superiority fighter. France, which walked away from the Eurofighter project, independently built a similar fighter known as the Dassault Rafale.

Observers argue that the Typhoon is comparable to late-generation Russian Flanker variants, such as the Su-35.

While each aircraft has its advantages, be it the agility of the Typhoon or the low-speed handling of the Flanker, the two aircraft are quite similar, suggesting, as The National Interest explained, that the Eurofighter could hold its own in a dogfight with the deadly Russian fighter.

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A B-52 Stratofortress deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., sits on the flight line at RAF Fairford, England, March 14, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tessa B. Corrick)

3. Bombers

The US provides conventional and nuclear deterrence capabilities through the regular rotation of bomber aircraft into the European area of operations.

American bombers have been routinely rotating into the area since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, according to Military.com. That year, the Pentagon sent two B-2 Spirit bombers and three B-52s to Europe for training. The B-1B Lancers are also among the US bombers that regularly operate alongside NATO allies.

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US Navy P-8 Poseidon taking off at Perth Airport.

4. US P-8A Poseidon

“There’s also the maritime posture, particularly as Russia continues to rely on a submarine nuclear deterrent. We need a stronger presence. That’s why we’re seeing Norway, the US, UK do more with the P-8As,” Conley, the CSIS expert, told BI.

Facing emerging threats in the undersea domain, where the margins to victory are said to be razor thin, NATO allies are increasingly boosting their ability to hunt and track enemy submarines from above and below the water.

While there are a number of options available for this task, the US Navy P-8A Poseidon patrol plane, which was brought into replace the US military’s older P-3 Orions, are among the best submarine hunters out there.

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Norwegian frigate HNoMS Helge Ingstad (front) leads Turkish frigate TCG Oruçreis, Belgian frigate BNS Louise Marie and a Swedish Visby-class corvette during Trident Juncture.

(NATO/LCDR Pedro Miguel Ribeiro Pinhei)

5. Frigates

Another effective anti-submarine capability is that provided by the various frigates operated by a number of NATO countries.

“The NATO allies, in particular Italy, France, Spain, all have frigates that have very capable anti-submarine warfare systems,” Bryan Clark with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments told BI.

“They have active low-frequency sonars that are variable-depth sonars. They can find submarines easily, and they are very good against diesel submarines.” These forces could be used to target Russian submarines in the Eastern Mediterranean and into the Black Sea.

“Norway and Denmark also have really good frigates,” he explained. “They could go out and do anti-submarine warfare” in the North Sea/Baltic Sea area, “and they are very good at that.”

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An AH-64D Apache helicopter from 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, based at Forward Operating Base Speicher, Iraq.

6. AH-64 Apache gunship

The Apache gunship helicopter, capable of close air support, has the ability to rain down devastation on an approaching armor column.

The attack helicopters can carry up to sixteen Hellfire missiles at a time, with each missile possessing the ability to cripple an enemy armor unit. The Hellfire is expected to eventually be replaced with the more capable Joint Air-to-Ground Missile.

The Cold War-era Apache attack helicopters have been playing a role in the counterinsurgency fight in the Middle East, but the gunships could still hit hard in a high-end conflict.

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7. German Leopard 2

The Leopard 2 main battle tank, which gained a reputation for being “indestructible,” is a formidable weapon first built to blunt the spearhead of a Soviet armor thrust and one that would probably be on the front lines were the NATO alliance and Russia to come to blows.

While this tank, a key component of NATO’s armored forces, took an unexpected beating in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria, it is still considered one of the alliance’s top tanks, on par with the US M1 Abrams and the British Challenger 2.

Observers suspect that the Leopard 2, like its US and British counterparts, would be easily able to destroy most Russian tanks, as these tanks are likely to get the jump on a Russian tank in a shoot out.

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The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and ships assigned to the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HSTCSG) transit the Atlantic Ocean while conducting composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) on Feb. 16, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Swofford)

8. US Nimitz-class aircraft carriers

A last-minute addition to last year’s Trident Juncture exercise — massive NATO war games designed to simulate a large-scale conflict with Russia — was the USS Harry S. Truman, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, and its accompanying strike group.

The carrier brought 6,000 servicemembers and a large carrier air wing of F/A-18 Super Hornets to Norway for the largest drill in years.

“One thing the NATO naval partners have been looking at is using carriers as part of the initial response,” Clark told BI. The US sails carriers into the North Atlantic to demonstrate to Russia that the US can send carriers into this area, from which it could carry out “operations into the Baltics without too much trouble,” he added.

America’s ability to project power through the deployment of aircraft carriers is unmatched, due mainly to the massive size, sophistication and training regimen of its carrier fleet. The UK and France also have aircraft carriers.

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(DoD Photo By Glenn Fawcett)

9. PATRIOT surface-to-air missile system

PATRIOT, which stands for “Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target,” is an effective surface-to-air guided air and missile defense system that is currently used around the world, including in a number NATO countries.

There is a “need for an integrated air and missile defense picture,” Conley told BI. “That is certainly a high-valued protection for the alliance.”

NATO is also in the process of fielding Aegis Ashore sites, land-based variants of the sea-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, that can track and fire missiles that intercept ballistic targets over Europe.

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The U.S. Navy submarine USS North Dakota (SSN-784) underway during bravo sea trials in the Atlantic Ocean.

(U.S. Navy Photo)

10. US Virginia-class submarines

Virginia-class submarines, nuclear-powered fast attack boats, are among the deadliest submarines in the world. They are armed with torpedoes to sink enemy submarines and surface combatants, and they can also target enemy bases and missile batteries ashore with Tomahawk cruise missiles.

These submarines “could be really useful to do cruise missile attacks against some of the Russian air defense systems in the western military district that reach over the Baltic countries,” Clark told BI.

“You can really conduct air operations above these countries without being threatened by these air defense systems. So, you would want to use cruise missiles to attack them from submarines at sea.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 special benefits reserved for Purple Heart recipients

The Purple Heart is the U.S. military’s oldest medal — but it’s more than just a medal. It’s a symbol of a sacrifice made on behalf of a U.S. troop for his or her unit, mission, and country. It represents a tangible, physical offering — a risk to life or limb. An officer can’t write themselves a Purple Heart package with some fancy wordplay. To get one, a military member must be wounded or killed in action against an enemy. There’s a reason people, veteran and civilian alike, take notice when they see it — it always means something.

So it’s nice to know that those who made such a sacrifice get a little bit extra.


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President George W. Bush awards a Purple Heart medal and citation to U.S. Navy sailor Jefferson Talicuran of Chula Vista, California, on Thursday, July 3, 2008, at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

(White House photo by Eric Draper)

1. Medical Priority Upgrades at the VA

The VA prioritizes veterans into eight categories, ranging from Group 1, those with a 50-percent military disability rating or higher, and Group 8, veterans who have no service-connected conditions and are ineligible for medical care. A Purple Heart recipient will automatically be placed in at least Group 3, so they’re never responsible for a copay for medical treatment.

2. The Forever GI Bill

In order to qualify for GI Bill benefits, most troops must serve at least 36 months on active duty. Purple Heart recipients will get full benefits no matter how long they spent on active duty — and they get the full benefits offered in the bill.

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President Barack Obama awards Sgt. James N. Rowland, a Rohnert, Calif. native, the Purple Heart for wounds received in combat. The ceremony was held in Al-Faw Palace on Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq on Apr. 7, 2009.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kimberly Millett)

3. Preferential hiring in government jobs

When applying for a federal government job, all honorably discharged veterans who served active duty get hiring preference over non-veterans. Vets get five-point preference if they served during a war, served during a campaign for which a campaign medal was created, or served during certain periods or for certain lengths of time.

Ten-point preference is given to veterans who have a service-connected disability — including Purple Heart recipients.

4. Commissary and MWR access

The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act makes Purple Heart recipients eligible for on-base shopping and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation area use starting in 2020.

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President Trump shakes hands with U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Alvaro Barrientos, after awarding him with a Purple Heart, with Tammy Barrientos at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, on Apr. 22, 2017 in Bethesda, Maryland.

(CBS News)

5. State Benefits

Many states offer some sort of extra benefit to Purple Heart recipients. In Arizona, in-state university tuition can be waived for Purple Heart recipients. In South Carolina, children of Purple Heart recipients are eligible for free in-state university tuition. Check with your state VA to be sure — individual states offer property and income tax breaks that you may never hear about in a national discussion.

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