The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don't die in combat - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

There are things that can annoy you during your time in uniform, like PowerPoint presentations, waiting to be released for the weekend, and that private who clearly needed a waiver to get in. Wait, that’s not a private, that’s a lieutenant!

And then there are things that can kill you.

The US military has been at war for nearly 20 years, and anyone who has wanted to test their mettle in combat has had the chance. Thanks to modern battlefield medicine and overwhelming fire superiority in most situations, American service members are coming home alive at rates that have never before been seen in the history of warfare.


The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

US Army soldiers fire 81mm mortars during a fire mission in an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Nov. 6, 2019. US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne.

Unfortunately, it’s not just bullets and IEDs that can — and do — kill our men and women in uniform. In fact, 74% of all US military deaths since 2006 have had nothing to do with combat.

1. Training. Train like you fight, fight like you train. It’s a good ethos to have in the business of war, but unfortunately, realistic training can have unintended consequences. Most recently, eight Marines and one US Navy sailor were killed when their Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) sunk during training off San Clemente Island. This isn’t a common occurrence, but in 2017, 14 Marines and one sailor were hospitalized after their AAV hit a natural gas line. The last death occurred in 2011 after a Marine died while trapped in a sunken AAV in Oceanside Harbor.

Training accidents happen on land and in the air, too.

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

Special Forces Soldiers from the US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) conduct an AAR after Counter Improvised Explosive Device training at Panzer Local Training area near Stuttgart, Germany, June 10, 2020. Photo by Sgt. Patrik Orcutt, courtesy of DVIDS.

Between 2015 and 2018, the US Army suffered 14 fatalities from vehicle rollovers. That number spiked in 2019, with eight soldiers killed in rollover accidents. According to a US Army safety brief video, vehicle training accidents kill more on-duty soldiers than any other single reason, with inadequate unit driver training programs contributing to 68% of these mishaps.

Airborne operations are inherently risky and are considered the most dangerous training the military conducts on a regular basis despite rigorous risk mitigation procedures. So far in 2020, there have been at least two deaths, preceded by four in 2019. The fatalities affect conventional and special operations troops alike while conducting both static line and military free fall training across the US Army, US Navy, US Marine Corps, and US Air Force.

Training accidents are readily apparent in how they impact the force, while other issues are not so obvious — or forgivable.

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

Senior Airman Frances Gavalis, 332nd Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron equipment manager, tosses unserviceable uniform items into a burn pit, March 10, 2008. US Air Force photo by Sr. Airman Julianne Showalter.

2. Toxic exposure. Although burn pits have been reduced to an oft-joked about condition of wartime service, their impacts on service members who served overseas are real. Toxic exposure from burn pits is difficult to track, but one organization says they have recorded at least 130 deaths from the more than 250 burn pits that were used across Iraq and Afghanistan. Many compare the issue to how Agent Orange afflicted veterans of the Vietnam War. Like Agent Orange, the full effects of burn pits will likely take decades of research before it’s impact on veterans is fully understood.

If you’ve deployed to Afghanistan, you’ve probably heard about “Mefloquine Monday” and the nightmares it causes. Due to the areas of the world the US military regularly deploys to, a variety of malaria medications have been used for decades, with some having detrimental effects on service members. Mefloquine, in particular, was considered so dangerous that the FDA put a “black box” warning — its most strict measure — on the drug in 2013. It’s difficult to attribute how many deaths are a result of the drug, but the drug’s effects on the brain may be contributing to suicide rates.

Military housing has come under fire in recent years for failing to address issues ranging from black mold to lead poisoning and even asbestos poisoning. The problem affects everyone in the military umbrella, from junior enlisted soldiers in barracks to families living in on-base housing. Despite multiple lawsuits, the US military still grapples with some leaders not taking the issue seriously — even though it’s now affecting service members’ children.

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

Members of the Uzbekistan National Guard show a US special operator de-mining techniques during exercise Invincible Sentry in the Tashkent region of Uzbekistan, Feb. 22, 2020. Photo by Staff Sgt. Steven Colvin, courtesy of DVIDS.

Depleted uranium has also affected multiple generations of US military personnel, with many suffering through cancer and other afflictions after being exposed.

Most recently, government documents revealed that the military knew Uzbekistan’s K2 airbase was poisoning service members stationed there.

“Ground contamination at Karshi-Khanabad Airfield poses health risks to U.S. forces deployed there,” said the classified report obtained by McClatchy dated Nov. 6, 2001. According to a 2015 Army investigation, at least 61 service members have been diagnosed with cancer or died after serving there, but that number does not include special operations troops at the secretive base.

There are many organizations available to help service members who have been impacted by toxic exposures. Veterans who are experiencing unexplained health issues are encouraged to reach out for help.

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, III Corps and Fort Hood commanding general, and US Senator John Cornyn take questions from reporters during a press conference outside the main gate at Fort Hood, Texas, April 3, 2014. US Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar, 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.

3. Fort Hood. K2 isn’t the only base responsible for death in the military. Fort Hood is quickly becoming known as one of the most dangerous places to be stationed in the US Army after a rash of murders and busted prostitution rings have been exposed. Twenty-three soldiers assigned to the Texas base have died this year alone; only one of those deaths happened in combat. The murder and dismemberment of Spc. Vanessa Guillen thrust Fort Hood’s issues into the national spotlight this year, and now multiple investigations have been initiated to find answers about why the base has devolved.

4. Suicide. Suicide afflicts both active duty troops and veterans alike. Between 2006 and 2020, 4,231 active service members died of self-inflicted wounds. In 2017, 6,139 veterans committed suicide, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The reasons for taking one’s life vary, but over-prescription of opioids, toxic leadership, marital problems, and financial problems are all common reasons cited. Fortunately, the military has started to take the mental health crisis more seriously in recent years, with many senior leaders stepping forward to talk about their own struggles and encouraging troops to reach out for help if they need it.

Many of these issues can only be mitigated by calling out problems when they happen and being proactive about avoiding safety shortfalls. If you see something, say something. These problems won’t go away on their own.

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


MIGHTY MOVIES

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’

There are a lot of war movies to choose from, but not many of them are directed from the perspective of a man who lived through the mental torture that was the Vietnam War.

With Platoon, critically acclaimed writer-director Oliver Stone (an Army veteran) transports audiences back to that politically charged time in American history where the war efforts of our brave service members were met with disdain upon returning home.


The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat
Filmmaker and Vietnam veteran Oliver Stone.
(oliverstone.com)

Platoon, fueled by Stone’s unique vision, features some of the most electric, emotionally driven scenes to ever hit the big screen. Although the film won several awards, there are a few things you probably didn’t know about this iconic war movie.

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

Filipino protesters linked arms whenever forces attempted to disperse them.

(Photo by Romeo Mariano)

The Philippines Revolution of 1986

Talented actor Willem Dafoe, who played Sgt. Elias in the film, decided that he needed to head to the Philippines before the rest of the cast to get acclimated before shooting. After arriving and taking a brief nap, Dafoe awoke and opened his hotel room’s curtains only to watch a column of tanks drive down the street.

The Philippines Revolution had just kicked off.

From the moment the actors landed, they were treated like infantrymen

Capt. Dale Dye (a Marine veteran) made the actors get haircuts and speak to one another using only character names. Many of the actors were sitting pretty stateside just 48 hours earlier. Suddenly, they were being treated like soldiers.

While the actors were digging their fighting holes with e-tools in the jungle, one of the special effects masterminds on set, Yves De Bono, planted explosive charges nearby to help transform the thespians into hardened grunts.

Once Capt. Dye gave the signal, the charges exploded as planned, taking the actors by complete surprise.

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

Lerner (played by Johnny Depp) carries a young girl through a Vietnam village

(Orion Pictures)

Johnny Depp fell asleep on post

While in training, Depp was assigned to man a post when he started drifting off to sleep. The young actor woke to a gun pressed to the back of his neck. Capt. Dye informed Depp that he had just been killed.

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They were too high to film a scene the right way

Remember that scene where everyone got high? Well, that was real, according to actor Willem Dafoe. During an interview for a behind-the-scenes documentary, the cast got pretty high before the lights and camera were set up. However, once they were ready to film, their marijuana “high” was more like a “Mary Jane down.”

The castmates became very sleepy and, according to a chuckling Dafoe, everyone was “useless.”

MIGHTY FIT

5 workout machines you should skip while at the gym

Service members have crazy schedules, which makes it hard to find time enough to work on your physique. Most of us have only about an hour to spend each time we hit the gym. Typically, the routines we do in that brief period consist of using free weights and a few workout machines.

Many people who step foot in the gym are there to lose weight. They’ll use the various isolation (or single-joint) machines believing that if they use every machine the gym has to offer, they’ll start to lean out. The unfortunately fact of the matter is that not all the machines in the weight room burn a lot of calories when you hop on and start repping.

To burn the most calories in the shortest time, most gym professionals recommend focusing on compound movements — exercises that require more than one muscle group to move a weight, like pull-ups or dumbbell presses.

So, which machines should you avoid if you want to burn fat?


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Leg extension machine

Leg extensions help bulk up your quadriceps. Most of these machines require you to sit down and enjoy yourself as you rep out the sets. This is a very isolated movement — and that’s not the best way to challenge your body and burn fat. Instead of sitting on the machine to work on your legs, consider standing up and doing some non-weighed squats.

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Calf raise machine

Yes, the calf-raise machine will bulk up your calves up — but it won’t burn off those unwanted calories and lean you out. There are plenty of other options when it comes to working out your calves. The video below will show you a few techniques that introduce compound movements to a calf workout.

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Bicep curl machine

On this machine, a patron sits down and works their biceps against resistance while in a static position. Even if you’re trying to work on your arms, the process of selecting, moving, and returning free weights will help you burn a little extra fat.

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Seated tricep extension

If your goal is to build massive triceps, then you’ll want to add a few tricep-related exercises to your routine. However, if you’re also looking to burn some extra fat in the process, you might want to conduct your training in a stress-loaded, standing position.

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Seated abs crunch machine

There many ways to get a solid ab workout — but you’ll find that very few fitness trainers recommend that people take a seat in ab crunch machines. Those machines are fine for beginners or people with medical conditions, but everyone else should strike this machine from of their minds and replace it with these:

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is Iran’s ace-in-the-hole in war with U.S. Navy

In the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the nuclear deal signed with Iran and five other countries in 2015, Tehran has responded with one of its most frequent threats: closing the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow channel in the Persian Gulf through which roughly 30% of world’s oil flows.

“If Iran’s oil exports are to be prevented, we will not give permission for oil to be exported to the world through the Strait of Hormuz,” a Revolutionary Guards commander said in July 2018.


Coastal defenses and naval vessels would have a big role in that effort, but it would most likely revolve around one of Iran’s favorite military assets: sea mines, a vicious weapon that presents an acute challenge for a US Navy that is shifting between old and new mine-countermeasure systems.

Iran has laid mines at sea in past conflicts, and even these much less sophisticated weapons have disabled and nearly sunk US Navy warships.

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter transits the Strait of Hormuz in May 2012.

(Photo by Alex R. Forster)

An asymmetric threat

“As far back as the early 1980s, Iran was mining waters in the Gulf to prevent oil tankers from coming in or out of ports in the Arab part of the Gulf — Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, etc. — and it has extensive experience in trying to also menace warships,” said Scott Savitz, a senior engineer at the Rand Corporation.

Sea mines remain “a big part of the Iranian approach,” said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

The sea mines Iran used at that time were relatively unsophisticated — the mine that almost sank the frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts in 1988 was a World War I-era device — but mines it can deploy now are more advanced and more dangerous, with some warheads weighing nearly 2,500 pounds.

As of 2012, Iran was believed to have grown its supply of sea mines from about 1,500 during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s to more than 6,000, according to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

That stockpile is not as vast as those of North Korea, China, or Russia, which also rely on anti-access or area-denial approaches to limit movement in contested areas, but it includes an array of mines, such as cheap, conventional ones and more advanced “smart mines,” which may be able to track multiple targets, discern different types of ships, and avoid detection by lurking on or near the seafloor.

Advanced mines can be triggered by sound, pressure, or magnetic influence. But even conventional ones that require contact to detonate are a threat to US warships and other commercial vessels. Iran also has an array of ships to lay them — some can even be deployed through submarine torpedo tubes.

Iran’s naval forces are no match for the US Navy, but sea mines are asymmetric weapons that a weaker side can use to foil a stronger opponent — even one with the world’s strongest navy. They can be deployed to deny access or freedom of movement and can be used to escalate tensions more incrementally than would a cruise-missile attack on an enemy warship.

“The Iranians see [mines] as a good tool for them to be able to threaten to close the strait and do it in a way that they can threaten it and you don’t know that the mines are really there,” Clark said, “and then if they do have some mines out there, the damage they’re going to inflict is going to be more in terms of preventing people from freely going back and forth rather than having to kill a lot of people to make a point.”

“You can threaten the use of mines and actually not have any out there,” Clark added. “However, a very small number of mines … in a place where someone’s likely to run into one, and then that damages a ship, and then you can say that you’ve got a much larger field, even though you may not.”

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

The USS Avenger off the coast of Hawaii during the Rim of the Pacific exercise in 2004.

(U.S. Navy photo)

Speed and scope

The US has previously said attempts to deploy mines would draw a military response, but the Navy also has means to counter mines.

The service keeps several of its 14 Avenger-class ships stationed in Bahrain all year.

The ships are designed for anti-mine warfare, using sonar and video systems, cable cutters, and a mine-detonating device to neutralize mines. Their hulls are made of wood covered with fiberglass for lower magnetic resonance. The engines are also designed to lower the ships’ magnetic and acoustic signatures. This is exceedingly dangerous work for these ships and their explosive ordnance disposal teams, which involves getting close to lurking mines to find and neutralize them.

The Avenger-class ships based in Bahrain are “immensely capable” and have multiple capabilities for and approaches to mine warfare, Rand’s Savitz said. They are lightly armed, however, and would require escorts.

But the Avenger class is aging, and the problem for the US Navy is that the mine threat looms as it struggles to move from those ships and the MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters that often accompany them to a newer platform that uses unmanned systems deployed aboard littoral combat ships.”

The US is in this transition from a more traditional minesweeping approach, where a minesweeper goes out and either drags minesweeping equipment behind it that physically entangles the mines or sets them off by magnetic influence,” Clark said.

“Now they’re transitioning to the use of unmanned vehicles to do a lot of this,” he added. “So they’ll have an unmanned ship drive out … sweep gear behind it to pick up mines, and they’ll have unmanned vehicles go around and hunt for mines that might be on the seafloor” or otherwise submerged.

Littoral combat ships are already in service, and there’s been recent progress with LCS-based mine countermeasures, such as the Knifefish unmanned undersea vehicle and the helicopter-mounted Airborne Laser Mine Detection System. That progress, amid struggles with littoral combat ships, may mean these systems end up being deployed aboard other ships, Clark noted.

But other cost overruns, delays, and malfunctions — like the cancellation of the Remote Minehunting System after nearly a billion dollars and almost two decades of work — have hindered the mine-countermeasure program.

Mine-countermeasure systems in general “don’t get as much attention as they need,” Clark said. “It’s not a sexy part of the Navy.” Older systems, he said, “could’ve been replaced a long time ago, or at least improved before this became an issue.”

The shift between older platforms and newer systems with limited capabilities is “a huge liability” for the Navy, Clark said.

“They’re in the middle of this transition, so they don’t have these unmanned systems really completely tested out and fully fielded, and so there’s still a lot of the traditional sweep gear and traditional approaches,” he said.

The Sea Dragon, which is the Navy’s oldest helicopter in service, was supposed to retire in 2005. But the service has yet to find a replacement for the heavy-lift helicopter, which can haul a variety of minesweeping gear and deploy anywhere in the world within 72 hours. The Avengers, introduced in the early 1990s, have also had their service lives extended, requiring upgrades.

Those ships and helicopters remain capable, but they aren’t “scalable,” meaning they “can’t ramp it up when there’s a minefield,” Clark said. Those systems aren’t necessarily a problem because they’re old, he added, they’re “just limited in speed and scope.”

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

The Remote Minehunting System and an AN/AQS-20 mine-hunting sonar being brought aboard the littoral combat ship USS Independence during testing of the mine-warfare mission module package in 2012.

Timelines and risks

The issues facing US mine-countermeasure systems do not mean Iran has a clear advantage, however.

“While the Persian Gulf is not wide, it’s big enough that Iran would have to cover a swath in order to prevent ships from going through it without encountering mines,” Savitz said. “So it would be challenging for them.”

Moreover, because it lacks refining capacity, Iran needs to be able to ship oil and refined products in and out.

“It would be cutting its own throat if it tried to shut down all traffic in the Gulf,” Savitz said. “If it leaves open a significant pathway, then others can potentially use it too.”

If Iranian ships start behaving in ways that indicate they’re laying mines, “that can be interdicted,” Savitz added. And the US would watch closely for any effort to reseed minefields that had been cleared.

“That’s the best mine-countermeasure solution of all, is to catch the adversary laying the mines or to detect roughly where the mines are laid,” to focus mine-countermeasure efforts, Savitz said.

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

A naval aircrewman preparing a Q-24 sonar side-looking vehicle to be lowered into the Persian Gulf from an MH-53E Sea Dragon during mine-countermeasure training on May 18, 2017.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Joshua Bryce Bruns)

But the scalability issue would loom over any effort to track down and clear mines from the area.

“Mine countermeasures is also typically a slow area of warfare that requires intense attention to detail, so it also entails thinking about trade-offs between timelines and risk,” Savitz said. “How quickly a water space can be opened up after … mine countermeasures have begun depends on what level of risk is acceptable.”

Former Adm. James Stavridis, who was the supreme allied commander in Europe before retiring in 2013, told CNBC in July 2018 that, should Iran try to use its military to close the Strait of Hormuz, the US and its partners “would be able to open it in a matter of days.”

That time frame is not so certain. It depends on how large the Navy and its partners believe the affected minefield to be.

“If it’s the whole Strait of Hormuz, the Navy says that could take weeks,” Clark said. While many modern tankers have features like double hulls that could mitigate some mine risks, closing or restricting access to the Gulf would upend the global economy.

Stavridis may have meant the US and its partners could clear a “very narrow channel” through a minefield during that period, Clark added, but that would slow down traffic, and each ship would need an escort. There would be “much less access than was previously available,” he said.

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

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An awful car killed more Nazi generals than World War II

The Czechoslovakian-built Tatra 87 was Hitler’s car of the future. With a top speed of more than 100 mph, it was a car destined for the Autobahn. Its sleek, futuristic design and high performance made it the vehicle of choice for Nazi officers. It was the Allies’ vehicle of choice for their enemy, too. They wanted all Nazis to drive one – because it would eventually kill them.


If 100 miles per hour doesn’t seem impressive by today’s standards, in 1935, it was a big deal. The car’s aerodynamic design helped it achieve these speeds. It didn’t hurt that the speed and design also made it seem like the future was coming, and the Nazis were leading the way. And it was coming, it was just a very short future. For most of the Nazi officers that pushed the limit in the car, their future usually consisted of wrapping themselves around a tree.

While the Tatra 87 has an incredible top speed, it seems it handles like a shopping cart. The death toll it took on Nazi officers was so bad, the Allies referred to the cars as their “secret weapon.” It even killed more of them than actual World War II combat – and these were the officers fighting the Soviet Union.

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat
There’s good, old-fashioned nightmare fuel in Stalingrad.

 

“These high-ranking Nazi officers drove this car fast, but unfortunately the handling was rubbish, so at a sharp turn they would lose control, spin out and wrap themselves around a tree killing the driver more often than not,” said author Steve Cole.

In the first week of its availability, seven officers took the 95 horsepower, 3.4-liter V8 engine for a spin and never came home after spinning it out of control. But there was a safer, more economical version. In 1939, the Volkswagen Beetle was introduced, which borrowed a lot of design elements from the Tatra, so much so that its designer, Porsche, had to pay Tatra for infringement.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 ways to distract a sergeant during room inspections

Room inspections can be stressful when you have a nitpicky sergeant, especially if you’re about to go on leave. Marines pay extra attention to detail. It is why our uniforms always look good and we maintain high state of readiness. This fact is true to the point that motivated NCOs can be sticklers to the point of absurdity. Maybe they’re trying to buy some time before formation, or they want everybody to reflect a positive image of their leadership. Regardless, they can kick rocks because we have liberty call. This is how you can distract your sergeant during room inspections.

1. Place pin up posters inside your wall locker

This one never failed. I strategically placed pin ups inside my wall lockers and anything with a door. The key here is that they remain inside when secured. If they ask you to open something up, BAM! A talking point to metaphorically take a knee and run out the clock. Since the pin up posters are inside your personal space you can’t be reprimanded. Plausible deniability for the both of you.

2. Before the next room inspection, use unethical amounts of raw bleach

Clorox bleach is particularly useful during room inspections.
Your new best friend.

When I wanted them out quick, fast, and in a hurry. I would mop the floor with straight bleach. I closed the doors and windows behind me as I waited outside my barracks room. Their response was like clockwork: one step in, ‘yeah this room is clean,’ about face and leave. Do it the morning of and NOT before you go to bed.

Thank you, Staff Sergeant, now GTFO of my room.

3. Get obnoxiously motivated

Marine room inspections
Marine drill instructors and a class officer at the Aviation Officer Candidate School conduct a personnel, locker and room inspection.

Oorah the sh*t outta them. Proper greeting of the day, snap to a attention so hard it creates a thunderclap. Walk like you’re on the parade deck on graduation day. Talk about Marine Corps everything or whatever service you’re in. Make them so uncomfortable they nope out immediately. If you get someone who is into drill, well, now they’re not inspecting anything are they? Service branch knowledge, drill, sharpness of uniform – there is no way this motivator doesn’t have his room inspection ready. They won’t even check for your girlfriend hiding in the bathroom. Perception is reality!

4. Leave ONE storage space unsecured

I used this one when I want to get caught red handed doing something good. If a service member leaves something unlocked, it is open season to be inspected. ‘Oh no, you found all my required reading, off duty tasks, and things I need to make myself competitive for promotion!’

This works great combined with tip number one.

5. Worried about a room inspection? Don’t be there

Straight up make all your appointments on inspection days. Dental, eye exams, whatever. I don’t care if you volunteered for a working party at the company office. In the insurance world this is called risk aversion. If you’re never there during inspections, you can’t be inspected. Sergeant can’t waste your time if you have no time to waste.

If you work in the infantry, you’re screwed, for personnel other than grunt, congratulations! Just go to work.

6. Be cool, calm and collected during the inspection

Sergeant before room inspections
US Marine Corps (USMC) Staff Sergeant (SSGT) Daniel L. Tompkins, a Drill Master aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) San Diego, California (CA), grades recruits from Lima/Company during their final drill.

Worst case scenario, keep your room clean and organized. Use some charisma and talk to your sergeant. Build rapport and they’ll eventually start skipping your room altogether. If your room one day is not up to par, they’ll cut you some slack. It’s hard to not take it easy on people you actually like.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Crocodile Hunter’s kids continue legacy during wildfires

Hearing the devastating fires that are ripping through Australia right now is heartbreaking, but one family is really stepping up, and their father would be really proud. Steve Irwin’s kids are continuing his wildlife preservation legacy and have already saved 90,000 animals in their homeland.


According to CNN, The Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin’s daughter, Bindi, and the rest of the family, have rescued and treated over 90,000 animals who were injured in the recent wildfires in Australia. The Australia Zoo, which is owned and operated by the Irwin family, and their conservation properties, are not endangered by fires raging right now, and they’ve taken in and cared for animals affected by the fires. The 21-year-old shared the Wildlife Hospital at their zoo is “busier than ever” and they will continue to help as many animals as they can.

The environmental activist and conservationist has been sharing photos on her Instagram account of some of the animals that her Wildlife hospital has seen and treated, and the stories of some who, sadly, they could not safe. Blossom, a possum, was featured along with powerful words urging others to help how they can.

“Devastatingly, this beautiful girl didn’t make it even after working so hard to save her life,” she writes. “I want to thank you for your kind words and support. This is the heart-wrenching truth, every day is a battle to stand up and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

Statistics show almost a third of koalas in Australia’s New South Wales region may have been killed in the raging bushfires, and there’s no question what Bindi and her family are doing to try and help is incredible.

The family shared how others can get involved in caring for the animals who have been harmed. “If you would like to lend a hand, the local fire stations could sure use donations as they are working so hard to keep everyone safe,” she writes. “One of our team members is currently fundraising to construct drinking stations on our conservation property due to the critical drought. You can find his fundraiser by visiting the link in my bio.”

“‪Together we can make a difference to help our planet in this time of devastation.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

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Bob Ross got these 5 qualities from the Air Force

Bob Ross might be one of the last names you’d think of when considering all the celebrities that have served. The videos of him “painting a happy little bush in the corner right there” exude calmness and tranquility — exactly the opposite of what you’d expect from a training instructor turned hardened, twenty-year First Sergeant turned retiree, but that’s exactly who he is.

What makes Bob Ross’s story even more awesome to the military community is that nearly every aspect of his hallmark zen was directly inspired by — or intentionally the exact opposite of — his time spent as First Sergeant of the U.S. Air Force Clinic at Eielson AFB, Alaska.


The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

Yep. That’s Alaska alright.

(Bob Ross, “Winter Night,” 1984)

His choice in scenery

As you can imagine, at Eielson AFB, there’s nothing but the Last Frontier for as far as the eye can see. It’s 26 miles from Fairbanks and another thousands before you reach what most consider normal civilization.

While Bob Ross was stationed there, this was his view — and it’s what inspired him to draw. A beautiful backdrop of snow-capped mountains and rivers flowing through verdant woods just needed to be captured somehow. The world needed to see the majesty that he saw.

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

His style of wet-on-wet oil painting and his use of bigger brushes meant that this masterpiece was made in just 25 minutes.

(Bob Ross, “Mountain Retreat,” 1984)

His quick art style

As the first sergeant of an entire medical facility, he needed to find some sort of distraction from the constant stress. He found his outlet one day at the Anchorage USO Club when he attended an art class. Drawing became his passion and he would often paint during his brief lunch breaks.

Within his hour of break for lunch, he’d have to finish an entire painting — and eat. This time constraint proved handy later on. He was already trained in creating an entire painting within brief, half-hour episodes when it came time to create the show.

His soft voice

Bob Ross served many years as a training instructor and yet found no pleasure in raising his voice to give orders. He swore to himself that when he retired out of the Air Force, he’d never yell again. After twenty years of service, he retired in 1981 and kept his word.

His soft voice was the tune to which many picking up painting as a hobby. As anyone who’s drawn or painted knows, you will often make mistakes while creating art. You’ll crumple the paper up or set fire to the easel because you got one line wrong. But that’s not the Ross way. According to First Sergeant Bob Ross (Ret.), “there are no mistakes. Only happy accidents.”

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

When they start selling Chia-pets in your likeness because of your wacky hair, no one will let you cut it.

(Shop PBS)

His signature hairdo and beard

Today, he’s known as the man with the poofiest perm and a glorious vet beard, but it wasn’t always this way. In fact, for a long time after his retirement, he kept up a professionally done crew cut and would shave every week. But times were tough for Ross.

He would have to skip a hair cut every other week until, eventually, he started skipping them altogether. All the while, he was trying to get the first version of The Joy of Painting on the air. By the time he was able to support himself through the show and associated art supplies, his ‘fro and beard had become part of his identity. This look stuck with him, no matter how much he wanted to shave it and go back to the crew cut.

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

Hands down the best “post DD-214” life by a long shot!

(Bob Ross Inc.)

His desire to teach

Deciding to leave the military and start a public access show about painting isn’t part of anyone’s get-rich-quick scheme. He did it because it was one of his proudest moments of being in the Air Force: being an instructor, only now he could do it without raising his voice.

Later on, Bob Ross Inc. paint supplies and books brought in money, but that’s never what mattered most to him — he donated plenty of it away. He was just a veteran who wanted to share his Joy of Painting with the world.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups

Disrupting terrorist networks is inherently difficult, and success is difficult to measure. Clandestine by nature, these groups generally hide their internal functions, institutions, and various chains of command. While a potentially vast cadre of fighters, sympathizers, and suppliers wait in the wings, the outside world only glimpses a few leaders, who often serve as figureheads for their organizations.

With little else to go on, states often make targeting these leaders a key priority. From the Shining Path in Peru to ISIL in Syria and Iraq, security forces carry out operations to capture or kill mid- and upper-level leaders in the hopes that their absence will be the knockout blow necessary to defeat a terrorist organization. Recent attention has turned to ISIL leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who is rumored to be still alive. Intelligence gathering and planning is likely underway in multiple countries to capture or kill the man who continues to lead one of the world’s deadliest terror groups. But is leadership decapitation, as this strategy is known, effective?


Leadership decapitation rests on a simple principle: taking out a key player in a terrorist group in the hope that his or her absence destroys morale and slows the group’s operational tempo. Such strategies can target both leaders – who may hold symbolic and strategic importance – and tactical experts who might be hard to replace, like bomb makers. The policy has played an important role in U.S. counterterrorism policy since 9/11, recently receiving praise from Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

While the logic is clear, the strategy’s results are mixed and depend on the terrorist group’s internal dynamics. Smaller, younger groups – variously defined – are more susceptible to the effects of leadership decapitation, as are groups without an established bureaucracy. Group type is thought to play a role as well, with religiously-oriented groups being better able to withstand the loss of a leader. Most vulnerable are groups that lean heavily on a single, charismatic leader who plays a central role in the organization.

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

Leadership decapitation has ended some groups. The capture of Abimael Guzman and 14 other leaders of the Shining Path in 1992 quickly reduced the group to a shadow of its former self. The group struggled to recover after the capture of Guzman, who exercised near-total control. After the assassination of Fathi Shaqaqi in 1995, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) struggled to find a capable successor and only recovered years later.

However, not all groups fall into these categories. With its deep roots in a conflict that extends back decades, raids and airstrikes have killed a number of Al-Shabaab leaders, yet it continues to carry out deadly attacks, including an October 2017 truck bombing that killed more than 500 Somalis. Al-Qaeda has suffered the loss of a number of key leaders, including founder Osama Bin Laden and leaders of its Yemeni and Syrian branches. Despite these losses from 2011 to 2015, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) managed to hang on and even expand its operations in Yemen until coordinated US-UAE operations in 2016 forced the group to engage in direct combat, which reduced – but did not eliminate – the threat posed by the group in Yemen.

Perhaps no group is more emblematic of resilience in the face of leadership decapitation than ISIL itself. Airstrikes, battles, and military operations have killed many of the group’s leaders within Syria and Iraq and its numerous regional affiliates. Despite this, the group has proven capable of finding replacements. When ISIL’s chief strategist and number two, Mohammed al-Adnani, was killed in late August 2016, the group announced his replacement about two months later. ISIL continues to maintain the ability to launch deadly attacks via its worldwide cells and those inspired by its calls to violence, from Afghanistan to Indonesia to Egypt.

As evidenced above, ISIL does not fit the profile of terrorist groups vulnerable to the effects of leadership decapitation. Its well-known penchant for bureaucracy has allowed slain leaders to be quickly replaced. While the loss of ISIL leaders has likely impacted the organization, it arguably has been affected to a greater degree by the overwhelming firepower directed at the organization from every level, not just its leaders. US strikes have pounded the group’s military positions, financial stores, and its fighters at every level, not just its leader. The redundancy within ISIL’s organization and the lack of a single, charismatic leader mean that finding competent replacements is not a life or death decision for the terror group.

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

Lt. Col. Rod Coffey and the insurgent flag his unit captured in Diyala Province, Iraq, in 2008. The same banner would eventually be used by the Islamic State.

(U.S. Army photo)

The most frightening aspect of ISIL’s lethality comes from the cells and sympathizers strewn across the world. Central leadership can plan and order these attacks, but cells with organic roots in localized conflicts can also plan and influence their own operations. While ISIL has been reduced to a sliver of its former territory in Iraq and Syria, the threat posed by its worldwide affiliates is unlikely to disappear with Baghdadi.

To be fair, the choice to pursue terrorist leaders is not a purely strategic calculation. Arguments about the effects of leadership on terrorists’ operational capacity mean little to those who have lost loved ones or live in fear because of terrorist attacks. And when dealing with groups that have almost no public presence, targeting leaders is often one of the only options available. It would be unwise to dismiss these other considerations for pursuing a decapitation strike out of hand, just as it would be unwise to assume that killing Baghdadi or any other leader is necessarily a knockout blow.

There is little doubt that ISIL, while still dangerous, is a weakened organization. Recent success in pushing back the group – a refreshing change from 2014 and 2015, when it appeared ready to roll over much of Syria and Iraq – is owed to several factors. A growing international recognition of the threat posed by ISIL, a crackdown on those traveling to and from Syria and Iraq, and overwhelming firepower directed against the group in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere have all played a role in reducing the threat. However, there is little reason to believe that what threat remains of ISIL would disappear with Baghdadi, especially in light of the group’s demonstrated resilience and commitment to terror.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

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This soldier who joined the military at age 58 will inspire you

In 2013 — on the cusp of officially becoming a senior citizen — Dr. Frederick Lough swore in to become an active duty soldier. But that’s not where his military career began.


Lough retired from the Army in 1987 after a 20-year career that began as a West Point cadet.

Related: This teen was accepted into all four US military academies

“By that time I was a trainer of heart surgeons for the Army,” Lough said in the video below. “I reached a point in my Army career where the future really held more and more administrative responsibilities and I really wanted to continue using my hands.”

He left the military to continue to do what he loved in a safe, private practice. He performed thousands of surgeries on his way to becoming director of his department at The George Washington University Hospital. He was living the definition of success in his second career.

But after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the call to service began to tug at him.

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat
Col. Frederick Lough (AARP)

“I had always considered myself a soldier, and now there was a need for military surgeons, and so I engaged the reserves about joining,” he said.

He wasn’t taking no for an answer.

“You want me to carry water?” he said about a conversation with recruiters. “I’ll carry water.”

He joined the U.S. Army Medical Corps Reserves and returned to service in 2007 at age 58. He deployed to Afghanistan twice, saving hundreds of lives on the front lines before going full active in 2013.

Watch Lough deliver his incredible service story and powerful message about personal growth in this short AARP video:

AARP, YouTube

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why military spouses love these 10 products and services

From advice to events to products and services, at Military Spouse we are all about connecting you with the things you love. MilSpouse: Life is devoted to the products and services military spouses enjoy as a part of their everyday life. We’ll take a behind the scenes look at some of the stuff we love, plus explore how these things make our lives easier.

Here’s what you told us were some of your absolutely favorite things to LOVE!


1. Rent the Runway

Rent the Runway. Have a military ball? Need a dress? RTR has you covered (literally!). One milspouse gives us !! 7 !! reasons why you should do it too.

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

Farmgirl Flowers.

(Photo by Heidi De Vries)

2. Farmgirl Flowers

Farmgirl Flowers. Nothing pisses a military spouse off faster than receiving messed-up flowers sent by their loving spouse. Worse yet is if they spent a BUNCH of money on them and the flowers die the next day. Tell us we are not alone in feeling like a lot of places take advantage of a service member wanting to show some love. Enter the most awesome flowers we’ve ever seen in a box! Bring on Valentine’s Day!

3. Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World. Mickey ears. Matching shirts. Time together. And, yeah, big military discounts!!! We LOVE this place and so do so many of our military families. Check out these tips from our friends over at Military Disney Tips!

4. Honda

Honda. She’s rollin’ in her Honda Odyssey, baby! If you’ve driven through any military housing lately, you’ve probably seen at least every other driveway filled with one of these in silver or blue. Military moms love the Honda Odyssey and maybe that’s why Honda event says “it’s everyone’s happy place.” Pull out the seats, pulldown the screens, and hit the open road! (See Number 7 below).

5. Bota Box

Bota Box. Wine. Box. Deployments. Moves. Orders to the middle of nowhere. No explanation necessary.

6. Scentsy

Scentsy. Sometimes military life just stinks. Literally. And you probably have a neighbor who sells this around the corner from you. So you get a nice smelling house. They get a business. Win. Win. Now where is my Blue Grotto Scent Circle! This place stinks!

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

(Flickr / AllieKF)

7. Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers.

Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers. Yeah, they get stuck in the tracks of our Honda Odyssey, but these bits of cheesy (or plain or pretzel) goodness have keep military kids happy for many a road trip and move. Hey, it’s the snack that smiles back, and who doesn’t need a good smile in this crazy military life? Found on the end-cap of every single commissary in the world.

8. Facebook

Facebook. Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg. You gave military families a way to stay connected with each other, our families across the world, and the friends we’ve made along the way. We may be a little addicted to some of the amazing military spouse groups the site also lets us create! Can anyone say, White Walls?

9. Stitch Fix

Stitch Fix. The majority of military installations are usually not known for their great proximity to, well, any place decent to shop. Enter a service that SENDS YOU great clothing. I’m looking at you Fort Irwin.

10. Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime. What did we EVER do without it? Seriously. Let’s just say you live 45 minutes from the closest sports store and your kid needs a chin strap for football like Tuesday and you have to work today, tomorrow, and the day after and, of course, your other kids have activities each night, and your spouse is deployed. Amazon. Prime. To the rescue!!! Five minutes. And the chin strap is rocketing across the country to your mailbox. And it will be here tomorrow in time for practice. Amazon Prime. You’ve got our back.

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

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The MARSOC driving course is not like your typical day at the DMV

MARSOC — or Marine Special Operations Command — is one of our nation’s most elite fighting forces, as its members are ready to respond to any crisis, anywhere.


Their goal is to enhance the overall performance of every operator in any setting they may face. Depending on the mission, a MARSOC team or individual may find himself under attack and must negotiate any obstacle that presents itself.

While these Marines continuously train to keep their skills sharp, they take pride in being the best at all ends of the spectrum — including tactical driving.

Related: This is what ‘Black Friday’ is like for new Marine recruits

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat
These MARSOC Marines conduct a vehicle dismount maneuver during their tactical driving and shooting course. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Primarily dressed in civilian attire, these badasses train to take the average vehicle to its physical limits depending on the situation and location.

During a high-speed chase, the teams must learn how to drive their vehicles within close counters of one another.

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

These advanced drills also focus on the team’s survivability and to teach the passengers how to drive from a passenger seat in the event the driver is severely wounded or killed — giving the term “side-seat driver” a whole new meaning.

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat
This Marine takes control of the vehicle as the driver pretends to be wounded during this advanced training exercise. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Also Read: Recruit training at Parris Island vs San Diego, according to Marines

Each Marine who takes this course has already undergone several layers of filtering before joining MARSOC. The exclusive selection focuses on moral caliber and the individual’s ability to handle themselves in a stressful environment.

This aspect causes the MARSOC teams to build a unique brotherhood — a necessary trait for their line of work.

Check out the Marines‘ video below to witness this high-speed training for yourself.

Marines, YouTube
MIGHTY TRENDING

19 perks of having a deployed husband

Shaw Air Force Base is known by those stationed there as Separates Husbands And Wives. Between the Red Flags at Nellis, the endless human centipede of exercises, and a deployment, my husband Mike was gone over half of our days during that assignment. It was there I learned what it meant to be alone even while in a marriage, but I dealt with it by finding pockets of positivity. Deployments are tough, but if you look, you can find some gold nuggets in that steaming pile of anxiety poo.

Here are some perks to having a deployed husband:


1. Twice the closet space.

He doesn’t need to know that his pitted out Yuengling shirts are getting boxed up with collegiate football hats of schools he didn’t attend in order to make room for my legion of maxi dresses. The flannels, however, can stay.

2. Suddenly, the toilet paper roll lasts longer.

Turns out if your partner spends as much time on the toilet as a small construction crew fed on chicken fried steaks and protein shakes, the t.p. budget shrinks when he leaves. That newfound cash can be spent on regular pedicures, or a reasonably priced used Lexus.

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat
(U.S. Army photo by Sarah Pastrana)

3. You can take up the whole bed.

I call my favorite position, Drunken Starfish.

4. Retail therapy is fine!

His income is tax-free, and now I need a new credit card because the strip on my old one is wearing out.

Photo by USFS Region 5

5. Less frequent leg shaving.

That is, until your nephew feels your shin and asks, “Why does Aunt Rachel’s leg feel like a pine tree?” Twerp.

6. No bras in the house.

The bra hits the floor before the alarm goes off. I could set a world record for how fast I can unclasp my underwire and pull it out through the bottom of my shirt.

7. I can sleep better through the night without a 200 lb. land manatee flopping around next to me.

Not to mention the pillowcases are significantly less sweaty.

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

8. No sound of velcro in the morning.

SSSZZZCCCHHHTTT!!!

9. Cereal for breakfast. Cereal for lunch. Cereal for dinner. 

Honorable mention goes to chips and salsa.

10. Let me introduce you to “The D Card.”

Don’t get me wrong, I was worried every day for his safety, and wished time would speed up for him to come home, but the ultimate reward for enduring a deployment is getting to play the “D Card.” Fewer phrases pack a punch harder than these four words: My husband is deployed.

11. Priority vacation days at work.

When everybody is trying to take off for the holidays at the same time – wham! – I play the D Card and skip to the front of the line. No way am I missing Mom’s orange fluff at Christmas to decorate a tree by myself.

12. People put you on a pedestal just for being present and fully dressed.

Trust me, it doesn’t always happen.

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

13. Sometimes patriotic strangers pay for your drink.

One man tried to pick up my tab without me seeing. Little did he know I drink enough scotch to ration a ship full of sailors across the Americas, so he kindly paid for half. God bless you, citizen.

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

14. It shuts down unwanted attention from men.

I remember being asked, “How come your man’s not out with you tonight?” (First off– ew.) When I dropped the D Card, it abruptly came to a halt. There’s no comeback. Then I did the Hammer Dance to the tune of “U Can’t Touch This” and got myself some jalapeño poppers.

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

15. You get a hall pass for mood swings.

WHICH I DON’T F*CKING HAVE!

16. You can zone out at work hassle free.

All I have to do is pull up an article about F-16s, maximize the screen and then stare out into space. My boss thinks I’m anguished about my deployed husband, when really I’m thinking about Downton Abbey, or why white queso tastes better than yellow queso. But truthfully most times I’m anguished about my deployed husband.

17. Nice people send you nice cards.

One of the best things, truly, is finding out how big your friends’ hearts are. People send you cards and care packages, and a few more ambitious friends fly out to visit. I was touched to find out I had a group of friends who started a secret thread to coordinate when they could visit me so it was spread out over the deployment.

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

And so…

Is it indecent to use his time in combat to make my pain a little less difficult? I don’t think so. Deployments are dark times. It’s something those of us have earned through tears and sleepless nights when something goes bump outside the bedroom window. I remember driving over to my friend’s house one night because her neighbor wouldn’t stop being a creep, knowing her husband was away. We stayed up on her back patio with shotguns across our laps until we ended up making margaritas and playing Yahtzee until 3 in the morning.

If you’re the one left behind, it can feel like half of your puzzle is missing its pieces. For me, a gold-medal overthinker, I questioned who I was as my own person and why I couldn’t seem to handle life, which made me feel even worse about myself. I refused to feel helpless, but there it was. We had built a life for two, and I was forced to fly it solo. So no, I do not feel bad about playing the D Card.

But the biggest high of having a deployed husband is when you lock eyes across the hangar at 2 a.m. after seven months. Your heart pounds as you watch that tan flight suit cut through the crowd of hundreds, and you finally get your kiss, bristly though it may be.

Damn deployment ‘stache.

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