Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her

Cynthia Cline was deployed to the Middle East when she started doing research on getting out of the military.

“I was looking for some encouragement from women who had separated and what they were doing now,” she said. 

That’s when she stumbled on a blog by a former airman who had transitioned out of the military to become a stay-at-home mom and eventually started writing — just the path Cline was considering for herself. 

“I spent probably hours on her website reading her stuff,” she said. “It very much felt like here’s this person who’s a few years ahead of me.”

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her
Amanda Huffman while in the Air Force. Photo courtesy of Amanda Huffman.

That’s exactly the kind of resource Amanda Huffman is trying to provide. A former captain in the Air Force who separated in 2013 after giving birth to her first son, Huffman started the blog Airman to Mom that helped Cline prepare for her own transition in June.

Through Huffman’s posts and the blog’s spinoff book and podcast, Women of the Military, as well as her online “Girl’s Guide to the Military” resource, she aims to reach women at all stages of their military career with tips, advice, and an overall message that they’re not alone.

A tough transition

Huffman, 36, had a difficult transition out of the military. Prior to becoming a stay-at-home mom with a new baby, she’d spent six years as a civil engineer in the Air Force, which included a deployment to Afghanistan. While there, she worked on a provincial reconstruction team tasked with building bridges, wells, schools, and other projects to win over the hearts of the Afghan people. 

She earned a Bronze Star, as well as the Air Force Combat Action Medal and Army Combat Action Badge for her service.

“I really struggled with my identity after I left the Air Force, and motherhood was not what I thought,” she said.

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her
Screenshot of Amanda Huffman’s blog, Airman to Mom.

“At the time I really felt like he wasn’t sleeping through the night — failure. He wasn’t walking fast enough? Failure,” Huffman said. “I had this pressure on myself to force my son to do whatever the [baby] book said, and if he didn’t, then it was like I was a failure.” 

Huffman, now a homeschool- and work-from-home mom of two boys and a military spouse, started blogging in 2014 as a way to process what she was experiencing.

“Writing was something where I wasn’t a failure because people read it and they responded and were like, ‘Oh this resonates,’” she said. “It was the start of finding myself, but it was more like something I couldn’t see as a big failure over my life.”

Proving herself

Though her blog had a nod to her military experience in its title, Huffman initially shied away from divulging too much of her military story.

“I was anti-veteran stuff, which is actually really common for veterans, especially female veterans,” she said. “The stereotype of the veteran community that I had in my mind was like the [Veterans of Foreign Wars], going to a bar with a bunch of old guys and having to be like, ‘Yeah, I am a veteran. I deployed.’ And so, I was like, ‘I already was in the military. I had to prove myself just because of my gender. I don’t want to have to go and be part of a community and have to prove myself.’”

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her
Amanda Huffman while in the Air Force. Photo courtesy of Amanda Huffman.

Huffman said at the time, it made more sense to get involved in the Christian and mom blogging communities because she already knew she would be welcome for who she was.

“I didn’t have to prove like yes, I do deserve to stand here because I am a veteran. I think that was a lot of it,” she said. 

But Kristen Smith, Huffman’s blogging mentor and a fellow military spouse, noticed Huffman wasn’t fully tapping into her story and encouraged her to step out of her comfort zone.

“She was trying to narrow in on this one piece of who she was, which was being a mom and how everything else shaded it” — but Huffman wasn’t just a mom who happened to be a veteran, Smith said.

Huffman took the advice and started writing more about her military experiences. Website traffic soon showed there was an audience for it. 

She then published a downloadable resource, “Girl’s Guide to the Military,” on her website, which has drawn readers from all over the world, including women serving in foreign militaries, and is the inspiration for Huffman’s upcoming YouTube channel of the same name that she plans to launch in January.

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her
Air Force veteran Amanda Huffman with her family. Photo courtesy of Amanda Huffman.

Huffman also started asking readers to submit their own military stories, which she published in a series on her website that she later made into a book.

“I did an interview-style 31-day series on deployment, and what I was expecting was that it was going to be a bunch of men who deployed sharing like their war stories of being deployed, but instead it was mainly all women and it was a realization that I’m not the only woman veteran who has a story to tell,” she said. “I thought my story was pretty unique because I deployed with the Army — blah blah blah — but all these women had these amazing stories, and I had no idea what women were doing, and I was like, I don’t care about deployments anymore. I just want to hear women’s stories.”

In 2018, she planned to do another series focusing solely on women veterans’ stories, but with a cross-country permanent change of station move coming up for her husband, who is active-duty Air Force, Huffman’s friend suggested she look at turning the stories into a podcast instead of writing out the interviews. 

So Huffman reached out to one of her fans and booked her first guest for the show: Cline.

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her
The Airman to Mom blogger also hosts the podcast Women of the Military. Photo courtesy of Amanda Huffman.

Getting to know the ‘Women of the Military’

Huffman typically interviews one woman per episode, beginning by asking each guest why she joined the military and ending with any advice the guest would give to younger women who are thinking about joining. 

The podcast has garnered 34,000 downloads, and guests have included women of all branches and ranks — from enlisted women who served four-year terms to four female generals and a former secretary of the Air Force. Some interviewees have shared stories of sexual assault or harassment in the military that they had never before told publicly.

While all stories are different, “they all resonate for different reasons,” Huffman said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a guy or a girl; the military pushes you. They break you down to build you back up, and so that part of that transition into who the military makes you and then that transition out and trying to find yourself as a civilian — there’s a lot of commonalities in that, just experience of changing you into someone and then trying to find your new path.”

The way Huffman talks about her own military experiences on the show is refreshing and somewhat uncommon among narratives of women veterans often heard in the media, said Smith, who has been following her mentee’s journey as Huffman has expanded her portfolio.

“She did some really cool shit, and she talks about her service in a way that I think we typically are accustomed to hearing men talk about it,” Smith said. “She tends not to talk about this really uncomfortable situation and the ways that being a woman sort of impacted [her]. She just talks about her service.”

Cline, who has since started a blog of her own, said Huffman’s work is “extremely encouraging” and helped prepare her for her transition out of the military and the potential struggle she might have in finding her new identity as a civilian, though it ultimately went smoothly.

“First, when you initially look at the idea of sharing women’s stories, it might not seem like a big deal for most people — and yet on the sheer fact that she shared her story and that’s what encouraged me to take the next step in my blogging world, I feel like that changed my life. Storytelling changes lives,” Cline said.

“People need to hear our stories,” Huffman said. “But also, we need to tell our stories, and when we tell our stories then another women veteran hears it and is like, ‘Oh, I’m not the only one.’”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Coastie serves as liaison for Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain

An enlisted leader is proving the Coast Guard’s reach extends far beyond America’s coastlines.

Bahrain is the epicenter of the Combined Maritime Forces — a partnership comprised of 33 different nations dedicated to combating terrorism and piracy, while promoting maritime safety. Command Master Chief Lucas Pullen, the first Coast Guard member to hold a senior enlisted leadership role for a coalition force, serves as its liaison. The decision to put him in that position instead of a sailor was done purposefully, he says.


Since the CMF operates as a part of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, a coastie brings objectivity, Pullen explained. In the midst of extensive Navy operations, him being in the Coast Guard more clearly defines his position and role.

“With this there are no blurred lines on who does what, I am able to specifically make sure things are working for the coalition side of things,” Pullen said.

The Oklahoma-native enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1998 to become a Boatswain’s Mate, a rating that is the operational core of almost every mission. After completing basic training, he was assigned to Small Boat Station South Padre Island, Texas, according to his official biography. As an operator, he gained experience “in maritime law enforcement to include fisheries, counter-narcotics, and counter-migrant operations, as well as search and rescue, and maritime security operations.”

Pullen’s extensive 22-year Coast Guard career prepared him for his new role as the senior enlisted leader of the CMF. He now works directly with senior military leaders from the multi-national partnership to promote security and stability across 3.2 million square miles of international waters.

“As a command master chief, one of my main jobs is the people and their families,” he said.

Working directly with members of the coalition has been an incredible experience, Pullen added. He described a typical day as starting with sharing Arabic coffee with a Kuwaiti leader and ending with tea and scones with the British. He loves the diversity and continuous ability to learn from the other nations’ military leaders, he said, also expressing his position in Bahrain will serve him well for further Coast Guard positions, although none will probably be as unique and involved.

Prior to Bahrain, the Pullen family was stationed in Guam — a duty station the kids did not want to leave. Marcy Pullen, who has moved 10 times with her husband, didn’t initially think she and the couple’s children would be eligible to PCS to Bahrain. It is typically an unaccompanied tour but a waiver changed that.

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her

Photo courtesy of Candice Baker.

“I didn’t hesitate, I said let’s go,” she said.

Her husband praised his family’s resiliency and strength. Their oldest son, Tucker, is 17 and about to start college. If he attends the same college all four years, it’ll be the longest he’s ever lived anywhere.

Adjusting to life in Bahrain has included a unique set of experiences for the family, due to the political influence, culture, and customs. Seated to their left could be a fellow military kid while on their right, a Saudi Arabian royal.

Sixteen-year-old Cheyenne shared her struggle with not being able to just go explore or do things independently off base because it isn’t safe, especially for girls. Bahrain is a very conservative country where most women are either hidden or extensively covered when in public. But Levi, 13, also says there’s some good to being a military kid in Bahrain.

“I loved getting to do new things like learning how to play cricket with the Australian military kids. You get all of these amazing experiences that are out of the way and interesting,” he said.

All of the kids did agree on one thing: the food is amazing. One of their favorite things to eat is Baklava, a sweet dessert dish made with nuts and honey.

Pullen also credits the Coast Guard with preparing his family for such a unique assignment in the Middle East.

“Our quality of life thought process is very different from the other branches. I think we are very resilient as a service because we go into these remote locations without big military bases. We pick up all the military challenges without the resources there to support us,” he explained.

Marcy Pullen echoes his sentiment, reflecting on how hard it was as a new Coast Guard spouse and mom. She takes those lessons and experiences with her, using what she’s learned to help all military families who may be struggling to adjust to life in Bahrain.

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her

Lucas and Mary Pullen Photo courtesy of Candice Baker.

With one year left in Bahrain, travel remains high at the top of their bucket list — though COVID-19 and tensions overseas have heavily restricted movement. As the Pullen family reflected on their journey, they agreed each move has brought new lessons and memories. They eagerly anticipate their next Coast Guard adventure that can take them anywhere.

Visit https://www.cusnc.navy.mil/Combined-Maritime-Forces/ to learn more about Combined Maritime Forces.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why sand tables are important tools when preparing for a mission

When preparing for a mission, officers, who’ve signed off on hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment and are responsible for troops each wearing around $17,500 worth of gear, crowd around a simple box made of sand, sticks, and stones. The S-3 officer will pick up a rock and say, “first platoon, this is you guys” and they’ll use another rock to represent second platoon. And maybe they’ll even throw in some ad-libbed sound effects. Admittedly, it’s kinda silly at first glance.

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you’ll get an operations officer to spring a couple bucks and buy a few green, plastic Army guys to represent each unit, which makes it feel more like a tabletop RPG or something. Whatever markers are used, the intent is the same — and it may be one of the best instructional tools available when briefing the troops on what’s about to go down.

Here’s why:


Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her

And, for the love of all that is holy, the answer is not another friggin’ PowerPoint presentation.

(U.S. Army)

The boots-on-the-ground troops don’t often get a chance to look inside the S-3 tent when they aren’t building it. Without that kind of visibility, it’s easy to overlook the insane amount of detail that goes into preparing for each and every mission. Every single eventuality has to be considered and mapped out. Each potential outcome requires an alternate plan, a contingency plan, and an emergency plan. This goes for everything, from an assault on a compound to just planning a convoy to a training center.

When it comes time to execute the mission, all of that pristine planning is for naught if you can’t properly convey it to the people responsible for carrying out the orders. So, officers need a good way to send that message.

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her

Who would have thought that you’d be using the same toys when you were a kid “playing Army” in the real Army.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Christopher Ruano

This is where sand tables come in. It gives each and every person watching the demonstration a bird’s eye view of what’s supposed to go down. An observer can either take it all in or just hone in on their own marker. Either way, the sand table allows everyone to focus on something in physical space instead of just zoning out while staring toward a dry-erase board filled with scribbles.

It also gives the viewer a chance to take part in the preparation, and taking an active role helps increase information retention. For example, you can give the platoon leader the “first platoon rock” and have them act out their mission.

The best part of it all? Sand tables don’t take much more than a little bit of wood and elbow grease to put together — sometimes, the best solution is the simplest.

To watch a retired Green Beret build a sand table, check out the video below from Dave of Centurion MILSIM. He’s actually got an entire series on how to create fantastic tables and military terrain models from scratch.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Marines select their military working dog handlers

Military occupational specialties are the foundation of the Marine Corps. Each MOS is a cog, working with and relying on each other to keep the fighting machine that is the United States Marine Corps running. The military working dog handlers are one such dog.

Military police officers have many conditions they have to fulfill to effectively complete the mission of prevention and protection in peace and wartime. One aspect of their duty is to be handlers for the military working dogs.


“To even have the opportunity to be a military working dog handler, you have to be military police by trade,” said Cpl. Hunter Gullick, a military working dog handler with Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific – Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Japan. “We go to the school at Fort Leonard Wood for roughly three months before graduating and joining the fleet. After that you can put a package in to request the chance. This process is long since they screen you with background checks, schooling history and recommendations. If they accept you, you are sent to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas for another three months of school, this time strictly for military working dog handler training.”

The tradition of using dogs during war dates back thousands of years, but the U.S. military did not officially have military working dogs until World War I. Since that time the partnership between the canines and their human has grown.

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her

Lance Cpl. Joseph Nunez from Burbank, Calif., interacts with Viky, a U.S. Marine Corps improvised explosive device detection dog, after searching a compound while conducting counter-insurgency operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 17, 2013.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena)

“We utilize the dogs for a number of things,” said Cpl. Garrett Impola, a military working dog handler with Headquarters and Support Battalion, MCIPAC. “The dogs are trained for substance location, tracking, and explosive device detection. During festivals and events we use them as security to do sweeps and to detrude conflicts. No other single MOS can do everything our dogs can.”

The handlers spend most of their working day with their partner to keep at top performance. This can be both a struggle – as much as it is a joy — for the Marine partner.

“The best part about my job is the dogs, for sure,” said Gullick. “They give everything they have to you, so we give everything to them in return. The most challenging aspect of my job would be that sometimes the dogs are like kids. It can get frustrating so you have to have patience. You also have to be humble because as a handler you have to be able to take constructive criticism.”

The Marine and military working dog are a team. The job of being a handler is always a work in progress. Marines are encouraged to push their limits and learn more when it comes to doing their jobs. They are always learning new techniques and procedures when it comes to performing their job to the best of their abilities.

“You will never know everything because each dog is different,” said Gullick. “With one, you think that you have the dog world figured out and then another one comes along and throws a curve ball at you. You have to continually learn and adapt.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the pilots who fly SEALs and Delta Force to their most dangerous operations

The Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Airborne, (SOAR-A), has earned the nickname “The Night Stalkers.”

Operating under the cover of night or the shadows of dawn, these elite pilots are responsible for getting special operators into and out of some of their most secret and dangerous operations.

Night Stalker pilots go through rigorous training to become mission-ready to fly in the most challenging conditions, including bad weather and enemy fire, all while relying on infrared and night-vision equipment to navigate through the darkness.

While many of the 160th SOAR’s operations are secret, it’s widely understood that they were involved in the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Read on to learn more about the elite aviators that “would rather die than quit.”


Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her

A US Army MH-60M Blackhawk from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), June 19, 2019.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

The Night Stalkers fly a few different helicopters, including the MH-60 Black Hawk.

The 160th has over 3,200 personnel and 192 aircraft.

The Night Stalkers operate different versions of the Black Hawk, outfitted for dangerous and covert operations. In fact, all the aircraft the 160th uses are “highly modified and designed to meet the unit’s unique mission requirements,” according to the Army.

All the MH-60s the Night Stalkers use have in-air refueling capability, extending the aircraft’s ability to operate over long distances.

The Night Stalkers’s MH-60 Direct Action Penetrator (DAP) is a Black Hawk specially outfitted with an M230 30 mm automatic cannon. When the aircraft is modified to the DAP, it can move only small numbers of troops, according to US Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

All of the Black Hawks the 160th flies have a cruising speed of 140 mph and a top speed of 200 mph, The Washington Post reported in 2014, when the aircraft were used in a failed attempt to rescue American civilians in Syria.

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her

A Navy aviation boatswain’s mate guides an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment during deck landing qualifications aboard amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu, April 28, 2014.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dustin Knight)

The Night Stalkers also fly the MH-47 Chinook.

The 160th operates two variants of the MH-47 Chinook, a special-operations variant of the Army’s CH-47 Chinook.

The MH-47E is a heavy assault helicopter with aerial refueling capability, as well as advanced integrated avionics, an external rescue hoist, and two L714 turbine engines with Full Authority Digital Electronic Control that enables the MH-47E to operate in high-altitude or very hot environments, according to SOCOM.

The Night Stalkers fly the MH-47G Chinook as well, which has a multi-mode radar to help pilots navigate challenging conditions, as well as two M-134 “minigun” machine guns and one M-60D machine gun for defensive fire.

The MH-47 is used for a variety of operations, including infiltration and exfiltration of troops, assault operations, resupply, parachuting, and combat search and rescue.

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Dave Currier, left, an MH-60M Black Hawk pilot, and Spc. Joseph Turnage, a UH-60 Black Hawk crew chief, with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) in Yuma, Arizona, Sept. 23, 2017.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brennon A. Taylor)

The 160th was born out of tragedy.

The Night Stalkers were formed after the botched attempt to rescue hostages from the US embassy in Tehran in 1979, known as Operation Eagle Claw.

During that operation, eight US service members were killed, and the need for a specialized group of aviators became apparent.

The 160th was formed in 1981, composed of soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, and was officially designated the 160th Special Operations Aviation Group (Airborne) in 1986.

What we know as the modern 160th was officially activated in 1990.

The Night Stalkers have been active in every military operation since Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada in 1983. The unit lost pilot Michael Durant during the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in 1993.

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her

Two MH-47G Chinooks from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment prepare for aerial refueling over California, Jan. 19, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Snider)

The tempo of operations increased significantly after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.

“At the height of Iraq, those guys were doing two to three missions a night,” a 10-year veteran of the unit with multiple tours to Afghanistan and Iraq told Insider.

“Once the mission has been accomplished, the only reward is another mission,” he said.

Once Night Stalkers are finished with a mission, “they’re not going to Disney World. They’re going back to wherever they came from. They’re going to train again.”

Night Stalker training simulates the challenging environments they’re going into, as well.

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her

US soldiers, assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), practice loading and unloading on a 160th SOAR MH-47 Chinook during sniper training at Ft. Carson, Colorado, June 22, 2017.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)

Women in the 160th see combat too.

“It’s just not all guys. At least the 160th has female pilots. They’re rowing the boat. They’re in the battle,” the Night Stalker veteran told Insider.

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her

A 10th Special Forces Group soldier and his military working dog jump off a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th SOAR during water training over the Gulf of Mexico, March 1, 2011.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)

The 160th’s motto — “Night Stalker’s Don’t Quit!” is attributed to Capt. Keith Lucas, the first Night Stalker killed in action.

“The purpose of that organization is to serve the most elite special forces in the United States,” a veteran of the unit told Insider.

“That unit’s gonna be on time, and it’s gonna fly like hell to serve the ground forces,” he said.

The Night Stalkers have a reputation of being on time within 30 seconds of every operation and say they’d rather die than quit.

The Night Stalkers’ motto — often shortened to “NSDQ!” — is vitally important to the team.

“It binds people that have been serving in that organization till now,” the veteran said. Lucas was killed in 1983, during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada.

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her

The MH-6 Little Bird is a helicopter unique to special operations that was developed in close collaboration with special operators and combat developers.

MH-6 and AH-6 Little Birds are also part of the 160th’s fleet.

These aircraft are small and maneuverable — perfect for use in urban combat zones where pilots must fly low to the ground among buildings and city streets.

The MH-6M and AH-6M are both variants of the McDonnell Douglas 530 commercial helicopter.

The MH-6M is the utility version that can also be used for reconnaissance missions. The AH-6M is the attack version and is equipped with Foward Looking Infrared, or FLIR, which shows crewmembers an infrared video of the terrain and airspace.

Here’s an AH-6M training for a combat mission

Go160thSOAR USASOAC Night Stalkers AH-6

www.youtube.com

And an MH-6M extracting a soldier from the water.

Go160thSOAR USASOAC Night Stalkers MH-6 Series

www.youtube.com

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Momma works in a prison, pops served overseas

Momma babysits inmates at Arizona State Prison. Dad served as a Marine in the 90s. My little brother drives a 23%-interest, blacked-out Dodge Charger, which means — you guessed it — he is also a Marine. I, on the other hand, chose to study theatre and English.

My brother and I were raised (like nearly all children of military/law enforcement parents) on a diet of heavy structure, logic, toughness, discipline, preparedness, and accountability. He ordered seconds; I drew a pretty picture on the menu with a crayon.


Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her

From one generation to the next — see the resemblance?

The closest I ever came to military service was yelling, “1, 2” as a toddler in the bath when my dad would call out “sound off” from his living room recliner.

The closest I ever came to being a corrections officer was babysitting an 8-year-old kid obsessed with cramming Cheerios up his nose. He claims his record was 12, but when I told him to prove it, he could only fit, like, 6 or 7. Liar.

I say “corrections officer” because my momma prefers the term “corrections officer.” She thinks the term “prison guard” describes a knuckle-dragging extra in an action movie — who, by the way, always seem to get killed in movies. Like dozens of them just get absolutely mowed down, usually by the GOOD guys, and nobody cares. Nobody! Do you know what it feels like to be in a large room full of people who cheer and clap every time Jason Statham snaps the neck of your could-be mother on-screen? Not super great.

It always occurred to me as odd that I noticed that in movies and my momma never did. But it highlights an important aspect of growing up in that atmosphere — you don’t really talk about how or why you feel a certain way. Which, if you’re coming from a prison system or a military system, is completely understandable. In those worlds it’s all about short, useful information: yes sir, copy, etc.

I think that rigid structure ironically led me to be drawn to things I found subjective and expressive — sort of like Malia Obama smokin’ weed, or Jaden Smith doing, uhhh, whatever it is that he’s doing. However, that made me a sort of black sheep — not really feeling like I belonged on either side of the fence.

Here’s what I mean: I can go out and absolutely slam some brews with my little brother and his military brothers. We can talk about why we think the Raiders can’t seem to win a damn game, we slug each other in the arm, and tell each other truly depraved jokes.

But, I’m still gonna end up hanging on his shoulder, telling him how much I love him, and I’ll inevitably tear up while telling him I cried reading a Wilfred Owen poem that reminded me of him while he was deployed. That’s just who I am. They never really quite feel comfortable in emotional moments. And that’s okay — it’s just a difference — like how my brother looks like a Jason Statham character (it’s a love/hate thing with that guy) when he’s shooting a gun, but I look kinda like Bambi trying to learn how to walk.

Conversely, if I’m out with some of my theatre or comedy buddies, the military/prison differences are highlighted. They are, for instance, fifteen minutes late to everything. I, personally, would rather take a shot of bleach than be late. Sure, they can be comfortable discussing how they feel (maybe even too much) — but they are terrified of any confrontation. I once had an actor sit me down and ask me what being in a fight felt like. Me, the guy who cries at Silver Linings Playbook, was seen as traditionally masculine.

Plus, they’re always excited to hear me suggest a “blanket party” until they find out what it is. Bummer.

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her

Everyone’s invited!

So either way, my folks shaped who I am. The military and the prison — they shaped my folks. Those systems; the words, the discipline, the people — it’s impossible to separate them.

Even though I’ve never fastened a utility belt at 5 a.m. and willingly locked myself in a prison with violent offenders, even though I could never imagine what it feels like to tie up your boots and go to war for your family — the lessons they learned while they did those things for me, even if indirectly, shaped who I am.

It is only because my folks got their hands dirty, raised me to embrace who I am — to follow what I believe in — that I have the dear privilege to sit here, criss-cross-applesauce, and type this up while I blow gingerly at a decaf coffee that’s a little too hot for my lips.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force just put on a show, and the photos are dazzling

Malmstrom Air Force Base opened its gates to the public in mid-July 2019, welcoming approximately 13,000 members of Great Falls and surrounding communities to the 2019 “Mission Over Malmstrom” Open House held on July 13 and 14, 2019.

The two-day event featured aerial acts, exhibits and guided tours which offered experiences highlighting the mission of Malmstrom AFB and the capabilities of the US armed forces.


Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her

A US Army parachutist with the Golden Knights parachute team approaches his landing at the Mission Over Malmstrom open house event on Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Devin Doskey)

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her

A B-2 Spirit performs a flyover during the Mission Over Malmstrom open house event at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Devin Doskey)

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her

A child tours an armored vehicle during the Mission Over Malmstrom open house event at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob M. Thompson)

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her

A family participates in a cockpit experience during the Mission Over Malmstrom open house event at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob M. Thompson)

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her

US Air Force Maj. Paul Lopez, F-22 Demo Team commander, performers aerial maneuvers during the Mission Over Malmstrom open-house event on Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 14, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Devin Doskey)

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her

US Air Force Maj. Paul Lopez, F-22 Demo Team commander, performers aerial maneuvers at the Mission Over Malmstrom open house event on Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 14, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob M. Thompson)

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her

The Shetterly Squadron aerial group performs stunts during the Mission Over Malmstrom open-house event on Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob M. Thompson)

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her

A UH-1N helicopter performs flight maneuvers during the Mission Over Malmstrom open house event at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Devin Doskey)

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her

MiG Fury Fighters perform a flyover during the Mission Over Malmstrom open house event at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 13, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Tristan Truesde)

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This insect pain scale will help you test your warrior mettle

The sting of the Warrior Wasp is pure torture, according to entomologist Dr. Justin Schmidt, who was willingly stung by each of the most painful insect stings on Earth to create a scale of pain. He went on to describe it as being chained in the flow of an active volcano. It was the only one that ever made him question why he would endeavor to create such a scale.

Schmidt’s Pain Index covers the stings of Hymenoptera, a class of insect that includes bees, wasps, and ants. On the scale of one to four, with four being the worst pain imaginable, only three insects made the top of the list.


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Level One: Adorable.

Level one

The first level is short, sharp, but not lasting stings from things like sweat bees and fire ants. The pain from these stings generally last around five minutes or less. There is minimal damage done to the body from the insect venom. Schmidt described the sting of a sweat bee as “light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.”

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Level Two: Been There, Done That.

Level two

Raising the stakes just a little means the next level is still filled with creatures with which most of us are familiar. Level two includes common honeybees, yellow jackets, and hornets. Dr. Schmidt says the vast majority of bees, wasps, and ants will fall into level two, though the sensations of pain are different from creature to creature.

While a yellow jacket can cause a very directed and hot kind of pain, Schmidt describes the sting of a termite-raiding ant as a “migraine contained on the tip of one’s finger.”

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Level Three: Not Cute.

Level three

This level, though not exclusively filled with wasps, is mostly wasps. The stings of a level three insect can last from anywhere from a few minutes to longer than an hour. Though the ants that do make a level three kind of pain are very painful and memorable.

He described the sting of the Maricopa Harvester Ant as “After eight unrelenting hours of drilling into that ingrown toenail, you find the drill wedged into the toe.”

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Level Four: Kill It With Fire.

Level four

As previously mentioned, only three insects fall into this level of pain, and Dr. Schmidt has experienced all of them, including that of the bullet ant, long regarded as the most painful insect bite ever felt and lasting for hours. The others include the tarantula hawk, a wasp whose venom is meant to hunt giant tarantulas and the warrior wasp, with a sting that was once clinically described as “traumatic.”

The Amazonian Tribe of the Mawé have a puberty right for males that includes wearing a bullet ant glove. If you experience the worst pain the jungle has to offer, how can you possibly fear anything else?

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why you should never touch something that’s ‘red or dusty’

It’s one of the oldest sayings in aviation circles: “If it’s red or dusty, don’t touch it.” It seems obvious enough not to touch buttons or switches when you don’t know what they actually do, so how did this axiom become so common? Older planes with less intelligent avionics apparently had to be safeguarded against human error.

Still, accidents happen… because some people just have to touch the red button.


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Some people…

Planes from the Vietnam Era such as the F4 Phantom and others, even those entering service much later, like the AH-64 Apache helicopter featured red buttons and switches with red, protective coverings to prevent maintainers and pilots from accidentally pushing or switching them. The reason is they perform critical functions that should only be used when the situation calls for it.

For example, there’s no off-label reason to jettison your fuel tanks on the tarmac, as it turns out. This is the kind of prevention the color red is ideal for. Dusty switches are just controls that might be less obvious but are rarely if ever actually used.

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You probably shouldn’t jettison anything while on the ground.

In Air Force flight school, new pilots are instructed, “don’t f*ck with the switches with red guards.” These control irreversible and potentially deadly functions in the cockpit, things that could really ruin any pilot’s day if accidentally toggled without reason. Often they are to be used in emergency situations only. This isn’t only for the pilots, but also for maintainers and anyone else who might be sitting in the cockpit while untrained or unsure of what they’re doing.

The military tries to make everything perfectly idiot proof, but the combination of complex controls with a high operations tempo can make anyone tense enough to make mistakes, cut corners, or just accidentally pour jet fuel everywhere you don’t want it to go. This phrase may have originated in the Vietnam War to keep new, potentially drafted troops aware of what they were doing and where they were doing it, to keep going through their lists and stations, even when the “Rapid Roger” tempo was very high.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Local recipes: Learn to cook new foods based on your current duty station

What’s for dinner? No really, we are all tired of cooking the same things, so can we have some new ideas? Quarantine has the vast majority of folks cooking more than normal. And naturally, we want to switch it up a little.

Don’t get bored from cooking the same dishes over and over again. Instead, use your current duty station to help provide some inspiration.


Start by looking at where you’re stationed and what local fare they have to offer. Then consider what dishes you can find around town and how you could be making them at home. Simple? Sure. But it’s also an easy way to switch up your current menu.

Go straight to restaurant menus, or Google based on town or local ingredients for even more variety.

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What base is home-for-now?

Southern states have soul food and countrified home cooking. There’s pimento cheese (YUM), chicken salad galore, and about as much banana pudding as you can stand.

In the Midwest there’s BBQ, deep-dished pizzas, so many casseroles, Cincinnati-style chili and bierocks.

Overseas you’ll find European dishes, Hawaiian fare, sushi and noodle dishes — but in their true forms, not Americanized versions.

And that’s only the beginning.

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Fresh ingredients for the trying

Finally, you can find new ingredients to inspire your cooking by checking out local markets. Now is a great time to support small businesses, but they’re also hot spots for items you don’t normally use. Ask a worker for recommendations (from a distance) for some insider experience while you’re at it. Or, when planning your garden, add in some unique locally based plants.

As a military family, one of the biggest perks is the chance to move around and experience new cultures. Just because you’re stuck at home doesn’t mean you can’t still use your location to try new things. Consider cooking outside of your comfort zone — while drawing inspiration from the locals — for tasty new dishes that the whole family can enjoy.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?

As the US, Russia and China test each other’s patience and strategic focus, speculation about the chances of a world war has hit a new high. But many of the people seriously engaged in this weighty discussion often get it wrong.

When it comes to estimating military capability, the Western media is principally concerned with the weapons capabilities of weaker states – and it rarely pays much attention to the colossal capability of the US, which still accounts for most of the world’s defense spending.

Any sensible discussion of what a hypothetical World War III might look like needs to begin with the sheer size and force of America’s military assets. For all that China and Russia are arming up on various measures, US commanders have the power to dominate escalating crises and counter opposing forces before they can be used.


Take missile warfare alone. The US Navy already has 4,000 Tomahawk cruise missiles, and the Navy and Air Force are currently taking delivery of 5,000 JASSM conventional cruise missiles with ranges from 200-600 miles. Barely visible to radar, these are designed to destroy “hardened” targets such as nuclear missile silos. Russia and China, by contrast, have nothing of equivalent quantity or quality with which to threaten the US mainland.

The same holds true when it comes to maritime forces. While much is made of Russia’s two frigates and smaller vessels stationed off the Syrian coast, France alone has 20 warships and an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean – and US standing forces in the area include six destroyers equipped with scores of cruise missiles and anti-missile systems. At the other end of Europe, the Russian military is threatening the small Baltic states, but it is rarely noted that the Russian Baltic fleet is the same size as Denmark’s and half the size of Germany’s.

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A U.S. Air Force B-1 bomber.

(DARPA photo)

Meanwhile, China’s aggressively expansionist behaviour in the South China Sea is reported alongside stories of its first aircraft carrier and long-range ballistic missiles. But for all that the Chinese navy is large and growing, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, it’s still only numerically equivalent to the combined fleets of Japan and Taiwan, while the US boasts 19 aircraft carriers worldwide if its marine assault ships are included.

But overhanging all this, of course, is the nuclear factor.

Out of the sky

The US, Russia and China are all nuclear-armed; Vladimir Putin recently unveiled a new fleet of nuclear-capable missiles which he described as “invincible in the face of all existing and future systems”, and some have suggested that China may be moving away from its no-first-use policy. This is all undeniably disturbing. While it has long been assumed that the threat of nuclear weapons acts as a deterrent to any war between the major powers, it’s also possible that the world may simply have been riding its luck. But once again, the US’s non-nuclear capabilities are all too often overlooked.

US leaders may in fact believe they can remove Russia’s nuclear deterrent with an overwhelming conventional attack backed up by missile defences. This ability was cultivated under the Prompt Global Strike programme, which was initiated before 9/11 and continued during the Obama years. Organised through the US Air Force’s Global Strike Command, it is to use conventional weapons to attack anywhere on Earth in under 60 minutes.

This is not to say the task would be small. In order to destroy Russia’s nuclear missiles before they can be launched, the US military would need to first blind Russian radar and command and communications to incoming attack, probably using both physical and cyber attacks. It would then have to destroy some 200 fixed and 200 mobile missiles on land, a dozen Russian missile submarines, and Russian bombers. It would then need to shoot down any missiles that could still be fired.

Russia is not well positioned to survive such an attack. Its early warning radars, both satellite and land-based, are decaying and will be hard to replace. At the same time, the US has and is developing a range of technologies to carry out anti-satellite and radar missions, and it has been using them for years. (All the way back in 1985, it shot down a satellite with an F15 jet fighter.) That said, the West is very dependent on satellites too, and Russia and China continue to develop their own anti-satellite systems.

The air war

Russia’s bomber aircraft date back to the Soviet era, so despite the alarm they provoke when they nudge at Western countries’ airspace, they pose no major threat in themselves. Were the Russian and US planes to face each other, the Russians would find themselves under attack from planes they couldn’t see and that are any way out of their range.

US and British submarine crews claim a perfect record in constantly shadowing Soviet submarines as they left their bases throughout the Cold War. Since then, Russian forces have declined and US anti-submarine warfare has been revived, raising the prospect that Russian submarines could be taken out before they could even launch their missiles.

The core of the Russia’s nuclear forces consists of land-based missiles, some fixed in silos, others mobile on rail and road. The silo-based missiles can now be targeted by several types of missiles, carried by US planes almost invisible to radar; all are designed to destroy targets protected by deep concrete and steel bunkers. But a problem for US war planners is that it might take hours too long for their missile-carrying planes to reach these targets – hence the need to act in minutes.

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A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.

One apparently simple solution to attacking targets very quickly is to fit quick nuclear ballistic missiles with non-nuclear warheads. In 2010, Robert Gates, then serving as secretary of defence under Barack Obama, said that the US had this capability. Intercontinental ballistic missiles take just 30 minutes to fly between the continental US’s Midwest and Siberia; if launched from well-positioned submarines, the Navy’s Tridents can be even quicker, with a launch-to-target time of under ten minutes.

From 2001, the US Navy prepared to fit its Trident missiles with either inert solid warheads – accurate to within ten metres – or vast splinter/shrapnel weapons. Critics have argued that this would leave a potential enemy unable to tell whether they were under nuclear or conventional attack, meaning they would have to assume the worst. According to US Congressional researchers, the development work came close to completion, but apparently ceased in 2013.

Nonetheless, the US has continued to develop other technologies across its armed services to attack targets around the world in under an hour – foremost among them hypersonic missiles, which could return to Earth at up to ten times the speed of sound, with China and Russia trying to keep up.

Missile envy

The remainder of Russia’s nuclear force consists of missiles transported by rail. An article on Kremlin-sponsored news outlet Sputnik described how these missile rail cars would be so hard to find that Prompt Global Strike might not be as effective as the US would like – but taken at face value, the article implies that the rest of the Russian nuclear arsenal is in fact relatively vulnerable.

Starting with the “Scud hunt” of the First Gulf War, the US military has spent years improving its proficiency at targeting mobile ground-based missiles. Those skills now use remote sensors to attack small ground targets at short notice in the myriad counter-insurgency operations it’s pursued since 2001.

If the “sword” of Prompt Global Strike doesn’t stop the launch of all Russian missiles, then the US could use the “shield” of its own missile defences. These it deployed after it walked out of a treaty with Russiabanning such weapons in 2002.

While some of these post-2002 missile defence systems have been called ineffective, the US Navy has a more effective system called Aegis, which one former head of the Pentagon’s missile defence programs claims can shoot down intercontinental ballistic missiles. Some 300 Aegis anti-ballistic missiles now equip 40 US warships; in 2008, one destroyed a satellite as it fell out of orbit.

War mentality

In advance of the Iraq war, various governments and onlookers cautioned the US and UK about the potential for unforeseen consequences, but the two governments were driven by a mindset impervious to criticism and misgivings. And despite all the lessons that can be learned from the Iraq disaster, there’s an ample risk today that a similarly gung-ho attitude could take hold.

Foreign casualties generally have little impact on domestic US politics. The hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians who died under first sanctions and then war did not negatively impact presidents Clinton or George W. Bush. Neither might the prospect of similar casualties in Iran or North Korea or other states, especially if “humanitarian” precision weapons are used.

But more than that, an opinion poll run by Stanford University’s Scott Sagan found that the US public would not oppose the preemptive use of even nuclear weapons provided that the US itself was not affected. And nuclear Trident offers that temptation.

The control of major conventional weapons as well as WMD needs urgent attention from international civil society, media and political parties. There is still time to galvanise behind the Nobel-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and the nuclear ban treaty, and to revive and globalise the decaying arms control agenda of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which played a vital part in bringing the Cold War to a largely peaceful end.

Like the Kaiser in 1914, perhaps Trump or one of his successors will express dismay when faced with the reality a major US offensive unleashes. But unlike the Kaiser, who saw his empire first defeated and then dismembered, perhaps a 21st-century US president might get away with it.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Army will pay you to eat MREs…for science

The U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine is seeking military and civilian volunteers for nutritional studies in 2021. Participants must be willing to travel to USARIEM’s laboratory at the Natick Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Massachusetts. The Army’s announcement of the studies noted that, “Some of these studies will involve eating a military ration-based diet, which includes Meals, Ready-to-Eat, or MREs, for certain periods of time.”

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(Warner Bros. Pictures)

USARIEM hopes to use new knowledge of the digestive and immune systems can improve future MREs and nutritional guidance for soldiers. “The overarching goal of this work is to improve performance on the battlefield and help protect troops from illness,” the Army said. In order to conduct this research, volunteers are being sought for different studies with different requirements. If your colon is feeling up to the challenge, here they are.

1. Ketone supplement and exercise study

This study is looking for men and women, ages 18 to 39, to drink a ketone ester supplement before exercising. The goal is to determine if the supplement changes how the body uses carbs, fat, and protein, and if it improves lower body power and endurance. Participants must be physically active (two to four days of weekly aerobic or resistance exercise) and willing to stop all use of dietary supplements, alcohol, and tobacco during the three to four-week study. Testing will include body composition measurements, blood draws, non-radioactive stable isotope infusions, treadmill and stationary bike workouts, and a controlled diet including the ketone ester supplement. Compensation is “up to $540 for completing the study.”

2. Study on gut health and immune function at high altitude

This study focuses on how nutritional supplement affects gastrointestinal, brain, and immune function at high altitude. USARIEM is looking for men and women between the ages of 18 and 39 who exercise at least three days a week and have a BMI less than or equal to 30 to participate. Participants cannot have any gastrointestinal diseases or problems. The study will include one to five labs visits per week over the course of 10 weeks, three 40-hour stays in an altitude chamber, eating a nutritional supplement (14 consecutive days, three times during the study) and provided diet (nine consecutive days, three times during the study), exercise and cognitive testing, and blood, tear, saliva, urine and fecal sample collection. For your literal blood, sweat and tears, USARIEM will compensate civilians up to $1300 and military and federal civilians up to $600.

3. Protein, exercise and muscle health study

This study is seeking men and women ages 18 to 35 who do aerobic or body weight exercise at least twice a week for the past six months. Researchers are studying the the effects of drinking a protein beverage on the body’s ability to build muscle during calorie deprivation. Over the course of 37 days, participants will drink a protein beverage and eat a, “strictly controlled study diets comprised of military rations and commercially available foods.” The study will include blood and urine collection, muscle biopsies, and non-radioactive stable isotope infusions. Compensation for participants is up to $1147.50.

4. Body composition and immune function study

MRE
Yum. Ready to try your first MRE?

This one’s a doozy. Participants be men or women between the ages of 18 (17 if military) and 39, have a BMI between 18.5 and 25 or greater than or equal to 30, and have not lost more than five pounds in the last two months and maintain weight throughout the study. Female participants must have a normal menstrual cycle between 26 and 32 days in duration, five menstrual cycles within the past six months, or be able to provide documentation of oral or hormonal contraceptive use that contains low-dose estrogen or progesterone to maintain continuous levels throughout the 28-day cycle. The study will include pre-study sleep monitoring, 120 to 300 minutes of aerobic exercise three days per week, diet questionnaires and monitoring, blood draws and eight topical blisters on the forearms. Civilians are eligible for up to $560 in compensation while military and federal civilians are eligible for up to $100. At least this one doesn’t have you eating MREs.

If any of that actually interests you, the point of contact for the studies is the USARIEM Public Affairs Office at usarmy.natick.medcom-usariem.mbx.usariem-webmaster@mail.mil.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Navy SEAL wants to inspire kids to reach their full potential

Marc Lonergan-Hertel grew up in Massachusetts with the dream of becoming a Navy SEAL — a dream he made into a reality. But he had a long way to go before achieving such a feat. He decided he needed to toughen up first, so he joined the Marine Corps, where he eventually found himself in Force Recon.

His military career took him through some of the toughest training the military has to offer. And he wrote about it in his memoir, Sierra Two: A SEAL’s Odyssey in War and Peace.

But Lonergan-Hertel didn’t stop there. He continued a life of adventure and service after leaving the military and today, he wants to call attention to real-world heroes he met along the way. He wants his transformative journey to help inspire others — namely, our nation’s youth — so they can maximize their full potential and achieve their dreams.

He calls himself a Protector.


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Lonergan-Hertel’s Book is available on Amazon.

Meet the Air Force veteran dedicated to telling the stories of military women like her

Lonergan-Hertel and 1st Force Recon.

(Courtesy of Marc Lonergan-Hertel)

Those who fight monsters inevitably change,” Lonergan-Hertel says, explaining what he means by the title “Protector.” It’s from a popular saying about post-traumatic stress, written by an unknown author. The quote goes on to note that if you stay in the fighting long enough, you will eventually become the monster. The former Navy SEAL wants to keep Protectors from getting that far.

“There is a cost to being a protector. Love is the only way to heal the wounds [that change you]. Remember this: As a protector, you run toward the things that others run away from. You go out to fight what you fear. You stand between others and the monsters on the other side of the wall.”

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Lonergan-Hertel in his world-record paraglider flight, 70 South Antarctica.

(Courtesy of Marc Lonergan-Hertel)

You can read about his adventures fighting monsters in his book, Sierra Two. After his time in Force Recon, he left the military and worked as a Emergency Medical Technician in Los Angeles as well as a hunting guide in Colorado. Eventually, he decided to explore the Army and join the Special Forces. Shortly after joining the California National Guard, he was able to wear a maroon beret in support of 19 Special Forces Group and prepared to try out for Delta Section. He didn’t make Delta, but it did prepare him a selection packet he could submit to the Navy. He graduated from BUD/S in 1996 and joined SEAL Team Four. He left the military in 2000, but didn’t leave behind the adventurer’s life.

“My platoon chief recommended me for an around-the-world expedition through the Cousteau Society,” Lonergan-Hertel says. “I ended up getting the position as a team member and expedition leader and scout for NatGeo and Discovery Channel programs to Antarctica the Amazon jungle, where I had experience as a SEAL.”

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Lonergan-Hertel and his NatGeo Team. Lonergan-Hertel is center, in the cowboy hat.

(Courtesy of Marc Lonergan-Hertel)

During his military career and post-military adventuring, he began to question what he valued most in life. He began to look for his true purpose. As his journey sharpened his self-awareness, he was soon transformed into a new person. He became a Protector – and wanted to be the best Protector he could be. His life took him to rescue hurricane victims, assess the environment in Antarctica while diving under the ice shelves, hike up the Amazon River Basin alone and encounter endangered tribes along the way — he even lost his best friend to pirates along the same river.

“I wrote my book because I realized how much our life journey sharpens our awareness of what really matters in life,” Lonergan-Hertel says. “Real life experiences transform us as human beings and gives us an understanding of risk and sacrifice.”

He even has a line of survival gear, that includes a heat reflective thermal field blanket sleep system, called First Line Survival. Lonergan-Hertel calls it “base camp in a bag” and all the proceeds from First Line Survival benefit his Protectors tour.

But the longtime adventurer is more than just an author. He’s crossing the country with fellow Protectors to tell their stories in stage presentations, meant for school-age children but meaningful to parents as well. He wants children to grow up with the confidence to realize their abilities and potential, to see a personal path toward a positive future, and realize they have the power to do this within themselves at all times.

“I understand very clearly that the gift of life can be away very quickly,” Lonergan-Hertel says. “The best thing I can leave behind is to inspire others to have confidence in themselves and to help others who have a more difficult journey in life.”

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