How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

Most people don’t think about evil. The force of evil is certainly out there, but it’s on a different street, a different city or across the ocean. Evil is something we see as a plot in Hollywood, in movies like Joker. It isn’t something most people give much thought to.

But for veterans, it’s different.


I sat at a table with a veteran friend of mine, sipping coffee in a local cafe. He looked around as we talked about where we’d been and things we’d done. “They’ll never know,” he said. “I mean, how could they?” Our fellow patrons were having conversations a million miles away from ours, talking about things like kids, yoga and groceries, not darkness or things that haunt us. “I suppose it’s better that way,” he added.

Maybe it is, I thought, but maybe not.

The recent depiction of The Joker has become the highest grossing R-rated release in box office history. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is now an Oscar front-runner for his personal dive into villainy. For a society that doesn’t understand or talk about evil, The Joker has clearly found an audience. Phoenix’s rendition of Arthur is not the villainous story you might guess though, instead, it’s a man driven by his quest for love and entertainment; he hardly seems like a villain.

Phoenix said he prepared for this role by identifying with “his struggle to find happiness and to feel connected. To have warmth and love.” It’s an interesting juxtaposition: how does one end up being evil if all they want is love? This is the question and the genius of Joker. The same question haunts many veterans today. What is the difference between the pursuit of love and evildoing? Seems obvious, right? Maybe not, if evil never seems to be the aim. Yet, somehow people end up there – doing things that destroy the world around them. Even Hitler, a real life villain, once said, “I can fight only for something that I love.”

People want to believe that evil is something they can spot, as if it wears an enemy’s uniform and is clearly recognizable as “the bad guy.” The reality is, evil isn’t just lurking in a dark alley, waiting to sneak up on you when you least expect it. For some veterans, evil isn’t only external, although it certainly may have started that way. Evil isn’t something in a far-off land for us. It’s something we’ve carried home and something with which we have to deal. Carl Jung once said, “Knowing your own darkness is the best method of dealing with the darkness of other people.” What most veterans don’t know, but soon find out, is that facing evil out there means facing it inside of ourselves, too.

I have witnessed this realization many times in veterans, sitting next to them as they struggle with how the world could be this way. How could it be? Where is the good? As a chaplain and a social worker, I have seen, even been part of, people losing their hold on a world that they can picture themselves living in. The feelings of helplessness and sadness are overwhelming when facing a world with all its deficiencies.

It can be horrifying to think that we have something in common, even sharing the air, with the Jokers of the world. The genius of Phoenix’s performance is that most of us can see parts of ourselves in his character. This is what makes coming back from war so difficult; there is no shutting your eyes. Facing the realities of evil post-war is harder in a society that also wants nothing to do with it.

Service in the military shocked my own naiveté, forcing me to grasp with my own encounters with evil around me, even in me. War, more than any other environment, is the great tester. It reveals all of the little cracks and strengths. It is the great kiln of life. Perhaps facing these demons is a reason for the stubborn rising suicide rate and extreme isolation we see in veterans post-war. It also explains why veterans so often take roles in protecting people from it — serving in law enforcement and security.

For those who haven’t served, who has not felt the pain of betrayal, neglect or helplessness at an abuse of power? Allowing ourselves to experience the abyss of evil is “fearless”, as one critic said of Phoenix’s performance. Who has not found themselves filled with thoughts of revenge? Perhaps a better question then is: Why aren’t all of us Jokers? Why don’t we all go mad? Maybe we are. Maybe there’s a little villain in all of us.

Not all veterans can face their demons. Not facing the villain, outside and in, leads to a space you can’t share, a place where you join the Jokers of the world. This would explain why some veterans think of suicide as an honorable thing, saving the world from the Joker they have become. Some just drive faster, drink more, turn up the music and close their eyes when these evils start to appear.

There is good reason to avoid looking – we might not be prepared to fight the evil we see. Heath Ledger’s plunge into the character of evil may have led him to places that he could not find his way out from. Encountering true evil and the thin veil that separates us leads most to question our own capacity to overcome it.

Evil hides in omission — our lack of doing as much as our acts of doing. Stopping evil does not mean that we weaken or blind ourselves. Instead, as many veterans do, they choose to see the enemy, even if it’s within, rather than hide. The confrontation is fraught; not just with evil’s existence but in the failure to do good when they can. Veterans who find their way back home learn this. Veterans like Chase Millsap who saw local nationals murdered after working with U.S. soldiers and created a way for them to be safe with nooneleft.org. Veterans like Noel Lipana, who couldn’t make sense of his actions and has found a way to tell his story and shape others through an art performance piece. They could not omit. They decided that the way back is to do good. To exert agency over their helplessness in the face of evil. Is this not the only way? To do good, in the face of evil.

The last decade has brought new thinking on this as well, rethinking post-traumatic stress disorder toward a term called Moral Injury because it tracks better to veterans’ experience of war — that evil, sometimes our own, shocks our worldview. To see evil and the ugliness of humankind can shake you to your core and leave you with lingering questions. An abbreviated definition of Moral Injury refers to the lasting impacts of actions that violate a service member’s core moral values and expectations of self or others. Perhaps another definition is that Moral Injury is the impact of coming face to face with evil, even if it’s our own. Facing evil in the world can leave you with more questions than answers. Fortunately, these questions aren’t new, they just aren’t often talked about. Maybe that’s why evil and veil are just letters rearranged differently; both are thinly seen.

The story of the Joker is the story that veterans know all too well. Today’s society leaves most willfully blind to the struggles and evils in the world, leaving many veterans grasping for answers to questions that their neighbors are not asking. At first glance, it does seem easier to omit them, but closing our eyes to them will not save us. Perhaps the reason the Joker has garnered so much international attention is because it’s telling a story we all know, but don’t like to look at. A story that needs to be told.

We don’t say things we should. We don’t look at injustice if we can avoid it. We avoid confrontation when possible. We choose to close our eyes, rather than see.

The Joker invites all of us, not just veterans, to manage our own shadows by doing the good we know to do. Veterans don’t have the market cornered on this, most just signed up for it and are learning how to live with the evil around us.

popular

The FBI’s 4 countries that can cripple the US with cyber attacks

An FBI agent has mapped out the nation states that pose the biggest cyber threat to the US.

Business Insider spoke to Aristedes Mahairas, a special agent in charge of the New York FBI’s Special Operations/Cyber Division, about the cybersecurity landscape in America.

He said the US is always alive to threats from cyber criminals, cyber terrorists, and renegade hacktivists, but nation states are at the “very top” of the threat list.


Mahairas said there has been a “significant increase in state-sponsored computer intrusions” over the past 12 years as it has become a potent way of unsettling an adversary alongside traditional espionage.

“Cyber operations can be a relatively cheap and deniable means to a worrisome end,” he said, talking to Business Insider at the Digital Business World Congress in Madrid, Spain.

Mahairas marked out the four countries most capable of launching a crippling attack on America. They are captured in the map above and comprise Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea.

Here’s a breakdown of the four nations, and the different threats they pose to the US:

Russia

“Russia remains the most sophisticated and technically capable. They are really good at hiding the digital breadcrumbs that lead back to them,” Mahairas said.

The FBI agent pointed to the Yahoo hack, which compromised 1 billion accounts in the biggest data breach in history. Canadian hacker Karim Baratov, who worked with Russia, was given a five-year prison sentence for the attack.

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans
(Photo by Eric Hayes)

Mahairas also highlighted a different kind of cyber attack: Influence operations. This resulted in Russia interfering in the 2016 US presidential election, and the indictment in February 2018, of 13 Russians affiliated with St Petersberg troll farm the Internet Research Agency.

“Cyber is a vector and some of the nation states have realised that this vector can be used as a capability to weaponise the information that has been stolen as a result of hacks,” Mahairas said.

“The goal is to erode the population’s confidence, not only in its institutions, its values, its leaders, and most importantly in its ability to find the truth. The objective is to undermine the target by magnifying any number of existing issues that currently divide people in order to create discord and aggravate tensions.”

“These influence operations are not new, but there is an observed increase in their scalability due to… modern social media.”

The FBI agent added that the best way to flush out influence operations is through transparency on platforms like Facebook. “We have to make the targeted audience less vulnerable by educating them about the threat and providing context to allow critical judgement,” he said.

China

Up until recently, China launched extremely noisy cyber attacks. “China used to be loud in and around your network, almost like the drunk burglar who’s banging on your door and breaking windows to get in,” Mahairas said.

But after the US charged five Chinese military officials for computer hacking and economic espionage in 2014, the country has switched up its tactics. “Today, they operate in a more patient and methodical manner, akin to death by a thousand cuts,” Mahairas continued.

A notable attack the former counterterrorism agent pointed to was the one on Lockheed Martin, when Chinese military officers stole US state secrets on fighter planes, including the F-35 jet.

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans
F-35 jet.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

In a series of attacks codenamed “Byzantine Hades”, they carried out the attack and the economic impact was estimated to be around $100 million (£75 million). It was a “very significant matter,” according to Mahairas.

Iran

Mahairas said there has been a “noticeable uptick in activity” from Iranian hackers in recent years, as they become more sophisticated and targeted in their attacks on the US.

This was evidenced in 2017 when Iranian hacker Behzad Mesri attacked American broadcaster HBO. He was accused of breaking into the firm’s network, leaking “Game of Thrones” scripts, and demanding $6 million worth of bitcoin in ransom.

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans
(HBO)

Mahairas’ FBI division led the investigation into Mesri and an indictment was unsealed against the hacker in November 2017. He is now on America’s most wanted list and risks being arrested if he leaves Iran.

Although Mesri appeared to be acting alone, Mahairas said the FBI is increasingly concerned about the “blended threat” from some countries. This is when they work with criminal contract hackers to “do their dirty work.”

North Korea

North Korea remains a significant cyber threat to the US, despite a thawing in diplomatic relations in recent months. Mahairas said the health of diplomacy between two common enemies has very little to do with how nation states conduct cyber activity.

“Diplomacy isn’t going to impact their ability or desire to continue in this activity,” the FBI agent explained. “What they’re looking for is information, access, and advantage. Whether it’s in the cyber universe or not, those are the objectives.”

US President Donald Trump’s administration publicly blamed North Korea for unleashing the massive WannaCry cyber attack in 2017, which crippled many organizations globally, not least Britain’s health service.

Ultimately, Mahairas said cybercriminals are not fussy about their targets: “These nation state actors, they’re not targeting just the US. Anyone is fair game. What they do is generally the same, I don’t think any one nation state brings more specific threat.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of September 21st

It was the Air Force’s birthday this week — and it seems like, in terms of gifts, they got a lot: Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Keith Wright spoke about “hybrid airmen,” which would make airmen more badass and less likely to be mocked by the other branches, the “Up or Out” rule is being evaluated because it was stupid to begin with, and the Captain Marvel trailer, featuring a superhero who was a USAF pilot, dropped the morning of its birthday.

Happy birthday, ya high-flyin’ bastards. Make another trip to the chocolate fondue fountain — you guys earned it.


How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

It’s been years and I still can’t figure out whether you’re supposed to say “you’re welcome.” 

I usually just respond with, “thank you for your support” and awkwardly give them the finger guns.

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

(Meme via Sarcastic Memes Ruining Crewman’s Dreams)

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

(Meme via Shammers United)

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

(Meme via Disabled Marine Corps Minds)

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

No lie. You can hate it all you want, but you’ll eventually say “screw it” and try it. 

Then you learn it’s for a single steak and you’ll nope the f*ck out of there and take your happy ass to the greasiest, most disgusting KFC known to man — which happens to be right next door.

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

(Meme via Military World)

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the rifle Confederates used to snipe Union officers

Many a Union officer fell victim to a .451-caliber bullet designed for this English-built rifle. A muzzle-loaded, single-shot rifle, the Whitworth was the first of its kind and changed warfare for the next century and more. It was the world’s first sniper rifle, and Confederate sharpshooters loved it.


Two of the highest-ranking Federal officers killed during the war were taken down by the polygon-barreled, scoped musket. It was built to make shots at impossibly long distances, sometimes up to 2,000 yards or more – four times as far as the standard musket of the day.

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

Look out, artillery crews, here come the sharpshooters.

The rifle was first engineered by Sir Joseph Whitworth, a Crimean War veteran who noticed that the British standard-issue rifle wasn’t really performing all that well, but the cannons used by the British in Crimea were much more accurate than previous field pieces. He believed those cannons and their hexagonal rifling could be scaled down to be used by a one-man long gun. Whitworth’s gun would get the chance to perform against the Enfield rifle he sought to replace – and it wasn’t even close. Whitworth’s rifle was superior by far.

Except the British didn’t buy into the rifle. It was far more expensive than the Enfield Rifle. But Whitworth was able to sell his weapons to both the French and the Confederate armies.

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

Union Gen. John Sedgwick was killed by a Whitworth rifle while telling his men they couldn’t be killed at 1,000 yards.

The Whitworth was more lightweight than other long-range rifles of the time and used a more compact bullet, which contributed to the weapon’s accuracy. The Confederates put the rifle to good use, arming their best sharpshooters with it and deploying them with infantry units to target officers and Union artillery crews. The sharpshooters and their trademark weapon became so ubiquitous that southern sharpshooters soon took on the name of their rifle, becoming known as Whitworth Sharpshooters.

They quickly became feared among Union troops for their signature high-pitched whistle while in flight. Confederate snipers took out General-grade officers at Chickamauga, Spotsylvania, and Gettysburg.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Crazy kings: Why was Henry the 8th so weird?

According to Disney, princes are the most charming, handsome men in all the land. Historically, that’s far from the truth. Royal families were typically pretty obsessed with power. No matter how much they had, they wanted more, and they wanted to keep it. One way to do that was by keeping it in the family; AKA, they slept with their cousins. Back then, incest wasn’t so taboo. Marriages between uncles and nieces and other close relations happened frequently.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t just power that was passed down to future generations. Genetic disorders that were uncommon among the general population were condensed in royal bloodlines to the point that sickness was as much of a royal inheritance as wealth. The result? A ton of really weird royals, including the infamous Henry the 8th who was known for his paranoia and tyrannical behavior. Keep scrolling to discover all the strange effects that inbreeding had on the royal families of yesteryear.


The Habsburg Jaw

The German-Austrian Habsburg family had an empire encompassing everything from Portugal to Transylvania, partially because they married strategically to consolidate their bloodline. Because of their rampant incest, the Habsburgs accidentally created their own trademark facial deformities, collectively known as the Habsburg jaw. Those who inherited the deformity typically had oversized jaws and lower lips, long noses, and large tongues. It was most prevalent in male monarchs, with female family members experiencing fewer external deformities. Charles II had such a severe case that he had trouble speaking and frequently drooled…yikes.

Hemophilia

For most people, cuts and bruises are no big deal. For those with hemophilia, a scraped knee can turn serious. Hemophilia is a rare blood disorder in which your body doesn’t produce enough clotting factor. When someone with hemophilia starts to bleed, they don’t stop. The disease is recessive, so it’s very uncommon; both of your parents must carry the gene for you to develop symptoms. Unfortunately, it was easy for inbred royals to produce unfortunate gene combinations.

Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Consort Albert, both carried the gene for hemophilia, as they were first cousins. Their son, Leopold, struggled with the disease until it eventually killed him when he was only 31. Hemophilia was passed down to Russian Czar Nicholas II’s family. His son and heir, Alexei, suffered from hemophilia, inherited from his great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. Even in the early 1900s, the life expectancy of someone with hemophilia was only about 13 years.

Hydrocephalus

Spanish royalty was particularly prone to the genetic condition of hydrocephalus, in which fluid builds up deep in the brain. The extra fluid puts pressure on the brain and spinal cord, causing everything from mild symptoms to death. It occurs most frequently in infants, which was often the case in inbred royalty. The royal children who suffered from it were born with abnormally large heads and often suffered from growth delays, malnourishment, muscular atrophy, poor balance, and seizures.

Hydrocephalus also affected British royalty, including Prince William, the oldest surviving child of Queen Anne and Prince Consort George of Denmark. The two royals were cousins, and they were so genetically similar that they struggled to reproduce any healthy offspring, losing 17 children to genetic disease. You’d think they’d figure it out after the first few, but they were determined to produce an heir. Prince William made it until age 11, when he died of hydrocephalus combined with a bacterial infection.

Limb malformations

Royal inbreeding existed before the European monarchy was even a thing. Ancient Egyptians practiced marriage within the royal family with the intent of keeping their bloodline pure, and it backfired big time. King Tutenkhamen, AKA King Tut, was one of Egypts most famous pharaohs, but he was a bit of a genetic mess. Modern-day studies showed that he had a cleft palate, a club foot, and a strangely elongated skull. Some researchers believe King Tut’s mother wasn’t really Queen Nefertiti, but King Akhenaten’s sister. Sibling-sibling inbreeding tends to have severe effects, giving poor King Tut a compromised immune system that led to his eventual death.

Infertility

King Charles II married twice, yet he never successfully fathered an heir. Like many other royals, he struggled with fertility, likely the result of his inbred heritage. Queen Anne, the first monarch of Great Britain, was a great ruler, but not so great at producing healthy children. Only one of 18 of her offspring made it past their toddler years, with eight miscarried and five stillborn. Considering the great pressure to produce heirs to inherit the throne, infertility caused a great deal of royal strife. In some ways, however, it was a boon. Since Charles II never had children, his laundry list of genetic issues, including the infamous Habsburg jaw, died with him.

Learning disabilities

Speaking of Charles II, he didn’t say a word until he was four and didn’t learn how to walk until he was eight. He was the child of Philip IV of Spain and Mariana of Austria, who were uncle and niece. His family’s long history of inbreeding was so severe that he was more severely inbred than he would have been had his parents been siblings. While inbreeding doesn’t automatically lower intelligence, it does make it more likely to inherit recessive genes linked to low IQ and cognitive disabilities, resulting in a royal family with just as many mental challenges as physical ones.

Mental Illness

George III was King of England at the time of the American Revolution, and many wonder if his mental illness had something to do with his failure as a ruler. Another member of Queen Victoria’s highly inbred family, George III was known for his manic episodes and nickname of “The Mad King”. Initially, historians believed that he had porphyria, a chronic liver disease that results in bouts of madness and causes bluish urine. Today, it’s believed that George III actually suffered from bipolar disorder, causing his sudden manic episodes and rash decision making.

Other royals suffered from mental illness as well, including Queen Maria the Pious. She was so obsessively devout that when her church’s confessor died, she screamed for hours about how she would be damned without him. She shared a doctor with King George III, who employed all kinds of strange and ineffective treatments, like ice baths and taking laxatives.

Joanna of Castile, also known as Joanna the Mad, also struggled with irrational behavior and uncontrollable moods. Like most women, she was furious when she discovered her husband’s mistress. Unlike most people, she proceeded to stab her in the face. She remained obsessed with her husband after his infidelity, however. She loved him so much that she slept beside him even after he died. You read that right. She snuggled a corpse. M’kay then.

Monarchs have a reputation for reckless, harsh, and sometimes cruel behavior. Is it possible that many of their worst deeds were tied to inbred insanity? Totally. Does that make their tyrannical reign any less terrifying? Not even a little bit. While their stories are fascinating to read about, let’s keep the inbreeding and dictatorships in the history books, okay? Okay.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Here’s how you can see ‘Thank You For Your Service’ for free

Universal Pictures and AMC Theatres announced that on Oct. 26, 2017, up to 10,000 free movie tickets will be available to U.S. veterans and active-duty service members for DreamWorks Pictures’ “Thank You for Your Service” — at more than 400 AMC locations nationwide.


The first 25 service members (per location) with valid, government-issued ID who request a ticket will be issued one free admission to the 7:00 p.m. preview screening.

The promotion will be available at all AMC Theatres playing “Thank You for Your Service.”  Free tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis and may only be picked up at the AMC box office on Oct. 26, 2017.

Each guest must present a valid government-issued military ID to receive their ticket, with a limit of one free ticket for each military ID presented, while supplies last.

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

This offer is only valid for the 7:00 p.m. showing of the film on Oct. 26, 2017

From the writer of “American Sniper” (Jason Hall), the film follows a group of U.S. soldiers returning home from Iraq and struggles to integrate back into family and civilian life, while living with the memory of a war that threatens to destroy them long after they’ve left the battlefield.

Check out the trailer for “Thank You For Your Service” — in theaters nationwide on Oct. 27, 2017.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Agile Lightning increases lethality of the F-35A

Directly aligned with the 2018 National Defense Strategy’s call to be strategically predictable but operationally unpredictable, F-35A Lightning IIs from the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron participated in Exercise Agile Lightning, Aug. 4-7, 2019.

“Exercise Agile Lightning is a demonstration of the agile basing concepts practiced by Air Force fighter squadrons from their home bases,” said Lt. Col. Joshua Arki, 4th EFS commander. “The “Fightin’ Fuujins” of the 4th EFS successfully deployed a small detachment of aircraft and personnel to a forward location, supporting combat operations from that location for a given period of time and then re-deployed back to our primary operating location.”

The 4th EFS and the 380th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron are both assigned to Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, and temporarily deployed to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, Southwest Asia.


Adaptive basing exercises require all levels of the squadron to deploy small teams of airmen and aircraft for a short amount of time to hone their skills. This was the first adaptive basing methodology exercise for the F-35A in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

An F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron receives fuel from a KC-10 Extender assigned to the 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron during Exercise Agile Lightning Aug. 6, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury)

“By executing the adaptive basing concepts we have only practiced at home until now, we increased the readiness, survivability and lethality of the F-35A in a combat theater,” Arki said. “The Agile Lightning team worked hard to coordinate with multiple bases and across U.S. Air Force core disciplines, such as logistics, munitions, force support, communications, air mobility, Combined Air Operations Center staff, etc., to ensure mission success.”

While deployed to the 332nd AEW, the 4th EFS was able to complete essential missions vital to the defense of U.S. assets and personnel and continued to project air power.

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

Maintainers of the 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron from Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, disembark from a C-17 Globemaster III for Exercise Agile Lightning at the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, Southwest Asia, Aug. 4, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by AFCENT PA)

“We were able to safely bring the jets and people here to continue supporting operations with a hundred percent mission effectiveness,” said Capt. “Cheque,” 4th EFS pilot. “We were also able to gather lessons learned for untethered operations within the AOR, so that we can more quickly and more efficiently accomplish adaptive basing in the future.”

Adaptive basing methodology is still in its beginning stages. However, it’s being practiced throughout the Air Force, demonstrating for adversaries and allies that with untethered operations, aircraft are able to adapt and respond as necessary to the often unpredictable operational environment.

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

Airmen from the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing and 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron transport gear in preparation for Exercise Agile Lightning at the 332 AEW, Southwest Asia, Aug. 4, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by AFCENT PA)

“Our adversaries must know that the 4th EFS, the Aircraft Maintenance Unit, and by extension, the entire F-35A enterprise are not only lethal but extremely agile,” Arki said. “We are prepared to defend U.S. and coalition interests from nearly anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice.”

It took airmen from all levels working together to successfully operate a fifth-generation aircraft mission in austere conditions.

“The professionalism, determination and hard work of the detachment of pilots, maintainers and support personnel made a significantly challenging task look easy,” Arki said. “The accomplishments of the Agile Lightning team proved once again that the Fuujins Rock!”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This legendary triple ace wrote an amazing letter on modern Air Force leadership

Robin Olds was not known for obeying the spirit of Air Force regulations. From the start of his military career, he didn’t always do things by the book. He was West Point graduate whose time at the Academy was hastened so he and his class could catch the last half of World War II.


This legendary fighter pilot was actually almost a bomber pilot, told by an instructor he called “Military Bill” that he was too big for a fighter. But he flew bombers like fighters and performed illegal maneuvers whenever possible. Eventually so many reports of his ability came in that “Military Bill” was overruled and Olds was back in a fighter. Even when the Army’s top brass declared that West Pointers were to be squadron commanders only, Olds and a buddy went down to the personnel section of their outfit and asked the old, grey-haired sergeant in charge to send them to England, and it worked.

Olds’ entire career was results-oriented. Everything from planning Operation Bolo in Vietnam to being Commandant of the U.S. Air Force Academy. He turned an underperforming unit around with bold leadership and his distinctive out-of-regs mustache that he open admitted was a “middle finger I couldn’t raise in PR photographs.”

He spoke with authenticity and authority on all things military and aviation, so it makes sense that when Brig. Gen. Terryl Schwalier was a major, writing a paper for the Air Command and Staff College called “The Tactical Flight Commander — Developing Warriors,” he asked then-retired Brig. Gen. Robin Olds for his insights on the role of flight commander. In return, Schwalier received a five-page diagnosis on the institutional problems with the modern Air Force. Olds went on to describe how a commander can find fulfillment and still exemplify leadership, even in the current Air Force climate:

30 Nov 1981

Dear Major Schwalier,

Your question, or better request, is provocative, to say the least.  I have thought much since receiving your Oct 21 letter, and the more I consider your topic, the more difficult it becomes to frame a reasonable or even useful response.  I’ll try to boil down my thoughts, hoping something useful may distill.

First, let me get some negatives in perspective.  In my view, current Air Force philosophy and practice have all but eliminated any meaningful role playable by an officer placed in a so-called position of command.  Authority has evaporated, sucked up to the rarified heights of “they,” who are somehow felt to exist in the echelons above.  For your information, “they” do not exist.  Neither is there any “he” fulfilling that role.  Authority is expressed through the medium of committee consensus, leadership has become a watered down adherence to the principles of camp counsellorship, with a 90% emphasis on avoiding any action that may in any way be questioned by any one of hundreds of piss ants on the administrative ladder above.  In fact, leadership (and I use that term with contempt) has become a process of looking busy as hell while doing nothing, avoiding personal commitment, and above all, making no decision without prior approval.

Historical example: as a 22 year old Major, commanding a squadron in 1945, I was responsible for and empowered to:  pay the troops; feed them; house them; train them; clothe them; promote; demote; reward; punish; maintain their personnel files, etc.  When I retired as a BG in 1973, I possessed not one of those authorities or responsibilities.  Get the drift?

And you ask the importance of a flight commander.  I am tempted to say NONE.  But that is not true, for in spite of the system, in spite of the executive and administrative castration, a man instinctively looks to a system of military authority in a military situation or system.  If that authority is waffled or watered, he still looks to those appointed to the military echelons to do their best under the circumstances.  A man (a nation for that matter) wants, demands, leadership.  So today’s flight leader/commander leads and commands by example, by appeal to basic instinct, and by light footed avoidance of error, like walking a tightrope.  He has responsibility, for sure.  But he does not have authority, or freedom of discretion/interpretation.  Unfortunately, in some units he really isn’t given much voice.  Yet he functions, and if he is successful (perhaps a better word is “effective”) it is greatly to his credit for having done so under the prevailing circumstances.

Another thought.  All else to the contrary, two basic demands are faced by the Flight Commander.  One is PEACE, the other is WAR.  It has been my experience, in the fighter business I hasten to add, that the man who may excel under the one is not necessarily worth a damn under the other.  Many examples come to mind.  I do not (and did not) condemn one man or the other, rather I accepted the challenge of recognizing the difference and choosing accordingly.

I hope some of this makes sense.

Sincerely,

Robin Olds

P.S. For your information, there is no such thing as HQ, USAF.  The highest echelon is a faceless entity, composed of thousands of diverse individuals loosely arranged by a system of interlocking committees and headed by an individual technically labeled the “Chief of Staff.”  Note he is not called the Commander.  By law, he cannot be.  By nature he is forced to be the consummate bureaucrat, fighting for the all mighty dollar, serving as a buffer between Sec Def / Congress and the people and mission of his service – a demanding, demeaning role playable by very few.

This letter was first released on the John Q. Public blog, whose author is a former USAF officer. He noted that Olds retired in 1973 and the letter was written in 1981. He acknowledged that much of what Olds was talking about was cleared away by the time Operation Desert Storm rolled around. But protracted war in the post-Cold War, post-9/11 world has caused much of the recurring problems of “Top heaviness, micromanagement, loss of combat focus, misprioritization” to return to the Air Force. This is the age where USAF leadership testifies to Congress about morale being “pretty darn good,” while the Air Force suffers from a crushing ops tempo and mistrust of leadership (note the occasion in 2011 where the USAF invited officers to apply for voluntary separation, revoked the offer, then gave them the boot anyway… or the occasion in 2014 where the same thing happened).

It’s nice to know it wasn’t always this way… and that it can be fixed.

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

MIGHTY TRENDING

Remains of Korean War dead could be Army killed at the Frozen Chosin

The remains returned by North Korea are possibly those of Army troops who fell in the brutal 1950 battle at the Chosin Reservoir, Pentagon POW/MIA officials said on Aug. 2, 2018.

The returned remains are associated with the fight at what was called the “Frozen Chosin” for the sub-zero temperatures in which Marine and Army units fought their way out of encirclement by Chinese forces and were evacuated by sea, said Dr. John Byrd, a forensic anthropologist.


Byrd, who went to Wonsan in North Korea late July 2018 as part of the team that brought back the remains, said he was told by North Korean officials that the remains were recovered from the village of Sin Hung-ri on the east side of the reservoir.

Marines fought on the west side of the reservoir, “and the east side — that’s where the Army was,” said Byrd, laboratory director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).

At a Pentagon briefing with retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Kelly McKeague, the DPAA director, Byrd said his initial examination of the remains, and his discussions with the North Koreans, led him to believe that further analysis will show that the remains are those of Americans.

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Honor guard from NATO countries participate in a dignified transfer as part of a repatriation ceremony on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Aug. 1, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Benjamin Raughton)

In addition, the 55 transfer cases handed over by the North Koreans contained equipment associated with the American military, such as boots, canteens, buttons and buckles, Byrd said.

There also was one dog tag, he added. He declined to disclose the name on the tag but said two family members had been notified and are expected to be in the Washington, D.C., area with family groups for a detailed briefing from DPAA on the next steps in identifying the remains.

Byrd said the 55 transfer cases brought by two Air Force C-17s to Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii could represent more than 55 individuals, due to remains possibly being mixed.

“You should not assume one box is one person,” he said. “We couldn’t be sure how many individuals were in each box.”

McKeague said that DPAA has a DNA database from 92 percent of the families of the estimated 7,700 U.S. service members still listed as missing from the 1950-53 Korean War and DNA comparisons with the remains from the 55 cases would begin shortly.

He said samples from the remains would be sent to the Armed Forces Identification Laboratories at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to begin the DNA process.

“Where we have compelling DNA matches, identifications could come quickly,” McKeague said, but he and Byrd also cautioned that the process could take years.

Identifications could also come quickly if teeth are found among the remains, McKeague said.

“We could immediately compare dental records,” he said.

Another method of identification was through chest x-rays that were on file for those who served in the Korean War, McKeague said. He said that DPAA has chest radiographs for about three-quarters of the missing from the Korean War.

The key to identifications from chest X-rays was the clavicle, or collarbone, said Chuck Prichard, a DPAA spokesman. Clavicles are unique to each individual, “as unique as a fingerprint,” he said.

McKeague said he was “guardedly optimistic” that North Korea would agree to the return of more remains and also to joint recovery operations with the U.S. at former battlefields and prison camps.

Byrd cautioned that, “at this point, at least, there’s no way to tell” how many more sets of remains the North Koreans might already have in their possession.

Featured image: This blown bridge blocked the only way out for U.S. forces withdrawing from Chosin Reservoir. Air Force C-119s dropped portable bridge sections to span the chasm, allowing men and equipment to reach safety.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

These Military Figures May Be Honored in Trump’s Proposed ‘Garden of American Heroes’

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday directing construction of a “National Garden of American Heroes” — a statuary park that would serve as a “monument to our country’s greatness,” according to a White House news release.

Building on an idea he proposed last summer in a speech at Mount Rushmore, Trump said the park would feature more than 200 statues of those who embody the American spirit and contributed “indispensably to America’s noble history.”

“In the peace and harmony of this vast outdoor park, visitors will come and learn the amazing stories of some of the greatest Americans who have ever lived,” Trump wrote in his order.

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The list includes names such as basketball star Kobe Bryant; singer Whitney Houston; Texas revolutionary and U.S. Sen. Sam Houston; and Army physician Walter Reed.Advertisement

The order was written as a response to the destruction or vandalism of statues last year during protests over racial inequality and police brutality against minorities in the U.S.

During protests and riots in the wake of several high-profile killings of Black Americans, including the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd May 25, a number of memorials and statues paying tribute to the Founding Fathers, as well as Abraham Lincoln, were defaced or toppled. Other statues and symbols honoring those who served the Confederate States of America were removed.

“America is responding to the tragic toppling of monuments to our founding generation and the giants of our past by commencing a new national project for their restoration, veneration, and celebration,” Trump wrote in the order.

The eclectic mix of honorees who would be featured in the proposed park runs the gamut of American history from A — photographer Ansel Adams — to Z, Lorenzo de Zavala, a Mexican-born physician considered one of the founders of the state of Texas.

The list includes titans of industry, entertainers, artists, inventors and cultural icons, as well as numerous military heroes and veterans of various ranks.

Among those who served and would be included are:

  • Lt. j.g. Neil Armstrong
  • Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez
  • Lt. Gen. Jimmy Doolittle
  • Cpl. Desmond Doss
  • Gen. Dwight Eisenhower
  • Adm. David Farragut
  • Astronaut, senator and Col. John Glenn
  • Former President and Gen. Ulysses Grant
  • Continental Army Col. Nathan Hale
  • Adm. William “Bull” Halsey
  • Cpl. Ira Hayes
  • Col. Hans Christian Heg
  • Gen. Douglas MacArthur
  • Gen. George Marshall
  • Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf
  • Gen. Maxwell Taylor

Foreign military officers who also served the United States military would receive honors in the garden as well, including the Marquis de Lafayette and Tadeusz Kosciuszko.

President Andrew Jackson’s name is on the list; last year, monuments honoring the War of 1815 hero were targeted by vandals or slated for removal for Jackson’s role in forcibly relocating Native Americans to reservations. The populist Jackson is a favorite of Trump’s: A portrait of the seventh president hung in his office.

Whether the garden will ever be constructed remains to be determined. The order directs the secretary of the interior to identify a site for the park and provide funding for the space.

President-elect Joe Biden has said, however, that he plans a series of orders to overturn Trump policies and executive orders. His transition team has not specified exactly what will be overturned.

A full list of the honorees proposed for the garden can be found on the White House’s website.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This legendary arsenal made weapons for the US from 1812 to Vietnam

If there were any one weapons manufacturer that was worthy of being called the “Arsenal of Democracy,” it would be the Springfield Armory. The armory was founded by George Washington in 1777, meaning it’s nearly as old as the country itself. The Springfield, Mass. institution was the nation’s first depot for its weapons of war and has supplied the United States in every war from the War of 1812 to Vietnam.


Today, the nation’s first federal armory is a national historic site, run by the National Parks Service and housing the largest collection of American firearms in the world. Until 1968, however, it was an innovative firearms manufacturer, producing the weapons that won wars for the United States. From the get-go, the site of the Springfield Armory was of critical defensive importance to the young United States. It was the site where New England colonists trained to defend the colony from nearby native tribes. When the time came for revolution, Gen. Washington and his artillery chief, Henry Knox, chose the site for its defensive terrain.

After the revolution, the armory was critical to the defense of the young republic. In putting down Shay’s Rebellion, the defenders of the arsenal proved the United States was capable of maintaining its own stability and security. Later, it produced arms for the War of 1812, despite resistance to the war in the New England states, and it may have been one of the deciding factors in the Union victory in the Civil War.

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

Union troops with Springfield Armory 1861 rifles.

(National Parks Service)

The mass production techniques used by the armory at Springfield were so advanced for the time that from the start of the war to the end of the war, production increased 25 fold to more than a quarter-million rifles every year. That far outpaced what the Confederates could produce. By the end of the war, the armory wasn’t just a producer, it was designing and testing new arms for the future. It was experimenting with concepts that wouldn’t become widespread for another half-century, including interchangeable parts and even an early assembly line.

Some of the most iconic small arms ever produced by the United States to serve on the foreign battlefields of the 20th Century were produced at the Springfield Armory. The Springfield Model 1903 rifle, the M1917 Enfield Rifle, and Springfield is where John Garand developed the first practical semi-automatic rifle for military use – a weapon Gen. George S. Patton called “the greatest battle implement ever devised.”

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

You may have heard of the M1 Garand.

(Library of Congress)

The last weapon the armory developed and produced was the M14, a version of the M1, but eventually, the M1 family was replaced by the M16 family of rifles as the U.S. military’s standard-issue infantry weapon in 1964. By 1968, the legendary facility would be shuttered despite producing other arms for use in the Vietnam War. When the armory refused to build the new M16, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara had the armory closed.

In the years that followed, the buildings of the Springfield Armory complex were restored and the place was turned into a museum, run by the Parks Service.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Alone time is the key to staying married. Find it.

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t just stretched us thin; it’s made us damn near translucent. The majority of parents are balancing a bigger burden than they ever have before. Scheduling. Schooling. Social distancing. Masking up. Working from Home. All with little or extremely reduced access to childcare or the older family members who once pitched in. Gone, too, are ways to find alone time. We are all cooped up, unable to do the activities that once brought us balance. Time apart is crucial to a marriage. Absence does, in fact, make the heart grow fonder. But how can partners ask for alone time without it ending in resentment or anger?

If you went to a couples’ therapist today and told them, “I need some time to myself,” chances are, they would agree. “Some couples thrive on being together all the time, but most are struggling at least a little right now,” says Carol Bruess, PhD, professor emeritus of family studies at the University of St. Thomas and author of What Happy Couples Do. “We don’t have models for [living like] this. We are not taught how to do it.”


More importantly, time apart from our partners is essential for our health — and the health of our relationships. So, if you feel even the slightest hint of guilt about your itch for a few hours of fishing on the lake in solitude — don’t. You may even find that by bringing up the topic, your spouse is equally eager for time alone after all these months at home.

Healthy relationships are healthiest when there’s constant push and pull between autonomy and connection, Bruess explains. “Living in the same space with someone 24/7 tends to send this dynamic into a place of significant disequilibrium. It’s out of whack,” she says. “You have too much togetherness without enough autonomy.”

Right now, too much togetherness is the norm. And it’s not just the fact that the bathroom is your only place to get away. We’ve also lost our rituals and routines and had to establish a whole new set of “rules” about who works where, who’s quiet when, who’s cooking breakfast, and who’s teaching the kids what. Add the stress of worrying about loved ones’ health, possibly losing a job, and everything else and it only exacerbates the tension.

“We bring those [outside] stressors into our relationship, and it disintegrates our ability to be our best self in the relationship,” Bruess says. With all of these challenges, no wonder you may sense an overall increase in conflict, irritation, or anxiety between you and your partner and find yourself arguing over minuscule things like how to load the dishwasher.

True time apart could help rebalance your autonomy-connection dynamic and benefit both your relationship and the two of you as individuals. The answer is simple: It gives you a chance to “recharge,” says psychotherapist Joseph Zagame, LCSW-R, founder and director of myTherapyNYC. When you come back together, you’ll have more to offer emotionally, mentally, and physically. Additionally, that space can make our partners more attracted to us. “When you have some level of distance and come back together, you see each other in a new way and may even desire each other more,” Zagame says.

Still, knowing the benefits doesn’t necessary relieve any guilt you may feel about wanting to go over to your friend’s house for beers on the patio once a week. If that’s the case, it’s important to remember that this is not only about you — it’s about your relationship as a whole, Zagame says.

Communicating about a need for space can be tricky. It can easily be read as a slight or add to already built-up resentment. Bruess recommends first identifying and telling your partner exactly what you are feeling and what you need. For example, “I’m feeling a little overstimulated. We are both here all day, working and taking care of the kids, and the dog is running around, and I’m realizing one thing I need is to find 30 minutes of alone time.” Include how this will benefit your relationship to have this time, such as that you’ll be less stressed and more likely to pause and think rather than simply react.

Next, Bruess suggests inviting your partner to problem solve with you so you can find that solo time. Even if the solution is taking an hour every night to read in one room while your partner watches TV in another while the kids are in bed, it can have a positive effect. Just be sure to set some boundaries: “I need no interruptions, not even a knock on the door. Here’s why…”

This may seem like a lot, but explaining your need and asking for your partner’s assistance can help head off any possible defensiveness from them, Bruess explains. “You are literally inviting them into your heart, as opposed to, ‘The house is noisy, I need time away,” which distances you emotionally and creates the opportunity for defensiveness in the other person,” she says.

After you discuss your time alone, don’t forget to ask if there’s anything your partner needs right now. “You may be surprised to hear they want their space too,” Zagame says. “It doesn’t mean that you are struggling or don’t love each other.” Encourage them to do the things they love and retain those friendships that you know make them thrive.

“Marriage is not about becoming one. We are interdependent. Together we create something bigger and different than our individual parts,” Bruess says. “And in a great partnership, it’s essential that each person is developing and sustaining parts of themselves. We should want to encourage the flourishing of the other person’s passions and interests.”

Making sure both of you get some time away — whatever that looks like — will keep you both happier and support your relationship even after you’re no longer together nonstop.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the legendary Stinger missile is about to get more dangerous

The Stinger missile is America’s premier short-range air defense weapon, featuring in-flight guidance and an almost 7-pound warhead that sends shrapnel ripping through planes, helicopters, and pretty much anything else flying low. It can even be shot against ground vehicles when necessary.

Recently, the missile’s manufacturer has created a new proximity fuse for the weapon — and it just passed qualification testing with flying colors.


How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Aaron Kiser, assigned to the USS Bataan (LHD 5), practices target tracking with a Stinger missile training system aboard the Bataan, May 8, 2014.

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Austin Hazard)

The Stinger is a hit-to-kill weapon, meaning it always tries to physically impact the enemy target before it goes off. That turns the skin of the targeted aircraft into shrapnel that rips through the rest of the aircraft, maximizing damage to engines, fuel tanks, and even the pilots. It usually ends up near the engine, since the weapon uses heat to track targets.

But making contact with the target isn’t always necessary, as the missile itself creates some shrapnel that will tear through the target’s skin. So, if it were to explode nearby its target, it’s still likely to damage or destroy the craft.

Now, the missile is being outfitted with a better proximity fuse that achieved a 100-percent hit rate during testing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

That’s great news for Stinger missile shooters. The weapon can be carried by ground troops or mounted on ground vehicles or helicopters, but firing the weapon is risky, especially against ground-support jets or helicopters.

If the Stinger crew fires the weapon and misses, whether because of a malfunction, shooter error, or the target’s defenses, they’re potentially in for a world of hurt. That’s because it always takes time to fire a second missile, especially for ground troops firing the MANPADS, which is a tube with a single missile in it.

That means a very pissed off and scared pilot is going to turn around and follow the smoke plume back it its source, and the pilot is likely going to hit the missile source with everything they have available to drop and fire.

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Joshua L. Field, a low altitude air defense (LAAD) gunner, with 2nd LAAD Battalion fires an FIM- 92 Stinger missile during a live fire training exercise on Camp Lejeune, N.C., on Oct. 10, 2017.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Cody J. Ohira)

But with a proximity fuse, a missile that would otherwise be a near-miss will still go off, generating as much damage and shrapnel as it can. That means the helicopter that would be pivoting to attack is now suffering from damage. Hopefully, the damage is in the cockpit, control surfaces, or engine. A proximity detonation might even still be enough to destroy the target outright.

If not, then at least the crew on the ground has some breathing room as the air crew tries to get an idea of how damaged they are. This could be enough time for troops on the ground to get under cover or concealment or even to get off another shot.

This is especially useful against drones which typically don’t require as much damage to be completely destroyed. And, considering just how much more prevalent drones are becoming, that could be key for future air defenders trying to maintain an air defense umbrella as Chinese or Russian forces test their defenses. All four Department of Defense branches carry the missile in combat.

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

Col. David Shank, commander of the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, speaks with Avenger team leader, Army Sgt. Jesse Thomas, and Avenger team member Army Spc. Dillion Whitlock with Charlie Battery, 2nd Battalion, 63rd Armored Regiment, South Carolina National Guard, during an air-defense live-fire exercise in Shabla, Bulgaria, July 18, 2017.

(U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Ben Flores)

Currently, the weapon is most widely deployed in single-shot missile tubes and carried by air defense squads on the ground. There’s even an Army air defense battery that can jump these tubes into combat with other airborne troops. There’s also the Avenger system, a modified Humvee with eight missiles mounted on it.

Finally, there is an Apache variant that can carry the missile, and all new Apache’s come with the necessary mounting point and other hardware.

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