The VFW wants you to be a gamer! - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The VFW wants you to be a gamer!

When you think of the VFW, what comes to mind? For many of us younger veterans the stigma is that your local VFW post is a dark, dusty bar with a bunch of older vets telling war stories. Whether that is fair or not, the VFW has had an issue attracting younger veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan to its ranks, despite the obvious benefit that the VFW provides to those vets.

One post in San Antonio is moving to change all that.

VFW Post 8541 has created a cyber café in its facility with the intent that younger veterans will have a place to hang out, build fellowship, have an escape and be part of the local veteran community. And no, this isn’t a couch with an Xbox and two controllers.


Take a look at this:

The VFW wants you to be a gamer!

Video games have come a long way since Space Invaders and Pong. Nowadays, it’s a billion-dollar industry that continues to grow every year. Consoles continue to war with each other, video game franchises compete to have the best upgrades in graphics and gameplay, and players now compete in more organized tournaments. Esports has blown up quite a bit with professional leagues forming with players making six figures a year! (Tell that to your girl the next time she gets mad when you have a COD marathon!)

Even pro sports leagues are getting in on esports. The NBA, NASCAR and Formula 1 have all had their best stars compete when everything was shut down during Covid.

While some people scoff at the amount of time and energy people put into gaming, there have been proven benefits to veterans.

Video games have been increasingly recommended to veterans as a way to cope with the effects of PTSD, anxiety, and depression. How so? Mental health experts will tell you that a great way to deal with mental health issues is to find an activity that puts you into a flow or zone. Whether it’s running, shooting drills, surfing, reading a book, or playing a game, an activity that takes up your concentration and allows you to escape and give your attention completely to that task has proven to be beneficial.

Video games provide just that. Even the Department of Veteran Affairs now says that “Video games can help in overcoming such problems as PTSD and substance abuse disorders.”

This is something Bill Smith saw during his deployments and is now bringing to his VFW post.

The VFW wants you to be a gamer!

Bill Smith is VFW post commander who served 32 years in the Army, most of it in the Special Forces.

He did two deployments to Afghanistan and one to Iraq. After getting out in 2015, he was involved with the VFW and was rapidly put in charge of Post 8541 when the post came under suspension 3.5 years ago. He went to a meeting to talk about the suspension and found himself nominated to take over. Immediately, he looked for ways to get things back on track. And boy, has he. Post 8541 has been the #1 post in Texas the last 2 years out of 298 in the state. That is based on membership, community services, legacy programs signups. For each new life member, you get points for that.

Right now, Bill’s priority is getting lots of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to sign up. It has been an issue that many posts struggle with or don’t even try to attempt.

Not only has Bill’s post been starting to get a younger crowd, but it has been a good smooth transition.

As Bill says, “The only way to change it is to get in there and change it.” So, he went and found ways to attract younger vets.

“I was connected with the Texas Guard… just selling. I would get out and tell them this is what we have going on, come out and try it out. “Bill continues, “We had a banquet hall and one of the first things we did, was open up the hall for military functions.” A great example was a Special Forces Party that was held at the hall. The VFW picked up a id=”listicle-2647079334″,000 bar tab for the party to help with the costs. The next day the post had 40 new signups. Bill also created a family room at the post. Now if you want to get to the VFW, but have the kids, you can still go. While these were great steps, Bill was still thinking ahead of the curve. Which brings us to the cybercafé and video games.

Where did Bill get the idea?

“When I was in Afghanistan, I was embedded with French Special Forces. When I went to Bagram, I went to JOC and was berthing with some guys in 7th Group. As I was sitting there, I kept hearing. ‘Who shot me? Who did this?’

Bill saw in their down time they were gaming a lot. It was their escape and they spent a lot of time decompressing through video games. He also saw ODA guys playing in their down time.

“My sons are 26 and 23 and they game a lot, so I saw gaming was big. My oldest son’s friend, Sam Elizondo owns LFG Cybercafe and they sponsored a team for a tournament. Bill decided to talk

And talking to Sam, they came up with the cybercafé idea.

Sam Elizondo, after talking to Bill, decided to help make this idea into a reality. Sam said, “I think what I love most is that we arrived at this leg of the journey out of Bill Smith’s relentless drive to help people. He wants to give these younger combat veterans a place to heal and a place to be. It’s been a privilege to use my skill set for that mission.”

Sam’s background and livelihood are in gaming. He also comes from a military family. As Bill and Sam started planning, they knew they had to get the support of the current VFW Post members on board. After all, it’s their club and building a video game center in their post was something that might not sit well with Vietnam veterans. But to Sam’s surprise, the older vets were really receptive to the plan. Once they started seeing the plan turn into a reality, they became even more excited.

The buildout of the café started in January and is almost done. However, there was one big obstacle that Bill, Sam, and workers had to deal with. Covid -19 shut down the post for a while but they pushed through on building it out. Unfortunately, with the current rules, Texas has their post shut down just when they were about to open the café. While veterans will have to wait just a big longer before they can take advantage, the work that Sam did is utterly amazing.

The VFW wants you to be a gamer!
The VFW wants you to be a gamer!
The VFW wants you to be a gamer!
The VFW wants you to be a gamer!
The VFW wants you to be a gamer!
The VFW wants you to be a gamer!
The VFW wants you to be a gamer!
The VFW wants you to be a gamer!
The VFW wants you to be a gamer!
The VFW wants you to be a gamer!

This is just the first step. Most games will be provided via Sam’s company. There will be about 70 games for the PC consoles which he will manage the system remotely Right now the plan is to have 12 PCs and 6 Xboxes. Also, Grande Communications is installing fiber optic cable so that the Post will have the best download speed.

Microsoft also made a generous contribution. They shut down their brick and mortar store and decided to donate thousand in hardware. The post has had admittedly older computers (some running on Windows XP) so now they will have fast computers and fast internet connection. Sam is also helping build out a new business center with these resources so vets young and old can have access to computers.

So, what next?

Sam hopes, “Veteran Esports Competitions and just a better connected family of VFW’s. There is so much value in building out infrastructure like what POST 8541 is doing that the sky truly is the limit. They have the ability and the network to do some incredible things. It just needs to be embraced.”

Once COVID is over, the café will be open for vets to come game. The hope is it will be a place for them to escape the world and find comfort in fellowship. Bill and Sam are hoping other VFWs will take notice and build their own centers. This will hopefully lead to gaming competitions between local and long-distance posts.

The VFW has been a backbone of veteran activity for decades. Thanks for forward thinkers like Sam and Bill, it is shaping up to continue to be that backbone.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Israeli fighters dominating Russian-made defenses in Syria

Russia deployed some of its best air defenses to Syria to keep US missiles and jets at bay as the US military’s immense air and naval power fought ISIS in close proximity — but the supposedly airtight defenses are routinely defeated by Israel.

In February 2017, a Syrian-manned Russian-made S-200 missile defense system shot down an Israel F-16 returning from a massive raid targeting Iranian forces in Syria.


In response, Israel launched another raid that it claimed took out half of Syria’s air defenses, of which older Russian systems comprised the majority.

In April 2018, Syria got rocked by a missile attack that appeared to ignite a munitions depot hard enough to register as a 2.6 magnitude earthquake and is believed to have killed dozens of Iranians.

The VFW wants you to be a gamer!

Reported image of a strike on Iranian soldiers in Syria.

(Danny Makki/Twitter)

In May 2018, Israel released video of one of its bombs destroying a Russian air defense system, Russian media offered excuses as to why it failed to stop the incoming missile.

Israel rarely confirms individual airstrikes, and either confirmed or didn’t deny these attacks.

In September 2018, another Israeli raid on Iranian weapons stockpiles in Syria saw a Russian Il-20 surveillance and control plane downed by Russian-made air defenses fired off in error by Syrian air defense units, killing 15.

Russia accused Israel of purposefully flying under the Il-20 to confuse the Syrian air defenses into shooting down a friendly plane and quickly shipped the more advanced S-300 missile defenses to Syrian hands.

Russia thinks highly of its S-300 and other missile defenses, and has publicly mocked the US over its stealth jets, implying it could shoot them down. At the time, Russia said it would shut down satellite navigation in the region and that it expected its new defenses would preclude further Israeli attacks. So far, they were wrong.

Somehow Israel has continued to hit targets in Syria at will with F-16s, non-stealthy fourth-generation fighter-bombers.

The VFW wants you to be a gamer!

On Jan. 14, 2019, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that his country’s air force had carried out hundreds of raids in Syria, with a recent one hitting Iranian weapons near Damascus International Airport.

Russia initially deployed air defenses to Syria to keep powerful countries like the US from attacking Syrian President Bashar Assad, and later to protect its own air force fighters stationed there.

The US has long opposed Assad, as he violently shut down peaceful protesters in 2011 and has stood accused of torture, war crimes, and using chemical weapons against civilians during the country’s maddening 7-year-long civil war.

But the US has attacked Syria twice with cruise missiles, and Syria has never proven a single missile intercept.

According to experts, there’s two likely reasons why Syria’s Russian-made air defenses can’t get the job done: 1. Israel is good at beating Syrian air defenses. 2. Syria is bad at beating Israeli jets.

Israel is good at this

“One of the Israeli hallmarks when they do these sort of fairly bold strikes within the coverage of the Syrian air defenses is heavy electronic warfare and jamming,” Justin Bronk, an aerial combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute told Business Insider.

Bronk said that Israel, a close US ally that takes part in major training events in the US, has become adept at knocking over Syrian air defenses.

Israel sees Iranian arms shipments through Syria as an existential threat. Although Israel has relationships to maintain with the US and Russia — both key players in the Syrian quagmire — Netanyahu has said resolutely that Israel will stop at nothing to beat back Iran.

The VFW wants you to be a gamer!

Israel’s air force.

In more than 100 raids admitted by Netanyahu, Israel has only lost a single aircraft. Bronk attributes this to “many, many tricks developed over decades” for the suppression of enemy air defenses developed by Israel.

Retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, a former F-35, F-22, and F-18 pilot, told Business Insider that Israel finds “innovative, creative, and aggressive ways to maximize the capability of every weapons systems they’ve ever used.”

Syria is bad at this

Syria has demonstrably failed on many occasions to stop air attacks on its territory. While Russia’s air defenses do give US military planners serious pause, Syria’s have yet to prove themselves.

With US Tomahawk cruise missile strikes in consecutive Aprils in 2017 and 2018, Syria claimed both times to have blocked a significant portion of the attack, but never provided any evidence of an intercept.

Additionally, photos from the second US Tomahawk strike on Syria show Syrian air defenses firing interceptor missiles on ballistic trajectories.

This strongly indicates that the Syrians simply fired blindly into the night sky, unable to detect a thing as US missiles rocked targets across the countryside.

Finally, Syria shooting down a friendly Russian plane evidences a lack of coordination or situational awareness, whether due to old hardware, Israeli electronic warfare, or simply poor execution.

Israel’s most recent attacks in Syria took place smack in the middle of Damascus, Russian and Syrian air defenses make for some of the world’s most challenging airspace.

That Israel can still fight in Syria among top Russian air defenses shows either that their force has its tactics down pat, that Syria can’t field decent air defense regimes, or that Russia has turned a blind eye to Israel pounding on Iranian advances in the region.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 best weapons from this famous calculator manufacturer

Texas Instruments is probably best known for making those graphing calculators that every student complains about using and every parent complains about buying. But, before Texas Instruments was making TI-83s and TI-89s, they made other stuff, like missiles and bombs, before selling their defense operations to Raytheon in 1997 for $2.95 billion.

Here are 5 of their masterpieces that, typically, aren’t issued to high schoolers:


The VFW wants you to be a gamer!

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Scott Henshaw, a 35th Maintenance Squadron load crew member, ensures all parts are correctly in place on the AGM-88 high speed anti-radiation missile at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Sept. 19, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Xiomara M. Martinez)

High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile

The High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile is a pretty brilliant weapon for taking out enemy air defenses. Defenders on the ground typically run mobile radar dishes to find and target enemy planes. Planes carrying this type of missile search for such radar signals and then fire the HARM, which rides the radar signals back to their source — which is, you know, the radar dish.

There are multiple warhead options, but the big two have 25,000 pre-formed steel fragments that are propelled out by the explosive, sending fragments through the radar and antenna.

The VFW wants you to be a gamer!

Airmen prepare a 2,000-pound Paveway-III laser-guided bomb for the Combat Ammunition Production Exercise in July 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

Paveway Guided Bomb

The Paveway laser-guided bomb is sort of like the JDAM in that it’s really a kit that’s added to old, dumb bombs to convert them to guided, smart bombs. In the case of the Paveway, the missiles are guided by laser designaters, wielded by ground troops or pilots.

The Paveway can be fitted to bombs packed with up to a couple thousand pounds of explosives and can be carried by anything from fighter jets and bombers to the MQ-9 Reaper drone.

The VFW wants you to be a gamer!

An F-35 with the Pax River Integrated Test Force conducts a test with a a Joint Stand-Off Weapon in 2016.

(U.S. Navy photo by Dane Wiedmann)

Joint Stand-Off Weapon

The Joint Stand-Off Weapon is a glide bomb that can fly as far as 63 nautical miles from the point at which it’s dropped, allowing Navy and Air Force ground attack and bomber planes to target anti-aircraft weapons or other enemy structures and emplacements from far outside of the enemy’s range.

The 1,065-pound weapon carries up to a 500-pound warhead but can also carry smaller bomblets and submunitions for dispersal over a wide area.

The VFW wants you to be a gamer!

A Marine with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, fires an FGM-148 Javelin Missile during Exercise Northern Strike at Camp Grayling, Mich., Aug. 14, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Niles Lee)

Javelin

The Javelin missile is one of the premiere anti-armor missiles with guidance so good that it has a limited anti-aircraft capability and a warhead so powerful that it can kill most any tank in the field today, usually by flying up high and then going straight down through the tank’s turret. It can also be used against bunkers and other fortifications.

When fired against a tank’s hull, its two-charge warhead first initiates any explosive reactive armor, and the second charge penetrates the hull, killing the crew and potentially detonating stored explosives or fuel.

The VFW wants you to be a gamer!

Texas Instruments pioneered the forward-looking, infrared camera used on everything from fighters and bombers to helicopters to ground vehicles to rifles. Here, the FLIR on a MH-60S helicopter is used to keep track of a rescue off Guam in 2017.

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Chris Kimbrough)

FLIR for tanks, fighting vehicles, the F-117, and F-18

Forward-Looking Infrared is exactly what it sounds like, sensors that allow jet, tank, and vehicle crews to see what’s ahead of them in infrared. Infrared, radiation with a wavelength just greater than the color red on the visible light spectrum that’s invisible to the naked eye, is put off by nearly any heat source. Sources of infrared include human bodies, vehicle engines, and all sorts of other targets.

So, tanks and jets can use these systems to find and target enemies at night, whether they just want to observe or think it’s time to drop bombs or fire rounds.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

Tony Mendez, the former CIA agent who engineered the smuggling of U.S. hostages out of Iran in 1980 and was immortalized in the Hollywood film Argo, has died of complications from Parkinson’s disease.

Mendez’s family said in a statement on Jan. 20, 2019, that he died on Jan. 19, 2019, at the age of 78.

The statement, relayed via Twitter by Mendez’s literary agent Christy Fletcher, said the last thing he and his wife, Jonna Mendez, did was to “get their new book to the publisher.”


“He died feeling he had completed writing the stories that he wanted to be told,” the family statement said, adding that Mendez suffered from Parkinson’s for the past 10 years.

When Iranian revolutionaries seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, a handful of diplomats managed to escape through a back door and took refuge at the Canadian Embassy in Tehran.

Mendez’s plan to rescue them involved setting up the production in Hollywood of a fake science-fiction film titled Argo, traveling to Iran to scout out locations, then returning to the United States with the six U.S. diplomats masquerading as the film crew.

The diplomats, armed with fake Canadian passports, slipped out of Iran and to safety on Jan. 27, 1980.

The story served as inspiration for the film Argo, which won three Oscars in 2013, including for best motion picture.

Fifty-two other Americans were not as lucky. They were held hostage by the Iranian revolutionaries for 444 days.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time a badger lived in the White House

President Theodore Roosevelt is known for being a Rough Rider, a trust-buster, and coining the infamous phrase, “Walk softly, but carry a big stick.” He also turned the White House into a veritable menagerie during his stay there. He, of course, had plenty of cats and dogs, but he was known for keeping guinea pigs for his children, and several of his sons had rabbits as well as a bright blue macaw named Eli Yale.

Arguably his most exotic pet, and probably the most unpredictable animal to inhabit the White House, was a real-life badger.


The VFW wants you to be a gamer!

Theodore Roosevelt, like the badger, don’t give a f*ck.

(Giphy)

While on a railroad tour through the West, President Roosevelt stayed for several days in Sharon Springs, Kansas. After he’d fulfilled his presidential duties of talking with residents and giving speeches, he was getting ready to head further west when a girl named Pearl Gorsuch, who was twelve-years-old at the time, came up to him to ask if he’d like a badger.

Not exactly your average fan gift.

Whether the president didn’t actually think she was serious, or if he was immediately ready to take a badger on a train ride, no one’s really sure, but when Pearl returned, she had with her a two-week-old badger as well as the rest of her family.

Roosevelt graciously showed the family (and accompanying badger) around his private rail car, and gave Pearl a locket and a carnation as a thank you. When he took the badger, he was delighted when it started nibbling on his fingers. He named the badger Josiah after Pearl’s father and took it with him in his private car.

On the rest of his trip, Josiah proved to be good-natured, even when met with young children who were enchanted by the animal. Roosevelt wrote to his own children to inform them that he’d be bringing the badger home, and that he’d nicknamed Josiah “Josh” for short.

As the Roosevelt family did have plenty of dogs, a badger-specific cage had to be built, including two feet of underground space for him to burrow.

The VFW wants you to be a gamer!

The Roosevelt family with Skip, just one of their many pups.

(upload.wikimedia.org)

Roosevelt himself loved setting the badger loose, as Josiah was known for biting ankles, and the family soon learned to stand clear when he was out of his cage.

Archie Roosevelt, who was the second youngest of six children, was nine when Josiah arrived at the White House and laid the best claim to the animal. He would walk around the grounds holding Josiah around the waist. When Teddy expressed concern that Josiah might take advantage of the positioning to bite Archie’s face, Archie insisted that little Josh only bit legs, not faces.

Though Josiah the badger did come home with a penchant for nipping but an overall friendly demeanor, he eventually lost his pleasant attitude. He may have grown overwhelmed by the bustle of the Roosevelt’s White House, or just succumbed to his primal nature, but whichever reason, the result was the same.

The Roosevelt family had him placed in the Bronx Zoo in New York, which was probably for the best both for the animal and the family. However, they continued to visit him, just to make sure he didn’t develop any abandonment issues.

Though each president has had different pet preferences—the Coolidge family actually had a pet raccoon named Rebecca—it’s safe to say that Teddy Roosevelt came the closest to running a zoo out of the White House. But really, who’d refuse a little girl in a small town in Kansas handing you a baby badger?

The VFW wants you to be a gamer!

First Lady Grace Coolidge shows off her pet racoon, Rebecca, at the White House Easter Egg Roll April 18, 1927.

(Courtesy of the George W. Bush White House Archives.)

popular

Paul McCartney wants kids to live on a ‘Green Submarine’

‘Yellow Submarines’ are so 1966.

All aboard Paul McCartney’s Green Submarine!

McCartney, who used to play an instrument or two and sing in a fairly popular band called the Beatles, authored the children’s picture book, Hey, Grandude, in 2019. It shot to #1 on the best seller list, with more than 300,000 copies snapped up around the globe. Now, the grandfather of eight has penned a sequel, Grandude’s Green Submarine, due out in September. Like its predecessor, Grandude’s Green Submarine will be published by Random House Books for Young Readers and feature illustrations by artist Kathryn Durst.

Grandude’s inventions are the stuff of legend, and his new green submarine doesn’t disappoint,” reads the synopsis on the Penguin Random House website. “In fact, it flies as well as submerges! Grandude whisks the grandkids off on another adventure, but he and the Chillers soon find themselves in a pickle. Suddenly, it’s Nandude to the rescue! Nandude is an explorer as courageous as Grandude, with an amazing accordion-ship to boot! Between Grandude’s magic compass and Nandude’s magical music, everyone arrives home safely. But not before enjoying a parade, dancing rainforest animals, and a narrow escape from a grabby octopus. This tale is perfect for little explorers and Paul McCartney fans alike!”

“I’m really happy with how ‘Hey Grandude!’ was received, as this was a very personal story for me, celebrating Grandudes everywhere and their relationships and adventures with their grandchildren,” McCartney said in a statement. “I love that it has become a book read to grandkids at bedtime all around the world. I always said if people liked the first book and there was an appetite for more, I would write some further adventures for Grandude—so he’s back and this time with his special invention, Grandude’s green submarine!”

Grandude’s Green Submarine will rise to the surface in the middle of a typically prolific time for the British icon.

He dropped his latest album, McCartney III, in December, and that will be followed on April 16 by McCartney III Imagined, with such artists as Phoebe Bridgers, Josh Homme, Blood Orange, St. Vincent, and Beck covering or remixing songs from the album. Then, on August 27, Disney will unveil the Peter Jackson-directed documentary, The Beatles: Get Back, which will present a wildly different look at the making of the Let It Be album than the eponymous 1970 film did. And, on November 2, Macca will release another book, The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, which recounts his life and art through the prism of 154 songs from all stages of his career.

Grandude’s Green Submarine is available now to pre-order.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans everywhere agree: You can mourn Kobe Bryant

Only a few hours after the tragic news broke of famed basketball player Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crashing, killing all nine passengers (including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna), the social media debates started: Why are we so sad about a celebrity dying but when our service members are killed in the line of duty seemingly no one notices?

An article from 2005 began circulating again, reminding us all of another helicopter tragedy: the horrible Al-Anbar CH-53E crash that killed all 31 troops when it went down outside Ar-Rutbah in Iraq this same weekend, 15 years ago.

Veterans everywhere concur: you can, and should, be sad about both.


We’re all allowed to feel empathy at a wife losing her husband and daughter and three girls losing their dad and sister, not to mention the other families on board. You’re allowed to grieve someone who inspired thousands and thousands of kids and adults alike to pursue their dreams. At the same exact time, as Americans, we all should know the names of our service members dying for us every day.

And: That’s not why anyone signs up to serve.

Veterans took to the internet to express their sympathy as well as their own experiences with Kobe and his support for our military community.

The VFW wants you to be a gamer!


The VFW wants you to be a gamer!
The VFW wants you to be a gamer!
The VFW wants you to be a gamer!
The VFW wants you to be a gamer!
The VFW wants you to be a gamer!
The VFW wants you to be a gamer!
The VFW wants you to be a gamer!
The VFW wants you to be a gamer!

Rest in Peace, Kobe.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’

The 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade deployed in March 2018 to Afghanistan to carry out the inaugural mission for the newly-created SFAB concept. The brigade returned in November 2018, and leaders say their experience there has proven successful what the Army hoped to accomplish with the new kind of training unit.

Army Brig. Gen. Scott Jackson, 1st SFAB commander, spoke May 8, 2019, at the Pentagon as part of an Army Current Operations Engagement Tour. He said the Army’s concept for the new unit — one earmarked exclusively for advise and assist missions — was spot on.

During their nine-month deployment to Afghanistan, Jackson said the 800-person brigade ran 58 advisory teams and partnered with more than 30 Afghan battalions, 15 brigades, multiple regional training centers, a corps headquarters and a capital division headquarters.


“That’s nearly half of the Afghan National Army,” he said. “I believe we could only accomplish our mission and reach these milestones and validate the effectiveness of an SFAB because the Army got it right — the Army issued us the right equipment, and provided us the right training to be successful. But most importantly, we selected the people for this mission . . . the key to our success is the talented, adaptable, and experienced volunteers who served in this brigade.”

Lessons learned

Jackson outlined two key lessons learned from the unit’s time in Afghanistan. First, they learned their ability to affect change within those they advise and assist was greater than they thought.

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Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Velez, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron, interacts with Afghan Command Sgt. Maj. Abdul Rahman Rangakhil, left, the senior enlisted leader of 1st Kandak, 4th Brigade, 203rd Corps, during a routine fly-to-advise mission at Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“As our Afghan partners began to understand the value of 1st SFAB advisors, they asked us for more,” Jackson said. “So our teams partnered with more and more Afghan units as the deployment progressed.”

Another lesson, he said, was that persistent presence with partners pays off.

“Units with persistent partners made more progress in planning and conducting offensive operations and in integrating organic Afghan enablers like field artillery and the Afghan air force than unpersistent partnered units,” Jackson said.

Those lessons and others were passed to the follow-on unit, the 2nd SFAB, as well as to the Security Force Assistance Command.

Another observation: the Afghan military is doing just fine. They’re in charge of their own operations. And while U.S. presence can provide guidance when needed — and it is asked for — the Afghans were proving successful at doing their own security missions without U.S. soldiers running alongside them. It turns out that just having an SFAB advise and assist presence has emboldened Afghan security to success.

“We saw enormous offensive maneuver generated, and not just at the brigade level,” said Army Lt. Col. Brain Ducote, commander of the 1st Battalion, 1st SFAB. “They weren’t overdependent. They were able to execute offensive operations themselves. It was a huge confidence builder when we were sometimes just present. Even if we didn’t support them, just us being there gave them the confidence to execute on independent offensive operations.”

Confidence is contagious

Ducote said that the confidence moved from brigade level down to battalion, or “kandak” level. Commanders there also began running their own offensive operations, he said.

“They believe in themselves,” the lieutenant colonel said. “The Afghan army has tremendous freedom of maneuver and access to areas where they want to go. If they put their mind to it and they say we’re going to move to this area to clear it . . . they are good at it. And they can do it. Would they, given the choice, want advisors with them? Absolutely. Why not? But let there be no mistake: the Afghans are in the lead, and the Afghans can do this.”

The VFW wants you to be a gamer!

Advisors with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron and their 3rd Infantry Division security element exit UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters during a routine fly-to-advise mission at Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Ducote said Afghan success is evident by their expansion of the footprint they protect, such as in Kunar and Kapisa provinces, for instance.

“[There are] all sorts of provinces where they expanded their footprint and influence,” he said. “And the people absolutely support their security forces.”

Also a critical takeaway from Afghanistan and an indicator of the value of the SFAB mission there is the authenticity of relationships between SFAB advisors and Afghans.

Building real relationships

During their nine months in theater, the 1st SFAB lost two soldiers to insider threats. Army Capt. Gerard T. Spinney, team leader for 1st Battalion, 1st SFAB, said that what happened after the attacks revealed the strength and sincerity of the relationship between Afghan leadership and SFAB leadership.

Army Cpl. Joseph Maciel was working for Spinney in Tarin Kowt District, Afghanistan. He was killed there by an Afghan soldier in July 2018 — a “green on blue” threat.

“His sacrifice will never be forgotten,” Spinney said. “But we still had to continue advising afterward. That day, my partner, a kandak commander . . . wanted to come see me.”

Spinney said the Afghan soldier who had killed Maciel didn’t belong to this commander — but that commander still wanted to meet with him.

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Afghan soldiers listen to a map reading class taught by Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Davis, an advisor with 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, Sept. 18, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“He was very adamant coming to see me,” Spinney said. “He was angry. He was embarrassed. He was determined to rid [his own] unit of anything like this. And it was sincere. During the deployment he lost many soldiers. I had to sit with him and almost echo the same sympathies. I think the relationship got stronger.”

“You have to be there with them, good times and bad times, successes and failures,” the captain said. “That’s how you build trust, that’s how you show you care. He was there for us that day. Our relationship survived. And I’d say from that point on he wanted to make us feel safer. From that point on we saw differences in security . . . they took care of us because they wanted us there.”

Jackson said that insider threat might have derailed the 1st SFAB mission. In fact, he said, he suspects that was the intent of the enemy that carried out those threats. But it didn’t happen that way, he said.

“It didn’t derail the mission,” Jackson said. “Despite a brief pause maybe, as we reassessed what happened and what we needed to do both on the Afghan side and the American side, in the end our relationship was stronger.”

Ensuring success

The SFAB concept was first proposed by Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley. And since then, Jackson said, the Army has put a lot of effort into ensuring the success of the SFAB mission. That includes, among other things, training, people and gear.

Ducote said the equipment provided to 1st SFAB was critical to its success in Afghanistan.

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Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Davis, an advisor with 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, teaches a map reading class to Afghan soldiers Sept. 18, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“These teams are operating at distance, in austere environments,” Ducote said. “In some cases without electricity. We need the right equipment to be able to extend the trust that we give to them, and the trust that we extend to them. We want that to be manifested through the right equipment — communications specifically.”

He said the gear that proved essential to SFAB success included medical, communications and vehicles — and all were adequately provided for by the Army.

“The Army got it right what they gave us,” Ducote said. “We were able to do that mission, at distance.”

Home again

Back home now for six months, Jackson said the brigade is back to repairing equipment, replacing teammates and conducting individual and small-unit training to prepare for its next mission. He said their goal is to provide the Army a unit ready for the next deployment, though orders for that next mission have not yet come down.

The advise and assist mission is one the Army has done for years, but it’s something the Army had previously done in an ad hoc fashion. Brigade combat teams, for instance, had in the past been tasked to send some of their own overseas as part of security transition teams or security force assistance teams to conduct training missions with foreign militaries. Sometimes, however, the manner in which these teams were created may not have consistently facilitated the highest quality of preparation.

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Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Velez, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron, flies in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter on his way to Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

The SFAB units, on the other hand, are exclusively designated to conduct advise and assist missions overseas. And they are extensively trained to conduct those missions before they go. Additionally, the new SFABs mean regular BCTs will no longer need to conduct advise and assist missions.

The Army plans to have one National Guard and five active-duty SFABs. The 1st SFAB stood up at Fort Benning, Georgia, in early 2018. The 2nd SFAB is based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, but is now deployed to Afghanistan. The 3rd SFAB, based at Fort Hood, Texas, is now gearing up for its own first deployment. The 4th SFAB, based at Fort Carson, Colorado, is standing up, as is the 54th SFAB, a National Guard unit that will be spread across six states. The 5th SFAB, to be based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, is still being planned.

“As subsequent SFABs come online, it creates a huge capacity for the rest of the combatant commands in the world,” Jackson said. “I would be confident to say that there are assessments ongoing to see where else you could apply SFABs besides Afghanistan.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine Corps Selects Trijicon VCOG as Squad Common Optic

Marine Corps Systems Command just announced a contract award in its Squad Common Optic program to Trijicon. The Corps chose to outfit its Fleet Marine Force, basically all of its line units, with Trijicon’s VCOG 1-8x variable magnification optic.


According to Matt Gonzales at MARCORSYSCOM’s Office of Public Affairs:

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Six months after seeking industry proposals, Marine Corps Systems Command awarded an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, firm-fixed-price contract to Trijicon, Inc., of Wixom, Michigan, Feb. 21 to produce Squad Common Optic systems.
The contract has a maximum ceiling of million, and Trijicon is slated to produce approximately 19,000 units. The purchase also includes spare parts, training, nonfunctional units, interim contractor logistics support and refurbishment of test articles.
Fielding to Fleet Marine Forces will begin in the first quarter of fiscal year 2021 and will be completed by fiscal year 2023.
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This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are the ‘American Choppers’ of the Air Force

With the eight 13 hour flights the aircraft of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing have on a daily basis, some parts of the aircraft can wear down, crack or break over periods of time.

The 380th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron fabrication flight, also known as “Fab Flight” or the “American Chopper” of aircraft maintenance at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, is in charge of identifying and repairing aircraft structural damage. They fix whatever can be broken, from a metal panel off the side of a KC-10 Extender to a tiny cracked screw the size of a fingernail.


“Members of the fabrication flight are true artists,” said Master Sgt. Charles Silvas, 380th EMXS fabrication flight chief. “They are able to evaluate damage and visualize — in three dimensions — the repair necessary to return mission essential aircraft back to original serviceable condition. Then they are able to take flat metal and transform it into three-dimensional repairs in a time-sensitive environment with stringent guidelines.”

Many jobs in the maintenance field have written instructions to assist them in most troubleshooting situations, but the Sheet Metals section has a vast amount of factors when it comes to fixing parts, causing them to have to think outside the box more often than not.

“The nature of changing out parts makes it simple to write instructions tailored to every step in the process,” said Tech. Sgt. Garrett W. Magnie, 380th EMXS fabrication flight NCO in charge. “With fabrication however, whether it be machining a new part, welding on aircraft, or determining the best approach to restoring the structural integrity of the airframe to original strength, weight, and contour, our repair processes require that we utilize the instructions within the technical data as well as our experience in order to execute the most safe and efficient solution.”

The Sheet Metals shop is in charge of receiving deficient parts from all over the installation and fixing them, making them a very cost-efficient method, rather than purchasing a new part.

Like the Sheet Metals shop, the Non-Destructive Inspection shop supports all of the aircraft assigned to the 380th AEW using various techniques involving technology with their innovative ways.

“Most of our work requires us to trust our judgement and knowledge,” said airman Isaiah Edwards, 380th EMXS NDI technician. “We are capable of combining science with technology to evaluate the integrity of structures, metals, system components, and fluids without causing any damage, or impairing future usefulness to any parts. We do all this in a cost-effective way while still using extremely technical and accurate methods.”

Through understanding their significant role, using top-notch precision, and trusting their gut, the Fab Flight continues to do their part in achieving mission success.

“The Fabrication Flight accomplishes this mission by identifying and repairing aircraft structural damage and ensuring aircraft motors are ready to accomplish the mission,” Silvas said. “The Fabrication Flight is essential to keeping mission capable aircraft available to provide air superiority in the region, supporting both America and her allies.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

A nurse murdered 7 veterans, police are still looking for the motive

A former nursing assistant at a VA hospital in West Virginia admitted to murdering seven elderly veterans and attempted to kill an eighth according to court documents.

Reta Mays, 46, who formerly worked at the Louis A. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center, pleaded guilty to seven counts of second-degree murder related to the deaths of seven veterans and one count of assault with intent to commit murder in West Virginia federal court.


The judge acknowledged her guilty plea and ordered U.S. Marshals to hold Mays without bail until a sentencing hearing is scheduled.

Mays worked as the overnight shift assistant in the medical-surgical unit at Louis A. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center in the city of Clarksburg. An investigation found that between July 2017 and June 2018 she administered doses of insulin to patients; most of them were not diabetic. Because of the insulin injections, the patients’ blood sugar dropped, causing severe hypoglycemia. The patients were all in the VA hospital for various symptoms related to old age.

Court documents state that in June of 2018, a doctor at the hospital in Clarksburg, West Virginia, became alarmed about the deaths of multiple non-diabetic patients, who had suffered unexplained hypoglycemic episodes in Ward 3A of the hospital.

Mays, as a nursing assistant was responsible for, among other things, acting as a one-on-one sitter for patients, checking vital signs, and testing blood sugar levels. Yet, she was not allowed to administer medicine, including insulin.

Back in August, the Department of Veterans Affairs had announced that it had begun an investigation of 11 suspicious deaths at the facility and was looking into “potential wrongdoing.” Within a matter of days of learning of the deaths, VA investigating agents identified Mays as a person of interest. Working with medical facility leaders, the defendant was immediately removed from patient care while the investigation continued.

“Immediately upon discovering these serious allegations, Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center leadership brought them to the attention of the VA’s inspector general while putting safeguards in place to ensure the safety of each and every one of our patients,” a VA spokesperson said at the time.

Following Tuesday’s hearing, the VA Office of the Inspector General after Tuesday’s released the following statement: “This case is particularly shocking because these deaths were at the hands of a nursing assistant who was entrusted with providing compassionate and supportive care to veterans. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims.”

The U.S. attorney prosecuting the case characterized Mays’s actions as “evil” and an FBI special agent involved in the case said the veterans were betrayed.

“Nothing we have done will bring your loved ones back,” Bill Powell, U.S. attorney in West Virginia, said at a press conference. “But we do hope that the work of these agents and prosecutors honored the memory of your loved ones in a way that they so justly deserved and, in some small fashion, assuage the anguish you have suffered.”

“These eight veterans deserved respect and honor. They served our country and we all owe them a debt of gratitude,” FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael Christman said. “They didn’t deserve to die at the hands of a nursing assistant who intentionally inflicted pain on them and their families.”

The court documents identified the deceased patients as Robert Edge, 82; Robert Kozul, 89; Archie Edgell, 84; George Shaw, 81; W.A.H., 96; Felix McDermott, 82; and Raymond Golden, 88.

An eighth patient identified as R.R.P., 88, recovered after being given Dextrose 50.

The VA Inspector General’s Office is also investigating the hospital’s policies and procedures, including medication management and communications among the hospital’s staff as to how this situation could have occurred.

While Mays has pleaded guilty in court in connection with the deaths of the patients, her motive for killing the patients is still a mystery. Mays may also be investigated in connection with other deaths at the facility.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

You’ll still get taxes and mail after a nuke

Think of all the parts of the U.S. government that can and should have a plan to keep working after a nuclear attack. The Department of Defense? Sure. Congress? Yup. FBI, NSA, and CIA? Yeah, they seem necessary in the aftermath. But there are two groups you may not have thought of who plan to dig in and get the job done: The IRS and the USPS.


Yeah, you’re almost certain to keep getting taxed after a nuclear attack, and you might even be getting notices through the mail (though, not if you were in the city that got hit).

But the IRS and USPS weren’t focused on that, and they were actually working with the Parks Service for a good reason: Those three agencies were key to a rebuilding plan.

If your city is hit by a hurricane or crippled by an earthquake, you’re evacuated to cities outside of the danger zone. But if multiple cities or dozens are hit with nuclear bombs, then there likely won’t be suitable infrastructure to support all the refugees in nearby cities. So, the plan was to move them to the national parks.

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A role player pretends to be injured during Exercise Scarlet Response at Guardian Center, Georgia.

(U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Dylan Bowyer)

But what then? Hundreds of thousands of lives would be gone, and billions of dollars in buildings and infrastructure destroyed. Even in the midst of the grief, the government would have a job to do. There would be millions of people living in the parks, and it would fall to the USPS to process who had remained in the city, who had escaped, and who had died.

And, once they could begin to wrangle all that, they would begin delivering mail, again, though the postal leaders conceded in 1982 that the delivery plans would’ve been useless in an all-out nuclear exchange.

And that could include delivering notices of new tax plans. If only one or two cities were lost then, as crazy as it sounds, that would mean the IRS could get back to business as usual with few major changes. It would be horrible, but the American economy would shake itself off and get back up.

But a more extensive attack would’ve changed the way the U.S. worked for generations. There would be no guarantee that income and corporate taxes could cover the insane costs necessary to rebuild lost cities, decontaminate hundreds of square miles of terrain, and support the war being waged against the attacker.

So the Treasury Department had a plan to restart the economy and to help the IRS develop a new collection plan within 30 days of an attack. The new tax plan could be something as simple as a flat sales tax (congratulations, libertarians!) That would greatly simplify the IRS’s job, something that would be pretty necessary if their offices in Washington D.C. were hit.

And it would be necessary in a cash-based economy. Yes, cash-based. The plan was to slowly release stockpiled billion in cash until they could get back to printing money. In an odd twist of fate, that was mostly two-dollar bills. A 1970s printing run of the currency had failed to impress the public, so the government just used the unpopular bills to create their stockpile.

The government’s Cold War plan was largely exposed thanks to the extensive journalism of Garrett M. Graff, one of the first journalists to find the Raven Rock facility where the government would retreat to in case of nuclear war. His book Raven Rock is one of the foundational works on the post-nuclear government.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US, Norway practice crippling enemies in desperate cold

U.S. Marines with Marine Rotational Force–Europe 19.1 and Norwegian Army soldiers conducted close-air-support drills during Exercise Northern Screen in Setermoen, Norway, Oct. 25, 2018.

Northern Screen is a bilateral exercise that includes cold-weather and mountain-warfare training between MRF-E Marines and the Norwegian military, Oct. 24 to Nov. 7, 2018.


“A lot of what we do as joint terminal attack controllers is structured off of a NATO standard and by us communicating with our Norwegian allies we’re overall increasing our ability both as Americans and a united force on how we do our procedures,” said Sgt. John C. Prairie II, a Joint Terminal Attack Controller for MRF-E. “It’s making us more tactically and technically proficient.”

The Marines practiced aircraft medical evacuations and discussed air-control tactics to ensure safety and success in extreme cold-weather environments.

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U.S. Marines with Marine Rotational Force-Europe 19.1 and Norwegian Army soldiers conduct close-air support in Setermoen, Norway, Oct. 25, 2018.

(Photo by Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin)

“With cold-weather training and the gear, one of the biggest downfalls we have is that electronics drain a lot quicker,” said Prairie.

To mitigate such effects Marines cycle through gear more often to keep electronics charged and minimizing use to conserve energy.

“It’s good to work with the gear in a new environment,” said Prairie. “Setting it up, breaking it down, running through the processes, it gives you a new look on how to do it in a new environment.”

Arctic conditions not only affect gear, but also Marines. They must adapt and train to overcome environmental challenges and succeed in missions without injury.

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U.S. Marines with Marine Rotational Force-Europe 19.1 and Norwegian Army soldiers prepare for close-air support drills in Setermoen, Norway, Oct. 25, 2018.

(Photo by Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin)

“The cold-weather predeployment training has really helped out the Marines and really prepared them for what we’re doing out here,” said Prairie. “I feel that everything has gone very smoothly, we’ve definitely improved our efficiency both with our gear setup, break down, our communications with the aircraft and the processes with the Norwegians. I think we’ve done a really good job of building up our ability here.”

This opportunity is a vital asset to train with other nations in environments unlike those in the U.S. This type of training improves NATO capabilities in a non-combative environment to be prepared for any challenges our Allies might face.

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

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