Watch what these civilians do to help a vet in need - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch what these civilians do to help a vet in need

In this scene from the show What Would You Do? unsuspecting bystanders go above and beyond telling a vet-in-need “thank you for your service” in a big way.


What Would You Do? features actors playing out scenes of conflict or illegal activity in public settings with everyday people while hidden cameras record their actions. The focus of the show is to capture whether or not bystanders intervene and how.

The way people stepped up is especially touching for the actor, who happens to really be an Army vet.

Watch:

MIGHTY CULTURE

Beyond the Green Line: From British civilian to Israeli paratrooper

One of the great perks of this job is that sometimes things, which you had missed or had never heard of before, get tossed into your lap and you wind up with something special. Kind of like Christmas in July. So, when the SOFREP editors asked me if I would be interested in reviewing Marc Goldberg’s book, “Beyond the Green Line,” I accepted.

Goldberg’s story is a very interesting one. It takes him from his home in Britain to the ranks of the Israeli paratroopers during the Al Aqsa (Second) Intifada. Goldberg made his aliyah to Israel during a turbulent time.


Goldberg came to Israel from London. Despite speaking poor Hebrew, he joined an elite reconnaissance unit (Orev) of the Israeli paratroopers. The book recounts his relationships with his fellow military members and his tour of duty which mainly consisted of counter-insurgency operations in the West Bank.

The Al-Aqsa Intifada stretched from September 2000 to February 2005 and was marked by as many, if not more, civilian deaths as combatant deaths. It began when Palestinians unleashed waves of suicide bombers against Israel after the 2000 Camp David Summit failed to reach a final agreement on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in July 2000.

What makes Goldberg’s case and his service unique is that he was a Briton, but being born in Jew in the U.K., he “felt like an outcast.” He hated life in the U.K., as a young man. He had dreams of grandeur, of making the Aliyah to the birthplace of his people and becoming an elite Israeli paratrooper and an officer in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

He thought that Israel was the answer to all of the questions that troubled him. It would be the reason he existed and would erase the centuries of powerlessness that he felt his people and he had keenly suffered from.

Despite his language barrier, Goldberg passed the selection course for the IDF paratroopers, went through his training, and joined the ranks of the unit. His parents traveled from Britain to see him be awarded his maroon beret and silver paratrooper wings. He did so well in his training that his NCO gave him his own beret at his graduation and his commander gave him a watch.

His service in the IDF during the counter-insurgency campaign in Nablus is much like any operation in any military in the world. Hours upon hours of preparation and sheer boredom interspersed with brief periods of adrenaline rush. Intermingled in with the boredom were moments of head-scratching ridiculousness that mark many veterans’ career in Special Operations.

During one rock-throwing incident, where Palestinian youths climbed onto a roof of an apartment building and were throwing everything they could get their hands on, one older Palestinian man was intermittently yelling at the youths and the Israeli soldiers. He was upset that the youths broke into his apartment and were tossing all of his possessions, including the man’s washing machine, off the roof and onto the armored car the paratroopers were riding in.

One uncomfortable episode takes place in an apartment that the paratroopers are occupying to hunt for a wanted terrorist. Goldberg had to watch over a Palestinian family as well as leftist “volunteers” from the United States and the U.K.

But like many other veterans involved in a counter-insurgency campaign, Goldberg grew disillusioned with his job, the mission, and their reason for being there. He even grew disillusioned with the very terrorists they were hunting. One wanted terrorist, who was responsible for the deaths of an untold amount of Israelis and Palestinians, was trapped in a house with a boatload of ammunition. But rather than shoot it out and die a martyr’s death, as he preached to so many others, he surrendered sobbing and crying while pleading for his life.

He later fell into depression and had a classic case of PTSD, not able to interact with the civilians in Israel, while he was off-duty, anymore than he could back in England. This was despite not seeing the type of pitched combat that many of his contemporaries did.

In the end, Goldberg realized that Israel isn’t the land of milk and honey where everything is perfect and all of his questions would be answered. It is a land as troubled as anywhere else.

“Now I had seen the truth, Israel was just as beset with problems as anywhere else and the people who lived there were exactly the same as everyone else. The best were wonderful, the worst were awful, and the majority somewhere in between.”

The IDF had given him so much but also took a big piece out of him. Things got worse upon his return to England. Like many ex-servicemen, the mundane life awaiting him left him, he felt, with no challenge. He hit rock bottom and briefly contemplated suicide. But he entered therapy and ever so slowly made his way back.

In 2010, Goldberg returned to Israel, not “to a paradise, a place of milk and honey, or some kind of holy place the Messiah was imminently arriving to. I was going back to the land and country of my people. Dirty, dusty, imperfect but ours.”

He never experienced the war that he pictured in his boyhood; the war that would make him a Jewish war hero like he read and dreamed about. But he did his duty to his country and his people. He’s at peace with that. Now he’s married and living in the place he belonged all along.

Goldberg’s book is an easy, outstanding read. His style is such that while reading it, the reader has the feeling that the author is talking to you in a quiet bar and telling his story. This makes it a great page-turner and instantly hooks you; the pages will turn faster than you could imagine.

Make this book part of your counter-insurgency collection.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 next-level ways to celebrate Independence Day

With the Fourth of July nearly upon us, let’s consider how we go about celebrating the independence of the United States. American-as-f*ck movies, barbecues, and brews (before we go ahead and start our own explosive light show) are the most popular ways to go about it.

But there’s nothing wrong with upgrading a few of those ideas.

Watch what these civilians do to help a vet in need
Beware of going Full Veteran.

Related: 8 veteran AF ways to celebrate Independence Day

Right now, everyone is thinking of celebrating July 4th in the same way you are — and that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with however you want to celebrate independence; that’s the beauty of it. But there’s also nothing wrong with constantly trying to outdo each other in a race to create the best party either.

It’s time to Manifest Destiny all over your backyard with these simple ways to upsell everyone on American democracy.


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“Yeah, spruce ale. Prove me wrong.” – Ben Franklin

1. Upgrade your brew to something an American Patriot might drink.

Since Budweiser is now owned by a Brazilian-Belgian transnational conglomerate, it’s hard to call it the official beer of America’s independence. And while there are many more American beers not yet owned by other countries, we might as well drink what the Founding Fathers drank. Now we just need to find out what this was…

Luckily for us, Yards Brewing Company already did. Using letters and other documents written by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin, the brewers recreated a golden ale, porter, and spruce ale, each of which were once brewed by the Fathers themselves.

2. Upgrade those movies.

I know, the story of a Maverick fighter pilot who plays by his own rules gives you a massive bard-on. But did you know there are other movies that make Top Gun look a high school kid’s fevered daydream while dropping some real knowledge on you?

For example, First Blood, while fictional, has all the same badassery of Top Gun without being so over-the-top that it’s laughable. And it comes with a real message at the end.

Watch what these civilians do to help a vet in need

Philadelphia, home of Benjamin Franklin, has to use sparklers.

3. Take advantage of state laws when buying fireworks.

The great thing about these United States is that powers not reserved for the Federal government are delegated to the States — and the Feds don’t give a damn about fireworks. So, just because it might be illegal to purchase in one state doesn’t mean you can’t drive to another to pick up your 4th of July Arsenal of Democracy ammunition.

Sorry, Pennsylvania.

Watch what these civilians do to help a vet in need

Even if you prefer the hot dog, you can even expand those flavors, like with Chicago-style dogs.

4. The meats.

Burgers and hot dogs are classics. No one will argue with you there. But that doesn’t mean that’s all you have to make. There are a lot of crowd-pleasing ways to use those coals you got fired up: brisket, pork chops, steaks, chicken, ribs… the list is endless.

And while the meat is where good BBQ starts, remember the many flavors of America. There’s the tangy mustard-based sauce of the Carolinas (try that with some cole slaw). Or maybe you’re into a heavier, smoky Kansas City-style sauce. There are many to choose from — don’t skimp out.

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“We already have Tim Hortons. Next stop, Ottawa.”

5. Succeed where the Revolutionaries failed.

In 1775, Col. Benedict Arnold tried to capture Quebec and free the Canadians from the British yoke. Outnumbered, cold, and outgunned, he was turned back in a rout. It ended the American excursion in Canada during the Revolution — but it doesn’t have to be forever. Arnold tried to invade Canada in November.

SAD.

This is July and they’ll never expect it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

From green to gold

The longevity of a service member’s career is a complicated equation. Perhaps even more so for the enlisted track, which boasts more active-duty soldiers than the Officer Corps. Joining the leadership ranks without foregoing pay or benefits is the secret weapon of candidates who pursue the Green to Gold Active Duty Program — a two-year program providing eligible, active-duty enlisted soldiers an opportunity to complete a baccalaureate degree or a two-year graduate degree and earn a commission as an Army officer.

The question of what’s next can often stem from frustration with career plateau or restrictions within a particular MOS, leading many to answer the unknown by leaving the military. What is known is that experienced, confident soldiers make influential leaders — an important characteristic of any officer. The Army also needs people at the helm who can take charge in any scenario, regardless of the circumstances.

Army officers are often put under extreme stress with enormous responsibilities and expectations. Non-commissioned officers are naturally adept to meeting these challenges head on. Skillsets acquired through combat, field maneuvers or operations, plus professional development add unparalleled insight to the success of mission planning that officers are responsible for.

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Sgt. First Class Adam Cain with his family.

“I joined the Army straight out of high school. I’m not the same soldier that I was back then, and I wanted my career to reflect that maturation,” Sgt. First Class Adam Cain, current Green to Gold cadet, said about his reasons for joining the program.

Advanced training, schools and two combat deployments kept Cain searching for the next level of success within his service.

“This is me staying competitive and making a tangible impact, while taking into consideration the quality of life for my family,” Cain said.

Completing a degree means potential candidates need to begin earning credits well before application.

“The Army wants the best, and becoming the best requires a dedication to this choice, the selection process, and the development of yourself,” Army Staff Sgt. Elijah Redmond, current applicant hopeful, said.

Utilizing programs like tuition assistance — a free option to earn college credits without utilizing the G.I. Bill benefits, is just one possibility to become a more attractive candidate before completing an application packet.

The Army offers four different options within the program. The active duty option, which is discussed here, is a highly–competitive process, with the biggest perk being soldiers remain on active–duty pay and with full benefits throughout the duration of their college studies.

Both the university and the Army will pass its own independent decisions on accepting applicants.

“Staying hopeful, hungry, and positive is important,” Redmond, who was at the second of two phases of the process at the time of this interview, said. The two-phase process takes an in–depth look into GPA, GT scores, PT score, medical history and more.

Do prior enlisted officers hold the potential to advance companies faster, and with better operational knowledge than their peers?

“Coming into this new role, I will be highly aware of the role my words, actions, and decisions will play in the goal of creating soldiers,” Cain, who experienced firsthand how toxic and unaware leadership affects morale, explained.

“What we (prior enlisted) bring to this side of leading, is a comprehensive look at all working components of a unit,” Redmond said. He hopes to gain commission within his current MOS field: military police.

The Army invests millions in training a soldier into the precise and highly–capable person he or she is destined to become. Soldiers like Cain and Redmond understand that value and are looking for the best ways to utilize their skillsets with maximum impact. The beneficiaries of trained leaders are no doubt the company, soldiers, and missions which fall under their command. Not having to teach the nuances of Army life means skipping ahead to the more important details, diving deeper into development, and achieving a higher success rate overall.

While the selection process may appear overwhelming, both applicants and the Army information page recommend checking out the Green to Gold Facebook page, which is regularly updated with helpful tips and information at https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Government-Organization/US-Army-Cadet-Command-Green-to-Gold-Program-300473013696291/.

Visit https://www.goarmy.com/careers-and-jobs/current-and-prior-service/advance-your-career/green-to-gold/green-to-gold-active-duty.html for the application process.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how U.S. Marines are the President’s Fist

Throughout world history, leaders have needed expeditionary units to enforce their rules abroad. When diplomacy fails and time is of the essence, sometimes sending in the full Army is not viable. U.S. citizens may need to be rescued, property protected, or to prevent the slaughter of our allies. The nation needs action immediately; the President needs something destroyed overnight and deploys the Marines – The President’s Fist.

The Constitution grants Congress the sole power to declare war. Congress has declared war on 11 occasions, including its first declaration of war with Great Britain in 1812. Congress approved its last formal declaration of war during World War II. – Senate.gov

Without congressional approval, the president cannot deploy troops. Check. However, presidents have a trump card – the 1973 War Powers Act. Under 50 U.S. Code § 1541 – Purpose and policy section C states:

The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces. 

When I was in boot camp I was told, ‘If the president wants a Marine to protect a Wendy’s overseas, there would be a Marine there within 24 hours.’ There is some truth in that joke. It wasn’t long after the War Powers Act went into effect that presidents used their new power to protect the weak and defeat the strong. There is a fine legal line that the president must walk but thankfully it is clearly defined as Low-Intensity conflict.

At some point along the conflict spectrum envisioned by military and national security strategists, a LIC (Low-intensity conflict) becomes a mid-intensity conflict.’ Presumably, at this point, congressional authorization would be required for military action, provided that the conflict does not involve a direct attack against U.S. territory or U.S. military forces stationed abroad, because the conflict would be considered a “war” under Article I of the Constitution. Thus, conflicts such as those in Korea, Vietnam, or Iraq-Kuwait would require congressional approval prior to the commitment of U.S. military forces. On the other hand, military operations that fall below this point would be considered LIC, and under a theory of presidential prerogative, would not be subject to such a constitutional restriction in the absence of specific legislation. — PRESIDENTIAL PREROGATIVE UNDER THE CONSTITUTION TO DEPLOY U.S. MILITARY FORCES IN LOW-INTENSITY CONFLICT, MARK T. UYEDA

So, now we’ve established that the president does have the power to deploy troops but nowhere does it specifically say Marines are the force for these deployments. Technically the president can send any branch he wants. 

Legally, yes, the President can now deploy whatever forces he wants instead of the Marines, but in practice that simply doesn’t happen, except for small actions by small, covert SOCOM teams, and stuff like that. Whenever it is determined that an actual military task force needs to put boots on the ground somewhere and establish an American military presence, the Marines are still the go-to. This is especially true in “flash-points” around the globe, when unstable situations develop quickly and without much warning. – Sgt. Mitch Carroll USMC

Roman emperors had Praetorians, an elite imperial guard tasked with protecting the emperor. Marines share a similar role in protecting the President of the United states. There are only four Marines that are within close proximity to the president at all times. 

Semper Fidelis, ‘Always Faithful’ comes from never having taken up arms and marched on the capital… a lifetime commitment to America and the Marine Corps. A history not all branches share with the Marines. Even the Marine Corps Band is known as ‘The President’s Own’ and is known as America’s oldest continuously active professional music organization. 

As the initial invasion force of choice, the Marines have also played a huge part in humanitarian aid on behalf of the president.

Here is a quick timeline since the 1973 War Powers Act was ratified provided by fas.org:

1974 – Evacuation from Cyprus. United States naval forces evacuated U.S. civilians during hostilities between Turkish and Greek Cypriot forces.

1975 – Evacuation from Vietnam. On April 3, 1975, President Ford reported U.S. naval vessels, helicopters, and marines had been sent to assist in evacuation of refugees and U.S. nationals from Vietnam. Evacuation from Cambodia. On April 12, 1975, President Ford reported that he had ordered U.S. military forces to proceed with the planned evacuation of U.S. citizens from Cambodia.

South Vietnam. On April 30, 1975, President Ford reported that a force of 70 evacuation helicopters and 865 marines had evacuated about 1,400 U.S. citizens and 5,500 third country nationals and South Vietnamese from landing zones near the U.S. embassy in Saigon and the Tan Son Nhut Airfield. 

1982 – Sinai. On March 19, 1982, President Reagan reported the deployment of military personnel and equipment to participate in the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai. Participation had been authorized by the Multinational Force and Observers Resolution, P.L. 97-132.

Lebanon. On August 21, 1982, President Reagan reported the dispatch of 800 marines to serve in the multinational force to assist in the withdrawal of members of the Palestine Liberation force from Beirut. The Marines left September 20, 1982.

1983 – Grenada. On October 25, 1983, President Reagan reported a landing on Grenada by Marines and Army airborne troops to protect lives and assist in the restoration of law and order and at the request of five members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States

Air, land, and sea — any clime and place. 

The Marine Corps is the President’s Fist.

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘Breaking Bad’ co-stars create new mezcal called ‘Dos Hombres’

Better call Saul… for a ride home, that is. Former “Breaking Bad” co-stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul just debuted a new mezcal called Dos Hombres, an homage to “two guys on a quest.” The actors took to Instagram to announce the spirit, which is made by hand in Mexico.

The story about how Dos Hombres came to be is quite cute, actually. Cranston (who played chemist-turned-drug dealer Walter White) and Paul (who played his partner Jesse Pinkman) were having dinner at a sushi bar three years ago in New York, talking about life and how they could work together again.


“We had the time of our lives while shooting Breaking Bad and truly built a very special bond,” they wrote on Instagram. “Knowing that we couldn’t share the screen for quite a while — our thoughts turned to a new project.”

So the duo brainstormed potential ventures over cocktails. Looking down at his drink, Paul proposed they “do a really special mezcal,” so they began their search. After a “long and crazy journey,” they stumbled upon San Luis del Rio in Oaxaca, Mexico, a small, hillside village known for its rich soil and plentiful rainfall.

“It was on a dirt-road, in a tiny village, hours away from the center of town, we found it and it was perfect,” they wrote. “We looked at each other and just simply nodded. This is it.”

Multi-generational craftsman here make Dos Hombres with a blend of espadin, one of the most common agave varieties used in mezcal production. Cranston and Paul say they’re crazy about the taste and aroma of their product, which includes apple, mango, sapote, wood and smooth smoke notes.

Dos Hombres is currently available for online through Reserve Bar. The delivery service ships exclusively to Arizona, California, Nevada, New Jersey and New York. “Breaking Bad” fans and boozers elsewhere can only hope a bottle ends up on the shelf at one of the 150 best bars in America.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why Coast Guard snipers are the real deal

Each branch of the United States Armed Forces has their own elite troop, proficient in using a sniper rifle — and the Coast Guard is no different. Surprised? You’re not alone. One of the only times troops sing their praises is when they “come out of nowhere” and beat most branches’ snipers in competition, year after year.

Sure, it’s always hilarious to poke fun at our tiniest brother branch for being puddle pirates, but when it comes down to it, mission after mission, the Coast Guard has continuously proven themselves as cut from the same cloth. Okay, maybe just the MSRT guys — but still.


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Everyone wants to mock the coasties until they realize what the coasties actually do…

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Daniel Lavinder)

The Coast Guard equivalent to special operations is the Maritime Security Response Team, or MSRT. They’re the front line troops shouldering the burden of the War on Drugs. And they’re not just busting college frat boys who’re smoking a bit of weed on their daddy’s yacht either. These guys are constantly going toe-to-toe with some of the deadliest cartels in the world. These are the guys that are bringing billion-dollar criminal enterprises to their knees.

When the Coast Guard goes out to stomp narcoterrorists, they send the MSRT to interdict them. Among them are the often-forgotten snipers.

Snipers across the Department of Defense focus their training on several factors, depending on the role they play. A Marine recon sniper, for example, must train in camouflaging themselves and moving without being seen — often through miles of difficult terrain for weeks at a time. Coast Guard snipers don’t worry about because that’s not in their area of operations — there’s no hiding on the open ocean.

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There’s very little technological assistance — that’s all skill from the sniper.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

Instead, they focus their entire training on balancing the perfect shot — often from a helicopter or vessel, compensating for the ebb and flow of the waves, into another speeding vessel. It is an art form that they’ve definitely mastered.

Another key difference between Department of Defense snipers and the coasties is that they’re rarely aiming for individual enemies. They are armed with a Robar RC-50 anti-material rifle and their goal is to disable the engines of speeding boats. They need to capture and imprison the drug traffickers, after all.

When the engine is disabled, the interdiction team boards, and the enemy fights back, well, the rifle is meant to disintegrate reinforced steel. Even criminals aren’t dumb enough to keep fighting when they see what it can do to a comparatively squishy human being.

Last year, the snipers of the Coast Guard’s HITRON (Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron), successfully made their 500th interdiction (or drug bust) since their founding in 1998. Check out the video below that celebrates hitting this milestone.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why Polynesian tattoos are probably more intense than yours

Tattoos are, by their very essence, pretty badass. They’re statements to the entire world that you’re willing to go through a few hours of pain to showcase your dedication to a certain thing. They’re messages that you’ll carry on your body forever.

In the military, it’s not uncommon for troops to get a new bit of ink that celebrates their branch on the day they graduate from initial entry training. It’s a legitimately badass reason to permanently mark yourself — a symbol of transformation into a warrior — just as Polynesian warriors have done throughout history.

That tattoo of a unicorn that you drunkenly got inked onto your butt because it’ll totally be funny? Not quite as badass.


Tattooing predates civilization itself. Ötzi the Iceman, found in the Italian Alps, is Europe’s oldest known human mummy and his skin was inked with 61 different tattoos. But the art form, as we know it, followed early Austronesian settlers and arguably reached its apex with the Polynesian peoples.

In many Polynesian societies, tattoos are symbols of class, nobility, and family. While certain design elements may be similar and represent a specific trait exhibited by the wearer, no two tattoos, by their very nature, are identical. In Polynesian society, tattoos read like someone’s life story. If lines are filled with a dog-skin cloak, it may signify that someone is a warrior. Intricate designs on the forehead may mean they’re in a leadership position within their community.

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People want to appropriate other cultures and take their tattoo designs, but none of them are willing to go the distance by getting a Ta Moko (face tattoo).
(Photo by Graham Crumb)

Some Polynesians still get their tattoos the same way their ancestors did — using tools of sharpened bone and ink made from the candle nut. This traditional process makes heavier use of scarification than modern techniques.

Instead of using a needle to inject ink beneath the epidermis (first layer of skin), the traditional method used by Pacific Islanders involves, at its most basic, digging into the flesh with a serrated bone, using a tapping mallet to drive the the bone further into the skin, and rubbing ink into the wound. It’s extremely painful and may take weeks, if not years, to complete.

This is made even more impressive by the fact that the most common place to get a tattoo is the face. Unlike western cultures, face tattoos aren’t vilified by the Maori. It’s simply a way of showing the world who you are.

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Fun fact: It’s very common in Samoa to get the tattoo from the waist to the knee — the pe’a — which covers everything to include the booty and the private bits.

The act of getting a tattoo is sacred in that it’s a rite of passage for the wearer. You cannot eat with your hands while it’s being done nor can you talk to anyone during the tattoo process. But the biggest no-no is wincing from pain. Any sign of weakness means you are not worthy of the tatau and you’ll be told to leave with a half-finished tattoo. This forever marks you with shame.

The tradition continues to this day as a sign of heritage. While most of the younger generations opt for the modern-day needle gun (it’s faster and less painful), traditional artists are still around. While it’s not forbidden for outsiders to undergo the traditional process, you will (understandably) be shunned if you get something that you know nothing about just because you thought it looked cool.

MIGHTY CULTURE

When was the last time you chose Deliberate Discomfort?

There’s a reason why elite Special Operations courses always begin with intense physical training. The shock value of initial stress overload is the best discriminator while assessing an individual or group’s willingness and capacity to accomplish difficult tasks. It’s because after twenty minutes, when you are tired of holding a log over your head, you can’t fake it any longer. When the pressure is on and the stress increases, your true personality comes out.


The vocal, motivated cheerleader types who try hard to encourage others? They suddenly shut up. The pessimists who are there because they were told to be there but don’t really want to be there? They suddenly quit. The eternal optimists who are always positive and see the good in everything? They suddenly wonder if they have what it takes to make it in the first place. The playing field is now even because everyone is in survival mode and doing whatever it takes to get by. Fatigue makes cowards of us all.

Eventually, there is a moment when everybody is miserable and focused on themselves. Our heads are down, and we are contemplating when the suffering will end. As the level of stress increases, our brains narrow our focus, and our sensory attention goes inward. Our body language reflects, as the pupils dilate, heart rate increases, breathing intensifies, heads go down, shoulders slump, and our thoughts begin to race: What in the hell did I get myself into? When will it all end? How much longer can I keep this up? Is it all worth it?

During log PT on day one of selection, for whatever reason, almost counterintuitively, even though it spent energy on something that was risky, I looked up. I looked up and looked around. I deliberately chose discomfort. The guys around me were all suffering just as badly as I was, if not worse. In that moment, my friend Pat lifted his head up as well. He looked around, and we looked at each other. He shouted, “Let’s go, J. You got this!” I shouted words of encouragement back at him, even though it required energy that could have been used on myself.

More guys lifted their heads and looked around. We began to focus on one another rather than on ourselves. Looking up became infectious. Strangely enough, we began to forget about our pain, the time seemed to move faster, and the log felt lighter. The reality is that nothing changed about the situation except our attitudes. The conditions still sucked, it was hot as hell, our bodies still strained, and the logs didn’t get any lighter. It was our minds that had changed. We began choosing how we thought, deciding where to direct our attention and energy.

In these difficult moments, situations that make or break individuals and teams, we find our collective purpose. When the pressure is on and you’re on a team, it’s never about you. It’s about the people to your left and right who are going through the experience and process with you. In this moment, I found purpose. My purpose was to make the team succeed.

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Misery is suffering without a purpose. The guys who make it through these types of courses are the guys who experience an aha moment. When they realize that they’re not alone. That they are on a team and the success of the team is more important than their own personal success.

The people who don’t make it are the guys who are self-centered, who don’t risk any energy that doesn’t immediately serve their own interests. The people who don’t look up.

The secret to the elite mind-set of Special Operations Forces, no matter how many books you read or podcasts you listen to, is to look up.

The same “look up” mind-set applies to the everyday mundanity of real life. As a lot of well-intending families do, my wife and I are committed to attending church services every Sunday. As a couple with young children, parenting lessons come early and often. Our daughter is a toddler with boundless energy, which means that we spend a good majority of the service outside in the foyer. Whenever she acts up, screams, or causes a distraction during the sermon or in Sunday school, we do the polite and sensible thing and remove her from the situation.

After several months of faith in the foyer went by, my wife and I looked up at each other and asked ourselves, “What are we doing here?” We don’t hear the sermon; we don’t hear the Sunday school lesson. We just sit out in the foyer and distract our daughter. What’s the point of getting up early and getting dressed to come to church and play with our daughter in the foyer?

I thought back to my experiences during log PT. I was embarrassed that I had forgotten that critical lesson from years ago. I realized that I wasn’t going to church for myself. I was going for the other members of the congregation. I asked myself, “What can I do this Sunday to serve the church and church members’ needs?” Sitting out in the foyer with a screaming daughter, maybe all I could give was a hello or a smile. If that was all I could give, then I would give that. For me, Sundays are sacred because they represent our commitment to spending that quality time together in fellowship to reflect and celebrate our common values and beliefs. This is the foundation of our collective purpose. Is the quality of time we invest now showing an immediate return? Certainly, not immediately, but that’s a limited and short-sighted way of looking at the situation. That’s the same reason why people decide to quit: the log is too heavy right now, and they want to make the pain stop. It’s not about the log, and it’s not about the foyer. It’s about the people to our left and right.

We chose a different perspective and approach to the situation. Through this choice, we realized that if we continued our routine, our daughter’s behavior would eventually improve. By the time she is old enough to know better, this routine as a deliberate and weekly choice will not just be something she does but an integral part of who she is. Suddenly on Sundays, chasing my daughter in the foyer doesn’t seem as bad as it once did.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Are US troops overpaid?

A new study on the military’s pay and compensation system asks a surprising question: Are troops getting paid too much?

Service members have typically earned about 70% of the salaries for civilians with similar skill sets, when factoring in their housing and allowances to offset food costs. That’s the level of compensation researchers found the military would need to offer to recruit and retain the right quality and quantity of personnel, according to a new report from RAND Corporation, a nonprofit think tank.

But troops’ compensation has jumped beyond that 70th percentile mark for both officers and enlisted troops, according to RAND. Over the course of the 2000s, military pay relative to civilian pay “increased substantially,” the report’s author wrote.


Now that enlisted troops are earning closer to 90% of what their civilian counterparts make, and officers about 83%, she says it’s “raising the question of whether military pay is set too high relative to civilian pay.”

The report, which Military Times first wrote about, looks at how the military’s pay system could be improved to support recruitment, retention and performance. Beth Asch, a senior economist at the RAND Corporation, doesn’t make a determination about whether troops are overpaid, but rather recommends the levels be assessed.

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(U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Leland White)

“Given that military pay is above the 70th percentile benchmark and has been for some time, the important question is whether this benchmark is still relevant or whether military pay is set too high relative to civilian pay,” Asch wrote.

In addition to their pay, troops also live on base at no cost or receive a non-taxable housing allowance if they reside off post. That amount is determined by pay grade, geographic location and family size. Active-duty troops may also draw stipends to offset food costs.

Troops are also eligible for military-provided health care, but those benefits aren’t factored into the military compensation totals referenced in this study. There are other benefits and advantages, too, that may draw people to the military that are not factored into the calculation, including skills training, guaranteed employment on multi-year contracts and free post-secondary education through the post-9/11 GI Bill, among others.

Of course, military service also comes with unique challenges and risks — including deployments, mandatory moves and far less employment flexibility than the civilian world offers.

As military pay improved, so did the quality of troops, Asch said — that is, in all the services but the Army.

“The reason why the Army did not increase recruit aptitude as military pay rose relative to civilian pay is an open question,” she wrote.

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller)

One possibility, Asch wrote, was that the introduction of the post-9/11 G.I. Bill cut out the Army’s ability to provide education benefit “kickers” to recruits entering selected occupations. Since all recruits got access to post-9/11 education benefits, the Army might have struggled to attract some high-quality prospects, she said.

Aside from recruiting, Asch discusses how military pay affects retention and performance. Rather than simply relying on step increases when troops pick up new rank, Asch says a more flexible system could incentivize hard work.

“The primary source of flexibility and efficiency in the military compensation system turns out to be only a small fraction of cash compensation,” RAND’s key findings state. “Special and incentive pays are not as efficient as they could be in providing incentives for retention and performance.”

The think tank recommends improving how incentive and special pays are handled to “increase flexibility and efficiency.”

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

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4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

The Air Force has enough people from other branches making fun of it. Airmen don’t need to be the subject of ridicule for things they don’t deserve. The facts people can use to poke fun at the Air Force are so plentiful, why go through all that extra effort to make stuff up? Just because it seems like something the Air Force would do doesn’t make it real.

The chocolate fountain inside a DFAC in Iraq? Yes, that existed. I can say I saw it with my own eyes. To be fair, there was one in the Army chow hall on Camp Victory, too, but I’ll let the Air Force take the heat for it. Dining facilities with made-to-order omelets and a salad bar? The Air Force has that, too. And yes, it was not too long ago the Air Force did its annual PT test on a stationary bike.

The reasons to poke fun are plentiful.


Related: The complete hater’s guide to the Air Force

There’s no need perpetuate myths about airmen. Forget, for a moment, that Air Force “barracks” are nicer than most Holiday Inns (no, airmen do not get swimming pools… not at their living quarters, anyway) and help us debunk these continuously repeated myths that are both untrue or unjustly attributed to the Air Force.

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How’s that taste, shipmate?

 

1. The Stress Card Myth.

This has been debunked on We Are The Mighty before, but it’s important enough to reiterate here. For anyone joining the military, no, you will not be issued a Basic Training “Stress Card” that allows you to take a “break” from training if your nerves get a little frayed. The Air Force is still very much a military branch and, while it might have the “easiest” time in Basic Military Training, you will still get yelled at, still do PT ad nauseam, and it will all be very stressful.

That’s the point.

If anything, BMT is only getting more difficult as time goes on. Where it was once a six-and-a-half week course, it’s now eight weeks. Now that airmen spend more time in joint-service operations — and thus become “battlefield airmen” — it’s important that they be able to handle themselves under stress, which can often mean under fire.

Besides, it was the Navy who had the closest thing to a Stress Card.

Related: The truth behind basic training “Stress Cards”

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Tech. Sgt. Zachary Rhyner medically retired in 2015 due to wounds sustained in combat that prevented mobility below the knee. Rhyner is an Air Force Cross recipient and Special Tactics combat controller attached to the 24th Special Operations Command. Rhyner served 11 years, earning three Purple Hearts in six deployments. (U.S. Air Force)

 

2. The Air Force has no enlisted warfighters.

The Air Force’s enlisted troops are mostly happy with rendering a sharp salute to our officers as they taxi out on their way to the wild blue yonder, the battlefield the Air Force controls with unrelenting hostility toward would-be interlopers both on the ground and in the air.

But there are many Air Force specialties that have nothing to do with simply letting others go into combat while waiting on the flight line. The Air Force’s battlefield airmen aren’t limited to conventional forces, like Security Forces Phoenix Ravens, the airmen who protect aircraft on the ground in a hostile environment. USAF Combat Controllers, TACPs, Weather Technicians, and Combat Rescue Officers will all deploy anywhere in the world with the best special operators from any branch. And when the sh*t hits the fan, you will be happy to know that Air Force Pararescue Jumpers are on their way to bail you out.

Fun Fact: When Air Force PJs go into action, their alarm is the Leeroy Jenkins battle cry.

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The closest any of these guys will get to the stick is flying a drone. (U.S. Air Force)

 

3. We all fly planes.

This one is mainly for civilians. Anyone who’s met the average junior enlisted airman will be happy to know that flying a plane, especially for the United States Air Force, is not something you can just sign up to do. As a matter of fact, it’s incredibly difficult to get behind the stick of any Air Force aircraft anywhere.

That includes training aircraft.

The closest enlisted airmen will get to being in the cockpit’s hotseat aboard a USAF aircraft is either in a simulator or stealing one off the flightline. And before you scoff at the last part, it happens a lot more than anyone might expect.

Now read: That time a Marine mechanic took a joyride in a stolen A4M Skyhawk

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[Laughs in Coast Guard] (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

 

4. The Air Force is the “smartest branch.”

I hate to debunk this one because it saves me so much stress and hassle whenever a bunch of veterans are at the bar comparing the size of their brains based on branch of service. Eventually, someone pats the airman on the back and says, “Hey! At least you’re the smartest branch!”

This myth transcends every branch and era. Inevitably, some Facebook commenter, veteran or civilian, will remark on how the Air Force is the smartest without actually reading this article and the myth will perpetuate itself. While the Air Force handles a lot of high-tech equipment and research laboratories, the people who handle that aren’t taking the ASVAB. And if they were, they would probably ace it for any branch they were going into.

Sure, the Air Force works on satellites, the Navy works on nuclear reactors, the Army operates geospatial imaging systems, and the Marines have to at least know enough to pick up Air Force women at the bar. The actual branch that is the most difficult to get into is – wait for it – the Coast Guard.

The military divides enlisted candidates into three tiers, with the top tier being those with a high school diploma and tier two being recruits with a GED. The Air Force recruits 99 percent tier one candidates, but the Coast Guard won’t even look at anything other than tier one unless they’ve been in the military before. If you prefer to judge by using minimum ASVAB score, the lowest the Air Force will go is 36, while the Coast Guard’s minimum is a solid 40.

The Coast Guard is also the smallest branch of the military, but has no trouble recruiting new Coasties. This means they’d rather send you down the street to the Army than let a substandard Coast Guardsman slip through the cracks. Meanwhile, in the Air Force, they say, “there’s a waiver for everything.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

The FBI released their files on Bigfoot

Ever since its inception in 1908, the FBI has been tasked with investigating the sorts of mysteries that keep Americans up at night. From foreign espionage to bank heists, the FBI has earned a global reputation for its investigative prowess for a reason; but despite all their training, resources, and pedigree, even the FBI’s most capable sometimes fall short of finding their suspect. Of course, when the suspect is Bigfoot, it seems a bit more excusable.

Back in 1976, Bigfoot was, well, big. Less than ten years after the Patterson-Gimlin footage took the country by storm with what certainly looked like a living, breathing, ape-monster trudging through the California woods, the Sasquatch had become a fixture at the box office. Theaters all across the country showed films like “Curse of the Bigfoot” and “The Legend of Bigfoot,” along with at least two other ape-man features that year, and even an episode of the “Six Million Dollar Man” had a Bigfoot cameo.

But the most intriguing place Bigfoot popped up in 1976 wasn’t on screen; it was in a file folder at the FBI.


Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film slowed down and stablised

youtu.be

Not everyone in the Bigfoot game back in 1976 had a Hollywood address. Just like today, Bigfoot had a fervent scientific following already scouring the North American forests for any evidence of the missing primate. One of the most respected in the field at the time was Peter Byrne, who served as the director of the Bigfoot Information Center and Exhibition in The Dalles, Oregon.

Byrne got his hands on a small patch of hair attached to a bit of skin that was supposedly from the ape-man himself, but soon realized that he and his team lacked the capability to conclusively determine the hair’s origin. So Byrne made the decision to send the sample to a reputable third party for analysis: the FBI.

His letter was received by Jay Cochran Jr., Assistant Director of the FBI at the Scientific and Technical Services Division. Cochran started by explaining to Byrne that the FBI isn’t in the business of chasing down unusual hair samples from the woods unless there was some kind of crime involved, but, because of the unique scientific implications, he was willing to make an exception.

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Hair samples sent into the FBI for testing

(Federal Bureau of Investigation)

The FBI files on Bigfoot contain a number of letters between Byrne and FBI officials from that point forward, as Byrne prodded the FBI to take his sample (and pursuit) seriously. Byrne forwarded clippings of articles from large media outlets like the New York Times to show that not only did he have a reputation as a legitimate researcher, but the American people had a vested interest in solving the Bigfoot mystery. Finally, the FBI responded to Byrne with the results of their analysis.

“The examinations included a study of morphological characteristics such as root structure, medullary structure, and cuticle thickness in addition to scale casts. Also, the hairs were compared directly with hairs of known origin under a comparison microscope,” Cochran wrote to Byrne.

“It was concluded as a result of these examinations that the hairs are of the deer family origin.”

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Letter from Jay Cochran, Jr. to Howard Curtis

(Federal Bureau of Investigation)

Cochran returned the sample with the letter, though, according to Byrne, he never received that final bit of correspondence. Because he was traveling at the time, the letter was sent to the executive vice president of the Academy of Applied Science, an organization Byrne’s Bigfoot Information Center maintained close formal ties with. Byrne was presented with the results earlier this week by the Washington Post, and reacted as though the FBI’s conclusion was entirely new to him.

That may well be true, as the files were only uploaded to the FBI’s website this week, though the documents were actually declassified years ago and have been publicly available on websites like The Black Vault ever since.

Of course, it’s impossible to say if the FBI maintains any other files on Bigfoot, but at least for now, it seems the North American ape-man has eluded authorities once again.

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.

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