Who are “We”? - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Who are “We”?

The Nation appears fractured with the January 6th assault on the U.S. capitol interrupting America’s most sacred democratic process. If you’re like me, and you’re watching the news 24/7, you can begin to feel like our nation really is divided, maybe even irreparably so. At a minimum, several perceived realities are playing out on a national scale, depending on the social system in which one interacts. However, I want to offer an alternative perspective and a model for unification of these realities: our nation’s military.

2020 was my last full year of service in the Army, with my impending retirement this summer. As I consider the next chapter of my life, I am also considering the state of our Nation, and I’m drawn to the reality constructed for me by the military over the past 24 years. This reality is one in which members of the military are all united in a common purpose: to fight and win our nation’s wars. The military takes people from all backgrounds and imbues them with a core set of values and a core philosophy– with no consideration given to race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, or political affiliation; these factors are transparent on the battlefield.

According to sociologists Peter Berger and Thomas Luckman in their book, Social Construction of Reality, “Society is a human product. Society is an objective reality. Man is a social product.” Therefore, our realities are socially constructed by inputs from our social systems– families, friends, media (all types), our education, and our daily interactions with our environment, among other factors.

Humans are responsible for the societies we create. Therefore, we are all responsible for our own behavior when our differences become more apparent and the conversations more difficult. At times, it seems like Americans can no longer have difficult conversations without resorting to ad hominens, dangerous rhetoric, violence, and brutality. Is this who we want to be as a nation and as a society?

When stimuli hit our senses, our brains interpret it based on the way that information fits into our personal psychological puzzle, largely derived from our heuristics and biases. But what if we could tweak our inputs, change our perspectives, and influence our brains to develop the psychological systems and pathways that lead us closer together, rather than driving us further apart?

In order to rewire our brains, we must first recognize we have a problem and decide to change our behavior. We can the begin to expand our repertoire by diversifying our inputs and committing to considering perspectives that clash with our personal realities. Our goal should be to cultivate a society in which we treat each other as compatriots, recognizing that while we all have the right to espouse our personal perspectives, we must respect the sacred democratic processes that make this country what it is, and treat each other with dignity and respect. We must actively listen when others speak, without reloading, and then share our counter arguments with a sense of decorum absent from so many conversations today.

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that the military has it all figured out- we don’t. While the military is still charting its own course to improve in many areas, including those of diversity and inclusion, its model for unity can be found in the willingness of our leaders to have difficult conversations with service members at all echelons, and our ability to unify in pursuit of a shared purpose.

While there is no shortage of disagreements amongst members of the military, and a whole host of varying viewpoints, perspectives, ideals, and political points of view, we sit at the table together and vow to respectfully work out some of our thorniest issues. Senior leaders like 22nd Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Charles Q. Brown, Jr., at a volatile time in our nation’s history, told his story to help the military start a difficult conversation about race within its own ranks. He modelled vulnerability and transparency, and in doing so empowered others to find their voice and share their stories so that we can begin to heal.

When we have these conversations, we attempt to do so with empathy for those who have been most impacted by our failures in diversity, equity, and inclusion; and in consideration of our nation’s long-term goals. People have a right to be angry when they feel like they’ve been oppressed, disadvantaged, or even duped, but we have to check this emotion at the door if we want others to listen and feel like valued members of the institution, without caveats.

The military doesn’t always get it right and feedback exists in the system which causes its progress to ebb and flow over time. However, if you consider the military’s progress over the long term and changes in policy across different administrations and senior leadership, you would still see significant growth and progress in the force. You would also see a continuous effort by the institution to improve the way we treat people and create a social system in which everyone feels valued- that opportunities exist equally for all.

More importantly, the military plucks people from every corner of our country and territories and unifies them with a shared purpose, using tried and true leadership skills and attributes and values like dignity, respect, empathy, equality, duty, and selfless service as the arbiters of unity. When those within our community commit acts that conflict with our values, we hold them accountable and we ask that they accept personal responsibility for their behavior. We focus on people’s strengths, not differences, to leverage individual skills and behaviors across diverse teams to achieve a common set of objectives; our shared purpose to fight and win our Nation’s wars.

Americans will never completely agree on the specifics of our domestic policies or foreign interests but we should be able to have a conversation and reach amicable resolutions for some of our most contentious issues. We must be willing to come to the table for rational conversations, chart a path ahead to coexist in peace as one nation, and most importantly, preserve this great democratic experiment we call America. This requires a commitment to listen to each other in the sharing of ideas, hear both sides of an issue, and most importantly, treat others the way we want to be treated.

The military has withstood the test of time. Its history and legacy survived a civil war and later, those forces came back together, unified in a common purpose. One day they were shooting and the next saluting, the military’s customs and courtesies and core set of values indelibly woven into the fabric of the force. If the military could achieve this unification after such a violent and brutal past, I believe America can too.

America also has a set of core values, in which there are currently varying degrees of faith. A State Department pamphlet designed to enable Americans to best discuss their homeland while abroad expounds on shared values like equality, individualism, and democracy. To this list, I would add unity as one of the principles I’ve mentioned when engaged in similar discussions with international peers.

We are, in fact, the United States, but that name loses its meaning if our people are not also united. When George Washington spoke of the concept of unity, he envisioned it as “…wholesome plans digested by councils,” rather than individuals acting in their own interest. Our nation, when truly whole, is still but the sum of its parts. If our people and our institutions fail to work together, or we become too myopic in our understanding of our shared reality, then our country’s very name loses its fundamental meaning.

With our American values in mind, let’s stop focusing on our differences and instead focus on our similarities as we look to calm this disruption in civility. Consider the other; there is a large part within all of us living the same reality. We work together, we shop in the same stores, and our children attend the same schools. We’re on the same grind everyday to do the best we can, and we are all bound by this common purpose- just trying to survive. It’s within that shared purpose and our shared values we can find a new reality in America, one in which we are all united in our efforts to preserve democracy and ensure the survival of our great nation.

LTC Cassandra Crosby is an Army officer and Editor-in-Chief of From the Green Notebook. Check her out at LinkedIn.

This article originally appeared on From The Green Notebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 75 years, D-Day veteran is reunited with his long-lost French love

An American D-Day veteran was reunited with his French love, 75 years after they first parted, USA Today reports.

K.T. Robbins kept a photo of the girl he met in the village of Briey in 1944. Jeannine Pierson, then Ganaye, was 18 when she met the Army veteran, who was 24 at the time.

“I think she loved me,” Robbins, now in his late nineties, told television station France 2 during an interview. Travelling to France for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, Robbins said he hoped to track down Pierson’s family, the BBC reports. “For sure, I won’t ever get to see her. She’s probably gone now.”


Robbins left Pierson when he was transferred east. “I told her, ‘Maybe I’ll come back and take you some time,'” he said. “But it didn’t happen.” After the war, Robbins returned to the US, got married, and started a family. Pierson, too, married, and had five children.

After Robbins showed the photo of the young Pierson to France 2 journalists, they tracked her down — she was still alive, now 92, and living just 40 miles from the village where they had originally met.

75 years later, D-Day veteran meets long-lost French love

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Robbins reunited with his wartime love at Sainte Famille, her retirement home in the town of Montigny-les-Metz.

“I’ve always thought of him, thinking maybe he’ll come,” Pierson said. And, 75 years later, he did.

“I’ve always loved you. I’ve always loved you. You never got out of my heart,” Robbins told Pierson upon their reunion.

The two sat together and told reporters about the time they spend together so many years ago.

“When he left in the truck I cried, of course, I was very sad,” Pierson told reporters. “I wish, after the war, he hadn’t returned to America.” She also started to learn English after World War II, in hopes Robbins would return.

“I was wondering, ‘Where is he? Will he come back?’ I always wondered,” Pierson said.

“You know, when you get married, after that you can’t do it anymore,” Robbins said about returning to find Peirson earlier. Robbins’ wife, Lillian, died in 2015.

While the two had to part again — Robbins left for Normandy to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion — they promised to meet again soon.

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

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.

Who are “We”?
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.

Who are “We”?
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

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

Women veterans make up 8% of Oregon’s veteran population. However, that growing population requires answers to the unique challenges facing women veterans.

The Women Veterans Program at the Roseburg VA Health Care System is designed to identify those challenges. It also works with women veterans to find those answers, according to Jessica Burnett, social worker and interim Women Veterans Program manager. Burnett is pictured above with her daughter Emily.


Who are “We”?

“How can we serve them best?”

For Burnett, the mission is personal

“I am a true Oregonian. After visiting many places, I knew Oregon is where my heart is,” said Burnett. “I spent nearly 15 years providing rural social services in Coos and Curry Counties. I decided it was time to move to a warmer climate and relocated to Roseburg, where my daughter attended college.

“My daughter came home one day and said, ‘Hey Mom. I’ve decided to take a different path in life and I signed up for the Navy.’ I didn’t see that coming. She said, ‘This is something I felt called to do and this is what I’m going to do.’ My role at that point was to be a support person. I felt if my daughter is feeling called to do this, I’m going to see what I can do to support veterans, and I came to VA.”

Burnett hopes to expand services available for all veterans – primary care, mental health, housing assistance. She also wants to localize it specifically for women veterans. She fosters a program that is open, accessible, welcoming and veteran-centric.

“From my perspective, we should be taking a patient-centered approach. Hearing their feedback, what is it that they need? Let them tell us what they need so we can best support them. It is their journey, their life. We don’t know unless we ask the question, ‘How can we can serve them best?'”

For Burnett, the best way to serve women veterans is to expand on the understanding of women veteran needs and the availability of health care specific to women: yearly exams, such as pap smears and mammograms.

And support for those recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma.

Who are “We”?
“When she comes home, I want her to have top-notch health care.”

Women veterans, the fastest growing minority population

“Women veterans served alongside men. They are a minority within the VA, but they’re the fastest growing minority population,” said Burnett. Her daughter serves aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford, which is stationed in Norfolk, Virginia.

“Women tell me all the time they get addressed as ‘Mister’ instead of ‘Miss.’ It’s just assumed that they are a spouse or if it’s just a last name, that they are male.

“I feel we really need to put a lot of effort and work into women’s health care in VA because it is an area that, previously and historically, hasn’t been part of VA.

“My daughter is active duty right now, but when she comes home, I want her to have a health care system that is top-notch.

“I want it to be better than what she can find in the community.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch this Taliban tunnel bomb detonate in Afghanistan

While typically used in medieval warfare, tunnel bombs have made a comeback over the last few years, especially in Syria. This video shared on Twitter on July 16 by researcher Hugo Kaaman shows just how powerful these bombs can be, and this time, in Afghanistan.


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Tunnels have seen a resurgence in “popularity” in the last few years, after being a very effective means of warfare utilized throughout history. They are exactly as they sound: bombs placed in sub-terrain under enemy forces. We’ve seen them in every major conflict, but in the middle east, they took a bit of a back burner to the more frequently used roadside IED. There’s an excellent history of the tunnel bomb here.

To see the “inside look,” watch this video uploaded to social media.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

In 2018, the Pentagon underwent its first audit in the history of the institution – and failed miserably. It will probably surprise no one that the organization which pays hundreds of dollars for coffee cups and thousands for a toilet seat has trouble tracking its spending. But the issues are much deeper than that. The Pentagon’s accounting issues could take years to fix, according to then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.


“We failed the audit, but we never expected to pass it,” Shanahan told reporters at a briefing. “We never thought we were going to pass an audit, everyone was betting against us that we wouldn’t even do the audit.”

The Pentagon famously did the audit with the non-partisan, nonprofit think tank Truth In Accounting. In July 2019, Truth in Accounting released its report card for the branches of service and their reporting agencies.

Who are “We”?

Anyone who interacts with a military finance office already has feelings about this right now.

Before ranking the branches, military members should know that the best performers in the audit were the Military Retirement Fund, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the Defense Contract Audit Agency, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. So we at least know your retirement accounts are exactly what they tell you they are.

Unfortunately, the four of the five lowest-scoring entities were the four major military branches.

Who are “We”?

U.S. Marine Corps

The Marines topped the list as least worst among the branches, probably because they need to scrape together anything they can to train and fight while keeping their equipment in working order. Since the Corps also has the smallest budget, there’s like less room for error but remember: it’s still the top of the bottom of the list.

Who are “We”?

U.S. Army and U.S. Navy

Tied for second in terrible accounting practices is the Army and Navy, which kind of makes sense – they have a lot of men, vehicles, purchases, organizations, and more to account for. But if we have to put them at numbers two and three, it would be more accurate to rank the Army higher – its budget is usually twice that of the Navy.

Who are “We”?

U.S. Air Force

It’s not really a surprise that the Air Force has the worst accounting practices of all the branches of the military. This is the branch that uses high-tech, expensive equipment, one-time use bombs, and all the fuel it can handle while still giving airmen a quality of life that seems unbelievable to the other branches. If ever you could accuse an organization of voodoo economics, the smart money is on the Air Force – who would probably lose it immediately.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The future of the Army will be swarms of robots

In future combat, Army units may deploy a large unmanned aerial system that can serve as a mothership capable of unleashing swarms of autonomous aircraft for various missions.

With near-peer competitors advancing their anti-access and area-denial capabilities, the Army requires innovative ways, such as this one, to penetrate through enemy defenses, said Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville.

“Quite frankly, if you’re going to some type of integrated air defense environment, I would prefer to have unmanned aircraft leading the way,” he said.


McConville, an aviator who has piloted several Army helicopters, spoke April 16, 2019, at a conference hosted by the Army Aviation Association of America, or Quad A.

“We want industry to be listening,” he said about the conference, “because we are telling them where we think we’re going and what we want them to develop.”

Who are “We”?

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville speaks at a conference hosted by the Army Aviation Association of America, or Quad A, in Nashville, April 16, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Senior leaders expect the future battlefield to have dispersed units operating in densely-populated areas, where they will be contested in multiple domains, such as the air.

To be successful, they say, soldiers need to be able to present several dilemmas to the enemy, which is why the Army developed its new concept of multi-domain operations.

“We must penetrate enemy anti-access and area-denial systems in order to allow follow-on forces to disintegrate,” McConville said, “and find freedom of operational and tactical maneuver to exploit enemy forces.”

FARA/FLRAA

The Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team has started to rapidly develop two aircraft — the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft and Future Long Range Attack Aircraft, which aim to replace some AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, respectively.

For the FARA program, the team expects to award two vendors next year to create competitive prototypes that will perform a government-sponsored fly-off in 2023, Brig. Gen. Walter Rugen, the team’s director, said in March 2019.

Earlier this month, a request for information, or RFI, for the joint FLRAA program was released in an effort to further refine requirements for the Army, Special Operations Command and Marine Corps.

Both programs are set to achieve initial fielding by 2028-2030, McConville said, adding no decisions have yet been made on how many will be procured.

The general, though, did say that air cavalry squadrons may receive FARA, while there would still be room for Apache helicopters.

“So for the old cavalry folks, you can dust off your Stetsons and shine up your spurs,” he said. “We see the Apache helicopter remaining in the attack battalions and being incrementally improved for some time into the future.”

Who are “We”?

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville speaks at a conference hosted by the Army Aviation Association of America, or Quad A, in Nashville, April 16, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

FLRAA, he added, will likely be fielded first to units with forced- or early-entry missions like the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), 82nd Airborne Division, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), and some National Guard units.

“We will acquire these aircraft with competitive prototyping processes to ensure the capability is there before we buy,” he said. “We want to fly, we want to try, before we actually buy and we’re looking for innovation from industry as we go forward.”

Under development is also a new aviation engine through the Improved Turbine Engine Program as well as a 20 mm gun, he said.

Future aircraft will also require a Modular Open System Architecture. The general envisioned it to have something similar to how smartphones can easily receive and complete updates every few weeks.

“We think this is absolutely critical because we want to be able to field new capabilities very quickly into our aircraft of the future,” he said.

As a former OH-58 Kiowa pilot, McConville said it took too long to make updates on the reconnaissance helicopter.

“You would have to rewrite the entire code and flight test it,” he said. “It was a big deal just to change a screen thing, which we should be able to do in seconds.”

While modernization efforts may affect other programs, the general said that change is necessary.

If senior leaders in the 1970s and 1980s failed to modernize the force, he said, soldiers would still be flying AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters instead of Apaches and UH-1 Huey utility helicopters instead of Black Hawks.

“We must modernize the Army,” he said. “We’re at that critical time right now and we feel that with the modernization priorities, the National Defense Strategy, where we see the world evolving, we must do that.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Unit cartoonist’s perspective: Accessorizing the M4 carbine

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

The M4 carbine completely slicked down is already a mighty-fine assault weapon, but nothing is above improvement. With the rise of a hypersensitive world, where one picture can change the game, the great members and I of the unit put out a request for some serious target acquisition and fire control hardware. What we didn’t expect was the flood of equipment some good… some less than helpful.


I’ve seen how the evolution of weapons and kit works among pipe-hitters. It roughly follows this sequence: the newest brothers readily slap every new gadget onto their ARs and love and swear by them all. Soon their ARs become an unruly sort of Rube Goldberg contraption that resembles a deep space cruiser out of Star Wars. Inevitably SHOOTING… becomes a secondary or tertiary function of the… the thing!

Who are “We”?

There finally comes the time when the brother is tired of weeds, branches, socks, and whatever snagged up and caught on his “weapon,” and the fact that he can no longer fire it from the prone or even hold it up steady firing off-hand… he starts to get wiser about his configuration; he resolutely removes from his M4 Carbine:

• the Hubble star finder scope he thought would be great for navigation
• the AM radio receiver dialed into the 24-hour continuous weather variables reporting station he thought would be great for fine aiming adjustments
• the Enterprise Photon Torpedo launch tube and rails are the next to go
• the 22 LR rim-fire spotting sub-rifle comes off; he would just have to learn to zero better
• (approximately) 19 linear feet of Picatinny rail segments
• (finally) the coffee press

But there are some pieces of gear that actually do make the M4 much more lethal than what those Neanderthal iron blade and peep sights have to offer. A red-dot scope will replace those nicely, perhaps even one with a couple of times (X) magnification power thrown in.

Who are “We”?

(An example red dot stop superimposes an adjustable red dot where your bullet will

impact)

A forward pistol grip is always a plus, lending stability to the weapon when firing, as it assists with recoil management and site-picture recovery. In the struggle between ‘yes’ forward pistol grip and ‘no’ forward pistol grip, a folding or collapsible pistol grip feature could quell the struggle.

Who are “We”?

(A decent representative folding forward pistol grip)

Chamfered, flared, or beveled magazine wells are a real plus for combat shooters who require speed during reloads as well as accuracy. The simple fact is trying to align a rectangular-shaped magazine into a rectangular-shaped magazine well quickly requires a relatively precision alignment, one that takes a split-second more time than you might have.

The flared magazine well attachment provides a gentle sloping angle to the bottom of the well to allow for subtle errors in alignment of the magazine to be accepted foregoing the loss of time due to poor alignment. This feature is just as effective for pistols as well as rifle combat shooters.

Who are “We”?

(An after-market flared magazine well attachment. Note the extended bolt release that allows the shooter to seat the magazine and release the bolt in almost the same movement)

Perhaps you may feel the need for a LASER aim point for your AR. That can be a visible red dot that is aligned with your rifle sight and allows you to hit whatever the light dot is on. It allows you to hit a target even without a sight picture such as firing from the hip. This advantage comes heavily into play when the shooter is restricted from his sight picture by the requirement to wear a protective (gas) mask. Carrying out the tactical scenario even farther, you may want your light dot to be infrared and only visible by Night Observation Devices (NODs).

Who are “We”?

(An odd off-brand, small and very inexpensive visible red dot LASER mounted to a 2.5″ Picatinny segment. A device such as this costs less than .00 w/o rail segment.)

We still need illumination. A strong white light source can always be capped by a snap-on/snap-off filter that renders the light to the Infrared spectrum, so no need for two separate devices. Technology affords us the luxury of going from attaching clumsy flashlights to ARs with pipe clamps, to small LED light devices of very high lumens and elegant mountings.

Subject to the accessories dance is the “need” to not only have all of these target acquisition and fire and control devices, but to also have them located in such a configuration that you can activate them all quickly while firing your weapon. After a while, it might seem like trying to play a piano concerto with one hand. Perhaps some of us would be better off playing the one-handed concerto…

Who are “We”?

(Not the lowest profile solution today, but a workable illumination choice nonetheless. This lamp uses a high-lumen Halogen bulb for a flood)

It is an observation of mine that the older guys on the assault team seemed to have the slickest ARs; that is, the ones with the fewest gadgets on them. The reason for that is readily debatable, lending itself never to be fully defined. I think my own Delta Team leader summed it up the best I ever heard during yet another “kit argument.” When he was asked to inject his two cents into the debate, he replied, “Let me tell you something, homes… 50 years ago the American Army assaulted Omaha Beach wearing f*cking WOOL!”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Vietnam Veterans Memorial – why listing the names of the fallen matters

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated on November 10, 1982, with 57,939 names. Since then, more names have been added. Currently, there are 58,282 names listed. Ten new names were engraved in 2020, including the name of a Marine corporal whose 2006 death was determined to be the result of wounds received in action in 1967. 

Listing the names of the fallen matters for all the obvious reasons and the way returning veterans were treated in the US after coming home from war. The memorial is dedicated to honoring the courage, sacrifice, and devotion to duty and country of all who served in one of the most divisive wars in US history.  

The memorial was built without using any government funds

After watching the movie The Deer Hunter, Jan C. Scruggs, a wounded Vietnam War veteran, and advocate, stepped up his efforts to create a war memorial to honor those who died in Vietnam. He donated $2,800 of his own money to form the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund in 1979.

By 1981, that fund had grown to $8.4 million, thanks in part to celebrities helping out with fundraising. All donations for the memorial came from the private sector, even though many politicians expressed their support in funding the site. Congress passed legislation to reserve three acres in the northwest corner of the National Mall for the monument. 

What happens to items left at the memorial?

Items are gathered by park staff. Non-perishable items are archived in a storage facility. Tens of thousands of items have been left at the memorial since its opening. These so-called artifacts include letters, POW/MIA bracelets, photographs, military insignia, and religious items. Someone once left a motorcycle. Rangers from the National Park Service collect items every day. Except for unaltered US flags and perishable items, all artifacts are sent to a storage facility in Maryland. The facility isn’t open to the public, but sometimes certain memorial artifacts are put on view as part of traveling exhibits. A virtual collection can be seen at www.vvmf.org/items.

How are the names arranged on the wall?

(National Park Service)

The names are arranged chronologically by date of casualty. The first names appear at the center of the wall at the top of panel 1E. The panels are filled like pages of a journal listing the men and women’s names as they fell. Upon reaching the farthest east end of the memorial at panel 70E, the pattern continues from the far west end of the memorial at panel 70W, continuing back to the center at panel 1W. In this manner, the memorial evokes a theme of closure or completion; the first are with the last.

All of the names have been read out five separate times

As part of the Wall’s 30th commemoration in 2012, all 58,282 named were read out loud just before Veterans Day. This was done five times – in 1982, 1992, 2002, 2007, and 2012. Volunteers, Vietnam veterans, family members of the deceased, and employees from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund read the names. In 2012, the team began reading on a Wednesday afternoon and didn’t finish until Saturday night. 

How can I find a name on the memorial?

Printed registries available at the memorial are organized alphabetically by last name. Electronic registries available online or accessible by park staff in the information kiosk at the memorial allow users to search by several data including first name, last name, branch of service, rank, date of birth, date of casualty, state, and/or city where they enlisted. 

Registry entries include a panel number and row number corresponding to its location in the memorial. Panel numbers are engraved in the memorial at the bottom of each panel. For row number, count down from the highest row on the panel. Each row contains five names (six where a name has been added since the wall was originally installed).

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Marines and sailors prepare for chemical emergencies

U.S. Marines, sailors, and civilians participated in the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response course at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan from Sept. 16 to Sept. 20, 2019.

The class is meant to teach students how to both fully understand and effectively respond to emergency situations where dangerous chemicals, substances, and materials are found on military installations.

The week-long class consisted mostly of classroom lectures in addition to an entire day devoted to practical application training exercises where the students worked together to solve applicable, but difficult scenarios.


“I think this class is a big learning curve for a lot of the students here,” says Ashley Hoshihara Cruz, the Camp Foster chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive specialist. “However, the students are really putting in the resources, time, and effort to make this a quality class.”

Who are “We”?

U.S. Marines prepare to enter a mock-contamination site during the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response course at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, Sept. 19, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ryan Pulliam)

To encourage teamwork and strengthen leadership capabilities in the class, Wood said that the junior Marines in the class may be placed in leadership roles and find themselves guiding officers and staff noncommissioned officers through tasks the senior Marines may primarily fill.

“It’s really rewarding,” Wood said. “To see these students take the information we, as instructors, gave to them and extract that out to things that we have not talked about, but figured out, nonetheless.”

Who are “We”?

U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Nathan Hale, a native of Washington D.C. and an explosive ordnance and disposal chief for U.S. Fleet Activities Yokosuka, attaches an oxygen tank to a fellow student during the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response course at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, Sept. 19, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ryan Pulliam)

The HAZWOPER class is conducted on behalf of the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps Officer School and has been taught in Okinawa for the past eight years.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 common military signs that freak out civilians

The military is used to ignoring warning signs for things that aren’t actually all that dangerous. After all, once you know how a military range works, you realize that only a couple thousand square yards of the range is actually dangerous, and “Overhead Artillery” just means whistling noises (unless someone really screws up).

These 6 signs are shrugged off by troops but make civilians panic.


“Overhead Artillery Fire” sign

“Overhead artillery fire” sounds super scary, and the idea that you have to drive through artillery fire to get to a recreation area might seem crazy to civilians. But, for any familiar with artillery operations, this is no big deal.

Artillery rounds are dangerous and must be treated with care — but they follow predictable paths. As long as the crew doesn’t screw up big time, creating a short round by using too little powder or calibrating the gun to an improper angle, then any artillery rounds passing over this road will be dozens or hundreds of feet above the road.

How civilians see this sign: “There are live explosives in the air that could land here at any time!”

What service members see: “Someone gets to work way out here in the woods.”

Who are “We”?
It’s actually shockingly safe to operate near unexploded ordnance — if you’re careful. So, you know, watch your step, but don’t lose your sh*t.
(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Shane M. Phipps)

 

“Unexploded Ordnance”

Signs like these can be intimidating. After all, even if you don’t know what ordnance is, “unexploded” implies that something explosive is present. And you’re not allowed to leave the road because of the danger of the unexploded whatever-ordnance-is, so that’s frightening.

And unexploded ordnance is a real danger. It can be anything from missiles to bombs to grenades and more. But these are basically dud missiles and bombs and whatnot. And, military explosives are actually pretty stable, so it takes a lot to set one off accidentally. So just, you know, don’t go kicking anything you don’t recognize.

How civilians see this sign: “If you try to change a tire here, you will die.”

What service members see: “If you’re going to dig a latrine hole, do it carefully or somewhere else.”

Who are “We”?
FOD is literally just any debris that vehicles or people bring on the runway with them. It just means debris, and they’re mostly talking about rocks and metal.
(U.S. Air Force Airman Ty-Rico Lea)

 

“FOD Check Point!”

Gonna be honest, this one is only scary because civilians don’t know what FOD is. Anyone rolling onto an Air Force runway is going to have to pass one of these signs, and for civilians they seem like a super serious warning about some mysterious danger.

But FOD stands for “foreign object debris,” which basically just means trash or rocks. Jet engines are fairly fragile, and small rocks, loose bolts, tools, etc. can be sucked into the engine and destroy it. Remember, “The Miracle on the Hudson” happened when a plane struck a flock of geese and lost all engine power.

How civilians see this sign: “An unknown danger, possibly dragon-based, is going to kill us all!”

What service members see: “Crap, we gotta get out and check the tires for rocks.”

Who are “We”?
Fun Fact: The Air Force took this photo for an entire news story about this one spot on Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, where unobservant drivers can actually shut down a runway by driving down the road when it isn’t their turn.
(U.S. Air Force Gina Randall)

 

This is basically just a traffic light for areas in which airplanes and cars operate close to one another. The big danger when planes are taxiing here or in similar places isn’t that they’ll crash, though. Air Force instructions require a ground guide walking under the wing to ensure the wing won’t strike an object if a plane is taxiing within 25 feet of a significant obstacle or object.

So, it’s mostly a formality. After all, the planes aren’t taxiing on the actual road, just a nearby taxiway. But the plane has to stop if a car drives down the road at the wrong time, slowing airfield operations.

How civilians see this sign: “Stop now, or a plane will turn on its engines and throw your whole car hundreds of feet with powerful jet wash.”

What service members see: “Just wait a sec’ or some bureaucratic nonsense will slow down our operations here.”

Who are “We”?
To be honest, there’s about 100 meters of “impact area” that’s completely safe to walk through. And in the rest of the fenced-off area, just be careful where you step. You’ll be fine. Probably.
(Kerry Raymond, CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

There is a live-fire range with actual bombs and lasers on the other side of this fence. And sure, bombs are dangerous. And modern lasers could damage your eyes if you look directly at them for too long.

But, really, the lasers don’t do much damage, and the live bombs are typically a few old duds that failed to go off. Like the “unexploded ordnance” sign above, you really just need to be careful not to kick an unexploded bomb.

How civilians see this sign: “On the other side of this fence, a steel rain falls on a landscape of live bombs. Sauron himself would not survive here for even a minute.”

What service members see: “This isn’t the entrance to the range. Walk around until you find it.”

An MP poses with a checkpoint sign, because when it’s historic it’s somehow not cliche.

 

Military checkpoints of any kind sound frightening. “Armed troops are going to search our vehicles!?” But, really, the military police and random Joes assigned to gate guard and other checkpoints are spending more mental energy debating whether they’re going to play Destiny 2 or Call of Duty tonight than they are on searching some random yuppie’s Subaru Outback that might have weed hidden under the passenger seat.

Honestly, as long as there isn’t an AT-4 in the vehicle, the occupants have little to worry about.

How civilians see this sign: “Jack-booted thugs are going to search our little car and abduct our child because we don’t have her birth certificate on us!”

What troops see: “You might have to get out of your car so the Blue Falcons can feel good about their job for five minutes.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 must-read books by Tier 1 operators

The world of special operations is a mystery to many. This is even more true for the elite operators at the “Tier 1” level: their units aren’t officially listed by the Department of Defense, and their personnel are carefully selected from only the best of other special operations units. Their work is often shrouded in secrecy, and the general public rarely hears about their successes. But a few have stepped out of the shadows to record inspirational stories about their time serving at the tip of the spear or to provide context to missions they were on that made international headlines.

We compiled a list of these important — and sometimes controversial — books written by the operators themselves. Whether you want a peek behind the curtain or to gain a greater understanding of what our nation’s recent military history looks like, these books will no doubt satisfy!


Who are “We”?

“The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior” by Robert O’Neill

The title pretty much says it all. As a member of SEAL Team 6, O’Neill was not only on the raid that hunted down the al Qaeda leader, he placed the bullet that ended the bastard’s life. He’s gotten some blowback from the community for speaking about things that are generally kept down low, but the story was already getting out. He told the Washington Post in 2014 that he wanted to maintain some control over the narrative and that his story seemed to aid in the healing process for families of 9/11 victims.

With a movie in the works, O’Neill’s memoir spanning his childhood through his impressive 400-mission career is something to get your hands on now before Hollywood has its way with it.

Notable quote: “‘Once we go on this mission, we aren’t going to see our kids again or kiss our wives. We’ll never eat another steak or smoke another cigar.’ We were trying to get down to the truth about why we were still willing to do this when we pretty much knew we were going to die. What we came up with was that we were doing it for the single mom who dropped her kids off at school and went to work on a Tuesday morning, and then an hour later decided to jump out of a skyscraper because it was better than burning alive. A woman whose last gesture of human decency was holding down her skirt on the long way to the pavement so no one could see her underwear. That’s why we were going. She was just trying to get through a workday, live a life.”

Who are “We”?

“Inside Delta Force: The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit” by Eric Haney

Haney, a founding member of the supersecret and elite unit, details the early years of 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta. Released in 2002, it’s not a hot-off-the-presses memoir, but it’s a must-read for anyone who wants to get to know Delta Force. This is the book that inspired the popular network TV show “The Unit,” on which Haney also served as a producer.

Notable quote: “From the vantage point of my warm, comfortable spot on mother earth, I could see off into infinite space and the eternity of time. In just a few hours, I thought, some of us are going to make that leap into eternity. And I will be one of the instruments of that voyage. I may also be one of the travelers … . It’s going to happen sooner or later. But if today is my day—I’m going to have a cup of coffee first.”

Who are “We”?

“Leadership in the Shadows: Special Operations Soldier” by SGM Kyle Lamb

Whether military or civilian, the goal of any team is to accomplish the mission. With more than 20 years of experience in leadership positions within the U.S. Army’s special operations community, Lamb is uniquely qualified to get you there. If you need to instill confidence and encourage teamwork, you’ll find the tools in this book.

Notable quote: “You are not born with credibility. You must earn and build your credibility by becoming accountable, listening to your people, and, most importantly, performing on a daily basis. That credibility will be earned through performance and life leadership experiences.”

Who are “We”?

“The Mission, The Men, and Me: Lessons From a Former Delta Force Commander” by Pete Blaber

The former Delta Force commander distills his experience in the elite strike force into applicable leadership and life lessons for soldiers and civilians alike. And while he’s dropping all this knowledge, Blaber also shares stories about his time in combat and provides insight into the bureaucratic workings of the U.S. government — for better or worse.

Notable quote: “The question that high-ranking leaders always seemed to inject in any risk-averse-oriented discussion was, “Is it worth getting a man killed for?” Forty thousand people die on our highways each year, but when you get into your car each morning, do you ask yourself if driving to work is worth getting killed for?”

Who are “We”?

“Kill Bin Laden: A Delta Force Commander’s Account of the Hunt for the World’s Most Wanted Man” by Dalton Fury

This New York Times bestseller details how close Delta Force came to killing Usama bin Laden in the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan mere months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Met with acclaim and criticism, Fury (a pen name for Thomas Greer, who died in 2016) went on to write a series of books, including fiction, under the pseudonym.

Notable quote: “Many times we had to think and act instantly, with no guidance at all, but that is why Delta picks the kind of operators that it does. They have to be able to think as well as fight. The muhj allies turned their guns on our boys to stop an advance. Rival warlords weighed their military decisions according to personal agendas. When we arrived in Afghanistan in December 2001, the United States was pulling troops out of the area in a weird ploy to trick Usama bin Laden while stripping us of a quick-reaction force. The muhj that were supposed to be doing the bulk of the fighting, and we sucking up the glory, routinely left the battlefield when it got dark, at times abandoning our small teams in the mountains. Some people within the U.S. command system were extremely reluctant to commit highly trained forces because they might get hurt. Some of the highest-ranking people in the Pentagon had no idea of what Delta was trained to do. The CIA bought loyalty out of duffel bags filled with American cash only to learn later that money does not buy everything in Afghanistan. Some of this might have been funny had it not been so serious.”

Who are “We”?

“Delta Force: A Memoir by the Founder of the U.S. Military’s Most Secretive Special-Operations Unit” by Charlie A. Beckwith

The first commanding officer of Delta Force probably has a pretty impressive story to tell — Beckwith doesn’t disappoint. Originally published in 1983, you won’t find the juicy details about what it takes to be an elite warrior in what is considered by many to be the most effective fighting unit in the world, but you’ll find a detailed history — complete with war stories and the challenges he faced from a project management perspective to get the unit running and gunning.

Notable quote: “Then I remembered something I’d read that Teddy Roosevelt had said: “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…who strives…who spends himself…and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Who are “We”?

“No Easy Day: The Autobiography of a Navy SEAL: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden” by Mark Owen

Before O’Neill started talking, Mark Owen got the conversation (and controversy) started with “No Easy Day.” While it’s been praised for being well-written and providing fascinating insight into the dynamics of SEAL Team 6, Owen has also come under fire from the Naval Special Warfare Command and surrounding community for speaking out about secret missions for what appears to be personal recognition and accolades.

Notable quote: “[to Navy SEALs] Quite frankly, I didn’t even want to use you guys, with your dip and velcro and all your gear bullshit. I wanted to drop a bomb. But people didn’t believe in this lead enough to drop a bomb. So they’re using you guys as canaries. And, in theory, if bin Laden isn’t there, you can sneak away and no one will be the wiser. But bin Laden is there. And you’re going to kill him for me.”

Who are “We”?

“American Badass: The True Story of a Modern Day Spartan” by Dale Comstock

If you’re in need of some inspiration to get up and be the best American you can be, you’ve found it. Comstock chronicles the successes and failures in his life, offering a glimpse into America’s current warrior mentality. A quick and entertaining read.

Notable quote: “An American Badass doesn’t start fights, but knows if he must fight, he can with courage and conviction. An American Badass doesn’t steal, lie, or subvert the society that he lives in. He lives by a code of unwavering morality, and ethics that are tempered with honor, honesty, integrity, leadership, and loyalty to family, friends, and America.”

Who are “We”?

“My Share of the Task: A Memoir” by Gen. Stanley McChrystal

One of the most respected leaders of the GWOT, McChrystal served as the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan before retiring in 2010. In his 2014 New York Times bestselling memoir, he lays out the major aspects of his career and his path to becoming a four-star general. A leadership handbook wrapped in a personal narrative, “My Share of the Task” is both informative and entertaining.

Notable quote: “As the demands of the positions differed, and as I grew in age and experience, I found that I had changed as a leader. I learned to ask myself two questions: First, what must the organization I command do and be? And second, how can I best command to achieve that?”

Who are “We”?

BONUS: “Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team SIX Operator Adam Brown” by Eric Blehm

Even though it wasn’t written by a Tier 1 operator, it’s such an inspiring story about one that we had to include it here. After struggling with addiction and a stint in jail, Adam Brown used his faith to propel him to the highest level of elite warrior — SEAL Team 6. This New York Times bestseller chronicles his life, his struggles, and, ultimately, his ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan.

Notable quote: “Modest, conventional expectations weren’t enough to lure Adam Brown away from the power of drug addiction that ensnared him. Instead, the college dropout already in his mid-twenties found only the big, near-impossible dream of being a Navy SEAL captivating enough to consistently draw him to different choices.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

In a Biden administration, changes for the military could start on day one

The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany, the military’s transgender ban, the diversion of military construction funds to build a wall on the Mexico border — all of these controversial policies and others could be history on Day One of Joe Biden’s presidency.

As soon as he’s sworn in, Biden would have the authority with a stroke of a pen to reverse a string of controversial military and national security policies put in place by President Donald Trump’s executive orders or use of his emergency powers. The Associated Press and major news outlets projected Biden the winner Saturday, although the result still must be certified and is expected to face legal challenges from the Trump campaign.

Various advocacy groups are already lining up to hold Biden to his campaign promises to reverse Trump’s controversial military policies.

In a statement Saturday, the Modern Military Association of America, a non-profit LGBTQ advocacy group, said Biden was expected to reverse Trump’s executive order that effectively banned transgender military service.

“Thankfully, President-elect Biden has pledged to quickly take action and reverse Trump’s unconstitutional transgender military ban,” MMAA said. “Every qualified American patriot — regardless of their gender identity — should be able to serve.”

Trump’s surprise decision in July to remove nearly 12,000 U.S. troops from Germany, shifting some eastward and sending others home, could also be reversed rapidly under Biden’s stated objective to shore up NATO and strengthen partnerships with allies.

The early indicator of how far the new president will go in abandoning Trump’s “America First” policy will be “whether Biden will move to reverse Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Germany,” said Christopher Skaluba, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

“Doing so will be a down payment on ensuring adequate resources are available to deter Russia,” Skaluba wrote in an analysis Saturday shortly after Biden claimed victory.

To the end of shoring up alliances, Biden could also immediately end the impasse with South Korea over how much Seoul pays to support the presence of 28,000 U.S. troops on the peninsula.

South Korea currently pays about $900 million and has offered a 13% increase, which has been rejected by the Trump administration.

Biden has also pledged to move quickly to halt construction of the border wall and possibly move to withdraw the more than 4,000 active-duty and National Guard troops the Trump administration has deployed to the border to support Customs and Border Protection, and Homeland Security.

At a joint convention in August of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Biden vowed to halt construction of the border wall.

By declaring a national emergency at the border in 2019, Trump began diverting $2.5 billion in funding from military construction and counter-drug programs authorized by Congress to the border wall. Biden could begin to reverse that by declaring an end to the national emergency.

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

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