Why writing members of Congress will definitely help troops - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Why writing members of Congress will definitely help troops

Troops are often told that there are a handful of people that they should always keep in their back pocket. The cooks, the medics, and the supply guys are the most obvious choices — but they shouldn’t count out support from the congressperson who serves their home of record.

That’s right, soldier. All of those people arguing in Washington are there to hear what you have to say. Holders of public office are obligated to answer letters sent by their constituents serving in the military. If you write them with a concern, best case scenario, they’ll come to the aid of the troops without having to navigate the necessary red tape.

Think of them as having the ultimate “open door” policy for the troops.


Why writing members of Congress will definitely help troops

While there are many veterans serving in politics, most civilians — including politicians — can be intimidated by abject outrage. Be polite.

(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. April Campbell)

In the military, every problem should be addressed at the lowest possible level. Is your immediate superior abusing their power? The first step should be their superior. But if the problem is systemic in nature and you feel like you’ve got nowhere to turn, don’t worry, you’ve still got options.

One of the most effective ways of getting a situation resolved is by writing simple letter to your congressperson. It might feel like using a sledgehammer to do a flyswatter’s job, but it’ll get things done.

The best way to get the attention of your congressperson is through a short, to the point, and professionally worded letter that offers possible solutions. That last bit in important; simply writing, “this is bullsh*t” on a piece of paper and sending it out will land your concerns in the trash.

Why writing members of Congress will definitely help troops

Aiding the troops is, thankfully, a nonpartisan issue. It may not feel like it at times, but they, for the most part, have the well-being of troops in mind.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clayton Lenhardt)

Congressmen can help with a wide variety of topics, ranging from pay or tax issues, immigration concerns, social security problems, terrible accommodations, or trouble with a toxic chain of command. In the past, this has lead to many great outcomes, such as troops receiving better tents while deployed or having an unjust court-martial investigated.

When the 2013 federal government shutdown was looming overhead, an unprecedented amount of troops and veterans wrote their respective members of Congress with concerns about their military pay being affected. Congressman Mike Coffman of Colorado, a retired Major of the Marine Corps who spent his enlisted years in the Army, sponsored the aptly-named “Pay Our Military Act,” which ensured that Congress’ fighting over federal spending will never affect the pay of all members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Following the suicides of Private Danny Chen and Lance Corporal Harry Lew, the “Harry Lew Military Hazing Accountability and Prevention Act” was put into place by Congresswoman Judy Chu of California. Both men were the subjects of extreme, racially-motivated hazing and mistreatment by their units and were pushed into suicide. The situation was awful; but the concerns of service members and veterans reached lawmakers directly and had an impact.

Why writing members of Congress will definitely help troops

If you can manage to bring them out to your installation, prepare for the impending dog and pony show.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael B. Keller)

But if you write, know that it may not help immediately — a typical response takes around six weeks. Members of Congress receive hundreds of letters and emails every single day, but they’ll take special notice if you mention that you are serving (or have served) in the military.

Keep the letter polite — you don’t want any reason for their aides to avoid putting your letter on their desk. If you don’t feel like your voice is being heard, you can always write to one of your two senators, though their offices are considerably more busy.

Regardless of how you personally feel about their politics, they are still beheld to their constituents — troops included.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy’s first-ever female admiral died at age 98

Retired Rear Adm. Alene B. Duerk, the Navy’s first female admiral, passed away July 21, 2018. She was 98 years old.

“It took 197 years and a forward-looking Chief of Naval Operations, Elmo Zumwalt, to break with tradition before Alene Duerk became the first woman admiral in the U.S. Navy,” said Naval History and Heritage Command director Sam Cox. “But the credit goes to Duerk. From the crucible of caring for wounded sailors, Marines and prisoners of war during World War II in the Pacific, she blazed a trail of stellar performance in tough jobs, serving as an inspiration for an ever increasing number of women officers who have followed her path.”


Born in Defiance, Ohio, on March 29, 1920, she received nursing training at the Toledo [Ohio] Hospital School of Nursing, from which she earned her diploma in 1941. From there, Duerk entered the U.S. Naval Reserve and was appointed an ensign in the Nurse Corps.

“Alene Duerk was a strong and dedicated trail blazer who embodied the very principles that continue to guide Navy Medicine today,” commented Vice Adm. Forrest Faison, Navy surgeon general, upon learning of her passing. “She will forever be remembered as a servant leader who provided the best care to those who defended our nation, honoring the uniform we wear and the privilege of leadership.”

Her first tours of duty included ward nurse at Naval Hospital Portsmouth in Virginia, Naval Hospital Bethesda in Maryland, and sea service aboard the Navy hospital ship, USS Benevolence (AH 13), in 1945. While anchored off the coast of Eniwetok, Duerk and the crew of the Benevolence would attend to the sick and wounded being brought back from the Third Fleet’s operations against Japan.

Upon cessation of hostilities on Sept. 2, 1945, Duerk and the Benevolence crew took on the task of repatriating liberated Allied prisoners of war, an endeavor that solidified her commitment to nursing and patient care.

Why writing members of Congress will definitely help troops

An undated official portrait of Rear Adm. Alene B. Duerk.

(U.S. Navy photo)

Years later, when asked about her service for the Library of Congress’ Veteran’s History Project, Duerk said, “The time I was aboard the hospital ship and we took the prisoners of war, that was something I will never forget . . . that was the most exciting experience of my whole career.”

Thereafter, Duerk was assigned to Naval Hospital Great Lakes until being released from active service in 1946.

In 1951, Duerk returned to active duty serving as a nursing instructor at the Naval Hospital Corps School in Portsmouth, Va. and later as inter-service education coordinator at the Naval Hospital Philadelphia, Penn.
Her skills in ward management, surgical nursing and mentoring would be put to use over the next two decades while serving at hospitals in San Diego; and Yokosuka, Japan; at the Recruiting Station in Chicago; and in Wash., D.C.

In May 1970, following assignments as assistant for Nurse Recruitment in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs) and assistant head of Medical Placement Liaison (Nurse Corps) at the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Duerk was appointed director of the Navy Nurse Corps.

Over the next five years, Duerk provided direction for the Nurse Corps, updating policies affecting Navy Medicine and expanding the sphere of nursing into ambulatory care, anesthesia, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology.

Her selection to the rank of rear admiral was approved by President Richard Nixon on April 26, 1972. The first woman to be selected for flag rank, she was advanced on June 1, 1972.

Rear Adm. Duerk retired in 1975, but remained a strong advocate for Navy nursing through the remainder of her life.

Duerk was awarded the Naval Reserve Medal, American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with bronze star; World War II Victory Medal; Navy Occupation Service Medal, Asia Clasp; and the National Defense Service Medal with bronze star.

Duerk’s biography offers greater insight into her service, it can be found online at the website of the Naval History and Heritage Command here: http://www.history.navy.mil/browse-by-topic/diversity/women-in-the-navy/first-female-flag-officer.html

See the entry on Duerk at the Library of Congress Veteran’s History Project online here: http://memory.loc.gov/diglib/vhp/bib/loc.natlib.afc2001001.28852

The Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy’s unique and enduring contributions through our nation’s history, and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services. NHHC is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, nine museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.

For more news from Naval History and Heritage Command, visit www.history.navy.mil.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

Articles

This is why you don’t challenge an ex-sniper to a duel

That satisfying “Ping!” of bullets on target is as regular as a metronome when former Green Beret sniper, Aaron Barruga, is running tactical marksmanship drills on his home turf in Santa Clarita, CA. With his company, Guerrilla Approach, Barruga trains civilians, military, and law enforcement in proper and effective tactical firearm deployment.

The man does not miss.


“Oscar Mike” host Ryan Curtis paid a visit to Barruga’s training facility to bone up on his sharpshooting and found himself in good hands, drilling shoulder to shoulder with this veteran entrepreneurial success story. Barruga’s advice?

“I would definitely say that, if they have the opportunity, use that G.I. Bill. Get that piece of paper that says, “I’m smart and employable.” And just grind away, basically. You gotta hustle.”

As the day progresses, the sweat beading on Ryan’s brow is a testament to his hustle, if not his dead shot accuracy. And when he challenges Barruga to an Old West-style duel, our host quickly learns what high noon looks like at the Less-than-OK Corral.

Why writing members of Congress will definitely help troops
Mommy? (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

Watch as Barruga makes plinking targets look easy, and Curtis proves his monkey is definitely the drunkest, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

This Iraq vet kayaker will make you rethink PTSD

Watch this Vietnam War vet school a young soldier in stunt driving

This Army vet is crazy motivated

This is what happens when you put a sailor in a stock car

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These weapons could replace US Army’s M4 carbine and M249

Sig Sauer Inc. on Sep. 3, 2019, offered a first look at the automatic rifle and rifle prototypes for the U.S. Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) effort, after the service selected the company to advance to the next phase of testing for the 6.8mm weapon system.

Sig Sauer, maker of the Army’s new Modular Handgun System, was selected recently along with General Dynamics-OTS Inc. and AAI Corporation Textron Systems to deliver prototypes of both the automatic rifle and rifle versions of the NGSW, as well as hundreds of thousands of rounds of special 6.8mm ammunition common to both weapons, to Army testers over the next 27 months.

The service plans to select a final design for both weapons from a single company in the first quarter of 2022 and begin replacing M4A1 carbines and M249 squad automatic weapons in an infantry brigade combat team in the first quarter of 2023, Army modernization officials have said.


As part of the NGSW effort, the Army tasked gunmakers to develop a common cartridge using the government-designed 6.8mm projectile.

Sig engineered a “completely new cartridge,” resulting in a “more compact round, with increased velocity and accuracy, while delivering a substantial reduction in the weight of the ammunition,” according to a Sept. 3, 2019 company news release.

Why writing members of Congress will definitely help troops

Sig Sauer automatic rifle prototype (left) and rifle prototype (right) designed for the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon.

(Sig Sauer photo)

The high-pressure, 6.8mm hybrid ammunition is a “significant leap forward in ammunition innovation, design and manufacturing,” Ron Cohen, president and CEO of Sig, said in the release.

Sig’s automatic-rifle version of the NGSW features a side-opening feed tray, increased available rail space for night vision and other accessories, and a folding buttstock. The rifle prototype features a free-floating, reinforced M-LOK handguard, side-charging handle, and fully ambidextrous controls, as well as a folding buttstock, according to the release.

Both prototypes will also feature a newly designed suppressor that “reduces harmful backflow and signature” during firing, the release states.

“The Sig Sauer NGSW-AR is lighter in weight, with dramatically less recoil than that currently in service, while our carbine for the NGSW-Rifle submission is built on the foundation of Sig Sauer weapons in service with the premier fighting forces across the globe,” Cohen said in the release. “Both weapons are designed with features that will increase the capabilities of the soldier.”

The new prototyping agreements call for each vendor to deliver 43 6.8mm NGSW automatic rifles and 53 NGSW rifles, as well as 845,000 rounds of 6.8mm ammunition, according to the original solicitation.

Why writing members of Congress will definitely help troops

U.S. Army Pvt. David Bryant of the 3rd Squadron 71st Cavalry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division mans his position behind his M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.

(U.S. Army photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Javier Amador, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division Public Affairs )

Textron announced Aug. 30, 2019, that it will lead a team that includes Heckler Koch for its small-arms design, research and development, and manufacturing capabilities. It will work with Olin Winchester for its small-caliber ammunition production capabilities.

Textron Systems’ rifle and auto-rifle prototypes will feature its signature case-telescoped ammunition technology developed under the Army’s Light Weight Small Arms Technology effort over the last decade.

“The design features improved accuracy and greater muzzle velocity for increased performance, as well as weight savings of both weapon and ammunition over current Army systems,” according to a recent Textron news release. “It also incorporates advanced suppressor technology to reduce the firing signature and improve controllability.”

Textron is not releasing any images of its NGSW prototypes at this time but plans on showing off the weapon system at the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting in October, company spokeswoman Betania Magalhaes told Military.com.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways to make clearing CIF less of a headache

It’s the dreaded last step in clearing out of a unit to either PCS to another duty station or ETS back into the civilian world — turning gear into the Central Issuing Facility.

We get it. Nobody wants to stand around for six hours to have a grouchy civilian give you hell for having a tiny bit of Afghanistan dust stuck to your rucksack, but it’s just one of those things that needs to be done. Uncle Sam gave you a bunch of high-priced gear and he expects it back — even if the gear is well past its issuing date.

You likely won’t ever have a fantastic, enjoyable time at CIF, but it doesn’t have to be terrible. Here’re a few tips that many troops and vets before you have used to breeze through.


Why writing members of Congress will definitely help troops

There’s nothing a little elbow grease and a bit of “f*ck you” can’t solve.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Sean McCallon, 91st Training Division public affairs)

Clean. Everything. Spotlessly. 

This is a no-brainer. CIF wants their gear clean and they’ll kick it right back if they see dirt. If you know that you’ve used your gear at least once since getting it, give it a wash. Your more well-used stuff is going to require a lot more extra attention. Give yourself a week to get it all done. It might take all manners of cleaning products to get that one friggin’ stain out of the knee pads you know you barely used, but it’s got to be done.

Why writing members of Congress will definitely help troops

It helps to volunteer for working parties that involves the supply room. Stay on their good side.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Dominick A. Cremeans)

Sweet talk your supply NCO.

Everyone takes for granted how much the supply NCO can really help with missing, broken, or un-returnable gear. They have connexes upon connexes of gear that isn’t really accounted for that could easily help you out.

Depending on what the supply room has to offer, you could save a lot of money by simply asking nicely. Sure, they probably can’t swing you an entire sleeping bag system without doing a bunch of paperwork — but they could probably take yours and swap it out with another… Maybe.

Why writing members of Congress will definitely help troops

Some times those “tacticool” retirees know what’s up.

(Photo by Anna Frodesiak)

Buy what you’re missing off-post.

But the supply NCO can’t help you with everything — and you’re not going to want to take that hit from the Statement of Charges that says you owe the government 0 for a single missing ammo pouch. Thankfully, there’s an entire market dedicated to selling used military gear just outside the main gate.

First of, it’s best to simply not consider the legality of how the place received all that gear — there’s a non-zero chance it was pilfered from some poor sap’s wall locker at reception and sold by some grade-A blue falcon. Just pay the , get your replacement gear, and tell yourself that it was probably surplus — or it “fell off some truck somewhere.”

Why writing members of Congress will definitely help troops

Plus, that moment when you correct them and say, “as you can clearly see” while pointing to the relevant document is priceless.

(U.S. Army Reserve photo by Spc. Brianna Saville / 416th Theater Engineer Command)

Bring any and all paperwork from previous visits to CIF.

Don’t just show up with your clearing paperwork and the slip of what your supply NCO says you were issued. Bring any document that may even remotely have anything to do with your gear.

Best case scenario: Everything goes without a hitch and you can jam that paperwork back into the plastic box you keep in the closet. Worst case scenario: They say that you were issued something that you clearly never were and you have proof that there was some kind of mistake.

Why writing members of Congress will definitely help troops

This goes double if the CIF is using troops to help with the workload. Just don’t be an asshole.

(U.S. Army Reserve photo by Spc. Brianna Saville/ 416th Theater Engineer Command)

Don’t give the workers a hard time.

This one should be basic human knowledge — or at least ingrained in military customs and courtesies. Don’t be a dick to the civilians who work at CIF. The reason the lines are so long is because they’re constantly helping loads of troops, each and every day.

Rank and position don’t mean the same thing to them because you’re in their world, they’re not in yours. They will help each and every troop, from private to general, when their number is called. It doesn’t matter if they’re as pleasant to be around as that slug lady from Monster’s Inc., don’t give them any extra incentive to kick your stuff back — even if that means swallowing your pride.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why an airman had to shoot down his own plane – while flying it

At the height of the Korean War, Air Force pilot A.J. D’Amario was on his first solo flight since arriving in country. Luckily for him, it wasn’t a combat mission, he was just on a routine sortie to “have fun boring holes in the sky.” Things got a lot more interesting for D’Amario immediately upon taking off. He would have to put a few rounds from his sidearm in the plane before he could bring it down.


D’Amario’s P-80 Shooting Star jet fighter wasn’t the latest and greatest plane, but it was still a good fighter to have. He would have to get used to it. The MiG-15 was tearing through P-80 Fighters, but there weren’t yet enough F-86 Sabres to go around. Still, the P-80 held its own: the first American jet-to-jet kill was made behind the stick of a Shooting Star. None of that was on D’Amario’s mind as he shot up into the wild blue yonder. He was more concerned about his left fuel tank. It felt heavy – it wasn’t feeding fuel to the engine.

He wanted to land immediately, but that much fuel was a no-go for the Korean War-era U.S. Air Force. The tower at Suwan, Korea, wasn’t about to have a melted runway if that much jet fuel caught fire on the flightline. They told him to dump his tanks at a bomb range and then come back.

Why writing members of Congress will definitely help troops

D’Amario retired from the Air Force as a Lt. Col.

(U.S. Air Force)

The young pilot flew over to the range, and as soon as he came upon his target area, he flipped the switches for the bomb release. Unfortunately, nothing happened. D’Amario’s P-80 Shooting Star was still carrying the heavy tanks of dangerous fuel and had no way of dumping the tanks, feeding the engine, or landing. He did what anyone who’s felt enough frustration with malfunctioning equipment wanted to do: he shot it.

But that wasn’t his first reaction. He made a few bombing runs, trying to release the left tank at every turn. He even once hit the plane’s “panic button” – the button that released everything attached to the fuselage. It did dump everything, everything except his errant fuel tank, full of fiery death. The tower told him he was cleared to bail out. The only problem with that is that bailing out comes with its own potential consequences. The loss of the aircraft is a definite consequence.

“… pilots really hate to punch out of a perfectly flyable airplane,” D’Amario later wrote, “And I figured I still had one option worth trying.”

Why writing members of Congress will definitely help troops

U.S. Air Force P-80 Shooting Stars with drop tanks.

(Lockheed)

That’s when the pilot opened the canopy of his jet aircraft (which he did slow down to 220 miles per hour) and pulled out his issued sidearm, a Colt M1911, and fired at the very full, very malfunctioning fuel tank.

“… liquid fuel will not burn,” D’Amario writes. “At least not like vapors, so I aimed for the part of the tank I was sure would be full of liquid.”

D’Amario fired four shots at the tank. The first shot was to understand just where to shoot to hit the tank while flying at 220 miles per hour. The next three rounds punctured the tank and went through the other side. It worked: the P-80 was still flying, and liquid fuel was pouring out of the left tank. Best of all, D’Amario and his Shooting Star did not become a real-life burning streak across the sky.

He was able to drain the tank and make a “routine” landing a half-hour later, convinced he was the only USAF pilot to shoot his own plane when it malfunctioned.

“Thank goodness for my .45,” he wrote.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The ‘Prisoner Exchange’ is the coolest Army-Navy tradition no one talks about

Imagine a Michigan student spending a semester at Ohio State. Or a UT student going to Oklahoma University. Getting sent to a rival should would be intense – and that’s exactly what Army and Navy have been doing for decades.


Every year, juniors at West Point and the Naval Academy switch places, spending an entire semester in enemy territory. Before they go back to their respective institutions, they go through the “prisoner exchange” at the annual Army-Navy Game.

 

(The U.S. Army | YouTube)

 

The West Point Cadets attend Navy classes with their midshipmen rivals. They live in “berthings,” probably call walls “bulkheads,” call floors “decks,” and ask permission to use the “head.”

Rivalries exist between all branches of the military – and college students are no different. The Army-Navy rivalry is so intense because it’s so old, but like all those other rivalries, it’s all in good fun. At the end of the day, the Cadets and Mids are still U.S. troops and we all fight on the same team.

That doesn’t mean they don’t get to have fun. The “Prisoner Exchange” is a time-honored tradition – one of many.

As for the differences between the academies, Cadet Tyrus Jones said it’s all about academy culture.

“Life is different because everything is centered around the Navy,” Jones told Army Public Affairs. “It’s a little bit of a different lifestyle and culture between the two services. It has to do with our history and how it’s evolved over the years.”

Why writing members of Congress will definitely help troops

“Cadets commonly refer to us through various names such as ‘Chief,’ ‘Squid,’ ‘Squidward,’ and ‘Middie,’ but we have come to consider them terms of endearment,” Midshipman Benjamin Huggins said to West Point’s official Public Affairs office.

After the Cadets and Mids are marched across the field, they go back to being part of one of the biggest rivalries in football, in the military, and in America.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The UK is sending another warship to the Persian Gulf

The UK is deploying an additional frigate and a support ship to the Persian Gulf region, although the UK Ministry of Defence said the deployments were not related to increasing tensions in Iran.

The Type 45 frigate HMS Duncan is in transit to the region, as the UK announced it would also deploy Type 23 frigate HMS Kent and support ship RFA Wave Knight. The moves were reported first by Times of London reporter Lucy Fisher and confirmed by MoD.

British frigate HMS Montrose successfully stopped Iranian gunboats from seizing a tanker on July 10, 2019.


The MoD issued a release confirming that the ships would be deployed as part of Operation KIPION, its “commitment to promoting peace and stability as well as ensuring the safe flow of trade, and countering narcotics and piracy.”

“RFA WAVE KNIGHT’s role is to deliver food, fuel, water and other essential supplies to [Royal Navy] and Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) ships,” according to the release. The MoD states that the HMS Kent will take over for the HMS Duncan, a warship currently deploying to the Gulf to “maintain a continuous maritime security presence” in the region.

The news caps off over a month of high tensions between Iran, the US and its allies.

Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported that a UAE-based tanker has gone missing in the Strait of Hormuz.

The 190-foot, Panama-flagged Riah oil tanker entered Iranian waters and stopped transmitting location data more than two days ago, according to the AP. Capt. Rajnith Raja from data firm Refinitiv told the AP that losing the signal from the Riah was “a red flag.”

The Riah was last heard from in Iranian waters, near Qeshm Island, the AP reported, citing a US defense official. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the US designated as a terrorist organization earlier this year, has a base on the island.

Escalating tensions: Iran calls on United Kingdom to release oil tanker

www.youtube.com

The US official told the AP that the US “has suspicions” that the Riah is in Iranian hands.

On July 4, 2019, the government of Gibraltar, a British territory, seized an Iranian tanker it said was carrying oil to Syria through the Straits of Gibraltar; Iran vowed retaliation, and attempted to block a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz a week later. Britain sent a second warship to the region to replace the HMS Montrose, which had been patrolling the British tanker and prevented the seizure.

Britain has agreed to release the Iranian tanker under the condition that it will not transit to Syria.

In June 2019, Japanese and Norweigian tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman; the US blamed Iran for the attacks, but Iran has denied responsibility.

The US has proposed a plan for a coalition of allies to patrol Iranian and Yemeni waters as incidents in the Gulf increase.

“We’re engaging now with a number of countries to see if we can put together a coalition that would ensure freedom of navigation both in the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandab,” Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said July 2019.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Wreaths Across America: How one tribute started a movement

National Wreaths Across America Day has become such a big tradition that it’s hard to believe it began from just one personal tribute.

How it Happened

The Worcester family of Harrington, Maine, owns their own tree farm. In 1992, they had a surplus of wreaths during the holiday season, so the family patriarch, Morrill — who had long felt indebted to our fallen veterans — got help from a Maine politician to have those spare wreaths placed beside graves in Arlington National Cemetery in areas that received fewer visitors each year.


Several volunteers stepped up to help, including veterans from American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and a truck company owner who transported the wreaths to Arlington, Virginia, where a small ceremony was held at the cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This remained a small yearly tradition for nearly 15 years until a photo taken at the 2005 ceremony went viral. Almost immediately, thousands of people wanted to know how to help or how they could begin a similar tradition in their states.

Why writing members of Congress will definitely help troops

Christmas wreaths adorn headstones at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., in December 2005.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

By the next year — with the help of some civic organizations and volunteers, including in the trucking industry — there were 150 simultaneous ceremonies held across the country. By 2008, the movement to remember, honor and teach had grown so much that Congress had declared the third Saturday in September National Wreaths Across America Day.

By 2014, the now-nonprofit Wreaths Across America had reached its goal of placing a wreath at all 226,525 graves in the cemetery.

Why writing members of Congress will definitely help troops

Navy personnel from the Navy International Programs Office, Washington, distribute wreaths to volunteers during the Wreaths Across America event at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Dec. 15, 2012.

(Photo by Chief Master Sgt. Robert W. Valenca)

Wreaths Across America today

The event continues to grow. In 2018, the organization shipped a staggering 1.75 MILLION wreaths to 1,640 locations that held ceremonies across the U.S. A few dozen locations overseas also participated. According to the organization, this was the first year it was granted permission to place wreaths at Normandy to honor those who died during World War II’s D-Day invasion.

Why writing members of Congress will definitely help troops

Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Charles C. Orf salutes a headstone at Fort Richardson National Cemetery during the annual Wreaths Across America Day at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Dec. 16, 2017.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson)

Veterans and Gold Star families are many of the roughly 2 million volunteers who prepared the wreaths, shipped them across the country, and put them on graves.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This company wants to make the Army’s M17 into way more than a pistol

Warfighting, like any line of work, gets much easier when you have the right tools for the job. A long barrel and high powered optics may make you a lethal opponent in the long-range shootouts of Afghanistan, but that same loadout could quickly become a liability in the close-quarters battles of Baghdad. Of course, some circumstances may call for both accuracy at a distance and the rapid target acquisition of an in-your-face fight, and in those situations, you’ve got to make do with what you’ve got.

That’s where platforms like FLUX Defense’s MP17 for the new Army standard issue M17 pistol could come in. Instead of replacing the Army’s existing sidearm, FLUX Defense went to work on finding ways to make Sig Sauer’s M17 more lethal and efficient in situations where one might not normally reach for a sidearm. In order to do that, they found what the M17 really needed was a third point of contact on the user’s body.


Why writing members of Congress will definitely help troops

A soldier firing the M17 like a stockless chump.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Samantha Stoffregen)

Most special operators rely on a pistol as a secondary firearm, using their primary weapon (commonly an assault rifle or submachine gun) whenever possible thanks to its greater degree of control, accuracy, range, and often, ammunition on hand. A sidearm like the Army’s M17 pistol is often seen as a weapon of last resort, or at the very least, a weapon with advantages under only specific circumstances.

The FLUX Defense MP17, however, adds a retractable stock (though, it’s important to note, it’s not legally considered a stock) and accessories to the standard Sig Sauer M17. The retractable stock and custom holster means the pistol still rides on a soldier’s hip like the M17 normally would, but instead of drawing the weapon and firing it like a traditional pistol, the user can deploy the stock and shoulder the weapon like a rifle — adding a great deal of stability, accuracy, and recoil control that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

While current M17s come standard with either a 17-round or extended 21-round magazine, the MP17 increases that capacity to 43 rounds, thanks to a second magazine holder that doubles as a forward grip. It also offers a rail for mounting lights or lasers and optics mounts on the back. Importantly, beneath that optic mount is a gap that allows users to continue to use the pistol’s iron sights even while it’s housed in the FLUX brace.

The new Flux Defense MP17 // FluxDefense

youtu.be

According to the manufacturer, you can convert your standard-issue M17 into the MP17 in as little as 60 seconds, and it weighs in at just 2.8 pounds with the firearm (and no ammunition) installed.

FLUX advertises that the platform “shoots like a primary, holsters like a pistol,” and for many special operators or even those with concerns about home defense, that’s an offer that’s too good to ignore. This system could also serve as a significant benefit for personal security details and pilots — both of whom are constantly balancing security and preparation against a lack of usable space.

Last year, fighter pilots began carrying a new M4 variant dubbed the GAU-5/A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon, which breaks apart to be easily stowed in the cockpit. A platform like the FLUX MP17, however, could be used to those same ends without requiring assembly after a crash.

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The holster allows for suppressors, flashlights, lasers, or whatever else you crazy kids are using these days.

(FLUX Defense)

Civilian customers can purchase the brace system without its custom holster for around 0, or with the holster for 0. As FLUX will point out, there aren’t currently any other holster options available on the market for the platform, however, so you’ll probably want to spring for the full package. That duty holster is open near the muzzle, allowing for a wide variety of flashlights, suppressors, or other tacticool (or legitimately tactical) add-ons. They also sell variants for use with Glock pistols.

Of course, despite being classified as a pistol brace rather than a stock, there could potentially still be legal issues with picking up your own MP17. While FLUX doesn’t sell their brace kit as a Short Barrel Rifle kit (SBR) and they say it doesn’t fall under the ATF’s AOW (All Other Weapons) category to require a special stamp, the ATF is sometimes slow to make rulings about new products. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with any state or local laws pertaining to the use of SBRs before you make a purchase.

Provided you can get your hands on the FLUX Defense MP17 legally, it may be just what you need to turn your standard sidearm into the right tool for the job, even if the job at hand is something pistols have no right to be doing.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines hold rifle and pistol competition on Okinawa

The competition allowed Marines stationed in Japan to test and enhance their shooting abilities.

“The concept of every Marine a rifleman goes back to our basics,” said Sgt. Christian Lee Burdette, an ordinance maintenance chief with Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “We learn basic infantry skills before we learn our military occupational specialty. Every Marine in general has the capabilities to engage any threat with a weapon. With this training, it provides that confidence for a Marine to engage effectively.”


The first day of the competition included a brief morning class to brush the competitors up on their marksmanship knowledge followed by competitors zeroing their rifles. Zeroing is the process of calibrating the rifle combat optic, so the weapon is accurate to where the shooter is aiming. The shooters’ zero is essential, as a faulty zero can disrupt a shooters’ ability to hit their target.

The following week allowed the shooters to practice the various courses of fire. To complete certain courses, the shooters were forced to shoot with their off-hand and eye.

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U.S. Marines competing in the Far East Marksmanship Competition engage targets at Range 18 on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan Dec. 13, 2018.

(Photo by Pfc. Brennan Beauton)

“It puts you into unknown situations, instead of just shooting on a flat range and known distances,” said Sgt. Shane Holum, an emergency service crew chief with MCIPAC. “You have multiple targets and you are shooting and moving. You have to work through problems and malfunctions.”

The final week was for score. All of the shooters’ shots were marked and recorded. Marines were able to compete as an individual, a team, or both. Each shooter had to complete the standard Marine Corps rifle and pistol qualification course along with other courses. The additional courses required shooters to fire and maneuver obstacles, and switch weapons while engaging targets at different distances.

Sixteen teams competed on Dec. 13, 2018, in a rifle and pistol competition. To enter and compete as a team, each team must include four shooters. A team must have an officer and a first time shooter. The first time shooter must be at least a noncommissioned officer.

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A U.S. Marine shooter and spotters assess the target in the Team Pistol Match finals at Range 1 on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan Dec. 13, 2018.

(Photo by Pfc. Brennan Beauton)

“Any command that is stationed on Okinawa or mainland Japan can come out to the competition,” said Staff Sgt. Stephen Ferguson, an instructor and competitor for the Marine Corps Shooting Team. “You can bring as large as a team as you want, or bring a single shooter. Either way, you can come out and compete.”

The Marine Corps Base Camp Butler’s team won the team rifle competition. The Communication Strategy and Operations Company on Camp Hansen won the team pistol competition, the same day the unit became officially activated. On Dec. 14, 2018, the MCB rifle team was presented with the Calvin A. Lloyd Memorial Trophy, and the CommStrat pistol team was presented with the Shively Trophy.

“Annual qualification is once a year,” said Sgt. Cameron Patrick, an instructor and competitor for the Marine Corps Shooting Team. “Shooting is a very perishable skill so we want you to not just do the qualification, but to try and get out and practice on your own time. Actually refine your skills by yourself. Don’t wait for that one year to come around.”

The top 10 percent of shooters are invited to participate in the United States Marine Corps Marksmanship Championship Competition in Quantico, Virginia, in April 2019. From there they will be evaluated to see if the individual has the qualities of becoming a member of the Marine Corps Shooting Team, according to Patrick.

The Far East Competition is held annually on Okinawa. Marines that want to participate are encouraged to sign up early as slots fill up quickly.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Gerard Butler totally gets why troops hate military movie mistakes

There’s nothing more irritating to troops and veterans than sitting down and watching a military film only to be distracted by inaccuracies. We’re not just talking about uniform infractions or other minor goofs — everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes, however, the scripts are just so fundamentally flawed that us veterans can’t help but start chucking things at the screen.

Thankfully, for every stinker that insists on ignoring the on-set military advisor, there’s a great film that gets it right.

The team here at We Are The Mighty recently got a chance to sit down with Gerard Butler, star and producer of the film Hunter Killer, to discuss the production crew’s commitment to portraying the lives of U.S. sailors as accurately as possible in the upcoming thriller.


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The wardrobe department pulled off some outstanding attention to detail. From the bottom of our hearts at We Are The Mighty, BZ, ‘Hunter Killer’ wardrobe department! BZ!

(Summit Entertainment)

There really isn’t any better way for filmmakers to faithfully capture the essence of military life than by deferring to those who serve — and that’s exactly what Gerard Butler and the crew of Hunter Killer did throughout pre-production and rehearsal.

Butler spent three days aboard a real Virginia-class submarine, carefully watching every detail and nuance of actual submariner life to better tell their story. Even the tiny details — like the order in which commands are given — were analyzed, written down, and implemented when it came time to shoot. And when they put theory into practice, the authenticity was immediately apparent.

That extra step helped put all the actors into the frame of mind they needed to truly portray submariners in the heat of combat. Butler told us,

“We actually wrote [the details of submariner life] into the script and we realized it was a whole other character in the story. And when we started — the difference that it made!”

Butler knows full-well that the devil’s in the details when it comes to military movies. He told us about his time aboard the USS Houston, when he sat down to watch a much-beloved naval film with the sailors. It was the eye-opener to say the least.

“When I sat to watch… with the submarine crew, and they’re all like taking ownership of the movie and they’re like, ‘that’s bullsh*t!’ while the captain is like, ‘That’s sh*t! You think that’s good, but that’s bullsh*t! He’d never wear that hat! What are those stripes? He wouldn’t say that!'”

Needless to say, Butler and the rest of the Hunter Killer crew recognized how important these details are for us and our community.

Be sure to check out Hunter Killer when it’s released on October 26th.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the legendary Dam Busters crippled Germany

One of the most legendary successes of the Royal Air Force in World War II was a bombing raid that was written off for decades as a largely symbolic victory, but was actually a technically challenging operation that choked Nazi industry in 1943 and helped ensure that German factories couldn’t produce the materiel necessary to win.


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A Lancaster bomber with the special Upkeep bomb bay and bomb used in Operation Chastise in May, 1943.

(Royal Air Force)

The Dam Busters Raid, officially known as Operation Chastise, was the result of a series of bombing raids that hit target after target in the Ruhr region of Germany, but failed to significantly slow German industrial output. Planners needed a way to cripple German industry, and large-scale bombing wasn’t getting the job done.

So, they presented an alternative: Instead of attacking individual factories and areas, they’d wipe out an entire productive region with the destruction of key infrastructure. Some of the best and most obvious targets were the dams in the Ruhr region.

The dams fulfilled a few key roles. They channeled water to where it was needed, provided hydroelectric power, and kept thousands of acres of farmland protected for regular cultivation.

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Workers construct tanks in factories in Germany during World War II. Factories like this one, and the factories that fed them raw materials, were targeted during Operation Chastise, the “Dam Busters Raid.”

Destroying the dam would wreak worse havoc, allowing flood waters to damage dozens of factories essential for everything from coke production to tank assembly as well as additional farmland. The raid would tip the scales of 1943 and 1944 — provided they could figure out how to pull it off.

And figuring it out would prove tough. This was before England’s “earthquake” bombs, so the weapons available at the outset of the raid were basically just normal gravity bombs. But hitting a narrow dam with a bomb is challenging, and even a direct hit on the top of the dam would be unlikely to actually cause any sort of breach.

It would take multiple strikes, potentially dozens, in almost the exact same spot to really break a dam from the top.

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An inert, practice bouncing bomb skips along the water in this video still from training drops by the Royal Air Force 617 Squadron. The bomb is one of the “Upkeep” munitions, the barrel-form of the weapon aimed at destroying German dams.

(Imperial War Museums)

But if the bomb could strike the dam, that would be much different. A bomb strike against the air-exposed side of the dam could heavily damage it, and a bomb in the right spot on the water side of the dam would cause the whole thing to shatter under the combined pressure of the blast and the water.

So, Britain went shopping for options, and they found a weapon under development by British engineer Barnes Wallis, who wanted to create a better bomb for taking out destroyers.

His thought was fairly simple: A bomb with the right shape and spin could skip across the water until it struck a ship. Then, the spin would drive the bomb underwater as it basically rolled itself down the outside of the ship. It would explode under the waterline with a payload much larger than a torpedo, dooming the ship. These became known as the “Bouncing Bombs.”

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One of the flight crews from the Dam Busters Raid pose in July 1943. Their successful attack made the brand new 617 Squadron world-famous overnight and crippled German infrastructure.

(Royal Air Force)

His weapon was adapted slightly for Operation Chastise. The original “High Ball” design, basically a sphere, evolved into the “Upkeep” bomb, a more barrel-shaped weapon.

The British created an all-new squadron to conduct the mission, the 617. Pilots from across the Western Allies, including U.S., British Canadian, Australian, and Kiwi personnel, were assigned. The plan was for a low-level, nighttime raid targeting three dams in the valley. The squadron began intense training with the special bombs.

The most successful method they found was flying 60 feet above the water at 232 mph ground speed. While this gave the greatest chances of success and minimized the likelihood that surprised, tired anti-aircraft crews would get a shot at them, it also made for spectacularly dangerous and tricky flying.

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The dam at Edertalsperre in Germany after the Dam Buster raid. The hole in the dam was estimated to be 230 feet wide and 72 feet high.

(Bundesarchiv Bild)

At 9:28 p.m. on May 16, 1943, the 133 men took off in 19 bombers aimed at three separate and challenging targets. They flew in three waves and successfully breached two of the dams while damaging the third.

The next morning, the attacks were reported in Germany and England. Germany tried to downplay the results, and Britain played up the success. For a generation, the exact results were in controversy. Even British historians would claim that the attack was over-hyped.

But, newer research has revealed that the raid really was a stunning success, one that was quickly known in the region as the “Mohne Catastrophe.” Germany lost 400,000 tonnes worth of coal production in the month of May and had to divert thousands of forced laborers from the coast of Normandy and other sites to repair the damages.

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The English King George VI inspects the airmen of the 617 Squadron, the Dambusters, on May 27, 1943, after their widly successful mission.

(Royal Air Force)

The workers had to repair the physical dam before the fall rains or risk the region running low on water and electricity — even after the dam was repaired. They had to repair 100 damaged factories, not counting the 12 factories completely destroyed. Thousands of acres of farmland, necessary to feed the armies on the march, were ruined.

And, all of this came while the German army was desperately trying to stave off Soviet advances and just a year before the Normandy landings, increasing the chances of success there.

In other words, the mission was a stunning success. But it didn’t come without cost. Two bombers were lost on their way to the target. One struck the water’s surface and another hit electrical wires. Eight bombers were shot down.

53 Allied personnel were killed and another three captured.