The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

Kathleen Bourque’s life with her fiancée Marine 1st Lt. Conor McDowell, was cut tragically short following a vehicle rollover accident that killed McDowell. Now, Bourque is channeling her grief into awareness about military vehicle rollovers.  

In May 2019, Bourque’s fiancée was killed in a military training accident, days after being promoted, and just three months before their planned September wedding. Her life with her intended was cut tragically short after the accident that happened at Camp Pendleton. 

McDowell and his crew set out on a route reconnaissance exercise with an order to recon Canyon Road at Camp Pendleton in preparation for a division-sized movement. Then McDowell made the decision to move the LAV off-road and drive it into tall vegetation, which isn’t unusual for cover and concealment. Light armored recon Marines are routinely taught that roads are dangerous and should be avoided to eliminate dust signatures. 

The LAV that McDowell and his crew were operating crept slowly into six-foot-tall vegetation, which obstructed the driver’s vision. A corporal stood up and yelled for the driver to halt, but it was too late. The Marines inside never saw the ditch. The LAV plummeted down a 15-foot washout and rolled upside down. A command investigation obtained by the Marine Corps Times detailed that McDowell used his last moments alive to alert his crew that the vehicle was about to roll, actions that might’ve spared others more serious injury. Several of McDowell’s crew were injured. 

The couple met in 2018 after connecting on a dating app, Hinge. McDowell had just graduated from the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course in Virginia and was headed to Camp Pendleton for his next assignment. But before heading out west, McDowell took an 800-mile detour and went to visit Bourque in her North Carolina home. They spent just four days together before making the decision that Bourque would move with McDowell to California. Friends and family balked at the choice, but the couple was steadfast that it was the right thing to do.

The couple settled into life as much as they could. As a military girlfriend, Bourque had limited access to on-base resources. She couldn’t shop at the commissary, access fitness facilities, go to the MCX or check out books in the library. In the military, you’re either married or you’re single – there is no in-between. So when McDowell died, Bourque found herself and her status in limbo. She had to fight with McDowell’s chain of command to have her dead fiancé’s things shipped back across the country because she wasn’t listed as the next of kin on McDowell’s paperwork. At his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Bourque was told to “stand back” because she wasn’t considered, in the eyes of the military, “immediate family.”

Now she’s banded together with six other military fiancés who have lost their partners to military accidents, and she’s lobbying for change. As a group, they fight for their relationships to be considered valid in the eyes of the military. Because none of the Wild Gang was married, they don’t receive any Gold Star benefits and are largely forgotten by the larger military community.

Bourque thinks the accident should never have happened and has been reaching out to lawmakers on Capitol Hill to act on military vehicle rollover accidents. McDowell was one of four marines who died in a military vehicle rollover during training exercises in 2019. His death represents a slight uptick in non-combat-related tactical vehicle deaths for the Marine Corps. However, data from the Naval Safety Center shows that Marine tactical vehicle mishaps are at a ten-year low.

That disconnect is part of what Bourque is fighting for. Recognition as a military widow and the fact that some vehicle deaths might go unreported keeps her fighting for McDowell’s memory. She maintains that widows, no matter their official marriage status, should be treated unequivocally with the same level of respect across all branches of the military.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Fun facts about countries with biggest US military bases

Not including the Middle East, there were more than 225,000 U.S. military personnel stationed abroad last year. A military career is a great way to learn about different cultures. You’ll also learn some pretty cool (and sometimes strange) things about life in other countries. Here are some interesting facts about some of the countries with large U.S. military populations:


The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

(Marine Corps Photo)

South Korea

Camp Humphreys is America’s largest overseas base, and it’s located in South Korea. But did you know that South Korea is also home to the world’s best airport? Incheon International Airport has consistently been ranked the best in the world. It has lush gardens, saunas, an ice skating rink, free showers and free massage chairs. It even has craft areas where you can create traditional bags and fans. It’s pretty much a tourist destination in and of itself.

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

(Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt McCoy)

Germany

It’s good to be a kid in Germany. In a tradition dating back to the 1800s, every first grader gets a giant cone filled with toys and candy. Today, some kids even get cell phones and video games. When you make it through school, you’ll also get an entirely free college education. But don’t count on standing out among your classmates for your unusual name; the government has a say over what parents name their children, and they reject strange names (including ones where the gender is not obvious).

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

Japan

Japan is the vending machine capital of the world. In fact, every street in Japan has at least one vending machine (for a total of over 5 million in the country). Umbrella vending machines are helpful when it rains (versus in New York, where you’ll have to grab one from a street vendor). Forgot your tie for work? Buy one in a vending machine. You can buy every kind of food imaginable—including vegetables. There are even vending machines entirely for bananas. And here’s one Americans will love – there are toilet paper vending machines in Japan too.

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

(U.S. Army photo by Davide Dalla Massara)

Italy

The Italians take their ice cream (gelato) very seriously. In fact, there is an even an entire university dedicated to studying it and making it. It’s called Gelato University, near Bologna, and it attracts both Italians and non-Italians wanting to learn the secrets behind making this revered dessert.

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

(US Army Photo by Sgt. M Benjamin Gable)

Kuwait

Kuwait isn’t a popular tourist destination, but if you do find yourself there, look for Sadu woven textiles. This craft goes back to the country’s nomadic peoples – even though most of the country’s population today are expatriates. Symbolism in the weaving shows the desert landscape and commemorates the nomadic lifestyle.

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Battles/Released)

Turkey

Turkey is the right place if you’ve come to shop. It has one of the world’s largest and biggest shopping centers, called the Grand Bazaar, which dates back to the 1400s. It includes over 3,000 shops taking up over 60 streets. Many of the shops sell traditional Turkish items like ceramics, lamps, spices, rugs, jewelry, and tea.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Unit Cartoonist: How the Grinch burned down Christmas

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.

(Featured cartoon: The unfortunate Christmas fire started by the Grinch here is likened to the great Chicago Fire of 1871, when a cow being milked by owner Catherine “Cate” O’Leary kicked over an oil lantern that started a hay fire in the barn they were in. The fire killed 300 people and destroyed over 17,000 structures)

Quite a lot of the nation tends to kick back and cut slack during the holidays. Some functions cannot do that by sheer nature of the importance of their contribution. Others will not simply because…they don’t want to.

That was the attitude of my Special Mission Unit. It was a year that we felt we needed to train more, but were just running out of days in the year to do it. It was then that we ran our live-fire urban combat training all the way up to the 24th of December.


The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

Not even Christmas was a candidate to compromise our resolve to train to standard.

Our urban combat training site was an abandoned neighborhood just off the far end of the runway of a major American airport. The property values had sunk out of sight due to the constant roar of the aircraft overhead. The houses were pretty old, but I don’t think they were older than the airport. It begged the question: “why would anyone think it was a good idea to build a community so close to the flight path of such a large airport?”

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

An abandoned hood such as this makes an excellent complicated urban target

subject.

[David Lohr, Huffington Post]

While some real estate investor had come up bust, Delta had gained a 360-degree free-fire city where anything could go into the tactical fight. Our operations cell had worked on the hood for weeks preparing it with modifications: pop-up targets in windows and doors, on roofs, and even behind bushes. Some of the targets moved across streets mounted
on rollers that ran along the tops of cables. There simply was just no way to even modestly know what to expect.

The keyword there is what lends the greatest to the realism of the training venue — not knowing what to expect; to be coaxed into expecting the unexpected. The whole ambiance of the scenario begged every man to constantly scan overhead and wonder just what might burst forth from out of the ground. Therein lies a formidable test of our true live-fire marksman skill.

The Grinch was our Bravo Assault Team Leader. He was a painfully no-nonsense one-man wrecking machine with combat experience in Lebanon, Somalia, the Iraqi Wars, and Afghanistan. “Asscrackistan,” the Grinch would say, “is no place for a fatherless boy.” Yes, just what exactly he meant by that no sane man knew, but it was his version of humor, and knowing that we all laughed each time he said it.

Another famous Grinch-ism: he was once formally quoted to have said to a man: “Well, that’s your opinion, and it’s wrong!” Any attempt to explain the absence of degrees of right or wrong of an opinion was in danger of being met with a lung-collapsing blow to the chest; that’s just how the Grinch rolled. Ours was never to reason why with the Grinch, ours was to pop the snot bubble and move out.

We spent half days planning our assaults on our “Slim City” as we called it: methods of infiltrations onto target, exit strategies, routes of movement to objectives, and contingency plans. The second halves of the days we executed our assaults on targets.

A meeting with the City Mayor’s office and Police Chief was required to secure the use of the abandoned neighborhood that was scheduled for demolition. After presenting a description of the training we planned to do, the Mayor asked our senior officer: “What guarantee can you give me that your men will not miss some of these targets and send bullets whizzing through my city?”

The response: “Because they’ll be told not to,” the senior officer replied — sold!

During the last assault (it’s always on the last assault) the Grinch skillfully maneuvered his pipe-hitters from building to building. The booming of flash-bang grenades and the quick staccato of double-tap* rifle shots was almost rhythmic, to the extent that we could pretty much tell how far through the buildings he was.

Then “it” happened…

The Grinch slammed a flash-bang in a room. It bounced off a wall and came to rest near the open entrance door. When it exploded it shoved the locked door shut. It was a metal door that did not respond to mule kicks from the powerful Grinch: “put a man on it and the rest of us by-pass it!” the Grinch instructed. When they finished clearing the structure, it had become filled with smoke that was coming from the locked room.

“BLOW IT!!” the Grinch called out, and a man immediately slapped a full 80-inch high explosive charge on the door and fired it. With an Earth-rocking explosion, the door was pushed inside the room…but immense flames shot out of the doorway. The Grinch keyed his microphone and called in the situation as structural fire out of control. The Command and Control element had the city fire department alerted.

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

It became painfully clear that most the the neighborhood was going to burn.

The old building was consumed totally and in short order by flames which spread from building to building. Soon an entire block was a raging inferno of flame and choking smoke. The pumper trucks from the local fire department showed up. The boys were there to meet the trucks:

“Thanks, we’ll take it from here,” the boys told the fire crews, who stood stunned for many moments, then ultimately had to concede the pipe-hitters who bore no grins upon their faces. It was no joke.

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

“They… they took our trucks.

The fire crews huddled at the hood entrance while the boys fought the fires, knocking them down with high-pressure hoses and water canons. The assault tactics on fire were the status quo for any assault, just that water was now being launched. The last of the flames succumbed to the deluge with a small number of structures hardly worth the count.

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

The brothers knocked down the flames with high pressure water the best they could.

“Who on God’s Earth is responsible for this?” demanded our ranking officer later into the night where he addressed the balance of the men. The mighty Grinch, offering no sugar coating, took a mighty step forward.

Saying nothing as he stood with hands on hips, and stared the Major down.

“Ok… we’re all tired from a very long day and night; let’s knock it off and get some sleep!” the major conceded.

*Double-tap: two shots of rifle or pistol that are fired very quickly to the chest area of a threat target. Often time they are fired so fast as to be barely discernible as two separate shots fired. Double-taps are often fired with a slower third “clean up” shot to the head. The meter of the event will “sound” like this: “Ba-Bam… bam, Ba-Bam… Bam.”

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness
MIGHTY CULTURE

5 pro tips for putting together Christmas care packages

It’s that time of year where we start putting together care packages for service members stationed near and far, as well as family members who are “back home.” This year especially, many people won’t be traveling like in years prior, which means mailed gifts or sending care packages rather than celebrating in person. 

When planning your holiday care packages, remember to provide personal touches and items that interest the receiver. Simple additions like homemade artwork from kids, pictures, or local trinkets can take your gift giving to the next level. 

Consider these additional tips in order to put together your best care package yet. 

  1. Know your audience

First things first — who are you gifting to? Consider if you’re buying for family members? Soldiers? Kids? Make a list of everyone on your list and put together a list of ideas. For soldiers downrange, you’ll likely be shopping for necessities. This means snacks, entertainment (books, magazines, movies), toiletries, and any other favorites that your soldier wants but can’t get their hands on in location. These are some of the most well-received gifts of all time, including a mix of thoughtfulness and needs. 

Meanwhile, if you’re shopping for family members or kids, you will likely have more creativity. 

  1. Gift them their interests

Next, search around for gifts that you know they will love. There are always gift guide finders (and an entire search function on Amazon), but don’t be above asking, either. Some giftees will assure you that you don’t need to get them anything. But hopefully you get some real, usable info in the process. Find out what your loved ones enjoy and get them something they’ll use!

And remember that gift cards aren’t a cop-out. Include a nice card and then feel good about the fact that you gave them an excuse to order at their favorite place. 

care packages
  1. Shop local

One of the most notable aspects about sending a Christmas care package — you’re not visiting in person. Or rather, they aren’t visiting you. That means you can include some novelties about wherever you’re stationed. Look for non-perishable foods, handmade goods, or any local claims to fame that your loved one won’t find elsewhere. This can also be a fun way to explore local hotspots … or shop online and learn about local businesses. 

  1. Don’t overlook experiences as gifts

GIving a holiday gift doesn’t mean you have to give a physical item. It simply means you have to show a loved one that you care. Consider different types of gifts that can be given for all to enjoy. Kids might enjoy a theme park or zoo. Adults may be wanting to try a new restaurant or brewery tour. Or perhaps there’s a location that’s great for all ages, such as an arcade, bowling alley, or water park. Snag a gift card and let them have a fun day out in lieu of a traditional Christmas gift. 

  1. Get it in the mail in time

Christmas may be weeks away, but you also have to consider shipping times for your package to arrive before December 25th. Look at where you’re shipping to, then follow Post Office guidelines to ensure your package arrives on time. It likely means shopping sooner rather than later, but that also means one more item to knock off your to-do list! 

Take these deliver-by dates into account in order to ensure your packages arrive on time. 

The good news is that military post office dates still allow December packages to be delivered in time for the holidays. 

What are your favorite ways to send Christmas care packages to those you love? Tell us your tips in the comments.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Omaha veteran honored by France for WWII service

A World War II veteran who served with the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division in multiple campaigns, including Normandy where he landed on Omaha Beach with the second wave of troops on D-Day, was awarded the French Legion of Honor.

Edward H. “Ed” Morrissette, age 96, was presented the award by France’s Consul General from Chicago, Guillaume Lacroix, during a special ceremony Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center, surrounded by dozens of family, fellow veterans and distinguished guests.


“It means a lot to be here in Omaha, Nebraska, with you 75 years after you landed on Omaha Beach,” Lacroix said. “Our gratitude, sir, is forever because you changed the destiny of France and the destiny of Europe forever.”

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

Hon. Guillaume Lacroix, Consul General of France in Chicago, shakes the hand of WWII veteran Edward Morrissette after presenting him the French Legion of Honor medal Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.

(Photo by Maj. Scott Ingalsbe)

The medal pinned on his jacket, Morrissette walked slowly to the lectern, thanked everyone, and said he accepted the award for others who served and many who never returned home.

“I don’t know that I particularly deserved it, but I know that the men and women of the First Division that landed in Europe deserve it, especially those that are not back with us now,” Morrissette said. “I had some friends that didn’t make it off of that shore, and I miss them terribly. But I want to say one thing: I’m glad that we helped France… got them out from under the heels of Nazi boots.”

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

WWII veteran Edward Morrissette shares thoughts with the audience after receiving the French Legion of Honor in a special ceremony Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.

(Photo by Maj. Scott Ingalsbe)

On June 6, 1944, Morrissette was a squad leader in charge of machine gun crews with the 16th Infantry Regiment headquarters. It was his third beach landing, having already landed and fought in North Africa and Sicily.

Speaking with reporters after the award ceremony, he shared a story of what happened as he and his men jumped out of the landing craft just short of French soil.

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

A photo of Edward Morrissette is displayed at a ceremony in which he was presented the French Legion of Honor Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.

(US Army photo)

“It was difficult for our boat to get into shore, and when it did we jumped out into water up to our chest,” Morrissette said. He and another soldier were carrying a roll of telephone wire above their heads, in addition to their rifles, and as they realized the roll of wire was drawing the aim of enemy gunners they decided to jettison the extra load.

“If they need to communicate, I guess they’ll just have to holler,” Morrissette said, holding his arms above his head and reenacting the struggle to get ashore.

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

WWII veteran Edward Morrissette tells a story of jumping out of landing craft into chest deep water off Omaha Beach while carrying a rifle and a roll of telephone wire above his head, speaking to reporters Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.

(Photo by Maj. Scott Ingalsbe)

On the beach he found cover behind a concrete block, and eventually crawled the rest of the way to higher ground.

By the time Germany surrendered in May 1945, Morrissette and the Big Red One fought their way through Northern France, the Ardennes, and were headed to Prague.

“This country should be proud of our soldiers,” he said. “They are remarkable people, and they can do remarkable things.”

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

Nebraska Army National Guard Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division’s Main Command Post – Operational Detachment gather for a photo with Big Red One WWII veteran Edward Morrissette after he received the French Legion of Honor in a special ceremony Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.

(US Army photo)

Morrissette was nominated for France’s Legion of Honor by his family. Although the number of medals awarded each year is limited, most American veterans of World War I and II can be inducted. Past American recipients include Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Adm. Michael Mullen.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

VA celebrates nurses during National Nurses Week 2020

This National Nurses Week, we salute the over 100,000 VA nurses who work tirelessly every day to serve our nation’s Veterans — and have continued to demonstrate their commitment and dedication throughout this historic global situation.

“VA nurses are fiercely dedicated to our mission of providing excellent care to America’s heroes, which is especially vital during this time,” said Shawanda Poree, program manager of nurse recruitment and resources at VA. “We couldn’t care for the 9 million Veterans enrolled in VA care without them.”


At VA facilities from coast to coast, our nurses consistently advocate for Veterans and ensure they receive the best care.

This year, in honor of Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday, National Nurses Week is also part of the World Health Organization’s “Year of the Nurse and Midwife,” recognizing the hard work of the world’s nurses.

‘No better feeling’

“There’s no better feeling than caring for the Veteran. You get to know them and they become like your family,” said Sarah Lueger, a nurse manager who serves Veterans at the VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System. “It’s a way for me to give back to them for what they’ve done for us.”

At 100,000-strong, the VA nursing corps is the largest in the nation. Together, they provide continuous, compassionate care and positively impact the lives of Veterans — 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

“The people who work at VA really have a strong passion for what they do, and that is infectious to those around us,” said Karalie Gantz, an inpatient acute psychiatry nurse manager at Topeka VA.

VA nurses practice in a variety of care-delivery settings, including acute, ambulatory, mental health care, telecare and outpatient clinics.

“Within our health care system, there are [so many] different departments and different opportunities that, once you’re here, you can find [your] niche. There really is a place for everyone at VA,” Gantz said.

Grow, lead and innovate

Nurses are a critical part of Veteran treatment teams. They sit on leadership boards and collaborate across disciplines to improve patient outcomes. At all of our 1,250 sites, nurses have a voice at the table with physicians and leadership and help improve patient care.

“Working at VA is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve grown into the nurse that I am now, the leader that I am now,” Lueger said.

We encourage nurses to take advantage of opportunities to accelerate their training. Three available opportunities include:

  • The VA Learning Opportunities Residency (VALOR) Program gives outstanding registered nursing students who have completed their junior year in an accredited clinical program the opportunity to develop their skills at a VA-approved health care facility. More than 50% of VALOR participants are hired as new registered nurses in VA and usually start above the entry-level salary rate established for new graduates.
  • Through the Education Debt Reduction Program, nurses with qualifying student loans receive reimbursements of up to 0,000 over a five-year period. Payments cover tuition and other reasonable expenses, including fees, books, supplies, equipment, materials and laboratory costs.
  • Under the National Nursing Education Initiative (NNEI), part- or full-time VA registered nurses employed for at least one year can receive up to ,117 toward the pursuit of an associate, bachelor’s or advanced nursing degree, including tuition, registration fees and books.

A wealth of resources, including mentoring and preceptor programs, also encourage promotion of staff nurses to executive-level positions.

VA nurses also have the chance to innovate and research. Nurses are helping VA become a leader in telehealth and embracing scientific exploration to come up with new ways to serve Veterans.

Work at VA today 

During Nurses Week 2020 and all year long, we celebrate and thank the VA nurses who are pursuing careers with purpose and making a difference in Veterans’ lives.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

First soldiers graduate Basic Training in WWII throwback uniform

New soldiers at Fort Sill, Oklahoma were the first to graduate Army Basic Combat Training this month wearing the service’s new Army Greens — modeled after an iconic World War II uniform.

After completing the 10-week BCT course, about 200 soldiers from A Battery, 1st Battalion, 79th Field Artillery, which falls under the 434th Field Artillery Brigade, stood at attention at the Nov. 16 graduation ceremony dressed in the new Army Green Service Uniform, officials said in a release.

The significance of the iconic uniform — a throwback to the “Greatest Generation’s” Pinks and Greens — was not lost on fledgling soldiers like Pvt. Rebeca Beaird, who recalled what she thought when she was first issued the new uniform.

“A lot of us were thinking: ‘Oh, Captain America, like yeah! We get to be there,'” Beaird said in the release, possibly referring to the popular 2011 movie “Captain America: The First Avenger,” which showed actor Chris Evans dressed in his Pinks and Greens uniform during WWII.

“Soldiers who wear this uniform are going to be honored to wear them. Veterans who wore them will be happy to see us bring it back.”

Beaird, 19, is scheduled to attend advanced individual training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to become a behavioral health technician.

The ceremony’s guest speaker, Lt. Col. Jason Carter, Fires Center and Fort Sill Commanding General’s Planning Group director, further highlighted the historical significance of the uniform.

“The Army’s greatest generation wore the iconic greens uniform when America was in the throes of World War II,” Carter said, referring to Generals Dwight Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, and George Marshall.

“Now you, as our next great generation, are among one of the first in our United States Army to wear one of the most admired and recognizable uniforms in our history as it is being reinstituted to honor our heritage.”

The Fort Sill graduates were among the first recruits to receive the AGSU in October. Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Fort Benning, Georgia; and Fort Jackson, South Carolina are the next bases in line for trainees to begin receiving the AGSU, according to Army officials.

Army recruiters and drill sergeants were the first to begin receiving the new uniform, because the two groups are considered the face of the Army, officials have said.

Staff Sgt. Hayon Ju, a drill sergeant with 1-79th, said she “loved the practicality” of the new uniform.

“They’re a lot easier for females to set up our ribbons and badges,” Ju said.

During its development, the Army formed a special, all-female panel to speak for the needs of female soldiers. One of the recommendations was to have pants as the default option instead of the traditional skirt that was issued in the past.

Army senior leaders approved the new uniform for everyday wear in late 2018 as a replacement for the blue Army Service Uniform (ASU) after deciding that it is often too formal for everyday business use.

Soldiers who own a set of the ASU can continue to wear it for formal occasions.

Col. Daniel Blackmon, 434th Field Artillery Brigade commander, said the AGSU is special for him because his father and grandfather served in the Army and wore similar uniforms.

Blackmon said he has heard a lot of positive comments when wearing his AGSU — “one, the history, and two, just the way it looks.”

Sgt. 1st Class Antrell Bender, a senior drill sergeant at 1-79, said the new soldiers don’t have anything to compare the AGSU to since this is their first dress uniform.

For Bender, the AGSU is his third dress uniform of his career. “I’ve been in since we had the green dress uniform, then we switched over to the ASUs,” he said.

Soldiers are not required to own the AGSU until Oct. 1, 2027, an extended phase-in period intended to give enlisted soldiers more time to save up their annual clothing allowance to buy the new uniform.

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service, however, is moving ahead with plans to supply the new uniform through a wave-based rollout approach. The majority of AAFES locations within the U.S. are expected to have the new uniform by December. Stores in Alaska, Europe, Japan and South Korea, along with National Guard and Reserve military clothing locations, should have a supply of uniforms by February 2021.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Popeye the Sailor was based on a real person – and this is what he looked like

Cartoonist E.C. Segar created Popeye the Sailor in 1919 after taking a correspondence course on drawing from a guy in Cleveland. Segar’s hometown of Chester, Ill. was chock full of characters that Segar easily adapted to print. Dora Paskel, the owner of a local general store, was unusually tall and thin, wearing her hair in a loose bun at the nape of her neck. J. William Schuchert was the local theater owner who had a voracious appetite for hamburgers.

And Frank Fiegel was a one-eyed, pipe-smoking brawler who never turned down a fight.


The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

Frank Fiegel died in 1947 and was originally buried in an unmarked grave. Popeye fans rectified this in 1996.

Fiegel was more likely to down a few bourbons instead of a can of spinach to get his super fighting prowess, but the rest of his caricature fit the Sailor Man to a T. He had the same jutting chin, built frame, and trademark pipe as his cartoon counterpart. But kids were rather scared of Olive Oyl’s real-world inspiration, as she was more apt to stay inside her store. Wimpy’s rotund figure was based on Popeye creator E.C. Segar’s old boss at the local theater. When Segar wasn’t lighting lamps, he was sent out to pick up burgers for the owner.

Popeye’s real-life inspiration is sometimes attributed to a photo of an old sailor who really does resemble Popeye the Sailor Man, but this is just internet folklore.

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

(Imperial War Museum)

The sailor in the above photo is really a sailor, but he’s a British sailor. His name is lost to history, but the Imperial War Museum lists him as “A Leading Stoker nicknamed ‘Popeye,'” with 21 years in service and fighting aboard the HMS Rodney in 1940. Fiegel would have been at least 70 years old when this photo of the battleship sailor was taken.

Frank “Rocky” Fiegel was actually a bartender and not any kind of sailor, but he did love the kids around Chester, and they used to love to play pranks on the old barfly. Fiegel would impress them with his feats of strength as well as his telltale corncob pipe – something young Segar would never forget. “Popeye” was an homage to an unforgettable man who lived to know his image was soon in 500 newspapers nationwide, the symbol of sticking up for the little guy.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Green Berets honor WWII legacy with stunning jump

More than one hundred Special Forces soldiers celebrated their World War II heritage this past weekend with a jump into the fields just outside the stunning Mont Saint Michel in France.

Here’s what it looked like.


The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

U.S. Army Special Forces with 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) leap out of an MC-130J airplane near Mont Saint Michel, France on May 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Cooper)

135 US paratroopers with the US Army’s 10th Special Force Group (Airborne) jumped from three US Air Force MC-130J Commando II special mission aircraft.

Source: US Special Operations Command Europe

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

U.S. Army soldiers descend on a field outside Mont Saint Michel.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Avery Cunningham)

The drop zone was two kilometers outside Mont Saint Michel, an ancient commune in Normandy that is one of France’s most impressive landmarks.

Source: US Special Operations Command Europe

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

U.S. Army soldiers descending on a field outside Mont Saint Michel.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Avery Cunningham)

The jump celebrated the 75th anniversary of jumps by three-man “Jedburgh” teams ahead of the Allied invasion of Normandy during WWII. Around 300 Allied troops dropped behind enemy lines to train and equip local resistance fighters.

Source: Stars and Stripes

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

A paratrooper comes in for a landing.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Alexis K. Washburn)

The “10th SFG(A) draws [its] lineage from the Jedburghs. We’re celebrating their combined effort to liberate Western Europe with local forces,” a senior enlisted soldier assigned to 10th SFG (A) said in a statement.

Source: US Special Operations Command Europe

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

A Special Forces soldier carrying an American flag comes in for a landing.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Alexis K. Washburn)

The history of the US Army Special Forces is tied to the Jedburgh teams. The 10th Special Forces were created in the early 1950s and forward deployed to Europe to counter the Soviet Union.

Source: US Special Operations Command Europe

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

A US soldier collecting his parachute after landing.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Alexis K. Washburn)

“Overall it was a great jump. It was smooth and went as planned,” one soldier who made the jump explained, adding, “It’s an outstanding experience to be able to honor the paratroopers who jumped into France during World War II.”

Source: US Special Operations Command Europe

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier packs his parachute.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Avery Cunningham)

June 6, 2019, will mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, the Allied spearhead into Europe to liberate territory from the Nazis.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This radio show is one trigger for a British nuclear attack

Deep underwater, on submarines equipped with nuclear missiles, British crews are constantly prepared to fire their weapons, and potentially play a part in bringing about the end of the world.

Sailors on the four Vanguard-class submarines which patrol the waters and hold the UK’s nuclear deterrent operate under strict protocol for working out when to act and what to do — part of which is said to include listening to BBC radio.

According to a prominent British historian, the broadcast of BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme is one of the official measures the Royal Navy uses to prove that the United Kingdom still exists. “Today” has been broadcast at around breakfast time since 1958 and is the highest-profile news programme in British media.


Lord Peter Hennessy, a history professor who joined the UK’s House of Lords in 2010, said that if it can’t be heard for three days in a row, then it could signify Britain’s demise, and trigger their doomsday protocol.

According to Politico, Hennessy says: “The failure to pick up the BBC Today program for a few days is regarded as the ultimate test.”

If no sign comes through, the commander and deputy will open letters that contain instructions from the prime minister and execute their final wishes.

These letters, each known as a “Letter of Last Resort’ are secret instructions, written when a prime minister enters the office and sealed until an apocalypse. They tell the UK’s submarine commanders what to do with the country’s nuclear weapons if the country has been destroyed.

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

HMS Victorious photographed in the Clyde estuary

(LA(phot) Mez Merrill/MOD photo)

Writing these letters is one of the first tasks undertaken by any new prime minister. They are locked inside a safe inside another safe, and placed in the control rooms of the nation’s four nuclear submarines, Politico reports. The safes will only be accessible to the sub’s commander and deputy.

Matthew Seligman, Professor of Naval History at Brunel University,told BBC Newsbeat that there are “only so many options available.”

“Do nothing, launch a retaliatory strike, offer yourself to an ally like the USA, or use your own judgment.

“Essentially, are you going to use the missiles or not?”

The UK has four submarines that are capable of carrying the country’s Trident nuclear missiles. At least one of these has been on patrol at all times since 1969, the government says.

There are 40 nuclear warheads and a maximum of eight missiles on each submarine.

Only the prime minister can authorize the launch of the country’s nuclear weapons.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 reasons the holidays are the best time to be a first responder

Being a first responder can suck. In fact, it often does suck… Yes, there are some clear benefits to being a part of the first responder family, but it’s grueling work that never stops. You’ve gotta be a special kind of person to put yourself on the line like that, day in, day out.

But there’s a silver lining to first responder life. One of the most underrated benefits of being a first responder is the special holiday treatment. It’s hard to describe and really has to be experienced to be appreciated, but you’re here already, so we’ll do our best.


The holiday season is the one time when being a first responder might be the best job to have.

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

This is what the average Security Forces gate shack looks like by noon, Christmas Day.

(The Japan Times)

The food

This one is actually specifically for my Security Forces/Master of Arms/Military Police family. Our firefighter brothers and our siblings in the ambulances don’t typically face the same struggles in getting a simple lunch. Day in and day out, the constant nature of our work makes a daily lunch uncertain (to say the least).

Having that experience really makes the flood of holiday food that much easier to appreciate. It’s almost as if the other 11 months of being overworked and under-appreciated are a fair price to pay for all the love we get during this wonderful time of the year.

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

Something about having the higher-ups serve you gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling.

People are actually nice to you

It may seem like respect is always on the menu when dealing with first responders — and that’s true, to a degree. But we’re also often treated as though we’re invisible. First responders deal with the outside world in the worst of times. If you’ve dialed 911 and had responders show up at your location, chances are you were having at least a marginally bad day. So, it’s easy to see us first responders as inanimate objects — as tools of rescue. Save for a few occasions, we might as well be made of glass.

During the holidays, all of that changes. People understand that having to work on those days is a particular kind of suck that somehow stands out from the rest. This is the one time of the year when everyone sees you. Everyone tries to make you feel better, or, at the very least, expresses genuine care for your well-being.

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

Believe it or not, the schedule

There’s no denying that having to work on these special days is tough. No matter how great you’re treated or fed, it isn’t an easy undertaking. It messes with you, at least those first few times.

Conversely, working on those days often means some form of holiday schedule. This means about a week straight of work, either followed or preceded by a week of time off. Many of us use that time in conjunction with some leave and end up with a solid lump of time either to ourselves or with our loved ones.

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

Your work family will be going through the suck alongside you.

(Department of Defense)

Camaraderie

Brotherhood is a standing and well-recognized benefit of being a first responder. During the holidays, first responders have a way of coming together and really being a family.

There are few better bonding moments than sharing some holiday goodies with your work-family over a 12-hour shift.

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘Churchill’s Shadow Raiders’ tells the story of a smaller drama that had a large impact on the outcome of WWII

Much has been written about the major set piece dramas of World War 2. D-Day, El Alamein, and Stalingrad are battles that are well known. Their stories grow into legend with each recounting. But one of the things I find most fascinating about WW2 is there were thousands of smaller dramas both during and in between the major battles. Many of these episodes are barely known except for the most dedicated historian but occasionally the consequences had an effect on the course of the war. ‘Churchill’s Shadow Raiders’ by Damien Lewis is a book about one of those important smaller dramas which had a dramatic impact on the outcome of the war.


In 1941-42, the British Bomber Command had a big problem. It’s raids across the English Channel were being intercepted and losses were becoming staggeringly high. The British began to strongly suspect and later gained evidence that the Germans had very advanced radars along the coast. This critical advantage had to be neutralized. To accomplish this goal, the British needed to get their hands on one of these systems. So, they turned to their Airborne forces.

Airborne operations were a new thing and after German successes in France, Belgium, and Norway, the British began to muster their own paratroopers. These specially trained troops were given the mission to conduct a daring nighttime raid on a coastal radar site at a point in the war where the Germans were at the height of their military power. 120 paratroopers dropped in the middle of the night and made their way to the objective: the sophisticated German Wurzburg radar. They disassembled the radar under fire and fought their way onto a beach and into a boat, where they were successfully met by the Royal Navy. The analysis of the radar was instrumental in allowing the British to devise countermeasures which allowed them to significantly reduce their losses.

Damien Lewis’s book is an excellent account of raid’s events but more important is how he tells the story. Rather than a dry recounting of the history of the Paras and the raid, Lewis recognizes tells this story as a human drama of daring and bravery. The personalities of the raiders and the challenges they faced makes this book highly readable and gives it a page-turning quality.

Lewis begins with the story of an earlier raid: Operation Colossus. This was a prior company-sized Airborne raid on an objective in Italy which was regarded as a failure at the time. It wasn’t until the end of the book that I realized that Airborne operations were new, incredibly high-risk, and had their detractors. After Operation Colossus, it wasn’t certain Operation Biting would be approved, and if it had failed, British Airborne operations might not have recovered. But Churchill understood the value of these “ungentlemanly” raids and how pivotal they could be in neutralizing Germany’s advances. Including Operation Colossus frames them as not just operations but as justification for an entire way of fighting the enemy. It’s two amazing Airborne stories in one book.

In summary, Damien Lewis’ book was one of the most readable World War 2 history books I have read in years and it has inspired me to put some of his other titles on by reading list. I strongly suspect if you give this book a chance, you’ll end up doing the same as well.

MIGHTY CULTURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Marine Corps is the President’s Fist.

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