How to actually use that back extension machine - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY FIT

How to actually use that back extension machine

It’s in a dark and wet corner of the gym. Half the gym-goers ignore it altogether. The other half use it to torture their spine as if it owes them money.

The back extension machine can be a valuable tool for your training progression. It could also be the reason you’re spending more time at the physical therapist than making gains. This article is going to set you on the path to a strong, resilient, and pain-free posterior chain.


How to actually use that back extension machine

Don’t write a check your back can’t cash…

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When you look at a back extension machine, is your first thought to lay face down/ass up, or face up/ass down? If you’re ass up, you’re working ass, and if you’re abs up, you’re working abs.

Using the back extension machine to work abs

Though the machine is intended for the back extension exercise (abs down), it is much more commonly used to train abs, and often unsafely and ineffectively.

Here’s the proper way to train your abs on the machine.

The key is to not over-extend the back when doing your “sit-ups” on the back extension machine. This probably runs counter to every single person you’ve ever seen doing this exercise, including many of the athletes at the Crossfit Games. The below video is a great example of proper form.

The GHD Sit-Up

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Using the machine for your posterior chain

When used as intended, lying belly down, the back extension machine trains your hamstrings, glutes, and low back. Back extensions are a great supplemental exercise to the squat and the deadlift for developing your posterior chain. The key to all exercises on the back extension machine is to keep a straight (neutral) spine.

Your spinal erectors–those muscles on either side of your lower spine–are designed to work mainly isometrically in these movements. That’s when a muscle contracts to maintain position, rather than to move a part of the body–think planks, not crunches.

In all of the movements that are possible on the back extension machine, the primary purpose is not to actually put the back into extension. If taken literally, the machine is poorly named.

It should be called the hip extension machine, because that’s what you are primarily doing: extending your hips.

How to actually use that back extension machine

The muscles of the back extension.

(@weighttrainingguide)

The back extension works your spinal erectors in the same way that the squat or deadlift does. You are using the spinal erectors to maintain your spinal integrity.

The way to target different levels of your posterior chain is conquered in the setup. Set yourself up for success by properly setting the machine to target the muscles you want. This is where the pad should hit your legs to properly train different muscle groups.

  • Hamstring focused: low balance point (around mid-thigh)
  • Glutes focused: middle balance point (just below hip-flexors)
  • Low back focused: high balance point (hip-flexors on the pad) (not recommended)

Let’s take a look at these three setups.

All About Back Extensions

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Hamstring-focused back extensions

In truth, the back extension is not the exercise you actually want to be doing to target your hamstrings specifically. To use the back extension machine for glutes, you want to be doing the glute ham raise. It’s a leg curl using your entire body as the counterweight rather than a machine. It has the benefit of including your glutes and back in the movement as well, which is completely neglected when doing the same movement in a leg-curl machine.

Glute-Ham Raise

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How to actually use that back extension machine

Pick your profession wisely.

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Glutes-focused back extensions

To focus your back extension on the glutes, start by finding the sweet spot on the back extension machine where:

  • Your hips aren’t too high above the pad.
  • Your hips aren’t covered by the pad (too low). This forces rounding in the back and takes the glutes out of the equation.
  • Your feet are splayed out at 45 degrees or further and separated as wide as possible (think the same stance as Parade Rest in drill).

Bret Contreras is the global authority on all things glutes. The guy literally has a Ph.D. in butts (see, kids, you really can be whatever you want to be when you grow up…even an assman.) Below, he takes you through the optimal setup and cadence for the glutes-focused back extension.

Back Extension Instructional Video

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Back-focused back extensions

As previously mentioned, the back extension machine’s name is a misnomer. You do not want to actually target your low back through repeated flexion and extension of the lumbar (low) spine.

Think of your back like a paper clip. When it is in a neutral position, it’s strong and can easily hold together the first draft of your romance mystery novel. But if you bend it back and forth repeatedly, eventually the stress will cause the paperclip to snap, and your novel will scatter to the winds.

Likewise, repeated unnecessary extension and flexion of the spine can cause similar damage.

Lift with your back.

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Before you claim fear mongering think of it like this…

Sure, we have muscles that can flex and extend the spine, but we also have complex joints like the hips, knees, and ankles that have the strongest and largest muscles of the body attached to them, that provide better range of motion and function than a bent spine ever could.

Why would you want to train a muscle group to do something it is designed to do as a fail safe (extend and flex the spine) when you could instead train the spine to isometrically hold strong while huge and powerful muscles like the glutes and hamstrings allow you to pull a truck, lift a pool table, or deadlift 400 lbs with ease.

Allow reason to prevail.

How to actually use that back extension machine

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How to actually use that back extension machine
MIGHTY CULTURE

From green to gold

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

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

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

How to actually use that back extension machine

Sgt. First Class Adam Cain with his family.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army doubles firing range for artillery and rockets

The Army recently demonstrated extended ranges for the guided multiple launch rocket system, and two 155mm cannon artillery precision munitions.

Aligning with the Army’s top priority — Long-Range Precision Fires — these changes support the force’s need for both close and deep-strike capabilities against a near-peer adversary.

Last fall, the Army conducted demonstrations of the new XM1113 and Excalibur M982 munitions from a prototype Extended Range Cannon Artillery, or ERCA self-propelled howitzer


The XM1113 Insensitive Munition High Explosive Rocket Assisted Projectile is slated to replace the Army’s aging M549A1 rounds. Currently, the M549 rounds can reach about 30 km.

The XM1113 reached 72 km during a demonstration, said Rich Granitzki, Long-Range Precision Fires Science and Technology Advisor for Combat Capabilities Development Command, or CCDC, at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey.

How to actually use that back extension machine

The XM1113 consists of a high fragmentation steel body with a streamlined ogive, the curved portion of a projectile between the fuze well and the bourrelet, and a high performance rocket motor. The projectile body is filled with insensitive munition high explosive and a supplementary charge. On gun launch, propellant gases initiate a delay device that will ignite the rocket motor, boosting velocity at an optimal time in the trajectory to maximize range.

(US Army photo)

Similarly, the Excalibur M982 is a Global Positioning System-guided, extended-range artillery projectile, supporting the Army’s next generation of cannon artillery.

During a limited-range test, the M982 exhibited an increase in range, going from 40 to 62 km, Granitzki added.

Moving forward, ammo modernization and improvements to cannon technologies will play a vital role in optimizing these and other armaments technologies to reach “extended ranges and to get increased rates of fire,” Granitzki said.

“We are still maturing our demonstrators, component technology and subsystems, in advance of future demonstrations to transition our systems to programs of record,” he added.

GMLRS

The Army has also made improvements to the XM30 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, or GMLRS, nearly doubling its range.

The current XM30 rocket is a GPS-guided high-speed rocket equipped with small wing-like controls on the nose of the projectile to enhance accuracy. The XM30 system has an advertised range of 70 km, said Mike Turner, fire support capability area lead supporting CCDC Aviation Missile Center.

To extend the XM30’s range, the Army moved the control fins to the rear of the device, Turner said. In addition to the tail controls, the Army redesigned the nose of the rocket to make it aerodynamic, equipped the device with a light-weight composite motor, and added propellant.

How to actually use that back extension machine

Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System.

(US Army photo)

In result, the new Tail Controlled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, or TC-G, reached 139 km during a demonstration at altitude.

“This takes a product that exists in the Army’s inventory and nearly doubles the range,” he said. “By moving the control surfaces to the rear, we’re giving it more control, maneuverability, and range.”

To support the new device, the Army fabricated a composite smooth-bore tube, ensuring a clean launch for the guided rocket,” said Brett Wilks, a TC-G program manager.

In theory, these tubes could be retrofitted to existing launch systems, resulting in no significant impact to current Army software or hardware, he added

CCDC completed the science and technology phase of the program in September 2018. The Army looks to transition the program to an initial operating capability in the next couple of years, Turner said.

“It is our mission at CCDC AvMC to look at future concepts and reduce risk. We showed the Army what’s capable for long-range missile systems,” he added.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is a first look at soldiers firing their new M17 handgun

Soldiers from conventional and special operations units recently got the chance to test the Army’s new M17 Modular Handgun System.


Most soldiers who tested the MHS at Fort Bragg’s Range 29 on Aug. 27 were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, said OTC’s Col. Brian McHugh in a recent Army press release.

Testers were pulled from across the military, including soldiers of the Special Operations Aviation Regiment, based in Kentucky, and of the 3rd Infantry Division, based in Georgia. Some of the military occupational specialties involved include police, pilots, infantry and crew chiefs.

“We wanted to make sure that we have a huge sample to make sure that we’ve got this right — that the Army has it right,” said McHugh.

How to actually use that back extension machine
A service member fires the Sig Sauer P320 during Modular Handgun System tests for the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, conducted at Fort Bragg, N.C. Aug. 27. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Lewis Perkins)

Modular Handgun System test for the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, conducted at Fort Bragg, Aug. 27.

The Army awarded Sig Sauer a contract worth up to $580 million Jan. 19 to make the service’s new sidearm. Sig Sauer beat out Glock Inc., FN America and Beretta USA, maker of the current M9 9mm service pistol, in the MHS competition.

Army weapons officials have selected the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky as the first unit to receive the 9mm M17 MHS this fall.

Various service members will be at Fort Bragg over the next few weeks for testing of the MHS, which is based on the Sig Sauer P320, for the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, or OTC, based at Fort Hood, Texas, according to the press release. Testing will also be conducted by Sailors, Airmen and Marines.

How to actually use that back extension machine
A service member fires the Sig Sauer P320 during Modular Handgun System tests for the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, conducted at Fort Bragg, N.C. Aug. 27. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Lewis Perkins)

Capt. Christina Smith with the Army’s Product Manager Individual Weapons, has traveled to different testing sites to ensure the system’s quality.

“It’s worth it to make sure you get the right product to the right soldiers,” she said.

Maj. Mindy Brown, test officer for OTC, said it is important to bring the test to Fort Bragg because the installation has the ranges to support realistic conditions.

“You are using real soldiers in a realistic environment,” Brown said. “These are the soldiers who would be using the weapon every day, so getting their feedback on the pistol is really what is important for operational testing.”

How to actually use that back extension machine
Magazine for the Modular Handgun System test for the U.S. Army Operational Test Command conducted at Fort Bragg, N.C. Aug. 27. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Lewis Perkins)

Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Custer, of 160th SOAR, appreciated being able to participate in MHS testing.

“It’s good. We don’t really get the opportunity to test the equipment in the unit we’re in,” he said.

What’s interesting about the release is it makes it sound like the Army is still not certain about the M17 MHS.

“If fielded, according to officials, the new modular handgun system, also known as MHS, will offer improved durability and adjustability over the current M9, as well as performance improvements.”

Program Executive Office Soldier officials, however, told Military.com that MHS is being fielded beginning in October.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Marine Veteran is pioneering a new VA program to help veterans and their families

This post is sponsored by the UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center (VFWC).

The UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center is honored to continue to serve and support the military-connected community during COVID-19! For appointments call (310) 478-3711 x 42793 or email info@vfwc.ucla.edu

Every Marine knows the saying, “Pain is Weakness leaving the body.” It’s the motto that drill instructors use to encourage recruits to dig just a little deeper during boot camp and it’s often repeated when physical training takes a turn from hard to brutally hard. The military, especially the Marines, know that pain is the beginning of resilience, our ability to bounce back from difficult situations and complete the mission. But while some pain often prepares our servicemen and women for strength in war, we are often at a loss for what to do when our families or even children are challenged with pain and stress once we return. So when the VA wanted to start helping veteran families they smartly turned to one of the few and the proud.


Marine Veteran Tess Banko is no stranger to pain. By twenty three years old, she had survived homelessness, a massive back injury (for which she was medically discharged) and the suicide death of her husband, also a Marine. When her world seemed to be coming apart, Tess did the opposite of what most of us would do. Instead of allowing her pain to overwhelm her, she fought back. She dug into her pain both physically and mentally. Along the way, she volunteered to empower and assist others, went to college (she was crowned homecoming queen), and ultimately, found the tools inside to help her (and her family). Tess is the epitome of resilience and now she’s bounced back to take on a new mission.

Today, Tess is the executive director of the UCLA/VA Veterans Family Wellness Center, a one of a kind partnership between UCLA and the West Los Angeles VA system. Tess and her team are part of the first VA program specifically designed to help not only veterans, but their families. To support their work, the team is relying on cutting edge research from UCLA just a few blocks from the VA campus. UCLA, the university which revolutionized kidney transplants and invented the nicotine patch, is now offering veterans and their families a state of the art resiliency program. Families Over Coming Under Stress (FOCUS) is a resiliency training regimen for individuals, families with children and couples facing adversity or issues like traumatic stress.

With Tess at the helm, she’s not only pioneering a new way of thinking for the VA, she’s also helping others find their path through trauma. Tess sat down with We Are The Mighty to discuss her work, passion and journey into resilience.

WATM: First things first, thank you for everything you do for military families. How do you describe yourself and your work here at VFWC?

Tess: Well it’s really easy to give a title. I’m the executive director of the UCLA/VA. Veteran Family Wellness Center. But really, I’m a social worker and public administrator.

WATM: And a Marine? What made you join the Corps?

Tess: I think it was really a lot of wanting to be part of something that made a difference. When I was younger I used to go to the [El Toro] airshow with my grandfather and that’s the first time I ever laid eyes on a Marine standing there in the uniform. You know guiding people, I mean it was airshow duty. I didn’t know at the time probably how much fun that wasn’t, but they were motivating and just really interacting with the public, and there were are all these exciting machines and demonstrations. So, it really made an impact on me as a little girl. The wider world was calling.

WATM: Did your family have a history of military service?

Tess: I didn’t find out until many years later that my own grandfather was actually in the Army. He never told those stories to the family because I think he was embarrassed. He said that a lot of his friends were being sent off to war but he served two years in a non-combat role, got out and went into aerospace engineering and he was one of the first Mexican-American designers of bomb and missile systems at White Sands, NM. I personally saw the military as one of the only places that you could go as far as your own two feet would take you basically or your hard work that you put into it. That’s one of the reasons why I was excited to join.

WATM: Wow.

Tess: And I like a good challenge. The Marine Corps seemed like a good fit. So I joined [as] an engineer.

WATM: Did you find the challenge you were looking for? Especially as a female Marine in the engineers.

Tess: When I joined it was very idealistic. I wanted to be just one of the guys and I saw myself in that way. I never saw myself in terms of being a woman, only a Marine and that actually caused a lot of problems and disappointment at the time as we have only just begun to move more fully into gender integration among the services. And it was really challenging for me because as I said I never saw myself as anything other than a Marine. I always just wanted to do my job.

WATM: What made you transition out of the Marine Corps?

Tess: I got hurt.

WATM: You got hurt?

Tess: Yes. We were training and I noticed that there was something wrong with my back because my leg had stopped functioning. I was in my early 20’s and the command atmosphere gave this impression that you had to white knuckle it through anything. I was told, ‘There’s no problem, there’s no problem. You just need to keep going.’ It turned out that I had a herniated disc in my back and it was it was crushing the nerve to the point where it began to permanently kill the nerves. I was standing there on the rifle range and I just fell over on my side because my leg finally gave up. They called an ambulance and rushed me into emergency surgery in Japan.

WATM: Did you feel like you had the resiliency skills that prepared you for that experience?

Tess: My life growing up was challenging. My parents were very young when they had children. I was the only person in my immediate family to successfully graduate from high school. My parents had dropped out at 17, which kind of spells disaster for a young couple with four children. And so it was really a life of learning to adapt, moving from place to place, experiencing homelessness as a child, living between motels and being chased by bill collectors. You know all that bad stuff for [a child] but even from a young age I adopted a viewpoint of life that was more curious than anything. It was less ‘Oh my God, why is this happening to me?’ and more ‘huh this interesting.’ It was just a minor shift of perspective. I developed that curiosity and a different way of looking at problems and I think that’s a key part of resilience.

WATM: Did you know what resilience was growing up?

Tess: I did not. I think it was something that I saw modeled by example. My grandmother was a very kind and giving woman, she taught me so much. She always went out of her way to help people in the community even when she seemed in the midst of a lot of uncertainty in life. So, paying that forward, even on active duty I was volunteering in the local community teaching English to Okinawan children. I’ve always been so curious about other people and their lives. It’s a great education.

WATM: And then you lost your husband (also a Marine). How do you process all of that?

Tess: It was a surreal experience having the casualty assistance team knock on the door. I can remember I opened it a crack. It didn’t make sense in my mind what was happening so I opened the door a crack and a Marine stuck his foot to keep me from shutting it. Then I saw the Colonel. And then it finally hit me that it was real. My husband wasn’t coming home. When you’re actively experiencing shock, pain or trauma it’s less thinking about resilience and more survival mode kicking in. It was one second, one minute at a time. The days blurred together. I mean being emotionally injured is much like being physically injured, it can take a long time to wrap your head around. There’s no linear pathway. Also, processing trauma is not just about moving through pain but about overcoming fear. There’s the fear that you as a person or things in your life will never be the same. Sometimes you don’t know what other people are going to think. Usually some of the fear ties back to being afraid that people are going to judge you if you feel broken. And I think that really was hard for me to overcome, but it was necessary. I think that being gentle with yourself is a skill.

WATM: You not only survived but thrived? You went back to college and grad school and now you literally work with Neuroscientists.

Tess: The science behind the brain fascinates me because people that are in pain sometimes seem to think, ‘I’m damaged forever and I’m never gonna be able to do or be anything. There is no coming back from this.’ I understand where you’re at if it’s crossed your mind, I’ve been there too, but there’s so much possibility. We can’t change what happened but our brain is essentially plastic and able to rewire. The body and mind actively try to repair themselves, and we can support our own process through building resilience. There are a lot of tools for that belt, resilience isn’t just a buzzword.

WATM: Is that thesis behind your team’s work at the VFWC?

Tess: Exactly. The center is a place of hope and healing. We teach tangible skills, identifiable tools, for veterans and their families to be able to overcome challenges and build better relationships. The FOCUS model that’s our cornerstone is pretty incredible.

WATM: Is there anybody else out there that’s focusing on families like this?

Tess: Not in this way. From a wellness-based resilience perspective this is the first center of its kind, especially paired with the VA which traditionally only sees individual veterans. They took a huge step to open their doors to couples and families too. When you think about it, though, our families, friends and communities are on the front lines supporting after military service.

WATM: So this is a groundbreaking VA partnership all based in science?

Tess: Yep. That’s why UCLA is such an amazing partner because the VFWC is just blocks away from world class researchers. The Center falls under the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and the Nathanson Family Resilience Center which focus on resilience for all families, not just veterans. The research behind our programs is about understanding what drives human behavior and growth. Based on that, VFWC programming is tailored to veterans and their families with really firm research and evidence backing it up.

WATM: Classic, intel drives operations model. But you have specific model for your programs as well. What is FOCUS?

Tess: FOCUS is Families Overcoming Under Stress. It’s a holistic model that was co-created between UCLA and Harvard University and currently in use on over 30 active duty military bases around the world. Our center represents the first wider translation of FOCUS from active duty into the veterans community, which are distinctly different populations. It’s a departure from traditional therapy models.

WATM: What can veterans and their families expect when they come to the center?

Tess: When somebody comes into the center in general we start with a consultation that helps us to really guide veterans and family members to the resources that they might be needing. It’s starting where the individual is. We have individual, couples, early childhood, military sexual trauma, and combat veteran adaptations, plus group sessions and special workshops and events. We keep our doors open for veterans and family members regardless of discharge, benefits or when they got out. The building we’re housed in also offers veterans with VA benefits massage, reiki, mindfulness and yoga. There’s even a drum circle and Taichi.

WATM: And children?

Tess: Especially children. Research that was done as far back as the Holocaust indicates that trauma can be passed down from generation to generation. In cases of post-traumatic stress, suicide and even repeated deployments, the effects of secondary trauma is a very real thing. A lot of the times we see families with children who don’t know how to talk to them about certain issues or there’s not a huge understanding of the developmental piece of what’s behind behaviors. Kids aren’t just mini-adults, the human brain is still developing until the age of 25! So, we support both the parents and children to find a closeness and ability to communicate more as they move through the journey.

WATM: That sounds pretty awesome especially for the VA. How would you describe starting the center?

Tess: It’s been a lot of pioneering. Improvising. Being resilient. There are so many people who care in the VA system and a whole lot of need. Offering another avenue for assistance is important to the team here.

WATM: What is your vision for the center and the future of resilience in the VA?

Tess: I would love to see the VA expand the VFWC’s holistic wellness model to include centers in every facility, especially coupled with a research institution. Veterans and their families would really benefit. Both our families, and wider communities for that matter, are really impactful in our individual wellness. One of the great things about the VFWC is our ability to seek additional community resources. It’s a long table and there is no one size fits all for wellness, reintegration, and healing.

WATM: So now you you’ve gone through your own experience gone through two years here. What does resilience mean to you?

Tess: I think the Marine Corps says it really, well you adapt and you overcome. Sometimes it seems like pull-through comes from out of nowhere because we’re born with it, but sometimes life can bring those levels low. Resilience is that wellspring that allows for course correction and being able to bounce back. Resilience to me also means working on saying, “hey something’s wrong here” and being open to assistance. First step for me personally of breaking the cycle was my own acknowledgment of what I was facing. For instance, I couldn’t talk to my family being sexually assaulted on active duty and I now know that’s common to those who have experienced trauma. I simply didn’t have the vocabulary, I had to organize the words in my own mind. We really need each other to get through hard times, so it’s crucial to develop.

WATM: What does 2019 look like for you and VFWC?

Tess: We’re working on piloting a new transition program, TEAM, for those at any point after active service based on the core FOCUS model paired with the ideas of identity ,mission, meaning and purpose. These are four essential elements of transition. Your perception changes along the transition to civilian life just like my perception changed of myself when I got out of the Marine Corps. It really was a rediscovery of who I was, where I was. I had to find a new mission. For me that happened to be serving people, but it could be different for others. It can be challenging to figure these things our while also providing for yourself or a family. We want to offer veterans and their families the resilience tools before they even need them.

WATM: Do you have any advice specifically to the families

Tess: There is no one size fits all to happiness, health and healing. If one thing doesn’t work, move forward. No matter what you face, keep reaching out and moving forward. Families, you are vital to service. You’re heard and seen. You matter.

Marine Veteran Tess Banko is the executive director of the UCLA/VA Veterans Family Wellness Center (VFWC). To learn more about the center’s work or begin your own resilience training please contact familycenter@nfrc.ucla.edu or Phone 310-478-3711, ext 42793.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia condemns British plan for new military bases

Moscow has condemned Britain’s plans to build new military bases in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, saying Russia is prepared to take retaliatory measures if its own interests or those of its allies are threatened.

British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson told the Sunday Telegraph in December 2018 that Britain could establish the new military bases “within the next couple of years” after the country leaves the European Union.


Williamson said the expansion would be part of a strategy for Britain to become a “true global player” after Brexit.

He did not specify where the bases might be built. But the newspaper reported that options included Singapore or Brunei near the South China Sea and Montserrat or Guyana in the Caribbean.

How to actually use that back extension machine

British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson.

Speaking on Jan. 11, 2019, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswomen Maria Zakharova said Williamson’s comments were baffling and warned that such plans could destabilize world affairs.

“Of course, Britain like any other country is independent when it comes to its military construction plans. But against the backdrop of overall rising military and political tensions in the world…statements about the desire to build up its military presence in third countries are counterproductive, destabilizing, and possibly of a provocational nature,” she was quoted as saying by TASS.

Russia has military bases in several former Soviet countries. It also operates military facilities in Syria and Vietnam.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The differences between flying for the Marine Corps and the Air Force

For anyone who’s been in the military, it goes without saying that being in the Air Force and being in the Marine Corps are two very different ways of life. This extends from enlisted troops all the way to the pilots flying in the skies above any active battlespace.


And it goes well beyond physical fitness standards.

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A fact which totally earns a thumbs up from the USAF.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

In the Air Force, once a pilot is finished training, he or she is a full-fledged pilot, who still might train in other areas outside of their chosen aircraft, be it helicopters, fighters, bombers, etc. The investment the Air Force puts into training its officers to fly means those pilots are going to be flying as much as the USAF can safely force them to. As company-grade officers, they’re pretty much going to live in the wild blue yonder. As they advance in rank and skill, however, they will slowly be moved to more administrative and management positions, staff jobs, or even instructors. If they want, they might even get a chance to chew some dirt as an air liaison officer.

The life of a Marine Corps officer is much, much different.

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Which goes beyond just the uniform, which is admittedly much cooler.

Anyone reading this site probably knows the saying “every Marine is a rifleman.” That goes for Marine Corps officers, too. But USMC pilots must also graduate from the Marine Corps Basic Officers Course so they can learn to command platoons of Marine Corps riflemen – and that’s before they ever become naval aviators.

It’s important to know that Marine pilots are trained as all Marine Corps officers are trained and that they’re also trained as all naval aviators are trained. They take the same training as infantry officers and as naval aviators. As if that wasn’t enough work, the Marine Corps doesn’t wait for officers of Marines to grow in rank before assigning them extra duties around the unit or a duty outside of flying altogether. This means the Marine directing close air support on the ground with you one day might be providing that top cover for you another day.

All that and they have to land on aircraft carriers too. Probably in the dark.

Articles

6 military veterans who played in the Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is where the stakes are highest in the world of professional football.


But for some who have played in that big game, they have staked far more than whether or not they help hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy — they’ve served in the military, signing “a blank check to the United States of America for an amount of up to and including my life,” to paraphrase a popular quote.

Here are some of the more famous names (and not-so-famous) names who served in the military and played in the Super Bowl:

1. Hall of Fame OLB Kevin Greene

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Former NFL linebacker Kevin Greene is greeted by Senior Master Sgt. Damian Orslene, 506th Air Expeditionary Group Personnel In Support of Contingency Operations superintendent, in the dining facility Feb. 2. Mr. Greene is traveling to military bases in Iraq to show support and increase the morale for U.S. service members. Throughout his career, he played for the Las Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers. (USAF Photo)

While Greene is not well known, he is one of the NFL’s all-time great pass rushers, and played in Super Bowl XXX with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also served in the Alabama Army National Guard, according to a 1986 article in the Poughkeepsie Journal, getting paratrooper wings and also at times commanding a tank platoon.

In the 2017 season, he will coach linebackers for the New York Jets.

According to NFL.com, Greene totaled 160 sacks and five interceptions over 15 seasons.

2. New England Patriots LS Joe Cardona

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New England Patriots long snapper and Navy officer Joe Cardona. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Cardona will be playing in Super Bowl LI with the New England Patriots, serving as a long snapper. He did the same with the U.S. Naval Academy’s football team – starting as a freshman and for all four years.

A 2015 DoD feature on military-NFL ties reports he serves on active duty, and has assignments with the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport and with the destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000).

3. Hall of Fame QB Roger Staubach

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Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, who threw for 153 TDs in a career that came after service in the United States Navy that included a tour in Vietnam. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Prior to Pat Tillman, Roger Staubach was probably the most famous person who had his feet in both the military and National Football League. He played 11 years in the NFL, all with the Dallas Cowboys, throwing 153 TD passes according to NFL.com. He played in four Super Bowls, winning Super Bowls VI and XII.

He served four years in the Navy, including a tour in Vietnam.

4. Retired WR Phil McConkey

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(YouTube screenshot)

Perhaps best known for his Super Bowl XXI heroics as a member of the New York Giants, including a 6-yard TD catch, McConkey wasn’t drafted by an NFL team when he graduated from the Naval Academy.

His naval service included time as a helicopter pilot, but he decided to go for his dream of playing pro football. A 2013 Buffalo News article revealed that it was a family connection to New England Patriots coach Bill Belicheck (whose father was an assistant coach at the Naval Academy) that launched McConkey’s NFL career.

A 4.4-second time in the 40-yard dash didn’t hurt, either. Over his six-season professional football career, NFL.com notes that McConkey had 67 receptions for 1,113 yards and two TDs for the Giants, Chargers, Cardinals, and one other team.

5. Retired DT Chad Hennings

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Chad Hennings, a 1988 graduate of the Air Force Academy, was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame on May 16, 2006. He was considered one of college football’s great defensive linemen of his era, a unanimous first-team All-America selection in 1987 who received the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top interior lineman. As a pro, he embarked on a nine-year NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys that brought him three Super Bowl titles. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Though Hennings won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys, he also was very well known as an Air Force pilot flying the A-10 Thunderbolt II close-air support plane, according to GoAirForceFalcons.com. According to NFL.com, Hennings had 27.5 sacks over his nine-season NFL career.

6. Retired RB Rocky Bleier

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Vietnam Veteran and former Pittsburgh Steeler Rocky Bleier poses with Capt. Doug Larsen who tries on Bleier’s four Super Bowl rings at the North Dakota National Guard’s 2009 Safety Conference in Bismarck Jan 24. (US Army photo)

Rocky Bleier was overshadowed in the Steelers’ backfield that won four Super Bowls by NFL Hall of Fame legends Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris.

One reason may have been the fact that in December, 1968, he was drafted by the Army and volunteered to serve in Vietnam. According to a 1969 AP report printed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Bleier was wounded on Aug. 20 of that year — shot in the thigh and hit by grenade fragments, losing part of his right foot.

According to NFL.com, Bleier only played six games in 1971 after missing all of 1970. He would rush for 3,865 yards and 23 TDs, while catching 136 passes for 1,294 yards and two more TDs.

MIGHTY SPORTS

How West Point football games recruit soldiers

Each week during the season, Army West Point Football players wear a decal on the back of their helmet honoring an Army division the current cadets may one day serve with.

During Aug. 30, 2019’s season opener against Rice, the team honored the soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division with the red, white, and blue AA decal proudly displayed on the back of their helmets along with the American flag.

The commanding general and command sergeant major of the 82nd Airborne Division attended the game, the division’s chorus performed before the review parade and has become the norm over the last couple years soldiers from the division who are eligible to attend the U.S. Military Academy were invited to visit for the game.


This season marks the third year of the Soldier Visit Program where five to 10 West Point eligible soldiers from the honored division for home games are invited to attend the game and learn more about West Point.

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Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division pose for a photo with their host cadets from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point after the Army vs. Rice football game at Michie Stadium Aug. 30, 2019, at West Point, N.Y.

(Photo by Cadet Samuel Wehrli)

The visits are structured much in the same way as an official visit for an athlete being recruited by one of West Point’s corps squad teams. The soldiers arrive the Thursday before the game and are paired with a prior-service cadet currently attending West Point who hosts them for the weekend. The soldiers stay in the barracks with their host cadet, attend classes and eat in the cadet mess hall.

They are also given a tour of both West Point and the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School and the chance to meet with leadership from both West Point and USMAPS.

They then attend the football game with the corps of cadets and are honored along with division leadership on the field during a break in the game.

The goal of the program is to introduce eligible soldiers, meaning those who are under 23 years old, unmarried and have no dependents, to the possibility of applying to attend West Point.

“I go out to the Army a lot and I’ll talk to command sergeant majors or sergeant first classes who are senior noncommissioned officers and they’ll be like, ‘I had no idea that West Point was an option as a soldier.’ It blows my mind,” Capt. David Mason, the soldiers regional commander and founder of the Soldier Visit Program, said.

As part of each year’s incoming class, West Point has available slots for 85 current active duty soldiers and 85 Reserve/National Guard soldiers. Typically, the full allotment of Reserve/National Guard soldiers are admitted, but less than 50 of the spots for active duty soldiers are filled, Mason said. There are also additional spots available for soldiers to attend the prep school for a year.

According to Capt. Brian Gaudette, an officer in the West Point Directorate of Admissions, on average 53% of prior service applicants are admitted to the academy, a much higher percentage than applicants coming directly from high school.

“They see it as more attainable,” Mason said of the soldiers’ reactions after visiting for a football game. “They learn more about USMAPS because people have this pie in the sky view of what a West Point cadet is, and that it is the all-star captain of the football team, and they’re on all-state and they do all these things. They don’t see themselves as that mold. I think it definitely opens their eyes.”

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Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division talk to Command Sgt. Maj. Jack Love, West Point senior enlisted leader during their visit before the Army vs. Rice football game Aug. 30, 2019, at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

(Photo by Robert Luna)

Once the soldiers return to their division, even if they don’t end up applying to West Point, the academy still gains a benefit from them telling their friends about the program and spreading the word that West Point is an option for soldiers on active duty.

Pfc. Abdiel Leon was one of 10 soldiers from the 82nd airborne Division to visit for the Rice game. Prior to being invited on the trip, he said he had heard of the prior-service program at West Point but knew next to nothing about it. In the month since being invited, and even before arriving at West Point for the visit, he’d done enough research to compel him to go ahead and apply to the academy.

“So far, after seeing all the things that I saw and all the good opportunities and the things I could do here, I’m definitely going to go through and finish that application,” Leon said. “I never even thought about West Point. I never even thought that I would be given the opportunity. So, now that I was given the opportunity just to even come here, it has definitely changed my mind a lot.”

During the trip, the 82nd Airborne Division soldiers had the chance to spend time with prior-service cadets, meet with Command Sgt. Maj. Jack Love, the senior enlisted Leader at West Point, and attend a spirit dinner in the cadet mess hall along with going to the season opener for the Black Knights.

“I plan on staying in the Army for 20 years, and there’s no better place to try to stay in than USMA,” Sgt. Levi Aslani said of why he is interested in West Point. “The connections you make here, the opportunities you make, or are given to you, no other place compares.”

Aslani applied to West Point for the Class of 2023 and after not getting in on his first try he is taking this year to improve his application with the hope of being accepted to the prep school for the next academic year. After visiting West Point for the first time, he said his desire to attend West Point has only increased.

“I paired up with a prior service E-5 as well,” Aslani said. “He was in the boat of either staying enlisted or being an officer and he chose the officer route and he’s really reaping the benefits from it.”

The visits are a chance for the soldiers to meet with current cadets who have taken the same path as them and ask questions they couldn’t get answered elsewhere. After being invited to take part in the visit, Pfc. Mackenzie Hochstetler said she talked with officers who are West Point graduates to learn more about the academy. But it was not until she arrived at the academy that she has come to realize why it is special.

“It’s definitely a place that you see a lot of competitiveness,” Hochstetler said. “A lot of times, you don’t really see that in the regular Army, but everyone wants to be the best. I think that’s a really cool atmosphere. I think that’s really important, especially being at West Point and that reputation of being a West Point grad, I kind of understand it now. Because it’s a pretty big deal. It’s pretty prestigious.”

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Was this ‘Game of Thrones’ episode a metaphor for the Iraq War?

In episode five of season eight of “Game of Thrones,” countless civilians were burned alive in dragon fire as the city of King’s Landing was “liberated” by Daenerys Targaryen from the tyrannical ruler Cersei Lannister.

Prior to the devastating attack, Daenerys’ advisers pleaded with her to spare civilian lives and she responded that a destructive show of force will actually be an act of “mercy” by sparing future generations from the oppression of Cersei.

Instead, Daenerys indiscriminately rained fire down upon helpless men, women, and children, even after it was clear victory was at hand. As the fleeing civilians died, they left only their charred bodies to line the streets in an ashen city.


A lot of people think the horrific genocide is a metaphor for US foreign policy, in the sense that an ostensibly benevolent and powerful leader justified the killing of thousands of innocents in the name of what she claimed was the greater good.

Many people took to social media and drew parallels between US foreign policy — and particularly the US invasion of Iraq under former President George W. Bush — and Daenerys’ unilateral attack:

Since the US launched the so-called “war on terror” following the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, over 480,000 people have been killed by direct war violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan — including at least 244,000 civilians, according to the Watson Institute’s Cost of War project at Brown University.

Many experts, including those behind the Costs of War project, have contended the US could’ve pursued non-military options to pursue those responsible for 9/11 and spared many lives in the process.

The US military is still present in Afghanistan and Iraq, and continues to conduct air strikes and drone strikes in many places as part of its global war on terror, among other military operations. In the fight against the Islamic State group, or ISIS, the US has killed thousands of civilians in Syria and Iraq. Recent reporting also suggests the US has killed civilians with strikes in Somalia.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

4 US weapons that have been declared illegal by enemies

The U.S. has a legitimate claim as one of the more honorable warfighting nations on Earth. Sure, we get involved in a lot more wars than some others, but we also follow lots of rules about how to fight them and have even pushed for greater regulation of war and prevention of conflict from the League of Nations to the U.N. and dozens of treaties besides. But, oddly enough, we still use a few weapons that other nations have banned, like these four:


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A B-1B Lancer drops cluster munitions during a test.

(U.S. Air Force)

Cluster munitions

Cluster munitions are weapons with a lot more weapons inside of them, usually bombs, rockets, or artillery shells filled with bomblets. They’re super effective, allowing a single bomb drop to disperse hundreds of what are essentially grenades. Each one releases shrapnel and shreds light vehicles, aircraft, and personnel.

But many of those grenades fail to detonate when dropped, meaning that dozens or even hundreds of pieces of unexploded ordnance can be left behind. These have an unfortunate tendency to explode when civilians stumble across them, so most countries banned them by ratifying the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. America has not ratified that treaty and, in 2017, relaxed rules that limited the ability of the Department of Defense to buy cluster munitions.

But the military is trying to find new weapons that wouldn’t violate the treaty but would be effective.

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A Marine Corps gunnery sergeant shows how to load the M1014 shotgun.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Daniel A. Wulz)

Shotguns

Yeah, it may sound crazy, but Germany tried to argue in World War I that shotguns were an illegal weapon. Don’t worry; you’re not a war criminal. Everyone else in the world agreed that Germany, who had rolled out chemical weapons during the same war, was full of crap.

But yes, America’s enemy Germany tried to get the shotgun banned on the basis that they were unnecessarily painful, but the U.S. used them to quickly clear German trenches. America had a suspicion that Germany was declaring them illegal because they were effective, not because they were cruel. So we just kept using them and won the war.

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U.S. Airman 1st Class Samuel Garr practices attacking an enemy with pepper spray in his eyes.

(U.S. Air Force Airman Nicole Sikorski)

Pepper spray and similar non-lethal gasses

Yeah, this one is actually illegal. Like, right now, it’s illegal to take pepper spray into combat and use it. America, of course, has plenty of pepper spray and other non-lethal weapons, but the military and police can only use it on their own citizens.

These weapons are illegal under Article I.5 of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Rifle fire is fine. Pepper spray is not. Yeah, it’s a weird rule.

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U.S. Army Reserve engineers conduct mine clearance during training in 2014.

(U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Sauret)

Landmines

Like cluster munitions, landmines are one of the weapons that were declared illegal for good reason (unlike shotguns and pepper spray because, I mean, come on). The Mine Ban Treaty of 1997 has 164 countries as members, over 80 percent of the world. But the U.S. is not a signatory.

But the U.S. does enforce its own limitations on mine use. While Claymore mines are used around the world, most of America’s mine stockpiles are restricted. America has actually banned the use of most mines everywhere except the Korean Peninsula, the place where the U.S. and its ally hold a 150-mile barrier against an angry communist regime with artillery and infantry positioned just 20 miles from Seoul, South Korea’s capital.

Weird that the U.S. wants to keep all of its options on the table for that fight. Weird.

Articles

The reason people wear wristwatches is because of World War I

The wristwatch wasn’t created by the military but it certainly brought it into the mainstream.


That’s what an interesting article at BoingBoing explains of the timepiece that was popularized during World War I. At the time, most men used pocket watches, while women tended toward wristwatches (sometimes called “wristlets”). That changed during the bloody four-year conflict that began in 1914.

Linda Rodriguez writes:

It would take a global war to catapult the wristwatch onto the arms of men the world over. Though the wristwatch wasn’t exactly invented for World War I, it was during this era that it evolved from a useful but fringe piece of military kit to a nearly universal necessity. So why this war? Firstly, the development of the wristwatch was hastened by the style of warfare that soon became symbolic of the First World War: The trenches.
“The problem with the pocket watch is that you have to hold it,” explained Doyle. That wasn’t going to work for the officer at the Western Front – when an officer lead his men “over the top”, leaving the relative safety of the trenches for the pock-marked no man’s land in between and very possible death, he had his gun in one hand and his whistle in the other. “You haven’t got another hand in which to hold your watch.”

Not surprisingly, the transitional pocket watches-turned-wrist watches were given a much more manly name: The “Trench Watch.” And when troops returned from the battlefield, they brought their watches with them, thus popularizing the wristwatch and relegating the pocket watch as a thing of the past.

“When these war heroes were seen wearing them, the public’s perception quickly changed, and wristwatches were no longer deemed as feminine,” John Brozek wrote in International Watch Magazine. “After all, no one would dare consider these brave men as being anything but.”

So if you’re checking out one of those new, high-tech Apple Watches, don’t thank Tim Cook. Thank a World War I doughboy.

Check out the full article at BoingBoing

SEE ALSO: 7 things people use every day that originated in the military

Articles

Watch this WWII commando veteran explain how to spot a sniper

“You always get enemy snipers,” says Roy Cadman, a WWII veteran of Britain’s No. 3 Commando, talking about fighting the Nazis in Europe. “… And they’re a bloody nuisance.”


Cadman is a 93-year-old Chelsea pensioner, a resident at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which is a nursing care facility for veterans of the British Army of an advanced age.

In the video below, he explains that you hear the crack of the bullets before the discharge of the sniper’s rifle in the distance. The distance between the two sounds helps determine how far you are from the sniper shooting at you.

“You can work out the distance,” Cadman continues, “but you can’t work out the angle of where he is. You have to look out at that distance from your right. If you were him, where would you go?”

The idea is to find a place where a sniper would hide himself in a European battle, things like bushes, houses or roofs. Cadman explains that it’s a skill the Tommies learned and honed over time, learning exactly where to look.

In other interviews, the old, bold commando also told the Army Museum about his landing at Sword Beach on D-Day, how he joined the British Army at age 17, and how to scale cliffs, build bridges, and span rivers with a simple length of rope.

He notably returned to Normandy in June 2016 to spread the ashes of his departed No. 3 Commando comrade Fred Walker.

The video is one of many from the U.K. National Army Museum’s “The Old and the Bold” series, where veterans of World War II and the Korean War share their stories and experiences from the battlefield.