The military-exclusive watch you don't want - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY LIFESTYLE

The military-exclusive watch you don’t want

How do know someone is a pilot? If they don’t tell you (they will though), their large and flashy watch will give it away. Whether it’s a Breitling or IWC, that piece of wrist bling will give away their occupation faster than Maverick can find a girl to hit on in a bar. That said, aviation watches were originally designed to be large and legible. Behind the controls of a high-speed fighter, a pilot needs to be able to receive and process information like speed, time, and altitude quickly. While the current crop of pilot watches gives aviators and aviation enthusiasts plenty of choice, there’s one pilot watch model you wouldn’t want to own. Or, depending on your idea of fun, perhaps you would.

British engineering has given us such inventions as the vacuum flask, the modern fire extinguisher, the telephone, and the tank. However, perhaps one of the most overlooked British engineering achievements is the ejection seat. Pioneered by Martin-Baker, the ejection seat allows crews to safely egress fast modern aircraft. Martin-Baker first demonstrated the concept in 1946 and the first emergency use of an ejection seat occurred in 1949.

The military-exclusive watch you don’t want
Martin-Baker has supplied 93 air forces around the world (Martin-Baker)

Early ejection seats used a solid propellant charge. However, as planes got faster, so too did the seats. Ejection seats were eventually fitted with rockets in order to clear the pilot from the aircraft to a safe height, even on the ground. The ejection seat handle also changed over time. Originally, the handle was placed overhead. This design forced the pilot to assume the proper posture and protect their face with their hands after they pulled the handle. However, as seen in Top Gun, the overhead handle proved difficult to reach if the pilot was subjected to high g-forces. Martin-Baker added a second handle at the front base of the seat between the pilot’s legs that would be easier to reach. As helmet and mask technology developed, the overhead handle was done away with completely.

Martin-Baker reports that over 7,600 lives have been saved by their ejection seats. For their accomplishments, the company has been honored with 11 Queen’s Awards. Today, over 17,000 Martin-Baker ejection seats are currently in service. Modern U.S. aircraft fitted with Martin-Baker seats include the Northrop F-5 Tiger, the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, and the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

If a pilot ever does have to eject in an emergency, it’s bound to be a memorable event. To mark such an occasion, Martin-Baker teamed up with the Bremont Watch Company to make a watch exclusively for pilots who have ejected using a Martin-Baker ejection seat. Founded in 2002, Bremont prides itself as an English-based watchmaker with “LONDON” displayed on the dials of their timepieces. The company regularly collaborates with British military units to make special order watches for particular commands. Film enthusiasts may recognize the brand as the official watch from the 2014 action spy comedy Kingsman: The Secret Service.

The military-exclusive watch you don’t want
The MBI was the first watch that Martin-Baker tested in a live launch (Bremont)

In 2007, Martin-Baker approached Bremont with the idea to collaborate on a watch that could survive the same rigorous testing program as their ejection seats. The precise and delicate inner workings of mechanical watches would require extra care and protection to achieve such a feat, but Bremont accepted the challenge. After two years of research and development, the Bremont MBI was born.

Bremont designed a specialized anti-shock case mount to allow the watch to survive an ejection from an aircraft. The watch was subjected to 12-30G during testing and continued to run within normal specifications. Additionally, the MBI features a Faraday cage to protect its movement from the harmful effect of magnetism that is prevalent in aircraft cockpits. Though civilian models are available in the Bremont MBII and MBIII, the MBI has exclusive features that differentiate it from its commercial counterparts.

All models feature a red lollipop tip and a yellow and black striped counterbalance on their second hand which is reminiscent of an ejection seat handle. However, only the MBI features a full yellow second hand arm. Additionally, the MBI is the only model to bear the Martin-Baker logo on its dial. The most obvious differentiating feature of the MBI is its red aluminum barrel, allowing an ejection seat survivor to be quickly identified. All pilots think they have interesting stories to tell, but if you see one wearing a Bremont MBI, it may actually be worth listening to.

The military-exclusive watch you don’t want
(Martin-Baker)
MIGHTY LIFESTYLE

Two sets of twins leave Coastie couple seeing double

Charlie and Tae Willis found each other in the most unexpected place. Both active duty in the Coast Guard, Tae was lost at her new duty station in Hawaii — like, literally lost. Charlie, being the gentleman that he was, helped her get where she was going. The rest is history. They were married not long after.

Both are operations specialists who say they love their jobs. Their roles require them to provide around the clock command, control, communications, planning, and response to emergent events like search and rescue, pollution, or other serious maritime incidents.

Their Coast Guard careers brought them to Virginia after they were married, and they say they held off on having children right away.

“We wanted to wait, love on each other, and travel a bit first,” Tae said.

A few years later, when they were ready to add a child to the mix, they got two.

The first set of Willis twins, Aria and Bryson, were born on December 12, 2019. Though it was a surprise for them, it wasn’t completely unexpected.

“Twins do run in our families. I have an aunt and uncle who are twins,” Charlie explained.

The military-exclusive watch you don’t want
Charlie Willis with the couple’s oldest twins. Courtesy photo.

He jokingly blamed Tae for the multitude of babies because she kept telling him she wanted to have two children before they left Virginia for a new duty station.

“I told her you weren’t specific in your prayer,” Charlie laughed, adding he takes some of the blame too because he always wanted four children in all. “I guess I wasn’t specific enough in my prayers either. I’m just going to stop saying anything at all.”

This is because three months after their babies were born, they found themselves pregnant again. Charlie shared that they were watching Netflix when he noticed his wife with a peculiar look on her face. He asked her what was wrong and she said “I’m late.”

“I said late for what? You aren’t working right now,” he said, laughing.

Tae was still on maternity leave from having Bryson and Aria. She was too scared to look at the home pregnancy test they took a little bit later, so he did.

“I was like, oh we are good. There’s a solid line and a faint line and she said, ‘wait, what?’ So, I looked at the box and realized what it meant and said are you kidding me!”

The shock and awe would keep coming when they made their way to the ultrasound room a month later. Two heartbeats were blinking back at them on that screen.

“The shock is funny. People would ask me when I was pregnant what I was having, and I’d say two boys. Then they’d say what did you have last time, and I’d tell them a boy and a girl. Their response is always ‘wait … what,’” Tae said through laughter.

She gets a lot of ‘wait, whats’ and ‘are you serious’ from most people she encounters.

The military-exclusive watch you don’t want
Tae Willis with the couple’s newest additions. Courtesy photo.

One of the first things the Willises did was upgrade their car to a van. Cayden and Dakari, the second set of twins, were born on Nov. 18, 2020 — 11 months after their brother and sister. The babies’ names go in the order of the alphabet — yes, that was definitely on purpose.

“Life is tiresome — we don’t know the meaning of sleep anymore. But life is good,” Tae said. “We are new parents and doing it all over again … it’s been a little hectic in the house.”

Thankfully, the Willises said they have a lot of support from their friends and family. Both shared that the command and team they work with at their units have also been a big help as well.

So, what do the older siblings think of their new baby brothers? Not a whole lot, just yet.

“They mostly just stare at them and then they go on and play,” Tae said. Right after their new brothers were born, Bryson and Aria learned to walk.

Both Charlie and Tae will soon be returning to work. This will pose a bit of a challenge for the family in terms of childcare costs. The teams at both of their units realized this immediately and put their heads together to see how they could help the family. The U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association stepped in to do a fundraiser, and an Amazon wishlist was also created for those looking to support the family in any way. One thing always in need: diapers. Mountains of diapers.

While the couple said they aren’t positive another Coastie family doesn’t have double twins, they are pretty sure they win the award as the only dual-enlisted couple with double the love. Despite the challenges and lack of sleep, the Willis family counts their blessings — all four of them — every single day.

Looking for a way to help this new, growing family? Click here to visit a curated Amazon list for the Willis family.

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

MIGHTY LIFESTYLE

Ebony Anglers reel in success

The Ebony Anglers, a group of five African-American women, are turning heads and reeling in success in the world of competitive deep-sea fishing. Based in North Carolina, they are fulfilling their passions out on the water and making inroads in the predominately male and Caucasian world of angling.

The minute you meet the group’s members, Gia Peebles, Lesleigh Mausi, Glenda Turner, Tiana Davis and Bobbiette Palmer, you instantly feel the comradery and affection they have for one another. All five are small business owners, friends, and mothers — collectively they have 19 children and step-children among them.

The group started in the summer of 2020 and was the brain child of Peebles, who is called “T-Cap,” short for team captain. While watching competitors at the Big Rock Fishing Tournament, Peebles couldn’t shake the idea that she could do this.

“These people were coming off their boats with huge fish and they looked like they were having fun and I thought, ‘okay I can do that.’ Okay, who is crazy enough to do this with me?” she said. 

Peebles first called Mausi, a long-time friend, about collaborating. Mausi’s father was a professional angler who had recently passed away, and the thought of joining a team gave her goose bumps. Right before the group’s first big tournament, Mausi cut off the tip of her pointer finger, and now she’s affectionately known as the “Pointer Sister,” the group said over laughs. 

Next came Davis, who is married to a disabled Navy veteran. She had fishing experience and is called “Princess Tiana.” Turner, who is the mother of three children — including an Army veteran — and has eight grandkids, came to the team next. She is affectionately known as the “Regulator” for her stern but loving grandmotherly persona. 

When Peebles called Palmer to be the fifth and last person to round out the team, everyone initially laughed as her motion sickness is legendary among the group. When the laughter subsided and Palmer realized this was a serious request, she agreed, deciding that she wanted to get out of isolation during the pandemic and try something new. 

The military-exclusive watch you don’t want

On their first outing, Palmer “chummed the waters” with sea sickness and requested space to curl up and get into the fetal position on the boat. Recounting that story, the ladies all crack up. Peebles said that Palmer’s determination is legendary.

“She said, ‘As long as I can get in the fetal position, I can come back’ and she comes back every time . . . and she ‘thugs’ it out, every time,” Peebles said.

As you can guess, Palmer’s now referred to as “Thug It Out,” the group said through laughter. 

More than just laughter, nicknames and comradery, the group is achieving professional success and building something broader. In July 2020, the Ebony Anglers took first place in the Spanish Mackerel & Dolphin Tournament in Morehead City, North Carolina after reeling in a 48 lb. king mackerel. 

“It was beyond exciting and that’s just not a good enough word to describe the moment when we pulled it on to the boat,” Davis said. Pulling into the dock, the group learned that they were to receive a citation from North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. 

“‘Ugh! Y’all, they are giving us a citation!’ I said, ‘We need to protect our fish!’” Mausi recalled.

She hurriedly attempted to get the fish and crew off the dock and back on the boat out of sight of state officials. Only then, did she learn that a citation recognizes anglers for their outstanding recreational catches. “We were lucky enough to receive one,” Mausi said chuckling. 

The military-exclusive watch you don’t want

Out on the waters, the group feels that they are both building something for themselves and serving as role models for others. Mausi says they do get interesting stares from other anglers but she marvels that it is often a conversation opener among people.

“I definitely feel like we are trail blazers in some respects,” Peebles said, agreeing. “Not necessarily that we are the first African American females to fish. . . we are bringing a new face to the industry of angling. While we haven’t been met with resistance, we’ve been met with a series of responses, emotion and curiosity because it is something different that people aren’t accustom to seeing.”

The Ebony Anglers have started two non-profit organizations, Black Girls Fish and Black Boys Boat, designed to encourage children to explore deep-sea fishing.

“It’s a lifestyle we want to expose children to,” Palmer said. For her, it’s a great way to teach life and survival skills. “You can use a compass. You can use radar. You can fish your own food, and there is power in that,” she said. 

When asked why the story of the Ebony Anglers should matter to young women, the group agrees that their story shows that anything is possible. 

“I want girls to understand that no matter what, you can find the strength in you to do something as interesting and as different as deep-sea angling and competitive fishing, where you look different and you also are unexpected,” Mausi said. “That’s a good place to step in. It takes a certain kind of strength and fortitude to blaze trails and to do something different and have the confidence to stand in that space and be excellent at it.” 

For more information about the Ebony Anglers or their non-profits, visit www.ebonyanglers.com

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

MIGHTY LIFESTYLE

How a Montana businessman built a Cobra attack helicopter from spare parts

Every year, tons of military supplies are labeled as “surplus” by the U.S. military, and these can be anything from rucksacks to rocket launchers. But when weapons or weapons systems are slapped with a surplus label, there’s an entire process in place for de-weaponizing them.

During the U.S. military’s drawdown after the Cold War, that process was so overwhelmed with surplus gear, some weapons-grade surplus managed to trickle its way through. That’s how Ron Garlick was able to rebuild one of the Army’s deadly Cobra helicopters, and use it to hunt wolves.

The year Garlick purchased his cobra parts, the process in place seemed simple enough. Decommissioned items are sent to a Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office. Then they are inspected and sorted before being offered to other government agencies or museums. If there are no takers, the items are auctioned off.

Weapons are supposed to be altered, mutilated, or otherwise demilled so they can never work as a weapon ever again. That doesn’t happen 100% of the time. For something like an Army attack helicopter being sold on the civilian market, it must first undergo a more extensive de-militarization. 

In 1996, the regulations stated that aircraft like attack helicopters had to be cut into at least three parts, and then the “airframe [must be] mutilated by destroying attaching structure by cutting, chopping, tearing, shredding, crushing or smelting to the degree that aircraft will be unfit for repair or flight.”

But military surplus weapons are often found in the hands of civilians. A three-month investigation by U.S. News and World Report in collaboration with CBS’s 60 Minutes found many instances where small arms and other weapons trickled through to civilians and foreign buyers. Things like .38-caliber handguns and complete TOW antitank missiles were labeled with the same resale code as desks and chairs. 

Garlick ran a helicopter repair company near Missoula, Montana and spent a lot of time rebuilding and repairing modified UH-1 Huey helicopters used in logging and construction. He believed the Cobra attack helicopter would make a great helicopter for both purposes, but also potentially for firefighting and for renting out to movie productions. 

But federal prosecutors soon discovered that another business owner, Alan Sparks of Joshua, Texas, owned 88 Cobra helicopter bodies, along with all the necessary parts to get them airborne. He also owned all the weapons needed to arm them. The government seized the weapons and parts once it was discovered, capturing $40 million in excess military hardware. 

The seizure shocked Ron Garlick, who telephoned the Pentagon and the prosecutors responsible for seizing Sparks’ massive trove of airborne weapons. Garlick had built a complete Cobra and was even flying it and using its weapons.

The military-exclusive watch you don’t want
Cobras are one of the aircraft used to provide the much needed overwatch protection to the U.S. Army air ambulance platoon in Afghanistan.

“I have a significant amount of intact weapons and weapons systems,” Garlick confirmed to 60 Minutes. “Mine was fully armed. I had rockets on it and machine guns. I was out there shooting coyotes with them.”

Not wanting to get into any kind of fight with the U.S. government, in a courtroom or anywhere else, he offered to give his Cobra up to them. He said the government could have his Cobra and its weapons, “if they were willing to buy them.”

The FBI was very close to raiding Garlick’s property to seize the helicopters, but ultimately decided no to, after discovering that civilians owned some 23 Cobra helicopters around the country. 

Garlick told U.S. News and World Report that even if the Cobras were properly demilled, he would still be able to build one. 

“If they were built once, I can rebuild it, and no one can stop me,” he said.

MIGHTY LIFESTYLE

Therapeutic retreats address mental health of the entire military family

As many activities were being put on pandemic pause last year, the leaders of one organization were adding opportunities to come together — the safe way — for the benefit of mental health.

Heather Ehle, founder and CEO of Project Sanctuary, said 2020 was a crucial year for the non-profit, which offers therapeutic retreats for active-duty service members, veterans, and their families. When COVID-19 hit hard in March 2020, her team created a PS Wellness Matters Facebook group to provide virtual resources for nutrition, meditation, yoga, and overall wellness — but it wasn’t enough, she said.

“We immediately recognized that even though providing PS Wellness Matters on a Facebook-type program to combat isolation, loneliness, and depression was a step in the right direction, people need one-on-one interaction, especially when you are talking about mental health.”

Project Sanctuary Director of Marketing and Communications Danella Soeka agreed that getting back to in-person interaction as soon as possible was a top priority.

“We were never more essential than we were this last year,” she said. “We always are, but at a time when mental health and other things are really a focus, it’s not like we could just kick back and say, ‘We are going to wait this out.’”

With the negative effects of the crisis top of mind, they worked together to launch “Safer at Retreats” in May 2020. Face-to-face programming — counseling, education, therapeutic recreation — was available to families in need, with protocols in place. Ehle said that protecting families, volunteers, and staff was (and still is) vital. Project Sanctuary followed guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO), CDC, as well as state and county governments to develop standards for modified group size, masks, temperature checks, social distancing, and more.

The military-exclusive watch you don’t want
Courtesy photo.

Despite the additional hurdles, Ehle said the retreats have been going very well with little push back from the participants.

“The quality is better with people being willing to go the extra mile to take care of their mental health that their family needs,” she said. “They are taking it very seriously.”

Since COVID took hold in the U.S., 71 families have graduated from the program, and there has been a 121% increase in financial assistance over 2019.

“We are an active-duty family and always look for resources that will enrich our family life,” said Sarah, who attended a therapeutic retreat during the pandemic. “Project Sanctuary has been a blessing to our family in a time that is so unique. It has allowed us to reconnect and decompress. Each workshop has allowed us to reflect on issues or concerns that we have maybe overlooked due to life getting in the way.”

The military-exclusive watch you don’t want
Courtesy photo.

Helping families heal and reconnect is what inspired Ehle to start Project Sanctuary in 2007. While working as a registered nurse at a free clinic in Colorado, she became concerned about the influx of soldiers and veterans coming in, desperate for treatment. But they weren’t the only ones that needed care. Ehle recognized that the entire military family could benefit from “a sanctuary in a beautiful place.”

“I wanted to help them be successful in life with tools and services to re-integrate back into society,” she said. “We bring in social workers, counselors, the community, and the entire family and are not just focusing on the service member or veteran.”

Therapeutic retreats, now held in eight states across the country, are completely free for active-duty service members and veterans of all branches and can be individualized based on concerns such as PTSD, pre- or post-deployment struggles, health crisis, or the stresses of frequent moves. Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists (CTRS) and licensed counselors and social workers on Project Sanctuary’s staff design a plan, but families have to be willing to “put in the work and make the connections they need to succeed,” said Ehle.

To help foster even more connections, Destination Resource Weekends also began as a Project Sanctuary product of COVID. These networking events allow families to set goals, plan, and meet with partners in areas of financial planning, psychological well-being, employment resources, recreation opportunities, and more.

With proper adaptation, Ehle said that retreats and programming will continue and likely increase no matter the circumstances.

“It doesn’t matter what’s going on, we just march forward,” she said. “Our military families are that important, they really are.”

For more information visit Project Sanctuary online or email info@projectsanctuary.us.

MIGHTY LIFESTYLE

Teen creates American flag using plastic Army guys

At a distance it looks like an American Flag, but a closer inspection reveals it’s also an army – one comprised of 4,466 toy soldiers.


High school senior Jacob Feazel from Peru, Indiana created a 4’x6′ American flag using the classic plastic toy ‘army guys.’

In an interview with WishTV,  he said, “The soldiers are what make the U.S. free, you know? They fight for us so I figured it’s honoring them by putting them in the flag.”

Once he was done, his parents posted photos of the patriotic project on Facebook. That gallery has been shared over 188,000 times.

Feazel has received multiple offers to buy his creation, and Grissom Air Reserve base has expressed interest in displaying it. Aside from entering it into a scholarship competition and local art shows, he plans on keeping it.

The military-exclusive watch you don’t want
(Photo: Stacey Feazel’s Facebook page)

Want to make your own ‘Army Guy American Flag”? Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 4,466 toy soldiers (in 7 different poses)
  • A 4’x6′ wood board
  • 20-30 cans of spray paint (red, white, and blue)
  • Glue, lots of glue
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