From little girl in Ghana to Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Government; Reserve Citizen Airman embodies the American Dream - We Are The Mighty
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From little girl in Ghana to Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Government; Reserve Citizen Airman embodies the American Dream

Her tepid attempt to subdue a smile betrayed a subtle amour-propre, grounded in mollifying unpretentiousness, as she sketched a picture of her childhood home in a sub-region of West Africa on a yellow Post-It note. Called a “compound house,” she shared the square-shaped structure with her great grand-parents, cousins, and several other members of her extended family. Rooms lined the walls facing inward toward an open living-area where the resident children would spend their days playing.

Senior Master Sgt. Eva Appiah (ah-pee-ah), 357th Airlift Squadron first sergeant, was raised by a working-class single mother in the small village of Agona Swedru in the Republic of Ghana, a country along the Gulf of Guinea in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean. Her mother and grandmother consistently stressed the importance of education, she reminisces, because they wanted her to have a better life than they had. Every school day, her grandmother would pay for a cab service to drive her and her cousin to attend.

Appiah’s mother sent her to study at Swedru International School (SWIS), a boarding school 45 minutes from their home, as it was more economical than funding a daily commute. As a result, she learned to become self-reliant at an early age. Appiah chuckled as she remarked, in a tongue-in-cheek manner, that her life at the boarding school prepared for life in the military.

“As typical of children in Africa, I became independent quickly,” she said as she twisted gently from side to side in her swivel-chair, her head titled slightly upward and her eyes scanning the recesses of her memory for dusty images of a time long ago. “In boarding school, our parents weren’t there to get us up for school or get us ready. We were structured to wake up, clean the campus, get ready for school, walk one-quarter mile to the school, and go in and study. Sometimes we had extra duties such as making sure all the tables and chairs were aligned properly.”

Though she had a few friends at SWIS, there wasn’t much time for socialization. Some people chose to participate in sports and other extra-curricular activities. Appiah, a self-proclaimed “nerdy-type,” tried out for track and field, but didn’t much care for it, instead opting to join choir. She cites her exposure to classmates from different cultures and dialects as preparing her for her eventual move to the United States.

Appiah longed to move out of Africa. With relatives in London, Amsterdam, and other European cities, she assumed she would end up there. However, in 1996 her mother announced she was getting married and the two of them were moving to America to join her step-father. In early October, at the age of 14, she and her mother arrived and settled in at Smiths Station, Alabama. One week later, on October 17, she enrolled at Smiths Station High School.

Her new classmates did not receive her openly. Even though she could read, write, and understand English (at SWIS, one could be expelled for failing to attain proficiency in the subject), she spoke with an accent. It didn’t help that she was more intellectually advanced than her peers. As a freshman she was taking classes with students in higher grade levels. Fellow students would say “not so nice” things to her and about her. She would go home and cry to her mother every night how she didn’t fit in.

As is characteristic of her unstoppable drive and hyper-optimistic view of life, Appiah turned an adverse situation into a growth opportunity. She began mimicking pronunciations of those around her, honing her observation skills and attention to detail, attributes befitting military service. For instance, back in Ghana, they would pronounce the English word “girl” as “gell.” She would over hear someone say something like, “hey, girl” or “come here girl,” and she would make a mental note and practice the pronunciations when at home. She slowly lost her accent and began to articulate in the local vernacular.

After graduating high school, Appiah’s mother urged her to join the United States Navy. Appiah declined. “I wasn’t going into anyone’s Navy,” she stated matter-of-factly as she shook her head with the corners of her mouth drawn down in the “uh-uh, no way” configuration. “I don’t know how swim.” That was that, and it was off to attend college at Auburn University Montgomery in Montgomery, Alabama.

During her freshman year, she moved off campus with her roommate. Appiah, un-familiar with the provisions of student financial aid, believed that she could use the funds for rent. She could not, a lesson she admittedly learned the hard way.

“All of a sudden I realized, hey, I have to pay half these bills. I need a job.”

Appiah obtained two part-time jobs, which she worked at for a few months, but then decided she wanted to join the military. On May 30, 2002, without her mother’s consent, she enlisted in the United States Air Force Reserve. After basic training and technical school, she was assigned to the 908th Airlift Wing, Maxwell AFB, Alabama, where she served several years in several different positions within the Logistics Readiness Squadron.

In 2016, armed with a master’s degree in health administration, Appiah applied for an officer commission in the Air Force Reserve, hoping to serve in the medical field. Her application was turned down. Though she was disappointed, she didn’t let it set her back. She had been told by numerous Airmen and senior noncommissioned officers that she would make an excellent first sergeant, so that’s what she became.

As a first sergeant, Appiah helped implement and lead quarterly enlisted calls. These were meetings held during the Reserve’s monthly Unit Training Assembly where important information, such as deadlines for Enlisted Developmental Education Board, Enlisted Education Plan, or Stripes for Exceptional Airmen packages, were discussed. While reading the EDEB invitation to apply and course descriptions, she noticed the opportunity to serve as Air Force Reserve Command Enlisted Legislative Fellow.

The fellowship provides hands-on experience through education and development activities consisting of an intensive orientation of Congress. The 54 month commitment includes six months of academic courses, one year on Capitol Hill as staffer to a member of congress or committee and a 36-month post-fellowship active-duty service commitment in the National Capital Region. The position intrigued her; however, she also noticed they were only looking for one primary and one alternate for the position and didn’t further consider applying.

Ironically, during the next enlisted call, facilitator Senior Master Sgt. Justin Nettles, a 908th Airlift Wing Operations Group loadmaster, mentioned the legislative fellow position. Appiah raised her hand and informed him that they were only accepting one person as the primary. Nettles then posed a question to the audience which would change the trajectory of her career: “What if you are that one person?”

In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic reared its ugly head and the country-wide shutdown began. The U.S. military was not exempt, as meetings, conferences, classes, and other mass gatherings were promptly cancelled or indefinitely postponed. Appiah received a notice that the EDEB had been cancelled, except to convene to decide the legislative fellow.

Appiah remembered Nettles’ question, how she encourages Airmen to aim high, and thought, “What if I am the one person?”

“I’ve always had interest in policies, and how they are developed, debated, and enacted for the betterment of servicemembers,”she said. “I also strongly encourage every Airman to look for opportunities and not be afraid to take a leap. I needed to take my own guidance.”

With the help of her then group commander, retired Col. Don Richey, the 357th Airlift Squadron’s director of operations, Lt. Col. Diane Patton, and wing command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Tracy Cornett, Appiah submitted her application. Soon after, she was notified she was a finalist. A few days after a virtual interview with three panel members, she was notified that she had been selected as the primary. Her leap of faith worked. Indeed, she was the one.

“I’m a bit nervous,” she confessed. “I’ve spent most of my life here in Alabama, but if I’m to accomplish bigger and better things I need to step out of my comfort zone. That is how we grow. We take that first step. I believe in having faith over fear.”

This is not at all surprising considering the meaning of her name. “Eva” is from the Hebrew “Eve” meaning life, living one, or full of life. The surname “Appiah” dates to the Ashanti Empire (1701 to 1957) and means king, prince or fearless warrior. Quite literally, “Eva Appiah” means “Fearless Warrior of Life.”

With an inextinguishable spirit and an ostensible tranquility, Appiah knows if she falls she will pick herself back up and keep moving forward.

“I’m ready for the challenge,” she declared. “I’m ready.”

Read more like this on DVIDS.

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This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

Berlin was a dangerous place during the Cold War. A preserved piece of the Wall containing a mural memorializing 146 Germans killed trying to escape communism stands in stark testament.



As the grand central station of East-West espionage, the city was a playground for all sorts of secret agents. And its place in the history of the 20th century far outweighs its size. Indeed, 37 percent of Americans viewed the fall of the Berlin Wall as the single most important event of the 1980s.

That Wall came down after 28 years because Americans in uniform stood as a barrier to Soviet aggression. The vast majority of those GIs were clearly visible. But a small contingent operated behind the scenes, not even acknowledged until long after the Cold War ended. Only this year were they fully and publicly recognized.

Born in the Mid-’50s

Though the Status-of-Forces Agreement signed by all four powers occupying Berlin prohibited elite forces, each country had its own prowling the city. It was 10 years after WWII ended, however, before the U.S. had such a unit formally in place there.

In August 1956, the elite 10th Special Forces Group, based in Bad Tolz, Germany, stationed the secretive 7781 Army Unit (also known as the 39th Special Forces Operational Detachment) in West Berlin. It consisted of six modified detachments that became part of the Headquarters Company of the 6th Infantry Regiment. Each team had six members.

Two years later, the unit was renamed Detachment A and assigned to the Headquarters Company of the U.S. Army Garrison, Berlin. Then in April 1962, it was attached to the Berlin Brigade. Its area of operations was primarily that city, but it could undertake missions elsewhere in Europe.

From little girl in Ghana to Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Government; Reserve Citizen Airman embodies the American Dream
Top secret spy photos taken by Det-A in the early ’60s showing detail of the Berlin Wall. (Photo: Bob Charest)

“Detachment A was literally in the eye of the Cold War hurricane,” said Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. As an unconventional and classified outfit of 90 men (a normal tour of duty was three years), Detachment A carried out clandestine operations.

Originally operating in small cells, by the late 1960s it expanded to 12-man “A” teams. Unit members were as unique as the U.S. Army ever recruited. Many were German or East European refugees who still had families trapped behind the Iron Curtain. In the early years, a significant number were WWII vets, too. Hence they brought much-needed skills along with knowledge of other nations and languages to the unit.

Training and tools of the trade

Physical training was wide-ranging and progressively intense. For instance, winter warfare training in Bavaria consisted of downhill and cross-country skiing equivalent to extreme skiing. Specialized demolition training was required for various targets in Berlin. Some teammates attended the CIA’s specialized demo course at Harvey Point, N.C. Scuba diving was another required skill.

Every month, members made parachute jumps staging out of Tempelhof Air Base in Berlin. Detachment A participated in NATO escape and evasion exercises. Exercises exclusive to Berlin included dead drops, live drops, primary meetings, surveillance and communications. Team members trained with the elite West German Federal Border Guard and Border Protection Group 9, British Special Air Service and special police units.

From little girl in Ghana to Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Government; Reserve Citizen Airman embodies the American Dream
The Det A boys ready to go all cloak and dagger circa ’72. (Photo: Bob Charest)

But they also taught an urban course to other 10th SFG personnel, as well as SEAL Team 2 based on Crete. As masters of spy craft, team members carried items reminiscent of a James Bond movie.

Coal filled with C-4 explosives was used to potentially sabotage the rail ring surrounding Berlin. Oneshot cigarette-lighter guns, vials filled with metal shavings for destruction of turbines and noise-suppressed weapons for eliminating targets were all part of the arsenal. The German Walther MPK 9mm SMG that fit in a briefcase was the weapon of choice.

All scuba gear was German-made, including the one-man portable decompression chamber. Every member spoke fluent German and dressed mostly in authentic German civilian clothes. They sometimes carried non-American flash documentation and identification. Dual passports, or dual nationalities, were part of the deception.

Adversaries in this potentially deadly game of cat and mouse included the notorious East German Secret Police (Stasi), Soviet KGB (Committee for State Security) and even Spetsnaz (Russian Special Purpose Forces). Being vigilant of Soviet surveillance was a given. The KGB had members under constant watch and possessed dossiers on everyone in Detachment A. Yet the Green Berets always deceived their adversaries into believing they were an exponentially larger force than they really were.

Mission

During the mid-1970s, the unit’s mission began to evolve. Though the classic Cold War enemy always remained, a new one reared its ugly head in the form of terrorism. The lethal Red Army Faction —a rabid Marxist group targeting the U.S. military starting in 1972—came into play, killing six GIs in all. That meant being prepared to take on terrorists with snipers and SWAT tactics.

“They were very brave men and took on some tough missions,” recalled Sidney Shachnow, who led Detachment A from 1970 to 1974. Still, the Soviet threat hovered over the divided city. In 1978, the unit was tasked by the CIA with digging up several mission sites positioned throughout Berlin for stay-behind operations. Also, to maintain the equipment in them— weapons and demolitions, for example.

In April of 1980 Detachment ‘A’ participated in “Operation Eagle Claw,” the attempt to end the Iran hostage crisis by rescuing 52 diplomats held captive at the United States Embassy and the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran, Iran. Det-A’s portion of the mission was code-named “Storm Cloud.”

From little girl in Ghana to Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Government; Reserve Citizen Airman embodies the American Dream
Patch for Operation Storm Cloud. (Courtesy: Bob Charest)

Detachment ‘A’ was responsible for the pre-mission reconnaissance of the targets by successfully infiltrating a team into Tehran on several occasions and contributed an element to rescue three hostages held in the MFA.

When the first mission was aborted because of a crash involving a C-130 and a CH-53 in the middle of the Iranian desert, a second attempt was planned for later that year. That was cancelled when negotiations proved successful.

Four years later the mission of this unique outfit was deemed unnecessary even though the Cold War was far from over. At the end of 1984, Detachment A was disbanded.

“I knew when I closed the door,” said Eugene Piasecki, the detachment’s last commander, “I would no longer serve in a unit like that.”

Bob Charest, a retired Army master sergeant, served with Detachment A from 1969 to 1972 and 1973 to 1978.

Intel

The Smashing Pumpkins and Marilyn Manson put on a tour for military vets

From little girl in Ghana to Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Government; Reserve Citizen Airman embodies the American Dream


The Smashing Pumpkins and Marilyn Manson are teaming up with Easter Seals Dixon Center for their upcoming End Times tour to raise awareness and “change the conversation” about veterans in our communities, according to a new article in Rolling Stone magazine.

Both Manson and Billy Corgan come from military backgrounds: “We can speak to the personal effect that yes, we can be artists and yes, we can play these roles in public, but at the end of the day, if we don’t serve all our communities – [and] veterans are an integral part of our communities – we’re not really doing service as artists or as people,” Corgan told Rolling Stone.

The tour begins in Concord, California on July 7th.

Continue reading at Rolling Stone 

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Here’s the history behind ‘Reveille’

We’ve all heard the familiar tune being blared over the intercom or performed live bright and early as the American flag is raised for the beginning of the day.


For other troops stationed on a military base, it’s the bugle call that made them dash for cover so they wouldn’t have to stand outside and salute on a cold morning or throw your pillow at the window in your barracks like it’s going to get the signal to stop — you get the point.

But the motivation behind the “Reveille” tune isn’t to just wake us up, but instead is to remind us of those who have served in remembrance.

From little girl in Ghana to Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Government; Reserve Citizen Airman embodies the American Dream
Airmen salute the flag during reveille at the Eglin Professional Development Center. (Photo: Tech. Sgt. Jasmin Taylor)

Reveille comes from the French word “réveiller” or in English to “to wake up.

In 1812, U.S. forces designated the iconic melody to call service members to muster up for roll call to start the work day.

It appears there is no official composer of the tune, which is used by about six countries like Denmark, Ireland, and Sweden to mark the start of the day.

The notes for each country do vary and they all have written different lyrics as well.

“Reveille” lyrics

“Out on a hike all day, dear

Part of the army grind

Weary and long the way, dear

But really I don’t mind

I’m getting tired so I can sleep

I want to sleep so I can dream

I want to dream so I can be with you

I’ve got your picture by my bed

‘Twill soon be placed beneath my head

To keep me company the whole night through

For a little while, whatever befalls

I will see your smile till reveille calls

I hope you’re tired enough to sleep

And please sleep long enough to dream

And look for me for I’ll be dreaming too”

Click play on the video below and try to sing along.

(United States Air Force Band – Topic, YouTube)Fun fact: Reveille is also the official name of the Texas A&M mascot in the ROTC program — a dog. That is all.
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4 Badass Conscientious Objectors

The controversy surrounding Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl continues to mount as rumors of a possible desertion charge against him spread — rumors as cloudy as the stories that surround his 2009 disappearance and capture.


Despite the fact that the Pentagon concluded in a 2010 investigation that he had simply walked away from his unit while serving at Combat Outpost Mest-Lalak in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, the truth behind the circumstances of his capture remains murky.

Some of his fellow soldiers call him a deserter, saying he planned to walk away the whole time.  They also blame him for the deaths of soldiers killed while looking for him in the days following his disappearance.

Bergdahl was freed by the Taliban in May 2014 in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees, a swap that only added to the controversy in that the Obama administration seemed to be negotiating with terrorists and also seemed to be attempting to make a feel-good story out of something that had dubious elements.

A smattering of detail emerged – some of it courtesy of his parents who ended their silence at a high-profile Rose Garden ceremony heralding his release – including a notion that as Bowe Bergdahl’s enlistment went along, he increasingly viewed himself as a conscientious objector.

But there’s a big difference between a conscientious objector and a deserter.  In fact, military history shows that true conscientious observers would never desert.

From little girl in Ghana to Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Government; Reserve Citizen Airman embodies the American Dream
Desmond Doss receives the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Earning valid conscientious objector status in the U.S. military has always been a tough thing to accomplish. During the Civil War, the first American war to introduce forced conscription, objectors, like anyone else, could pay a $300 fine to hire a substitute.

During World War One, objectors were able to serve in noncombat roles. Those who refused were imprisoned in military facilities. The World War Two-era United States military was slightly more accommodating, allowing conscientious objectors to serve in the numerous, various New Deal work programs that were still necessary to the war effort.

Most of these programs were gone by the time of the Vietnam War, but COs could still find other ways to serve without violating their religious or social beliefs.

And some have demonstrated that being a conscientious objector doesn’t make you a slacker or a coward. In their stories one can see that true followers of their consciences would never use CO status as an excuse to shirk their duties.

Here are four examples of conscientious objectors who made their way to the front and served with valor:

1. Sergeant Alvin York

From little girl in Ghana to Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Government; Reserve Citizen Airman embodies the American Dream

Alvin C. York (aka “Sergeant York”) had to fight to get conscientious objector status. His subsequent acceptance of the Army’s decision is an integral part of the mythos of the man.

After a life of drinking and fighting, a religious experience led York to renounce his lifestyle and turn to fundamentalist Christianity. The doctrine of his newfound faith included a rejection of secular politics and a devout pacifism. He even began to lead the prayers of his local church.

Three years later, the United States would enter World War One and Alvin York would register for the draft, as any dutiful American did. He applied for conscientious objector status, even appealing after his first request was denied.

By the time he arrived in France, York had come to believe God meant for him to fight and to win and that God would protect him as long as was necessary. One night, he and three other NCOs led thirteen privates to infiltrate the German lines and take out the machine guns. Somewhere along the way, one machine gun opened up on York and his compatriots, killing or wounding nine of the sixteen men. York didn’t even have time to take cover. He stood his ground and picked off the whole crew.

While he was taking out the German gun, another six Germans went over the top of their trench and charged at the lone American with fixed bayonets. York, having exhausted his rifle’s ammunition, pulled his sidearm and dropped all six before they could reach him. The German commander surrendered his entire unit to York. 132 men in total were led back to the American lines by York and his six surviving privates. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for this action.

York became one of the most decorated doughboys of the Great War and returned home a hero. A movie was made about his exploits, for which Gary Cooper would win an Oscar for the title role of “Sergeant York.”

York attempted to re-enlist in World War Two, but was too old for combat duty, instead becoming a Major in the Army Signal Corps.

2. Desmond Doss

From little girl in Ghana to Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Government; Reserve Citizen Airman embodies the American Dream

If ever there was an example more different from Sergeant York’s, it’s the story of Desmond Doss.  Drafted as a medic during World War II, Doss was a devout Seventh Day Adventist.

In today’s military, he might not ever have made it past basic training. He refused to train or work on Saturdays.  He wouldn’t eat meat. He wouldn’t carry a weapon. Even in the face of taunts and threats from other members of his unit, he stood fast to his beliefs.  His commanding officer tried to get him a section eight discharge, meaning he was unsuitable for military service, but Doss refused to accept this discharge because it amounted to being called “crazy” due to his beliefs.

But Doss wasn’t useless. He wanted to serve; he just wasn’t willing to kill to do it. He even worked overtime hours to make up for his Saturday Sabbath. Still, his fellow soldiers threatened to kill him as soon as they got into action.  It was Doss’ dedication to saving lives that would earn him the love and respect of his unit.  Doss would do anything to save his men, from going into the open field, braving snipers, or dodging machine gun fire. From Guam to Leyte to Okinawa, Doss repeatedly braved anything the Japanese could muster to pull the injured to the rear.

It was at Okinawa where Doss entered Army history. As his unit climbed a vertical cliffside the Japanese opened up with artillery, mortars, and machine guns, turning his unit back and killing or wounding 75 men. Doss retrieved them one by one, loading them onto a litter and down the cliff.

A few days later, in the mouth of a cave, he braved a shower of grenades thrown from eight yards away, dressing wounds, and making four trips to pull his soldiers out. The last time, a grenade critically injured him. He treated his own wounds and waited five hours for a litter to carry him off.

On the way back, the three men had to take cover from a tank attack. While waiting, Doss crawled off his litter, treated a more injured man, and told the litter bearers to take the other man. While waiting for them to come back, he was hit in the arm by a sniper and crawled 300 yards to an aid station. He was the first true conscientious objector to earn the Medal of Honor.

3. Thomas Bennett
From little girl in Ghana to Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Government; Reserve Citizen Airman embodies the American Dream

Bennett was a student at West Virginia University in the Fall of 1967 as the war in Vietnam was heating up. He was committed to his country but was also deeply religious. His Southern Baptist beliefs kept him from killing even in the name of patriotism. Still, Bennett enlisted as a combat medic in 1968 to save the lives of his countrymen who would fight as he couldn’t.

He arrived in South Vietnam in 1969. A month later, Bennett’s bravery earned him a recommendation for a Silver Star. Two days after that, his platoon was dispatched to assist an ambushed patrol. They immediately came under fire from an entrenched enemy column with automatic weapons, mortars, and rockets.

As the point men fell wounded, he ran toward them and tended their wounds as he pulled each of them to relative safety. For the rest of the night and into the following day, he ran from position to position, aiding the wounded and pulling them back to safety. He ran just a bit too far trying to get to a man wounded ahead of the unit and was killed by an enemy sniper.

He received the Medal of Honor, the second conscientious objector to receive the U.S. military’s highest level of recognition.

4. Joseph LaPointe, Jr.

From little girl in Ghana to Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Government; Reserve Citizen Airman embodies the American Dream

Joseph LaPointe, Jr. was an average guy from Ohio, a mailman who got married at twenty years old. He was also a devout Baptist. Drafted in 1968, he declared himself a conscientious objector, but still opted to serve in the Army, taking the role of field medic with the 101st Airborne.

He arrived in Vietnam in June of 1968. By the next year, he was in the area of Quang Tin, having earned a Bronze Star and a Silver Star. On June 2, he landed on a cavalry patrol as they came under heavy fire from a nearby bunker. Two men in the lead were wounded immediately.

As the patrol took cover, LaPointe ran forward to help. He shielded the men with his body as he performed first aid. He was injured twice before dragging the men to cover. He continued to protect the two men with his own body until a grenade killed all three.

He also received the Medal of Honor.

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5 ways ‘San Andreas’ highlights the best of military families

From little girl in Ghana to Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Government; Reserve Citizen Airman embodies the American Dream
Photo: Warner Bros.


“San Andreas” is a disaster movie that is true to what you think it should be based on the trailer. There are some great effects, a lot of danger, and some thrills.

Ray, a helicopter pilot played by Dwayne Johnson, moves around southern California on different vehicles and on foot, trying to save his wife and daughter.

But “San Andreas” rises above its genre in a surprising way: Ray isn’t the only action hero in the movie. His wife and daughter, instead of being damsels in distress, save the day a few times themselves.

Since Ray is a combat veteran, his family was a military family that endured multiple deployments and prepared to face emergencies on their own. While trying to avoid spoilers, here are some great military family traits the film highlights:

1. Calm leadership

Emma, the wife of Ray played by Carla Gugino, is near the top of a tower when the first main quake hits California. Ray is nearby and tells her she can get him. Emma immediately begins trying to move other survivors with her to the roof. Emma has to fight through the crumbling building to reach her rendezvous. Due to the destruction, Ray’s original plan clearly won’t work, and it’s Emma who directs Ray on where to go to complete the pickup.

The daughter, named Blake (played by Alexandra Daddario), faces her own challenges when the quake strikes. Though she at first must be saved by a boy and his little brother, she quickly takes over leading the male pair. She directs them on the safest places to go as they face crisis after crisis and she figures out Plan B when the main plan becomes impossible.

2. Resourcefulness

Emma displays resourcefulness a few times, but this category mainly belongs to Blake. She breaks into an electronics store to establish communications with her father. She finds a way to listen in on the emergency channels to stay in touch with what’s happening in the city. After another survivor is injured, she even improvises bandages and renders aid.

These are skills that the military demands of its members, and many members pass them on to their families.

3. Bravery

This is a category we don’t want to talk about in too much detail because it will spoil the movie. But, both Emma and Blake fight through terrifying moments and tackle their fears. Between the two of them, they muster their courage to keep fighting while falling through buildings, being trapped, crashing, and facing other dangers.

4. Selflessness

Again, this is a category that, if we gave you all the details, it would ruin key parts of the movie. But, Emma puts herself in danger a few times to save Blake. And Blake really shines as she sends away rescuers multiple times when she thinks it’s too risky for them to save her. Emma, Blake, and Ray make many sacrifices for each other after everything goes to hell. Surprisingly, the film also shows the family making healthy sacrifices for each other before the quakes, balancing their own needs against each others. This even includes Ray and Emma, who are going through a divorce.

5. Training

Of course, some of the things Blake and Emma are doing require knowledge and physical strength, which implies they prepared to be on their own during an emergency. Preparing for natural disasters is something all families should do, but few actually accomplish. Blake and Emma, like many military families, knew they would face crises on their own and clearly prepared well.

To see what Ray, Emma, and Blake overcome in the movie and who makes it out alive, check out “San Andreas” in theaters May 29.

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13 lessons you learn while traveling in the US military

Military travel: it’s like civilian travel with more red tape. Here are 13 things every constant military traveler knows.


1. The Defense Travel System is arguably the most frustrating thing ever made.

From little girl in Ghana to Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Government; Reserve Citizen Airman embodies the American Dream

2. The overly moto guys will wear civilian clothes but completely fail to hide that they’re in the military.

3. Your military ID and TSA Precheck can make security a breeze.

4. Getting your gear through security can be more challenging, so you learn to make friends with security.

5. Government rate hotels are not always the nicest.

6. Someone will get lost but swear he isn’t. This is especially annoying when he outranks you.

7. Someone in your group can’t handle foreign food.

8. Take a minute to get to know the staff duty driver every night, just in case.

9. You will run into someone from an old unit. You probably will not be excited about it.

10. The DoD is paying for the rental car and mileage, so find somewhere to go every day off.

11. No matter how many phone numbers, email addresses, and instant messaging usernames you exchange, someone will be impossible to keep track of for accountability. It’s probably a senior officer.

12. Every base exchange is filled with tackier, more expensive versions of local stuff you can buy off post.

13. Despite all the frustrations, you will want to leave again 15 minutes after you return to your home base.

From little girl in Ghana to Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Government; Reserve Citizen Airman embodies the American Dream

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Famed P-51 Mustang ‘Berlin Express’ is returning to Europe

A World War II-veteran North American P-51B Mustang restored to look like the P-51B that flew through the Eiffel Tower during a dogfight in 1944 will soon make a tour through the United Kingdom.


According to a press release about the flight, the Mustang, dubbed “Berlin Express,” is currently making a 5,470-mile voyage to the airshows that will include stops in Maine, Greenland, Iceland, and Scotland before arriving at Duxford Airfield in England on July 4.

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P-51B parked at an air base. (DOD photo)

The Mustang will appear at the Flying Legends Airshow on July 8 and 9, and then will take part in the International Air Tatoo on July 15 and 16 in Fairford, England. During that show, the “Berlin Express” will fly alongside the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.

The pilot of the plane, Dan Friedkin, owns one of the largest private military warbird collections in the world. In addition to the P-51, he has also flown the F6F Hellcat, F4U Corsair, Supermarine Spitfire, F-86 Saber, and T-6 Texan, among other aircraft.

“The ‘Berlin Express’ is an iconic war plane that is symbolic of our country’s strong aviation history,” said Friedkin, who’s chairman and CEO of The Friedkin Group. “It’s an honor to pilot this aircraft in the Flying Legends Airshow as we pay homage to the brave men and women who have flown in the U.S. Air Force.”

Friedkin founded the Horsemen Flight Team — an aerobatic demonstration team that flies vintage warbirds — and the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation, which honors the men and women of the U.S. Air Force.

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P-51B Mustangs with the 361st Fighter Group. (DOD photo)

The P-51B being flown to England was originally designated 43-24837 before it was restored and painted to look like the original “Berlin Express.” The 43-24837 plane crashed in the U.K. after its pilot bailed out during a training mission on July 10, 1944.

The “Berlin Express” was famous for a dogfight in which its pilot, William Overstreet, Jr., was engaging a German fighter. During the battle, the Nazi pilot tried to evade Overstreet by flying through the Eiffel Tower.

Overstreet followed the Nazi, flying between the tower’s arches, and proceeded to shoot the enemy plane down. Despite heavy enemy ground fire, Overstreet made good his escape.

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William Overstreet, Jr., who flew a P-51 through the Eiffel Tower to get a kill. (DOD photo)

In 2009, Overstreet was awarded France’s highest military decoration, the Legion of Honor, for the engagement. He died in 2013. The release did not mention whether or not there would be a repeat performance of the flight through the Eiffel Tower.

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8 new projects that will revolutionize military medicine

Compared to previous American conflicts U.S. military medicine drastically reduced the number deaths due to injury during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But that success doesn’t mean the profession is done innovating. Here are eight ways military medicine is trying to improve the ability to save lives:


1. Wound-stabilizing foam that reduces bleeding

Bleeding out is still the number one killer on the battlefield, according to the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research. So, DARPA has worked multiple programs to treat this major killer in combat.

One program success is ClotFoam. The foam works by seeking out damaged tissue, especially cut tissue fibers, and binding to it. It forms a scaffold that the body’s natural clotting agents can then latch to as they would with a cotton bandage. Different formulations of ClotFoam have been tested with the best reducing blood loss in mice by 66 percent when compared to a control group. DARPA is now looking to test delivery mechanisms for ClotFoam.

Another DARPA project was originally aimed at studying and accelerating the clotting process, but a project participant created foam that could treat abdominal injuries on its own. Now, DARPA is seeking help testing the Wound Stasis System device and foam in FDA trials so it can be sent to combat medics as well as civilian EMTs. As seen in the video above, the foam fills the abdominal cavity, stops the internal bleeding, and can be quickly removed by surgeons when the patient arrives at the hospital.

2. Remote trauma care

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Photo: US Army

Telemedicine is not a new concept. The civilian medical sector has been working on remote patient care since the late ’70s, and many patients can now see their doctor via the internet when they can’t come into the office. The Army is looking expand its remote medicine options, most notably in the area of medical evacuation.

The Army wants systems that can be mounted inside vehicles and hooked up to existing radios, allowing patient information to go directly to the doctor who will receive them at the hospital. The doctor will also be able to call to the medic, advising on treatment while the patient is evacuated off the battlefield. This could allow for better care for patients en route to the hospital as well as a smoother handoff between the medic and the doctor. Prototypes have already been tested.

3. A chair that monitors vitals

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Photo: US Army Kaye Richey

Of course, beaming the information from patients to doctors with telemedicine is great, but currently it would require a medic to speak or type the information into a computer. The Army is looking to take that task off medics’ hands by adapting the LifeBed into a chair for military air and ground ambulances. The chair would track patients’ respiratory and heart rates and alert a medic if they showed signs of trouble. The medic would be able to spend less time checking on already stable soldiers and more time treating new patients as they evacuate casualties.

4. Active bandages that reduce scaring and improve recovery

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Photo: US Navy MC1 Matthew Leistikow

Navy researchers are looking at bandages that would actively assist in the recovery process. The bandages would contain antibiotics, growth factors, and other agents to reduce scar tissue formation, recovery time, and the chance of infection.

5. Reducing pressure ulcers

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Photo: US Army Spc. Wayne Becton

Pressure ulcers, more often known as bed sores, develop when skin is under pressure or rubbed for an extended period of time. Patients immobilized for transport will likely develop pressure ulcers if restrained against a hard surface like a backboard. The Army is beginning a study to see how to mitigate the infliction.

Service members evacuated from combat are commonly at risk for spinal damage, and so are often immobilized for transport. Understanding pressure ulcer formation will allow the military to reduce the number of ulcers that form and cut down on the resulting infections and discomfort.

6. Better treatments following shock from blood loss

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Photo: US Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jim Goodwin

The exact problem valproic acid therapy treats is kind of complicated, so bear with this very dumbed down explanation. There is a stage of treatment following major blood loss where the return of normal blood pressure leads to major medical complications. Tissue that has been starved of blood and oxygen can quickly inflame and release toxins when blood flow is restored. Currently, this is mitigated by the timing of how blood and other fluids are returned to the body.

Valprioc acid has been shown to reduce the complications as blood flow returns, and the Army wants more clinical trials of VPA treatments sooner rather than later. In a study where rats were drained of half their blood, rats treated without VPA survived only 14 percent of the time while rats treated with VPA survived 87.5 percent of the time.

7. New vaccines

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Photo: US Army Carol E. Davis

The significance of new vaccines is obvious. New vaccines allow humans to be made resistant to more potential killers. The Army currently has three new vaccines in its sights, one each for malaria, norovirus, and dengue.

A proposed malaria vaccine would have cut down on the 198 million cases and 500,000 deaths in 2013. Average people will get norovirus five times in their life without a vaccine, causing diarrhea and vomiting. Dengue is mosquito-borne and starts off as a mild fever but can become severe, sometimes leading to death.

8. Better skull implants

Following brain trauma or damage to the skull, some patients have to have a portion of skull removed and later replaced by an implant made of titanium or polymers. Currently, these implants are prone to infection.

The Navy is looking to reduce the number of infections after implantation by developing new surface materials that have different textures and nano particle coatings that release chemicals to prevent infection. This would reduce the number of follow-up surgeries a patient would need and lower recovery time.

NOW: Here’s what an Army medic does in the critical minutes after a soldier is wounded

OR: This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals

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These are the crazy Air Force pilots who fly into hurricanes

When the Wild Weasels were formed, one of the candidates was said to have remarked of the mission: “You’ve got to be shitting me!”


Well, if you think pilots flying up against surface-to-air missile sights define crazy, you haven’t heard of the Hurricane Hunters – and these folks have been busy.

With Hurricane Harvey set to hit the coast of Texas with at least two major military bases in the bullseye, tracking its movement has been important. One of the ways the data is gathered is by flying into the storm to help determine how strong the storm is, and where it may be headed.

This is often done by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, attached to the 403rd Wing, based out of Keesler Air Force Base near Biloxi Mississippi.

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According to a release by the 403rd Wing, WC-130J Super Hercules weather reconnaissance planes have already made 10 flights into Hurricane Harvey, presently a Category 2 storm slated to reach Category 3 when it makes landfall in Texas.

Each plane has a crew of five: a pilot, co-pilot, a weather reconnaissance officer, a navigator, and a loadmaster.

During the flights through Harvey, the Airmen made dozens of passes through the eye of the hurricane, braving the strong winds in the center of the storm. On each pass, a device known as a “dropsonde” is released, providing data on dew point, pressure, temperature, and of course, wind speed and direction.

That data is sent out immediately to the National Hurricane Center.

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Master Sgt. Erik Marcus, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron loadmaster, loads a dropsonde into a dropsonde cannon during a flight into Hurricane Harvey Aug. 24, 2017 out of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Heather Heiney)

“As the Hurricane Hunters, our data is time sensitive and critical for the [National Hurricane Center],” Maj. Kendall Dunn, 53rd WRS pilot explained. “This storm is rapidly intensifying.”

You’d think these pilots would be full-time Air Force, but you’d be way off. These gutsy crews who brave the wrath of nature are with the Air Force Reserve – meaning that many of them are taking time off from their regular lives to serve their country. You can see them in action monitoring Hurricane Harvey in the video below.

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Navy SEAL: Here’s how to stay fit when you have no time to workout

In the mid-90’s, Randy Hetrick was a Navy SEAL deployed on a counter-piracy mission in southeast Asia, holed up in a warehouse, trying to figure out how to stay in the kind of shape necessary to quickly scale the side of a freighter while wearing 75 pounds of gear. He had accidentally deployed with his jujitsu belt, which he combined with some spare webbing from parachute harnesses to DIY a “Cro-Magnon” version of what became the TRX suspension training system. Today, it’s a wildly popular piece of exercise equipment based on the principles of bodyweight resistance.


That’s a great invention story; it’s also directly applicable to a new dad, which Hetrick has been, twice. New dads have to figure out how to maintain some semblance of physical fitness despite a life of chaos. We asked Hetrick how to use what he’s learned when the “warehouse” is your house and the blood thirsty pirate is your sleep-hating little kid.

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The Schedule

Thirty-to-45 minutes spread out over the course of a day is more than enough time to kick your own ass. Hetrick suggests carving out 3 10-to-15 minute blocks a day. “There are seasons in life,” he says. “Be ok saying, ‘I don’t have time for an hour workout, so I’ll just do 10 or 20 minutes.”

Workouts 1 & 3: Perform these at home and focus on the upper body, lower body and core. That’s easy to do, since Hetrick only recommends bodyweight exercises (as opposed to weights), which naturally overlap multiple muscles and joints into single exercises. He also recommends time-based, as opposed to rep-based, sets: one minute of work with 30 seconds of recovery. Since you’re already too tired to do the math: that’s about 6 exercise for a 10-minute workout and 10 for a 15-minute one.

Workout 2: You can do this one at work and it doesn’t require sweating profusely and then going about your day like some gross re-enactment of 4th Grade gym class. Just spend these 10-15 minutes doing “mobility movements” (that’s “stretching” to you) and none of your co-workers will know you’re halfway through a Navy SEAL’s daily workout.

The Exercises

“It’s what you do in life,” says Hetrick of bodyweight exercising. “You’re lunging, you’re squatting, you’re bending, reaching and twisting.” It’s also highly efficient, since it requires more oxygen, pumps more blood and burns more calories than single muscle weight work outs. It turns out, you (particularly you with some very portable TRX straps) are your own best piece of gym equipment.

Exercises Without TRX

Exercises With TRX

With a suspension training system like TRX, it’s easier to go from movement to movement and execute actions that integrate multiple joints and muscles at once. When you buy the system, you get access to various workout tools, but here are a few of Hetrick’s favorites:

  • Squat rows integrate more muscles into the repetition.
  • Atomic pushup work arms and back while burning the crap out of your core.
  • Pledge curls, which use both arms simultaneously across the body — one to the opposite shoulder and the other to the opposite armpit, switching on each rep.

Whether your use TRX or not, the important thing to remember is that keeping your jiggly bundle of joy from turning you into a sad tub of goo doesn’t require a lot of stuff.

Mobility Movements

Most men — and particularly new fathers — need help opening the hips and back. Men’s hips are naturally tight (since they don’t push little people through them), and most fathers’ backs are a wreck due to the aforementioned jiggly bundle of joy being unable to pick itself up off the ground. With these stretches, move into tension for 30 seconds, then ease off for 10 seconds and give each movement around 2 minutes.

  • Hip hinge: Spread your feet, bend at the waist, and let gravity stretch your hamstrings and decompress your spine.
  • Seated hamstring: Legs apart, lean forward.
  • Figure four stretch: Try this one laying down and then try it standing.
  • Cobra pose: The basic building block of hot yoga mom workouts is great for opening shoulders and abs.

The Running Alternative

As a SEAL, Hetrick used to run for miles with a 75-pound backpack. So, lugging a kid in a baby carrier gives him happy little flashbacks. “The kid instantly falls asleep, you’ve got a load hanging off you, and can go off for as brisk a walk as you want. Anyone who tries power walking with a [kid] quickly discovers it’s just as taxing as jogging with no load.”

And even though Hetrick can’t guarantee your kid will actually fall asleep in the carrier (as opposed to, say, screaming hysterically from the moment you put them in one), his main point is that exercising — even with new kids — is within your grasp. “It can be an opportunity to re-prioritize and create a new routine. Replace the 30 minutes of happy hour time with 10 minutes of suspension training or other exercise, and you’ll be better for it,” he says.

After all, “You can’t do happy hour anymore, anyway.”

More from Fatherly:

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How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam

For most soldiers in the Vietnam-era, the time between getting drafted or volunteering and their heading to war was short. The Army had each draftee for only two years. After they were shipped to basic, trained, shipped overseas, plus the time needed to ship home and use their two months of accrued leave, each draftee could expect a year of deployed time preceded by 4-6 months of training.


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Paratroopers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team fighting on Hill 823 during the Battle of Dak To. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Volunteers, especially officers, had it a little better. They may train for up to a year before deploying — attending advanced training like Ranger School after basic and job training.

Either way, they were expected to grow from boys to men quickly. For the three men in this video, that growth would be harder than most. The veterans fought at the Battle of Dak To, one of the bloodiest American battles of the war. Hill 875, the single costliest terrain feature of the war, was captured there.

A recently recovered film of the Battle of Dak To shows two hours of fighting in and around Hill 724, another tough terrain feature captured. Bob Walkoviak, one of the veterans in the discussion above, fought on the hill and helped find the lost footage.
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These 7 American legends were pilots for the Flying Tigers

The “Flying Tigers” (formally known as the American Volunteer Group or AVG) were famous for being in the fight very early in World War II. They were recruited to fly for the Republic of China — with the quiet approval of the United States government.


Despite the fact many had no flight experience in fighters like the P-40s made famous by the AVG, they were able to inflict heavy casualties on the Japanese — even as they had to fall back due to being badly outnumbered.

So it’s not surprising that some of the Flying Tiger pilots became legends later in the war and beyond.

1. Gregory Boyington

Probably the best-known Flying Tigers alum (due to the TV series “Baa Baa Black Sheep” or “Black Sheep Squadron”), Boyington claimed six kills while with the Tigers — although CAMCO gave him credit for only 3.5.

Some historians dispute that total, but what is beyond any doubt is the fact that Boyington would later become the top Marine ace of all time with 28 kills. He would also receive the Medal of Honor for his service.

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2. James H. Howard

Howard was recruited for the Flying Tigers from the Navy. His kill total with the Flying Tigers was six and a third, per CAMCO bonus records (pilots received a $500 bonus for every confirmed kill).

Not bad, but his real moment of glory came when the son of American missionaries in China was all that stood between 30 German fighters and a group of B-17 Flying Fortresses on Jan. 11, 1944.

At least three of the Nazi fighters were shot down in that incident, and Howard probably put lead in more. He would receive the Medal of Honor for his actions.

He modestly said, “I seen my duty and I done it.”

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James H. Howard, after returning from combat duty in Europe. (USAAF photo)

3. Robert L. Scott

The Georgia native unofficially flew with the Flying Tigers before he took command of their successors, the 23rd Fighter Group, and was known as a “one-man air force.” Scott ultimately scored 13 kills with the 23rd Fighter Group, but was better known for writing the book “God is My Co-Pilot,” which later became a movie.

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4. Robert W. Prescott

A 5.5-kill ace with the Flying Tigers, Prescott was best known for being among those who founded the Flying Tigers Line. While that aviation firm is now part of Federal Express, it did gain a measure of immortality in an episode of the 1960s iteration of Dragnet.

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A 747 with the Flying Tigers airline founded by Robert Prescott, an AVG veteran. The airline was later bought by FedEx. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

5. Robert Neale

Neale scored at least 15 kills with the Flying Tigers, per AVG records. Had he accepted a commission from the United States Army Air Force, he could have racked up a much higher total.

Instead, he stayed on, and was the first commander of the 23rd Fighter Group — while still a civilian — until Robert Scott officially took command. Neale then became a civilian ferry pilot for the duration of the war.

6. David “Tex” Hill

Hill was born in Korea — like Howard, the son of missionaries.

Prior to joining the AVG he served in the Navy, where he flew two planes that were notable during the Battle of Midway: The TBD Devastator torpedo bomber (notable for the losses suffered by torpedo squadrons) and the SB2U Vindicator (the plane flown by Richard Fleming, the only Medal of Honor recipient for the Battle of Midway).

Hill scored 10.25 kills with the AVG, then stayed on afterwards with the Air Force.

Hill ended the war with 18.25 kills, and not only commanded the 23rd Fighter Group, but later commanded an Air National Guard fighter group during the Korean War.

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7. Charles Older

Older wasn’t only a double ace with the Flying Tigers, he scored eight more later in World War II.

Then he flew a night intruder bomber in the Korean War before graduating from law school and becoming a judge, presiding over the Manson trial.

Manson took a swing at the former Flying Tiger, but bailiffs restrained him. Probably lucky for Manson…with his experience of fighting against long odds, Older probably could have taken the punk down.

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A Flying Tiger in front of Charles Older’s P-40. Older had 10 kills with the Flying Tigers, and added eight more later. (AVG photo via Wikimedia Commons)

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