5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army

Across the military, service members and their families are working through the new normal brought about by COVID-19. Everyone is dealing with a fair amount of stress and we understand how important great leadership is right now. So, we reached out to the Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston (socially distanced, of course) to get his advice for leaders while we work through this pandemic.

He opened up his green notebook and provided the following insights.


5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army

Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Grinston, senior enlisted leader for Army Forces Command, presents the FORSCOM Eagle Award during a ceremony Jan. 9, 2019.

Department of Defense

1. Lead differently

Leadership matters right now. This isn’t harder than what is required of leaders in combat, but it is a very difficult time. In combat, you can physically bring everyone together. Now, how do you lead during this time of uncertainty? How do you get the information out? How do you make sure they stay the course? How do you make sure your soldiers are following orders –- which in some cases may be to stay at home and keep everyone healthy?

Everyone agrees that face-to-face leadership is the best and leaders can tell a lot about someone’s emotional condition by looking them in the eyes. We still have to do it. Don’t fall in the trap of relying on text messages to communicate. I recommend leaders develop a communications PACE plan. Make video chats your primary means of communication. If that isn’t available, make a phone call so you can hear their voice. Finally, leaders can use text and email to keep the lines of communication open.

Remember, these are difficult times and leadership is what is going to make the difference for the people in your formation.

2. Get innovative

There are so many opportunities right now for leaders to get innovative with how they maintain readiness and keep their soldiers motivated.

For example, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a battalion conducted an individual 6-mile foot march competition. Everyone used either cell phone apps or GPS watches to track their progress and then posted their times online. The winner with the fastest time received an Army Achievement Medal.

Another unit in Poland conducted EIB training, but included hand-washing and social distancing enforcement during the event.

At the Department of Army level, we are looking for ways to maintain readiness. We started running the Basic Army Leader Course via distance learning. I expect the same of our leaders down at the unit level — look for innovative ways to accomplish the mission.

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston visited the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Jan. 15.

Department of Defense

3. Stay ready

We all have a responsibility to maintain our fitness and stay focused on personal readiness during this period.

We also have a responsibility and a great opportunity to focus on the operational readiness rate of our equipment so that when we come back to train, our vehicles and weapons are ready to go. Leaders can take advantage of this pause in training to bring mechanics and crews in to bring equipment up to 10/20 standard.

4. Stay informed

Besides company-level leadership keeping soldiers and their families informed, there are also plenty of opportunities to stay up-to-date on the latest news by Department of the Army and Garrison Commands.

I know that unit-level leaders are doing weekly virtual town halls, most garrisons are doing them several times a week and we have done a few at the Army level. Don’t rely on hearsay to get your information; tune-in and stay informed with facts.

5. Set goals

Treat this period like a deployment. We not only want to survive it, we also want to thrive in it. A great way to do this is to set personal and professional goals.

Gyms are closed and many of the conditions we had pre-coronavirus have changed. So, we need to reassess our goals. While we can’t go to gyms, there are workouts we can do in our living rooms to stay fit. Look for opportunities; there might be online courses or credentialing classes that you can take advantage of to achieve professional goals.

I recommend everyone try to figure out some kind of routine to work toward your goals. Don’t wake up everyday and muddle through it — keep moving forward.

A Proud SMA

At the end of our interview, SMA Grinston shared how proud he was of our Army’s efforts to #KilltheVirus; from researching a vaccine to preventative measures and treatment efforts. He also applauded the efforts of our National Guard and Reserve forces who are bearing a large burden of the response efforts across the country.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Scientists want to give you artificial, robot muscles

Remember that LS3 Mule robot the Marines tested but then decided against deploying because it was just too noisy for use on the frontlines? That was sort of crazy, right? But Army researchers are doing a large amount of work to make quiet, robotic muscles to reinforce soldiers, exoskeletons, and robots of the future.


LS3 Robotic Pack Mule Field Testing by US Military

www.youtube.com


It might sound sort of odd that the servos on a robot could be too noisy for the place where mortars and machine guns are fired. But Marines and soldiers try to stay quiet and stealthy until the fight starts. Then they start firing, and it’s fine to be super noisy. But a new problem pops up, then: you don’t want any systems to run out of power in the middle of a firefight. And firefights are some of the worst times to change out batteries. You need to be efficient.

But those two problems with the Legged Squad Support System, as the robot program was officially known, could be fixed with one—albeit major—breakthrough. Humans can move without any sound of motors and can go for days or even weeks when necessary with little new energy input. All it takes is muscles instead of motors.

And muscles can use chemical fuels much more efficiently than most motors and other machines. A gallon of gasoline contains 31,000 calories, enough to propel a fit human 912 miles on the bicycle or 260 miles running.

Muscles are very efficient both in terms of energy consumed and weight. That makes them very attractive to engineers, especially ones that need to make stealthy machines.

And scientists are working on that. So, yeah, welcome to the future.

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army

A graphic shows how proteins are structured.

(U.S. Army-Shutterstock)

The Army Research Laboratory has recently highlighted two related tracks that scientists are currently moving down. One group of researchers is focusing on a much better understanding of how human muscles work, and other scientists just enjoyed a 10-day visit from a professor who helped them understand how polymer, or plastic, strands can be made to coil and uncoil like a muscle, to function like a muscle.

So, the first group is seeking to reverse engineer biological muscles, and that second group is basically studying ways of making plastic muscles.

BTW, if that first group sounds like a bunch of flunkies, “How do they not know how muscles work? I eat carbohydrates and proteins, and I get bigger muscles. Not complicated,” then realize that none of us know how muscles really work on a micro level, the level needed to really engineer a muscle. One of the researchers put it well. Dean Culver said:

These widely accepted muscle contraction models are akin to a black-box understanding of a car engine. More gas, more power. It weighs this much and takes up this much space. Combustion is involved. But, you can’t design a car engine with that kind of surface-level information. You need to understand how the pistons work, and how finely injection needs to be tuned. That’s a component-level understanding of the engine. We dive into the component-level mechanics of the built-up protein system and show the design and control value of living functionality as well as a clearer understanding of design parameters that would be key to synthetically reproducing such living functionality.

Both the projects would result in chemically powered muscles. One group would just create the muscle “fibers” out of plastic instead of proteins. Either way, future warriors could use the extra muscles from the scientists.

But the science is still in the nascent stages, so the real muscle suits probably won’t be available until you need them more for getting around the retirement home than the battlefield.

Until then, you can always get a sweet Halloween muscle suit instead.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The teenage girls who seduced and killed Nazis

When the Nazis steamrolled into the Netherlands in May of 1940, Jannetje Johanna “Hannie” Schaft and Truus and Freddie Oversteegen were just 19, 16, and 14 years old respectively.


As for the Oversteegen sisters, their mother, Trijn, had left their father years before. Freddie states of this, “She was just fed up one day—we lived on a large ship in Haarlem, but my father never made any money and didn’t pay anything for the barge. But it wasn’t an ugly divorce or anything—he sang a French farewell song from the bow of the ship when we left. He loved us, but I didn’t see him that often anymore after that.”

Immediately after the Nazis came to town, despite the risks, Freddie goes on, “During the war, we had a Jewish couple living with us, which is why my sister and I knew a lot about what was going on…”

At the same time, their mother also had her daughters join in with her in the rather dangerous task of posting and distributing anti-Nazi and communist literature around town.

Given their brazen activities, word soon got around to the resistance that the girls might be open to joining, with one Frans van der Wiel coming calling in 1941. Freddie states, “A man wearing a hat came to the door and asked my mother if he could ask us [to join the resistance]. And he did… she was OK with it. “

She also states her mother simply requested of them that no matter what the resistance asked them to do, to “always stay human.”

Of the sisters’ personal decision to join, Truus stated,

A war like this is a very raw experience. While I was biking, I saw Germans picking up innocent people from the streets, putting them against a wall and shooting them. I was forced to watch, which aroused such an enormous anger in me, such a disgust… You can have any political conviction or be totally against war, but at that moment you are just a human being confronted with something very cruel. Shooting innocent people is murder. If you experience something like this, you’ll find it justified that when people commit treason, such as exchanging a four-year-old Jewish child for 35 guilders, you act against it.

Needless to say, they were all for it, though not quite realizing at that point everything they’d be asked to do. She states, “I thought we would be starting a kind of secret army. The man that came to our door said that we would get military training, and they did teach us a thing or two. Someone taught us to shoot, and we learned to march in the woods. There were about seven of us then—Hannie wasn’t a part of the group yet, and we were the only girls.”

Indeed, in the beginning because of their age and gender, the authorities paid little attention to them. Thus, they were natural message runners between resistance members, as well as ideally suited for smuggling and stealing identity papers to help various Jewish people escape; they also occasionally were tasked with transporting weapons and even helping escort Jews to hiding places- generally Jewish children as they blended in with the girls well and the authorities on the whole weren’t suspicious of the young girls walking along with kids. Also thanks to Freddie’s ultra youthful look, particularly when she did her hair up in pigtails, she was often used for reconnaissance missions, as nobody paid attention to her.

Things escalated from these sorts of tasks, however, with assignments such as helping to burn down various enemy installations. In these cases, the girls were sometimes tasked with flirting with any guards while other resistance members slipped in and set the fires.

In 1943, the sisters were joined by a third female member of their resistance cell, Hannie Schaft- a woman who would go on to be one of the most famous Dutch resistance members in all of WWII, with her activities seeing her marked for death by Hitler himself.

When the Nazis invaded, the then 19 year old Hannie was studying international law, and particularly human-rights law, at the University of Amsterdam. Unfortunately for her, she would soon be given the boot from university owing to refusing to sign a declaration of allegiance to Germany- a requirement to remain a student and something over 3/4 of the rest of the students did. As you might imagine even if you knew nothing else about her but her choosing to study human-rights law at school, and given the activities the Axis were getting up to in the country, she almost immediately joined the resistance.

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army

In the interim since the start of the war and being assigned to the same resistance cell as Truus and Freddie, Hannie had worked with the resistance in various capacities and countless missions, even learning German to aid in her activities.

Naturally, the three girls became fast friends and frequently teamed up for the remainder of the war, with their missions having been expanded to something few women in the resistance were tasked with- directly eliminating enemy targets.

Their big advantage over their male compatriots was their age and gender allowed them to get close to enemy soldiers without garnering any suspicion. Thus, the girls were eventually trained with weapons and set to, as Freddie put it, “liquidating” the enemy.

As for the number of people they killed- a question they were frequently asked- they never disclosed, with the sisters’ stock answer to that question being, “You never ask a soldier how many people he’s killed.”

Perhaps their most famous method was flirting and convincing a mark to join one of them for a stroll. For example, in one instance, their target was an SS soldier who they scouted and, once he entered a restaurant to eat, a slightly drunk acting Truus entered and struck up a conversation. At a certain point, she then suggestively asked if he’d like to go for a walk in the woods with her- a prospect he apparently eagerly accepted.

When they got there, however, Freddie states,

Then they ran into someone—which was made to seem a coincidence, but he was one of ours—and that friend said to Truus: “Girl, you know you’re not supposed to be here.” They apologized, turned around, and walked away. And then shots were fired, so that man never knew what hit him. They had already dug the hole, but we weren’t allowed to be there for that part.

Beyond luring unsuspecting enemy soldiers and Dutch collaborators to their deaths, sometimes they just killed them outright. As Truus once said after watching horrified as a Dutch SS soldier grabbed a baby from the child’s family “and hit it against the wall. The father and sister had to watch. They were obviously hysterical. The child was dead… I pulled out a gun and shot him dead. Right there and then. This wasn’t an assignment. But I don’t regret it.”

Other times they would simply ride along on their bike- Truus on the front, and Freddie on the back with a hidden gun. As they passed their mark, if no one was around, Freddie would pull out the gun and shoot him. After this, Truus would peddle off as fast as she could; once out of sight, they were once again to all the world just a couple of young girls out for a bike ride.

Other times they’d follow the mark home and then come a-knocking, again with their young, innocent look helping to ensure their targets’ guard would be down when they’d kill him.

Beyond this, the trio also took part in bombings and other sabotage efforts, reportedly only refusing one mission in which they were asked to kidnap the three children of Riech Commissioner and former Chancellor of Austria Arthur Seyss-Inquart. The children were then to be used to get the commissioner to release certain prisoners in exchange for their safe return. If he refused, the children would be killed. Said Truus of their refusal of this mission, “Resistance fighters do not kill children.”

As for Hannie, while the two young girls often went overlooked, she was not so lucky, with her bright red hair and the many missions she took part in helping her stand out. The authorities soon caught on and she was initially marked as the “the girl with the red hair.” As the heat turned up on her and Hitler himself ordered efforts towards her capture ramped up, she began dying her hair black and changed her name. Unfortunately her real name was accidentally revealed to an undercover Nazi operative working as a nurse. What followed from this was her family being detained; though eventually when it became clear they didn’t know where she was or anything about her activities, they were let go.

The Axis got her in the end, however, when she was picked up at a random military checkpoint on March 21, 1945, having been caught with copies of the communist newspaper de Waarheid. She was subsequently tortured for a few weeks, but apparently never broke. Given the war was in its final stages, she may have survived if not for her bright red hair giving her away as it grew and with no dye to keep the roots black. Once the Germans figured out who she was because of this, the then 24 year old Hannie was slated to be immediately executed- a sentence carried out on April 17, 1945, a mere 18 days before the Germans withdrew from the Netherlands.

Apparently defiant to the end, it is reported that when the two soldiers tasked with killing her shot her, she fell, but both had missed their mark for a killing shot. Her last words were reported to be mocking the soldiers, allegedly stating after the first volley, “Idiots! I shoot better!”

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army

The Oversteegen sisters in 2014.

As for the sisters, they survived the war, but suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, with Truss burying herself in art and Freddie stating she quickly got married and started a family as her way to cope. Her son, Remi, would state of this, “She shot… people… but she hated it, and she hated herself for doing it.” Freddie would also state, “I’ve shot [them] myself and I’ve seen them fall. And what is inside us at such a moment? You want to help them get up.”

Truss added, “It was tragic and very difficult and we cried about it afterwards. We did not feel it suited us… I wasn’t born to kill. Do you know what that does to your soul? …One loses everything. It poisons the beautiful things in life.”

In the end, both sisters lived to the ripe old age of 92, with Truus dying in June of 2016 and Freddie following her in September of 2018, the day before her 93rd birthday.

If you’d liked to read a lot more about this trio of badass ladies, you can find more in a friend of the Oversteegen sisters, Sophie Poldermans’, recent book Seducing and Killing Nazis: Hannie, Truus and Freddie: Dutch Resistance Heroines of World War II

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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6 things you didn’t know about Operation Market Garden

It’s been over 75 years since the launch of Operation Market Garden – the World War II mission to secure key bridges across Belgium and the Netherlands while pushing an Allied advance over the Rhine into Germany and ending the war in Europe by Christmas 1944. Unfortunately, many of Market Garden’s main aims failed, and the Christmas victory was not secured.

That doesn’t mean this brainchild of British Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery was a total failure, it was just slightly more ambitious than the Allies were prepared for. Here’s why.


5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army
(National Archives)

It was actually two operations.

Market Garden was divided into two sub-operations. The first was “Market,” an airborne assault that would capture the key bridges Allied forces needed to advance on German positions and cross into Germany. The second was “Garden,” where ground forces actually crossed those bridges and formed on the other side. In the north, the push would circumvent the Siegfried Line, creating the top part of a greater pincer movement of tanks inside Germany’s industrial heartland, as well as a 64-mile bulge in the front line.

Getting there would be slow going.

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army
Six American paratroopers of the First Allied Airborne Army receive a final briefing from their commanding officer before Operation Market Garden. (Imperial War Museum)

It was the largest airborne operation ever.

The British 1st Airborne Division and Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade were dropped around Oosterbeek to take bridges near Arnhem and Grave. The U.S. 101st Airborne was dropped near Eindhoven, and the 82nd was dropped near Nijmegen with the aim of taking bridges near there and Grave. In all, some 34,000 men would be airlifted into combat on the first day, with their equipment and support coming in by glider the next day. In the days that followed, they would be relieved by Allied troops zooming North to cross the river.

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army
British POWs captured by the Germans at Arnhem. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Allies thought the Nazis weren’t going to fight.

Isn’t that always what happens in a “surprise” defeat? Underestimating the enemy is always a mistake, no matter what the reason. In this case, the Allies thought German resistance to the invaders would be minimal because the Nazis were in full retreat mode after the Allies liberated much of occupied France. They were wrong. Hitler saw the retreat as a collapse on the Western Front and recalled one of his best Field Marshals from retirement, Gerd von Rundstedt. Von Rundstedt quickly reorganized the German forces in the West and moved reinforcements to the areas near key bridges and major cities.

Even though Dutch resistance fighters and their own communications intercepts told the Allies there would be more fighting than planned, they went ahead with the operation anyway.

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army
Cromwell tanks speed toward Nijmegen, Sep. 20, 1944.

Speed was essential and the Allies didn’t have it.

The surprise of using 34,000-plus paratroopers definitely worked on the German defenders. But still, some attacks did not proceed as planned, and though most bridges were taken, some were not, and some were demolished by their defenders. The British were forced to engage their targets with half the men required. What’s worse is that the paratrooper’s relief was moving much slower than expected, moving about half of its planned advance on the first day. To make matters worse, British Gen. Sir Brian Horrocks halted his advance on the second day to regroup after assisting in the assault on Nijmegen Bridge.

It was the halt that would keep British troops at Arnhem from getting the forces they needed to be successful and spell the ultimate failure of Market Garden.

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army
British Engineers remove explosives set by German engineers on a bridge near Arnhem.

The British took the brunt of the casualties.

Overall, Market Garden cost the Allies between 15,000 and 17,000 killed, captured, or wounded. The British 1st Airborne Division was the hardest hit, starting the battle with 10,600 men and suffering 1,485 killed and some 6,414 captured. They failed to take and hold the bridge at Arnhem, encountering stiff resistance and reinforcement from the Nazi troops there. Because of that bridge, the invasion of Nazi Germany over the lower Rhine could not proceed.

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army
(DoD photo)

“Monty” still saw Market Garden as a success.

British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery was a steadfast supporter of the operation, even after considering all its operational successes and failures. Despite the lack of intelligence and overly optimistic planning in terms of the defenders, Montgomery still considered the operation a “90 percent” success.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Search underway for Marine lost overboard

An all-hands effort is underway to find a Marine believed to have gone overboard Aug. 8 during routine operations off the coast of the Philippines.

The Marine, who was aboard the amphibious assault ship Essex with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was reported overboard at 9:40 a.m. The incident occurred in the Sulu Sea, according to a Marine Corps news release.


5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army

A search and rescue swimmer aboard USS Chosin (CG 65) stands by in preparation for an underway replenishment with USNS John Ericsson.

(U.S. Navy photo by FC2 Andrew Albin)

The Marine’s family has been notified, but the service is withholding his or her identification while the search is ongoing.

The ship’s crew immediately responded to the situation by launching a search-and-rescue operation. Navy, Marine Corps, and Philippine ships and aircraft are all involved in the search, which will continue “until every option has been exhausted,” according to a post on the 13th MEU’s Facebook page.

“As we continue our search operation, we ask that you keep our Marine and the Marine’s family in your thoughts and prayers,” Col. Chandler Nelms, the MEU’s commanding officer, said in a statement. “We remain committed to searching for and finding our Marine.”
5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army

A P-8 Poseidon flies over the ocean.

(US Navy)

Multiple searches have been conducted aboard the ship to locate the missing Marine as round-the-clock rescue operations continue in the Sulu Sea and Surigao Strait, according to the news release. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft and Philippine coast guard vessels have expanded the search area, covering roughly 3,000 square nautical miles.

“It is an all-hands effort to find our missing Marine,” Navy Capt. Gerald Olin, head of Amphibious Squadron One and commander of the search-and-rescue operation, said in a statement. “All of our Sailors, Marines, and available assets aboard the USS Essex have been and will continue to be involved in this incredibly important search-and-rescue operation.”

The Essex Amphibious Ready Group deployed last month from San Diego with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, becoming the first ARG to deploy from the continental United States with Marine Corps F-35B Joint Strike Fighters aboard. The Essex is en route to the U.S. 5th Fleet, where the Marines’ new 5th-generation fighter may participate in combat operations in the Middle East for the first time.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s massive new flying boat seems aimed at Pacific rivals

China claims to have successfully tested a new sea plane, purportedly the largest in the world, and while its primary purposes are firefighting and water rescue, this new aircraft could be used to advance the country’s ambitions in the disputed South China Sea.

The AG600 Kunlong, a domestically-built Chinese aircraft roughly the size of a Boeing 737, recently completed several on-water tests on a lake in central China, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, citing China Aviation News, reported Sept. 9, 2018. It can reportedly even land in choppy seas with its hull-like fuselage.


During the testing in Hubei province, the aircraft was put through a series of water maneuvering and low-speed flight tests, according to the Associated Press.

The aircraft made its maiden flight in December 2017 Military experts reportedly believe that the latest tests indicate the plane could soon be ready for service.

The AG600 Kunlong, powered by four turboprop engines, has a significant carrying capacity. In a rescue situation, it could carry up to 50 people, and were it to be deployed for firefighting purposes, it could carry around a dozen metric tons of water.

Experts suggest that it could be used to move troops and equipment into the disputed South China Sea, where China has built militarized outposts armed with various point defense systems, jamming technology, anti-ship cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles. China even landed a heavy bomber at an outpost in early 2018.

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“The AG600 would be suitable for the quick transport of troops and materials, and could also provide other support such as evacuating garrisons in the South China Sea or even out to the Spratlys,” Collin Koh, a research fellow in Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University’s Maritime Security Program, told SCMP.

“Beijing will also use it to justify any further build-up in the region, saying the aircraft can be used for the common good, such as providing support to foreign vessels in the area and for search and rescue,” he added.

A Beijing-based military expert suggested that the the AG600 Kunlong, the work of China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co., can link countless islands in the South China Sea and play a big role in law enforcement, emergency rescue, and even reconnaissance.” Ching Chang, a research fellow at Taiwan’s ROC Society for Strategic Studies, argued three years ago that the aircraft could play a role in “all the government functions that may signify its substantial governance in the South China Sea,” thus bolstering its previously discredited claims to the highly-contested region.

The South China Sea, which briefly took a back seat to the nuclear war crisis on the Korean Peninsula, has once again emerged as a hot-button issue. Not only has the Chinese military been threatening foreign ships and planes that venture too close to Chinese-occupied territories, but the Chinese military recently got into a standoff with a British amphibious assault ship that approached its South China Sea holdings.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers

Bill Withers died earlier in the week from complications from heart disease at age 81. Withers was known for his amazing vocals, soulful songs and was one of the best soul singers of all time. He was also a veteran of the United States Navy.

His death has resulted in an outpouring of mourning and grief from singers, artists and fans cross the world.

Regarded as one of the best songwriters of his generation, his influence has been seen in multiple genres of music and generations of artists. Withers gave us such classics as ‘Lean On Me,’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine,’ ‘Grandma’s Hands,’ ‘Just the Two of Us’ and ‘Lovely Day.’

But there is one song that really resonates with veterans. In 1973, Withers released a song he had written while America was still involved in Vietnam.

Bill Withers – I Can’t Write Left Handed

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Withers was born July 4, 1938, in Slab Fork, West Virginia. He was afflicted with a stutter from the time he was a child. He enlisted in the Navy at 18 where he served as an aircraft mechanic. He had good reason for wanting that field.

Withers told Rolling Stone, “My first goal was, I didn’t want to be a cook or a steward. So I went to aircraft-mechanic school. I still had to prove to people that thought I was genetically inferior that I wasn’t too stupid to drain the oil out of an airplane.”

While he was in the Navy, he was able to do speech therapy so he could stop stuttering. In fact, he stayed in the Navy as long as he could so he could work on his speech. He overcame his stutter using various techniques while also developing an interest in singing and songwriting. After nine years of service, he was discharged in 1965 and moved to Los Angeles to try and break into the music business. Withers worked for the aviation industry during the day while playing local night clubs at night trying to get noticed. His hard work paid off, when in 1970, he was signed to a record contract. His first album came out a year later and his career took off shortly thereafter.

After a couple of years of hits, Withers would write and perform a song that would be hailed as one of the most poignant songs about veterans and the war in Vietnam.

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army

“I Can’t Write Left-Handed” was written from the perspective of a wounded warrior. It wasn’t a political statement, it wasn’t self-righteous, it wasn’t inflammatory. It was simply what he thought Vietnam Veterans went through and what they were going to go through. It was one of the first songs to touch on the mental anguish and post traumatic stress many Vietnam Veterans experienced in the years after the war.

Withers opened the song with a spoken intro….

“We recorded this song on October the 6th. Since then the war’s been declared over. If you’re like me you’ll remember it like anybody remembers any war: one big drag. Lot of people write songs about wars and government … Very social things. But I think about young guys who were like I was when I was young. I had no more idea about any government, or political things or anything. And I think about those kind of young guys now who all of a sudden somebody comes up, and they’re very law-abiding, so if somebody says go they don’t ask any questions they just go. And I can remember not too long ago seeing a young guy with his right arm gone. Just got back. And I asked him how he was doing. He said he was doing all right now but he had thought he was gonna die. He said getting shot at didn’t bother him, it was getting shot that shook him up. And I tried to put myself in his position. Maybe he cried, maybe he said…”

The lyrics then tell us the story of the man with a missing right arm.

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army

I can’t write left handed

Would you please write a letter to my mother
Tell her to tell the family lawyer
Try to get a deferment for my younger brother

Tell the Reverend Harris to pray for me, lord, lord, lord
I ain’t gonna live, I don’t believe I’m going to live to get much older
Strange little man over here in Vietnam, I ain’t never
Bless his heart I ain’t never done nothin’ to, he done shot me in my shoulder

Boot camp we had classes
You know we talked about fightin’, fightin’ everyday
And lookin’ through rosy, rosy colored glasses
I must admit it seemed exciting anyway
But something that day overlooked to tell me
Bullet look better I must say
Rather when they comin’ at you.
But go without the other way

And please call up the Reverend Harris
And tell him to ask the lord to do some good things for me
Tell him, I ain’t gonna live, I ain’t gonna live, I ain’t gonna live to get much older
Strange little man over here in Vietnam, I ain’t never seen, bless his heart I
Ain’t never done nothing to, he done shot me in my shoulder

After a long career with many hits, Withers withdrew from the music industry. He felt that he was too old and that touring and performing were a young man’s game. Withers will go down as one of the true icons of soul and one of the best vocalists of his generation. Let us also remember him for his service to our country as well as using his talent to give a voice to those who served in Vietnam. Rest in peace, Sir.

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army
MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin made a huge power play at Trump’s expense

Russian President Vladimir Putin did not invent being late, but he may have perfected it as a power play and means of communication, as US President Donald Trump most likely found out on July 16, 2018, before the pair’s summit in Helsinki.

Putin kept Trump waiting in a guest house for nearly one hour past his planned departure time, Politico’s Annie Karni reported from Helsinki. Putin took off from Russia and landed in nearby Helsinki at 1 p.m., just 10 minutes before the summit was scheduled to start.


While Trump’s tour of Europe has had its share of blown deadlines, skipped meetings, and late arrivals — including, notably, keeping Queen Elizabeth II waiting in a viral video — he’s no match for Putin’s tardiness.

Jonathan Eyal, a Russia expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that “certainly for Putin, it is part of a power play” to keep Trump waiting.

“There is no question that it’s a political message,” Eyal added.

Putin once made German Chancellor Angela Merkel wait for four hours, and he usually keeps the president or prime minister of Ukraine waiting for three hours, Eyal said.

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army

Russian President Vladimir Putin arriving in Finland.

“Putin seems to have a very healthy respect for monarchs,” Eyal said. “The British queen, he was only late for her for 14 minutes. The king of Spain he only kept waiting for 20 minutes.”

He added: “On the whole, it’s a sort of graduated thing that indicates more or less how seriously he takes you or how pleased he is with you.”

In fact, Putin is so consistently late that making someone wait only an hour is a form of praise, Eyal said.

“I think that this is a backhanded compliment,” he said. “Usually he could go two or three hours. The only person that was exempt from the delay was the pope.”

For Trump, who also tends to go by his own schedule, Putin may have bested him by showing up even later.

“There must have been some calculation from both sides about how much they keep each other waiting,” Eyal said.

For Trump, showing up a little late is “quite clever footwork,” according to Eyal, but “this time he might have met his match.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch the Russian military test its new anti-ballistic missile

Russia says it has successfully tested a new antiballistic missile. Russian Defense Ministry released video of test on April 2, 2018, which was conducted at the Sary-Shagan testing range in Kazakhstan. The ministry said the missile is already in service and is used to protect the city of Moscow from potential air attacks.


Articles

This Russian mobile Howitzer is a beast

The Russian Ministry of Defense released a statement on Sept. 4 saying that its new Koalitsiya-SV howitzer, which Moscow claims shoots farther than any western gun, will be ready for service by 2020.


While Russia is well known for making outlandish claims about its military hardware, the new 2S35 Koalitsiya-SV, by all accounts, may live up to the hype.

First unveiled in 2015, the Koalitsiya-SV, also known as “Coalition-SV,” is a 152mm self-propelled gun that can reportedly fire up to 15-20 rounds a minute, according to The National Interest.

This range of automation is far superior to western guns, like the US M109 Paladin, which fires 6 rounds a minute.

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army
A US Army M109A6 Paladin conducts a fire mission at Qayyarah West, Iraq. US Army photo by Spc. Christopher Brecht.

The Coalition-SVs high level of automation also allows it to be operated by a two or three-man crew, while the Paladin requires six.

The Koalitsiya-SV can reportedly fire rounds up to 43 miles, much farther than the Paladin at 18 miles and Great Britain’s AS90 Braveheart at 24 miles.

It’s also capable of firing a variety of rounds, like standard and rocket-assisted, high-explosive, fragmentation projectiles, cluster projectiles, and jammer projectiles, according to military-today.com. These projectiles, however, unlike Russia’s new long-range precision-guided shell, have firing ranges of less than 43 miles.

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army
The Russian Koalitsiya-SV. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Vitaly Kuzmin.

Given Moscow’s budgetary problems, we’ll have to wait and see if the Coalition-SV is mass produced.

In any event, the “introduction of … the Koalitsiya-SV [is] a significant boost to the Russian Ground Forces’ artillery forces,” Dave Majumdar wrote in The National Interest in June.

popular

Lucky sailors get to chill out in Thailand ‘for work’

The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) and the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) arrived in Phuket, Thailand June 8 for a scheduled port visit.

The port visit is a chance for Sailors and Marines to relax and enjoy Thailand’s culture, cuisine and tropical beaches while fostering relationships between the two nations.

“Our visit is an opportunity for the ship to replenish supplies, and an important relationship-strengthening opportunity with Thailand,” said Capt. Ronald Dowdell, Boxer’s commanding officer. “Sailors have an opportunity to get some well-deserved rest and enjoy the vibrant culture as they continue deployment.”


MIGHTY TRENDING

Wounded veteran finds new purpose with Jaguars

On his second deployment to Afghanistan, then-Sgt. Sean Karpf led his squad along a narrow pathway between two streambeds in Kandahar.

Up ahead, about 300 meters, a group of suspicious men scrambled on the rooftop of a building. He and his squad moved in closer to pull security.

As he walked on the pathway, which had been previously cleared, his left boot stepped on a pressure plate. A buried bomb exploded.


In a daze, Krapf remembered looking down at the cloud of smoke. He had ringing in his ears; he could taste the chemicals from the bomb.

“It was just chaos,” he recalled of the June 2012 incident. “I could hear people yelling my name, but I was still stunned at that point and I really did not know what was going on.”

Today, Karpf, 33, wears a prosthetic on his left leg that was later amputated below the knee.

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army

Former Sgt. Sean Karpf, who lost his lower left leg after he stepped on a pressure plate that detonated a buried bomb in Afghanistan, now works as a strength and conditioning associate for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

(Courtesy photo)

He can often be seen in the weight room or on the practice field for the Jacksonville Jaguars — his favorite NFL team since he was 10 when they began to play in his hometown.

In his first year as a full-time strength and conditioning associate for the team, Karpf has found a new purpose in life that drives him.

Helping players get ready for each weekly battle on the gridiron against opposing teams reminds Karpf of his days as an Army sergeant.

“I love the preparation that goes into the games,” he said in a phone interview Dec. 18, 2018. “It brings me back to military training.”

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army

Former Sgt. Sean Karpf was a squad leader with the 82nd Airborne Division.

(Courtesy photo)

Recovery

Once the smoke cleared, the squad leader with the 82nd Airborne Division saw his injured leg and began to push himself out of the crater the bomb had left.

A medic put a tourniquet on him and he was placed onto a litter. As a medevac helicopter began to land, the Taliban insurgents fired a machine gun toward it and it lifted back up.

A firefight ensued and Karpf, who was still calling out orders to his squad, said an Army attack helicopter swooped in to make a few gun runs so the other helicopter could pick him up.

Karpf, who had played linebacker for a semipro football team in North Carolina, was about to face the biggest test in his life.

He spent over a year at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and had more than 20 surgeries.

The following year, he returned to sports. He competed in several swimming and track and field events in the Warrior Games and took home four gold medals.

“When I was working with the physical therapist, I made sure I got in extra work,” he said. “I had that goal in mind and I think it helped with my recovery.”

He also received a presidential send-off at the White House for a four-day bicycle ride that he and other wounded warriors participated in.

To the sergeant’s surprise, then-President Barack Obama spoke of his recovery and training in his speech.

“I didn’t even know that he was going to talk about me,” Karpf said, laughing. “I was sitting there on the bike and he mentioned my name and told the crowd I was competing in Warrior Games. I was like, wow, that was pretty cool.”

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army

Former Sgt. Sean Karpf, left, who lost his lower left leg after he stepped on a pressure plate that detonated a buried bomb in Afghanistan, now works as a strength and conditioning associate for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

(Courtesy photo)

Dream job

Once he left the Army after almost six years, Karpf moved back to Jacksonville. No longer in uniform, depression began to set in and he stopped staying active.

He then started a program through a nonprofit that allowed him to take college courses and do an internship in the local community. He chose his favorite sports team.

At first, he did various office jobs for the Jaguars but then gravitated toward the weight room to help out players.

When his brief internship ended, the father of two was asked to come back to intern for the entire season in 2017.

Following the Jaguars loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game, Karpf came in for his last time with the team to clean out his locker.

Karpf was asked to report to Tom Coughlin, a two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach who now serves as the Jaguars’ executive vice president of football operations.

Coughlin decided to take on the former soldier full time.

“I thought this would be a heck of a guy to hire for our strength and conditioning program because of what he brings to the table,” Coughlin said in a recent ESPN video about Karpf. “And also for our players to maybe get to know a young man who had made those kind of sacrifices for his country.”

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army

Former Sgt. Sean Karpf, a strength and conditioning associate for the Jacksonville Jaguars, gave U.S. flags encased in shadow boxes to players who support the local community, including veterans and their families.

(Photo by Alex Brooks)

Being able to be around the game he loves has been therapeutic for Karpf, who has just started on a master’s degree in injury prevention.

“As far as with the [post-traumatic stress disorder], it’s made it easier,” he said.

He also shares a special bond with those on the team, a similar connection he once had with his fellow soldiers.

“You can see a brotherhood, but it’s not as prevalent as in the military,” he said. “But it’s still that team atmosphere and everybody coming together with that same goal in mind.”

As he was preparing to leave after last season’s final game, he gave folded U.S. flags encased in shadow boxes to players who volunteer in the community, some of those efforts helping veterans and their families.

“I did that before I realized that I was coming back,” Karpf said. “It was my way of saying thank you for everything you do in the community.”

As an honor to Karpf, some players even kept the flags on display in their lockers.

“It’s pretty cool going through the locker room and seeing the flags,” he said. “It means a lot to me.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The crazy Coast Guard rescue of an Air Force pilot in Vietnam

During the Vietnam War, some Coast Guard pilots were given the chance to volunteer for service on the front lines, relieving the pressure on over-tasked Air Force pilots. Some of those Coast Guard pilots who volunteered would go on to dramatically rescue a downed Air Force pilot and were later awarded Silver Stars for their actions.


5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army

Pararescuemen leap out of a HH-3E during an exercise. The HH-3E, known as the “Jolly Green Giant,” was widely used in Vietnam.

(U.S. Air Force)

The 11 Coast Guard pilots selected for the program went through months of special training in survival, tactics, and the aircraft they would be flying, the HH-3E, before flying to Vietnam to start their tours.

In country, they were folded into flight crews, often with Air Force copilots, engineers, and pararescuemen. Their job was to pick up isolated personnel — usually downed aircrews — provide immediate medical care, and deliver them to field medical facilities.

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army

A U.S. Air Force F-105G, similar to the one lost on July 1, 1968, leading to a dramatic rescue by U.S. Air Force and Coast Guard personnel under fire.

(U.S. Air Force)

On July 1, 1968, an F-105 Thunderchief with the callsign “Scotch 3” was hit over the Vietnamese peninsula and made for the gulf, but fell too fast and the pilot was forced to eject into a jungle canyon. Lt. Col. Jack Modica was knocked out by the impact of his landing, and woke up two hours later.

He reported his condition to the forward air controller, and the HH-3Es attempted to get to him. The first attempts were unsuccessful due to ground fire, so the Air Force sent in another HH-3E with ground attack aircraft suppressing enemy air defenses.

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army

A Douglas A-1 Skyraider like the one shot down July 2, 1968, while trying to suppress ground fire in Vietnam.

(Clemens Vasters, CC BY 2.0)

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Lonnie Mixon flew the helicopter during these attempts, taking fire that damaged his fuel tank, a hydraulic line, and the electrical system. Shockingly, even after all that damage, he made one more attempt, but was again forced to break off due to anti-aircraft fire. This forced the pilot to spend the night in the jungle. Mixon later received the Silver Star for his brave attempts.

So, the rescue birds came back again in the morning, but it went even worse than the night before. One of the ground-attack aircraft, an A-1 Skyraider, was shot down, and the rescue chopper was forced back home after suffering heavy damage, including having an unexploded rocket lodged inside of it.

With this list of failures, dangers, and damage, the Air Force turned to Jolly 21 pilot U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Lance Eagan and asked him to fly in behind a B-52 bomber strike. Eagan and his Air Force crew accepted the mission and went to work.

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army

An Air Force crew lowers a jungle penetrator from a HH-3E helicopter during an exercise.

(U.S. Air Force)

Again, ground fire opened up, striking the rescue bird, but Eagan was able to get through the flak intact and spotted smoke thrown by Modica. He found a nearby open patch to lower the PJ into the jungle to go grab Modica. The PJ found that Modica had a pelvic break.

Eagan was forced to lower the helicopter down into the trees, striking some of the high branches, to get the jungle penetrator as close to the pilot as possible, but the PJs still had to carry the injured man a short distance. As the crew began raising the men from the jungle floor, the Vietnamese sprang their trap.

Automatic weapons fire thundered into the helicopter, shattering the windscreen and penetrating the thin metal skin, but Eagan kept the bird steady until the hoist cleared the trees and the HH-3E was able to tear away low and fast.

The injured pilot was successfully delivered to a hospital, and the rescue crew was later decorated for their bravery. Eagan was awarded the Silver Star by the Air Force for his actions.

He and Mixon weren’t the only Coast Guard pilots to receive that award. Lt. Jack Rittichier had been shot down the month before during a rescue attempt, and he was awarded the Silver Star along with the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart.

The Coast Guard’s involvement in combat air rescue continued for another four years, ending in 1972.

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