When you think about Grumman fighters, the Wildcat, the Panther, and the Tomcat all spring to mind. And for good reason — these planes are all classics. But there is one Grumman fighter that didn’t quite get a chance to shine in World War II, but it did see some action in Southeast Asia.
Grumman F8F Bearcats line up on the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Valley Forge (CV 45)
During World War II, the Navy was deploying the F6F Hellcat and the F4U Corsair was operated by the Marine Corps. The Hellcat was a very tame plane, but the Corsair — known as the “Ensign Eliminator” and foisted on the Marines — simply had higher performance. The Navy wanted the best of both planes. They wanted the F8F Bearcat.
French F8F Bearcats prepare to take off to carry out a napalm strike in Southeast Asia.
At the heart of the Bearcat was the Pratt and Whitney R-2800. This was the powerplant used by both the Corsair and Hellcat, but the Bearcat was much lighter, which gave it extreme performance. The Bearcat also packed a significant punch — to the tune of four M2 .50-caliber machine guns. If that wasn’t enough, the Bearcat was also able to haul five-inch rockets or a 1,000-pound bomb.
The Bearcat’s primary mission was to intercept enemy planes. The plane had a “bubble” canopy (pretty much a standard feature on today’s fighters) to improve the situational awareness of pilots. The Bearcat had a top speed of 421 miles per hour and a maximum range of 1,105 miles. It stuck around long enough to see some upgrades, but was quickly replaced by the onset of fighter jets, like the F9F Panther.
The Marine Corps is investing in a next-generation water purification system that will allow individual Marines to get safe, drinkable water straight from the source.
The Individual Water Purification System Block II is an upgrade to the current version issued to all Marines.
“With IWPS II, Marines are able to quickly purify fresh bodies of water on the go,” said Jonathan York, team lead for Expeditionary Energy Systems at Marine Corps Systems Command. “This allows them to travel farther to do their mission.”
Finding ways to make small units more sustainable to allow for distributed operations across the battlefield is a key enabler to the Marine Corps becoming more expeditionary. Developing water purification systems that can be easily carried while still purifying substantial amounts of water is part of that focus.
The current system filters bacteria and cysts, but Marines still have to use purification tablets to remove viruses. That takes time – as long as 15 minutes for the chemical process to work before it is safe to drink. IWPS II uses an internal cartridge that effectively filters micro pathogens, providing better protection from bacterial and viral waterborne diseases.
“IWPS II will remove all three pathogens, filtering all the way down to the smallest virus that can be found,” said Capt. Jeremy Walker, project officer for Water Systems. “We have removed the chemical treatment process, so they can drink directly from the fresh water source.”
IWPS II can also connect to Marines’ man-packable hydration packs.
“The system is quite simple and easy to use,” said Walker. “The small filter connects directly with the existing Marine Corps Hydration System/Pouch or can be used like a straw directly from the source water. The system has a means to backflush and clean the filter membrane, extending the service life. The system does not require power, just suction.”
The current system was fielded in 2004 and used by small raids and reconnaissance units in remote environments where routine distilled water was unavailable. Since then, the system has been used in combat and disaster relief missions.
In 1952, the Green Bay Packers drafted “Chargin’ Charlie” Beckwith from the University of Georgia. But seeing as how the Korean War was already in its second year, Chargin’ Charlie declined the offer for a different green uniform.
Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant, Charles Beckwith served a few years on the Korean Peninsula, in war and later peacetime. It was after Korea that he joined the 82d Airborne, and later, U.S. Army Special Forces.
Beckwith’s first mission was to train the Royal Lao Army in 1960 but his mission to deploy with British SAS to Malaysia as they fought a Communist insurgency is one that forever changed military history.
It was there that Beckwith came down with a mean case of Leptospirosis — a bacterial infection that causes kidney failure and pulmonary hemorrhaging. Doctors did not expect Beckwith to survive.
He survived the infection and his time with the Special Air Service inspired him to develop the American Army’s version of such an elite unit. In 1963, he formed the specialty unit code-name Project Delta, personally selecting the men best suited to conduct long-range recon operations in Vietnam.
But his time in Delta — and on Earth — was nearly cut short in Vietnam in 1966. Beckwith was shot in his abdomen with a .50-caliber round. He was taped up, but essentially left for dead.
But death still didn’t come.
Beckwith not only recovered, he continued with his military career, fighting in a series of battles from the Tet Offensive in 1968 until the end of the war in 1973.
It was in the mid-70s that Beckwith’s elite unit idea finally became a full reality. He was given the authority and formed the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta in 1977. The new elite unit focused on anti-terror and hostage recovery ops, based on the model of the British SAS.
Unfortunately for Beckwith and Delta, their first mission was Operation Eagle Claw, the doomed hostage rescue of Americans held in Iran. After the catastrophic failure of Eagle Claw, Beckwith retired from the Army.
There have been countless pre-mission plans that state the proclaimed time outside the wire will only last a few hours. Then, after a few hours outside the wire, you learn you’re going to be outside until right before nightfall. Then, you receive notice you’re going to stay in the field and conduct an overnight ambush.
The words “holy sh*t” pass through your mind because you didn’t bring enough MRE crackers and peanut butter to feed yourself.
2. Write down the mission and patrol route
During a hectic firefight, it’s easy to lose your train of thought. Writing as much information down before stepping out on patrol can lower your chances of panicking and forgetting what you’re supposed to do while under fire. It happens.
3. Continuously “prep and check your trash”
Trash doesn’t refer to the empty bag of MMs from your MRE — it refers to your gear. Grunts continuously move their gear around for better access during their movement. This practice helps to keep your sling from getting all freaking tangled when you need to put rounds down range.
4. Don’t leave important personal sh*t behind
Sadly, not everyone returns to the FOB after the patrol. Some ground pounders get hurt and get medevac to the “rear” for treatment. There are times where unique personal belongings are left at the FOB like IDs, pictures, and religious items that don’t reconnect with their owners.
5. Pre-staging your tourniquets
No one wants to think about getting hit, but it’s a real possibility when manning the front lines. When I was deployed to Sangin, Afghanistan, we pre-staged our tourniquets on our legs with 550 cords since the IED threat level was so freakin’ high.
In the sad event we stepped on one, the grunt would tighten the pre-staged himself to avoid losing any additional blood before the Corpsman or medic arrive.
If you’re a fan of This is Us, make sure you check out The Village, a new NBC show premiering March 19th about a group of neighbors living in a New York apartment building who form an unlikely family. One of the main characters is Nick, a combat veteran and amputee who moves in during the pilot episode.
Played by Warren Christie, Nick is instantly recognizable as a vet: he’s a good wingman, he looks out for others, and he’s affected by war.
I’ve heard many veterans complain that Hollywood only portrays broken veterans, and I’m happy to report that in the pilot at least, Nick is definitely not broken. He’s lost a limb, he’s shaken, but he’s connecting with a community — and a family — which is exactly what we want for our nation’s service members.
His scene with Enzo, who introduces himself as an Army Specialist (probably from the Korean War era) reminded me of moments I’ve had at my local American Legion post; it’s by connecting with our community that we find healing (because let’s face it — at a minimum, the military is a mind f***, but at it’s worst, it is traumatic).
And community is exactly what the creators of the show wanted to explore.
From left to right: Warren Christie, Jessica Rhoades, Mike Daniels, Shannon Corbeil
It was clear from talking with Rhoades, Daniels, and Christie that the whole cast and crew were committed to sharing a positive message here. Nick’s transition back to civilian life won’t always be easy, but this show will guide him through it with the feeling of hope.
Also, there’s a dog.
Warren Christie and Magnum the German Shepherd.
(Photo courtesy of NBC)
Magnum plays ‘Jedi,’ Nick’s military working dog, who is also an amputee. On set, the two bonded quickly, though Christie shared that Magnum was not a trained ‘actor’ so there were moments where Christie was covered in peanut butter and liver to get the shot.
Christie, who worked with a military advisor, did say one thing that caught my attention. He said he felt a responsibility to convey “the strength and the struggle” of our nation’s service members. I loved that phrase. I’m lucky enough to work at a company that celebrates military victories and veterans’ successes, but veteran suicide statistics still clearly prove that we have a long way to go in caring for our troops.
Shows like this keep the conversation going. They introduce civilians to military stories and they show veterans a way forward. That’s the power of storytelling. I’m hopeful about where The Village will take Nick’s story.
I’ve already seen a lot of comments about this moment from the trailer, and I had an immediate reaction to it, too. For all my civilian readers, I’ll fill you in: to my knowledge, no one in the U.S. military salutes with their palm facing outward, something vets will easily pick up on.
Moments like these are why I encourage filmmakers telling military stories to bring veterans on board in the process as early as possible. Shows like SEAL Team on CBS have really locked this in — from the writer’s room to production to on-set advising to casting vets for stunts and on-camera roles, hiring vets will ensure authenticity for TV and film.
The Village premieres on Tuesday, March 19th right after This Is Us — check it out and let us know what you think.
After the North Koreans poured across the 38th Parallel in 1950, starting the Korean War, the United States rapidly responded. The 24th Infantry Division was ordered to quickly make their way to South Korea from Japan while American carriers began launching strikes to delay the Communist advance.
One of the first ground units to arrive was called Task Force Smith. According to official United States Army history, this unit eventually consisted of two under-strength companies of infantry, four 75mm recoilless rifles, four 4.2-inch mortars, half of a communications platoon, and a battery of six 105mm howitzers. Most importantly, this force would be the first “boots on the ground” to face the Communist hordes on the Korean peninsula.
Their mission was to delay the North Koreans, affording others the time to get spun up for combat.
As the unit moved toward battle, they were faced with all the signs that things might not go so well. American planes hit a number of supply dumps and installations controlled by friendly forces — one such incident killed over 200 South Korean troops. Meanwhile, some of the C-54 Skymasters carrying the unit had to return to Japan due to thick fog and being unable to locate airfields.
Soldiers assigned to Task Force Smith arrive in South Korea.
When they finally met North Korean troops, it was a disaster. The North Koreans, equipped with Soviet-built T-34 medium tanks, approached. At 8:16 AM on the morning of July 5, 1950, near the city of Osan, American ground troops opened fire on the Communist forces. The fight was short — it didn’t go well for the United States. Bazookas and recoilless rifle rounds did practically nothing to the T-34s.
North Korean T-34s blew through the positions held by the unprepared American soldiers.
The North Korean forces blew through the infantry and went at the artillery. By the time all was said and done, of the roughly 440 soldiers in Task Force Smith sent to South Korea, only 185 made it back to friendly lines the next morning (a few dozen others would make their way back over the next few days and weeks).
Today, Task Force Smith is remembered for their courage — and for the lessons learned from the Battle of Osan.
The experience of this brave but unprepared unit led to major changes, at least through the Cold War. The mantra became, “No More Task Force Smiths.”
In essence, the troops who fell that day are remembered by efforts to continually keep American troops ready for combat, ensuring that sacrifices made by those who came before them are not in vain.
When America entered World War I, it brought more radical changes than just fresh troops and a huge manufacturing base. It also introduced novel tactics in the fight against venereal disease — the war for infantrymen’s penises.
Specifically, “go and don’t bring back venereal diseases.”
(The Museum of New Zealand)
See, while World War I was a bone-crunching and horrible war, those who rotated off the front were still willing to stand at attention for a little morale improvement. Unfortunately, troops wouldn’t always report it if their li’l Joes encountered some biological warfare on the battlefield.
All euphemisms aside, lots of troops were sleeping with lots of women whenever they got the chance, leading to an outbreak of sexually transmitted diseases. Because of social stigmas, many troops wouldn’t report it when they contracted one of the STDs, further propelling the problem.
As American troops and their physicians made their way to the front, leaders had to decide how to prevent the same issue among U.S. ranks. While the European powers had embraced a program of abstinence, the U.S. Army created a four-pronged attack on venereal disease.
Alcohol wasn’t popular in the U.S. before or after the war. Remember, America entered World War I just three years before it enacted Prohibition.
(United Committee on War Temperance)
The first two prongs were social: First, the U.S. cracked down on access to alcohol and prostitutes in the ranks. While this, obviously, eliminated American forces from most of the fun trenches of France, it would also serve to cut down on how often the soldiers were exposed to venereal disease. Then, authorities launched an education campaign, ostensibly to help men “Just Say No” to diseased genitals.
Oddly enough, this second prong, “education,” was actually controversial. Birth control education was actually illegal in America during World War I and had been since 1873. In fact, a high-profile arrest in 1916 occurred when a woman opened America’s first birth control clinic.
The next prong represented the biggest shift from Europe abstinence program. The U.S. distributed “prophylactics,” or condoms. Condoms help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and infections, especially gonorrhea and chlamydia, which were big threats in France at the times. Condoms also cut down on the transmission of syphilis, another widespread disease.
It wasn’t just prostitutes that American G.I.s were able to attract, either. Remember that Britain and France had been at war for almost three years when America came along, and huge numbers of their military-age males were already dead. Plenty of women looking for boyfriends and husbands had few options beyond traveling soldiers.
(Imperial War Museum)
This was also illegal in World War I in some parts of the country and would remain so until 1965 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law banning birth control — but hey, troops get certain exemptions. When you bend the rules to ask a guy to kill for you, you should probably loosen the rules about teaching him how to get laid without contracting disease or conceiving a baby.
These three prongs helped but, of course, even if the troops never got drunk with a prostitute and used a new condom every time they had sex, some guys would still get unlucky and contract a disease or two. So, prong four of the plan was an emphasis on medical care. Report the disease when you’re sick, come to the clinic, and get diagnosed and treated.
All of these efforts were buffed by other programs advocated by Army doctors, like the “furnishing of healthy social conditions and of opportunities for diversion….” Basically, keep the troops too busy with the YMCA and and other social organizations that they wouldn’t get so bored they’d slip out of camp to look for prostitutes.
This was the treatment for gonorrhea in those days, an injection into the urethra. We can’t understand why troops might’ve avoided seeing the doctor.
Yeah, get the drip-drop and don’t report to the docs, you’re going to the stocks.
And the policies worked, to an extent. Of course some guys got sick and passed the disease along before getting treatment, but disease levels were lower in the U.S. camps than in British and French ones.
Front and back cover on a War Department pamphlet advocating veterans engage in a war against venereal disease back in the U.S.
So the allies followed suit, distributing condoms and providing distractions. Again, no plan was perfect, and there were limits to what medicine was capable of at the time, so not all troops who got sick were guaranteed recovery with treatment.
The efforts to protect troops from STDs in World War I were repeated in World War II — and led to the slow expansion of birth control and disease prevention at home. Troops were sent home with books about venereal disease, but these typically advocated abstinence in place of the condoms and medical treatment provided in the trenches.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is one of the most iconic monuments in Arlington National Cemetery. The marble sarcophagus sits on top of a hill that overlooks Washington, DC. Here are five facts you might not know about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
5 Facts you might not know
In March 1921, the U.S. Congress accepted the remains of an unknown American soldier who fought in World War I to be buried in a tomb in Arlington National Cemetery. This soldier was buried with full honors.
2. On Memorial Day of 1921, four unknown soldiers were relocated from their World War I American cemeteries in France. Sergeant Edward F. Younger placed roses atop one of four identical caskets.
3. Then on November 11, 1921, the Unknown Solider was moved to Arlington and officially interred in the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. Since 1918, November 11 had been marked by somber remembrances of the service personnel lost in WWI. President Harding led the charge by officiating the interment ceremonies at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery. Then he awarded the Unknown Soldier two high military awards: the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross.
4. Three years after the Korean War ended, on August 3, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower passed a bill to allow unknown soldiers who fought in the Korean War and World War II to be buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at Arlington National Cemetery.
5. In 1958, unknown Soldiers who fought in World War II and the Korean War were permitted to be buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as well.
The Old Guard
Members of the Old Guard have guarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier since April 6, 1948. Currently, The Old Guard monitors the memorial twenty-four hours a day, year-round. These Sentinels do not move from their station and are equipped to withstand all kinds of weather and extreme conditions. After a Solider has volunteered to become a Tomb Guard, they have to undergo a strict screening process and several weeks of intensive training. Every element of the Tomb Guard’s routine has a deeper meaning than what’s shown on the surface.
Guard movements harken back to the highest symbolic military honor that can be bestowed – a 21 gun salute. Tomb guards march 21 steps down the black mat behind the Unknown Tomb, then turn and face east for precisely 21 seconds. Then, they turn and face north for precisely 21 seconds, followed by 21 steps back down the mat. Each Guard carries their weapon at “shoulders-arms,” signifying that they stand between the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and any possible threat.
A California patrolman’s radar apparently flipped out on an empty stretch of highway in March 2019, which was odd because there wasn’t another car in sight, but then an F-16 Fighting Falcon came flying low and fast past his location.
A video taken by Officer Chris Bol and shared by California Highway Patrol station in the California desert suburb of Bishop shows the F-16 making a pass — not the first, as the officer filming has his camera ready to catch the fighter flying by his Ford Explorer.
The video, first reported by Popular Mechanics, was captioned: “When the radar in your patrol car is going crazy but you don’t see any cars on the road, look up!”
When the radar in your patrol car is going crazy but you …
An F-16 can fly at speeds greater than Mach 2, more than two times the speed of sound. That means the fighter jet can hit in excess of 1,500 mph. The fighter in the video, however, was not going that fast.
These low-altitude flybys occur regularly in the area where the video was taken and are often picked up on radar. One California Highway Patrol officer at the Bishop station told Business Insider his radar once read out at more than 300 mph.
As for the video posted on March 9, 2019, Bol’s radar was going in and out, but it read 250 mph at one point. Several F-16s flew past his spot repeatedly while he was out there.
Popular Mechanics said that while the video was taken in Bishop, the aircraft in the video may have originated from the Arizona National Guard or Utah’s Hill Air Force Base, although it is hard to know for sure because there are a number of air bases nearby that use the area for training.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Russia has two advanced helicopter gunships in service – the Kamov Ka-50/Ka-52 Hokum, and the Mi-28 Havoc. The obvious question – one thankfully never answered in real life – is how well they’d take out American (or Western) tanks and fighting vehicles?
The two helicopters competed against each other near the end of the Cold War — just as the Soviet Union was teetering but was still desperate to find something to match the tank-killing AH-64 Apache.
The Mi-24 Hind, which had earned a fearsome reputation as a “flying tank” in Afghanistan, was quickly becoming out-classed.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Mi-28 has a top speed of about 162 knots, and a range of 130 nautical miles. It is armed with the same 30mm cannon as the BMP-2, and carries about 250 rounds of ammunition. RussianHelicopters.aero notes that the Havoc can carry a wide variety of rockets and missiles.
The Kamov Ka-50 and Ka-52 are two versions of the Hokum attack helicopter. According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Hokum was officially named the winner of the competition with the Havoc in 1995, but in post-Cold War Russia, the production was slow.
Like the Mi-28, it has the same 30mm cannon used on the BMP-2 and can carry rockets and anti-tank missiles.
That is a total of 251 attack helicopters. This creates a problem for the Russians.
Having so few chopper means that they have two options: To either disperse the Havocs and Hokums, and let them be taken out piecemeal, or to concentrate them, and accept that the presence of Havocs and Hokums will be a big indication of where a Russian attack would take place for NATO intelligence.
So, how well would the Hokum and Havoc do in combat? One big problem is that the Russians will likely not have air superiority, largely due to the fact that many NATO planes are better.
While American and NATO F-22s, F-35s, Rafales, and Typhoons take air superiority from Russian Flankers and Fulcrums, a lot of F-16s and A-10s will be carrying out air support missions. The F-16s will feast on the Russian choppers when they aren’t dropping bombs themselves.
While those that reach the front will kill some Abrams, Leopard, Challenger, or LeClerc tanks, they will likely be wiped out as NATO takes advantage of air superiority.
In 1939, German scientist Adolf Butenandt was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in documenting how hormones transfer signals between the body’s cells and organs to regulate bodily functions. His discoveries were revolutionary, paving the way for many of today’s medical necessities, including birth control and steroids.
These same scientific revelations lead, eventually, to the creation of anabolic steroids. Today, the business of manufacturing and selling synthetic testosterone is massive — and highly illegal.
Although the military is considered a team environment, if you’re looking for a promotion, it’s ultimately up to you to work extremely hard to stand out among your peers. Some troops who want to gain a physical edge on their fellow brothers-in-arms, however, turn to various types of anabolic steroids to, hopefully, more quickly achieve their goals. Not only is this illegal, it’s also potentially dangerous.
Unfortunately, finding a vial testosterone, especially on a military installation, is pretty easy and young troops don’t mind trying out the fabricated hormone in hopes it’ll make them jacked. The majority of service members who take the mass-building substance, however, usually don’t understand what it does to the body.
Note: This is a basic overview of how anabolic steroids affect the human body. As always, do your own research.
When a soldier trains, their natural testosterone levels drop dramatically as the body releases other hormones, called glucocorticoids, which helps reduce inflammation. However, glucocorticoids have a secondary effect of sending your body into a catabolic state.
Being in a catabolic state means your muscle tissue is breaking down. During that state, steroids affect hormonal imbalance in two different ways. First, they replenish testosterone levels, which hastens muscle repair. Secondly, they’re known to block the glucocorticoids from breaking down muscle fibers.
When we tear a muscle during a workout, it’s the protein you’ve consumed during the day that makes its way to the damaged fiber and restores it, making it bigger and better each time. When someone takes a testosterone supplement, it quickly moves into your cells, activating protein synthesis and enhancing the rebuilding process.
According to Dr. Mehmet Oz, the average man produces between four and seven milligrams of testosterone per day. Compare that to a bottle testosterone enanthate, which can contain up to 300 milligrams per cc. This amount is injected by the average steroid user two to three times per week.
There are more than a few unpleasant side effects to taking anabolic, like acne, gynecomastia, fluid retention, and testicular atrophy. Long-term effects can include high blood pressure, increased cholesterol levels, and liver and heart damage.
Note: WATM doesn’t condone the use of steroids, but if you’re going to do them, you should carefully review the potential risks involved.
The martial tradition, training, and dominating warrior spirit of Gurkhas means they will do things in a fight that wouldn’t occur to even the most seasoned combat veterans. Gurkhas will fight outnumbered; they will fight outgunned. They hold their positions against impossible odds and often come out on top.
One of these stories of Gurkha heroism comes from Lachhiman Gurung in Burma after he was taken by surprise when Japanese troops opened up on him and his men and lobbed some grenades into their trench. Gurung picked up two of the grenades and threw them back to the 200 Japanese soldiers waiting in the darkness.
The third grenade blew up in Gurung’s hand.
He lost a few fingers, most of his right arm, and took shrapnel in his face and leg. Partially blind, bleeding profusely, and struggling to move, Gurung did something only a Gurkha would do: he pulled his Kukri knife with his good hand, stabbed the ground, and told the Japanese in a booming voice that none of them would make it past that knife.
He then picked up his rifle — a bolt-action Lee-Enfield Mk. III — chambered a round, and invited the enemy to “come fight a Gurkha.”
With his friends dead or dying, Gurung fought for hours, firing his bolt-action Lee-Enfield with one hand and killing anyone who entered his trench. He would lie down until the Japanese were on top of his position, kill the closest one at point-blank range, chamber a new round with his left hand, and then kill the enemy’s battle buddy.
Gurung killed 31 Japanese soldiers this way, fighting until morning the next day.
At the end of the battle, he was shouting “Come and fight. Come and fight. I will kill you!”
Gurung was hospitalized through the end of the war, losing partial vision in his right eye and the use of his right arm. He was awarded the Victoria Cross, Great Britain’s highest military honor, and was the only recipient still alive when his command presented medals for the battle.
He eventually moved to the U.K. to live out his life in peace. But he reemerged in 2008 when a controversial policy revoked the rights of some Gurkha veterans who retired before 1997 to live in the country. The government said the Gurkhas failed to “demonstrate strong ties to the U.K.”
Lachhiman Gurung put on his medals rack, went over to Britain’s High Court, and made another “last stand” — this time for his fellow WWII-era Gurkhas, and he pleaded to the Court and to the Queen to be allowed to stay.
There are so many resources for military spouses and service members, but the military girlfriends and boyfriends are often forgotten. In military dating life, the best resources possible are the men and women who have been there, done that.
After mentoring a young military girlfriend, I realized after the fact that the experience may have done me just as much good as it did her. It gave me the opportunity to reflect on my own journey as a milspouse/girlfriend and see the many obstacles I’ve overcome in the process.
My husband and I dated for nearly five years before we got married, which included living together for three and a half years. To be honest, this felt like forever, especially since we moved from the East Coast to Alaska during that time. We never experienced the carefree dating experience that some do, as I was a single mom already when we met. I moved to be closer to him within months of the start of our relationship and knew no one in town. I had a minor emergency one day and called him in a panic. He couldn’t physically help me at the moment, but he remembered that one of his coworkers happened to live in my neighborhood, so he connected me with the spouse of said service member. Long story short, she saved my day!
I will never forget my first encounter (as a military girlfriend) with a military spouse. She dropped what she was doing to help out a stranger in need. She told me afterward if I ever needed anything to never hesitate to reach out, and she meant it. She sprinkled snippets of wisdom over me during the next two years whenever our paths crossed. She was brutally honest about the things that frustrated her about military life, but she always did it with a laugh and a follow-up of something she loved about that same life. Fifteen years and many cross-country duty stations later, she is still there on the other end of the line (or Facebook messenger) whenever I need her. Both of us are more “seasoned” now than we were all those years ago, but the truth is we still have value to bring to each other’s lives and military journey. I will be forever grateful for her influence in my life, and I truly feel it set the pace for how I’ve approached every military spouse or girlfriend ever since.
Here are seven ways to mentor a military girlfriend:
We’ve all been there; just some spent much longer unwed than others. Give them hope. Share your pride in your journey. All these new trials are temporary. Some will resurface again from time to time in your military journey (hello PCS), but let her know that with each experience, she will grow and be better prepared to handle it next time. Whatever she’s stressing about, it’s likely you’ve been there. You’ll find yourself after this counseling session with a renewed appreciation for your own experiences.
Pay it forward.
Someone at some point in your journey held your hand and gave you strength or advice when you needed it most. There’s no one better than a seasoned military spouse to do this as long as you’re mindful and empathetic, not condescending. Sometimes a military girlfriend needs to be reminded that ALL military spouses have been the outsider at some point…no one gets married before spending some amount of time first dating that lucky hero. A good deed like mentoring will always leave you feeling full of gratitude for all who mentored you along the way.
Know that you’re both worth it.
Simply by giving your time, you are rescuing another from loneliness in some form or another. YOUR soul will benefit from that quality time with her as well. Valuable life lessons you’ve experienced are worth talking about. You never know when your story may help someone down the road. We often have no clue what battles others are facing or when they will arise, so when you take the time to share your personal challenges and victories, you are offering value whether you realize it or not.
Teach her to focus on the positive while still being aware of the potential negative. Don’t allow stress to cloud all judgement. Release the weight of what you can’t control, and not only will your life outlook change, but so will your LIFE. Hello? We all need this reminder!
Share your strength.
Unpredictability may be totally new to her. Help her see the perks and seize the opportunities that come her way. No better excuse to “just do it” than knowing that the chance to do so may not last long. Military life offers the perfect time to see just how brave you can be, and in the end, it’s totally empowering!
Give her resources.
You’ll find yourself digging through your internal toolkit and will be amazed at what you pull out of there for her! Links, groups, and ideas will all be helpful, and you’ll likely run across a few you forgot existed but quickly realize how handy they will be in your own life again now that they’ve resurfaced.
Show her love.
Teach her about military spouse bonds and how vital it is to build relationships within the community. It’s okay that she isn’t yet married, many of the issues she’s facing don’t discriminate between married/unmarried couples. Show her that she’s never alone and remind yourself of the same while you’re at it. Sometimes we allow ourselves to forget that one, and it’s one of the most important lessons of all.