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‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

It’s safe to say that we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to the gear we carry with us into the great outdoors. Whether you’re in the market for a new pocket knife or a thirty-foot camper to tow behind your truck, there’s no shortage of options available to you, each claiming their own “extreme” superlatives to make sure you know just how rugged they are. Of course, there’s one phrase you may see pop up more than many others when it comes to toughness: “military grade.”

The idea behind claiming your product is “military grade” is simple: the consuming public tends to think of the military as a pretty tough bunch, so if you tell me a product has met some military standard for toughness, it stands to reason that the product itself must be pretty damn tough, right?

Well… no.


‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means
The military actually employs thousands of people to maintain and repair “military grade” equipment. (Photo By: Master Sgt. Benari Poulten 80th Training Command Public Affairs)

 

The phrase “military grade” can be used on packaging and on promotional materials without going through any particular special toughness-testing. In fact, even when sticking closely to the intent behind the phrase, which would mean making the product meet the testing criteria set forth in the U.S. military’s MIL-STD-810 process, there’s still so much leeway in the language of the order that military grade could really mean just about anything at all.

The testing procedures set forth in the military standard are really more of a list of testing guidelines meant to ensure manufacturers use controlled settings and basic standards for reliability, and importantly, uniformity. The onus is on the manufacturer, not any military testing body, to meet the criteria set forth within that standard (or not) and then they can apply the words “military grade” to their packaging and marketing materials. In other words, all a company really has to do is decide to say their products are “military grade” and poof–a new tacti-tool is born.

It’s as simple as that. No gauntlet of Marines trying to smash it, no Airmen dropping it from the edge of space, and no Navy SEALs putting it through its paces under a sheet of ice near the Russian shore. The only real reason that pocket knife you just bought said “military grade” on the box is that the company’s marketing team knew plastering the phrase on stuff helps it sell.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means
Believe it or not, this is not how Marines test new gear. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Lucian Friel)

 

For those of us that have spent some time in uniform, that really shouldn’t come as a surprise. There’s never any shortage of jokes about the gear we’re issued coming from “the lowest bidder” for a reason: the gear we’re issued often really did come from the lowest bidder. Meeting the military standard (in mass production terms) usually means that a manufacturer was able to meet the minimum stated requirements at the lowest unit price. To be fair, those minimum requirements often do include concerns about durability, but balanced against the fiscal constraints of ordering for the force. When you’re budgeting to outfit 180,000 Marines with a piece of kit, keeping costs down is just as important in a staff meeting as getting a functional bit of gear.

But most products sold as “military grade” never even need to worry about those practical considerations, because the Defense Department isn’t in the business of issuing iPhone cases and flashlight key chains to everyone in a uniform. When these products advertise “military grade,” all they really mean is that they used some loosely established criteria to conduct their own product tests.

Of course, that’s not to say that products touting their “military grade” toughness are worthless–plenty of products with that meaningless label have proven themselves in the kits of millions of users, but the point is, the label itself means almost nothing at all.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How a day in the life of George Washington went

George Washington is widely regarded as the father of the United States.

It’s not surprising why. Not only did the general-turned-president ensure the survival of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, he also laid down a number of massively important precedents in his two terms as US president.

So how did he spend his days? Well, that likely varied a bit when he was commanding his army from 1775 to 1783. And, as it turns out, we know a bit more about the breakdown of his daily schedule when he resided at Mount Vernon, his estate on the banks of the Potomac River.

Here’s a breakdown of how a day in the life of George Washington unfolded at Mount Vernon:



‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

In a letter to his grandson, Washington acknowledged that an early wake-up could be “irksome.”

Source: “George Washington: The Man of the Age

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

(Virginia State Parks / Flickr)

Still, he added that “… the practice will produce a rich harvest forever thereafter.”

Source: “George Washington: The Man of the Age

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

(Meryl / Flickr)

Washington himself awoke early, frequently rising at dawn. He would start off his day with a meal of three small cornmeal cakes and three cups of tea, without cream.

Source: “George Washington’s Leadership Lessons: What the Father of Our Country Can Teach Us About Effective Leadership and Character

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

He would also bathe, shave, and have his hair brushed by Will Lee, his enslaved valet. When Washington died in 1799, the enslaved population of Mount Vernon was 317.

Source: Mount Vernon, “George Washington: First in War, First in Peace

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

Washington would then saddle up and ride around his 8,000-acre estate on horseback.

Source: Mount Vernon

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

(Ben Clark / flickr)

He would return home around 7 a.m. to eat breakfast with his family and any guests who had stopped by the estate.

Source: Mount Vernon, “George Washington: First in War, First in Peace

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

According to historian James A. Crutchfield, the Washingtons entertained hundreds of visitors every year.

Source: “George Washington: First in War, First in Peace,” “George Washington’s Leadership Lessons: What the Father of Our Country Can Teach Us About Effective Leadership and Character

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

Washington would also spend time in the morning catching up reading newspapers and magazines.

Source: Mount Vernon, “George Washington: The Man of the Age

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

Washington wasn’t a big eater, although he did enjoy a glass of Madeira wine with dinner. After his main meal of the day, he would continue riding around his estate.

Source: Moland House Historic Park, Mount Vernon, “George Washington: The Man of the Age

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

At Mount Vernon, dinner took place at 2 p.m. The first president would prepare for the dinner by changing and powdering his hair.

Source: Mount Vernon

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

Topics of conversation typically focused on agriculture, as well as current events. As an afternoon snack, he would indulge in a glass of punch, a draught of beer, and two cups of tea.

Source: “George Washington: First in War, First in Peace,” Mount Vernon

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

(Photo by Jeff Nelson)

He spent at least part of his day writing. According to Crutchfield, he was a prolific writer, authoring 20,000 letters.

Source: “George Washington: First in War, First in Peace,” Moland House Historic Park

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

(Mariya Prokopyuk / Flickr)

According to historian John P. Kaminski, Washington would have tea with guests at 7 p.m.

Source: “George Washington: The Man of the Age

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

During the Revolutionary War, Washington’s habits understandably varied a bit. If he had a free moment in the evening, he would relax with his aides, drinking Madeira wine and snacking on nuts, cheese, and bread.

Source: Moland House Historic Park

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

Benjamin Franklin

Dubious signs boasting that “George Washington slept here” have long been a common occurrence at historical buildings throughout the East Coast. But when it came to the man’s sleeping habits, he seemed to adhere to the “early to bed, early to rise” advice of his fellow Founding Father Benjamin Franklin.

Source: Smithsonian, The New York Times

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

(Photo by Kai Schreiber)

Washington preferred not to idle away the evening with his guests. And 9 p.m., he would retire to bed, and “read and write until the candle burned low.”

Source: “George Washington: The Man of the Age

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The wife of the famous ‘kissing sailor’ is in the iconic 1945 photo – and it’s not the nurse

You don’t have to be a history buff to be familiar with Alfred Eisenstaedt’s “Kissing Sailor” photo — though its actual title is “V-J Day in Times Square.” It was taken hours before President Truman officially announced America’s victory in the Pacific War. The sailor in the photo happened to be on a date in New York City. He suddenly decided to celebrate by kissing the closest nurse — it’s just too bad his date wasn’t a nurse.


Authors George Galdorisi and Lawrence Verria did an extensive background study on the photo in their 2012 book, The Kissing Sailor. Their extensive forensic analysis determined that sailor was George Mendonsa and the nurse was Greta Zimmer Friedman. Friedman was not prepared for the kiss. In later years, she admitted that she didn’t even see him coming and that the two were strangers.

Related: Iconic World War II nurse Greta Friedman dies at 92

Friedman was working in a dental office at nearby Lexington Avenue, and though the war hadn’t officially ended, the rumors around NYC were swirling that Imperial Japan was set to surrender. She went over to Time Square to read the latest news, and sure enough, the electronic tickers all read “V-J DAY, V-J DAY.” That’s when Mendonsa grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her in.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

“It wasn’t that much of a kiss, it was more of a jubilant act that he didn’t have to go back,” she told a Veteran’s History Project Interview. “I found out later, he was so happy that he did not have to go back to the Pacific where they already had been through the war.”

He grabbed a nurse because he was so grateful to nurses who tended the wounded in the war. The good news was her bosses cancelled the rest of the appointments for the day. The bad news was she never knew the sailor’s name. She never even saw the photo until the 1960s. What she did know was that Mendonsa had been drinking (he was likely drunk).

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

Then-Navy Quartermaster 1st Class George Mendonsa was on 30 days leave from his ship, The Sullivans, at the time. He had been at the helm during the Battle of Okinawa, rescuing sailors from the carrier Bunker Hill after it was hit by kamikaze attacks. It’s small wonder he was happy to not have to go back into combat.

He was on a date with his then-girlfriend, Rita Perry, a woman that would later become his wife, waiting for his train back to the West Coast and back to the war. That’s when he heard the news that the war was over.

Rita can be seen just over Mendonsa’s right shoulder.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means
Former Navy Quartermaster 1st Class George Mendonsa and his wife of 71 years, Rita, celebrate George’s 95th birthday.(Photo by Hal Burke)

By the time The Kissing Sailor hit bookshelves, Rita Perry (now Mendonsa) and George Mendonsa had been married for 66 years. When asked about her feelings being in the background of a famous photo of her husband, 95 years old as of 2018, kissing another woman, she said, “he’s never kissed me like that.”

MIGHTY BRANDED

Why now is the perfect time for military families to refinance home loans

In recent weeks, Wall Street has talked a lot about the fears of a coming recession, fueled by a drop in government bond yields. The casual investor may have no idea what this means for them, but for homeowners in the military and beyond, it means now is the perfect time to refinance a mortgage.


What any potential refinancer needs to know is that the falling bond yield is pushing mortgage rates to their lowest levels in three years. In November 2018, the interest rate was steady at five percent. Eight months later, the interest rate in now at 3.6 percent and looking to fall further.

This isn’t some shady internet ad, promising easy money on Obama-era mortgage laws or new Trump-era government home loans – those certainly exist and everyone should be wary about trusting easy money. But the drop in mortgage rates comes directly from Freddie Mac, whose rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 3.6 in August 2019. The reason is that the 30-year rate is linked to 10-year Treasury Bonds. The rate of return on those bonds just fell to their lowest since October 2016.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

(St. Louis Federal Reserve)

What this means is that suddenly your homeowner dollar goes a little bit further, considering the cost of taking out a new loan or refinancing an old one just dropped. According to Caliber Home Loans, a lending company who specializes in military and veteran homebuyers, the rule of thumb used to be that the interest rate for a new mortgage must be about two percentage points below the rate of a current mortgage for refinancing to make sense.

With new low- and no-cost refinancing from Caliber and other lenders, refinancing could make sense any time – especially right now, given the latest interest rates. A refinance could reduce overall interest while reducing a monthly payment. If you acted right now, you wouldn’t be alone, not by far. Falling rates boost the U.S. housing market.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

It’s important to think of your home as an investment, too.

“My applications are up across the board,” said Angela Martin, a Nashville, Tenn.-based loan officer told the Wall Street Journal. “Every time the Fed starts talking is when my phone starts ringing off the hook.”

What Martin means is the Federal Reserve just cut the benchmark interest rate after a few successive rate hikes. This is when people start looking for a better deal. But be wary – lenders will sometimes employ different perks after a rate drop to entice customers to accept things like credits at closing instead of a lower rate.

For military families and veteran homeowners, look into military-oriented lenders like Caliber Home Loans. Caliber and companies like it specialize in the needs and benefits afforded to military members and veterans. Caliber is also a proud sponsor of the 2019 Military Influencer Conference, a three-day conference of service members, veterans, and spouses who work to elevate the military veteran community.

Articles

These kamikaze drones pack an explosive surprise

The U.S. military has truly gone bonkers for unmanned aerial systems, with a vast inventory of surveillance drones alongside a few that are big enough to carry missiles for precision strikes.


But imagine if a UAS could observe a target for units on the ground, providing intel on a key terrorist leader or bomb making factory and be the bomb that takes them out.

That’s the kind of capability special operations units like the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command are looking for, and a few companies displaying their wares at the 2016 Modern Day Marine Expo and this year’s Association of the U.S. Army conference are offering the technology to fit that mission.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means
Developed by an Israeli defense company, the Hero-30 can fly over 3 miles to its target and orbit for more than 30 minutes before homing in for the kill. (Photo by We Are The Mighty)

Developed by Israeli defense firm UVision, the Hero-30 is a beyond line of sight unmanned aerial vehicle that packs into an 11 pound launch canister that can be carried onto battle on a trooper’s back. The drone is about 4 feet long and is launched by a pneumatic shot of air. Once airborne, a soldier flies the vehicle using a handheld control unit which allows him to orbit his target for up to 30 minutes.

Once the bad guy is in sight, the operator just flies the drone straight into its target for the kill. The Hero-30 warhead can be configured for point detonation or air burst while still in flight.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JChwrALofLQ
 

“It is lightweight for a special ops team or an infantry squad to be able to provide them with a precision munition they can fly themselves,” said Clinton Anderson with Mistral Inc., which represents UVision in the U.S. “You can designate how you want it to attack and how you want the fuse to operate and you launch it in attack mode and it comes in right on the target and blows up.”

UVision also has a new version dubbed the Hero-40 that’s a bit longer with greater range and explosive payload and is intended for vehicle-borne operations and missions.

One of the oldest companies in the small UAV business Aerovironment has a more scaled-down answer to the kamikaze drone requirement with its Switchblade miniature lethal aerial system.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means
The Aerovironment Switchblade lethal drone munition can be carried in a backpack and launched at a moment’s notice by troops in contact. (Photo by We Are The Mighty)

Coming in at just under 5 pounds with its diminutive launcher, the Switchblade has a 10 km range and can loiter over a target for about 10 minutes. It’s so small the Switchblade can fit inside a typical tactical pack and delivers a lethal blast on target using a small, handheld ground control system.

“This miniature, remotely-piloted or autonomous platform can either glide or propel itself via quiet electric propulsion, providing real-time GPS coordinates and video for information gathering, targeting, or feature/object recognition,” the company says. “The vehicle’s small size and quiet motor make it difficult to detect, recognize and track even at very close range.”

Company officials say the U.S. Army is buying the Switchblade for testing with its infantry troops and special operations soldiers.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why this US Navy crew is going old-school with Louisville Sluggers

It’s not often sailors get permission to take a baseball bat to a multimillion-dollar aircraft carrier.

But when the Navy‘s aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman sailed into the Arctic Circle for the first time in nearly three decades, its crew was ordered to do just that.

The Truman sailed into the Arctic Circle on Oct. 19, 2019, to conduct operations in the Norwegian Sea. After years of operations in warmer climates, leaders had to think carefully about the gear they’d need to survive operations in the frigid conditions.


“We had to open a lot of old books to remind ourselves how to do operations up there,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said this week during the McAleese Defense Programs Conference, an annual program in Washington, D.C.

In one of those books was a tip for the Truman’s crew from a savvy sailor who knew what it would take to combat ice buildup on the flattop.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.

“[It said] ‘Hey, when you get out to do this, when you head on out, don’t forget to bring a bunch of baseball bats,'” Richardson said. “‘There’s nothing like bashing ice off struts and masts and bulkheads like a baseball bat, so bring a bunch of Louisville Sluggers.’

“And we did,” the CNO said.

Operating in those conditions is likely to become more common. Rising temperatures are melting ice caps and opening sea lanes that weren’t previously passable, Richardson said.

But it takes a different set of skill sets than today’s generation is used to, he added.

“Getting proficiency in doing flight operations in heavy seas, in cold seas — just operating on deck in that type of environment is a much different stress than doing flight operations on a deck that’s 120 degrees in the Middle East,” Richardson said. “You’ve got to recapture all these skills in heavy seas.”

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Taylor M. DiMartino)

The Truman’s push into the Arctic was part of an unpredictable deployment model it followed last year. For years, the Navy got good at taking troops and gear to the Middle East, hanging out there for as long as possible, and then coming home.

Now, Richardson said, there’s a different set of criteria.

“We’re going to be moving these maneuver elements much more flexibly,” he said. “Perhaps unpredictably around the globe, so we’re not going to be back and forth, back and forth.”

The Truman sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar after leaving Norfolk, Virginia, last spring. The carrier stopped in the Eastern Mediterranean, where it carried out combat missions against the Islamic State group and trained with NATO allies.

About three months later, the carrier was back in its homeport before heading back out — during which it made the stop in the Arctic Circle. The carrier strike group returned home in December 2018.

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

Articles

These tactical weathermen predict the rain and can bring the pain

Special operations forces are a diverse lot.


The Green Berets can bring in engineers, comms specialists, and even weapons specialists. The Navy SEALs bring their own lethal skills, as do Navy EOD personnel. The Air Force, though, has shown it can deploy surgical teams that can operate in remote conditions, combat controllers, pararescuemen, and other specialists.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means
A Special Operations Weatherman with the 125th Special Tactics Squadron takes readings during training at Fort Carson, Colo., April 21, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. John Hughel, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

Perhaps the most interesting of those other specialists are the Special Operations Weathermen. Yeah, that’s right – the Air Force has trained meteorologists who can go in with other special operations personnel. Now, you can understand a unit like a special operations surgical team, but why a weatherman? At first glance, that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means
Members of Air Force Special Operations weather teams participate in a training scenario on a CH-47 Chinook during Emerald Warrior at Hurlburt Field, Fla., on March 7, 2012. (USAF photo)

Believe it or not, weather matters in military operations. Air drops in Sicily in 1943 and during the invasion of Normandy on D-Day were greatly affected by the wind. Today, even with GPS, air-dropping supplies depends on knowing what the wind will be like. While the “little groups of paratroopers” are legendary, the better outcome is to have most of the troops and supplies land together.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means
Staff Sgt. Stephen Petche, 10th Combat Weather Squadron, takes observations after releasing a weather balloon during a training exercise July 31, 2013 at the Eglin Range, Fla. SOWTs provide immediate and accurate weather information and forecasts deep behind enemy lines. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Victoria Porto)

These “weather commandos” need to attend eight schools from across the country to earn their gray beret, and spend 61 weeks in training. This involves everything from learning how to forecast the weather and to take the observations to learning small unit tactics to handling both water survival and underwater egress training. These personnel even attend the Airborne School at Fort Benning.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means
Staff Sgt. Christopher Allen, a special operations weather specialist from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron, scans Sendai Airport prior to conducting a weather observation here March 16. Sudden snow and low visibility threatened to prevent aircraft from landing at the airfield. A team from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron out of Kadena Air Base, along with Japanese emergency management organizations, cleared a section of the runway and re-established the control tower to direct flights in and out of the airfield. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse)

Even after those 61 weeks, when they become Special Operations Weathermen, these “Weather Warriors” will spend a year in further training before they deploy.

They will head out, not only to help predict the wind and rain, but to help bring the pain on the bad guys.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight

The skill and agility of airmen from Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, were on full display at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, Nov. 19-Nov. 22, 2019, during exercise Mobil Tiger.

The asymmetric advantage of US combat troops is greatly increased by the venerable A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft. Commonly known as the “Warthog,” this staple of combat air support depends greatly upon the expertise of airmen who operate and sustain them.

“Mobil Tiger is an agile combat deployment exercise,” said Air Force Major Zachary Krueger, an A-10 pilot assigned to the 23rd Wing Exercises and Plans office at Moody AFB. “The intent was to provide close air support and recover to an austere field, using only weapons and fuel we had available ourselves.”


‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Aaron Edmonds, an A-10 Thunderbolt II crew chief, coordinates maintenance operations for exercise Mobil Tiger, at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brad Tipton)

During the exercise, US Air Force HC-130J Combat King II aircraft assigned to the 71st Rescue Squadron, Moody AFB, dropped off maintenance and security forces personnel along with their equipment and supplies on a remote corner of the MacDill AFB flight line to begin operations.

Security forces established a security perimeter while maintainers pulled their tools, set up chalks and placed munitions stands. They were swiftly joined by 74th Fighter Squadron A-10s, ready to be configured for combat.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

Weapons load crew members remove flares from an A-10 Thunderbolt II at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brad Tipton)

“I was part of the first crew to hit the ground on MacDill where we quickly began finding ways to improve our time and efficiency,” said Senior Airman Dylan Holton, 23rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crewmember.

Deriving no support from MacDill AFB other than a slab of concrete on which to operate, the 23rd AMXS Airmen reconfigured weapons on the A-10s, quickly unloading one aircraft, guiding the next into position and arming them prior to take-off.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

Weapons load crew members remove flares from an A-10 Thunderbolt II at at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brad Tipton)

“It was my first time to experience an exercise like this and be at the center of all the action,” said Holton. “We moved as quickly and safely as possible to get the mission done.”

Joining the A-10s on the ramp were HH-60Gs from the 41st Rescue Squadron, which received fully stocked ammunition cans for their .50 caliber guns from the maintainers on the ground.

Elsewhere on the ramp, crews transferred fuel from the HC-130J aircraft to the A-10s and the HH-60Gs, thereby extending their range and operations.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

Airmen load munitions on an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft during exercise Mobil Tiger on MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, Nov. 20, 2019.

(US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Brad Tipton)

“It’s awe inspiring seeing them execute to such a high level, learn lessons and show everyone else around them so that if and when we execute this mission downrange, we’re able to be effective and bring the whole weight of the 23rd Wing’s combat power to the combatant commander,” added Krueger.

Mobil Tiger serves as proof that the US Air Force can project lethal force at any chosen time and place.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.

Jenny Byers, a first time mom living in San Diego at the time, laid on the hospital bed with tears streaming down her face as her son, Declan, was placed on her chest.

In what was such a joyous moment in her life, Byers wished just one thing — that her husband could be there to witness the occasion. She turned over her shoulder as a nurse nearby held up a computer with a live FaceTime call with PJ Byers, meeting his son for the first time.


‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

Courtesy of Jenny Byers

“That’s your daddy,” she said to her newborn son experiencing skin-to-skin beneath a blanket.

PJ Byers redeployed when Declan was five months old and they met for the first time face-to-face in an emotional airport family reunion.

“At first I was scared our family was being robbed of one of the most special moments of our lives,” Jenny Byers told We Are The Mighty. “But I was wrong. That moment was still just as special, but in a way I wasn’t expecting. Thanks to modern day technology, we got to meet our son together.”

The Byers family’s story is not an outlier. Being married to someone in the military often means facing many of life’s challenges without your significant other and pregnancy is no exception.

“When my son was born we were at Fort Campbell, and my daughter was four,” said Sophie Pappas, a journalist and Army spouse. “I ended up driving myself to the hospital while my mom from Indiana stayed with my daughter. The midwife was super amazing during my second birth. She held one of my legs up with one of her hands and with her other hand she held my iPhone so my husband could FaceTime and see everything! I will always be grateful he was able to at least watch over FaceTime.”

Pappas credits the love and adrenaline running through her body for being able to deliver her baby boy without focusing on the absence of her husband.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

Courtesy of Sophie Pappas

“When I was pushing, I remember laying in the hospital room at 8-centimeters dilated, totally alone,” she shared. “My water broke and I started to push right then and there with not even a nurse around. I didn’t know how to call anyone in, so I just started doing it alone. Looking back, that was one of the most amazing moments of my life. The strength that your body has to just do what it needs to do is incredible.”

While military spouses facing pregnancy alone and delivery without their spouse is not new, this is an unprecedented situation for many pregnant civilians as the coronavirus outbreak continues.

Heading to appointments without spousal support or delivering a new baby in a plan that looks different than it did six months ago is a scary realization that is top-of-mind for many moms-to-be.

Here is what military spouses who were pregnant and/or delivered alone want to share with expectant moms:

“I wish I trusted in myself a little more that I was capable and strong enough to do it alone and that it wouldn’t be forever. I also talked to my OB/GYN who knew about my experience and would let me videotape parts of the appointment such as ultrasounds. She was also really good about giving me lots of US pictures that I could send to my husband.” – Maureen Hannan Tufte

“I would tell them to be sure and ask for help when they need it. I was pretty stubborn about trying to do it all on my own, but when I did have help, I would realize how much I really needed it. Maybe find pregnancy groups (fitness or otherwise) to get involved in. Maybe they’ll find a kindred spirit who is going through the same thing? I would tell them that they can get through this.” – Julie Estrella

“I think the biggest thing with any pregnancy is that whether a national pandemic or a deployment or any event gets in the way, you’re going to have this ‘idea’ of exactly how you want things to go or you think things will go. I can 10000% guarantee that no pregnancy has ever turned out exactly like the mom and dad to be imagined, it’s just life. The sooner you adjust to the idea that things may change or unexpected events may occur, the better your anxiety and nerves will be and the less it will sting when that inevitable curveball comes your way.” – Kati Simmons

“It’s scary to be pregnant by yourself, especially during a first pregnancy. But the baby will keep growing no matter whether or not your partner is available. All you can do is take care of yourself and try not to stress out. Then be sure to Reach out to friends, call family, do what you can to find support because there are definitely people who are willing to help.” – Julie Yaste

“What brought me comfort before giving birth without my husband was hearing about other women who had labored alone before me. Knowing I wasn’t the only one to ever face this situation gave me every affirmation I needed, to know I was going to be okay.” – Jenny Byers

“I would tell someone to not get hung up on who won’t be there, think about who will. You and your baby! Embrace these moments to bond and build a connection. Dwelling on the sadness of your spouse not being there takes away from the joy.” – Kelsey Bucci

“We are capable and able to do hard things. It will be ok. Not having your spouse around for the birth is really hard. But, it will be ok. Lots of pictures and FaceTime. We are lucky to live in a land of technology.” – Alana Steppe

“Know it’s only temporary and the feeling of seeing your husband or spouse with your baby will be the most amazing feeling and make it all worth it.” – Emily Stewart

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

Courtesy of Kelly Callahan

“You are stronger than you know, and while the situation may not look anything like what you pictured, it is amazing what our mind and body will do (and do well) when we are faced with the challenge of bringing a new life into the world. What I realize now that we are on the other side of it, is that this situation is a small piece of our story and it’s a beautiful one. Lucy is in kindergarten now and I’ve heard her share with classmates and teachers more than once that her daddy could not be there when she was born, so she got to meet him on the computer, because he was fighting bad guys in other places. It all adds to who we are and how we are shaped. I would also add that the nurses and doctor who helped me deliver stepped up in ways I never could have imagined. They made sure the technology was just right so that my husband was included and included him in the conversations. They supported me like we had known each other for years and cried with me when she was born. The medical community is amazing and will not let anyone feel alone.” – Kelly Callahan

A spouse who wished to remain anonymous gave sage advice for expectant moms from the perspective of both a mom of six and labor and delivery nurse of ten years:

“I can confidently tell you that now, more than ever, your nurses are ready to be your doula, photographer and friend,” she shared. “You will not be left alone. You will have our entire team here to celebrate with you on your special day.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

The third Revolutionary ‘midnight ride’ you never heard about

The British are coming, the British are coming!” This cry likely brings to mind the name of Paul Revere, immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poetry. Students learn about the legendary ride as early as elementary school, but Revere’s younger, female counterpart is rarely mentioned: Sybil Ludington.

On April 26, 1777, when she was just 16 years old, Sybil rode from Putnam County, New York to Danbury, Connecticut to warn of advancing British troops. Her ride took place in the dead of night, lasting from 9:00 P.M. to dawn the next morning. She rode her horse, Star, over 40 miles to warn 400 militiamen that the British troops were planning to attack Danbury, where the Continental Army held a supply of food and weapons.


The militiamen were able to move their supplies and warn the residents of Danbury. The afternoon following her warning, British troops burned down several buildings and homes, but few people were killed. It was considered a wild success by the militiamen. Sybil was heralded as a hero by her friends, neighbors, and reportedly even General George Washington.

Her ride is similar to those of William Dawes and Paul Revere in 1775 in Massachusetts, and Jack Jouett in 1781 in Virginia. However, Sybil rode more than twice the distance of these midnight riders and was far younger. You may ask why Sybil was the one to take on this ride: Her father, Henry Ludington, was a colonel and the head of the local militia.

Sybil had long moved from town to town with her father and previously saved his life from a royalist assassination attempt. It’s not known if Sybil volunteered for her ride or if her father requested her assistance in a moment of need. In any case, her brave contribution undoubtedly saved the lives of many men, women, and children.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means
(Alchetron photo)

After the war, at 23, Sybil married a man named Edmond Ogden. Together they had one child, and settled on a farm in Catskill, New York. Here, they lived and worked until her death in 1839. She was 77 years old. Sybil was buried near her father in the Patterson Presbyterian Cemetery in Patterson, New York.

Although remembered in Putnam county and the surrounding area, Sybil Ludington was largely lost to the annals of American history. It wasn’t until after her death that her story gained traction. The tale of her ride was first shared among her family and eventually documented by her grandson. In 1880, a New York historian named Martha Lamb published an account of Sybil Ludington’s famed ride in a book about the New York City area, documenting Sybil’s life after her ride as well.

In 1935, New York State commissioned a series of historical markers along Sybil’s route. A statue of the young woman was erected near Carmel, New York in 1961 and smaller statues can be found stretching from the Daughters of the American Revolution Headquarters in Washington, D.C. to Murrells Inlet, South Carolina.

Sybil made an appearance on a postage stamp as part of the “Contributors to the Cause” United States Bicentennial series in 1975. Since 1979, every year in April a 50K ultramarathon is put on in honor of Sybil’s legendary ride. The hilly course covers roughly the same grounds as Sybil’s route, and finishes near her statue on the shore of Lake Gleneida, Carmel, New York.

sybil ludington


It’s worth noting that not every historian is convinced of the veracity of Sybil Ludington’s midnight ride. Paula D. Hunt published a paper in The New England Quarterly arguing that there’s no reliable historical evidence to prove Ludington indeed made the trip from New York to Connecticut. The New York Times also examined the issue in a 1995 article about the Sybil Ludington statue in Carmel.

Of course, numerous outlets, authors, and organizations stand by Sybil Ludington’s midnight ride—from the United States Postal Service and the National Women’s History Museum to the New England Historical Society and American historian Carol Berkin in her book Revolutionary Mothers.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Criminal’ — The Navy really effed up its new $13 billion supercarrier

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee sharply criticized the Navy’s failures with the new USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, saying that these missteps “ought to be criminal.”

During the confirmation hearing for Vice Adm. Michael Gilday, who is set to become the next chief of naval operations, Sen. Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, unleashed a string of criticisms about the first ship of the Navy’s Ford-class carriers.

“The ship was accepted by the Navy incomplete, nearly two years late, two and a half billion dollars over budget, and nine of eleven weapons still don’t work with costs continuing to grow,” the senator said.


The Navy still conducts burials at sea

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The Navy still conducts burials at sea

“The Ford was awarded to a sole-source contractor,” which was asked to incorporate immature technologies “that had next to no testing, had never been integrated on a ship — a new radar, catapult, arresting gear, and the weapons elevators,” he continued, adding that the Navy entered into this contract “without understanding the technical risk, the cost, or the schedules.”

Read more: The Navy’s new supercarriers can’t deploy with new stealth fighters

“This ought to be criminal,” he said, further criticizing what he called the Navy’s “arrogance.”

The cost of the USS Gerald R. Ford, according to the latest report to Congress, has ballooned to just over billion, well over budget, and when the ship completes post-sea trial maintenance and is returned to the fleet in October — it was initially supposed to return in July but was delayed — it still won’t be working properly.

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer bet his job on a promise to President Trump that the advanced weapons elevators would be ready to go by the end of the current maintenance period, but the Navy has already said that is not going to happen.

Only a handful of the advanced weapons elevators, a critical internal system required to move weapons to the flight deck, increase aircraft sortie rates and increase the overall lethality of the ship will be operational when the USS Gerald R. Ford returns to the fleet this fall.

The Navy has had to call in outside experts to try to find a solution to this particular problem.

See What Life Is Like On A US Navy Carrier | Military Insider

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See What Life Is Like On A US Navy Carrier

Gilday, who was asked to comment seeing that this issue “is going to be dumped in your lap,” as the senator explained, assured Inhofe that if he is confirmed as the Navy’s next top admiral, he will push the service to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not wasted.

“I share your concern,” he told the senator, explaining that the current status is unacceptable. “We need all 11 elevators working in order to give us the kind of redundancy and combat readiness that the American taxpayer has invested in this ship.”

“We’ve had 23 new technologies introduced on that ship,” he added. “Of those, four were immature when we commissioned Ford in 2017. We have seen progress in the launching system, the arresting gear and also with the dual-band radar. The reliability of those systems is trending in the right direction and actually where we want to be based on the last at-sea testing.”

Gilday characterized the elevators as the last remaining “hurdle” to getting the Ford out to sea.

He assured lawmakers that the Navy will take the lessons of the Ford and apply them to not only all future Ford-class carriers, but also the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways the military-veteran community is changing in the coming years

At the start of the new millennium, the United States military was a very different organization. But then, so too was the United States as a country. In the past 20 years, the military has experienced an incredible shift in not only demographics, but also in the way it is formed. This trend will only continue.


A Pew Research Center study of the Department of Defense analyzed all of the data released by the U.S. military on its demographic makeup and found some key facts about how the U.S. military and the men and women who served in it has changed.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

The Army is still the biggest, and the other branches are shrinking

In 2015, the Army was more than a third of the total active-duty force of the United States military. The Air Force and Navy were about a quarter of the force each, with the Marines and Coast Guard comprising 14 percent and 3 percent, respectively. These days, the Navy and Air Force have seen a sizable shrinkage in terms of how big they are in comparison to Big Army. The Marine Corps has also shrunk, although not to the same extent.

The Coast Guard, however, has grown.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

The profile of the American veteran will shift significantly

Right now, 91 percent of veterans are male, but by 2045, the share of female veterans is expected to double while the actual number of female veterans will increase to more than 2.2 million. The number of male veterans is predicted to drop by half, to 9.8 million in 2045. These groups will also become more ethnically diverse as the older generations of veterans die. The share of Hispanic vets is expected to double, and the expected share of African-American veterans will increase to 16 percent.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

Fewer Americans are veterans and that number will only drop

As of 2015, seven percent of the American population were veterans, down from 18 percent in 1980. With it came a drop in the number of active-duty military personnel, and the numbers keep on dropping. In 2045, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates the number of veterans will drop by 40 percent of its current population, as Gulf War vets become the dominant era, and Vietnam veterans start to die off.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

More women are joining – and more are in command

The number of women in the U.S. military is rapidly changing. According to the Defense Department, women now make up 20 percent of the Air Force, 19 percent of the Navy, 15 percent of the Army, and almost 9 percent of the Marine Corps. More than one in five commissioned officers were women in 2017, a number that is projected to rise, a far cry from women being just five percent of officers in 1975.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

The U.S. military is getting smaller – troops are seeing more action

One in five veterans today served after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. As a result of being a smaller force than the U.S. military of the Cold War Era, which includes the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and other conflicts of the time, Members of the post-9/11 military generation were more likely to have deployed and served in combat. They are also more likely to have experienced some kind of traumatic incident.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Pittsburgh Steelers honor WWII Army veteran brothers

Two brothers who served in the Army during World War II were honored during the home opener for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Seattle Seahawks with the ATI Salute to Heroes Award.

Former Cpl. Theodore “Ted” Joseph Sikora, 99, served in the Battle of the Bulge in France in 1944 and 1945. Former Sgt. Ed Sikora, 95, served in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1943 and later in the Pacific theater of operations.

The brothers expressed thanks for the tribute. “We’re not used to this much recognition, and I’m very grateful,” said Ted Sikora.


Ed Sikora said he was proud to serve. “I cherished the opportunity to serve my country,” he said.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

Former Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris shakes hands with Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Vollstedt, grandson-in-law of Ted Sikora.

(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Dalton Smith)

Although they are natives of Washington, Pennsylvania, both now live in the Pittsburgh area.

Ted Sikora was a crew member on a Curtiss C-46 Commando and Douglas C-47 Skytrain as a member of the 8th Army Air Force. Those transport aircraft dropped much-needed supplies to the besieged American soldiers.

He was stationed in England on D‐Day — June 6, 1944 — and remembers having trouble sleeping because of the noise from the airplanes taking off for France.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

In a historic photo, Ed Sikora poses during basic training at Camp Edwards, Mass.

(Ed Sikora)

He also remembers planes returning damaged and on fire. He said he witnessed a lot of things he will never forget, and that he doesn’t really like to talk about.

After the war, Ted Sikora worked as a machinist. Now, he enjoys working out and taking Zumba classes.

Ed Sikora was on the opposite side of the world, assigned to the 7th Infantry Division 502nd Anti Artillery Gun Battalion.

Although Ed Sikora wasn’t in Oahu when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, he said the Americans were expecting another attack so they were on constant vigil.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

A historic photo of Ted Sikora as a cadet shows him dressed in a flight uniform with a white ascot, black jacket, headgear and goggles.

(Courtesy of Ted Sikora)

In October 1944, he was attached to the 7th Infantry Division, which landed in the Philippines amid bombing by Japanese fighter planes. His unit was credited with downing six enemy planes.

In 1945, Ed Sikora participated in the Battle of Okinawa. His unit was credited with downing 33 Japanese aircraft.

Later in life, Ed Sikora taught high school and college, specializing in industrial arts. He later established a fruit orchard in California.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

Brothers Ed and Ted Sikora, both Army service members, pose for a photo with their rifles crossed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

(Courtesy of Ed and Ted Sikora)

Ted Sikora’s granddaughter, Alia Ann Vollstedt, is married to Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Vollstedt, who participated in the game’s opening ceremony joint-service color guard. Daniel Vollstedt is with 2nd Battalion, Army Reserve Careers Division, based in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania.

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

Brothers Ed and Ted Sikora pose for a photo wearing World War II veteran caps in October 2018.

(Courtesy of Ed and Ted Sikora)

Daniel Vollstedt said the two veterans have shared some of their stories with him over the years and were proud of his decision to enlist in the Army.

John Wodarek, the Steelers’ marketing manager, said the brothers were selected for the honor because Ted Sikora will turn 100 in March 2020 — which ties in with the National Football League’s 100th-season anniversary being observed this year and next.

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

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