3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

Over the past few years, public awareness of veteran suicide has increased and, more importantly, people are more aware than ever before of the resources available to help struggling veterans and active-duty service members. However, in the past year, we’ve noticed a disturbing new aspect of the problem — there have been a number of recent suicides among high-profile veterans who stood as beacons of hope for others in the suicide prevention movement.


At the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), our Red Team has been reflecting on these losses and their impact on suicide prevention and postvention efforts across the military and veteran community.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
The late Pfc. Kevin S. Jacobs, United States Marine Corps infantryman. Pfc. Kevin Jacobs struggled with anxiety, emotional pain, and grief due to his experiences at war. Both he and his brother Bryan Keith Jacobs a veteran U.S. Navy Corpsman suffered from PTSD and emotionally began to drift apart. Kevin’s experiences eventually got the best of him, and on Memorial Day, May 28, 2014, Kevin died by suicide. (Guest Photo by Bryan Keith Jacobs, U.S. Navy Veteran)

If any among us believes that suicide is an act of weakness, we should alter our thinking: even the strongest of us — the fierce tribe of warriors who fight our wars — sometimes die by suicide. A man or woman can be a hero to many, noted for his or her uncommon bravery and unconquerable fighting spirit, and still be at risk. Such a man or woman is a true hero.

A second truth is that death by suicide leaves a wake of loss, risk, and regret that is devastating to our community. Many times, I have witnessed and walked with veterans who are cut to the core by this kind of loss. They often say that they “did not see it coming.” In addition to shock and overwhelming grief, they often feel angry that their brother or sister did not reach out to them. Far too often have I heard, “I would have dropped everything to be there if I had only known.”

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Soldiers with 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, behavioral health team, host a Cars Against Suicide Car Show Dec. 1, 2017 at Fort Stewart, Ga. The Cars against Suicide event was hosted by 2nd ABCT in an effort to  promote awareness and offer resources to help prevent suicide. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Robert Winns)

They also express a deep sense of helplessness, a kind of helplessness that puts them directly at risk for self-destructive actions. And sometimes, when they think of losing a leader among them to suicide, they feel great fear. If this fear had a voice, it might say, “if suicide felt like the only option for a person this strong, what does that mean for me?”

These reactions are the last thing their hero would have wanted them to think and feel.

A family and an entire community can be changed forever based on a decision made in one day of suffocating despair. There is the heroic life lived, but also the death that leaves behind more loss and destruction. How can we make sense of senseless loss?

Based on our work with veterans and military service members over the past ten years, here are 3 things we offer for the community to consider.

3. The tribe is stronger than the power of despair.

To learn to be seamlessly interdependent is to reach the summit of our human potential — it is not a sign of weakness. The lifeblood of those who do battle together is love and trust between those who would lay their lives down for each other.

Connection with the tribe is the protective factor that buffers against despair and disconnection, even in the most extreme situations. This bond of trust is stronger than despair and, when the tribe comes together and locks shields, it has a power that can defeat demons.

2. Balancing legacy and prevention.

Suicidal thinking arises in the context of a perfect storm of events; there’s never just one precipitating event. Self-destructive acts are most often the result of a combination of overwhelming mental anguish, physical pain, a biochemistry altered by chronically poor sleep, and events that create a perception of acute hopelessness. What are we to do if a perfect storm presents itself to us? Here, we can continue to find meaning and hope from the life of a hero and the things that he or she stood for.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Silkies Hike participants pose for a photo Oct. 21 in Bakersfield, California. The hike brought veterans for a 22-kilometer ruck march through town to bring awareness to the veteran suicide. (Courtesy photo by Susumu Uchiyama)

While it is important to honor the life lived, it is equally important to balance that message with education, resources, and support around preventing additional suicides. We must think about the message that he or she carried over many years of life, while also understanding the contributing factors of that single, perfect-storm day. What did the person argue for with all of their energies while they were alive? Can their death be used to support the message that was so important during their life? Did this person advocate for turning to one’s tribe, for trusting in one’s community to supply the strength to fight demons? Was this person able to do for themselves what they encouraged in others?

These are the lessons learned on the look back that balance preventing another loss of life with the heroic life lived.

1. Leaders also need the tribe.

Finally, those who stand as a beacon of hope may have some under-appreciated vulnerabilities. Veterans are often driven to find a next mission and derive a great sense of purpose — sometimes even life-saving purpose — from inspiring others to stay in the fight. However, when veterans become caregivers and public examples of strength, there is an additional pressure that is placed on their shoulders as they hold the hope of their brothers and sisters. Veterans have expressed to us that as soon as they became a caregiver of other veterans, they have felt, in some indescribable way, a door is closed to them in terms of seeking help for themselves.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Bryan Watson, secretary for the Defenders of Freedom Pittsburgh, a nonprofit organization out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, carries the American flag and leads volunteers during the 2nd Annual Stop 22 Ruck March, at North Park in Allison Park, Pennsylvania on November 11, 2017. The ruck march is held on Veterans Day to raise awareness about veteran suicide. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Miguel Alvarez, 354th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

As we work with veteran and military leaders, we have observed that their first instinct is often to isolate in the hope of “getting it together” when their stress feels overwhelming. It runs against their instincts, developed through training and culture, to turn to their tribe when they themselves need support. This does not mean that they do not believe in the value of help-seeking, but may feel shame and guilt when they need it for themselves.

Maybe these leaders and heroes become like a lighthouse, helping keep other people safe, holding strong against the storm. But what happens when the lighthouse itself becomes enveloped by lashing waves and raging seas? How does it signal distress? Who looks out for the lighthouse and how can we make sure that all can turn towards the tribe of those they love and trust to lend them strength to fight their demons? Leaders also need the tribe.

When we’re aware a perfect storm is brewing, one of the best things we can do is connect the person with their tribe and with resources that can help — whether that person is a peer or a leader.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Members of the 111th Attack Wing volunteered their Sunday to participate in the Doylestown, Pa. March for the 22 to help raise awareness about the veteran suicide rate in the U.S., Oct. 22, 2017. The 111th Communications Flight mustered the entire ruck sack team and was comprised of Senior Airman Jarrod Ziegler, client systems technician (left), Airman 1st Class Jonathon Zang and Maj. Danielle Minamyer, flight commander. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Christopher Botzum)

TAPS offers comprehensive, best-practice postvention support services for suicide loss survivors, including the 24/7 Helpline (1-800-959-TAPS), virtual groups and chats for survivors, and on-the-ground events and gatherings.

Veterans and their loved ones can call the Veterans Crisis Line by dialing 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Shauna Springer, Ph.D.

Shauna Springer is the Senior Director of TAPS Red Team within the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. Dr. Springer is a licensed psychologist with an undergraduate degree from Harvard University and a Doctoral degree from the University of Florida. Known to many veterans as “Doc Springer,” she has helped hundreds of warriors reconnect with their tribe, strengthen their most important relationships, and build lives that are driven by their deepest values. TAPS Red Team provides training and consultation related to suicide prevention and postvention to clinicians, military leadership, policymakers, and organizations.

Articles

300 Marines heading back to Helmand

The US Marine Corps has returned to Helmand, the restive province in southern Afghanistan where it fought years of bloody battles with the Taliban, to help train Afghan forces struggling to contain the insurgency.


Many of the 300 Marines coming to Helmand as part of the NATO-led Resolute Support training mission are veterans of previous tours in the province, where almost 1,000 coalition troops, mostly US and British, were killed fighting the Taliban.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dustin D. March)

When they left in 2014, handing over the sprawling desert base they knew as Camp Leatherneck to the Afghan army, the Marines never expected to return. The fact that they are back underlines the problems Afghan forces have faced since being left to fight alone.

Articles

Marine killed in Iraq ‘made sure everybody got in the bunker’

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
The remains of Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin of Temecula, Calif., arrive at Dover Air Force Base, Del., on March 21. | U.S. Air Force photo by Zachary Cacicia


The commandant of the Marine Corps paid tribute to a staff sergeant killed by Islamic State rocket fire in Iraq last week, shedding new light on the circumstances surrounding the loss.

Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin, 27, a member of Battalion Landing Team 2/6, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was killed by indirect fire March 19 at a new artillery outpost near Makhmour, Iraq, shortly after he and a small element of Marines had detached from the MEU in order to support the small post.

Speaking at a Marine Corps Association awards dinner near Washington, D.C. Thursday night, Gen. Robert Neller said three other Marines wounded in that same rocket attack were due to arrive back in the United States that evening, headed for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Reflecting on Cardin’s loss, Neller did not prevaricate about a fight that US officials still refuse to describe as a combat operation.

“The loss of a Marine is sad, but I thought about it: He was leading his Marines in combat,” Neller said. “They were in indirect fire and he made sure everybody got in the bunker, and he just didn’t make it in time. Is that sad? That’s sad. But if you’re going to go, you want to go in the fight.”

During a briefing to reporters at the Pentagon on Friday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said the circumstances of Cardin’s death, the second combat death since the coalition fight against Islamic State militants began, does not change the nature of the operation or indicate an increase in the Marines’ ground combat role.

“This is not a fundamental shift in our approach to support the Iraqi forces,” he said. “This happens to be what was the most appropriate tool that the commander assessed needed to be in that particular location.”

In his talk, Neller encouraged Marines to remain sharp, reminding them that the Corps was forward deployed all over the world to remain ready and train for future fights.

“[Cardin’s] death, and the things we see every day, from the attacks in Brussels by those murderous cowards that we’re fighting, that’s part of our world today,” he said. “So whether [The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] continues to use terror to intimidate us and kill innocents, at the same time other adversaries, as they have since we’ve been engaged in the Middle East, are developing their capabilities to challenge us on future battlefields.”

Neller also fired a shot across the bow at another geopolitical threat, hinting that Marine Corps leaders were eager to answer the saber-rattling of Russian president Vladimir Putin with a show of force.

About 1,800 Marines, he said, had recently wrapped up a massive cold-weather exercise in Norway, Operation Cold Response.

“It’s the biggest exercise we’ve done in Norway in some time,” he said. We were working to repopulate our [pre-positioning equipment] in the caves, and the Norwegians were happy to see us and I’m sure our Russian friends were paying attention. Mr. Putin has done us a great favor.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

How Amazon is tackling the veteran unemployment problem

By 2021, Amazon has pledged to hire 25,000 U.S. military veterans across all of its operations. More than that, they are also dedicated to hiring veterans reservists, spouses, and family members – regardless of rank or military specialty. These “Amazon Warriors” as the company calls them, come to Amazon through a number of programs, each focused on a different aspect of veterans’ lives. This includes wounded warriors, active and transitioning veterans, student vets, and more.


You can catch Amazon and its employees active in all area of veteran culture, from the Old Glory Relay to RED Fridays and even doing 22 pushups every day. Amazon even partners with the Department of Veterans Affairs to create certification programs for vets with no costs.

One of Amazon’s best programs is an employment plan for wounded vets designed to fill skill gaps due to service-related wounds, injuries, and illnesses. Through education, advocacy, and training for wounded warriors, this one-of-a-kind program seeks America’s wounded vets to show the world the possibilities and potential these prior-service workers still have.

Amazon also launched the Amazon Military Leaders Program in an effort to find innovative, experienced talent to transition from military service and into the senior leadership at Amazon. It just makes sense – in order to fill the most necessary roles at the top of one of the world’s biggest and most profitable companies, Amazon wants to look for those people who volunteered for some of the most dangerous and critical jobs out there.

This company also goes above and beyond for National Guardsmen and Reservists who are activated or called away to training. Not only does the company ensure the member has job when they come back, as required by law, Amazon seeks to place the employee in a role they would have worked if they had never left their Amazon job at all. What’s more, if the pay the military member receives from serving is significantly less than their Amazon pay, Amazon will make up the difference.

“There are veterans and active duty service members from the Guard and Reserve at every level of the company,” says Ardine Williams, Amazon Web Services’ Vice-President of Talent Acquisition, who also happens to be a former Army officer. “That population, that community, makes it really easy for us to not only do the right thing but also do what we say we will do.”

When Amazon isn’t hiring veterans and preparing service members for their post-military careers, they are supporting other organizations with the same intent, mission, and drive. Amazon is a sponsor of the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day business development and networking event that brings together non-profit startup accelerators geared toward vet-owned businesses, successful veteran entrepreneurs, and like-minded veterans who are looking to change their lives by starting their own enterprises.

To learn more about what Amazon is doing for veterans in terms of training and employment, check out Amazon’s military page. To learn more about the Military Influencer Conference, check out the speakers list, or find a Military Influencer Conference close to you, visit MilitaryInfluencer.com and take a look around. It could be the first step to an entrepreneurial career.

Articles

This is why the US is concerned about China’s first overseas military base

Chinese military personnel departed a naval base in Zhanjiang on July 18, destined for Beijing’s new base in the East African country of Djibouti.


China started construction on the base, which it officially calls a “logistics facility,” in February 2016, and it has not said when the base might formally start operations.

The Chinese navy has been assisting anti-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden and peacekeeping missions in Africa for some time, but the base in Djibouti will be Beijing’s first such facility overseas.

“The base will ensure China’s performance of missions, such as escorting, peacekeeping, and humanitarian aid in Africa and west Asia,” state news agency Xinhua said. “The base will also be conducive to overseas tasks including military cooperation, joint exercises, evacuating and protecting overseas Chinese, and emergency rescue, as well as jointly maintaining security of international strategic seaways.”

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
People’s Republic of China, People’s Liberation Army (Navy) ship PLA(N) Peace Ark (T-AH 866). Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Shannon Renfroe.

Djibouti, home to about 800,000 people, also has French and Japanese troops, is strategically located in the Horn of Africa, sitting on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a gateway to Egypt’s Suez Canal and one of the world’s busiest shipping corridors.

And the new Chinese base is just a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, a major US special-operations outpost.

“We’ve never had a base of, let’s just say a peer competitor, as close as this one happens to be,” US Africom Command chief Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said in March.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Camp Lemonnier, a US military base in Djibouti, is strategically located between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. (Google Maps)

“Yes, there are some very significant operational security concerns, and I think that our base there is significant to US because it’s not only AFRICOM that utilizes” it, Waldhauser said at the time. US Central Command, which operates in the Middle East, Joint Special Operations Command, and European Command are active there as well.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said July 12 that the Djibouti base was “primarily used for the better fulfillment of international obligations,” and that, “China’s defense policy is defensive in nature. This has not changed.”

State-run media outlet the Global Times was less reserved, saying in an editorial on July 12, “It is certainly the PLA’s first foreign naval base … It is not a supply point for commercial use.”

The base in Djibouti is just one project China has undertaken in the East African country.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Sailors aboard the Chinese Navy destroyer Qingdao. (Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist David Rush.)

Chinese banks have funded at least 14 infrastructure projects in the country, including a railway connecting Djibouti and Ethiopia, valued at $14.4 billion. Beijing has made similar investments throughout the continent.

US officials, as well as countries in the region, have expressed concern about the capabilities the new base gives Beijing and what it may augur about Chinese ambitions abroad.

Related: China just deployed troops to its first overseas base alongside US outpost

The US Defense Department said in a June report that the Djibouti base, “along with regular naval vessel visits to foreign ports, both reflects and amplifies China’s growing influence, extending the reach of its armed forces.”

“China most likely will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries,” the report said.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Chinese navy multirole ship Hengshui. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Other countries in South Asia — India in particular — are concerned about Chinese activity in the region and see the Djibouti base as another part of Beijing’s “string of pearls,” which refers to Chinese facilities and alliances among Indian Ocean countries, including Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.

China is already heavily involved in the Pakistan port of Gwadar and is building a network of roads and power plants under a project known as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Civilian ports that Beijing has helped build in places like Pakistan and Sri Lanka can also receive naval vessels, fueling suspicions that China aims to deepen its strategic capacities in the region.

India sees the Djibouti base as a potential hub for Chinese surveillance operations and has objected to China’s planned shipping network with Pakistan, saying it cuts through disputed parts of Kashmir.

Analysts have also said New Delhi is worried by Chinese submarines, warships, and tankers present in the Indian Ocean. India has tracked Chinese submarines entering the Indian Ocean since 2013, and a 2015 US Defense Department report also confirmed that Chinese attack and missile submarines were operating in the Indian Ocean.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Members of a visit, board, search and seizure team from the guided-missile cruiser USS Chosin keep watch over the crew of a suspected pirate dhow. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Scott Taylor.

“The pretext is anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden,” a Indian defense source told The Times of India in May. “But what role can submarines play against pirates and their dhows?”

“If I were Indian I would be very worried about what China is up to in Djibouti,” a Western diplomat briefed on Chinese plans said in March 2016.

Other countries in the region have looked for ways to balance against what is seen as China’s growing influence. Australia and India, along with countries like Vietnam and Japan, have considered informal alliances to bolster regional security in light of growing Chinese influence and doubts about US commitment under President Donald Trump.

Also read: Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe

This week, the Indian, Japanese, and US navies started the Malabar 2017 exercise in the Bay of Bengal. The exercise, which this year features three aircraft carriers, is seen by some as a effort to check Chinese activity in the region.

China has criticized such military balancing and has dismissed suggestions that it plans to expand its footprint abroad. After the US Defense Department report issued in June, Beijing said it did “not seek a sphere of influence.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US’ latest action against potential EMP attack

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on March 26, 2019, to protect the US from electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) that could have a “debilitating” effect on critical US infrastructure.

Trump instructed federal agencies to identify EMP threats to vital US systems and determine ways to guard against them, Bloomberg first reported. A potentially harmful EMP event can be caused by a natural occurrence or the detonation of a nuclear weapon in the atmosphere.


The threat of an EMP attack against the US reportedly drove the president to issue March 26, 2019’s order. Multiple federal agencies, as well as the White House National Security Council, have been instructed to make this a priority.

“Today’s executive order — the first ever to establish a comprehensive policy to improve resilience to EMPs — is one more example of how the administration is keeping its promise to always be vigilant against present dangers and future threats,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement, according to The Hill.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

With the release of the White House National Security Strategy in 2017, Trump became the first president to highlight the need to protect to the US electrical grid.

“Critical infrastructure keeps our food fresh, our houses warm, our trade flowing, and our citizens productive and safe,” the document said.

“The vulnerability of U.S. critical infrastructure to cyber, physical, and electromagnetic attacks means that adversaries could disrupt military command and control, banking and financial operations, the electrical grid, and means of communication.”

Senior US officials warned that the US needs to take steps to safeguard the electrical grid and other important infrastructure against EMP attacks, The Washington Free Beacon reported on March 26, 2019. “We need to reduce the uncertainty in this space” and “mitigate potential impact” of an EMP attack, one senior administration official said.

“We are taking concrete steps to address this threat,” the official added. “The steps that we are taking are designed to protect key systems, networks and assets that are most at risk from EMP events.” Federal agencies are being tasked with bolstering the resiliency of critical infrastructure.

Members and supporters of the decommissioned US Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse have long warned of the possibility of an EMP attack, with some individuals, such as Peter Pry, who previously led the congressional EMP commission, asserting that an EMP attack on America could kill off 90% of the US population.

Those seeking to raise awareness have pointed to the threat from solar flares, as well as nuclear-armed adversarial powers.

Others, including Jeffrey Lewis, a renowned nuclear-weapons expert, have said that the EMP threat is a conspiracy. Lewis previously wrote that it seemed “like the sort of overcomplicated plot dreamed up by a Bond villain, one that only works in the movies. Bad movies.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Women join ranks of cavalry scouts

Every soldier in the Nebraska Army National Guard has a story: the reasons why they joined the military, picked their particular military occupational specialty (MOS) job, or serve in their military unit of choice.

For two soldiers serving in the Nebraska Army National Guard’s Troop B, 1-134th Cavalry, the stories are particularly different than those around them. That’s because Sgt. Nicole Havlovic and Sgt. Danielle Martin are two of only a very few women serving in the Nebraska cavalry squadron. In fact, the two Nebraskans are one of only a few women in the nation who have successfully graduated from the Army’s tough combat arms MOS school and earned the title of “cavalry scout.”

Havlovic originally joined the Nebraska Army National Guard as a water treatment specialist. However, after serving for six years, she decided to leave the Guard for a year. “I got out because I was bored,” Havlovic said. “I really didn’t have any guidance about what I could do or what the possibilities were. I wanted to do something different and fun and be out there training.”


It was that desire to do something different that drove Havlovic to join the Nebraska Army Guard cavalry squadron. “I felt like it would be a really good fit. I’m pretty outdoorsy and this — being out in the field — doesn’t bother me at all,” Havlovic said.

Sgt. Danielle Martin’s route to being a cavalry scout was not a direct one, either.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

Sgt. Danielle Martin approaches the finish of a ruck march during the 1-134th Cavalry Squadron’s spur ride during annual training in the Republic of Korea June 18, 2019.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anna Pongo)

“I’ve always wanted to go into combat arms,” Martin said. “It really was a year before joining the military that I knew combat arms was what I wanted to do. However, I was still junior enlisted and so I really couldn’t do much about it.”

The last restrictions against women serving in combat roles were lifted in 2013. However, Army regulations specified that units were first required to have two female cavalry scouts in leadership positions before other female soldiers would be allowed to join their ranks. This made integrating junior-ranking women into the units all that much more difficult.

So, Martin began her career in the Nebraska Army National Guard as an automated logistical specialist before joining a military police unit. After rising to the rank of sergeant, Martin said she finally saw a way to reach her combat arms goal.

“It was already on my radar that I had just gotten my E-5 [sergeant] and I wanted to go to 19-Delta [cavalry scout] school,” Martin said.

Both Sergeants attended a cavalry scout reclassification school, an Army school designed to train soldiers from other MOS in the skills needed to become operational cavalry scouts. Martin attended the November reclassification course in Boise, Idaho. After completing the course, she reported to the Mead, Nebraska-based Troop B this past January.

Martin said the reception she received from her new unit let her know that they respected her newly-earned skills. It wasn’t about changing who anyone was, she said, but having a mutual respect between soldiers.

“They don’t treat me any differently just because I’m female,” said Martin. “I’m one of the guys and I think it needs to be that way… I’m not coming in here to change them. I’m coming in here because I know I can physically and mentally handle it, and I want to do the job.”

Havlovic attended the cavalry scout transition course in Smyrna, Tennessee, and reported to Troop B in April 2019. She said her fellow soldiers don’t treat her differently than any other member of the unit.

“They really don’t treat me any differently,” Havlovic said. “I don’t expect them to…I expect them to believe that they can trust me with the mission and what we have to do and be able to keep up and be trustworthy and dependable…Everyone has actually been really welcoming to me.”

With Havlovic and Martin completing their transition courses, Nebraska National Guard’s 1-134th Cavalry Squadron became the ninth Army National Guard unit, fourth Cavalry Troop and second Infantry Brigade Combat Team Cavalry Troop to be opened for junior enlisted female cavalry scouts.

1st Sgt. Andrew Filips, Troop B’s senior enlisted soldier, has spent 15 years in the squadron. He said the change of policy wasn’t an issue.

“What it really comes down to is that we’re a combat arms unit and there’s only one standard,” Filips said. “You either perform or you leave. You either make the cut or there are other units for you to go to.”

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

Nebraska National Guard Soldiers with the 1-134th Cavalry Squadron receive certificates and silver spurs after successful completion of a spur ride during annual training in the Republic of Korea June 21, 2019.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anna Pongo)

1st Sgt. Christopher Marcello of Grand Island’s Troop A, 1-134th Cavalry Squadron, is a 22-year veteran of the cavalry squadron. He has also been a member of the Grand Island Police Department for six years. He echoed Filips’ thoughts.

“I work with women every day as a police officer and that’s a tough job where you can get punched in the face, or shot or beat up and you have women doing that every day. So combat arms isn’t any different,” Marcello said. “You have to have the right fit. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman. It doesn’t matter. You have to be the right kind of person to be a scout.”

The Nebraska Army National Guard’s 1-134th Cavalry Squadron is part of the larger 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which is headquartered in Arkansas. The brigade is responsible for providing training and readiness oversight of its subordinate units. According to Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory White, the 39th IBCT senior enlisted leader, the way the brigade finds the right soldiers for their difficult job has changed from looking at who can physically do it to those who want to do it.

White also said that women who hold a combat arms MOS are the best representatives to recruit other women into the field.

White spoke with Martin during a visit to B Troop’s recent annual training in the Republic of Korea. They both agreed the focus should be on reaching out to women who want the challenge of serving in combat arms positions, and once they do, give them the tools they need to become advocates.

“Having her [Martin] talk to them is going to be so much better than a guy who has been in for 30 years,” White said. “A 50-year-old man talking to these young women just is not going to reach them in the same way as when she talks to them.”

Filips says the physical demands are not the only aspect of combat arms that new recruits need to consider. The relatively demanding training pace also makes combat arms units different. Troop B regularly trains in the field and spends most drill weekends training throughout the night. That is often one of the bigger reasons why some soldiers eventually choose to transfer into the squadron.

“If you want to come into the Guard and feel like this is what I want to do; (that) I want to… be awesome and be the baddest dudes and wear the cool hats and do all that, then yes go for it,” said Filips. “But if you are ‘I want to try this because it would be neat’, there’s other places to be neat. Come here because this is what you always wanted to do in life. You have to want it.”

Marcello seconded those comments, adding that Troop A is willing to let soldiers — male or female — try being a cavalry scout for their drill weekend.

“We’re more than happy to let people come in, try it out and if it doesn’t work for you, we get it,” he said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with gender, doesn’t have anything to do with sex; it has to do with can you do the job.”

Both Havlovic and Martin said they realize they are now mentors and role models for those around them. They are also quick to encourage other soldiers to give it a try.

“It’s definitely something I would sit down, explain to them and educate them on,” said Havlovic, who now works for the state recruiting office.

“It’s not for everybody. It really isn’t. I don’t believe that just because combat arms has been opened up to females mean that all females belong here. But if you can do it, then do it.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns

The Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) held a commemoration ceremony for the 100th anniversary of the first combat firing of the naval railway gun, Sept. 6, 2018.

The ceremony took place at Admiral Willard Park at the Washington Navy Yard where on display is a naval railway gun still mounted on a railway carriage.

Master Chief Yeoman Nathaniel Colding, senior enlisted leader at NHHC, was the master of ceremonies for the event and shared the history of the naval railway gun with the guests in attendance.

Upon entering World War I in April 1917, the Navy was already developing long-range artillery primarily to counter the German army’s heavy guns capable of bombarding the English Channel ports used by the Allies.


The Navy’s initial idea was to employ several 14-inch 50-caliber Mark IV naval rifles, with a complete train of equipment for each gun, on railway mountings behind British lines in France. However, changing military conditions prevented British authorities from stating definitively at which port these batteries were to be debarked.

The Navy ultimately offered the guns to General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force, who readily accepted them.

“In the summer of 1918, five U.S. naval railway guns made the journey across the Atlantic Ocean for use in France during the First World War,” said Colding. “Although they were assigned to the First Army’s Railway Artillery Reserve, the guns operated as independent units under the command of Rear Admiral Charles P. Plunkett. In early September 1918, Battery Number 2 went into action with a bombardment of a German-occupied railroad hub more than 20 miles away.”

Retired Rear Adm. Sam Cox, director of NHHC, was the guest speaker for the commemoration ceremony and spoke about why this event is important for us to remember today.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

British 12-inch howitzers on top-carriage traversing mounts.

“The U.S. Navy was able to provide a quick solution using guns that were normally intended for battleships,” said Cox. “The key point of the U.S. Navy’s participation in the war was that although we only lost about 430 Sailors during the entire course of the war, we were able to get two million U.S. Army troops to France a lot faster than the Germans ever thought was possible. The Navy did this without any losses to U-boats, ending a war that at that point was the bloodiest in human history.”

While the naval railway guns were in operation, the crew had no support from the Army should the Germans unit advance on them and they were expected to “fight alone.” They did not have to face that fate, however; the Germans were in retreat throughout their period of service.

“The increased use and effectiveness of aircraft, particularly bombers, with their greater flexibility and mobility, meant that the naval railway battery would not be a mainstay in future wars,” said Conrad. “Nonetheless, its development and deployment highlights the U.S. Navy’s ability to think innovatively and create and deploy new and effective programs quickly. That skill is transferable and is a hallmark of the U.S. Navy in the twentieth century.”

Although the naval railway guns operated well behind the front lines and were not subject to the constant bombardment received by more forward positions, the U.S. naval railway batteries were hardly immune from enemy fire. Many of the units took counter-fire from German artillery. German observation planes flew above their positions during the day, and bomber aircraft were active at night. The units lost only one Sailor to enemy fire and other battery personnel were wounded.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

French 370 mm railway howitzer of World War I.

According to Dennis Conrad, Ph.D., a historian at NHHC, 530 officers and men made up the Naval Railway Guns command. The unit was subdivided into six groups, one for each battery and these groups were further subdivided into crews: a train crew, a construction crew and a gun crew.

The Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy’s unique and enduring contributions through our nation’s history, and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services. NHHC is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, ten museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

Articles

This is why dropping “Sunni Arab allies” into Syria is a terrible idea

Five years into the Syrian Civil War, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced its readiness to send ground troops into Syria to fight Islamic State forces.


3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

“The kingdom is ready to participate in any ground operations that the coalition (against Islamic State) may agree to carry out in Syria,” Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, the spokesman for the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen, told the Saudi government-owned al-Arabiya TV.

Related: The 10 worst armies in the world

Just days after that announcement, the United Arab Emirates announced its readiness to join the fight.

“Our position throughout has been that a real campaign has to include a ground force,” the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said at a news conference in Abu Dhabi, adding “U.S. leadership on this” would be a prerequisite for the UAE.

Big surprise there.

For those keeping track, the UAE is also part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the religious-political faction of Houthis in Yemen, a Shia insurgent group who captured the Yemeni capital of Sana’a in 2014 and forced the fall of the Saudi-backed government five months later. Saudi Arabia’s nine-member coalition has since failed to dislodge the Iran-backed Houthis or restore the government. Meanwhile, just under one-third of the country has fallen to the resurgent al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

Maybe Saudi Arabia and the Arab allies aren’t everything American politicians have said they are during the 2016 election debates. Forget for a moment how bad they are at fighting a decisive war (they can’t even capture the capital city with air superiority and and more than a year to get it done), the idea of airlifting a coalition of Sunni Arab troops into Syria is not only overly simplistic, it’s a terrible one. Saudi Arabia and Iran are expending resources to wage an all-out proxy battle in the region, and Iraq and Syria are the primary battlefields.

By now, it should come as no surprise to Westerners that there is an huge, problematic divide between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam. The main actors in this ideological conflict today are Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran. Yemen isn’t the first example of Saudi intervention. At the height of the Arab Spring, Saudi troops crossed the King Fahd Causeway into Bahrain to put down Shia protests there.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
The most ironic peace sign ever.

The Saudi sphere of influence extends throughout the Arabian Peninsula while the Iranian sphere extends from Iran’s border with  Afghanistan to the East and pushes West through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. The conflicts in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon are extensions of this greater conflict. When told the Saudis and Emiratis were ready to deploy to Syria, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem gave a very expected response: “I regret to say that they will return home in wooden coffins.”

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

Sectarianism is only increasing and is becoming the primary reason for conflict. Until recently, major non-state paramilitary organizations on either side of the divide publicly defined their mandates in terms of either anti-imperialist, anti-Israel, and/or anti-American terms. They did not openly define themselves in terms of Shia vs. Sunni. That is changing.

In 2013, Islamic extremist violence intensified, fueled by sectarianism in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Pakistan. The rise of anti-Shia resistance, combined with the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime, led to the ideology behind the rise of the Islamic State, now the most aggressive and extreme group, with transnational roots in Nigeria, Libya, and Afghanistan. The sectarianism is only spreading.

When the Asad regime looked like it would fall, the Gulf states smelled the blood in the water and acted quickly to take advantage of the situation. Kuwait is now the leading source of funds for al-Qaeda-linked terror organizations in Syria. Qatar is a major funder of the al-Qaeda-allied Sunni al-Nusra Front there, and Qatari officials tell The Atlantic that ISIS is “a Saudi project.”

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
A Saudi project like a crane at the Grand Mosque in Mecca. That kind of project.

Iran funds, trains, and equips paramilitary forces throughout the Middle East, including the Lebanese political-militant group Hezbollah, and has for decades. Iraq’s government has been dominated by Iran-backed Shia parliamentarians since the ouster of Saddam Hussein by the 2003 U.S. invasion. Syrian President Bashar al-Asad’s regime is propped up by the Iranian government, who are reinforcing the Asad government against rebels, ISIS, the Kurdish YPG, and the other thousand groups vying for power there. The government’s legitimacy relies on the support of the Alawite minority in Syria, a Shia group whose followers control the top tiers of Syrian society.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

Sunni militant groups, financed by Gulf states like Kuwait, are seeing a rise in recruiting numbers and directing their ideology and violence toward other Muslim communities instead of Western targets. In response, Shia groups gain in strength and numbers to confront the  perceived threats posed by the Sunni groups. The war in Syria is no longer a fight for control of the country but a battle in a greater ideological proxy war.

The U.S. has so far managed not to take a side. The Obama Administration’s original plan for fighting ISIS, for example, involved both Sunnis and Shia, but accomplished little in the way of real, lasting stability or security in the region. It called for air support and advisors for Iraqi troops (sometimes led by Iranian advisors and in conjunction with Iraq’s Shia militias) while training and equipping “moderate” rebels in Sunni Saudi Arabia. We know how that turned out.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

Related: General briefs Congress fight against ISIS is a total mess

At the onset of the Syrian War, thousands of fighters left their homes in Syria for various Sunni or Shia militias. Foreign fighters soon began to flood in with professional jihadis from Chechnya and Afghanistan coming to reinforce Sunni groups while Shia militias from Iraq and Lebanese Hezbollah shored up the Asad regime. At the end of 2013, there were an estimated 1000+ armed groups in Syria. Since then, the rebel groups have only fractured.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Map of Syrian Civil War as of February 2016

Knowing all of this, imagine how would it look to the average Shia militia if the United States began flooding a traditional Shia state with Sunni troops. The war in Syria will last at least another five to ten full years and the U.S. should be prepared for that. The U.S. only has to look at recent history when deciding how best to serve our national interest while helping bring the conflict to its conclusion.

The Lebanese Civil War ended only after the infighting exhausted itself. By the signing of the 1989 Taif Agreement that ended the war in Lebanon, the streets of Beirut looked remarkably similar to how the streets of the Syrian city of Homs look today.

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

That war had was much more akin to today’s Syrian conflict than other Arab Spring-related uprisings. Massacres, assassinations, and a large number of belligerents fueled the conflict for 15 years. In the end, the Taif Agreement ceded Lebanon to Syrian influence. Even so, the Taif Agreement only came about because of an anti-Saddam mindset between the Iranians and Saudis. U.S. military power was not a significant factor.

In 1983, the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut were bombed by Shia militias. The attacks killed 241 U.S. military members. Three months later, then-President Ronald Reagan withdrew all U.S. troops from the country. That turned out to be the right call. In trying to score political points, American politicians could call it a “cut and run.” Yet, in a 1991 biography of Reagan, one of the 20th century’s most brilliant military minds, Gen. Colin Powell, labeled the American intervention in Lebanon a misadventure from the start.

“Beirut wasn’t sensible and it never did serve a purpose,” Powell said. “It was goofy from the beginning.” The reversal of a bad military course, once decided, seems impossible 33 years later, considering the level of political rhetoric on the use of force against ISIS. It might even be political suicide.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Would you to tell this man he was wrong?

Yet, the same U.S. involvement that was a mistake in Lebanon in the early 80’s is a leadership necessity in Syria today. Why? It’s not because of ISIS. In Lebanon, President Bachir Gemayel was assassinated and Palestinian refugees were slaughtered in camps by Christian Maronite militias. Those events didn’t influence Reagan to keep Marines in the country for an indeterminate period of time. Once it became clear that U.S. actions would have repercussions, the President decided the nature of the mission weighed against the potential cost wasn’t in U.S. interests and left the multi-national force … and it was the right call.

American intervention and use of military force should involve a clear strategy to reach a set goal, with rules of engagement to match. A policy of dropping Sunni troops into a Shia country is misguided. It will only fuel the Syrian war and the sectarian divide. The U.S. will win the hearts and minds of neither Shia nor Sunni and will pay the cost in security across the globe.

Articles

College poll convinces thousands of Americans that the F-35 is a waste of money

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Big and Little Brother: An F-35A sits in a run station on the Fort Worth, Texas, flight line, while an F-16 Fighting Falcon, also produced at the Fort Worth plant, takes off in the background. | Lockheed Martin


A new poll from the University of Maryland indicates that the majority of Americans favor of cutting funding from the U.S. defense budget in five out of seven major areas.

Specifically, they favor defunding one of the U.S.’ 11 aircraft carriers, and the F-35 Lightning II, DefenseNews.com reports.

“Given all the talk about increasing the defense budget, we were surprised to find how much Americans are not sold on increases, including a majority of Republicans nationwide,” said Steven Kull, director of the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation.

Indeed the survey, which polled more than 7,000 U.S. voters across the nation, shows that a majority of Republicans would prefer to keep defense spending where it is, a majority of Independents favor reducing the defense budget by $20 billion, and Democrats favor slashing the budget by $36 billion.

The survey presented 2015 figures on spending and offered alternatives. For example, when informed that cutting funding to the F-35 program would save $6 billion this year, and $97 billion through 2037, 54 percent of citizens polled supported cutting the program.

Though the desire to save money and be fiscally responsible is admirable and understandable, top brass in nearly all U.S. military services have expressed concern that nations like Russia and China threaten the U.S.’ foreign interests, and some have even gone as far as to call them existential threats.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Russia is in the middle of a massive overhaul of it’s aged, but still dangerous navy. | Photo by Mitsuo Shibata via Wikimedia Commons

Military leaders have stressed the need for progress and innovation to rise to the task of countering a resurgent Russia and a burgeoning China. Recently, the U.S. Air Force chief-of-staff warned that China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force will be poised to overtake the US Air Force by 2030, and a RAND Corp. report found that Russia could overtake NATO forces in the Baltics in 36 to 60 hours, should they choose to do so.

On Tuesday, top Air Force acquisitions personnel took to Congress and re-asserted the need for the U.S.’ fifth generation fighter planes. “We’ve seen both Russia and China develop airplanes faster than was anticipated,” said Lt. Gen. James “Mike” Holmes, according to the Air Force Times.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
USS Wasp Night Ops: An F-35B off on the flight deck of USS Wasp (LHD-1) during operations, a part of Operational Test 1, or OT-1. | US Marine Corps photo

The survey suggested that Americans supported cutting the number of U.S. aircraft carriers to 10 from 11.

Surprisingly, nationally, the majority of Americans did not support shrinking the submarine fleet from 12 to eight, nor did they want to cut funding to development of a new long range strike bomber.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force killed a combat demo for light attack aircraft

The OA-X program will not be seeing how its top contenders fare in combat. That is the decision the Air Force made as two of the planes failed to make the cut for the next round of evaluations.


According to a report from CombatAircraft.net, the Textron Scorpion and the AT-802U Longsword were given the chop by the Air Force. The AT-802 is a modified cropduster that’s been equipped with two .50-caliber Gatling guns. The Scorpion is a twin-engine jet that’s capable of carrying up to 9,000 pounds of ordnance.

The Air Force has been running the OA-X program to find a new close air support aircraft. Previously, the Air Force had planned to take designs that made the cut, the AT-6 Wolverine and the A-29 Super Tucano, and put on a real-world combat demonstration. This demonstration has been canceled. Instead, the U.S. Air Force plans to “work closely with industry to experiment with maintenance, data networking, and sensors with the two most promising light attack aircraft,” according to the Secretary of the Air Force, Heather Wilson.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
An Afghan Air Force A-29 Super Tucano. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Nardisoero)

Even though the Scorpion is officially out of contention, Textron is not entirely out of the running, as it also produces the AT-6 — a version of the T-6 Texan II. The T-6, though, was recently reported to be causing in pilots what the Air Force describes as “unexpected physiological events,” a term that’s been recently used to describe incidents where aircrew experience symptoms of hypoxia. The 19th Air Force has ordered an “operational pause” for the Texan II while the issues are addressed.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
The T-6A Texan II is phasing out the aging T-37 fleet throughout Air Education and Training Command. (Air Force photo by Master Sgt. David Richards)

If this same problem plagues the AT-6, we’re likely to see the A-29 Super Tucano win the OA-X competition. The A-29 has already proved itself in action with the Afghan Air Force and has also been sold to Nigeria and the Philippines.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A leaked recording shows Iran knew from the start it had shot down a passenger jet, Ukraine says

Iranian officials knew their military had shot down a passenger jet and lied about it for days, Ukraine said Sunday, citing a leaked audio recording of an Iranian pilot communicating with air-traffic control in the capital Tehran.


In the leaked audio recording — said to be from the night in January when Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down — a pilot for Iran Aseman Airlines radioed the air-traffic control tower to say he saw the “light of a missile,” Reuters reports.

The control tower can reportedly be heard trying, unsuccessfully, to reach the Ukrainian passenger aircraft on the radio as the Iranian pilot says he saw “an explosion.”

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

Aseman Flight 3768 was close enough to the airport in Tehran to see the blast, the Associated Press reported, citing publicly available flight-tracking data.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a television interview that the recording “proves that the Iranian side knew from the start that our plane had been hit by a missile.”

Ukraine International Airlines said, according to Reuters, that the audio was “yet more proof that the UIA airplane was shot down with a missile, and there were no restrictions or warnings from dispatchers of any risk to flights of civilian aircraft in the vicinity of the airport.”

UIA Flight 752 was flying from Tehran to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on January 8 when it was shot down shortly after takeoff, killing all 176 people on board. The incident happened just hours after Iran launched a barrage of ballistic missiles at US forces in Iraq in retaliation for a US drone strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, and the country’s air-defense systems were on high alert.

Iran initially said the aircraft crashed as the result of a mechanical error, but reports quickly began surfacing in the US, Canada, and parts of Europe that intelligence suggested the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. Iran vehemently denied the accusations.

On January 11, however, Iran acknowledged that it accidentally shot down the commercial airliner.

Though it blamed “human error,” Iran also sought to cast responsibility with the US, arguing that the killing of Soleimani had led to a dangerous spike in tensions that resulted in the accident. Still, Iranian citizens and international observers questioned why Iran didn’t ground civilian air traffic after its missile attack on US-occupied bases in Iraq.

Iran said it mistook the airliner for an enemy missile. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the incident a “grave tragedy” and an “unforgivable mistake.”

Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization is in charge of investigating aviation incidents, with one official saying Ukraine’s decision to release the confidential recording, which aired on Ukrainian television, had “led to us not sharing any more information with them.”

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

Articles

3 reasons ‘resilience’ is more than an overused buzzword

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
(Photo: U.S. Army)


Young veterans often ask me why they should care about resilience. It’s a fair question. At this point, the term is almost meaningless – an overused buzzword. American military culture in particular has packaged “resilience” into an unsexy powerpoint training requirement. It seems like an add-on. An annoyance.

It’s unfortunate, because resilience practices are key to maximizing performance. And when you’re performing optimally, your family, your team, and the other people around you benefit significantly. We’re better off in every area of our lives – personally and professionally – when we practice resilience trait cultivation.

The three pillars of a resilient life are social support, self-care, and spirituality. The individual value of these pillars is backed irrefutably by science, and – when practiced together – their benefits increase exponentially.  

I promise not to spend the next few paragraphs trying to convince you to drink green smoothies and sit on a therapist’s couch. There’s a lot more to wellness than that. Instead, we’ll examine some simple tactics you can start using today to build a better life.

1. Social Support: Surround Yourself With Good People

The first and most important step in building resilience is making the hard choice to surround yourself with great people. If you don’t have them around you, you can’t get started. You won’t start or keep growing.

This seems like an obvious step, but it’s a real challenge for some. It was for me.

The truth is, you’ve got a battle ahead and you’re most likely to succeed if you have like-minded people to walk with you as you make some changes. I’m not saying you have to hang out with people who look, think, and talk like you, but you do have to spend time with people who are supportive and interested in their own growth and development.

Take a moment to honestly evaluate the influence of the people in your life. Is their influence negative and destructive or positive? If you don’t have great people around you right now, that’s ok. It means you have plenty of room to grow.

You may need to make some serious life changes to find a more positive tribe. You may also need to put yourself in some uncomfortable situations to meet new people. Perhaps you’ll find your new group volunteering, on a sports team, or as part of a faith community.

If you’re not in a great place right now, or you don’t have many skills when it comes to connecting with other people, you might be feeling shame or a lack of confidence. Do some outreach anyway. Be willing to risk sharing things that feel deeply personal. You’ll be surprised at how supportive people can be when you open up.

Think about this intense challenge in terms of improving yourself for the people you love.

2. Self-Care: Calm Your Body and Mind

Start here by choosing just one or two healthy practices you can incorporate as daily habits, then track how they benefit your life. Don’t worry about trying to change everything at once.

By practicing effective self-care to calm your body and mind, you can become less reactive to external stressors. When you’re less reactive, you’re more capable of engaging in positive social interactions. Better social interactions result in increased social support. Improved social support increases your physical and emotional health. There’s a ripple effect here that’s really exciting.

Self-care can be as simple as cooking at home or going back to the gym. What you’re looking for is something that makes you feel relaxed. You might be working hard, but you’re going to feel your sympathetic nervous system (body and mind) calm down. Some people call it a click. An exhale. A downshift. When you feel it, you’ll know you found your thing.

Think of your sympathetic nervous system like a dashboard: It’s where your perception, speech, and moving about in the world happens. It’s where you live when you’re alert. Our goal through self-care is to pump the brakes and calm down this side of our nervous system.

When our brains shift to rest, our bodies and minds are refreshed and we’re more capable of controlling our emotions, focusing, and engaging in high-level thinking. You can reach this rested state by sleeping, but you don’t have to be sleeping to be in this zone. You may also get there by swimming, snowboarding, gardening, praying, meditating, or hitting flow in some other activity you enjoy. Most of us – particularly those of us with stress injuries – are sadly lacking in this rested state.

As you begin incorporating daily self-care practices into your life, track your progress. Take note of how you feel two weeks in. Do you feel better? More focused? Do you sleep better at night? Are you feeling less pain?

Remember that self-care will differ for every person. For example, if meditation isn’t for you and you keep trying it, it can actually increase your stress. You may not be a meditator – you may be a trail runner. It’s about trial and error. Don’t be surprised if what works for you changes over the years. The most important thing is to maintain your willingness to practice, and understand that it may take time to discover what works best for you.

3. Spirituality: Find Your Meaning

Finally, there’s a clear correlation between physical, mental, and emotional resilience and a sense of meaning in our lives. We all need a connection to someone higher – with God, or a sense of personal purpose. Whether you approach this aspect of resilience from a secular perspective (think Maslow’s hierarchy with transcendance at the top) or with a theological view, give yourself some time to ask questions about the source of purpose and meaning in your life.

To plug into a community that supports you as you explore this aspect of resilience, consider getting involved with your church, synagogue, or specific faith group, volunteering, giving generously, or taking time to study a faith practice you’ve been curious about.

Editor’s note: Each week WATM will be presenting a new column by Dr. Hendricks Thomas on topics important to the veteran community.

About the Author

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance, here.