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.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army artillery’s new ‘giant sniper rifle’ tech is already in the field

US Army Field Artillery soldiers recently wrapped up testing of the Joint Effects Targeting System Target Location Designation System on the rugged terrain of the Cold Regions Test Center at Fort Greely in Alaska.


The JETS handheld targeting system “is a paradigm shift” in how field artillery can be used on the battlefield, Lt. Col. Michael Frank, product manager for Soldier Precision Targeting Devices, said in October. The system could turn a howitzer or the Paladin self-propelled artillery weapon “into a giant sniper rifle,” he added.

Also read: These are the Army’s high-tech helicopters that will fly in 2030

Twenty soldiers from the 8th Field Artillery Regiment and 377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment recently put the system through its paces in a wide range of scenarios at Fort Greely, the Army said in a release.

The troops used the system’s infrared imager and color-day imager to detect and identify vehicles and personnel at various distances, determining whether each was a friend or adversary. They also tested the system in a simulated urban environment, clearing buildings, rooftops, and rooms in order to observe enemy forces in the area.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Spc. Tyler Carlson gets ready to scan for targets using the Joint Effects Targeting System Target Location Designation System during testing at the Cold Regions Test Center, Fort Greely, Alaska. (Photo by Scott D. McClellan/US Army Operational Test Command)

“Since the system is smaller, you don’t have to worry about bumping it around when clearing a building,” Sgt. Nicholas Apperson, of the 377the Parachute Field Artillery Regiment, said. “If you have to switch buildings, disassembling and reassembling the system is much quicker than other targeting devices.”

Soldiers were also placed at random rally points anywhere from 500 meters to 2 kilometers from their designated observation posts. After moving to their observation posts, they set up their systems and found targets all around them. They then set up fire missions and sent them to a simulated fire-support team using the new Precision Fires-Dismounted system, an app on the Nett Warrior device, which is an Android-enabled smartphone.

Related: The Army just picked its new sniper rifle

The soldiers were also deployed with maneuver units to walk ridgelines. Upon receiving simulated intelligence reports about enemy targets along their routes, the soldiers had to set up their systems and quickly acquire targets.

They averaged 40 fire missions on each 10-hour day.

Frank praised the system’s accuracy and compact design, and the soldiers testing it at Fort Greely lauded it for similar reasons.

“Its light weight makes it easy to take it out on a mission and utilize it to its fullest capability,” said Pfc. Anthony Greenwood of the 8th Artillery Regiment.

“The JETS system is definitely much lighter and a lot easier to pick up and learn all the functions quickly,” Staff Sgt. Christopher McKoy, also of the 8th Field Artillery, said in the Army release. “It is so simple that you can pick it up and learn it in five minutes.”

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Soldiers set up the Joint Effects Targeting System at the Cold Regions Test Center, Fort Greely, Alaska, in 2017. (Photo by US Army)

The Army currently has the Lightweight Laser Designator Rangefinder for targeting purposes, but it is larger and heavier than the JETS, weighing about 35 pounds. It’s also considered a crew-served system, though it is operated by a single soldier.

The JETS target-locator module weighs less than 5.5 pounds and the entire system, including a tripod and batteries, weighs about 20 pounds.

JETS underwent testing during 2017, including airdrop tests at Fort Bragg in North Carolina in August as well as operational testing at Fort Greely in October 2017.

More: The Army is issuing a Marine Corps sniper rifle to squads

The Army said at the end of 2017 that it expected to wrap up JETS testing in early 2018 and have the system in the hands of every forward-observation team by the middle of the year.

The soldiers at Fort Greely, who spent a month with the system, looked forward to using it in the field.

“This system is definitely a major jump from what forward observers are used to and makes our job much more efficient,” said Spc. Tyler Carlson of Battery D, 2-377 PFAR.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

12 important things that need to be in your bug-out bag yesterday

With the entire world focused on COVID-19, it’s a great time to build your bug out bag.


A bug-out bag isn’t just for secret agents anymore.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Although a secret agent’s is probably a lot more fun.

We Are The Mighty’s resident operator, Chase Millsap, served three combat tours as a Marine Infantry Officer in Iraq and as a Green Beret leading counter-terrorism missions in Asia.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Isn’t he beautiful?

We asked him what he’s packing in his bag in case he needs to escape on short notice for any reason. Here’s what he says you must have, at minimum.

12. Water filter.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Millsap recommends a Katadyn water filter.

Given optimal conditions, a person can last up to a week without water. Extreme conditions are likely to cut that time (and yours) short. Additionally, drinking water from untreated sources can lead to a number of infections and diseases.

11. Woobie.

If you’re unfamiliar with a “woobie,” it’s how some U.S. troops refer to their issued poncho liner. It makes for a great blanket, cushion, or pillow. It’s not waterproof, but in temperatures above freezing, it’s very effective at keeping in body heat.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
It also doesn’t retain odors.

10. Two days of food.

This should be self-explanatory, but in case it isn’t, remember: You can go for weeks without food. If you’re on the move, however, that time is cut short. You can’t carry all the food you need with you, but you should have enough to last until you can make it to an area where you can get more or be rescued.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
And if you’re keeping your bug-out bag at the ready, be sure to get food that doesn’t spoil.

9. Lockpick kit.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Not just for thieves anymore.

The reason one carries lockpicks is fairly obvious: to get into things that are locked. We can’t predict why you’ll be evacuating your home, but if you’re going to be out on foot for a while, you may need this. Think about it: When the looting stops, everything that was easy to get is already gone. What’s left is under lock and key.

8. Fire starter with dryer lint.

You can’t depend on a lighter or matches. You’re going to need to start a fire the old-fashioned way: with sparks and kindling.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Make sure yours is ultra light. You have to carry this stuff.

7. Solar or hand-crank battery.

You should have electronic devices with you, namely your means of communication. A zombie apocalypse notwithstanding, you’re going to want to be rescued at some point, so secure the means of keeping your phone and/or radio alive and at the ready.

6. 550 cord and a carabiner.

Anyone who’s served in the military knows how useful 550 cord and carabiners are. If you want to augment their usefulness, learn to braid and to tie knots.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
It’s not just for woven bracelets.

5. Medical kit.

Let’s be honest, most of you are not Green Berets — and if you were Navy SEALs, you would have told us by now. Since the name of the game is surviving in a potentially hostile environment, we should be prepared for injuries sustained on our way out of the disaster area. If we want to be prepared to help ourselves and others, we need a med kit.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
We should also probably learn to use this stuff.

4. Face mask.

Dirt and debris fly everywhere during a disaster or in a disaster area. Heck, the air itself can be chalked full of dirt and harmful particles.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Or did you forget?

Be prepared for it.

3. Gloves and boots.

You shouldn’t need to be told this: Bring your boots. The best part about these items is they don’t add to the weight on your back.

2. Knife and multi-tool.

Slow down, Rambo. Don’t go out and get the largest knife you can. Get something with some utility. Go ask a Marine about their KA-BAR utility knife — it’s one of the best survival knives you can get.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Just be sure to buy your own. I hear Marines are very attached to theirs.

1. Air panels.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Any color will do.

If you need to be seen from a distance (namely, by rescue aircraft), nothing is more effective than what the U.S. military already uses, the VS-17 signal marker is the thing for the job. Best of all, that’s exactly what search and rescue teams are trained to look for.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
This isn’t always going to work.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. strikes Taliban after Afghan security personnel killed in attacks

The United States has conducted a “defensive” air strike against Taliban fighters in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand Province after a checkpoint manned by Afghan forces was attacked.


“The US conducted an airstrike on March 4 against Taliban fighters in Nahr-e Saraj, Helmand, who were actively attacking an #ANDSF checkpoint. This was a defensive strike to disrupt the attack,” U.S. Forces-Afghanistan spokesman Sonny Leggett said in a tweet.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

The strike came just hours after Taliban militants killed at least 20 Afghan security officers in a string of attacks and on the heels of U.S. President Donald Trump’s “very good” chat with the Taliban’s political chief.

The wave of violence is threatening to unravel a February 29 agreement signed in Doha between the United States and the Taliban that would allow allied forces to leave Afghanistan within 14 months in return for various security commitments from the extremist group and a pledge to hold talks with the Afghan government — which the Taliban has so far refused to do.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has warned he was not committed to a key clause in the deal involving the release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners.

The Taliban said it would not take part in intra-Afghan talks until that provision was met.

And on March 2, the militant group ordered its fighters to resume operations against Afghan forces, saying that a weeklong partial truce between the Taliban, U.S., and Afghan forces that preceded the Doha agreement was “over.”

“Taliban fighters attacked at least three army outposts in the Imam Sahib district of Kunduz last night, killing at least 10 soldiers and four police,” said Safiullah Amiri, a member of the provincial council.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

upload.wikimedia.org

Another attack killed six soldiers in the same northern region, Amiri added.

Washington has said it would defend Afghan forces if they came under Taliban attack.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Navy fooled the Russians before the US struck Syria

When President Donald Trump threatened to send missiles at Syria — despite Russia’s promises to counterattack— all eyes turned toward the US Navy’s sole destroyer in the region. But that may have been a trick.

Pundits openly scoffed at Trump’s announcement early April 2018, of the US’s intention to strike, especially considering his criticism of President Barack Obama for similarly telegraphing US military plans, but the actual strike appeared successful.


In April 2017, two US Navy destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean steamed into the region, let off 59 cruise missiles in response to gas attacks by the Syrian government, and left unpunished and unpursued.

But this time, with the US considering its response to another attack against civilians blamed on the Syrian government, Russian officials threatened to shoot down US missiles, and potentially the ships that launched them, if they attacked Syria. A retired Russian admiral spoke candidly about sinking the USS Donald Cook, the only destroyer in the region.

When the strike happened April 14, 2018, local time, the Cook didn’t fire a shot, and a source told Bloomberg News it was a trick.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook transits the Black Sea.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Edward Guttierrez III)

Instead, a US submarine, the USS John Warner, fired missiles while submerged in the eastern Mediterranean, presenting a much more difficult target than a destroyer on the surface. Elsewhere, a French frigate let off three missiles.

But the bulk of the firing came from somewhere else entirely: the Red Sea.

Near Egypt, the USS Monterey, a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, fired 30 Tomahawk cruise missiles, and the USS Laboon, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, shot seven, accounting for about a third of the 105 missiles the US said were fired.

Combined with an air assault from a US B-1B Lancer bomber and UK and French fighter jets, the attack ended up looking considerably different from 2017’s punitive strike.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

Photos from the morning of the attack show Syrian air defenses firing missile interceptors on unguided trajectories, suggesting they did not target or intercept incoming missiles.

“No Syrian weapon had any effect on anything we did,” Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told reporters of the strike on April 14, 2018, calling the strike “precise, overwhelming, and effective.”

Syria said it shot down 71 missiles, but no evidence has surfaced to back up that claim. The US previously acknowledged that one of the Tomahawks used in last year’s attack failed to reach its target because of an error with the missile.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Vietnam veteran Dr. Robert Primeaux, Lakota Warrior

Native American Vietnam veteran Robert Primeaux shared his journey from a Lakota reservation to the Army and even to Hollywood.

As a young man, Primeaux was eager to get off the reservation and see the world. To leave, he decided to join the Army. He trained in Fort Lewis and Fort Knox before joining the 101st Airborne Division and sent off to Vietnam.

In 1972, Primeaux returned to the United States. His younger brother had been killed in a car accident, leaving Primeaux as the sole male survivor of his family.


However, he did not stay in the Army long. A car accident of his own put him in a coma for three weeks. After he recovered, he was discharged.

Primeaux then lived on his grandmother’s ranch while he recovered from his injuries. To help with his recovery, he began to self-rehab by working with the horses on the ranch. His love for horses gave him the opportunity to go to school through a rodeo scholarship from the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA).

Between school and living on his family ranch, Primeaux met Michael Apted on the set of Thunderheart in South Dakota. Through this meeting, he landed a stunt role on Thunderheart and become eligible for access to the Union of the Screen Actors Guild.

Later, Primeaux moved to LA to begin his film career where he landed roles in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and a more prominent role in Rough Riders. This role as Indian Bob was special to Primeaux because the director John Milius specifically created it with him in mind.

Recently, Primeaux has worked as an advocate for fallen service-members.

Throughout his life, through thick and thin, Primeaux credited the Four Cardinal Lakota Virtues for helping him recover from the Vietnam War and his car accident. He listed the Lakota Virtues as:

  1. Bravery. “Individual valor meant more than group bravery, and the warrior who most fearlessly risked his life earned the admiration of all the people and received the most cherished honors.”
  2. Generosity. “If you have more than one of anything, you should give it away to help those persons.”
  3. Fortitude. “All had to be borne without visible signs of distress.
  4. Wisdom. “A man who displays wisdom, displays superior judgment in matters of war, the hunt, of human and group relationships, of band and Tribal policy, and of harmonious interaction with the natural and spiritual world.”

From childhood, Lakota Warriors were taught these four virtues. Primeaux stated that warriors who were taught the true meaning of these virtues learn to treat their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

Iran commands a secret 25,000-man ‘foreign legion’ in Syria

Iran commands a 25,000-man army fighting in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to the head of Israel’s foreign affairs and defense committees.


Avi Dichter, who formerly served as Israel’s domestic intelligence chief, warned visiting Swiss parliamentary members that the massive army is purposely targeting the Syrian rebel opposition, as opposed to the Islamic State.

Also read: US General thinks Iran is behind the missile attacks on US Navy near Yemen

“This is a foreign legion of some 25,000 militants, most of whom have come from Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Dichter told the delegation Wednesday, as reported by Reuters. “They are fighting in Syria only against the rebels and not against ISIS.”

Dichter did not disclose his sources, but he does receive regular intelligence briefings in his role.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
The Iranian army marches in parade | Wiki Commons

Iran’s role in the Syrian conflict is as substantial as Russia’s, albeit much more covert. In lieu of massive bombing campaigns, Iran has recruited a large army comprised of mostly Afghan refugees.

The Hazara community is a small Shia Muslim sect in Afghanistan’s predominantly Sunni population. ISIS and Taliban attacks against the Hazaras forced many to flee to Iran, which also practices Shia Islam. Instead of welcoming the Hazaras, Iran converted them into an army, known as the Fatemiyoun division.

Typically, the Qods Force, a branch within Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), is responsible for foreign cover operations. Iran’s government recognized at the start of the Syrian conflict that a war in Syria would likely be unpopular. The Hazaras served as a convenient proxy.

Iran also utilizes Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorist militias as a proxy for Assad. The Iran-Hezbollah relationship goes back decades, and the terrorist group is far better suited for counter-insurgency operations in Syria than the more conventional Iranian forces.

“The Iranians enlisted Hezbollah … to fight in Syria because the Iranian army is better suited to fight as an army against another army, while the Hezbollah militants are adept at fighting against terror groups,” said Dichter.

Dichter noted approximately 1,600 Hezbollah fighters have been killed fighting in Syria. The terrorist group is an arch-enemy of Israel, but that does not mean he is happy to see them dying on the battlefield.

“The fighting had made [Hezbollah] a better fighting force and more adept in conventional military warfare,” said Dichter.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money

When asked about the current level of savings for commissary shoppers in an era of sweeping reforms, the interim director of Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), retired Navy Rear Adm. Robert Bianchi, referred to results of a price comparison survey conducted in 2016 and released in late January 2017.


It showed average savings at commissaries “globally” were 23.7 percent compared to prices at commercial grocery stores. More specifically, patron savings averaged 20.2 percent at stateside commissaries and 44.2 percent overseas.

The same survey also showed average patron savings varied widely across U.S. regions, from a high of 32.6 percent in Alaska and Hawaii to a low near 18 percent for commissary shoppers across the South Central and Mountain states.

Bianchi and staff said it is the regional cost-saving targets that DeCA monitors monthly and, in finer detail, quarterly, to ensure that steps to transform commissaries into more business-like stores are not diluting patron savings.

Also read: Commissary savings overhaul might cost shoppers extra

Price savings by region are being tracked on “a monthly basis via our syndicated data and [on] a quarterly basis via manual shops [of local stores] and using syndicated data,” a DeCA spokesman explained.

The larger price comparison survey released a year ago established a new method for calculating savings that included a proportion of prices for private label or store brands. This irked patron advocacy groups because, at the time, commissaries didn’t sell their own private label goods. The concern was that the timing served to dampen the baseline savings targets set, which DeCA, by law, must sustain forever more.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
A front view of the Bridgeport Commissary’s produce section. (DeCA photo by Nancy O’Nell)

This occurred long before Bianchi become interim DeCA director in November 2017 to lead commissary transformation while also serving as chief executive of the Navy Exchange Service. Bianchi said he believes the baseline for savings, which use regional price comparisons and private labels, more accurately reflects the real value of the benefit. The previous method, which led to claims that patrons saved more than 30 percent, compared commissary prices against average commercial prices for brand goods only nationwide, ignoring popular private labels.

Steps transforming commissaries include: replacing the traditional cost-plus-a-surcharge pricing with variable pricing based on regional markets; offering DeCA-brand or private label goods as low-priced alternatives to name brands; cutting the assortment of national brands on shelves and negotiating more competitive pricing for surviving brands with brokers and manufacturers.

Related: Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

Patron savings are real and substantial, Bianchi said. “But messaging that, connecting that for the customer, becomes important,” and variable pricing is key.

Commissary savings can get distorted, Bianchi said, when, for example, a shopper walks into a commercial supermarket and the first item seen are bananas selling for 39 cents a pound versus 52 cents seen at the commissary.

“Even though we may be saving them lots of dollars on chicken or other commodities, they get that initial impression and say ‘Hum, am I really saving money or not?’ We know they are. So, part of what I have our team looking at are image items. As we introduce variable pricing, it will give us the capability to compete with those other retailers and manage pricing in the market.”

Patrons need to be made more aware of average savings, Bianchi said.

“So, the part I have to do is message that so they aren’t dissuaded when they see a loss leader item” in a commercial market and think their commissary benefit has lost value. “The value proposition has got to be real and clear to them.”

Readers of last week’s column, which described a sharp decline in commissary sales, reacted with emails. Many blamed falling sales on a perceived narrowing of savings. Other criticized empty shelves and popular items out of stock.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Energy efficient ice cream freezers inside of a Commissary. (DeCA photo by Nancy O’Nell)

Manufacturers and brokers shared recent scanned sales data from commissaries that, they contend, show variable pricing and private labeling accelerating the sales drop as patrons discover favored brand names are gone.

One industry analysis noted how Duracell batteries were removed from commissaries last year. While sales data show Energizer battery sales climbing, as would be expected, battery sales overall in the commissaries have fallen.

Bianchi said it’s premature to be sounding alarms over variable pricing or the introduction of DeCA brands Home Base, Top Care, and Freedom’s Choice.

Every commissary now has some variably priced items and “initial data suggest customers are responding positively,” Bianchi said. “In fact, we are beginning to get more competitive on the items that are most relevant to our patrons, which we expect will only help our sales performance.

“However, we still have a relatively small portion of the total assortment variably priced.” In mid-January 2018 that total was only 7000 of 38,000 stocked items.

Also read: House-Senate to negotiate key military benefit changes

“It is, therefore, too early to draw conclusions about how this will impact commissary-wide sales trends. Initial item-level sales data and customer input make us confident this is the right approach.”

Initial private label results on bottled water, cheese, health care products, paper towels and more also are encouraging, said Bianchi. The goal is to sell 3000 to 4000 items with commissary labels.

“We continue to see sales growth and penetration levels increase, and our customers regularly tell us they are happy to have these low-cost, high-quality alternatives on the shelf. None of the items introduced to date give us any concern for the acceptance of our brands, and we will continue to roll out these products aggressively given the very positive response from patrons.”

In fact, he added, many product categories with private labels “have seen an uptick in sales relative” not seen in product categories without private labels.

Bianchi said he came to DeCA with a lot of retail experience and a fresh set of eyes. He found shortfalls in customer service, expense control and sales planning, all critical for shifting to a profit and loss environment.

More: Slump at ‘The Stumps:’ Commissary closes because of rat infestation

“You just have a different perspective” when store expenses are covered by appropriated dollars, he said.

He found commissary shoppers uncomfortable with having baggers handle groceries for tips, Bianchi said, which might explain the popularity of self-checkout.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Rear Adm. Robert J. Bianchi, commander, Navy Exchange Service Command, greets a local Djiboutian Navy Exchange employee at the Navy Exchange at Camp Lemonier during a visit to the camp to assess the progress of the facilities under his area of responsibility. Camp Lemonier, located in the Horn of Africa, is the only U.S. military infrastructure located in Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan P. Idle)

“How many people carry cash nowadays,” he said. “And if you go to an ATM machine you’re only getting 20s. So, we’re kind of looking at” the bagger issue.

Bianchi said he spent his first months at DeCA focused on patrons, employees and having store partner with commands and local communities. He will turn soon to repairing relationships with brokers and manufacturers who might have felt bulldozed by all the recent changes at commissaries tied to profit and loss.

“Quite honestly, as these initiatives were rolled out, there was probably a lack of transparency, which created some concern and doubt on industry’s part [and] some bad feelings,” said Bianchi. “Some folks are still remaining critical, which I think is a carryover from that.”

Industry reps who also dealt with base exchanges, which have long generated profits, likely were less startled by mindset shift at DeCA, he said.

“The reality is the business model does have to change as we move to a profit and loss environment. We want to create a win-win situation. But I will tell you, from walking floors at commissaries, we [need] an assortment rationalization,” meaning more cuts to the number of brand goods. “So, there may be winners and losers but that’s not any different than the private sector goes through every day.”

Articles

This aging Russian plane was the Tomahawk strike’s target

The strike on Shayrat Air Base was intended to take out a number of targets, but one plane in particular was top of the list: The Su-22 Fitter.


According to Scramble.nl, two squadrons of this plane were based at the Shayrat air base that absorbed 59 T-LAMs. But why was this plane the primary target, as opposed to the squadron of MiG-23 Floggers? The answer is that the versions of the MiG-23 that were reportedly based there were primarily in the air-to-air role. The MiG-23MLD is known as the “Flogger K” by NATO. The two squadrons of Su-22 Fitters, though, specialized in the ground attack mission.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
A pair of Su-22M4 Fitters, similar to those based at Shayrat Air Base in Syria. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to militaryfactory.com, the Su-22 is one of two export versions of the Su-17, which first entered service in 1969. Since then, it has received progressive improvements, and was widely exported to not only Warsaw Pact countries but to Soviet allies in the Middle East and to Peru. The Russians and French teamed up to modernize many of the Fitters still in service – and over 2,600 of these planes were built.

According to the Encyclopaedia of Modern Aircraft Armament, the Su-17/Su-20/Su-22 Fitter has eight hardpoints capable of carrying up to 11,000 pounds of munitions. It also has a pair of MR-30 30mm cannon. It is capable of a top speed of 624 knots, according to militaryfactory.com.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
A Libyan Su-22 Fitter – two of these were shot down by Navy F-14s in 1981. (US Navy photo)

The Fitter has seen a fair bit of combat action, including during the Iran-Iraq War, the Yom Kippur War, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and the Russian wars in Chechnya.

Recently, it saw action in the Libyan Civil War as well as the Syrian Civil War.

While it has performed well in ground-attack missions, it was famously misused by then-Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi to challenge U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcats over the Gulf of Sidra in 1981. Both Fitters were shot down after an ineffectual attack on the Tomcats.

During Desert Storm, the Iraqi Air Force lost two Su-22s, then two more during Operation Provide Comfort.

The Fitter did get one moment in the cinematic sun, though. In the Vin Diesel action movie “XXX,” two Czech air force Fitters made a cameo during the climactic sequence.

Humor

The 13 funniest memes for the week of April 20th

Well, there’s no two ways about it, ladies and gents: this has been a hell of a week. The situation in Syria escalated and the one in Korea calmed. We came together to pay our respects to the most beloved figure in the veteran community only to have a t-rex puppet come and fracture us in two again.


Can’t we all just get along again and remember how much we miss being deployed because the tax-free income was beautiful? Probably not.

Just don’t do anything stupid today if you’re still on active duty. Five bucks says that there will be a 100-percent-accountability urinalysis on Monday.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

(Terminal Lance)

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

(WATM)

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

(Decelerate Your Life)

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

(/r/Military)

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

(Untied Status Marin Crops)

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

(WATM)

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

(PNN)

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

(Untied Status Marin Crops)

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

(Military Memes)

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

(Army as F*ck)

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

(The Salty Soldier)

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

(Disgruntled Vets)

Soon, this won’t be a joke.

When that moment comes, you know my ass will be first in line at the prior service recruiter’s office.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

(Pop Smoke)

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents

New events for this year’s Best Warrior Competition will come from the experiences of operational advisors deployed around the world by the Asymmetric Warfare Group, the lead organizer said Sept. 25, 2019.

The competition will take place Oct. 6-11, 2019, at Forts Lee and A.P. Hill, Virginia, with 22 competitors from the Army’s major commands and components vying for Soldier of the Year and NCO of the Year. Winners will be announced at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2019.

A small Asymmetric Warfare Group detachment at Fort A.P. Hill has been preparing for the competition since February 2019 under the leadership of 1st Sgt. Hunter Conrad.


Conrad served as an AWG operational advisor for three years, undergoing half a dozen deployments to nations such as Senegal, Uganda, Somalia and Tunisia. He also served for a year on AWG’s Leadership Development Troop, teaching brigade combat teams how to operate in a subterranean environment.

The competition’s events, though, don’t just come from his experiences; they’re based on real-world situations observed by operational advisors across all combatant commands, he said.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

Spc. Hunter Olson, Maryland National Guard, dominates a water survival event involving a 100-meter swim in full uniform at the 2019 Region II Best Warrior Competition.

(Photo by aj. Kurt M. Rauschenberg)

“It’s been a team effort,” Conrad said, and that doesn’t just stop with the preparations. A team of about 15 soldiers from First U.S. Army at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, will be joining his detachment to conduct the competition.

Another 20 or so soldiers from AWG at Fort Meade, Maryland, will be going to A.P. Hill to help run the competition, he said, and a handful from the Army Medical Command will also be there.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston went to Fort A.P. Hill September 2019 for a validation and mission rehearsal of the competition. He made minor course corrections, Conrad said, based on his preference for enhanced, realistic training.

“The Best Warrior Competition is the essence of what we want to accomplish,” Grinston said. “We want to enhance Army readiness by building cohesive teams who are highly trained, disciplined and physically fit. Cohesive teams are the key to winning on any battlefield.”​

In order to enhance the realism, Conrad spent hours studying after-action reports that describe recent incidents around the world that tested the combat proficiency of soldiers. Many of those incidents will be re-created for the competition.

The competition actually begins at Fort Lee with the new Army Combat Fitness Test. Then competitors depart for the operational phase of Best Warrior at Fort A.P. Hill. There they will be tested on various soldier skills as part of a fictional combatant command scenario, Conrad said.

Every year, different skill level 1 tasks are tested, he said, in order to keep competitors guessing. They don’t know ahead of time what skills will be assessed, or in what order, so Conrad said they must be proficient in all of them.

Competitors won’t be able to “just memorize the sequence of events and perform them in a sterile environment,” like they do in warrior task testing lanes at many units, he said.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

Spc. Collin George, U.S. Army Reserve Soldier of the Year, reassebles an M240B machine gun with his eyes covered during a crew-served weapons class at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, Aug. 14, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Kevin Long)

“We actually try to place them in a real-world scenario and grade them on their ability to execute the same tasks in a more stressful, realistically-simulated environment,” he said.

Last year the operational phase of the competition began with a ruck march in the dark carrying 50 pounds of gear. The initial event will be different this year, but Conrad added competitors “can expect to exert themselves physically.”

Additionally, Grinston noted, as the Army continues to study ways to enhance readiness, it must better understand biomechanics and cognitive performance to quantify soldier lethality.

“We need to establish a baseline for soldier performance through the Soldier Performance Model,” he said. “We have a team who will place sensors on each competitor to measure everything from stress and fatigue, to how their bodies process nutrition during the competition.”

“This will help us collect data to evaluate the impact of those factors, and others, on soldiers, and what we can do to help them perform better,” Grinston said.

Last year, Cpl. Matthew Hagensick from the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia, earned the Soldier of the Year title. Sgt. 1st Class Sean Acosta, a civil affairs specialist with the 1st Special Warfare Training Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, became NCO of the Year.

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

Humor

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of March 2nd

Ah, springtime. It’s almost that beautiful time of year again.


Junior enlisted are happy, NCOs are yelling at them to downgrade to the summer PT uniform, and sergeant majors can finally see their beloved grass before a dumb butter bar walks on it. Rumor has it that the warrant officer might have even come out of hibernation!

For once, things are optimistic. Pizza MREs are coming, the Army is getting its Pinks and Greens back, and a sweet pay increase is coming. So, take it easy. Relax. Enjoy the smell of freshly cut memes.

13. Every. Single. Time.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

12. “What are they going to do? Kick me out — oh…”

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths

11. Holding random clipboards or putting your cellphone up to your ear also works.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Walk with a sense of purpose and people will think you’re doing things. (Meme via Air Force Nation)

10. We get enough opinions from the “Good Idea Fairy;” we don’t need anymore.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Anyone who thinks any troops have feelings immediately loses their right to be heard. (Meme via Decelerate your Life)

9. The beard comes standard with every DD-214.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
The alcoholism never fades, though. (Meme via Reddit)

8. Any troop who says they haven’t had to open an MRE packet with their mouth is a damn liar.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
(Meme via Reddit)

7. Perfect, until you drop something…

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
(Meme via Reddit)

6. Will Gunny ever relax? Will we ever find the WO? Tune in next week.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
(Meme via Reddit)

5. They’re not mutually exclusive.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
(Meme via Pop Smoke)

4. Eye for an eye. Next time they try to miss formation and lie about being “at dental,” get their asses.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
(Meme via Pop Smoke)

3. If Big Army took the same approach, maybe everyone would get their SSD1 done.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

2. Roger. We get it. Can we go home already?

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
(Meme via The Salty Sailor)

1. POG is a state of mind, not an MOS.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Shots fired. (Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)

Articles

US launches practice bombing runs along North Korean border

The US military dispatched several powerful strategic military assets to the Korean Peninsula Aug. 31 in a “show of force.”


Two Air Force B-1B Lancers from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and four Marine Corp F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters from US Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan drilled alongside four South Korean F-15 fighters, practicing bombing North Korea’s core facilities, according to US Pacific Command.

The B-1 carries the largest conventional payload of any Air Force bomber, and the F-35 is one of America’s top stealth fighters.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Republic of Korea F-15K fighters drop munitions over Pilsung Range during operations alongside US F-35B stealth fighters and B-1B Lancer bombers. Photo by Republic of Korea Air Force.

“North Korea’s actions are a threat to our allies, partners, and homeland, and their destabilizing actions will be met accordingly,” General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Commander, US Pacific Air Forces, said in a statement. “This complex mission clearly demonstrates our solidarity with our allies and underscores the broadening cooperation to defend against this common regional threat. Our forward-deployed force will be the first to the fight, ready to deliver a lethal response at a moment’s notice if our nation calls.”

The display of allied military power comes just days after North Korea launched three short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea/Sea of Japan and fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan, raising alarms. North Korea called the second launch a “meaningful prelude to containing Guam,” a reference to its early warnings of possible strikes around the Pacific territory.

The US has sent B-1B bombers ripping across the peninsula before, typically after major provocations by the North. While these aircraft are no longer nuclear-capable, as the necessary components were removed years ago, North Korea often refers to these aircraft as “nuclear strategic bombers,” and they make North Korea extremely uncomfortable.

3 ways to keep heroic lives from ending in devastating deaths
Weapons dropped from US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers and U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II practicing attack capabilities impact the Pilsung Range, Republic of Korea, Aug. 30, 2017. Photo by Republic of Korea Air Force.

The North perceives Guam as a forward base for a preemptive/preventative strike on its territory, so for Pyongyang, bomber overflights are disconcerting. North Korea actually cited the B-1B Lancer flights over the Peninsula as one of the reasons it plans to fire missiles around Guam in its own display of power. North Korea revealed earlier this month it is considering launching a salvo of four Hwasong-12 IRBMs into waters around Guam to send a message to President Donald Trump.

The Trump administration has been pursuing a policy of “maximum pressure and engagement,” which involves using economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure to bring Pyongyang to the negotiating table for a diplomatic solution. Trump, however, said Aug. 30 that “talking is not the answer” with North Korea, while stressing that “all options are on the table.”

Secretary of State James Mattis later said, “We’re never out of diplomatic solutions.”

US policy is unclear as the Trump administration confronts a problem that has puzzled presidents for decades and is now more complex and dangerous than ever, given that two decades of failed North Korea policy have allowed the reclusive regime to develop nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them to distant targets in South Korea, Japan, and even the continental US.

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