The 8 steps of counting down to deployment - We Are The Mighty
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The 8 steps of counting down to deployment

Anticipating a deployment is at once stressful, exhilarating, and boring as hell. Here are the 8 basic steps:


1. Announcement

The 8 steps of counting down to deployment
Photo: US Marine Corps Land Cpl. Katelyn Hunter

The announcement comes down from the Pentagon that your unit is headed overseas at some point. Everyone will respond to this differently. Newer troops will walk with a swagger as they think about becoming combat veterans. Actual combat veterans will sigh heavily.

2. Keeping it a secret (while telling everyone)

The 8 steps of counting down to deployment

Sure, operational security and all that. But you have to tell your family. And your best buddies need to know. Also, those guys at the bar won’t buy you drinks just for sitting there. Is that hot girl over there into deploying troops?

3. First stage of training

The 8 steps of counting down to deployment
Photo: US Army Capt. Lisa Browne Banic

“Time for pre-deployment training! Time to become the most elite, modern warriors in the world!” you think for the first 15 minutes of the first training session.

4. The rest of training

The 8 steps of counting down to deployment

“Oh my god, how much of this is done via PowerPoint?” Also, your weapon will be completely caked in carbon from those blanks.

5. Culmination exercise

The 8 steps of counting down to deployment
Photo: US Army Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

Suddenly, it’s exciting again. Pyrotechnics, laser tag, a bunch of awesome pictures that can become your Facebook cover photo so those girls from high school can see them. Someone in your squad can edit out the blank firing adapters.

6. Packing (and packing, and packing …)

The 8 steps of counting down to deployment

That brief adrenaline rush at the final culmination exercise will not last. You will realize you still have to clean and pack the gear to go home. Then pack the connexes to send to country. Then pack your bags to go into other connexes. Then pack the …

7. Pre-deployment leave

The 8 steps of counting down to deployment

Finally! After months of hard work, a brief rest before more months of hard work. Also, a chance to “not” tell more hometown girls that you’re deploying.

8. Getting on the plane (or ship or whatever)

The 8 steps of counting down to deployment
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Julio Rivera

Time to go somewhere really “fun” and live there for a year or so. But hey, only [balance of deployment] left until redeployment.

MIGHTY TRENDING

No one wants Russia’s new fighter — they want the F-35

Russia recently grabbed a bunch of publicity for its new Su-57 fifth-generation jet by sending a pair of the supposedly stealth fighters to practice dropping bombs in Syria — but it looks like the F-35 could squash the program in its infancy.


Multiple experts recently told Business Insider that Russia’s program to acquire and field the Su-57 desperately needs an infusion of cash from an international investor, like India.

Initially, India was a partner in the Su-57 program, and intended to help develop, build, and, eventually, buy scores of the advanced fighter jet pitched as a rival to the US F-22 and F-35, but those talks soured and Russia never saw the money.

Also read: Russia’s new Su-57 ‘stealth’ fighter hasn’t even been delivered yet — and it’s already a disappointment

Experts now allege that Russia’s deployment of the underdeveloped, underpowered fighters to Syria, a combat zone where they’re hardly relevant as air-superiority fighters not facing any real air threats, was a marketing ploy to get more investment.

But while Russia rushes off the Su-57s for a deployment that lasts mere days and demonstrates only that the supposedly next-generation fighters can drop bombs, the US has made real inroads selling the F-35 to countries that might have looked at the Su-57.

The 8 steps of counting down to deployment
(Photo by Alex Beltyukov)

The US sent F-35s to the Singapore Air Show in February 2018 as part of an international sales pitch. President Donald Trump’s administration has loosened up regulations on who the US can sell weapons to, and the F-35, once a troubled program, finally seems to have hit its stride.

“The Russian economy is a mess,” retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, now head of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, told Business Insider. “One of the things they can actually get money for is the advanced tech in their weapons systems.”

More: These are the 11 Russian military aircraft in Syria right now

But with the Su-57 seeming like a long shot with trouble ahead, and the F-35 now ready to buy, the Trump administration’s expressed strategy of punishing the Kremlin’s cash flow with military sales might bear fruit.

Asked if the F-35’s export to countries like India posed a threat to Russia’s Su-57 program, Deptula gave a short answer: “Yes.”

The Su-57’s death blow could fall in a boardroom in New Delhi

The 8 steps of counting down to deployment
India wants a single-engine fighter jet. It could by the F-16 or F-35. (US Air Force)

Japan and South Korea are both thinking about buying more F-35s, but most importantly, The Diplomat rounded up several reports indicating that India’s Air Force formally requested a classified briefing on the F-35A, and it may buy up to 126 of the jets.

At around $100 million per airframe, such a purchase would likely leave little room in the budget for India to buy Su-57s, which would require vastly different support infrastructure than the US jet.

Related: The Navy’s first-ever F-35 carrier just deployed in the Pacific

“Having been to India and met with their Air Force leadership, while they are a neutral country, their culture is one that fits very well with English-speaking nations around the world,” said Deptula, who said the US trying to sell F-35s to India would be “worthwhile.”

If India decided to buy F-35s, or really any Western jet, Russia would have its struggling Su-57 and one fewer customer for it. Meanwhile, Russia has only ordered 12 of the Su-57s, not even enough for a full squadron.

So, while jet enthusiasts have long debated who would win in a fight between the F-35 and the Su-57, we may never find out.

The US’s F-35 is a real jet — three real jets, actually — that has significant money behind it to keep it flying in air forces around the globe for decades to come. Russia’s Su-57 has no such security.

Articles

Mattis pick could see Senate clash on women in combat, PTSD

Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, a front-runner for defense secretary in a Trump administration, could face stormy Senate confirmation hearings over his views on women in combat, post-traumatic stress, Iran, and other issues.


Mattis also would bring with him a bottom-up leadership style honed in command positions from the rifle platoon level to U.S. Central Command that seemingly would be at odds with President-elect Donald Trump’s top-down management philosophy and the by-the-book bureaucracy of the Pentagon.

Also read: General ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis got Trump to rethink his position on torture in under an hour

In his writings, speeches and think-tank comments since retiring in 2013 as a revered figure in the Marine Corps, Mattis has been characteristically blunt on a range of issues from the role of women in the military and post-traumatic stress to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iran.

Mattis also has praised the Mideast diplomacy efforts of Secretary of State John Kerry, who was often mocked by Trump during the campaign, but Trump has kept Mattis at the top of his short list for the Pentagon post.

The 8 steps of counting down to deployment
Wikimedia Commons

The general has apparently cleared his calendar in anticipation of a Trump decision.

Mattis canceled a Dec. 14 speaking engagement at a Jamestown Foundation conference on terrorism, according to The Hill newspaper’s Kristina Wong. He has discussed the possibility of his selection as defense secretary with the leadership of the Center for a New American Security, where he is a board member, the Hill said.

Others believed to be under consideration for the defense post are Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican and former Army captain; Stephen Hadley, the National Security Adviser in the administration of President George W. Bush; and former Sen. Jim Talent, a Missouri Republican.

Trump met with Mattis before Thanksgiving and later called him the “real deal” and a “generals’ general” who rated ample consideration for the defense nomination. Trump also said he was “surprised” when Mattis told him he could get more out of a terrorism suspect’s interrogation with a few beers and a pack of cigarettes than he could with waterboarding and torture.

Trump later spoke at length with The New York Times about the potential choice of Mattis and other matters, but did not touch on the roles of women in the military or Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s historic decision last March to open up all military occupational specialties to women who qualify.

Women in Combat

Mattis, now a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution in California, has questioned whether women are suited for what he called the “intimate killing” of close combat, and whether male commanders would balk at sending women into such situations.

Mattis also said he was concerned about “Eros” in the trenches when young men and women live in close quarters in the “atavistic” atmosphere of combat. “I don’t care if you go anywhere in history where you would find that this has worked,” he said of putting “healthy young men and women together and we expect them to act like little saints.”

In periodic speeches to the Marines’ Memorial Club in San Francisco, Mattis said that the U.S. military is a “national treasure,” and it is inevitable that women would want to serve in every MOS.

“The problem is that in the atavistic primate world” of close-quarters combat, “the idea of putting women in there is not setting them up for success,” Mattis said. He stressed that he was not talking about whether women could perform the required amounts of pushups, pullups and other physical requirements — “that’s not the point.”

Commanders must consider “what makes us most combat effective when you jump into that room and you’re doing what we call intimate killing,” he said. “It would only be someone who never crossed the line of departure into close encounters fighting that would ever even promote such an idea” as putting women into close combat.

If nominated, Mattis would almost certainly be challenged on women in combat in confirmation hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has six women on the panel.

One of them is Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican who retired as a lieutenant colonel after 23 years in the Army Reserves and Iowa National Guard. Ernst, who served a deployment in Operation Iraqi Freedom and is the first female veteran in the Senate, has applauded the opportunity for women who meet the standards to serve in the combat arms.

Opponents of women in combat have said that the next defense secretary could easily reverse the current rules opening up all billets to women.

Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, told Military Times, “Those policies have to be rolled back. Right now, the policy is that women can and will be assigned to ground combat units. That pronouncement can indeed be changed by a future secretary of defense.”

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of “Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield,” said the argument is misguided since women have already proven their worth in combat.

The rules could be changed by the next administration, but “the record of service speaks for itself,” Lemmon said. Even when regulations banned women from combat, “They were there. They were there because special ops needed them there,” she said.

“I have never thought this was about political correctness or a feminist agenda,” Lemmon said of the issue of women in combat, “but rather about military readiness and having the right people in the right jobs. In some ways, it is remarkable to me that we have Americans who want to say that even if you meet the standard, you cannot be there.”

The 8 steps of counting down to deployment
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, commander, U.S. Central Command visits with Marines stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait on Feb. 26, 2011. | DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

Post-Traumatic Stress

Mattis has also differed with current thinking on post-traumatic stress and its treatment in the military and in the Department of Veterans Affairs, where the leadership has labored to remove the “stigma” against seeking help.

“We have such a fixation on disease and disorder that troops coming home have to be told, actually have to be told, ‘You don’t have to be messed up,’ ” Mattis said. “What’s the message we’re sending them?”

“My concern is we’ve got so many people who think they’re messed up now, or think they should be, that the ones who really need help are being submerged in the broader population and so the ones who need the help the most aren’t getting the attention they need to be getting,” he said.

“There’s no room for woe-is-me, for self-pity, or for cynicism” in the military, Mattis said. “Further, there is no room for military people, including our veterans, to see themselves as victims even if so many of our countrymen are prone to relish that role. In the military, we make choices. We’re not victims.”

The misperception about war and its aftermath is that “somehow we’re damaged by this. I’m on record that it didn’t traumatize me to do away with some people slapping women around,” Mattis said, but there was a growing acceptance that “we’re all post-traumatic stressed out” and that veterans were “somehow damaged goods. I don’t buy it.”

Iran Deal

Mattis stepped down as commander of U.S. Central Command in 2013, reportedly after clashing with the White House on Iran. Now, his views on the threat posed by Iran appear to line up with those of Trump.

“Among the many challenges the Mideast faces, I think Iran is foremost,” Mattis said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies last April.

“The Iranian regime, in my mind, is the single most enduring threat to peace and stability in the Mideast,” and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action worked out by Secretary Kerry and others to rein in Iran’s nuclear programs has not altered the threat, he said.

During the campaign, Trump called the Iran pact a “terrible deal” and suggested he would renegotiate it or possibly scrap it, but Mattis is against that course of action.

“It was not a mistake to engage on the nuclear issue” with Iran, he said, adding that the deal “was not without some merit” and “there’s no going back, absent a clear violation” of the agreement.

Kerry has been pilloried by Trump on his overall performance as secretary of state, but Mattis lauded his efforts in the Mideast, particularly on his thus-far fruitless attempts to bring about a two-state solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians. However, the two sides must want peace “as bad as the secretary of state. I admire and salute Secretary Kerry’s efforts,” he said.

Leadership Style

Should Mattis get the nomination, he would take to the Pentagon a unique leadership style that relies on feedback from the ranks. “Generals get a lot of credit but very little of it is earned by their own blood, sweat and tears,” he has said, adding that the credit should go to the front-line troops.

“There are two kinds of generals — one gets briefed, the other briefs his staff,” and Mattis made clear that he was the second type of general. “I found it faster if I would go out and spend most of my time with the lead elements” in an effort “to get a sense if the lads thought we were winning. We didn’t use command and control, we used command and feedback.”

“Wandering around like that really unleashed a lot of combat power,” said Mattis, whose nickname was “Mad Dog” and who had the radio call sign “Chaos.”

When asked about the most important trait for a leader, he said, “It comes down to building trust.”

Leaders must be able to make those in their command “feel your passion for excellence. If they believe you care about them, you can speak to them bluntly and they’re ready to go back into the brawl,” he said.

If he were to be confirmed by the Senate, Mattis would be the first recently retired general to hold the defense secretary’s post since Gen. George C. Marshall, the Army chief of staff during World War II. Marshall was named secretary of defense by President Harry Truman in 1950.

The choice of Mattis would for the first time put two Marines in the top uniformed and civilian posts at the Pentagon. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford served under Mattis as a colonel in command of the 5th Marine Regiment during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Senate confirmation would be the second hurdle for Mattis. He first would need a waiver from Congress to get around the rule barring military officers from accepting posts requiring Senate confirmation for seven years after retirement. Mattis left the military in 2013.

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘Spoiled brat’ says Army put him in his place

“I have no idea why I joined the Army,” said Spc. Ken Park, a soldier with the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, based out of Southfield, Michigan. “My parents were extremely against it. I was a spoiled brat. I was fat.”

Park came from what he considered to be a privileged life. He was constantly told that he was special by his parents and his teachers. But Spc Park never really felt like that was a life for him. “Coming from that sort of privileged background, joining the Army, being told that I was the same as everyone else sort of put me in my place.”

“My recruiter even told me I couldn’t join, the first time. He said I should go to school instead, and I could join later” said Park. He was about 60 pounds overweight at the time, so he joined a gym and, through hard work and discipline, ended up losing 70 pounds. Park was, perhaps unknowingly, starting to re-program himself into the Army life even before he officially enlisted.


By being in the Army, Park said, he has learned life skills that he may not have learned otherwise. “I didn’t know how to do laundry until the first or second day of basic. Actually, my battle buddy looked at me weird. He said, ‘How do you not know how to do laundry as an 18 year old?’ I had someone do that for me my whole life” said Park. “But now I know the value of a dollar. How hard you have to work to be something. And how to do laundry,” he said with a chuckle.

The 8 steps of counting down to deployment

Spc. Ken Parks, a soldier with the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion listens to the range safety officer issue commands targets during a qualification table at his unit’s November drill weekend at Fort Custer, Mich. on Nov. 16th, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Bob Yarbrough)

Park went on to say that his Army experience has only gotten better. “In AIT (Advanced Individual Training) I had a case of bronchitis, but I kept going. We had a PT test and I had to pass. “There was [harsh winter] weather like this. And I had to go on. The fast guys came back, because they knew I had bronchitis, but I had to pass. I made it and it was hard, but I don’t know that I would have made it without them.”

Spc. Park isn’t new to the U.S. Army Reserve, but he is new to the Civil Affairs Community, and the 414th, first drilling with the unit in September. He says his time in the 414th has been eye-opeing. “There aren’t many places you can go, in the Army or in normal life, where someone will see you struggling, and say ‘Hey, I know you’re tired, I got you’ and they take care of you so the mission still gets done.”

Park came to the 414th after being contacted by an Officer in the unit. “Cpt. Babcock actually reached out to me on LinkedIn,” said Park, “because I’m fluent in Korean and Japanese. Now I feel proud to be part of the unit, and I hope to live up to the expectations of the Commander and the First Sergeant.”

“Despite being told that I shouldn’t, and couldn’t, join the Army, I’m glad I did,” said Park. “It gave me a higher value, a better reason for doing what I do.”

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

Articles

U.S. Navy vet and comedian Charlie Murphy has died

Charlie Murphy, a standup comedian and Navy vet known for his work on the “Chappelle’s Show,” died after a battle with leukemia. He was 57.


Murphy joined the Navy after being released from a stint in jail. His mother wanted him to get out of the neighborhood to prevent him relapsing into his old habits and he enlisted the same day. He had to lie to get in, but has told interviewers ever since that he doesn’t regret it.

The 8 steps of counting down to deployment
Charlie Murphy played himself in skits with Dave Chappelle dramatizing Murphy’s run-ins with Rick James. (Photo: YouTube/TV One)

“I became a man in the Navy,” he said in a PR.com release. “That’s where I got my first apartment, my first marriage, my first bank account, my first car… it all happened there. That was a good experience.”

Somehow, Murphy made it through his service without ever being issued dog tags.

“I’ll tell you something bizarre. I was never issued dog tags. It’s part of your uniform, but I never got them. I thought it was for ID. But it’s not to ID you. It’s to ID your corpse. That’s why they make them out of metal,” he was quoted as saying.

The 8 steps of counting down to deployment
Comedian and Navy veteran Charlie Murphy performs standup. (Photo: YouTube/Leon Knoles)

After separating from the military, Murphy became the head of security for his little brother, Eddie Murphy, before launching his own career as a writer, actor, and standup comedian. The older Murphy helped write the movies “Vampire in Brooklyn” and “Norbit” which his younger brother starred in.

Charlie also played small parts in “Night at the Museum,” “The Boondocks,” and the 2012 reboot of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Father and son strengthen bond while deployed together

Most fathers are happy to receive a tie or some other type of keepsake from their children for Father’s Day — especially once their children are grown.

For Sgt. 1st Class Robert Scott, he will have something far more valuable to see while he is forward deployed to Qatar this Father’s Day. He serves alongside his oldest son, Staff Sgt. John Scott, and both are members of Centurion Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment, New Jersey Army National Guard at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar.

“It’s a satisfying feeling with your children being in the military and seeing their accomplishments,” said Robert, who is the Base Defense Operations Center noncommissioned officer in charge for Area Support Group-Qatar. “If anybody has an opportunity to do it, do it. If you could, give it a shot because it’s nice to have somebody around.”


The Scott’s family history of military service extends back to World War II. Robert’s father, and John’s grandfather, was drafted into the 114th Infantry Regiment for World War II service. Robert first enlisted in the Army in 1985 as a military police officer. After serving for six years in assignments in Panama, Korea, California and Missouri, he returned to civilian life and eventually became a police officer.

John, who is now the headquarters platoon sergeant and operations noncommissioned officer for Centurion Company, first enlisted at 17, while still a senior in high school, in 2006. This led to a fateful question John asked his father.

The 8 steps of counting down to deployment

Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Scott, left, and his son, Staff Sgt. John Scott, are both currently deployed to Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, where they serve with the New Jersey Army National Guard’s Centurion Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment.

(SGT Zach Mott)

“He was active duty long before I even joined, then he decided to get out,” John said. “When I joined, I can only remember me looking at him and saying, ‘don’t you miss it?'”

With that simple question, the ball began rolling and shortly thereafter Robert again found himself at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, this time training to become a 74 Delta: chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) specialist.

“He went in the Guard so I had him recruit me,” Robert said. “At the time, they had a little bonus program so it made him a little extra money.”

In addition to Robert and John’s military service, Robert’s second oldest daughter Jamie is a National Guard military intelligence officer and youngest son Robert is currently serving on active duty in Germany. Robert has four other children, one who manages a bar and restaurant in New Jersey, another who is a firefighter in New Jersey, one who recently finished high school and one more who is still in school. In total, their ages range from 32 to 15.

Robert, a Brick, New Jersey native, is proud of all of his children and happy to see that they’ve applied the discipline and structure that his military training instilled in him.

“He always had that military mentality that everything needs to be dress right dress, everything needs to be lined up perfectly. We grew up with it,” said John, a Toms River, New Jersey native. “Him being a cop didn’t help.”

This is the second time the Scott’s have been deployed at the same time. The first time, in 2008 to 2009, Robert was at Camp Bucca, Iraq, and John was at Camp Cropper, Iraq. While the two were separated by more than 300 miles then, they now have only about 300 feet between them.

“We would talk to home more than we were able to talk to each other,” Robert said of that 2008 to 2009 deployment. “This is kind of like we’re both at home. We’ll run into each other. The communication here is a lot better. It’s face-to-face. It’s good to see everything’s going good. I can tell by the way (he’s) looking at me that something’s up.”

John, who is also a police officer in New Jersey, likes to spend his off time, or “overtime” as he calls it, visiting with his dad in the BDOC, sharing a meal together at the dining facility, smoking cigars or doing typical father and son type games.

The 8 steps of counting down to deployment

Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Scott, left, and his son, Staff Sgt. John Scott, are both currently deployed to Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, where they serve with the New Jersey Army National Guard’s Centurion Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment

(SGT Zach Mott)

“The other day we were just talking and we just started tossing a roll of duct tape around, just catching back and forth,” Robert said. “If there was a ball there we probably would have picked it up and just started playing catch. We were both standing there throwing it back and forth to each other, he looks at me and he goes, ‘This turned out to be more fun than I thought.'”

Whether it’s the father-son relationship or the military rank structure, John remains deferential to his father when it comes to off duty activities.

“I don’t know, he outranks me so whatever he wants to do,” said John, who is on his fourth tour in the Central Command area of operations. Once to Iraq in 2008 to 2009, once to Afghanistan in 2009 to 2011, Qatar in 2014 to 2015 and again to Qatar now.

What the future holds for both remains open — and competitive. Robert said he wants to finish out his current contracted time of two years and see what options are available. John, who has 13 years of service, is looking for a broadening assignment as an instructor in the New Jersey Army National Guard next.

“He’s hoping I either die or retire because my brother was a retired sergeant first class,” Robert said. “I’m going to stay in. I’m going to drive him into the dirt. He’ll have to shoot for E-9 first.”

“He’ll retire, I’ll outrank him. Then I’ll rub it in his face,” John said.

The jokes continue and the smiles grow as father and son talk about the unique opportunity to serve together while deployed.

“How many other people get to go overseas with their father? I don’t hear much about it,” John said. “I’d say it’s a rare case. I get to have family support while deployed. I don’t have to reach back home to see what’s up.”

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

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.

The 8 steps of counting down to deployment
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.”

The 8 steps of counting down to deployment
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.

The 8 steps of counting down to deployment
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.

The 8 steps of counting down to deployment
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.

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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.

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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

Russia claims that Novichok suspects are just civilians

President Vladimir Putin says Russia has identified the men Britain suspects of poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a military-grade nerve agent, contradicting U.K. authorities by claiming they are civilians.

“We know who they are. We have found them,” Putin said at an economic forum in the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok on Sept. 12, 2018.

“They are civilians, of course,” Putin said, contradicting the British government’s assertion that they are officers of Russia’s military intelligence agency, known as the GRU.

He said that there was “nothing criminal” about the two men and that he hoped they would come forward and tell their own story, adding: “That would be better for everybody.”


Putin gave no indication that Russia would help Britain pursue the suspects, and his poker-faced remarks appeared to indicate that it would not.

Russia adamantly denies involvement in the poisoning, which had added to severe strains in ties between Russia and the West.

Following Putin’s declaration, British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said that Britain’s attempts to get an explanation from Moscow over the poisoning had always been met with “obfuscation and lies.”

The two suspects are GRU officers, the spokesman reiterated, adding, “The government has exposed the role of the GRU, its operatives, and its methods, this position is supported by our international allies.”

In early September 2018, British authorities announced that they had charged two Russian men, identified as Aleksandr Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, with carrying out the poisoning on March 4, 2018.

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A handout picture taken on Fisherton Road in Salisbury shows Petrov and Boshirov on March 4, 2018, in a photo released by the British Metropolitan Police Service.

They accused the pair of smuggling the Soviet-designed nerve agent Novichok into Britain in a fake perfume flask and smearing some of the substance on the front door of Sergei Skripal’s home in the English city of Salisbury, where the former GRU officer settled after being sent to the West in a Cold War-style spy swap in 2010.

The attack left Sergei Skripal, 67, and Yulia Skripal, 34, in critical condition, but both have recovered after weeks in the hospital.

A couple who authorities said found the perfume bottle after it was discarded by the attackers fared worse: Charlie Rowley recovered after treatment in the hospital but his partner, Dawn Sturgess, 44, died on July 8, 2018.

British authorities have said that a European arrest warrant has been issued for the two Russians, who they suspect were using aliases.

Putin made no comment about whether the names they used were real.

On Sept. 12, 2018, Russian state television channel Rossia-24 quoted Petrov, one of the Russian suspects, as declining to comment on the case for now, saying only that he worked for a pharmaceutical company in the Siberian city of Tomsk.

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid said on Sept. 9, 2018, that Britain will catch the two men and bring them to prosecution if they ever step out of Russia.

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British Prime Minister Theresa May and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Sept. 4, 2016.


Calling the poisoning a “sickening and despicable” attack, Javid said it was “unequivocally, crystal-clear this was the act of the Russian state — two Russian nationals sent to Britain with the sole purpose of carrying out a reckless assassination attempt.”

Javid described the GRU as a “very well-disciplined organization” that would “only act with orders from the highest level of the Russian government.”

Britain’s security minister, Ben Wallace, said on Sept. 6, 2018, that Putin “ultimately” bears responsibility for the poisoning because “it is his government that controls, funds, and directs the military intelligence.”

The poisoning led Britain, the United States, the European Union, and others to carry out a series of diplomatic expulsions and financial sanctions against Moscow.

It has further damaged already severely strained relations between Russia and the West and has been a cause for solidarity at a time when Western officials accuse Moscow of seeking to cause rifts in relations between Western countries.

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

Articles

An adversary pilot was rescued after ejecting off San Diego coast

A Navy helicopter crew rescued a civilian pilot who ejected from a contracted fighter jet off the coast near Point Loma August 22, Navy and Coast Guard officials said.


The pilot ejected safely from the single-seat Hawker Hunter jet, for unknown reasons, roughly 115 miles off the coast, Navy officials said. No information about the pilot’s condition was available.

The Navy-contracted plane had participated in a pre-deployment training exercise for the ships of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, Navy officials said. The Composite Training Unit Exercise, which tests the strike group’s deployment readiness, began earlier this month, according to the Navy.

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The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) transits the Arabian Gulf. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Alex Millar.

The Coast Guard was summoned about 4:30 p.m. to assist in the pilot’s rescue, but a helicopter crew assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 6 aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt hoisted the pilot out of the ocean before a Coast Guard helicopter crew responded, officials said.

The pilot was taken to Naval Medical Center San Diego for a medical evaluation.

In the past, Hawker Hunter jets have been contracted by the Navy to play the role of an enemy aircraft in offshore training.

In two instances, in October 2014 and May 2012, the pilots who assisted in the training exercises crashed in a field near Naval Station Ventura County as they prepared to land. Both pilots died.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Should we change the name of Army bases named after Confederate generals?

With Confederate statues coming down across the nation, it’s time to ask: Should we change the name of Army bases named after Confederate Generals?

I think it’s a good discussion for us to have as a nation and an Army. When we can assess the problem and make rational decisions, I trust the Army leadership to make the best decision for our force and nation. We may not all agree on that or those decisions, but one of the greatest parts of America is civil discourse. It’s not difficult to see the pain these names may cause or why the current names don’t matter.


I’ve been to countries where they’ve torn down statues and changed names, erasing history without dialogue. There were many more significant issues, but none of those places have peace and prosperity. A statue or name change alone will not change society or bring a land of opportunity. When not done correctly, it divides people. However, this is an opportunity to do something right for the current and future generations.

We can have discussions and study our Civil War for years. There are a few undeniable conclusions. The Confederates attempted to succeed from the Union and the score was Union – 1, Confederates – 0. The Confederates implicitly or tacitly endorsed slavery of people based upon the color of their skin. We can learn from these difficult times in our nation’s history, so as not to repeat them. We should not honor these generals that fought against their country and therefore the right to own slaves.

In my 20-plus year military career, I never once cared about a base’s name, let alone whether the name of a general inspired me. What motivated me were the units that called those bases home. The famed 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne, 10th Mountain Division and United States Army Special Forces — these and other storied units are what inspired me. We stand on the shoulders of giants. I’d read about these units in books and watched them in movies. The unit lineage is what mattered to me, and I’m willing to bet most of those I served with would agree.

I also didn’t care that they were named after famous generals. They didn’t inspire me or give me a sense of pride. Truthfully no generals, living or dead, ever inspired me. I had the privilege to work with some of the finest generals of our time. I have immense respect for these men and what I learned from them is invaluable. However, I wouldn’t say I was inspired. Why, you might ask? These generals are so removed from the fight that I find it hard to gain inspiration. Those that inspired me were leaders closer to us out conducting missions in the dirt, and my brothers and sisters that I served with.

I will not lose sleep if we change the names of our bases to Fort Tomato or Fort Pine Tree. I hope that we make these decisions with a thorough process. If Army leadership is considering such a process, I do have some excellent suggestions. Medal of Honor recipient, MSG Roy P. Benavidez, Fort Benavidez. Commander of the Tuskegee airmen, General Benjamin O. Davis, Fort Davis. The list of worthy American soldiers is much longer than the number of bases.

The truth is, we are hurting as a country. If this can help our nation heal, I’m all for it. It’s absurd not to have the discussion. Let’s reinvigorate patriotism and pride in our Army. We can run major marketing campaigns sharing the stories of these worthy soldiers. We can all be proud to say “I’m reporting to” or “served at” Fort (insert great American name).

I leave you with only one question: Will you be part of the discussion with me?

MIGHTY SPORTS

How food can make or break Army Combat Fitness Test scores

In addition to physical exercise, proper nutrition plays a major role in overall health, fitness, and training for the Army Combat Fitness Test, says Maj. Brenda Bustillos, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command dietitian.

“It’s important for soldiers to recognize the impact proper nutrition has on them,” said Maj. Bustillos. “From how they get up and feel in the morning, how they recover from an exercise, how they utilize energy, and whether or not they have energy at the end of the day — proper nutrition is powerful, and stretches far beyond what we were taught as kids.”

Dietary decisions affect every soldier’s individual physical performance differently, too, she said, and has the power to impact careers “whether that be good or bad.”


Bustillos, a clinician who’s seen patients for the last 15 years of her career, believes the ground rules for healthy eating are only that — ground rules. “Every patient I’ve met with is different, and their needs are all different, too.”

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Soldiers weave through an obstacle course.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Travis Zielinski)

“Nutrition and dietary patterns are not one size fits all,” she said. “A registered dietitian understands this, and understands the biomechanics of each individual, along with the unique metabolic concerns they may have.”

She added, “How someone eats can be what makes or breaks them during big events, such as the ACFT. That’s why it’s important for soldiers to take advantage of resources available to them, and meet with a dietitian about what works for them while training for the test.”

Army combat fitness test

The ACFT is a six-event, age- and gender-neutral, fitness assessment set to replace the Army’s current physical fitness test by October 2020. It’s the largest physical training overhaul in nearly four decades, and is currently in its second phase of implementation, with every soldier slated to take the test as a diagnostic at least once this year.

The test is designed to link soldiers’ physical fitness with their combat readiness. Each event is taken immediately following the next, and aims to be an endurance-based, cardio-intensive assessment of overall physical fitness.

“The ACFT will require soldiers to properly fuel their bodies to be fully ready to perform,” she said. “The six events require many different muscle movements, with both aerobic and anaerobic capacities, making the fueling piece of fitness incredibly important — as important as physically training.”

Nutrition has often been attributed as “fuel for the body,” she said. For example, proteins repair you, and give the body the building blocks it needs for everyday activities, carbohydrates give the body energy, vitamins strengthens the bones, minerals help regulate the body’s processes, and water is essential for being alive.

But, nutrition also plays a role “in terms of preparation and recovery,” she said. It doesn’t matter if someone is training for a marathon or the ACFT, how they eat, or what they drink makes a world of difference.

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U.S. Army soldiers participate in a 2.35-mile run.

(U.S. Army photo by Senior Airman Rylan Albright)

For example, if a soldier wakes up early on an empty stomach when scheduled to take the ACFT, that soldier will lack the glucose needed for a good performance. This can make the short-term decisions as critical as the lifestyle choices made in the months prior to testing, she said.

“Consider an individual like an automobile,” Bustillos said. “If an automobile starts running out of gas, it will begin running on fumes, and then be completely empty. That’s how an individual [regardless of training leading up to the test] will perform, especially if they don’t properly fuel their body before an ACFT.”

Bustillos urges soldiers to always “train to fight,” meaning all their nutritional decisions, at all times, should holistically enhance their physical fitness, mental alertness, and overall health.

“If a soldier only eats right the night before, or morning of an ACFT — but not during the months of training leading up to it, they won’t do as well on the fitness test [regardless of physical activity],” she said.

The best course of action, according to Bustillos, is eating right “day in and day out” while training. “Muscles are hungry, and they need fuel, so if you implement a healthy dietary lifestyle while training, then your body performs much better while performing.”

Soldiers should consume a variety of healthy nutrients in their diet, she said. For example, carbohydrates, fats, dietary fiber, minerals, proteins, vitamins, and water should be taken in.

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(U.S. Army photo by Jorge Gomez)

When a soldier doesn’t eat properly in both short- and long-term capacities, muscles will break down because the body is continually searching for the fuel it needs to perform, she said.

“The night before an ACFT, a soldier should take in some proteins and carbohydrates,” she said, adding that carbohydrates are the No. 1 source of fuel for the brain and body.

Examples include moderately-sized, protein and carbohydrate-rich meals, such as a grilled chicken breast and brown rice, followed by a light breakfast the next morning, ideally two hours prior to taking the ACFT, she said. However, the possibilities for what foods to eat are seemingly endless, as long as they fall in the food healthy groups.

“I understand not everyone wants to wake up two hours before a performance test just to eat,” she said. “So, a light snack in the morning is also good. It can be a performance bar, a whole-grain English muffin, a banana, or just half of a muffin with smear of peanut butter — something to not disrupt the stomach while providing a fuel source for the body.”

With the ACFT around the corner, or if you have questions on how nutrition can enhance your lifestyle based on body type, Bustillos recommends you seek answers from a registered dietitian nearby.

“It’s important to remember there’s no such thing as bad foods, just bad dietary patterns,” she said. “As long as we’re eating well, taking good care of our bodies, and putting good things in it — it’s okay to have the scoop of ice cream, or sharing a tub of buttered popcorn with friends at the movies, those are certainly things that make life more enjoyable.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump announced that as part of his Afghanistan strategy, warfighters would see restrictions lifted and authorities expanded. Now, there is a sense of just what he meant in his Aug. 21 speech.


According to multiple reports, Taliban forces no longer have to be engaged with American units or with Afghan units being advised by Americans to be hit with air strikes.

Looser rules of engagement have long been advocated by a number of officials.

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A member of an Afghan and coalition security force patrols during an operation in Khugyani district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, March 30, 2013. The security force detained a Taliban leader who had command and control of a cell of Afghan enemy fighters active in Khugyani district. He and his fighters illegally procured various types of weapons and used them in multiple attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. The security force also seized one AK-47 and a pistol as a result of the operation. (U.S Army photo by Pfc. Elliott N. Banks)

“You see some of the results of releasing our military from, for example, a proximity requirement — how close was the enemy to the Afghan or the U.S.-advised special forces,” Secretary of Defense James Mattis said during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Prior to the change, Taliban forces in training camps and assembly areas were not targeted, in essence creating safe havens. Now, Taliban bases are being hit. In April, prior to Trump’s speech, the United States used the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst bomb to hit a Taliban tunnel complex.

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The GBU-43 moments before detonation in a March 11, 2003 test. (USAF photo)

Furthermore, American advisors will now be pushed to battalion and brigade headquarters to get them closer to Afghan units engaged in combat. American aircraft can often only provide close-air support when the units have American advisors.

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photo Pvt. Zakery Jenkins, front, with Charlie Troop, 3rd Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, provides security in Mush Kahel village, Ghazni province, Afghanistan, July 23, 2012. (Photo by Spc. Andrew Baker)

“Those units with NATO and American advisers win, and those without them often do not win,” Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee. “So we are going to spread the number of units with advisers to bring that air support to win.”

The Secretary of Defense also noted that the tendency that the Taliban and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan have shown to hide among civilian populations means that American forces will still need to ensure that they do everything they can to avoid civilian casualties.

Articles

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots

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DARPA is making your next kitchen appliance in the form of a robot named Baxter that can learn to cook your favorite dishes from watching YouTube videos.

Also watch: The 7 coolest high-tech military projects

According to DARPA researchers at the University of Maryland, funded by the agency’s Mathematics of Sensing, Exploitation and Execution (MSEE) program, recently developed a system that enabled robots to process visual data from a series of “how to” cooking videos on YouTube. “Based on what was shown on a video, robots were able to recognize, grab and manipulate the correct kitchen utensil or object and perform the demonstrated task with high accuracy – without additional human input or programming,” DARPA said.

These scientists throwing the calculus of “cooking is as much of an art as it is a science” way off. Perhaps one day having a personal robot chef will be as commonplace as having a toaster, microwave or blender.

“If we have robots that are humanoid and they have hands, that will be the next industrial revolution,” said Yiannis Aloimonos, University of Maryland computer scientist. “I am particularly very happy to be participating in this revolution because it will change fundamentally our societies.”

Still, it’s hard to imagine Chef Ramsay getting any satisfaction out of yelling at a robot on an episode of Hell’s Kitchen . . .

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Here’s the robot in action.

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