Former Afghan interpreter detained, threatened with deportation - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Former Afghan interpreter detained, threatened with deportation

A former interpreter who helped US troops in Afghanistan before fleeing the country with his family was detained at the international airport in Houston, Texas, on Jan. 11, 2019, upon their arrival from Kabul, according to a Texas-based immigration advocacy group.

Mohasif Motawakil, 48, was detained by Customs and Border Protection along with his wife and five children, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) told The Washington Post. Though his wife and children have since been released, Motawakil is still being held by authorities.


RAICES said Motawakil served alongside US troops as an interpreter from 2012 to 2013, later working as a US contractor in his home country.

He and his family were reportedly traveling to the US on Special Immigrant Visas, which are hard to come by and granted to those whose lives are in danger as a result of their service with the US military.

Special Immigrant Visas take years to obtain, and tightened immigration controls have apparently made the process even more difficult for applicants.

“The father remains detained and his wife and children were allowed into the US pending the outcome of his proceedings,” CBP told The Hill, further explaining that “due to the restrictions of the Privacy Act, US Customs and Border Protection does not discuss the details of individual cases.”

The temporary release of the mother and the children was attributed to the efforts made by four Texas Democrats working on behalf of the family.

Texas Reps. Lloyd Doggett and Joaquin Castro called CBP while Reps. Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee supported the family at the airport.

Nonetheless, the family is is “confused and traumatized” by the situation, RAICES spokesman William Fitzgeral told The Post. Motawakil’s wife and children spent Jan. 11, 2019 at the Afghan Cultural Center in Houston.

The reason for the detention is murky, but Fitzgerald told The Post the family was threatened with deportation after someone — potentially a relative — opened sealed medical records, leading authorities to question the authenticity of the family’s documentation.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It’s Because Navy Culture Is Changing

The Navy is moving away from the “suck it up, buttercup”-style culture of the past to appeal to the millennial generation and beyond — and new retention numbers indicate the approach is likely working.

The service blasted past its 2019 retention goals for enlisted sailors in their first 10 years in uniform. It held onto nearly 65% of Zone A sailors, or those with less than six years in. And 72% of Zone B sailors — those with six to 10 years in — re-upped.


The Navy set out to keep at least 55% of sailors in Zone A and 65% of those in Zone B. When combined with Zone C sailors, those who’ve been in the service for 10 to 14 years, the 2019 reenlistment rate was 74% across the three zones.

Fleet Master Chief Wes Koshoffer, with Navy Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education, told reporters the high re-up rates are a result of an ongoing culture shift in the Navy. Leaders are listening to rank-and-file sailors, he said, and the Navy is focused on developing policies based on what’s easier for the individual and their family.

“When I was a very, very young sailor in the Navy, facing a particularly challenging … family situation, the moniker was, ‘Family didn’t come in your seabag, shipmate. We need you,'” Koshoffer said. “That is no longer our mantra.”

The entire military faces recruiting and retention challenges when it’s up against a booming economy. People have job options outside the service, Koshoffer said. Being an appealing career choice for today’s generation of sailors is crucial as the Navy builds its force back up to 340,500 personnel as it faces more sophisticated threats.

That’s up from a 2012 end-strength low of 318,000 enlisted sailors and naval officers.

“We’re going to need a bigger Navy,” the fleet master chief said. “[We have] a different national strategy, a different military and Navy strategy. … In order to really grow at the pace we want to grow, you have to have these high retention numbers.”

Yeoman 2nd Class Thomas Mahoney and Personnel Specialist 1st Class Holly Tucker say they’ve seen Navy culture change during their time in the service. Mahoney, 26, will soon reenlist for the second time. Tucker, 25, re-upped last year.

Mahoney was on an aircraft carrier when two destroyers in the Pacific suffered separate fatal collisions. When lack of sleep was found to have contributed to the accidents, Mahoney said leaders in 7th Fleet reacted immediately.

More rotational watch schedules were added, and other steps were taken to ensure people were getting good sleep while deployed, he said.

That’s a big shift, Koshoffer said. “Our attitude toward sleep [used to be], ‘You’ll sleep when you’re dead,'” he said. “We’ve changed that.”

Tucker cited the military’s 12-week maternity leave policy as contributing to her decision to stay in the Navy. The service’s maternity leave policy briefly tripled from six weeks to 18 under former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. In 2016, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced all the services would receive 12 weeks.

Former Afghan interpreter detained, threatened with deportation

“I think that’s a great incentive for women specifically,” Tucker said, adding that she values her leadership’s support and understanding on family matters.

The millennial generation is also focused on career progression and flexibility, the Navy found. Koshoffer said leaders are shifting the service’s culture to show sailors they’re listening and responding to what they’re looking for in a Navy career.

After years of complaints about the Navy’s career detailing program being too secretive, for example, the service unveiled a new online database called My Navy Assignment. The tool is meant to give sailors more information about requirements they’ll need for their jobs of choice so they can build up their skills well before their detailing window hits.

So far, about 11,000 sailors have used the tool to bookmark 27,000 jobs.

“The reason why we show every job available to the sailors was sailor demand for transparency,” Koshoffer said. “… We heard you, we listened, we made the change.”

Change is what the Navy must do in order to compete for top talent, the fleet master chief added. The service still relies on reenlistment bonuses to entice those in hard-to-fill jobs to stay in uniform. Tucker, for example, was eligible for an extra ,000 when she reenlisted.

But the Navy must also embrace telework, flex hours and job-sharing options, Koshoffer said.

“The nature of work is changing,” he said. “… That would be heresy in some circles that in the Navy, we would allow somebody to telework. Are you kidding me?

“But we recognize that we’ve got to adapt to a modern lifestyle and world out there.”

— Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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

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How the voice of Optimus Prime was inspired by a Marine

Peter Cullen is now known to fans around the world as the voice of Optimus Prime — leader of the Autobots in the The Transformers cartoon, video game and film series. The voice and character traits of Optimus are rooted in Marine values and leadership. Here is the story.

Cullen, born and raised in Montreal, Canada to Irish-Catholic parents learned many great lessons and had a wonderful upbringing with his siblings. He grew up skating from the age of 2 or 3. The winters in Montreal were extremely harsh with tens of feet of snowfall making some East Coast winters look mild. His siblings Michela, Larry and Sonny were post-war kids that enjoyed different sports such as hockey, boxing and baseball. Larry was Peter’s hero growing up where Larry was a great boxer and was quite tall. Cullen said, “Larry had a sensitive nose so in boxing matches I would hit his nose to bloody him where it looked like I was getting the better of him. Larry grabbed me and said, ‘Peter if you keep this up I am really going to hurt you,’ of course when he hit me with his gloves it was like being hit by a sand bag.” 

Former Afghan interpreter detained, threatened with deportation
Larry and Peter Cullen. Photo courtesy of Peter Cullen.

Peter shared, “Larry was my hero from the very beginning. His personality stayed the same throughout his life. He was noble, courageous and had integrity specifically being honest to the heart and Corps. My brother had Marine Corps strength actually built into him.” Cullen stated that these values and athletic skills were instilled in him by their parents. Both parents were athletes. His mother was an all-American hockey player in college and his dad was a distance runner for Boston University where he was the captain of the team. Roger Bannister beat Cullen’s father’s record for the mile. Cullen’s parents were dignified and demanded respect from their children. Cullen said, “We were taught to be honest and truthful. That is ingrained in you. My Jesuit training from Loyola helped as well.” His parents were loving, giving and conservative in raising them. Cullen recalled, “When my mom walked into the room we stood to attention.” Cullen’s father also used humor throughout his daily life. 

His brother Larry joined the Marines before the U.S. entered the Vietnam War. His brother thought that getting out of college he wanted to continue playing football and planned to do so for the Marine Corps. Once Larry joined the Corps the Vietnam War began to pick up pace. He was trained in Quantico, VA as an officer. Larry served in Vietnam as an infantry officer with K Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. His personal awards include the Bronze Star with a “V”, two purple hearts with gold stars and the Combat Action Ribbon. Cullen shared, “Once he graduated from officer training, he was informed he was going to be on his way to Vietnam. Our father worked in the international newspaper business and was going to be worried about his son.”

 Cullen recalled being a radio station announcer in Montreal for the Milk Man’s Matinee from midnight until 6 am. He would get the paper through the teletype machines then put a record on. Once, he saw news come through on Operations Hasting. Cullen stated, “I was reading about the Marines there where the NVA was coming through and executing officers in the field…Larry had a one in four chance of survival when talking about the situation.” He wanted to intercept the newspaper going to his home and rushed home so his father wouldn’t read it. He said, “…my father eventually did read the paper in his office downtown and had a stroke. That is how concerned he was for Larry.” Larry survived and was awarded the Bronze Star with a “V” during Operations Hastings and his father eventually recovered.

Cullen shared, “I went to five or six reunions with Larry for his Marine unit from Vietnam. I was a speaker at one of them telling jokes and making them laugh…a great bunch of guys there. There is a special aura about Marines where you can pick them out….They are the most sincere wonderful people where these reunions reminded me of that and how special they were. Larry got a lot of joy out of being around his fellow grunts.” He believes Marines share a powerful message when they are around. Being around Larry’s friends from the Corps means a lot to him, “I talk to several of them where they are starting to go. I still remain in contact with Larry’s platoon leaders and his enlisted men. Larry became a captain and was stationed in Camp Pendleton where I met a lot of them….the feeling of being around Marines echoes through me.”

Former Afghan interpreter detained, threatened with deportation
Larry during days in the Corps. Photo courtesy of Peter Cullen.

Cullen began his entertainment career doing summer stock during the senior year of high school. He took the place of an actor that got sick and was initially building sets and scenery. He enjoyed doing the role and then pursued an acting career going to The National Theatre School of Canada. Cullen studied Shakespeare, Chekhov and Eugene O’Neil. He had parts in West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie and then The King and I in Winnipeg. He had the lead in Bye Bye Birdie. He worked in repertory theatre in Montreal and came back to Montreal to transition over to radio when Kennedy had just been assassinated. He took a job at a gas station before long and then was working at a radio station. 

Former Afghan interpreter detained, threatened with deportation
Cullen as Optimus Prime in Transformers, 2007. Photo courtesy of IMDB.com.

Cullen and Larry became friends with famous comedian and actor Jonathan Winters. Winters served in the Marines in the Pacific during World War II and left the Corps as a Corporal. Winters positively influenced many of the great comedians of today, including Robin Williams, and passed back in 2013. Larry introduced Winters’ comedy records to Cullen back in the 1950s. Winters shared a lot about his Marine stories and past with the brothers. They would spend up to ten hours talking at a time together. Winters met Cullen on a special show with the famous comedian. Winters met Cullen on a special show with the famous comedian. Winters and Cullen lived near each other and continued their friendship. Larry moved out to Los Angeles in the early 80s, so the two Cullen brothers and Winters spent a lot of time together. Winters would exhaust Larry with laughter — they would have to go home after laughing so hard because of his antics. 

Cullen was a regular on the The Sonny and Cher Show. Winters invited Cullen to work with him on a special, which humbled Cullen as it was the, “…greatest of honors to be even considered.” He worked on The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show as well. He wanted a normal family, moved out to the country and did voice acting. This led to him working as a voice actor for cartoons, promos for network TV, movie trailers and narration for films. Cullen has done more cartoons than anything else. He said, “Kids remember my voice from the different cartoons I worked on. I can’t even remember doing the voice.” Adults ask him to sign pictures for him for cartoon characters he doesn’t even remember voicing. He shared, “Lessons in humility come hard and often in showbiz,” which reflects the difficulty of working in the business. 

Cullen talked about how Optimus Prime came about. “My character in The Transformers for Optimus Prime came from Larry. I did not know that many Marines back in 1984; they always had that sense of dignity and honor built into them. There is something special about Marines.” He was called by his agent for an audition for the leader of these toys, called The Transformers. He was to play the leader which was a big semi-truck. His brother was staying with him at the time. Cullen needed to use the only car they had for this audition. He informed Larry he was going to an audition to play the voice of a hero truck and Larry responded, “That’s a heck of a way to make a living.” Cullen informed him that the character was a good guy and Larry replied, “If you are going to be a leader, be a real leader not a Hollywood leader with the yelling and screaming and pretending to be a tough guy. Be sincere, be honest, be respectful….be strong enough to be gentle.” Larry’s voice got deep and quiet when he said, “Be strong enough to be gentle.” His delivery surprised Cullen and he thanked his older brother for the advice.

When he got to the audition his paper stated that he was, “Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots, but it could have said my name is Larry Cullen, leader of the…” The voice just came out where the whole persona was Larry and was a Marine, “…the character was just a great guy.” Two weeks later Cullen’s agent contacted him to let him know he’d gotten the role. Cullen informed his older brother about him being the basis for the character – – Larry was now a cartoon. Cullen’s loyalty and admiration he had for his brother is a great part of his life. 

Cullen shared, “The Marine Corps definitely stands out to me from the other branches of services in the way it has affected me. Through the experience I have had with Larry and the Marines of his platoons and Marines from other units…there is a sense of dignity, honor and integrity that does not require many words or attitude.” Cullen further adds, “It is a built-in sense of confidence and sense of respect where it is a ‘been there done that’ without snubbing and without conceit. It is a sense of earned honor…and so well deserved for the amount of intensity that a Marine feels from the very beginning of their training through their service. It is just pervasive…the sense of truth that a Marine has to the team he is with and to himself. There is no other way to describe, it is just being a Marine, different from everybody else. Just different.” Cullen strongly feels that Marines are just, “…special.”

A person wearing a hat

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A picture of Larry and his medals earned in the Corps. Photo courtesy of Peter Cullen.

Cullen was invited on the USS Reagan aircraft carrier by Michael Reagan recently. He got to meet the captain of the ship and take a photo with the crew. He is humbled by, “how this character Optimus Prime has touched the hearts of so many people in the military.” Cullen is happy and fulfilled with his legacy he is leaving behind with his acting work, his family and he left a legacy for his brother and those that served with him. He said, “Being interviewed by the Marines is the honor of all honors. I am grateful that you requested to interview me and how proud I am to be a part of this. Thank you.”  

Cullen said that his brother Larry was quiet about his service in Vietnam and did not say much. Larry shared a funny story once about boot camp where he had brushed a sand fly away from his face and the DI had him dig a grave to bury it. Once Larry had buried the sand fly the DI asked, “what direction was he facing?” Larry did not remember the direction and had to dig the sand fly back up. Larry told Cullen that, “…if you try to join the Marine Corps I will break both of your legs.” Larry believed Cullen was placed on this earth to make people laugh and to entertain them. Cullen tried to sign up for the Corps however the recruiting office was closed for the day — Larry was very upset at him. 

Former Afghan interpreter detained, threatened with deportation
Megatron (voiced by Frank Welker) vs. Optimus Prime (voiced by Cullen) in The Transformers: The Movie, 1986. Photo courtesy of i-mockey.com.

Cullen began his entertainment career doing summer stock during the senior year of high school. He took the place of an actor that got sick and was initially building sets and scenery. He enjoyed doing the role and then pursued an acting career going to The National Theatre School of Canada. Cullen studied Shakespeare, Chekhov and Eugene O’Neil. He had parts in West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie and then The King and I in Winnipeg. He had the lead in Bye Bye Birdie. He worked in repertory theatre in Montreal and came back to Montreal to transition over to radio when Kennedy had just been assassinated. He took a job at a gas station before long and then was working at a radio station. 

Former Afghan interpreter detained, threatened with deportation
Megatron (voiced by Frank Welker) vs. Optimus Prime (voiced by Cullen) in The Transformers: The Movie, 1986. Photo courtesy of i-mockey.com.

Winters invited Cullen to move out to California to work with him. Cullen was a regular on the The Sonny and Cher Show. Winters invited Cullen to work with him on a special, which humbled Cullen as it was the, “…greatest of honors to be even considered.” He worked on The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show as well. He wanted a normal family, moved out to the country and did voice acting. This led to him working as a voice actor for cartoons, promos for network TV, movie trailers and narration for films. Cullen has done more cartoons than anything else. He said, “Kids remember my voice from the different cartoons I worked on. I can’t even remember doing the voice.” Adults ask him to sign pictures for him for cartoon characters he doesn’t even remember voicing. He shared, “Lessons in humility come hard and often in showbiz,” which reflects the difficulty of working in the business. 

Peter Cullen
Winters with Cullen on the beach back in the 1970s. Photo courtesy of Peter Cullen

In closing Cullen stated, “Wherever a Marine is, they are distinct and are unchangeable where truth is with them. I can tell you (the interviewer) are a Marine.” Cullen ended the call with, “Semper Fi my friend.”

Former Afghan interpreter detained, threatened with deportation
An image showing Cullen alongside many of his voice creations, Optimus Prime included. Photo courtesy of Twitter.com.
MIGHTY TRENDING

Macedonia poised to join NATO if it changes its name

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said the military alliance is “ready to welcome” Macedonia as its 30th member once Skopje finalizes an agreement with Athens to change the former Yugoslav republic’s name.

Stoltenberg was speaking on a Sept. 6, 2018, during a visit to Macedonia aimed at expressing support for the “yes” campaign in a national referendum set for Sept. 30, 2018.

“NATO’s door is open, but only the people of this country can decide to walk through it. So, your future is in your hands. We wait for you in NATO,” he said at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.


The Macedonian and Greek foreign ministers signed a deal on June 17, 2018, to rename the country the Republic of North Macedonia — North Macedonia for short — and resolve a 27-year dispute between Skopje and Athens.

Macedonian lawmakers later voted in favor of the bill to ratify the agreement, which paves the way for talks on Macedonian membership in both NATO and the European Union.

But hurdles remain for the deal to come into effect, including the support of Macedonian voters in the upcoming referendum.

‘Taking this country forward’

Western leaders have also backed Zaev’s “yes” campaign ahead of the referendum, in which Macedonians will be asked, “Are you in favor of NATO and EU membership, and accepting the name agreement between the Republic of Macedonia and Greece?”

Former Afghan interpreter detained, threatened with deportation

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is due to visit Skopje on Sept. 7, 2018, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel the following day.

In Skopje, Stoltenberg also congratulated Zaev on Macedonia’s reforms.

“I congratulate you on the progress you made, taking this country forward,” the NATO chief said. “The economy is peaking up and the reforms are being implemented, including on the rule of law, security and intelligence, and the defense sector.”

He also called on the Macedonian prime minister to continue with reforms, saying, “This will make you safer, stronger, and even better able to work side by side with NATO allies.”

The name dispute between Skopje and Athens dates back to 1991, when Macedonia peacefully broke away from Yugoslavia, declaring its independence under the name Republic of Macedonia.

Neighboring Greece has objected to the name Macedonia, saying it implies territorial claims on the northern Greek region with the same name.

Because of Greek objections, Macedonia was admitted to the UN under a provisional name, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

Featured image: Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in october 2017, at a UN meeting about sustainable development.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The ​story behind the hair the British will return to Ethiopia

Ethiopian Emperor Tewodros II spent his last hours holed up in a fort near the Red Sea town of Maqdala. He was under siege by British troops who had just routed his numerically superior force and tore through his lines. With the British storming his fortress, the Emperor shot himself in the head, ironically using a gun gifted to him from Queen Victoria.


British forces had a field day with the fort. They would eventually destroy it before heading back to England, but first, they had to plunder everything of value from the captured prize. Their victory train required 15 elephants and 200 mules to carry all the gold, gems, and artifacts back to where they came from. But the British took more than that, they presented the Emperor’s seven-year-old son to Queen Victoria and kept locks of Emperor Tewodros II’s hair as a prize.

Former Afghan interpreter detained, threatened with deportation

Not my first prize choice, but whatever.

Tewodros’ legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of Ethiopians to this day. More than 150 years later, the defiant Emperor’s spirit of independence inspires some of Ethiopia’s finest writers and artists. He is now a symbol for the potential of the country, a forward-thinking leader that would not bow to outside pressure or simply allow his people to be colonized. His star was on the rise as he worked to keep his country away from the brink of destruction, only to be brought down in a less-than-glorious way.

The Christian emperor was busy reuniting Ethiopia from various breakaway factions as the power and force of Islam and of Islamic nations put pressure on him to push back. Tewodros expected help from the Christian nations of the world but found none was forthcoming. He tried imprisoning British officials to force an expedition to come to Ethiopia’s aid. He got an expedition, but the 12,000 troop-strong force was coming for him, not his enemies.

Former Afghan interpreter detained, threatened with deportation

The fort at Maqdala overlooks a deep valley. The British did not have an easy time of it here.

The Emperor imprisoned those officials at Maqdala, where he himself was holed up, along with 13,000 of his own men. The British force coming to the fort was comprised of only 9,000 men, but they were carrying superior firepower with them. When the redcoats completely tore up the Abyssinian army, Tewodros decided to take his own life, rather than submit to the humiliations that the British would surely subject him to.

That small act of defiance earned him immortality in Ethiopia, who remembers Tewodros today as one of the country’s most prominent cultural and historical figures.

And for decades, the Ethiopians have demanded the return of Tewodors’ hair. Only now, after decades and a French push to restore captured colonial artifacts to their home countries, has England ever considered giving in.

Articles

Why Navy SEALs will storm the beaches of Normandy in 2018

Jumping into freezing water is just part of the legacy of being a Navy SEAL. During World War II, the U.S. Navy Combat Demolition Units were just a handful of guys equipped only with a pair of shorts, a knife, and maybe some explosives. But those amphibious roots are still close to the hearts of the Navy special warfare community — that’s why they still call themselves “Frogmen.”

Some 74 years ago, in the English Channel during the predawn hours of June 6, 1944, these Navy Combat Demolition Units braved the freezing waters — not to mention the thousands of Nazi guns pointed at the water’s edge.

They were trained for this.

They weren’t necessarily trained to be the secret first wave of invaders up against some of the most fortified positions in the world. No, instead they were trained to win against any and all odds or obstacles. These men were the precursor to modern day SEALs, moving to do their part on the beaches before the D-Day Landings.

That’s how SEAL training works to this day. Recruits are taught to overcome the things they think can’t be done. Now, in tribute to those few who landed at occupied France well before the rest of the Allies, 30 current and former Navy SEALs, as well as some “gritty” civilians, will recreate those NCDU landings.

Today’s SEAL reenactors will do a seven-mile swim to land at Normandy, where they’ll scale the cliffs of Omaha Beach to place a wreath in memorial. At that point, they’ll gear up with 44-pound rucks to do a 30-kilometer march to Saint-Lô.

Why? To raise awareness (and funds) for the Navy SEAL Heritage Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida — and the wide range of programs they offer to support family members of SEALs who fell in combat, doing things only the U.S. special operations community would ever dare.


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“The greatest barrier to human performance is your own mind,” says Kaj Larsen, a Navy SEAL veteran who is also a seasoned journalist and television personality (among other things). “… what [BUD/S training] is really doing is putting guys into the [SEAL] community who aren’t going to quit in combat.” Larsen will be among the SEALs hitting the beach on D-Day 2018.

Former Afghan interpreter detained, threatened with deportation
Larsen with Nigerian troops while covering the fight against Boko Haram for Vice News.
(Kaj Larsen)

The goal is to keep the 2018 mission as close as possible to the original mission of the D-Day Frogmen.

The night before D-Day, an ad hoc team of underwater demolition sailors, along with Navy divers and Seabees, led by Ensign Lawrence Stephen Karnowski, rigged the mine fields, obstacles, and other impediments set up by the Nazi defenders to explode so the main invasion force could make it to the beach.

Former Afghan interpreter detained, threatened with deportation
Karnowski (center) with his UDC team.
(U.S. Navy)

It was 2 a.m. when the NCDU units slipped into the water, wearing little more than diver’s shorts and carrying satchels of explosives. The water temperature at that time of year peaks at just below 58 degrees Fahrenheit (for reference, water freezes at 32 degrees).

This is why today’s SEALs get that mental training: they need it.

Be sure to listen to this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast to find out more about “The Murph” workout (Larsen was a close friend of SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient Michael P. Murphy for whom the exercise is named), to learn about a “Super Murph,” how SEALs are dealing with their fame in the wake of the Bin Laden Raid, and why veterans might be the future of American journalism.

Former Afghan interpreter detained, threatened with deportation
Larsen on assignment in Peru with Vice camerawoman Claire Ward while embedded with Peruvian Special Forces.
(Kaj Larson)

You can also find out how to follow Kaj and his work, as well as what comes next for the veteran journalist.

Resources Mentioned

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MIGHTY CULTURE

These married Ironman athletes just graduated together from Navy Boot Camp

Over the last five years, two professional athletes moved from Brazil to the United States, competed in an Ironman World Championship, married and graduated with honors from Navy boot camp.


Silvia Ribeiro, 40, and Rafael Ribeiro Goncalves, 39, were both born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and they met while training for the same team. After years of triathlons and in sports, they said they felt it was time to offer their services to their new home, according to a recent Navy news release.

“I want to give back to the U.S. and what it represents,” Ribeiro Goncalves said in the release. “I spent my whole life competing or being part of projects that require really high performance, but it was always for myself.”

He added he realized later in life that what “really gets me going is when I’m part of something bigger than myself. Once I realized that, the military was the obvious choice.”

One year later, on Jan. 24, the couple graduated with honors from Recruit Training Command. Ribeiro earned the United Service Organization Shipmate Award for “exemplifying the spirit and intent of the word ‘shipmate'” while her husband was awarded the Navy Club of the United States Military Excellence Award for his enthusiasm, devotion to duty, military bearing and teamwork.

The couple moved to the U.S. in 2015 after their friendship blossomed into love as they spent long periods training on the bike, running and swimming.

“It was so hard in the beginning as we literally arrived with two boxes of belongings, our bikes, a couple of suitcases and only ,000-,000,” Ribeiro said in the release. “It was rough in the beginning but we went for it and competed professionally in triathlons.”

She proposed to Ribeiro Goncalves as he crossed the finish line at the 2015 Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. Their friends showed up with just a day’s notice to their wedding wearing swim parkas and cycling gear.

Former Afghan interpreter detained, threatened with deportation

Several years later, Navy boot camp separated the couple for two months. They were assigned to separate divisions and recruit interaction directives keep them from talking to each other despite their barracks being less than 1,000 yards apart. To stay somewhat in touch, they used a mutual friend to relay updates on how each other was doing.

“The toughest part was to be away from him and not knowing how he was doing,” Ribeiro said. “We were training together and doing everything together, so it was very hard not having him by my side doing things together. He is everything for me.”

The two have a strong history of athleticism that came in handy with their time at boot camp.

Ribeiro Goncalves was on the Brazilian national swim team for 10 years, winning the Federation Internationale de Natation (FINA) 400-meter individual medley World Cup medals in 1998 and 2000. Ribeiro was a professional volleyball player who later became a professional triathlete.

“The main thing they teach us in boot camp is how to work under stress,” Ribeiro said. “I had no problems dealing with this because being professional athletes, we’re always under stress and we’re always tired. There was no single day where we were both not moaning about how tired we were when we used to train for the triathlons, so that helped us a lot.”

The two ran into each other once during their training, before they were supposed to go to a Navy Recruit Training Command board for evaluation for awards.

“They told me my uniform would be inspected too,” Ribeiro said after completing a 3-mile pride run with her division, “so when I turned the corner into the hallway, I was busy looking over my uniform and when I looked up — he was in front of me. I almost had a heart attack.”

She said they exchanged looks, and then they both winked at each other.

“We talked with our eyes: ‘I’m so proud of you. I love you so much.’ It was so hard not to cry,” she said.

Their success was not surprising to their friends.

Former Afghan interpreter detained, threatened with deportation
Sailors Graduate From Recruit Training Command

“For them, it’s go hard or go home,” said Jim Garfield, who was Ribeiro’s sports agent. “It’s 110 percent for them and they are also so appreciative of the opportunity to be here, to be citizens, and to be together.”

They advised future couples going through Navy boot camp to remember it’s only temporary, which is “nothing compared to your whole life.”

“A strong relationship makes everything better,” Ribeiro Goncalves said. “I was looking forward to the day I would see her again.”

Ribeiro Goncalves will stay at Great Lakes Naval Station, Illinois attending his “A” School as a damage controlman, and Ribeiro is going to San Antonio, Texas to begin her “A” School training as a Reserve hospital corpsman. Once they’re done with their training, they plan to reunite at Ribeiro Goncalves’ first duty station once their training is complete.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia is building an amphibious assault ship for their Marines

Russia is looking to expand its amphibious assault capability by building two ships comparable to the large-deck, amphibious vessels common in Western navies.


According to a report by NavyRecognition.com, the first of these vessels will begin construction in 2020, the second in 2022. The plan is for both ships to be in service by 2026. While the exact details of the ships are not yet available, this isn’t the first time that Russia has sought to add powerful amphibious assault capability to their arsenal.

Russia had hoped to acquire two such vessels from France, which built three Mistral-class amphibious assault ships in the 2000s. However, the deal was canceled when the ships were nearly ready for delivery in the wake of Russian aggression against Ukraine. The Egyptians later bought the vessels with some help from the Saudis.

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One of the two Mistral-class amphibious assault carriers Russia had hoped to buy from France. The Egyptians now have them. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Ahmed XIV)

Most of these big-deck amphibious assault ships are capable of carrying a battalion of troops (usually marines) in addition to at least a dozen helicopters. In the case of the Russian vessels, the onboard helicopters will likely be a mix of Ka-52 Hokum attack helicopters as well as Ka-27 Helix anti-submarine helicopters, Ka-29 Helix troop-carrying helicopters, and Ka-31 Helix airborne early warning helicopters.

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An aerial starboard bow view of the Soviet amphibious assault transport ship Ivan Rogov underway. (U.S. Navy photo)

During the Cold War, Russia did develop three unique amphibious vessels. However, these ships, Ivan Rogov-class amphibious vessels, have since been removed from active service. GlobalSecurity.org notes that these vessels could carry a battalion of Russian Naval Infantry and 25 tanks. We expect the new ship to have equal, if not greater capacities.

Watch the video below to learn more about Russia’s planned amphibious ship:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VznhA32_ds
(New Update Defence | YouTube)
Military Life

6 reasons why no one likes the most ‘moto’ guy in the platoon

Being “the best” in the military is a weird paradox. Of course, you should always strive to be the best at whatever you do. But, at the same time, you can’t put others down or set yourself to such a high bar that it screws over everyone else. There is a fine line between giving Uncle Sam the best version of yourself and stepping into “Blue Falcon” territory.


You can be an outstanding troop without brown-nosing. You can be a great leader without throwing your troops under the bus. You can be highly motivated without overdoing it — but it’s a tricky balance to strike.

1. They integrate their military gear into their civilian attire

Ask anyone who’s ever rucked more than 24 miles in a single march: The best feeling ever in the military is, after finishing a grueling ruck, taking your gear off and throwing it across the room as hard as you can. Why in the hell would someone willingly wear their uniform after work hours for any reason outside of sheer laziness?

There are only two types of people who wear combat boots with civilian clothes: FNGs who haven’t had a chance to buy civilian shoes and the overly-hooah.

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Hell, no one wants to wear boots while in uniform. (Photo by Sgt. Audrey Hayes)

2. They force everyone to do more PT

Morning PT means its just another day in the military. It’s not designed as much for personal improvement as it is for camaraderie-building and sustainment. If you want to improve, the gym is open after work hours.

Do not get this twisted: Everyone should be sweating with everyone else. But remember, there’s a fine line. When you’re overzealousness legitimately breaks your comrade and they’re now on profile, you’re an ass.

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3. They always ask for more work

The one phrase every NCO loves hearing from their troops is, “what else should we do?” It’s also, coincidentally, the last phrase lower enlisted want to hear right before close of business.

If the mission is complete, that’s it — shut up and move on.

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There’s always more work to do. If you ask, you’ll find yourself being the only one not completely pissed off. (Photo by Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)

4. They step on others to get to promotion points

This applies to boards, schools, certifications, medals, badges, etc. They are all in limited supply and can’t be handed out like candy. Remember, it’s not a competition and your battle-buddies are not your enemies.

These things should go to the best and most deserving — not to the person who made everyone else look like sh*t.

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A key part of leadership is knowing how well those people you f*cked over will help you when the time comes. Remember that. (U.S. Army Courtesy Photo)

5. They parrot NCO sayings unironically

It’s a little bit funny when it’s coming down outside and an NCO turns to their troops and says, jokingly, “if it’s not raining, we’re not training. Am I right?” When a staff officer peaks their head out from behind their PowerPoint presentation and says it to troops who are soaking wet… not so much.

You need the rank and position to make those kinds of jokes. Otherwise, you’ll be glared at with disdain.

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6. They have flaws and overcompensate for them

No one is perfect. We all make mistakes or slip up. Regular troops take the hit on the chin, learn from mistakes, and move on. Ultimately, nobody cares if the mistake doesn’t involve the UCMJ.

You don’t need to lose your mind because you accidentally saluted with the wrong hand. The officer will probably laugh at you for your stupid mistake and forget about it. You don’t need to stand outside their office all day to prove you can salute properly.

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Just take your licks like a big kid and move on. (Photo by Sgt. Takoune Norasingh)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the new Marine sniper rifle relates to a former record holder

By now, you’ve probably heard about the Marines getting a new sniper rifle that’s forcing the legendary M40 into secondary roles. What you may not know, however, is that the new rifle, the Mk 13 Mod 7, is closely related to the weapon used by Craig Harrison to record one of the longest-range kills in history.


The Mk 13 Mod 7 is based on Accuracy International’s Arctic Warfare sniper rifle, which has been sold to civilians, militaries, and police forces around the globe. The version used by the Marine Corps is chambered for the .300 Winchester Magnum round, uses a five-round detachable magazine, and has an effective range of roughly 1,300 yards. Other versions of the rifle are available, chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO and .338 Lapua.

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Corporal of Horse Craig Harrison used the L115A3 version of the Accuracy International Arctic Warfare Magnum to make the record shot in 2009.

(Photo by Mike Searson)

Accuracy International offers an even more powerful version of this rifle, the Arctic Warfare Magnum, which has been acquired by a number of forces internationally. The AWM comes chambered in either .300 Winchester Magnum or .338 Lapua. In 2009, this rifle (using .338 Lapua rounds) was used by Corporal of Horse Craig Harrison to kill a Taliban machine-gun team from a distance of 2,707 yards — a record at the time.

That record was shattered last year when an unidentified sniper with Canada’s Joint Task Force 2 took out a terrorist with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria using a MacMillan Tac-50. The shot was fired from a staggering 3,871 yards away.

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The L115A3 rifle, which held the record for the longest sniper kill until May 2017.

(Photo by UK Ministry of Defense)

Prior to the Global War on Terror, the mark for the longest sniper kill in history was held by Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock of the United States Marine Corps, who used a modified M2 machine gun to take out an enemy at 2,500 yards in 1967. Since then, the record has been eclipsed four times, including twice in March 2002 by Canadian snipers in Afghanistan.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel is the only country that believes its Iranian nuke intel

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says it has “no credible” evidence Iran was working on developing a nuclear “explosive device” after 2009 and that the UN’s nuclear watchdog considered the issue “closed” after it was presented in a report in December 2015.

The 2015 report “stated that the agency had no credible indications of activities in Iran relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device after 2009. Based on the director-general’s report, the board of governors declared that its consideration of this issue was closed,” the IAEA said in a statement on May 1, 2018.


“In line with standard IAEA practice, the IAEA evaluates all safeguards-relevant information available to it. However, it is not the practice of the IAEA to publicly discuss issues related to any such information,” it added.

The IAEA statement comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on April 30, 2018, that Israel had documents that showed new “proof” of an Iranian nuclear-weapons plan that could be activated at any time.

Under an agreement in 2015 with world leaders, Iran curbed its enrichment of uranium for nuclear fuel to ease concerns it could be put to use in developing bomb material. In return, Tehran won relief from most international sanctions.

Since then, UN nuclear inspectors have repeatedly reported that Iran is heeding the terms of the deal.

European states have dismissed the significance of documents, while the United States welcomed them as evidence of Iranian “lies.”

Iran has accused Netanyahu of being an “infamous liar” over the allegations, which come as the United States is considering whether to pull out of an atomic accord with Tehran, which has always rejected allegations that it sought a nuclear weapon, insisting its atomic program was solely for civilian purposes.

“The documents show that Iran had a secret nuclear-weapons program for years” while it was denying it was pursuing such weapons, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said late on April 30, 2018, as he returned to Washington from a trip to Europe and the Middle East.

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Mike Pompeo
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“What this means is [Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers] was not constructed on a foundation of good faith or transparency. It was built on Iran’s lies,” Pompeo said, adding that the trove of documents Israel said it obtained on Iran’s so-called Project Amad to develop nuclear weapons before 2004 contain “new information.”

“The Iranians have consistently taken the position that they’ve never had a program like this. This will belie any notion that there wasn’t a program,” Pompeo said.

Netanyahu made his dramatic announcement less than two weeks before the May 12, 2018 deadline for U.S. President Donald Trump to decide whether he will withdraw from the deal, which requires Iran to curb some of its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

Reuters reported on May 1, 2018, that according to a senior Israeli official, Netanyahu informed Trump about the evidence during a meeting in Washington on March 5, 2018, and that the U.S. president agreed Israel would publish the information before the May 12, 2018 deadline.

The White House on May 1, 2018, said the United States “certainly supported” efforts by Netanyahu to release intelligence about Iran’s nuclear program.

In a May 1, 2018 interview with CNN, Netanyahu said he did not seek war with Iran, but it was Tehran “that’s changing the rules in the region.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said in a statement on May 1, 2018, that accusations Tehran lied about its nuclear ambitions were “worn-out, useless, and shameful” and came from a “broke and infamous liar who has had nothing to offer except lies and deceits.”

“How convenient. Coordinated timing of alleged intelligence revelations,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter, adding that the Israeli claims were “ridiculous” and “a rehash of old allegations.”

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
(Photo by Carlos Rodríguez)

‘This shows why deal needed’

European powers also said they were not impressed by the nearly 55,000 documents that Netanyahu claimed would prove that Iran once planned to develop the equivalent of “five Hiroshima bombs to be put on ballistic missiles.”

“We have never been naive about Iran and its nuclear intentions,” a British government spokesman said, adding that that was why the nuclear agreement contained a regime to inspect suspected Iranian nuclear sites that is “one of the most extensive and robust in the history of international nuclear accords.”

“It remains a vitally important way of independently verifying that Iran is adhering to the deal and that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful,” the British spokesman said.

Britain, France, and Germany are the three European powers that signed the deal, along with Russia, China, and the United States.

European officials said the documents provided by Israel contained no evidence that Iran continued to develop nuclear weapons after the 2015 deal was signed, so they indirectly confirm that Iran is complying with the deal.

France’s Foreign Ministry said on May 1, 2018, that the Israeli information could be a basis for long-term monitoring of Tehran’s nuclear activities, as the information proved the need to ensure the nuclear deal and UN inspections remained.

A German government spokesman said Berlin will analyze the materials provided by Israel, but added that the documents demonstrate why the nuclear deal with its mandatory inspections must be maintained.

“It is clear that the international community had doubts that Iran was carrying out an exclusively peaceful nuclear program,” the spokesman said. “It was for this reason the nuclear accord was signed in 2015.”

Netanyahu also spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 30, 2018, who afterward said in a statement issued by the Kremlin that the nuclear deal remains of “paramount importance to international stability and security, and must be strictly observed by all its signatories,” the Russian state-run news agency TASS reported.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin

The White House welcomed the Israeli announcement, saying that Tel Aviv had uncovered “new and compelling details” about Tehran’s efforts to develop “missile-deliverable nuclear weapons.”

“The United States has long known Iran had a robust, clandestine nuclear-weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people,” the White House said.

The jousting over the Israeli announcement came as Trump repeated his strong opposition to the deal, which he called a “horrible agreement.”

“In seven years, that deal will have expired and Iran is free to go ahead and create nuclear weapons,” Trump said at the White House. “That is not acceptable.”

Many observers have concluded that Trump will move to withdraw the United States from the nuclear deal on May 12, 2018.

Trump did not say on April 30, 2018, what he will do, but he rejected a suggestion that walking away from the Iran deal would send a bad signal to North Korea as it negotiates with Washington over the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

“I think it sends the right message” to Pyongyang, Trump said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army says it needs more entrepreneurs

The military needs innovative ideas from small businesses and entrepreneurs now more than ever, said Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy.

McCarthy spoke Feb. 21, 2019, at Muster DC, an event in the nation’s capital for military veterans aspiring to be entrepreneurs.

“If you look at the history of the Department of Defense, we were at our best when entrepreneurs were doing business with us,” he said.


As an example, he cited that the first jeeps for World War II were actually designed and built by a small motor company called American Bantam in Butler, Pennsylvania. Later, the design was shared with Willys-Overland and Ford to produce the jeeps on a larger scale.

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1941 American Bantam Jeep Prototype.

DOD was at its best when small businesses brought their ideas and “partnered with big corporations to scale out those ideas,” McCarthy said.

“We got away from that for the last several decades,” he said, adding the Army’s practice has been to put out 1,000-page requests for proposals, or RFPs, specifying the exact size and weight of each component of a system.

Businesses maybe had a better solution, he said, but they would never share it, because that’s not what they were incentivized to do.

That culture needs to change, McCarthy said, and that’s one reason the Army Futures Command was organized. It’s why soldiers have been placed alongside tech innovators at an “accelerator hub” in Austin, Texas.

The purpose of Futures Command is to drive innovation, he said, “so that we can do business faster. So small businesses don’t get their cash flow crushed waiting years for us to make a decision.”

Out of more than 800 programs that the Army oversees, eight have been granted a special “transactional authority” to do business differently, he said.

The Futures Command has eight cross-functional teams: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, Army network, air and missile defense, soldier lethality, synthetic training environment; and assured positioning, navigation and timing.

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A soldier with the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade loads a Stinger onto an Avenger Air Defense System during a live fire training exercise at Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands, July 24, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat)

The Army needs a “quick win” in these eight programs, McCarthy said, in order to change the acquisition culture and to keep ahead of near-peer adversaries. The U.S. military has enjoyed a vast technological advantage for years, he said, but competitors are quickly catching up.

McCarthy said he’d like to see soldiers in accelerator hubs across the country so entrepreneurs will have easy access to pitch their ideas.

Entrepreneurs who are military veterans have an advantage, he said, because they are resilient and can deal with stress. They know how to organize and plan.

When getting ready to leave the Army, where he served as a Ranger, McCarthy said at his first interview in Manhattan, he was asked what he knew about finance.

“I said, ‘Nothing. But I know how to plan and I know how to organize and there would be nothing you can put me through that I hadn’t been through already in the form of stress and pressure,'” he said.

After the interviewer stopped laughing, McCarthy said he took a chance and hired him. The company even held the job open for a year, because soon afterward, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks occurred and McCarthy agreed to stay in the Army for a deployment before going to work in New York.

Veterans are not afraid to engage, he said, and have commitment. “Nobody wants to follow a leader that hedges,” he said. “They want somebody that’s playing ‘double-in’ every day.”

Veterans have some of the key attributes business leaders need to have, he said, “especially if they’re going to start their own business.”

Other talents the Army needs most right now include systems engineering and software coding, McCarthy said.

Weapons systems are sophisticated and have millions of lines of coding, he said.

Most failures of weapons systems in the past came from not having the right systems architecture, he said, which resulted in weapons not being able to communicate with other platforms.

MIGHTY TRENDING

PTSD is temporary: here are the first steps to defeating it

This month is Mental Health Month, so we sat down the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Director of Innovation and Collaboration for the VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Dr. Wendy Tenhula. The good doctor was very outgoing in explaining how to spot trouble signs of mental health issues and answering our podcast listeners’ burning questions about the use of recreational drugs to treat PTSD.


The VA healthcare system is the largest in the United States. The Department of Veterans Affairs is the second largest cabinet-level office in the U.S. government — just behind the Pentagon.

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Those of us who require the services of the VA healthcare system know that navigating it can be a daunting task. Do you need a psychiatrist or a psychologist? What’s the difference between the two? Which is better for your situation? Do you have to take drugs? Do I even have a choice?

The answer to the last question may surprise you: yes, you do.

But first it’s important to realize if you have a mental health condition. Or perhaps you see problems in a loved one that didn’t exist before their deployment or separation from the military. It’s harder to recognize a mental health condition than it is to recognize a physical condition. Everyone is different and the unique ways in which we internally respond to external problems makes it difficult to categorize ourselves. How do you know when you have a mental health issue and when you’re just having a bad day?

“If it’s getting in the way of your life,” says Dr. Tenhula. “Things like going to school, getting a job, maintaining relationships — then that’s a clue that you may have a mental health condition. It’s not necessarily a bad day.”

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Dr. Wendy Tenhula

If identifying that you have a problem is the first step, where do we go from there?

There are a number of specialized, professional counselors that can help with your specific condition. But where the VA has started truly innovating is through the use of peer specialists — veterans who have had mental health struggles of their own. They know, first-hand, what a returning veteran is going through and they know the system.

Mental health treatments can often take time and some individual sessions can make veterans feel worse than when they came in. Treatment for post-traumatic stress often requires painfully and honestly revisiting traumatic experiences — and that’s hard. The VA’s peer specialists are also there to keep vets from getting discouraged.

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The peer specialist concept is simple: Veterans will connect better with those who have experienced the same things.
(VA photo by Tami Schutter)

There is always more than one treatment option available and veterans have a choice to make — but it takes work, honesty, and a real partnership with your practitioner.

For more about the VA’s renewed push to reach more veterans through Mental Health Month and its Make the Connection campaign, listen to this episode of WATM’s Mandatory Fun podcast. Then, check out the Make the Connection website.

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