The Army wants more soldiers, and it's using esports to put a 'finger on the pulse' of potential recruits - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The Army wants more soldiers, and it’s using esports to put a ‘finger on the pulse’ of potential recruits

After whiffing on its recruiting goal in 2018, the Army has been trying new approaches to bring in the soldiers it needs to reach its goal of 500,000 in active-duty service by the end of the 2020s.


The 6,500-soldier shortfall the service reported in September 2018 was its first recruiting miss since 2005 and came despite it putting $200 million into bonuses and issuing extra waivers for health issues or bad conduct.

Within a few months of that disappointment, the Army announced it was seeking soldiers for an esports team that would, it said, “build awareness of skills that can be used as professional soldiers and use [its] gaming knowledge to be more relatable to youth.”

By January 2019, more than 6,500 soldiers had applied for a team that was expected to have about 30 members. In September 2019, the Army credited the esports team, one of two new outreach teams set up that year, as having “initiated some of the highest lead-generating events in the history of the all-volunteer force.”

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Staff Sgt. Michael Showes, far right, with fellow Army Esports Team members and a game enthusiast at an exhibition in San Antonio, January 19, 2019.

US Army/Terrance Bell

“It’s essentially connecting America to its Army through the passion of the gaming community,” Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Jones, noncommissioned-officer-in-charge of the team, said in January 2019.

Team members who were competing would train for up to six hours a day, Jones said at the time, and they received instruction on Army enlistment programs so they could answer questions from potential recruits.

“They will have the ability to start a dialogue about what it is like to serve in our Army and see if those contacts are interested in joining,” Gen. Frank Muth, head of Army Recruiting Command, said in early 2019.

Thousands of soldiers play esports, Muth said, and the audience for it has grown into the hundreds of millions — West Point even recognized its own official esports club in January — but the appeal wasn’t obvious at first to Army leaders, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said Friday.

“This was one [idea] that when the first time Gen. Frank Muth briefed … Army senior leadership, we’re like, ‘What are you talking about, Frank?'” McCarthy told an audience at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

“We’re about 18 months into it,” McCarthy said, and with that team, Army recruiters were “getting their finger on the pulse with 17- to 24-year-old Americans. What are they into? How do they communicate? And [finding] those right venues and shaping our messaging to talk about here’s the 150 different things you can do in the Army and the access to education and the kinds of people that you can meet and being a part of something as special as this institution.”

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The Army Esports Team trailer at ArmyCon 2019, October 12, 2019.

Army Esports Team/Facebook

In 2019, the Army rolled out an esports trailer with four gaming stations inside, as well as a semi-trailer with eight seats that could be adjusted so all eight players played the same game or their own on a gaming PC, an Xbox 1S, a PS4 Pro, and a Nintendo Switch, Jones, the NCO-in-charge, told Task Purpose in October.

One of the senior leaders dispatched to an esports event was Gen. Mark Milley, who was Army chief of staff at the time and is now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which is the president’s top uniformed military adviser.

“He said, ‘You’re going to make me do what?'” McCarthy said Friday. “Then when he went, he learned a lot, and he got to engage with young men and women, and what we found is we’re getting millions of leads of 17- to 24-year-olds to feed into Army Recruiting Command to engage young men and women to see if they’d be interested in a life of service.”

The esports team is part of a change in recruiting strategy, McCarthy said, that has focused on 22 cities in traditional recruiting grounds in the South and Midwest but also on the West Coast and the Northeast with the goal of informing potential recruits about what life in the Army is actually like as well as about the benefits of serving, such as money for college or soft skills that appeal to employers.

The service has also shifted almost all its advertising spending to digital and put more uniformed personnel into the Army Marketing Research Group to take more control of its messaging.

McCarthy on Friday called it “a comprehensive approach” to “improve our performance in a variety of demographics, whether that’s male-to-female ratios or ethnicities.” That geographic focus yielded “a double-digit lift” among women and minorities, McCarthy said last year.

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Army Gen. Frank Muth, back row, third from right, with members of the Army Esports Team in front of USAE gaming truck, in Washington, DC, October 14, 2019.

US Army Esports Team/Facebook

The outreach hasn’t been universally welcomed.

After the 2018 recruiting shortfall, service chiefs, including then-Army Secretary Mark Esper, said schools were not letting uniformed service members in to recruit. Anti-war activists attempted to disprove that claim by offering ,000 to schools that admitted to barring recruiters.

Suggestions the Army start recruiting children in their early teens also received criticism for both its impracticality and the harm it could do to the military as an institution.

But recruiting has improved year-over-year, hitting the goal set last year and being ahead of pace now, McCarthy said.

“This has been a major turnaround, because I think we just got a little lazy and we started losing touch with young men and women … but you have to sustain this,” McCarthy added. “We’re in a war for talent in this country — 3.5% unemployment, they have a lot of opportunities.”

“We travel to a lot of American cities, and we meet with mayors and superintendents of schools and other civic leaders to try to educate those influencers, to try to help us in recruiting, and it’s yielded tremendous benefit.”

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

Articles

USS Constitution returns to Boston waters after a 21st century restoration

Old Ironsides touched her native Boston waters once again July 23. A full moon reflected the highest tides of the season as the 219-year-old warship pulled out of a flooded dry dock in Charlestown Navy Yard.


A large crowd gathered around Dry Dock 1 in the Navy Yard, the country’s second-oldest dry dock, built in 1833. After 26 months of heavy restorations, the shiny, restored warship returned to Boston waters in a slow undocking process.

“It went perfectly,” said Historian Margherita M. Desy, an expert on all things Ironsides. “When you plan and you know what you’re doing, it goes on flawlessly, and that’s what we had tonight.”

The USS Constitution enters dry dock for renovations. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Peter Melkus

Desy said through the USS Constitution Museum’s social media pages, thousands of people across the world tuned in to the undocking event.

Those tuning in may have seen the hundreds of spectators cheering and singing patriotic tunes, waiting hours for the grand undocking spectacle. Despite starting a half hour earlier than planned, an illuminated USS Constitution officially crossed the sill (where a modern caisson is usually stationed to block out ocean waters) right on time at 11:30p.m., according to Desy.

Just as the ship began to move, crews had to pause the operation for several minutes as a member of the undocking team was transported for a medical emergency.

The individual was not aboard the ship, but standing in the Navy Yard viewing area when the emergency occurred. Lieutenant Commander Tim Anderson, Executive Officer of the USS Constitution, said the individual was a military member and appeared to be recovering well. The ship continued to slowly move along following the medical response.

Old Ironsides, whose nickname honors the ship’s proud performance in the War of 1812, boasts being the oldest commissioned naval vessel afloat. The $12-15 million restoration project breathed life into the historic landmark operated by the US Navy and the Naval History Heritage Command Detachment Boston.

Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Kinney

Since May 18, 2015, crews have applied much more than elbow grease to the American landmark: besides the removal and replacement of the lower hull’s copper sheathing, crews caulked various planks and the ship’s keel (the bottom-most part of the ship) with coveted white oak timber.

The ship’s bow (or “cutwater”) was inspected and restored, support shoring and scaffolding were installed, and a few other restorative measures were completed to ensure Old Ironsides was capable of hosting an estimated 10 million or so more tourists in the next two decades, when she is likely to be worked upon again.

Organizers said the high tide helps ensure there is enough water to allow the ship to float. The Dry Dock was flooded steadily over several hours as crews inspected the ship to ensure operations flowed smoothly.

And smoothly she sailed, right into Pier 1 East in the Navy Yard, where Old Ironsides will remain for the rest of the summer season.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the real-life, Civil War-era ‘Mulan’

Maria Lewis was probably the most unlikely person to have ever fought in the American Civil War. She was an escaped slave, a woman, and was underage; all three of these factors barred individuals from serving. But Lewis was much smarter than the average person, let alone the average enslaved American. She fought in the war as a free white man, distinguished herself during her service, and was even part of an honor guard that presented captured rebel flags to the Secretary of War.


Kinda like this but with way more violence.

Born into slavery in 1847, Lewis and her family spent her younger years in Virginia around Albemarle County, near Charlottesville. At the age of 17, she assumed a new identity and a new life as an emancipated slave. The only real hitch was that she presented herself as something totally different when it came time to join the Union cavalry.

She enlisted as Private George Harris, a nod to the character in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s antebellum classic who escapes slavery as a Spanish man, in New York’s 8th Cavalry, which took part in many major battles throughout the war, including Antietam, Gettysburg, and the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House. She first participated with the 8th at the Battle of Waynesboro, near where she was born and enslaved.

The battle at Waynesboro ended the fighting in the Shenandoah for good.

Her service saw her join Union General Philip Sheridan’s army in the Shenandoah Valley, where the Union Army soundly defeated Confederate General Jubal Early and devastated the Confederate economy in the area and beyond. After the war, however, George Harris/Maria Lewis had no home to go back to and very little is known about her postwar life. She traveled to Rochester, New York, where the 8th Cavalry was originally formed, to live with the family of one of her officers. Historians believe this officer hid her secret during the war and, as a result, would naturally have been a close confidant.

Lewis Griffin was an abolitionist lieutenant in the 8th Cavalry. His sister, Julia Wilbur, wrote about the “colored woman [who] has been here who has been with the 8th N.Y. Cav. for the last 18 months.” She wrote a few more details:

“She knows Mr. Griffin. She wore a uniform, rode a horse and carried a sword and carbine just like a man. The officers protected her and she was with them mostly. The regiment didn’t know that she was a woman. She was called Geo. Harris, but her real name is Maria Lewis. She is from Albermarle Co. Va. and escaped to the Union army.”

Rochester, NY in the days following the Civil War’s end.

Many knew Lewis when she wore a dress on the streets of Rochester. She was more than happy to don a petticoat and perform the tasks of a woman of the time. But she was also known to celebrate her veteran status with those who fought alongside her.

When celebrating her service, she wore her full military uniform.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What it takes to get a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCOM

Dennis Wolfe, Retired U.S. Army sergeant major, received U.S. Special Operations Command’s 2018 Bull Simons Award April 18, 2018, in Tampa, Florida. His remarkable five decade career in and out of uniform pioneering explosive ordnance and disposal tactics for special operations was the basis for the award. His expertise established a world class program to counter weapons of mass destruction becoming the standard for the United States government and our international partners.

The lifetime achievement award recognizes recipients who embody the true spirit, values, and skills of a special operations warrior. Col. Arthur “Bull” Simons, whom the award is named after, was the epitome of these attributes.


Wolfe was born in Port Trevorton, Pennsylvania and raised in humble surroundings where there was not much of a chance to make a decent living and travel.

“It was 1962 following graduation from high school and there was very little opportunity where I grew up and was raised and I always had this dream of seeing the world and knew there was a lot out there and probably the way to do it was to join the service,” Wolfe said. “I, of course, had no idea what I was getting into.”

During basic training an unfortunate injury would turn out to be a fortunate career opportunity for him.

“My basic training was in Fort Gordon, Georgia and I wanted to go airborne, but I injured my knee so they put me in a garrison unit. The guys in the garrison unit convinced me I should go to explosive ordnance disposal school, which I did,” said Wolfe. “In the EOD field I was on presidential support, VIP support, supporting the secret service.”

After serving more than a decade, he became a mentor in the EOD career field and was teaching future conventional Army EOD specialists. Then his career took an unexpected turn.

“One of my assignments in the EOD field was as an instructor at Redstone Arsenal and that is where I got a call to come to Fort Bragg for an assessment and selection process for a unit that was starting up,” said Wolfe.

Dennis Wolfe

The assessment and selection was for a unit whose mission would be hostage rescue and counter-terrorism. During the assessment and selection process he was noticed right away by future USSOCOM Command Sgt. Maj. Mel Wick.

“The assessment and selection process that Dennis went through was one of the toughest mental and physical selection processes in the world,” said Wick. “There were several reasons Dennis was chosen. We did some psychological testing. We did a lot of interviews with people he had worked with and he had a very important skill that was missing in the group we were assembling. It didn’t take him long at all to earn the respect of the other more experienced Soldiers that he was in the training course with.”

Another famous special operator from that era, former USSOCOM Commander Gen. Peter Schoomaker, and 2016 Bull Simons Award recipient recognized that Wolfe was a unique asset. “Dennis was a little different than most the rest of us because he came with a specialty [EOD] that wasn’t familiar to us which in the long run was fortuitous,” said Schoomaker.

It would not be long before Wolfe would take part in some of the country’s most dangerous missions, among them the invasion of Grenada, and the failed Iranian hostage rescue attempt known as Operation Eagle Claw.

“We got word that the embassy in Iran had been taken over by terrorists. They said that probably was going to be a mission that this unit was going to be involved in,” Wolfe said. “That mission eventually became Eagle Claw where we planned to rescue 52 hostages.”


“When we were preparing for Eagle Claw Dennis was able to provide a lot of assistance there for the planning and preparation for that,” Wick said. “He was heavily involved in figuring out the breaching charges for the walls. He was also going to be key to looking for and disarming booby traps.”

The failed Iranian hostage rescue during Operation Eagle Claw had an impact on many special operators and Wolfe was no exception.

“I think the experiences of Eagle Claw had a deep impact on everyone that was there. I think that was definitely shown throughout the rest of his career with the lessons he learned there,” Wick said. “His ability to analyze things, to anticipate things, to always look forward, and to always be considering the broader picture rather than the small technical piece that he was focused on.”

Wolfe was noted for his calm demeanor in any stressful situation. The years of training dealing with weapons of mass destruction gave him the ability to keep his teams focused.

“In a crisis situation he was also a very steady anchor that people could hang on to, to calm themselves down by looking at Dennis,” Wick said. “I mean if Dennis can be calm in this situation, well the rest had to be.”

Wolfe became much more than an EOD specialist for the special mission unit and learned to master the essential special operator skills.

Dennis Wolfe
(Photo by Michael Bottoms)

“Of course when you learn when someone has this extraordinary specialty you figure that would limit what they do. The truth is Dennis ended up being an extraordinary operator as well,” Schoomaker said. “He went through what all of us went through and became extraordinary operator in the special mission unit. He ended up being a team leader and eventually being the sergeant major of the selection and training detachment.”

Being an operator means you have to take on many personas and Wolfe was very skilled at going from noticed to unnoticed.

“Dennis was able to fit into whatever conditions he was faced with. He could be out in the mud and two hours later he’s cleaned up in a suit in front of an ambassador or a senator giving a briefing. One hour after that he is with a bunch of scientists going through the very technical details of disarming a nuclear weapon,” Wick said. “I’ve seen him sit on the corner in dirty ragged clothes with a bottle of wine while he is observing a target. He could adapt very rapidly in his speech. He could sound like a redneck or he could sound like a scientist and he could switch from one to the other very easily.”

Retiring from the Army, Wolfe became a civil servant and carried on the special operations EOD mission that eventually would have a global impact.

“Even after he retired we retained him in a civilian capacity where he could put his full time effort into developing a full scale program as the field evolved,” said Schoomaker.

In his civilian capacity, Wolfe would go on and write the tactics, techniques, and procedures that would greatly enhance the security of the United States.

“When Dennis Wolfe and I met the Soviet Union recently collapsed and there was a big concern about the loss of control of weapons of mass destruction,” said James McDonnell, Assistant Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office. “Dennis was the guy that brought EOD into special operations. So he had the vision to understand how the terrorist threat was evolving and that vision was absolutely critical because all the planning had to be done in advance. All techniques, tactics and procedures had to be done in advance and they really didn’t exist.”

Wolfe was a master at dealing with people who weren’t in special operations and incorporating their expertise into a special operations mission.

“So for example, scientists had all kinds of tools they thought were great, but you couldn’t necessarily jump out of an airplane with. You couldn’t dive with them,” McDonnel said. “So what Dennis was able to do was bring that into this national laboratory complex and say ‘if you take this tool and modify in this particular way then we can use it.'”

Echoing Secretary McDonnell’s sentiment, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. James Bonner, who today is the commander of the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives Command, and was as an officer who served with Wolfe, thinks he has had lasting, legacy impact on the entire EOD community.


“When we talk about weapons of mass destruction we are talking about chemical, biological, nuclear, it can be radiological, it can have an explosive element to it and when you look at an explosive ordnance disposal technician it takes about one year to go through EOD school, just to be able to work basic EOD problems. Then if you are fortunate to be assigned to the special mission unit, the training plan Dennis incorporated with the national lab takes another year of training before you are ready for a role in the special mission unit. That is the level of expertise and capability that Dennis was able to build.”

“Dennis was able to bring highly technical skills into the special operations community that it didn’t have before and build that capability literally over decades into a national asset that is globally unique,” said McDonnell.

Reflecting on his fifty years of government and in special operations, Wolfe’s humility is readily apparent.

“I never turned anything down. I never planned anything specifically. The unit said they needed me because of my skills. I couldn’t refuse. I’ll go. I never thought I had all those skills people were looking for. Sometimes they had more faith in me than I had in myself. I felt as a Soldier I couldn’t turn anything down,” Wolfe said. “During my time SOF has gone from reactive to proactive. I think we are still there today. At least I hope we are.”

“He had the courage to do some really amazing things and has made contributions that are just unmeasurable to the security of the United States,” Wick said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how the Apollo 11 travel pay proves DTS always sucked

On July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin made history as Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Seven days later, they returned to a country of adoring fans, astonished that these brave astronauts accomplished a feat few thought possible. They filled out all of their paperwork, which included customs documents accounting for the harvested moon rocks and travel vouchers — because, technically, they were listed as troops on TDY.

When Col. Buzz Aldrin got his travel voucher back, he was approved for $33.31 for his time spent and distance traveled. Yep. A whole thirty-three bucks for going to the moon. Accounting for inflation, that’s all of $228.73 in 2018 dollars.


It should also be noted that the Defense Travel System usually pays out pre-approved amounts for travel in most cases — it’s how they avoid paying out ridiculous sums (like the one we’re about to calculate). This article is just a thought experiment to find out how much Col. Aldrin, and any likely Space Force cadets, would get for making an interstellar trip.

(NASA)

In his voucher, every aspect of his travels was itemized. First, Aldrin left his home on July 7th and arrived at Ellington Air Force Base (8 miles). He flew to Cape Kennedy that day (1,015 miles), then flew to moon via “Gov. Spacecraft” (238,900 miles) and touched down in the Pacific Ocean on the 24th (another 238,900 miles). He was then picked up by the USS Hornet and made his way to Hawaii on the 26th (900 miles) and flew back to Ellington (3,905 miles) before finally going home on the 27th (8 more miles).

In total, he traveled roughly 483,636 miles and was away for twenty days.

Out of context, Aldrin’s .31 compensation is a pittance. But, officially, we know he was given the roughly bucks exclusively for the distance traveled between home and Ellington and the 100 miles of authorized use of a privately-owned vehicle around Cape Kennedy. But, just for fun, let’s find out just how much Col. Aldrin should have been paid.

To put this in perspective for our younger, junior-enlisted audience, that’s around half the price of a ’69 Ford Mustang back then.

(NASA)

Since DTS records of pricing rates for service members’ travel are hard to understand (at best) in 2018 and nearly nonexistent for 1969, we are going to have to extrapolate the data using recent travel rates and work our way backwards, accounting for the 85.44% inflation between now and then to get a grand total.

First, let’s start with the easy stuff: per diem rates. Right now, DTS offers 4 per day of travel within the continental United States and 5 per day of travel outside. Using these numbers, we arrive at a total of ,381, including his nine stateside days and 11 days spent outside of the continental U.S. (there’s no existing rate for travel outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, so we’re just going to consider those 8 days in Space as definitely outside of the continental U.S.). Right off the bat, we’re looking at roughly id=”listicle-2597884034″,366.17 in 1969 dollars.

But, hey! I’m sure that the money means nothing compared to forever looking up at the moon and saying, “yeah. I was there.”

(NASA)

But since Aldrin was still in the Air Force at the time of his Apollo 11 mission, he was listed as TDY — hence the travel voucher — so we’re going to need to calculate distance, too. Mileage rates are categorized by car, motorcycle, airplane, and ‘other.’ This last category is typically reserved for boat or ferry travel (which he did use after splashing down the the Pacific to get to Hawaii), but we’re going to lump spacecraft travel in here, too. If that’s not ‘other,’ I don’t know what is.

Using these rates, he’d be paid .72 for driving to and from the base, ,953.20 for the plane travel, 2 for the USS Hornet trip, and, at .18 cents for every mile traveled, another ,004 for going to the moon and back. That’s a grand total of ,127.92 in 2018 travel pay, or ,416.72 in 1969 dollars.

With both distance and per diem rates, that’s a whole ,782.89 that Col. Buzz Aldrin could have been paid — but wasn’t.

MIGHTY FIT

4 tips to help you get the most out of your intermittent fasting

Paleo, Ketogenic, and the South Beach diet are a few of the famous plans that countless people from around the nation use to shed those unwanted pounds. Since most troops can’t be nearly as selective with their food choices as civilians can, finding a healthy way to lose body fat before the physical assessment can be rough.

After all, the MREs we scarf down during deployment aren’t exactly low-carb meals.

Today, intermittent fasting has become one of the most popular trends to hit the fitness world. The idea, in brief, is to eat all your meals within a structured time frame and then go several hours without eating a single calorie. IF has been proven to manage two vital chemicals in our body: growth hormones and insulin.

Growth hormones help the body produce lean muscle, burn fat, and reduce the effects of aging. Elevated insulin levels block the benefits of growth hormones and cause weight gain. Yet many people who are on this structured plan may want to see quicker results that will positively benefit the body – that’s the whole point of IF, after all.

So here’s out you can get the most from your structured fasting plan.


Extend the length of your fasting window

Many people will fast for 16 hours a day and only eat their meals within an eight-hour window. However, consider extending the window to 18 to 20 hours if your body will allow it. Many people have a hard time going that long without eating. To combat the hunger, people who intermittent fast regularly drink large amounts of water to fill their stomachs up. This is just a temporary fix. Keep in mind it can sometimes take the body time to adapt to this type of meal plan structure.

The longer our insulin levels remain low, the more our bodies feed off stored energy.

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Perfect form!

Hit the gym while fasting

Intense workouts mean we’re burning some serious calories. While you’re already fasting, working out during that window adds to your body’s caloric deficit — which means you’re going to lose even more weight.

However, listen to your body — many people will feel too weak at the gym when they first start using this meal plan.

Lift heavy at the gym

Although fasting will use up the glycogen stored in our muscles on its own, by lifting heavy at the gym, the body turns to other sources of fat storage to restore that glycogen into your muscles.

Lose fat while gaining muscle.

It’s totally a win-win.

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Eating ice cream will elevate your insulin, but rubbing it on your face is fine.

Avoid foods that spike your insulin

Once your fasting window has closed, and you’ve finally eaten something after several hours of going without food, to keep your insulin levels as low as possible, its recommended you avoid intaking in meals that contain a high amount of carbohydrates and sugar.

Eating clean proteins and healthy fats will raise your insulin levels, but not at the high rate as carbohydrates and sugars do.

Articles

Guantanamo’s funniest detainee is single and ready to mingle

Ladies, a high-value al-Qaeda detainee at the U.S. prison facility in Guantanamo Bay is looking for love. Check out his profile on Match.com, because he can’t get on Tinder from his cell and Plenty of Fish asks too many questions.


“This is terrible news about Ashley Madison,” he writes. “Please remove my profile immediately!!! I’ll stick with Match.com, even though you say it is for old people. There is no way I can get Tinder in here.”

(International Red Cross via Rahim family)

Muhammad Rahim al-Afghani was captured in Pakistan in 2007 and held by the CIA before his transfer to the prison. He keeps a robust sense of humor despite being tortured while detained by the CIA. Afghani actually does maintain a Match.com profile and comments on the latest news, trends, and pop culture in the United States through letters to his lawyer.

“Donald Trump is an idiot!!! Sen. McAin [sic]is a war hero. Trump is a war zero,” he wrote in a letter acquired by Al-Jazeera. “He bankrupted the USFL, and now he wants to bankrupt the U.S. At this rate, Hillary has a chance.”

Afghani was the last prisoner sent to Guantanamo Bay, arriving in March 2008.

He has access to news, magazines, and international television inside the facility. Referring to Caitlyn Jenner, the transgender reality personality who caused an online stir when she received ESPN’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award, he said he is “happy for her because people are born how they are.” He did question her political views, however. “How is she a Republican? They want to take her rights away.”

He had one bit of advice for Ms. Jenner: “Tell her to use spray tan for her legs.”

Afghani has never been charged with a crime. Retired General and former CIA director Michael Hayden says Aghani is detained because of his past and his continued threat to American interests. Afghani believes his high-value status comes because he was tortured in custody. He was sleep deprived for 138 hours in 2007, standing while wearing a diaper, and given only liquid ensure to eat.

He advised his civilian lawyer, Carlos Warner, a federal public defender, to take Obama “straight to the post” if he ever had the chance to play with the President. Afghani is an avid basketball and Cavaliers fan. He is happy about LeBron’s return to Cleveland.

“Miami is a good place to visit, but no one wants to live there. It’s too greasy and hot. But I feel this way: As the great Bret Michaels once said — ‘Although the wound heals, the scar Remains!!!”

While Afghani has access to news, the events he discusses may not always be current. Afghani once asked Warner if he could do the Gangnam Style dance for him, but needed some help first.

“I like this new song ‘Gangnam Style,'” he wrote. “I want to do the dance for you but cannot because of my shackles. Please ask to have this changed.”

In all seriousness, he repeats the need for a military lawyer, which may be why he enjoys displaying his knowledge of American popular culture, in an effort to stay relevant.

“Give me a trial. Let me be free,” he wrote to his civilian lawyer. Afghani request a military lawyer “How can I get justice without a military lawyer?” He had a military lawyer but that lawyer retired and was not replaced. When wikileaks released documents about the detainees left in Guantanamo, there were none about Afghani.

Afghani will likely be rejected by ChristianMingle and eHarmony.

 

NOW: 6 Reasons why the Korengal Valley was one of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan

OR: The 13 best insults from military movies

Lists

11 regional American foods we’d like to see in MREs

MREs do what they can to bring a little taste of home to deployed troops. How successful they are or have been in the past — and how tasty those attempts were — is open for debate.


Debate away.

For decades, we’ve seen dozens of flavors come and go. Some we remember fondly. Many we are happy to toss into the literal and figurative dumpster of history.

The official Country Captain Chicken depository.

Also read: Army food will make you feel the feels

America is big place! Someone tell the people who make MREs to scour the best regions of the United States for our regional flavors! We could get some better food while learning a little bit about the different regional cuisines of our own country.

1. A better Buffalo Chicken.

What is more ‘Merica than adding butter to hot sauce and then pouring it over chicken wings? The answer is “not much.” But the MRE wizards decided to make it a “pulled” version of the dish, which ended up looking like an electric orange glop.

Glop: Flavor of America.

They gave us whole pieces of meat when it came to the Western Burger and the Frankfurters. Why they decided not to use actual wings (or even boneless wings) is beyond comprehension. And don’t get us started on the lack of Bleu Cheese.

2. Baltimore Crab Cakes.

I know asking for crab from the military is asking a lot. But I’d rather have it processed into MREs than eat what I tasted as it was steamed into a rubbery oblivion at the DFAC on Camp Victory.

Not seen: a crab cracker. Anywhere in country.

Besides the delicious crab cake, a little packet of Old Bay seasoning could totally replace the hot sauce packet as the go-to flavor enhancer.

3. Southern-Style Biscuits and Gravy.

This one isn’t such a great idea for being on-the-go, but if you have time to sit and eat, this would be a great idea. We all know the Elf snack bread can also be used for hammering nails so why not have the MRE people create a buttermilk snack bread that is designed to be moistened up in the field. With gravy.

More gravy than that. I thought we were winning the war.

The end product will look nothing like the photo above, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Civilian rations already made this – and relatively well. Besides, it will show that the MRE people put some thought into texture and mouthfeel.

4. South Dakota’s Chislic.

Chislic is simple. It’s grilled or fried chunks of meat – usually game or lamb, but can also be beef – topped with seasoned salt or garlic salt. It’s eaten via toothpick and served with saltines. It’s like shish kebab.

If shish kebab came with saltines and was served at bars in Pierre, SD.

So it would be one MRE our Middle Eastern allies could eat with us. We all know MRE makers are fans of crackers and chunked meat. This one sells itself.

5. Hawaiian Spam Musubi.

Bear with me here. Spam gets a bad rap but this Hawaiian snack is pretty great. In Hawaii, Spam is even getting a gourmet makeover. Musubi is fried or grilled Spam on a bed of rice and held together with nori seaweed.

It will definitely not look like this in an MRE.

The best part about Spam Musubi is that it tastes great hot or cold and is designed to be eaten on the run.

6. Lowcountry Shrimp and Grits.

The coastal areas of Georgia and South Carolina, especially Charleston, are culinary heaven. Grits are a boiled ground hominy, a corn product. How it’s made isn’t important, but how it’s prepared definitely is. My first breakfast with locals in Charleston had them each prep their grits in a different way. Some add cheese, some add grape jelly, and the chefs add shrimp, tomatoes, sausage, peppers, bacon, spices…

No matter how you feel about grits, this is something we can agree on, I promise.

7. West Virginia’s Pepperoni Rolls.

Just like it sounds, the Pepperoni Roll is a bready roll baked with pepperoni in the middle. The idea is to heat the bread and let the pepperoni oils soak into it as the entire thing gets softer. It can also be eaten cold, which is a boon to troops on the move.

If it works for coal miners, it will work for you.

For those of you asking if we should really be taking nutrition tips from Appalachia, my response to you is that if we really cared that much about it in the field, we wouldn’t be eating MREs.

8. New Mexico’s Green Chile Stew.

If you’ve eaten MREs for long enough, you’ve come to realize they all taste the same after a while. Why not make one that was prepared the way it was intended, with a sh*tton of green chiles in it?

It can also be a vegetarian option, but the best part about having Green Chile Stew in an MRE is that it can be poured over every other MRE, instantly making even the worst meal edible. Chicken chunks and veggie crumbles aren’t just for lining the reject box anymore!

9. Upstate NY’s Utica Greens.

There are always a lot of complaints that MREs don’t have a lot of vegetable matter in them. Here’s our chance to appease those people while teaching the rest of America that New York State is large and there’s a lot to see between NYC and Buffalo.

Utica Greens are any kind of leafy green sautéed in chicken broth and mixed with bread crumbs, cheese, prosciutto, and hot peppers (and sometimes other things). Serve the bread crumbs in a separate packet, MRE wizards. Ideally, this is downed with a Utica Club Beer.

10. Alaskan Akutuq

Sometimes known as “Eskimo Ice Cream,” Akutuq is an Inuit dish of hard fat whipped with berries or meat. Originally meant to be a dessert, the dish has been modified dozens of times over and now includes savory variations.

It’s still very much a homemade dish.

The use of hard fats and lean meats (usually game meat) means a high-protein, high fat MRE meal perfect for troops who want that kind of diet and don’t mind where they get it.

11. Cincinnati Chili

Cincy’s chili features finely-ground meat in a thin sauce that includes ingredients like cocoa powder and cinnamon. Three-way, four-way, and five-way variants add onions, kidney beans, or both. It’s served over spaghetti and then covered with so much cheese, it looks like a plate of cheese.

Pictured: Not enough cheese.

Cincinnati Chili has its detractors (aka everyone outside of the Ohio-Kentucky area) but people in Chicago pour tomato soup in a bread bowl and call it pizza and Californians think In-n-Out is the pinnacle of burgers. E pluribus unum.

I haven’t been to every place in America. What regional foods would make a good MRE? Email blake.stilwell@wearethemighty.com with your suggestion, a recipe, and maybe even the best restaurant to find it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How this operation is guarding the nation’s skies

Following the events of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Department of Defense identified flaws in its security procedures within the airspace surrounding the National Capital Region. In response, Operation Noble Eagle was created to protect the skies of North America.

An important training element of Noble Eagle, Fertile Keynote exercises utilize the Air Force’s civilian auxiliary, Civil Air Patrol.

With the combined support of the Air National Guard’s 113th Wing at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, the CAP’s Congressional Squadron, 1st Air Force and North American Aerospace Defense Command, Fertile Keynote missions simulate responses to unauthorized aircraft intruding into the restricted airspace surrounding the U.S. capital.

Other Fertile Keynote exercises take place every week across the country, with aerospace control alert fighter units and CAP squadrons participating.


Each component is vital to the exercise’s goal of rapidly intercepting low- or high-speed aircraft that show signs of distress or those not in compliance with air traffic control instructions.

Once the mission is initiated, fighter pilots, on 24-hour standby, scramble to practice their ability to get airborne quickly in response to a potential threat.

After establishing communication with NORAD and 1st AF, the pilots intercept the CAP aircraft, which simulate the intruder, or track of interest. After initial assessment, the pilots relay information about the TOI’s condition and intent, which ground personnel are not able to determine.

The aircraft is then either assisted, escorted out of the restricted airspace, or, if the intruder is determined to be a threat, the aircraft is eliminated.

Using aircraft from the Air Force Auxiliary as targets has two advantages; it provides participants with a realistic simulation of intercepting slower aircraft, at significantly reduced operational and maintenance cost to the Air Force. If another Air Force F-16 was used as a target for this exercise, it would cost approximately ,000, but operating the CAP aircraft, with volunteer pilots, costs approximately id=”listicle-2639898032″,000.

Exercises like these are conducted throughout the United States, giving pilots, controllers and NORAD personnel an opportunity to practice air defense capabilities against different airframes. In 2018, CAP aircraft flew 251 Air Defense Intercept training missions, including Fertile Keynote, in the National Capital Region, logging 1,635 flight hours on 861 sorties across the country.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

COVID-19: Putin tells officials to ‘get ready’ for fight; Iran urges IMF to move on emergency loan

The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 87,000 with over 1.4 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here’s a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast regions.



Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told cabinet ministers and regional heads to prepare to battle the coronavirus as he outlined steps being taken to counter the outbreak.

“Right now we need to get ready to fight for the life of each individual in every region,” Putin said during a video conference from his residence outside Moscow on April 8 during which he outlined measures being implemented to counter the growing outbreak in the country.

Russia has more than 8,670 officially confirmed coronavirus infections and at least 63 fatalities.

However, critics have cast doubt over the veracity of the figures, saying the actual toll could be much higher.

Among the steps publicized by Putin during his address was extra pay for medical personnel and the freeing up of 10 billion rubles (3 million) from the federal budget to be disbursed among the country’s more than 80 administrative regions.

In addition, he said that medical personnel who are in direct contact with coronavirus patients would be in line for an additional bonus.

Addressing the economy, Putin said that there was “practically no such thing as a total shutdown of business,” despite the obstacles and restrictions being faced.

“We must realize what kind of damage and destructive consequences this can bring about,” he said.

Putin also told the nation that he realized it is difficult to “remain inside four walls all the time.”

“But there is no choice,” he said. “One has to make it through self-isolation,” he told chiefs of Russia’s regions, which are mostly under strict lockdown.

Iran

Iranian President Hassan Rohani has urged the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide Tehran a multibillion-dollar emergency loan it had requested to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

The epidemic has further damaged Iran’s economy, already battered by U.S. sanctions that were reimposed after Washington in 2018 withdrew from a landmark deal between Tehran and world powers to curb the country’s nuclear program.

Tehran, as well as several countries, the United Nations, some U.S. lawmakers, and human rights groups have urged the United States to ease the sanctions to help Iran respond more effectively to the virus.

The outbreak has officially infected more than 62,500 people and killed over 3,800 in the country. Iranian officials have been criticized for their slow initial response to the pandemic, and experts have been skeptical about the veracity of official figures released by the authorities, who keep a tight lid on the media.

“We are a member of the IMF…. There should be no discrimination in giving loans,” Rohani said in a televised cabinet meeting on April 8.

“If they do not act on their duties in this difficult situation, the world will judge them in a different way,” he added.

Last month, the Central Bank of Iran asked the IMF for billion from its Rapid Financing Initiative to help to fight the pandemic in one of the hardest-hit countries in the world.

An IMF official was quoted as saying the Washington-based lender was in dialogue with Iranian officials over the request.

Iran has not received assistance from the IMF since a “standby credit” issued between 1960 and 1962, according to the fund’s data.

U.S. President Donald Trump has offered some humanitarian assistance, but Iranian officials have rejected the offer, saying Washington should instead lift the sanctions, which Rohani on April 8 equated to “economic and medical terrorism.”

Medicines and medical equipment are technically exempt from the U.S. sanctions but purchases are frequently blocked by the unwillingness of banks to process transactions for fear of incurring large penalties in the United States.

In one of the few instances of aid, Britain, France, and Germany used a special trading mechanism for the first time on March 31 to send medical supplies to Iran in a way that does not violate the sanctions.

The three countries sent supplies via Instex, the mechanism set up more than a year ago to allow legitimate humanitarian trade with Iran.

On April 7, Iran’s parliament reconvened for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak forced it to close, and rejected an emergency bill calling for a one-month nationwide lockdown.

More than two-thirds of the legislature’s 290 members gathered in the absence of speaker Ali Larijani, who tested positive for the virus last week.

During the session, deputy speaker Massud Pezeshkian criticized the Rohani administration for “not taking the outbreak seriously.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on April 7 condemned the detention of journalist and workers’ rights defender Amir Chamani in the northwestern city of Tabriz after he posted tweets about the health situation in Iran’s prisons and protests by inmates.

The Paris-based media freedom watchdog quoted Chamani’s family as saying he was detained on April 2 after being summoned by the cyberpolice.

The authorities have given no reason for the arrest of Chamani, who was transferred to a detention center run by the intelligence department of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, according to RSF.

Romania

Romania has confirmed another 344 cases of COVID-19 to reach 4,761, with 18 more fatalities that brought the toll to 215, the country’s coronavirus task force said on April 7, amid renewed calls for a sustained increase in the number of tests.

More than 700 of those infected are health-care workers.

The first fatality among medical staff was reported on April 8 — an ambulance paramedic from the northeastern city of Suceava who had reportedly kept working without being tested for days, although his health was deteriorating rapidly.

Suceava is the epicenter of the outbreak in Romania and has been under lockdown since last week.

The first coronavirus death was registered in Romania on March 22.

An additional 631 Romanians tested positive for COVID-19 abroad, most of them — 412 — in Italy, the world’s hardest-hit country. Some 37 Romanians have died so far in Italy, Britain, France, Spain, and Germany.

The country has been under a state of emergency since March 16, and President Klaus Iohannis on April 6 announced his intention to extend it by one month, while the government decided to postpone local elections that should have been held in early summer.

The Suceava paramedic’s death adds to worries about how Romania’s system is coping with the epidemic. Doctors and nurses have spoken out in recent weeks over insufficient equipment for those treating COVID-19 cases, and many medical staff have resigned over the shortages as well as mismanagement and fatigue.

Romanian platform for online activism DeClic has launched an Internet campaign urging the authorities to speed up the testing under the slogan “Mr. [Prime Minister Ludovic] Orban, don’t toy with our lives.”

Romania, a country of 19.5 million, has tested 47,207 people for coronavirus. By comparison, fellow EU member the Czech Republic has tested almost 99,000 people out of a total of 10.5 million. The Czech death toll stands at 99, less than half of Romania’s.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Romanian Service, digi24.ro, g4.ro, Reuters, and hotnews.ro

North Caucasus

A former top official of the independent Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Akhmed Zakayev, has been hospitalized in London with coronavirus symptoms.

Zakayev’s relatives told RFE/RL that the exiled former member of the Chechen separatist government was hospitalized on April 6 after he experienced difficulties breathing.

The relatives added that three days prior to his hospitalization, other family members were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever and cough, as well.

Medical officials asked Zakayev’s relatives to sign a consent paper to use artificial respiration during his treatment.

Zakayev, 60, served as culture minister, deputy prime minister, prime minister, and foreign minister in Chechnya’s separatist government.

He and his immediate family members have been residing in exile in London since 2002.

He is wanted in Russia for alleged terrorism, which he and his supporters deny.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 27th

It looks like everyone got promoted this month except for you. Tough break. Better luck next year.

But don’t worry, you’ll probably still get all of the new responsibilities as if you were promoted — just with none of the pay. And you’ll probably take over the old responsibilities of that douchebag that did get promoted instead of you because life sucks like that.

Oh well, maybe these memes will cheer you up. If not, there’s always booze.


(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

(Meme by WATM)

(Meme via Harambe)

(Meme via Military Memes)

Anyone who’s ever looked at a French history book knows that Phillipe Petain really was the outlier.

And most French people hate him. Not just for surrendering and creating the puppet state of Vichy France, but because he’s the sole reason why French military might is forever mocked.

(Meme via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Says)

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

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popular

9 most irritating things vets hear when they head off to college

Life in the military is fantastic, but being a lifer isn’t for everyone. One of the greatest pieces of legislative success for the veteran community was the creation of the GI Bill. It opened the door for countless veterans to finally spread their wings and get a leg up in the civilian marketplace, rewarding their service with a launchpad.

Because of the GI Bill, many civilians who went straight to college from high school have their first interactions with a veteran. And it’s a good thing. You’re both in school, so there’s some common ground — thus helping bridge the ever-growing civilian-military divide. However, not all civilians approach veterans with the best opening lines.

The following are questions and comments that make veterans grit their teeth almost immediately.


These dumb-ass discussions are made even better when no one but the veteran understands that they’re f*cking with everyone just to watch their reactions.

1. “You’re a vet. What’s your opinion on the war/politics/the latest hot-button issue?”

In a smaller, more intimate setting, it’s fine to ask us about our opinions on things. Hell, we’re kind of known for making 30-minute-long rant videos from the front seats of our trucks.

But putting us on the spot in the middle of a classroom discussion is not cool. If the conversation is clearly leaning to one side, you’re setting the veteran up to be the enemy for standing up for anything military related. Ask this question and you’re either going to get an extremely heated debate or a completely zoned-out vet.

Not everyone can get their dream job — but vets with the GI Bill are given a chance, and you’re damn right they’re going to try.

2. “Why are you going for X degree and not something in security?”

The great thing about the GI Bill is that it can be applied for any college degree course. If the veteran wants to get out and follow their childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian, an artist, or whatever — more power to them. They earned that right by serving their country.

Bringing up the fact that they’re going to be making far less money by doing what they love as opposed to doing what they did in the military all over again isn’t going to make that realization any easier.

The sad truth is that most veterans will keep their demons to themselves. Some random d*ckhead isn’t going to sudden change that.

3. “So, like, did you see some bad stuff over there?”

Ranger Up hit this one on the head perfectly. No veteran wants to talk about that kind of thing with some random stranger they just met. Either they didn’t and harbor some guilt over the fact that they didn’t share the same burden as many of their brothers, they’re dealing with very real, resulting stress in a highly personal manner, or they’re going to overload the curious civilian with the grim details they actually don’t want.

After months of friendship, a veteran might be willing to open up about what happened out there — probably over a beer or seven — but never when it’s said in a half-joking manner.

College life may be stressful, but have you ever had someone in your company lose a pair of NVGs in a porta-john? I thought so.

4. “Why are you veterans so…”

Offensive? Overly polite? Loud? Reserved? Drunk? This one is a catchall for the wide spectrum of awkward questions that lump veterans into a single box.

Veterans come from literally all walks of life, from every place in the United States (and abroad), and are made up of the same folks that make up the rest of the population. Pretty much the only unifying thread that can be accurately applied to every single veteran is that we’re comfortable in bad situations.

Yep.

(Combs)

5. “It’s alright bro. You got back in one piece!”

Post-Traumatic Stress is called an invisible wound for a reason. Vets who live with the pain of what happened back in the day won’t easily show it and walk around wearing a happy mask around people they don’t know.

Just because that veteran made it back alright doesn’t mean that their buddy did, too. Even if that veteran wasn’t anywhere near the front line, saying something so ignorant trivializes the experiences of troops who didn’t have the same luxury.

Also, if you really want to get specific, a large percentage of the prolific killers who were in the service were kicked out before even serving a single enlistment. So…

6. “You’re not one of those crazy vets who’ll snap at any moment, right?”

Here’s a piece of news for you: If you compare the veteran population average to the civilian average in terms of homicides and other violent crimes, veterans are actually less likely to commit such acts.

In fact, veterans with combat experience who have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress are, once again, far less likely to commit violent crime than the average civilian. So, no, I’m not going to snap — are you?

We may have taken a detour, but we’ll get there.

7. “I would have joined, but I came here instead”

The veteran you’re talking to signed up and now they’re in the exact same boat as you! Except instead of having student-loan debt, they’ve got a few more years of life experience on you.

The reason this statement bothers veterans is that there’s an underlying assumption here that veterans are uneducated or that they wouldn’t have been able to get into college without Uncle Sam’s help. Oh boy, is that wrong. Fun fact: The ASVAB, the test required by all troops to qualify them into military service, is actually much more difficult than the college SAT or ACT.

The absolute lowest ASVAB score that will allow you to enlist is 31, which means you must be in the 69th percentile of scores among the general population. When SATs were graded out of 1600, the 69th percentile was roughly a 950 — which gets you into about 2/3rds of all universities and colleges around the country.

Just keep in mind that if you mess with one of our sisters, she was trained to shoot at targets at a max effective range of 300 meters.

8. “You don’t look like a veteran”

Just like the “lumping all veterans in one box” comment, this one implies that there’s this singular build for all troops. Well, there are skinny troops, there are fat troops, and there are muscular troops. There are troops of every race, religion, and creed. It’s the uniform and hair-cut standards that make us all alike.

But as bad is this one is for most troops, it’s almost always flung at our sisters-in-arms. Even though women make up 17 percent of the U.S. Armed Forces, male civilians tend to act shocked when they learn that a female served. It’s belittling.

Maybe one day when I finally put that underwater basket-weaving degree to good use… maybe…

9. “You’re so lucky you got the GI Bill”

Wrong. And f*ck you. That’s not how it works. Luck had nothing to do with all the hard work it took to serve in the military the minimum of three years required to get 100% access to the GI Bill. Luck, in my opinion, is being born into a family where mommy and daddy can pay for everything — but that’s none of my business.

If you want to be technical, a lot of veterans still take out student loans to help make ends meet. The GI Bill pays for a lot, but it doesn’t pay for everything.