After losing her leg in Iraq, Army vet shares life on social media - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SPORTS

After losing her leg in Iraq, Army vet shares life on social media

The alarm goes off early, like it always does.

Melissa Stockwell has another busy day at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs where she’ll swim, run, bike, and go through strength training for hours on end.

Then, like most moms, it’s a rush to fit in as much family time with her husband and 2- and 4-year-old children as the clock allows: pick up the kids, take them to swim lessons, grab dinner, read them a story, and get them tucked into bed.

In between, she might send an inspirational photo or tweet to her 7,000-plus social media followers.

It’s not just the mom-athlete thing that makes Stockwell special.

She does it all with one leg.


Stockwell was an Army officer in Iraq when she lost her left leg in a roadside bomb. She competed in swimming in the 2008 Paralympic Games, won the bronze medal in triathlon for the 2016 Games, and is currently training with hopes of making the U.S. team for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.

And people think she’s pretty rad.

After losing her leg in Iraq, Army vet shares life on social media

Melissa Stockwell shows her Purple Heart certificate while still recovering in the hospital. She said there were others in the hospital worse off than her, so she didn’t feel sorry for herself.

“To the mailman who yelled out ‘you’re an American badass’ as I was on #6/10 of my hill repeats, thank you. You sure lit that fire for the last 4,” she tweeted out Aug. 16, 2019.

“There weren’t a lot of ‘poor me’ kind of days. I did my rehab at Walter Reed, and was surrounded by a lot of soldiers who lost a lot more than I did. It almost wasn’t fair to feel sorry for myself. I chose to accept my leg early on.” — Melissa Stockwell, discussing her recovery after losing her leg in Iraq

Stockwell is just as likely to post a video of herself training in the gym, a poolside photo with her prosthetic leg, or a poignant goodbye letter to her service dog, Jake, she lost last year. Plus, there are plenty of posts about her children and mom life.

“I just saw a mom grocery shopping with 2 sets of twins, and another boy who all looked to be under 6 years old. If I ever get overwhelmed with momming for two, I’ll remember her. Her and my sister with 5 kids. Ah, perspective… ” she tweeted recently.

Or this inspirational burst first thing in the day: “This morning I took a moment to look around and just appreciate being alive. Take some time to do that today, it’s a day changer.”

And on many Fridays, you can find her posing with Old Glory for a #FlagFriday post.

After losing her leg in Iraq, Army vet shares life on social media

Army Veteran Melissa Stockwell typically posts photos of herself and her love of the American flag on her Twitter feed. “This is me,” she said. “This is the beauty of America.”

“I’m proud of our country, that’s all,” she said. “This is me. This is the beauty of America. We all get to think and choose what we want, whether or not we agree on what everyone says or how they express it. I’m going to choose to express myself this way, but that’s the beauty of our country.”

Whatever she posts, she said, it’s not for ego.

“I do the things in my life because I enjoy them,” Stockwell said. “I like to be busy. I like having dreams. I don’t do anything to impress anybody. I guess I do it so I can inspire someone else — if not for those who came before me, but those who came after who can think, ‘I can do this, also.’

“Look, I have hard days, too,” she added. “Not everyone is perfect. I post pictures of my kids and dreams because that makes it more real. If someone is having a hard day and sees my posts, maybe they’re a mom, maybe they’re having trouble with their kids, I want to inspire them that there’s always tomorrow.”

That’s pretty much been her attitude since April 13, 2004, when she lost her leg.

“There weren’t a lot of ‘poor me’ kind of days,” she said. “I did my rehab at Walter Reed, and was surrounded by a lot of soldiers who lost a lot more than I did. It almost wasn’t fair to feel sorry for myself. I chose to accept my leg early on.”

After losing her leg in Iraq, Army vet shares life on social media

Melissa Stockwell fits a lot into her day between family life and training. She posts regularly about her life for more than 7,000 followers on Twitter.

Getting into adaptive sports

Despite countless surgeries and infections, she took her first steps on her prosthetic leg 52 days after getting injured. Stockwell started adaptive sports and hasn’t looked back. She focused on the Paralympics after meeting fellow athlete and veteran John Register in 2005. She made the 2008 team, but didn’t medal.

“I learned that in life, sometimes the journey is more important than the destination,” she wrote on her web site. “And as I carried that American flag into that sold out Bird’s Nest Stadium at the closing ceremony, I had never been so proud. A proud American. And a proud Paralympian.”

Her friend, Keri Serota, said the Melissa Stockwell people see online, is the same in person.

“You know, I think what she does is amazing,” Serota said. “It’s hard not to be motivated, moved and inspired by Melissa. I always considered myself a proud American, but I learned more about what that means from Melissa. She makes you pause and realize what it means to be an American and why we have that freedom.

“But she’s also my best friend and I get to spend a lot of time with her and she has no ego. It’s this relatability. She has been in the room with all the living presidents, but she doesn’t take that for granted or have an ego about it. It’s very much Melissa. She can be with President Bush one day and buying ice cream for her kids the next day. She shares all of it — the highlights, lowlights, successes and losses. People, whether they know her or not, have that relationship with her because she is so impressive and exciting, but humble and grateful.”

She first met Bush after he invited her and other wounded Veterans to his ranch, and got to dance with him, a moment caught in an iconic photo shared around the world. She also gave the Pledge of Allegiance at his library opening.

“He’s amazing,” she said of the former president. “He is accountable for the actions taken while he was in office, and he has always gone above and beyond to show he has not forgotten the lives he impacted. I think that’s wonderful. That’s a pretty great man.”

Besides training, she also started the nonprofit Dare2Tri along with Serota and another friend, and signed endorsement deals with Toyota and Under Armour.

Back on the home front, beyond the training center and social media spotlight, Stockwell focuses on raising her son, Dallas, born in 2014; and daughter, Millie, born in 2017.

After losing her leg in Iraq, Army vet shares life on social media

Melissa Stockwell posted a tweet of thanks to Barbie after her daughter got a doll with a prosthetic leg for her birthday.

“Sometimes I forget she is an amputee,” said her husband, Brian Tolsma. “She doesn’t let it define her, and she is so driven and motivated. She does a lot of things people with two legs can’t do.

“But it always goes back to the kids for me,” he said. “I know the regiment she does during the day, beating up her body daily to get faster, to reach that goal. Then she comes home and it’s just an abundance of energy and patience with the kids. She’s always going, and always has time for the kids, always coming up with new activities. That’s the most impressive thing about her.”

Millie recently celebrated her 2nd birthday. She received a Barbie Doll with a prosthetic leg from Serota, which also made its way to Stockwell’s Twitter page.

“It just shows kids we are just like anybody else,” she said. “Why can’t we have parties and dolls? Kids can play with them and see we are normal, no different,” Stockwell said.

And that’s why she doesn’t mind posting photos online or showing off her red, white and blue, American-themed prosthetic in public.

“If I can educate, I will,” she added. “I am proud to have worn the uniform. I’m proud of how I lost my leg. Plus, it’s really cool to look at. Technology has come so far, even in the past 10, 15 years. Veterans are coming back home and they’re young, they’re active.

“They’re going to continue to help advance the field of prosthetics because they aren’t going to take no for an answer.”

You can follow Melissa’s journey on her web site, Twitter and Facebook.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Russian military is flexing its missile muscles in massive war exercise

The Russian military is conducting sweeping drills that involve dozens of intercontinental ballistic missile launchers.


The Defense Ministry said Oct. 3 in a statement carried by the Interfax news agency that the maneuvers involve over 60 Topol, Topol-M, and Yars missile launchers.

All those types of nuclear-tipped ICBMs are mounted on heavy trucks, making it more difficult for an enemy to spot and destroy them. The ministry said the drills are spread across vast area from the Tver region northwest of Moscow to the Irkutsk region in eastern Siberia.

After losing her leg in Iraq, Army vet shares life on social media
A Russian Topol-M mobile nuclear missile. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The maneuvers follow massive war games conducted last month by Russia and Belarus that caused jitters in some NATO countries, including Poland and the Baltics.

The Russian military has intensified its combat training amid tensions with NATO over Ukraine.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Navy SEAL has a novel solution for the North Korea crisis — and it just might work

When Jocko Willink, a former US Navy SEAL who is now an author and occasional Business Insider contributor, was asked on Twitter how he would handle the North Korean crisis, he gave an unexpected answer that one expert said just might work.


Willink’s proposal didn’t involve any covert special operation strikes or military moves of any kind. Instead of bombs, Willink suggested the US drop iPhones.

“Drop 25 million iPhones on them and put satellites over them with free WiFi,” Willink tweeted Sept. 6.

While the proposal itself is fantastical and far-fetched, Yun Sun, an expert on North Korea at the Stimson Center, says the core concept could work.

After losing her leg in Iraq, Army vet shares life on social media
Jocko Willink. Image from TEDx Talks YouTube.

“Kim Jong Un understands that as soon as society is open and North Korean people realize what they’re missing, Kim’s regime is unsustainable, and it’s going to be overthrown,” Sun told Business Insider.

For this reason, North Korea’s government would strongly oppose any measures that mirror Willink’s suggestion.

Sun pointed out that when South Korea had previously flown balloons that dropped pamphlets and DVDs over North Korea, the Kim regime had responded militarily, sensing the frailty of its government relative to those of prosperous liberal democracies.

For this reason, North Korea would turn down even free iPhones for its entire population, thought to be about 25.2 million.

Such a measure, Sun said, would also open the West to criticism “for rewarding a illegitimately nuclear dictatorship” that “we know has committed massive human rights against its people.”

After losing her leg in Iraq, Army vet shares life on social media
Photo from North Korean State Media.

And as North Korea puts the Kim regime above all else, any investment or aid would “be exploited first and foremost by the government,” Sun said, adding: “We will have to swallow the consequence that of $100 investment, maybe $10 would reach the people.”

North Korea harshly punishes ordinary citizens who are found to enjoy South Korean media, so there’s good reason to think providing internet access or devices to North Koreans could get people killed.

But in a purely practical sense, the US has few options. War with North Korea could start a nuclear conflict or otherwise introduce a more long-term proliferation risk.

“They’re not going to denuclearize until their regime changes and society changes,” Sun said. “This approach may be the longer route, but it has the hope of succeeding.”

Articles

The state of Coast Guard icebreakers

Bad news, folks. If the U.S. had to muscle its way into regions choked with ice to deal with a recalcitrant foe, it’d have hard time.


The fact of the matter is that the U.S. Coast Guard’s icebreaker capability has dwindled big time, and the Navy has no icebreakers in its fleet.

After losing her leg in Iraq, Army vet shares life on social media
The Coast Guard icebreakers USCGC Polar Sea (WAGB 10) and USCGC Polar Star (WAGB 11) during a resupply mission to McMurdo Research Station. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

At this time, the Coast Guard has one heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star (WAGB 10) and one medium icebreaker, the Healy (WAGB 20) in service. According to a 2016 Congressional Research Service report, the Polar Star’s sister ship, the Polar Sea (WAGB 11), has been inoperable since 2010 after five of its diesel engines failed.

As a result, the United States has a very big problem. The Polar Star is down at the South Pole, resupplying the McMurdo Research Station. That means that the Healy is the only icebreaker available for operations in the Arctic.

The Polar Sea? Right now, it is being cannibalized to keep the Polar Star operable, according to a report from USNI News.

After losing her leg in Iraq, Army vet shares life on social media
The icebreaker USCGC Healy (WAGB 20) in the Arctic Ocean. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” the Polar Sea was commissioned in 1976, while the Polar Star was commissioned in 1977. USNI noted that plans do not include beginning construction of new icebreakers until 2020, with them entering service in 2024 at the earliest.

If you’ve followed ship programs like the Littoral Combat Ship, the Zumwalt-class destroyers, or the Gerald R. Ford, that date could be a best-case scenario. The Polar Sea’s operational life is expected to last until 2022, two years prior to the earliest date the new icebreakers would enter service.

Russia, on the other hand, has 41 icebreakers. In addition to maintaining a large fleet of icebreakers, Russia has been trying to winterize modern interceptors like the MiG-31 Foxhound and strike aircraft like the Su-34 Fullback, and its new icebreaker construction push includes nuclear-powered icebreakers.

Articles

USNS Invincible harassed by Iranians – AGAIN

The missile-range instrumentation ship USNS Invincible (T AGM 24) was involved in a second incident with Iranian forces in as many weeks, this time with speedboats from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.


According to a report by BusinessInsider.com and Reuters, the speedboats came within 600 yards of the Invincible, forcing the ship to change course. Last week, an Iranian frigate came within 150 yards of the Military Sealift Command vessel, an action deemed “unprofessional” by the Department of Defense.

After losing her leg in Iraq, Army vet shares life on social media
USNS Invincible (T AGM 24). (MSC photo)

Iran recently carried out a number of ballistic missile tests, drawing sharp criticism from Nikki Haley, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Iranian government officials have openly called for the destruction of Israel in the past.

Related: Test shows that A-10 can obliterate Iran’s small boat swarms with ease

Iran has a history of provocative actions in the Persian Gulf region. Last summer, the guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) was harassed by similar speedboats while carrying out routine operations. The Cyclone-class patrol craft USS Squall (PC 7) fired warning shots at other speedboats that harassed the ship in the region.

After losing her leg in Iraq, Army vet shares life on social media
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. (Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi)

That fall, Iran also threatened U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft and also pointed weapons at a Navy MH-60 helicopter. This past October, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels fired anti-ship missiles at the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) multiple times, not scoring any hits.

The Nitze later carried out a Tomahawk strike on the rebels.

In January, less than two weeks before President Trump was sworn in, the guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) fired warning shots at Iranian speedboats.

Also read: The US Navy unloaded on the Iranians in the most explosive surface fight since WWII

Iran was listed in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Freedom of Navigation (FON) Report for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 for “Restrictions on right of transit passage through Strait of Hormuz to Parties of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea” and “prohibition on foreign military activities and practices in the EEZ.”

After losing her leg in Iraq, Army vet shares life on social media
Guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94), front, steams in formation with USS Stout (DDG 56), USS Mason (DDG 87), USS Monterey (CG 61) and USS Roosevelt (DDG 80). The Mason and Nitze have been involved in three missile ambushes by Iran-backed Houthi rebels off the coast of Yemen. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan U. Kledzik/Released)

The 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World noted that Iran has over 180 speedboats of various types, armed with heavy machine guns, RPGs, and multiple rocket launchers. When asked about the incident, a spokesman for United States Central Command said, “we do not comment on the movement and destination of U.S. Navy vessels in the AOR.”

Articles

Senator McCain and General Welsh scuffle over the A-10’s fate

As Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 3, controversy erupted when he mentioned the service’s plans to retire the A-10 Thunderbolt II, affectionately known to troops as the “Warthog” and largely regarded as the most effective close air support aircraft in the inventory today.


After losing her leg in Iraq, Army vet shares life on social media
Airman Brandon Kempf, 757th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant dedicated A-10 Thunderbolt II crew chief, watches as an aircraft taxis into position after landing May 9, 2013, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Kleinholz)

For years, the USAF fought with congressional leaders about the fate of the Warthog.  Congress laid down the law in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, requiring that the Air Force find a viable replacement for the airframe’s close-air support role before they would be allowed to retire it.

Originally, the Air Force tried to wedge the F-35 program into the CAS requirement, but Congress flat-out rejected it as an option. Thus, the A-10 was given a stay of execution until a congressionally-mandated, independent study determined the Air Force has such a suitable replacement.

In his recent testimony, Gen. Welsh told the Senate the USAF will use the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the F-15E Strike Eagle to fly close air support missions; however, those options didn’t work for the SASC, especially not the chairman, Senator John McCain, a former Navy attack pilot who was shot down over North Vietnam and spent six years as a POW in Hanoi.

After losing her leg in Iraq, Army vet shares life on social media
Col. Mark Anderson (Tail No. 188), 188th Fighter Wing commander; Maj. Doug Davis (Tail No. 639), 188th Detachment 1 commander; Col. Brian Burger (Tail No. 613), 188th Operations Group commander; and Capt. Wade Hendrickson (Tail No. 638) conduct a training mission Dec. 30, 2013, over Razorback Range. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Bruch)

“You have nothing to replace [the A-10] with, General,” McCain shot back. “Otherwise you would be using F-15s and the F-16s of which you have plenty of, but you’re using the A-10 because it’s the most effective weapons system. This is really, unfortunately disingenuous.”

As well as being the most tailored for the CAS mission, the A-10 also has the lowest cost per flight hour at $19,051 compared to the F-35 at $67,550, the F-16 at $22,470, and the F-15E at $41,921.

When Welsh tried to press the issue, McCain called his testimony “embarrassing.”

After losing her leg in Iraq, Army vet shares life on social media
Capt. Richard Olson, 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10 pilot, prepares to take flight at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 2, 2011. A-10s can survive direct hits from armor-piecing and high explosive projectiles up to 23mm. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“Every Air Force pilot that I know will tell you that the most effective close air support system is the A-10,” McCain said.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force is launching more secure, accurate GPS satellites

The U.S. Air Force is preparing to launch the first of a new generation of GPS satellites, with the goal of providing more accuracy and security in the face of jamming threats from adversaries, including Russia.

The Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite is set to lift off on Dec. 18, 2018, from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.


It will be the first of 32 planned GPS III satellites that are designed to replace older ones currently in orbit and are being manufactured by Lockheed Martin. SpaceX won contracts to handle five of the first six GPS 3 launches.

Many of the leading features of the system will not be fully functional until at least 2022.

The cost of the system is estimated at billion to billion.

The Air Force controls a series of 31 GPS satellites from a high-security complex at an Air Force base near Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The military says the GPS III satellites will have a stronger signal that will be more difficult to jam.

Norway accused Russia of disrupting GPS signals during a recent NATO military exercise.

Lockheed Martin says the new system will have three times greater accuracy and up to eight times more antijamming capabilities than the existing GPS satellites.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Taiwan is preparing for war by training fighter pilots to use freeways as runways

When a civil war between Chinese powers ended with victory for the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1949, the Republic of China’s government retreated to a region of the nation that had only recently been returned from Japanese control, known as Taiwan. They quickly established a provisional capital in Taipei, and so began a half-century long staring contest from across the Pacific Ocean’s Taiwan Strait. Today, tensions remain high between these two Chinese governments, prompting complex foreign relations and sporadic military posturing between each government and their respective allies.


On Tuesday, Taiwan conducted an unusual series of military exercises aimed at preparing the nation to defend itself against a Chinese attack even after its military installations had been rendered useless by wave after wave of Chinese air strikes and naval bombardments. Taiwan knows China could feasibly neuter their military response capabilities fairly quickly, and in order to stay in the fight, they’d need to get creative with how they field their intercept and attack aircraft. When you’re fresh out of airstrips but still have fighters to scramble, what do you do?

You close down the freeways.

After losing her leg in Iraq, Army vet shares life on social media

Freeway or Runway? It all depends on the circumstances.

(Photo courtesy of Taiwan’s Freeway Bureau)

“Our national security has faced multiple challenges,” Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen told the press on Tuesday. “Whether it is the Chinese Communist Party’s [People’s Liberation Army] long-distance training or its fighter jets circling Taiwan, it has posed a certain degree of threat to regional peace and stability. We should maintain a high degree of vigilance.”

As a part of the drills, Taiwan launched four different types of military aircraft from portions of highway that were shut down for use as makeshift airstrips. Long stretches of blacktop normally reserved for slow-moving commuters fighting their way through workday traffic instead became packed with American sourced F-16 Fighting Falcons and Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye surveillance aircraft, along with French Mirage 2000s and Taiwan-made IDF fighters. Each aircraft took off carrying a full combat load.

The drills not only demonstrated Taiwan’s ability to scramble fighters and support aircraft from the freeway, it also proved conclusively that Taiwan’s troops can conduct refueling and ammunition replenishment operations right there on the highway, redeploying jets back into the fight quickly even after their air bases have been destroyed.

Taiwan fighters land on highway for Chinese ‘invasion’ wargames

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“There are only a few military air bases which would become the prime targets in the event of an attack. The highway drill is necessary as highway strips would be our priority choice if the runways were damaged during a war,” Air Force Colonel Shu Kuo-mao explained.

Over 1,600 military personnel took part in the drills, along with Taiwan’s new variant of the F-16 that has been called the “most advanced fourth-generation fighter on the planet” by its builder, Lockheed Martin. The F-16V offers advanced AESA Radar sourced through Northrop Grumman, as well as a variety of updates and upgrades to avionics and combat systems meant to make it a formidable opponent for just about anything in the sky that isn’t Lockheed Martin’s flagship fighter, the F-35, or its sister in stealth, the F-22.

After losing her leg in Iraq, Army vet shares life on social media

The F-16V is touted as the world’s most advanced fourth generation fighter by Lockheed Martin

(Promotional image courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

The F-16s that took part in Tuesday’s drills notably flew carrying two Harpoon anti-ship missiles, two AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missiles, and two AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles, sourced from the United States, meaning their primary role in a fight would be to engage with encroaching aircraft and vessels, rather than air-to-surface strikes against the Chinese mainland.

With only about a hundred miles separating Taiwan’s shores from China’s, it stands to reason that combat operations would begin with a heavy bombardment of Taiwan’s few operational airstrips. These drills, however, suggest that even such an offensive may not be enough to stop Taiwan from responding with some of the best fighters on the planet.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

SEAL boss to depart after 2 years; officials say there’s no indication he was forced out

The Navy admiral who has led the service’s most elite special operators during a string of high-profile scandals will leave his post in September, Military.com has confirmed.


Rear Adm. Collin Green will wrap up his term as head of Naval Special Warfare Command after two years in the position. The move, first reported by The Intercept last weekend, follows several high-profile controversies involving the command that, in part, prompted a full review of U.S. Special Operations Command’s ethics and culture.

A Navy official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the flag officer’s move, said “there is no indication he has been asked to leave early.”

“He’s leaving at the two-year point, which is a normal command tour,” the official said. “It’s premature to say he’s retiring.”

It’s not immediately clear in what position Green would serve next or who would replace him. The Intercept reported that Rear Adm. H. Wyman Howard III, a Naval Academy grad serving as head of Special Operations Command Central, will be nominated to replace Green.

Howard previously served as a commander with SEAL Team 6, which carries out some of the military’s most covert missions. The Intercept reported in 2017 that Howard gave his operators hand-made hatchets and told them ahead of missions and deployments to “bloody the hatchet.”

Green has led the Navy SEALs since September 2017 after assuming command from Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski, who spent two years in the position. Of the last four flag officers who led the command, three left after two years.

Szymanski’s predecessor, Rear Adm. Brian Losey, led the command for more than three years.

The Intercept reported that Green’s tour had been set to last three years, but “the stress from his reform efforts, as well as personal issues, have taken a toll.”

Green sent a letter to his commanders in July telling them “we have a problem,” and ordering leaders to help restore discipline in the ranks. The two-star followed it up the next month with a memo to the force announcing a return to routine inspections, discipline trackers, and strict enforcement of all Navy grooming and uniform standards.

The four-page memo said the problems in the command would be met with “urgent, effective and active leadership.”

“This drift ends now,” Green wrote.

The Navy SEALs have made headlines over murder charges, allegations of rape and drinking in the war zone, and lengthy legal battles.

Some of those incidents caught the attention of President Donald Trump, who at one point ordered Green’s command to “Get back to business!” after the admiral considered stripping a former SEAL of his coveted trident pin.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine black belt judges Vladimir Putin’s judo moves

Russia is no stranger to carefully crafting military propaganda for Western audiences. From “doomsday” submarines to missiles with “unlimited range,” the Kremlin has a knack for the dramatic when they know it’ll capture the world’s digital attention span. If I’m honest, that’s why I clicked on the link for a recently uploaded video of Russian president Vladimir Putin training with the Russian Judo team.

I expected to see a carefully crafted bit of propaganda meant to hide Putin’s advancing age. Instead, I was surprised to find that the 66-year-old man actually does seem rather spry and capable. Moreover, despite some rust on the joints, he genuinely does appear to know what he’s doing on those mats.


After losing her leg in Iraq, Army vet shares life on social media

Most real martial arts training looks like this: two people working on techniques at 50% intensity.

(Image released by the Kremlin)

It’s worth noting that despite years of training in multiple forms of martial arts, I’m no expert in Judo. My background began with scholastic wrestling and led to a passionate pursuit of martial arts throughout my time in the Marine Corps. I secured multiple waivers to earn my black belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program by the time I was a corporal, and then proceeded to join the Corps’ first formal mixed martial arts team, Fight Club 29, under the tutelage of (then) Sergeant Major Mark Geletko. During my time there, I trained largely in American boxing, Muay Thai, and Pankration, before transferring to a unit near Boston, where I studied Brazilian jiu-jitsu for a time under Rickson Gracie Cup Champion Abmar Barbosa. Since then, I’ve gotten out of the Corps and moved to Georgia, where I’ve focused largely on Filipino martial arts systems.

I went undefeated in my short semi-pro fighting career, but I left the world of competition behind when I took a solid right hook in sparring and lost much of the vision in my right eye (since repaired). I’m not the toughest or baddest fighter in the world, the country, or probably my state – but I have been around long enough that I can usually pick the real fighters out of a crowd when I see them.

If I were to sum up my expertise, I’d call myself a jack of multiple martial arts trades, but certainly a master of none. I’ve had the good fortune to train with a number of masters though, and it’s not a title I take lightly.

Putin trains with Russian judo champions

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Despite Vladimir Putin holding a black belt in Judo, this video suggests that he’s no master either, though he could have been close once. Coming back to a discipline you’ve left stagnant for years is a lot like riding a bike: you may never forget how to do it, but when it’s been a while, you still look a little foolish. And Putin does indeed seem a bit silly executing the agility drills at the opening the video.

From there, the video moves to what I expected to see: a young man with a black belt serving as Putin’s training dummy and doing a fine job of allowing himself to be thrown, rolled, and balled up, meaning the former KGB agent didn’t need to execute any judo techniques with the requisite form or intensity necessary to actually take down an opponent in a real fight. Putin’s footwork and use of leverage does, however, suggest an active awareness of his body and what it’s supposed to be doing as he executes throws and leg sweeps. Form and leverage are integral to the proper execution of these types of techniques, and while the intensity is lacking, the form does largely seem present.

After losing her leg in Iraq, Army vet shares life on social media

For plenty of 66-year-olds, this stretch is death defying enough.

(Image released by the Kremlin)

These drills aren’t meant to be street fights, they’re meant to develop the muscle memory required to execute these movements with little or no thought, and in that regard, Putin shows a level of competency in the footage that suggests that at least some of the martial arts awards and honors bestowed upon him may have been legitimately earned.

Of course, I’ve read pieces like this one in the Washington Post where “tough guys” have accused Putin of lacking real chops, since the only footage one tends to find of him are in training environments such as this, but in truth, these claims are largely foolish grabs for attention rather than legitimate criticisms. Training of the sort shown in this video is not only completely normal, it would make little sense for a 66-year-old man to climb in the ring and spar at 100% with anyone just to silence an internet troll–even for someone as bravado-based as Putin.

Putin may not look like a spring chicken in this video, but he does appear to harbor a level of martial arts competency that, while rusty, is certainly more impressive than I’ve seen out of other celebrity martial arts “masters” like Steven Seagal. Is Putin as dangerous as he wants the world to believe? Probably not–but for a Bond villain on the downward slope of his 60s, he doesn’t appear to be a pushover either.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These are the Marines’ new Night Vision Devices

An updated helmet-mounted night vision system is beginning to make its way to infantry units. Marine Corps Systems Command accelerated the acquisition of about 1,300 Squad Binocular Night Vision Goggles using existing Defense Logistics Agency contracts.

“We have employed a bridge capability to give Marines the best gear right now available in the commercial marketplace,” said Lt. Col. Tim Hough, program manager for Infantry Weapons. “A final procurement solution will allow a larger pool of our industry partners to bid on the program.”


Army/Navy Portable Visual Search devices, or AN/PVS, have been employed by the military since at least the 1990’s and upgraded with next-generation systems as funding and technology became available.

After losing her leg in Iraq, Army vet shares life on social media

Marines took delivery of the Squad Binocular Night Vision Goggles during new equipment training in December 2018 at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

(Photo by Joseph Neigh)

The move to the SNBVG is expected to enhance the infantry’s lethality and situational awareness in reduced visibility. It combines two systems: a binocular night vision device and an enhanced clip-on thermal imager.

“It’s a little bit lighter than the current system, and gives Marines better depth perception when they are performing movements,” said Joe Blackstone, Optics team lead at MCSC.

Marines took delivery of the equipment and learned how to use them in December 2018 at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Known as NET, the new equipment training entails teaching Marines about the operations, characteristics, maintenance and use of the new devices.

“The lethality that it’ll bring is exponential [sic],” said Cpl. Zachary Zapata, a Marine who participated in the training. “With these new [BNVGs], having the ability to not only use thermal optics along with it, but just the entire depth perception and speed that we can operate in is going to significantly increase, as opposed to what we were able to do in the past.”

After losing her leg in Iraq, Army vet shares life on social media

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron James B. Vinculado)

The initial buy and follow-on procurement is being funded with Marine Corps dollars as prioritized by the Department of Defense Close Combat Lethality Task Force, which concentrates on the squad-level infantry and is aimed at ensuring close combat overmatch against pacing threats. The SBNVG acquisition strategy is to procure the devices incrementally and concurrently as the Corps looks toward future technologies.

“Right now, we are participating with the Army on their next generation night vision systems, both the Enhanced Night Vision Device-Binocular and Integrated Visual Augmentation System Programs,” Hough said. “We are eager to see the maturation of these capabilities for adoption to improve the effectiveness of our Marines.”

The program office plans on releasing a final request for proposals to procure an estimated 16,000 additional systems on the basis of full and open competition. According to program officials, a draft request for proposals was posted to the Federal Business Opportunities website in mid-November 2018, and closed on Dec. 19, 2018. The Government is currently adjudicating comments and anticipates release of a final RFP in the near future.

Additional fielding of the systems is planned for September 2019. While the devices may eventually make their way to the entire Ground Combat Element, for now the first priority is given to the Marine Rifle Squad, program officials said.

“This program office is committed to bolstering the combat lethality, survivability, resilience and readiness of the GCE,” said Hough.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

Articles

Meet the wounded Iraq war veteran being honored by ESPN

After losing her leg in Iraq, Army vet shares life on social media


Next month, as Hollywood and professional athletes gather in Los Angeles to celebrate the year in sports, U.S. Army Veteran and VA employee Danielle Green will be honored at the 2015 ESPYS with the Pat Tillman Award for Service.

“As a teammate and soldier, Pat believed we should always strive to be part of something bigger than ourselves while empowering those around us,” said Marie Tillman, president and co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation. “Danielle has been unwavering in her aspiration to lift others suffering from the physical and mental injuries of war. In Pat’s name, we’re proud to continue the new tradition of the Tillman Award, honoring Danielle for her service as a voice and advocate for this generation of veterans.”

Green, who is now a supervisor readjustment counseling therapist at the South Vet Center located in South Bend, IN., said she was honored to receive the award and be a part of Tillman’s legacy of selfless service.

“It means so much,” she said. “You see so many negative stories revolving around suicide, PTSD and VA employees, but everyday my team and I work with Veterans who truly believe they are broken. We show them how much they have to offer, how they can heal and get them the help they need.”

Green has seen her share of adversity. In 2004, a little more than a year after leaving her job as a schoolteacher to enlist as a military police, she found herself on the rooftop of an Iraqi Police station in the center of Baghdad.

She recalls the heat and the uneasy feeling she had when the normally lively neighborhood turned quiet. Suddenly a coordinated RPG attack on the station from surrounding buildings left her bleeding out and in shock.

“I didn’t realize I was missing my left arm,” she said. “I just remember being angry at the fact that I was going to die in Iraq.”

She credits the quick response of her team and their proximity to the Green Zone to her survival. She believed her quiet prayers, asking for a second chance to live and tell her story, didn’t hurt either.

“I learned to really value life that day,” Green said. “You can be here today and gone tomorrow.”

In the course of a few days, she went from a hot rooftop in Iraq to Walter Reed Medical Center. For eight months the former Notre Dame Basketball standout worked with physicians, nurses and occupational/physical therapists to recover from her injuries. The southpaw’s loss of her dominant arm forced her to relearn daily tasks like writing, but through it all she continued to follow her dreams and found inspiration in those medical professionals around her. They never let her quit on herself, and while there was doubt and fear of what her life would be like after she was discharged from Walter Reed and the Army, she kept charting a path toward service.

After going back to school for her masters in counseling, and a short stint as an assistant athletic director at a college, Green found an opportunity to harness all of her experiences and assist fellow Veterans who were transitioning out of the military. By 2010, she had gone from being a patient to a catalyst for change for those seeking help at her local Vet Center.

“There was some doubt and self pity,” she said. “I’d sometime look down at my arm and wonder what the purpose of it all was … But now I realize the importance of what I can do for my peers. It’s challenging and rewarding, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

More from VAntage Point

This article originally appeared at VAntage Point Copyright 2014. Follow VAntage Point on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch the Maple Leafs’ tribute to the victims of the Toronto van incident

The Toronto Maple Leafs held a stunning tribute to the victims that died after a van rammed through several pedestrians in Toronto on April 23, 2018.

During the hockey match against the Boston Bruins, the Maple Leafs’ announcer referenced the incident in which a van hit and killed at least 10 people and injured 15.


“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, our first responders, and to all those affected,” the announcer said during the game. “All of Toronto is with you.”

After observing a brief moment of silence, the crowd cheered and sang along in unison with singer Martina Ortiz-Luis for the national anthem.

Around 1:30 p.m. local time, a van jumped the sidewalk and plowed through a busy intersection in downtown Toronto.

Police arrested a male suspect who is believed to have been previously known to Toronto officials. The suspect, identified as 25-year-old Alek Minassian, was arrested after threatening to brandish a firearm. According to law enforcement officials, the incident is believed to have been deliberate.

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

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