My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead - We Are The Mighty
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My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
Oregon National Guardsmen in Afghanistan, 2008. (Photo: Gary Mortensen)


Afghanistan. Distant, foreboding, little understood.

Known as the “Graveyard of Empires” the carcasses of countless soviet war machines rust away in mute testimony to the futility of that savage war. The more I read about Afghanistan the less I seemed to know. Watching the news was even more confusing and it appeared America had entered this same graveyard and that we were now fighting elusive ghosts otherwise known as the Taliban.

I remember watching the newscasts in the 1990’s of the Taliban as they rose like a cancer throughout the country, oppressing women, killing those who opposed them and imposing their radical version of Islam on all. Nothing made a deeper impression on me than the public destruction of the massive Banyam Buddhas and the wholesale  “cleansing” of Afghanistan’s precious ancient history. Then came 9/11.

In 2010, then our 9th year of the war, I was still struggling with understanding why we were there, who we were fighting and maybe most importantly who were we helping? I got it in my mind that I wanted to make a sort of “combat travel film” that didn’t just following brave men in combat but one that also helped to explain more about the land and the people. Digital technology now makes every soldier a potential documentarian and it was under these auspices that I started to look for a story. It didn’t take long and it would change my life.

Enter Team Cobra

A Sergeant friend of mine told me about a group of all-volunteers from the Oregon National Guard who, in 2008, wanted to deploy to Afghanistan to “impart change” by helping the local population and training the Afghan National Army.  They would return a year later as one of the most decorated units in Oregon National Guard history. While I didn’t at the time know the particulars, I knew I had to tell their story.

Of the 17 men that deployed, I interviewed 6 of them. I had between 2 and 4 hours of initial interview footage from each man. With each interview their stories started to intertwine and after the interview process my real work began. I listened to these stories on my headphones over and over again. Their journey to Afghanistan was over, but mine was just beginning. I watched countless video clips and looked at thousands of photos, each one representing a puzzle piece.  Weeks turned to months. The sound of the newspaper being delivered in our driveway served as a reminder that I might have missed another night’s sleep. I was learning about Afghanistan, about the diversity of the people, about courage, about honor and about loss.

Watch Gary Mortensen’s ‘Shepherds of Helmand’ on The Mighty TV here.

 

Earlier that year I had lost my mom to a long and protracted battle with cancer. My father followed a few weeks afterwards. In my own sorrow I consumed myself with telling the story of Team Cobra. They too knew loss. One of their leaders, Bruno DeSolenni had died in an IED attack and the impact on these men would be profound and everlasting.

Each night as I worked on the film I felt closer to these guys, even though they had only met me months earlier for a few hours. But that didn’t matter, I felt a huge responsibility to tell their story in a way that would honor them.  I was nervous to show the final cut to them because I wanted to tell the story right. They were gracious and thankful and said to my relief that it was faithful.

When the film finally debuted almost a year later everyone of the soldiers were there for the premiere. They stood on the stage after the screening and answered questions. It was after this that I really got to know them, not just as soldiers but as people.

In my attempt to make a film about Afghanistan, I ended up making a film about America. It’s seems so easy to accept the popular indictment that we have lost it as a country. But I would submit that all around us are exceptional people. I am proud to say I know six of them. They are simply some of the finest people I have ever met and I know that if I was ever in need I could call any of them and they would be there for me. Not because I’m special, it’s because that’s just what they do. They went to Afghanistan to help, some of have gone back, one didn’t come back and  some of them are there today.

I am honored to call Jerry Glesmann, Paul Dyer, Marking Browning, Dave Hagen, Dominic Oto and Steve Cooper my friends. They helped me more than they will every know.

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
Gary Mortensen is an award-winning documentary film director, President of Stoller Family Estate (a premiere Oregon winery), and is active in helping to preserve and share the stories of our veterans. See more at www.veteranslegacies.com.

Humor

4 hilarious tips for pulling the ‘veteran card’ in school

Going to college is a huge step in every veteran’s life after they get out of the military. You just finished serving your country, now you can go to school full time and get it completely paid for – and get paid while you’re doing it.


We earned a pretty epic deal.

But the benefits of being a veteran don’t have to stop there. If you play your cards right, you can flex your “veteran” title and receive some less-than-official bonuses.

Related: Here’s the best time and place to pull the ‘veteran card’

Check out these insightful ways to pull the veteran card in your school – but please use these tips for good and not evil.

1. Getting accepted

Colleges around the country tend to have a strict application process which weed out many student hopefuls. Having the government willing to pay your full tuition is a huge benefit in the school’s eyes — everyone likes to get paid.

It’s a fact.

It’s important that you fill out all the necessary paperwork in a timely order or risk sitting at home for a whole semester.

Please stop clapping like that — its only community college. (Image via Giphy)

2. Receiving extra time for homework and other projects

The majority of colleges have procedures in place for veterans who have “focus issues,” which is great. As long as you let your teachers and the school’s administration know you may have this issue because of your deployments, the more lee way you’re bound to get.

We know you do! (Image via Giphy)

3. Booking classes

Sometimes classes just fill up too quickly, and a veteran can’t register for one of the spots in time — we know it sucks.

Here’s what you do — tell whoever is in charge of booking the classes that you won’t get your monthly VA benefits unless you can get in, followed by the sweetest smile you can muster.

It so freakin’ worked. (Images via Giphy)

Also Read: 7 phrases old school veterans can’t stop saying

4. Missing classes

Sometimes you don’t want to go to school on certain days — you’re just not feeling it.

Here’s what you do if you’re willing to put in a little leg work. After you get in good with the teachers, email them saying you’re stuck at the VA waiting for your appointment.

If they ask for a doctor’s note, you need to show some proof like a dated appointment card for another day. Schools tend to work around the veteran’s schedule because we’ve earned it.

Don’t abuse this perk because if they lose faith in your integrity, you could screw other vets over.

That’s what you get. (Images via Giphy)Can you think of any others? Comment below.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Twin brothers use sibling bond to give back to their units

Many siblings serve together in the military, but not many are able to leverage their family ties to give back and further their units. For the Vetere brothers, they are leveraging each other’s experience in their different units to initiate and implement additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3D printing, to their respective units.

Twin brothers, U.S. Navy Lt. Adam Vetere and U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Mark Vetere, are natives of Andover, Massachusetts. Adam, currently serving as a Civil Engineer Corps officer assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1, is working with Chief Utilitiesman Justin Walker and Electronics Technician 1st Class James Merryman to implement additive manufacturing into daily battalion operations.


Mark, currently assigned to Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31, has been implementing additive manufacturing to his unit for nearly two years. Now Adam is planning to implement the technology into NMCB-1 operations.

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead

“At first I volunteered for the position because of my personal interest in learning about 3D printing; I think it has great potential in the Naval Construction Force,” said Adam. “Knowing my brother was the 3D printing representative for his command made it easier to get involved because I knew from the start I could learn a lot from him.”

With Mark and his team’s experience, the opportunity presented itself for NMCB-1 to send their additive manufacturing team to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, to discuss best practices, learn about printing capabilities, training programs and new policy being implemented into the different services.

“We were able to leverage our close relationship as twins to be able to skip passed a lot of the formalities and get straight to business,” said Adam. “It was easy to have full and open conversations about program strengths, weaknesses, policy shortfalls, lessons learned and areas of improvement. It was extremely beneficial.”

“It was eye-opening,” said Walker. “It gave us ideas on how we can implement this technology into our processes by seeing how they are currently operating. This opens up great potential for future interoperability.”

For the twin brothers, the military first drew their attention back in high school.

“I wanted to join the military, and our parents wanted us to go to college,” said Adam. “I feel like we made a good compromise and decided to apply for one of the service academies.”

Both brothers graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2015, though Adam was initially denied when he first applied.

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead

U.S. Naval Academy.

“I just knew it was somewhere I wanted to go,” said Adam. “Knowing my brother would be there with me was the great part of it.”

Adam describes serving in the military as a lifestyle he and his brother enjoy sharing.

“We both love serving and love the lifestyle that is the military so we hope to continue it,” said Adam. “It’s nice to be able to have such a close relationship with someone that knows all the acronyms, jargon, processes and challenges that go into the military lifestyle. That certainly has made things easier.”

When asked about his parents and their thoughts on both him and his brother serving together, Adam chuckles with his response.

“I think they are proud of us, or at least I hope,” said Adam.

The twin brother’s decision to join the military came about in part because of a visit their parents took them on to New York City in 2001.

“Our parents took us to Ground Zero in 2001 around Thanksgiving time,” said Adam. “I was only nine at the time but I still have an image burned into my head of the rubble I saw from the end of the street that day. At the time I imagine I had little idea of what I was looking at, but as I got older growing up in a post 9/11 United States certainly played a role in being drawn to the military.”

Both brothers look forward to their future assignments in their respective branches. Mark was selected to attend Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and Adam recently accepted orders to Naval Special Warfare Group 1 Logistics Support Unit 1 in Coronado, California.

This article originally appeared on United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

Articles

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

Honorably discharged veterans who want to shop at the online exchanges could be given access early as part of a group of “beta testers” through a new veteran shopper verification system launched June 5th.


The Defense Department resale board last year approved a plan to open the exchange’s online stores to all veterans. Those who are verified through a new site will have access to all of the online exchange stores, including AAFES, the Coast Guard Exchange, the Marine Corps Exchange and the Navy Exchange.

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
A U.S. Army soldier exits an Army Air Force Post Exchange at Steel Castle camp ground near Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina. | US Army photo by Spc. Emmanuel Samedi

The verification site, VetVerify.org, asks users to input their first and last names, last four digits of their Social Security number, birth date, email address, and service branch. Veterans will then be notified whether they are ineligible, are already eligible to shop, that they will be eligible on the official Nov. 11 launch date, or that they have been randomly selected to be a beta tester.

The new benefit is available to all honorably discharged veterans. The rule change does not allow the new veteran shoppers to use the exchange in person or shop at the commissary. It also does not include access to gasoline, tobacco, or uniform sales.

Officials with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service said early shoppers will be given access on a rolling basis in an effort to make sure the system is ready when the benefit fully opens on Veterans Day. Although verification and shopping should be seamless, they said it is possible that beta users could experience some hiccups.

“They don’t want to just open this thing on Veterans Day … when you can work the kinks out ahead of time,” said Chris Ward, an AAFES spokesman. “That is the point of doing this — to make sure there aren’t any hiccups or bugs in the system.”

Products purchased through the exchanges are tax free, and a percentage of revenue benefits Morale, Welfare, and Recreation programs.

About 13 million veterans qualify for the new benefit. Officials did not have an estimate for how many veterans are expected to shop the online exchanges after Veterans Day or how many will register early.

“We’re kind of just going in blind,” Ward said. “We’re rolling it out this early — I don’t anticipate everyone comes today.”

Articles

4 night terrors America’s enemies have about Jim Mattis

Retired Marine Gen. and current Secretary of Defense James Mattis was recently asked what kept him up at night and he responded, “Nothing. I keep other people awake at night,” because Mattis is a stone-cold killer. And he’s right.


Here is how four enemies of America try, and fail, to get sleep:

1. Supreme Man-Child Kim Jong-un

Kim Jong-un ends every night surrounded by the young women of his personal harem, but even that isn’t enough to distract him from his one true fear, Jim Mattis. When Mattis ruled only the Marine Corps, the dreams were frightening enough. Marines assaulted North Korea’s miles of exposed coastline while Harriers roared over Pyongyang.

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
(Image: YouTube/JoBlo TV Show Trailers)

But now, Mattis has a hold of the entire military, and the sick dictator tosses and turns in his bed with the images of stealth-enhanced Blackhawks swooping over his palace and depositing the elite operators of SEAL Team 6. Their attack dogs tear out the throats of his most loyal bodyguards as the SEALs sweep, slightly crouched and sighting down the barrel for new threats, through polished hallways.

In Kim’s mind, the SEALs stealthily stack on his bedroom. He looks across the massive bed at the slight gap beneath the door and searches for any change in the light, any flicker that may indicate that Mattis’s mad dogs are here at last.

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
(Photo: Department of Defense)

Nothing. No shadows, no lights, and no quiet boot falls interrupt the night. But Kim knows he will go without sleep once again.

And Kim isn’t the only enemy of America who is more afraid of the dark than ever before. Here are three others who share in his terror-ridden insomnia:

2. ISIS’s top dude Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
(Photo: U.S. Army)

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi holds his final meeting each nightfall for as long as possible, offering pine nuts and Chai to his few remaining aides and field commanders until they beg for sleep. He reluctantly agrees, allowing them to file out of his chambers. But the moment the door closes on them, he can feel the dread closing around him.

He forces himself not to look over his shoulder as he has so many times before, but that doesn’t stop the thoughts. The wall suddenly explodes inward as charges create three openings for Delta Force to pour through. Their suppressed weapons chuckle in the dust clouds from the explosions. Amid the cracks of the rifles and guns, another sound is audible. It’s Jim Mattis, and he’s laughing in full kit.

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead

Al-Baghdadi feels the first round pierce his lung as the second rips through his shoulder. He imagines himself slumped over, coughing, as the lights go out. He finally looks over his shoulder and prays the wall, and his crumbling “caliphate,” survives for just one more night.

3. Taliban’s current leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. John Bainter

A former Taliban judge and professor, Hibatullah Akhundzada is a true believer of his perverse version of Islam. But he also believes in patterns, and his predecessor was killed in a drone strike just like many of his peers. He has to force his anxiety down every time he gets into a car or walks outside for too long. But by nightfall, he doesn’t have the energy to keep the phantoms at bay.

He can hear the soft buzz of the drone’s engines as it circles him in the sky. He knows the thermal sensors can see which room he’s in as even his breath is enough to heat the small room he hides in. He wonders what kind of weapon it will fire when it comes for him.

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
Predator firing Hellfire missile. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The Hellfire would approach with a roar as its engine propelled it through the night, but the Paveway would fall with a slight whistle.

He knows it’s wrong, but every time he thinks of the drone that will finally end the nightmare, he imagines it has a full cockpit with Mattis, grinning, at the controls. Mattis flips up his visor, takes a long pull from a beer bottle, and toasts the bomb as it lands.

4. Leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri

Ayman al-Zawahiri has watched al-Qaeda go from the most infamous terror organization on Earth to a group of zealots barely visible in the shadow of ISIS. But he knows that some of his enemies will never forget which organization attacked on 9/11. Leaders like Mattis aren’t distracted black flags.

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
Photo: (U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Akeel Austin)

He knows it’s Mattis who will keep the analysts working daily to find him, to track his patterns. Is tonight the night? The night that Mattis passes hand signals down the line as the Osprey approaches the compound and transitions from forward to vertical flight.

The rotor wash beats against al-Zawahiri’s building as Mattis and the Marine Raiders fast rope onto the roof. The al-Qaeda fighters rush to their assigned defense posts, prepared to make the Marines bleed for every room. But Mattis expected this. A young Marine detonates a charge on the roof directly over al-Zawahiri.

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
Lance Cpl. Corey A. Ridgway fires the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jorge A. Rosales)

When it explodes, the blast wave disorients everyone in the room with al-Zawahiri, and Mattis descends through the hole headfirst with an M27 in his hands. The 5.56mm rounds rip through the bodyguards and then al-Zawahiri himself.

Al-Zawahiri shakes himself and turns on his TV to spend another night watching the videos Osama Bin Laden sent him before his death.

Articles

What the alleged mustard gas attack on US troops in Iraq could mean

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has allegedly launched a chemical weapons attack on a base used by American military forces to support Iraqi efforts to retake the city of Mosul. The Sept. 21 artillery attack on Qayyara Air Base that reportedly contained a chemical shell caused no casualties, but some American troops underwent decontamination procedures as a precaution.


The attack, which Pentagon chief Gen. Joseph Dunford said is suspected to have used mustard gas, is the first time American troops have faced hostile chemical weapons since World War I. A 1984 paper for the United States Army Command and Staff General College noted that the United States suffered over 70,000 casualties from German chemical weapons in that conflict, of which just over 1,400 were fatal.

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
A U.S. Soldier with the 76th Army Reserve Operational Response Command decontaminates a vehicle after a simulated chemical weapons attack during a base defense drill in Camp Taji, Iraq, July 23, 2016. This drill is one way Coalition forces maintain readiness and practice security procedures. Camp Taji is one of four Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve build partner capacity locations dedicated to training Iraqi security forces. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson/Released)

Military officials said a massive aerial attack on a former pharmaceutical plant near mosul Sept. 13 destroyed what they believe was an ISIS chemical weapons production facility.

Mustard gas, a liquid that is properly called “sulfur mustard,” is a blister agent that not only can be inhaled, but also takes effect when it contacts the skin. This nasty chemical agent causes large blisters on the skin or in the lungs when inhaled. The agent can last a long time – unexploded shells filled with sulfur mustard have caused casualties in France and Belgium decades after the German surrender in World War I.

Chemical weapons were widely used in the Iran-Iraq War, most notoriously by Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq during the Al-Anfar Offensive. The 1988 attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja, using nerve gas, gained world attention, particularly due to the casualties suffered by civilians. Chemical weapons use was widely feared during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. After Desert Storm, Saddam Hussein’s regime was supposed to end its chemical weapons program, but played a shell game for over a decade.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, concerns about Saddam Hussein’s apparent non-compliance with the terms of the 1991 cease-fire and United Nations Security Council Resolutions lead the United States to launch Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

While no large stockpiles of chemical weapons were found, coalition forces did encounter sarin nerve gas and sulfur mustard that had not been accounted for in pre-war inspections, and a 2014 report by the New York Times reported that over 5,000 shells filled with chemical weapons were found by American and Coalition forces during the Iraq War.

ISIS has been reported to use sulfur mustard against Iraqi and Syrian forces.

Articles

7 ways military rations used to be a lot better

Military scientists work tirelessly to make modern rations as light, nutritious, and healthy as possible for the warfighter. But they don’t seem to care about them being awesome at all. Here are 7 things they’ve removed from the menu that modern troops may enjoy.


1. Liquor

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
Photo: Wikipedia/Bbadgett

From the Revolutionary War through 1832, soldiers received a “spirits ration” of rum, brandy, or whiskey. The standard spirits ration was replaced with coffee and sugar, but leaders could still order special alcohol rations for their soldiers until 1865 when an order from the War Department discontinued the practice.

2. Cigarettes

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
Photo: US Army Signal Corps

Cigarettes were included in soldier rations from World War II until 1975.

3. Meals made almost entirely of candy

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
Photo: Wikipedia/Hershey’s

The assault ration of World War II contained chocolate, caramel, chewing gum, peanuts, and dried fruit as well as cigarettes, salt tablets, and water-purification tablets. They provided between 1,500 and 2,000 calories but were obviously lacking in important nutrients like protein, vitamins, and everything else that isn’t sugar.

4. Spice packs

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
Photo: US Army Signal Corps

Expert field cooks know to bring packets of spices with them to the field, but soldiers used to have them issued. The smallest pack was devised in World War II and served 100 soldiers for 10 days, so soldiers still had to make it to the company headquarters or higher to use the spices.

5. Field cooking equipment

Troops in the Revolutionary War through the Civil War were issued cooking gear. Usually, one out of every five or so soldiers would receive the cooking gear and soldiers would cook as a group. This allowed them to add ingredients they found on the march by just tossing them into the pot.

6. Soap

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
Photo: Wikipedia

Troops today are expected to wash with baby wipes collected from care packages and purchased from the exchange, but soldiers from the Revolutionary War through World War II got soap in their rations. The quantity issued varied between .183 ounces up to .64 ounces per day.

7. Extremely high-calorie rations

MREs contain about 1,250 calories each and troops can eat three per day on operations for 3,750 calories. Back in World War II, the Army issued rations with 4,800 calories per person, per day, so there were probably fewer complaints about still being hungry after the meal. But these weren’t nice presents from the Army. These were “Mountain Rations” designed specifically for men cross-country skiing and mountain climbing. There was a similar ration for jungle combat that contained 4,000 calories.

Articles

These are the 5 best battle cries ever

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead

Struggling to find the right battle cry for the occasion? A well-timed war whoop can really help you get your point across. We’ve selected 5 of the best battle cries in human history. Take your pick.


1. “There is no land beyond the Volga!”

When the Nazis surrounded Stalingrad in the summer of 1942, they expected to take the city in a matter of weeks. The Red Army fought them block by block. The Soviet soldiers announced their intention to fight to the last with the rallying cry, “There is no land beyond the Volga!” The Battle of Stalingrad was among the bloodiest battles in the history of warfare.

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
Wikimedia

2. “Barritus!”

Looking to channel your inner Roman warrior? You’ve got to go with “Barritus.” Tacitus described the guttural cry as a “harsh, intermittent roar” that built in volume, and noted that the troops would “hold their shield in front of their mouths, so that the sound is amplified into a deeper crescendo by the reverberation.” Please see the below example from the 1964 classic “The Fall of the Roman Empire.”

3. “Quick, while God isn’t watching!”

The legendary Byzantine general Flavius Belisarius was a stickler for timing. He reportedly delayed a battle for days before suddenly calling to his troops, “Quick, while God isn’t watching!”

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
Wikipedia

4. “Everybody aim for that one guy on the left!”

In a Phalanx each man was responsible for covering the man on his left with his Shield Arm. Full disclosure: We’re not sure if the Spartans actually yelled, “Everybody aim for that guy on the left!” But it sounds awesome, so we’re going to go with it.

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
Wikipedia

5. “Liberty or Death!”

“Liberty or Death!” was a popular a battle cry among colonial minutemen during the Revolutionary War. The phrase first appeared in a March 1775 address by Patrick Henry, which concluded with the famous line, “I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” Henry’s speech convinced the Second Virginia Convention to raise militias.

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
Wikipedia

MIGHTY SPORTS

Soldier running her 100th marathon in Boston

It all started when she was stationed in Virginia 12 years ago. That’s when Chief Warrant Officer 4 Beofra Butler saw everyone training for the Marine Corps Marathon and decided to give the 26.2 mile race a try.

As a soldier, running was already a part of her daily life and physical fitness routine. She had ran several other shorter races to include the Army 10-miler and a few half marathons, so the challenge of a full marathon appealed to her. She wasn’t even afraid of the dreaded “wall” that everyone told her she would hit around mile 20 when her body would start shutting down as energy stores ran low and fatigue set in.


“I had never experienced the wall and was feeling pretty great,” recalled Butler. “I saw the mile markers for mile 19, then mile 20, then 21. I was feeling good and thinking to myself that maybe I avoided the wall. Then at mile 22, everything from my waist down locked up — it felt like I really did hit a wall. My muscles were in knots, my toes were cramping and every time I took a step it just hurt.”

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead

Beofra Butler running in the 2018 Tunnel Vision Marathon in North Bend, Wash., Aug. 19, 2018. She set a personal record, finishing the race with a chip time of 3:34:11.

A lady tapped her on the shoulder and encouraged her to move off to the side and stretch before resuming the race.

“I wanted to cry,” she said. “I knew it was just four more miles. I wobbled to the finish along with a bunch of other people doing the exact same thing.”

After the race later that night, with ice bags on her legs and a computer on her lap, Butler signed up for her next marathon.

“I just had to do it again for myself so I could figure out how to do it without pain,” she said.

Butler ran her second marathon during a deployment, followed by another and another and another. She’s preparing to run her 100th marathon in Boston on April 15, 2019. The race will be her sixth Boston Marathon and she says that it is fitting because it’s her favorite event.

“There’s something special about running in Boston,” she said. “It’s the only race you have to qualify for to get in and after working so hard to be a part of it, you really enjoy the moment when you get there. The support of the crowd is amazing and it’s just a great place to be.”

She got there by figuring out how to avoid that wall of pain.

“For the most part, I don’t hit a wall anymore,” Butler said. “Now I know what that feels like and I never want to feel it again.”

How does she do it? The way anyone in the Army does anything — with an abbreviation. According to Butler, the key to running a successful marathon comes down to the 3P’s: pacing, patience and practice.

She says that you need to control your pace throughout the entire marathon and exercise patience as those around you start out fast or crowd the track. To refine your pacing and patience, you need to practice.

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Beofra K. Butler, administrative executive officer to the commanding general, U.S. Army Forces Command, poses with her five Boston Marathon marathon medals.

(Photo by Eve Meinhardt, FORSCOM)

“It comes down to having time on your feet,” said Butler. “You have to put in the time and stay positive.”

Her time comes from running at least five days a week. She averages 10 miles a day with Saturdays being her long run day of anywhere from 13 to 20 miles. She does speed work on Wednesdays, often bringing others along with her to help them train to meet their goals.

As the administrative executive officer to the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command, her work schedule can often be hectic and conflict with her training time. To mitigate this, Butler is a conscientious meal planner, preparing all her meals, to include snacks, on the weekends. She says she often hits the pavement at 3 a.m. just so she can ensure she gets time to run.

“I just love the feeling of running,” she said. “It’s freedom. I don’t listen to music. I listen to my heartbeat. My footsteps. My breathing. It’s a meditation and I’m always trying to get better.”

Butler says that running is wonderful because you can do it wherever you are and with no special equipment. For those aspiring to run in races of any distance, she said that it’s important to find a training plan.

“Training is a part of learning yourself,” she said. “It helps you become more comfortable when you’re out there. You need to trust your training and just enjoy the moment.”

Despite the fact that Butler says that she could probably roll out of bed and run an impromptu marathon, she still finds ways to challenge herself. Five of her marathons were ultra-marathons ranging from a 50K to a 100 mile race.

Butler’s most recent race was her third All American Marathon here at Fort Bragg. She led the 4:15 pace group. Her pacing was right on point with her crossing the finish line at 4 hours, 14 minutes and 37 seconds and still placing first in her age group.

Her personal record is 3 hours and 34 minutes and she says that she would like to get that down to 3:30.

“After Boston, I’m not racing again until August,” she said. “I’m going to be training for my PR and I’m going to get it.”

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

Articles

Special operators want a new sniper rifle in this rare caliber

The United States military has a long history of adopting so-called wildcat calibers from the civilian world. Hell, the 5.56mm round that fills every M249 belt and M16 magazine has its origins as an experimental varmint round for civilian hunters — the .222 Remington Magnum.


But this was back when the U.S. military’s budget was not only enormous, but had less congressional oversight.

In the middle of the Cold War and a heated arms race with the Soviet Union, America was willing to adopt new tech without concern for the pricy or problematic logistics of adopting a new round for all branches.

Today, only small special operations groups like hand-selected units from SOCOM can afford to rearm with bleeding edge tech or equipment

In particular, sniper elements of various units tend to be the first to adopt new cartridges for their highly specialized work.

For a long time, this meant choosing between 7.62×51, .50 BMG or .300 Winchester Magnum. Eventually, someone decided they wanted the incredible effective range of the .50BMG round without the awful ballistic coefficient that makes anti-personal use at extreme ranges difficult.

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
An Army Special Forces communications sergeant, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), spots targets and calls adjustments for his shooter on a mountainside.

After all, .50 BMG began life as a heavy machine gun round suited for anti-vehicle use, then aircraft use before being adopted to anti-material use in big-bore sniper rifles.

Developed in the early 1980s, the resulting .338 Lapua Magnum was an immediate hit in the vast expanses of Middle East like the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan. Yet, it didn’t perform nearly as well in an anti-material role as the .50BMG, and some experts argued it didn’t retain sufficient energy for reliable soft target neutralization past 1,800 yards — though data on terminal ballistics data at this distance are not normally available to the public.

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
Picture of .300 Norma Magnum cartridge.

But this seems like a moot point, the best snipers in any military consider a shot at that distance both incredibly difficult and exceptionally rare. Which makes the recent adoption of a new round for the Advanced Sniper Rifle by U.S. Special Operations Command so interesting.

Dubbed, the .300 Norma Magnum, this new round boasts an improved ballistic coefficient over the .338 Lapua. However, the .300 Norma actually uses a .308-caliber round which is smaller than the one employed in the .338 cartridge.

If this seems strange given past complaints about limited effectiveness against semi-hardened targets, you’re on the right path. Indeed, instead of trying to shoehorn a cartridge designed for shooting soft targets into an anti-material role, the new .300 Norma Magnum fully embraces the .308-caliber bullet’s anti-personnel qualities and top-notch ballistic coefficient.

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
The 300 Norma Magnum may finally put a stop to insurgents using towers of religious buildings or hospitals to call in mortar strikes or coordinate ambushes.

This excellent BC lead some military testers to achieve 20-round groups as small as four inches at 1,100 yards. This is much smaller than the average soldier’s mid-section, and puts a headshot on a stationary target at that range into the realm of possibility.

Some food for thought: At that range, the intended target wouldn’t hear the shot for a full three seconds after it left the barrel.

The new cartridge’s potential for accuracy brings distant soft targets in delicate locations – i.e. those saturated with non-combatants – within the grasp of the US military. While the caliber of the .300 Norma’s projectile may lead some to believe this round is a downgrade from the .338 Lapua, it’s more akin to a different tool for different situations.

This round may finally put a stop to insurgents using towers of religious buildings or hospitals to call in mortar strikes or coordinate ambushes.

But this is all speculation; with the round being as new as it is, and special operators just now adopting it, the public won’t likely hear anything about its performance for years.

Either way, one thing is certain: the long reach of America’s special forces, just got even longer.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran to cut four zeros from currency to fight hyperinflation

Iran’s parliament has voted to slash four zeros from the national currency, the rial, to fight hyperinflation caused by crippling U.S. sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic.

Lawmakers also decided on May 4 that the rial, which has been Iran’s national currency since 1925, wiil be replaced by the toman, which will be equal to 10,000 rials, according to the IRNA and ISNA news agencies.

President Donald Trump in May 2018 withdrew the United States from a landmark 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers under which Tehran pledged to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.


Washington then reimposed most sanctions on Iran, dealing a hard blow to the Islamic republic’s economy.

In recent months, the rial has shed more than 60 percent of its value, with hyperinflation also accelerated by the economic consequences of the coronavirus outbreak. Iran is one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic.

The law must be ratified by the Guardians Council, a powerful hard-line constitutional watchdog.

State television said Iran’s Central Bank will have two years to “pave the ground to change the currency to the toman.”

The Iranian currency was trading at about 156,000 rials per dollar on the unofficial market on May 4, according to foreign-exchange websites.

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

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7 kids who joined (even commanded) military units for a day

Make-A-Wish Foundation sets up special experiences for kids diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions. While kids can wish for forts in their backyard, shopping sprees, or trips to Disney, some choose to get in the dirt and mud with the U.S. military. These 7 kids used their wishes to join (and in a couple of cases command) military units.


1. Evan takes command of Naval Air Station Fallon.

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Pablo Jara Meza

When Evan was offered a wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he wished to become a Top Gun fighter pilot. The commander of Naval Air Station Fallon welcomed Evan into his office and had an instructor escort him around the school. Evan was then able to attend a Top Gun graduation ceremony where he received an honorary certificate. His escort, Major Chip Berke, told a Marine Corps journalist, “There were so many volunteers to help escort Evan and his family, but I was fortunate to get the job. Evan tells me that I work for him. He even asked to be taken back to ‘his office’ a few times after leaving Base Admiral Mat Moffit’s desk.

2. Jorge makes brigadier general in minutes.

Jorge’s Wish from Michael Kroh on Vimeo.

Jorge was promoted to brigadier general for the day soon after arriving at Camp Pendleton, California to meet Brig. Gen. Vincent A. Coglianese, Commanding General of Marine Corps Installations – West. While in command, he rode in assault vehicles, attended a Marine Corps boxing lesson, and supervised an amphibious assault demonstration held in his honor.

3. Ian Field packs a 20-year career into two days.

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
Photo: US Army

The Army’s 1st Infantry Division learned Ian Field wanted to be a soldier for his wish and their 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team set up a two-day event for Ian to climb from private to command sergeant major April 14-15, 2011. He began by enlisting in the Army and being promoted to private first class. He then fired weapons, trained with grenades, shot artillery, rode in a helicopter, drove a tank, and rescued an injured comrade. As a final event, now-Command Sgt. Maj. Ian Field led his squad during a ceremony commemorating their time together.

4. Carl “pilots” his plane right into the ocean.

Carl, an avid history buff, asked to be a World War II pilot for the day. Specifically, a pilot on the run after being downed. The Air Force trained him in survival skills before he flew to Hawaii. Soldiers and Marines welcomed him at the Hawaii airport with 1940’s military vehicles and gave him a tour of military museums and installations on the islands. Then, he was flown in a Navy bi-plane to a remote beach where he had to cut himself out of a parachute, find his gear, and lead his dad to safety. While they were setting up their position, a pair of Navy SEALs swam in and Carl led their assault on an enemy camp.

5. Andrew becomes a Marine, sailor, soldier, and airman in one day.

Andrew toured multiple bases and served with the Navy, Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps in a single day for his wish. First, he visited March Air Reserve Base and toured a C-17 in a custom flight suit and helmet and saw a Predator drone and F-16 up close. Then he headed to the Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton where he became an honorary sergeant major. The Navy showed him some of their inflatable boats and let him fire weapons on a computerized shooting range before the Army showed him around their vehicles.

6. Riley learns the Ranger’s Creed in time for graduation.

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
Photo: US Army Army Capt. Jeremiah Cordovano

Riley Woina chose to be a Ranger for a day and practiced jumping out of planes with them before witnessing an actual airborne parachute drop with the 6th Ranger Battalion at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. During airborne training, a Ranger pulled Woina’s reserve parachute for him and accidentally gave the boy a black eye, but Woina decided to continue with training. He also assisted the Ranger candidates in clearing a room and was able to fire off some blank rounds from an M4 and M249. At Ranger graduation, he recited the Ranger Creed from memory.

Riley gave an interview to the Fort Benning Public Affairs Office where he discussed why he chose to be a Ranger for his wish, available here.

7. Jacob makes a World War II movie to honor the military.

Jacob Angel wished to be a World War II soldier in a movie depicting the exploits of World War II heroes. In the film, embedded above, he has to take a hill and fly the American flag over it.

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Back in 2000, the CIA made 8 predictions on what life would be like in 2015

My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead
George W. Bush’s presidency was influenced by the CIA’s 2000 report Photo: Wiki Commons


Back in 2000, just before George W. Bush became president, the CIA published a 70-page report on what the world would be like in 2015.

We’re now halfway through the year and it turns out that several of these predictions were on the money.

Here’s a rundown of some of the predictions, according to a December 2000 story from The Telegraph.

“International affairs are increasingly determined by large and powerful organizations rather than governments.” Verdict: True, such as the rise of the Islamic State. On the other hand, there is also a new cadre of actors that cross the line between private actors and the state such as the Chinese hackers suspected of stealing information about millions of U.S. government employees, and the possibly-not-North Korean hackers who took down Sony last year.

“Between now and 2015 terrorist tactics will become increasingly sophisticated and designed to achieve mass casualties.” Verdict: Definitely true. Sadly, this prediction became true quickly, on September 11, 2001.

“Iraq and Iran [will] develop long range missiles in the near future. Iran … could be testing such weapons by as early as the coming year, and cruise missiles by 2004.” Verdict: Both true and false. Iran is definitely working on an ICBM and was expected to test it in 2015. But international sanctions on Iran has brought it to the negotiation table and diplomats say they are close to a comprehensive deal.

“The world population will grow by more than one billion, to 7.2 billion.” Verdict: True. The world population is now about 7.3 billion.

“Energy resources will be sufficient to meet demand.” Verdict: Nailed it. U.S. oil production has soared in recent years, and the US is poised to become a major exporter of liquefied natural gas in the coming years, too.

“China’s economy will grow to overtake Europe as the world’s second largest but still behind the United States.” Verdict: True-ish. By some measurements, China’s economy is now larger than the US economy but by other measures, it is not quite as large as the EU.

“Europe will not achieve fully the dreams of parity with the US as a shaper of the global economic system.” Verdict: Not quite true. The CIA report was very bullish on the European economy, which had been sluggish at the start of the year, but has recently picked up steam.

“Aids, famine, and continuing economic and political turmoil means that populations in many [African] countries will actually fall.” Verdict: False. Africa’s population rose from 800 million in 2000 to 1.1 billion in 2014.

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This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.