Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown

This week’s Borne the Battle episode features Mike Fisher, the Chief Readjustment Counseling Officer for VA’s Health Administration, who discusses some of the unique and generous benefits that Vet Centers offer.

Vet Centers began in 1979 when Vietnam veterans had difficulty readjusting to civilian life. Vet Centers seek to help and equip veterans by offering a community-based counseling center that provides a wide array of services. In addition, these Vet Centers actively help veterans to simply get started, set goals, and eventually accomplish them.


Vet Centers have quickly expanded and is now celebrating its 40th anniversary. There are currently over 300 Vet Centers, 80 mobile Vet Centers, and a Veteran Call Line as well. This model seeks to make readjustment smoother and more effective.

This week’s episode covers:

  • Mission, Vision, and Peer-to-Peer Model of Vet Centers
  • Expansive services of Vet Centers, including all types of counseling, opportunities, and trauma rehabilitation resources
  • Inclusive Eligibility requirements, including grandfathering of Vietnam veterans and inclusion of all, regardless of character of discharge

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

Articles

Pentagon “Arsenal Plane” likely to be modified B-52

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown
The B-52 and the 70,000 pounds of munitions it can carry. | Photo: U.S. Air Force


The Pentagon’s emerging “Arsenal Plane” or “flying bomb truck” is likely to be a modified, high-tech adaptation of the iconic B-52 bomber designed to fire air-to-air weapons, release swarms of mini-drones and provide additional fire-power to 5th generation stealth fighters such as the F-35 and F-22, Pentagon officials and analysts said.

Using a B-52, which is already being modernized with new radios and an expanded internal weapons bay, would provide an existing “militarized” platform already engineered with electronic warfare ability and countermeasures designed to thwart enemy air defenses.

“You are using a jet that already has a military capability. The B-52 is a military asset, whereas all the alternatives would have to be created. It has already been weaponized and has less of a radar cross-section compared to a large Air Force cargo plane. It is not a penetrating bomber, but it does have some kind of jamming and countermeasures meant to cope with enemy air defenses. It is wired for a combat mission,” said Richard Aboulafia, Vice President of analysis at the Teal Group, a Virginia-based consultancy.

Flying as a large, non-stealthy bomber airplane, a B-52 would still present a large target to potential adversaries; however, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said part of the rationale for the “Arsenal Plane” would be to work closely with stealthy fighter jets such as an F-22 and F-35, with increased networking technology designed to increase their firepower and weapons load.

Such a scenario would likely rely upon now-in-development manned-unmanned teaming wherein emerging algorithms and computer technology enable fighter jets to control the sensor payload and weapons capability of nearby drones from the cockpit of the aircraft. This would enable Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance assets to more quickly relay strategic or targeting information between fighter jets, drones and “Arsenal Planes.”

Aboulafia explained that air fighters being developed by potential adversaries, such as the Chinese J-20 and other fighters, could exist in larger numbers than a U.S. force, underscoring the current U.S. strategy to maintain a technological edge even if their conventional forces are smaller.  An “Arsenal Plane” could extend range and lethality for U.S. fighters, in the event they were facing an enemy force with more sheer numbers of assets.

“There is a concern about numbers of potential enemies and range. When you are dealing with a potential adversary with thousands of jets and you’ve got limited assets with limited weapons payloads, you have got to be concerned about the numbers,” he said.

An effort to be more high-tech, if smaller in terms of sheer numbers, than rival militaries is a key part of the current Pentagon force modernization strategy.

“In practice, the “Arsenal Plane” will function as a very large airborne magazine, networked to fifth generation aircraft that act as forward sensor and targeting nodes, essentially combining different systems already in our inventory to create wholly new capabilities,” Carter told reporters. Aboulafia added that an idea for an “Arsenal Plane” emerged in the 1980s as a Cold War strategy designed to have large jets carry missiles able to attack Soviet targets.

Carter unveiled the “Arsenal Plane” concept during a recent 2017 budget drop discussion at the Pentagon wherein he, for the first time, revealed the existence of a “Strategic Capabilities Office” aimed at connecting and leveraging emerging weapons and technology with existing platforms. This effort is aimed at saving money, increasing the military’s high-tech lethality and bringing new assets to the force faster than the many years it would take to engineer entirely new technologies.

“I created the SCO (Strategic Capabilities Office) in 2012, when I was Deputy Secretary of defense to help us to re-imagine existing DOD and intelligence community and commercial systems by giving them new roles and game-changing capabilities to confound potential enemies — the emphasis here was on rapidity of fielding, not 10 and 15-year programs,” he said.

Carter said “Arsenal Plane” development would be funded through a $71 billion research and development 2017 budget request.

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Brittany Y. Bateman

While Carter did not specify a B-52 during his public discussion of the new asset now in-development, he did say it would likely be an “older” aircraft designed to function as a “flying launchpad.”

“The last project I want to highlight is one that we’re calling the “Arsenal Plane,” which takes one of our oldest aircraft platforms and turns it into a flying launchpad for all sorts of different conventional payloads,” Carter added.

The Air Force is already surging forward with a massive, fleet-wide modernization overhaul of the battle-tested, Vietnam-era B-52 bomber, an iconic airborne workhorse for the U.S. military dating back to the 1960s.

Engineers are now equipping all 76 of the Air Force B-52s with digital data-links, moving-map displays, next-generation avionics, new radios and an ability to both carry more weapons internally and integrate new, high-tech weapons as they emerge, service officials said.

The technical structure and durability of the B-52 airframes in the Air Force fleet are described as extremely robust and able to keep flying well into the 2040s and beyond – so the service is taking steps to ensure the platform stays viable by receiving the most current and effective avionics, weapons and technologies

Weapons Upgrade

Aboulafia said the new B-52 “Arsenal Plane” could, for the first time, configure a primarily air-to-ground bomber as a platform able to fire air-to-air weapons as well – such as the Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile, or AMRAAM.

The integration of air-to-air weapons on the B-52 does not seem inconceivable given the weapons upgrades already underway with the aircraft.  Air Force is also making progress with a technology-inspired effort to increase the weapons payload for the workhorse bomber, Eric Single, Chief of the Global Strike Division, Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.

The 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade, or IWBU, will allow the B-52 to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to carrying six on pylons under each wing, he explained.

B-52s have previously been able to carry JDAM weapons externally, but with the IWBU the aircraft will be able to internally house some of the most cutting edge precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, among others.

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown
Image: Wikimedia

“It is about a 66 percent increase in carriage capability for the B-52, which is huge. You can imagine the increased number of targets you can reach, and you can strike the same number of targets with significantly less sorties,” said Single.

Single also added that having an increased internal weapons bay capability affords an opportunity to increase fuel-efficiency by removing bombs from beneath the wings and reducing drag.

The first increment of IWBU, slated to be finished by 2017, will integrate an internal weapons bay ability to fire a laser-guided JDAM. A second increment, to finish by 2022, will integrate more modern or cutting-edge weapons such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, JASSM Extended Range (ER) and a technology called Miniature Air Launched Decoy, or MALD. A MALD-J “jammer” variant, which will also be integrated into the B-52, can be used to jam enemy radar technologies as well, Single said.

IWBU, which uses a digital interface and a rotary launcher to increase the weapons payload, is expected to cost roughly $313 million, service officials said.

The B-52 has a massive, 185-foot wingspan, a weight of about 185,000 pounds and an ability to reach high sub-sonic speeds and altitudes of 50,000 feet, Air Force officials said.

Communications, Avionics Upgrades

Two distinct, yet interwoven B-52 modernization efforts will increase the electronics, communications technology, computing and avionics available in the cockpit while simultaneously configuring the aircraft with the ability to carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” precision-guided weapons internally – in addition to carrying six weapons on each wing, Single said.

Eight B-52s have already received a communications (coms systems) upgrade called Combat Network Communication Technology, or CONECT – a radio, electronics and data-link upgrade which, among other things, allows aircraft crews to transfer mission and targeting data directly to aircraft systems while in flight (machine to machine), Single explained.

“It installs a digital architecture in the airplane,” Single explained. “Instead of using data that was captured during the mission planning phase prior to your take off 15 to 20 hours ago – you are getting near real-time intelligence updates in flight.”

Single described it key attribute in terms of “machine-to-machine” data-transfer technology which allows for more efficient, seamless and rapid communication of combat-relevant information.

Using what’s called an ARC 210 Warrior software-programmable voice and data radio, pilots can now send and receive targeting data, mapping information or intelligence with ground stations, command centers and other aircraft.

“The crew gets the ability to communicate digitally outside the airplane which enables you to import not just voice but data for mission changes, threat notifications, targeting….all those different types of things you would need to get,” Single said.

An ability to receive real-time targeting updates is of great relevance to the B-52s close-air-support mission because fluid, fast-moving or dynamic combat situations often mean ground targets appear, change or disappear quickly.

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown
Capt. Jeff Rogers (left) and 1st Lt. Patrick Applegate are ready in the lower deck of a B-52 Stratofortress at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., on Aug. 21. The officers are with the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB. | Photo: Master Sgt. Lance Cheung/U.S. Air Force

Alongside moving much of the avionics from analogue to digital technology, CONECT also integrates new servers, modems, colored display screens in place of old green monochrome and provides pilots with digital moving-map displays which can be populated with real-time threat and mission data, Single said.

The new digital screens also show colored graphics highlighting the aircraft’s flight path, he added.

Single explained that being able to update key combat-relevant information while in transit will substantially help the aircraft more effectively travel longer distances for missions, as needed.

“The key to this is that this is part of the long-range strike family of systems — so if you take off out of Barksdale Air Force Base and you go to your target area, it could take 15 or 16 hours to get there. By the time you get there, all the threat information has changed,” said Single. “Things move, pop up or go away and the targeting data may be different.”

The upgrades will also improve the ability of the airplane to receive key intelligence information through a data link called the Intelligence Broadcast Receiver. In addition, the B-52s will be able to receive information through a LINK-16-like high-speed digital data link able to transmit targeting and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR information.

The CONECT effort, slated to cost $1.1 billion overall, will continue to unfold over the next several years, Single explained.

Twelve B-52 will be operational with CONECT by the end of this year and the entire fleet will be ready by 2021, Single said.

B-52 History

Known for massive bombing missions during the Vietnam War, the 159-foot long B-52s have in recent years been operating over Afghanistan in support of military actions there from a base in Guam.

The B-52 also served in Operation Desert Storm, Air Force statements said.  “B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq’s Republican Guard,” an Air Force statement said.

In 2001, the B-52 provided close-air support to forces in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, service officials said. The B-52 also played a role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. On March 21, 2003, B-52Hs launched approximately 100 CALCMs (Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles) during a night mission.

Given the B-52s historic role in precision-bombing and close air support, next-generation avionics and technologies are expected to greatly increase potential missions for the platform in coming years, service officials said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. says terrorist threats persist, citing Iran’s rising support for extremists

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump says “dangerous terrorist threats persisted” in 2019 even as Iran, the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, and Al-Qaeda suffered setbacks.

In its annual report on terrorism issued on June 24, the State Department also said that white supremacist attacks were on the rise.


Iran, which the report calls “the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism,” and its proxies continued to “plot and commit terrorist attacks on a global scale.”

Tehran also continued to allow an Al-Qaeda “facilitation network” to operate in Iran, “sending money and fighters to conflict zones in Afghanistan and Syria, and it still allowed [Al-Qaeda] members to reside in the country.”

“Finally, the Iranian regime continued to foment violence, both directly and through proxies, in Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen,” the report added.

Despite losing territory in Iraq and Syria, as well as its leader, the IS extremist group “adapted to continue the fight from its affiliates across the globe and by inspiring followers to commit attacks,” according to the report.

But it also said that Iran, the IS group, and Al-Qaeda suffered serious setbacks last year, including the killing of several top leaders and the imposition of “crippling” sanctions against Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Tehran-backed Lebanese Hizballah movement, and supporters and financiers of both.

According to the State Department, attacks committed by white nationalists are of particular concern and “a serious challenge for the global community.”

The report noted numerous such attacks in 2019, including in New Zealand, Germany, and the United States.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is developing exoskeletons that will save your knees

David Audet, chief of the Mission Equipment and Systems Branch in the Soldier Performance Optimization Directorate, at the Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Soldier Center, is gearing up his team for the next User Touch Point activities to explore exoskeleton options in late January 2019.

“As we explore the more mature exoskeleton options available to us and engage users, the more we learn about where the possible value of these systems is to Army operations,” said Audet.


“Before the Army can consider investing in any development above what industry has done on their own, we need to make sure that users are on board with human augmentation concepts and that the systems are worth investing in. The Army is not ready yet to commit. NSRDEC [RDECOM Soldier Center] has a lead role in working with PEO-Soldier and the Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, to determine whether or not a longer-term investment in fielding new technologies is justifiable. But this is what we do best. We find the options and create the partnerships to help us figure it out.”

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown

Soldiers from Army’s 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, were able to get hands on and try two of the current human augmentation technologies (pictured here) being pursued by the RDECOM Soldier Center. The soldier on the left is wearing the ONYX and the soldier on the right is wearing the ExoBoot.

(RDECOM Soldier Center)

Recent media has brought a lot of attention to the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Controls, or LMMFC, ONYX, a Popular Science award recipient for 2018.

As innovative as it is, and with all the attention on the Soldier Center’s .9 million Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) award, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and lose perspective of the overall work the Soldier Center is actually doing.

Out of the 48-month phased effort, roughly 0K has been put on the LMMFC OTA — currently focused on having enough systems to take to the field for operational evaluation. Although performing, the technology has yet to prove itself in a full operational exercise before moving forward. And while LMMFC is highly confident in their product and continues to invest their funding on further developing the system for commercial use, the Soldier Center is also looking at other technologies.

Located in Maynard, Massachusetts, Dephy, Inc.’s ExoBoot is another entrant in the program. The Dephy ExoBoot is an autonomous foot ankle exoskeleton that was inspired by research done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under collaboration with the Army. It is currently under consideration for evaluation during the third and fourth quarter of 2019. Brigadier General David M. Hodne has worn the ExoBoot during Soldier Center program updates and is quite intrigued by the capability. User feedback will determine if both systems move forward and under which considerations.

“Under ideal conditions, we would favor a full development effort,” said Audet. “However, given the push for rapid transition and innovation, we can save the Army a lot of time and money by identifying and vetting mature technologies, consistent with the vision of the Army Futures Command, or AFC.

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown

(David Kamm, RDECOM Soldier Center)

“In order to achieve the goal of vetting and providing recommendations, NSRDEC [the Soldier Center] and PEO-Soldier are strong partners, teamed up to work with third party independent engineering firms such as Boston Engineering out of Waltham, Massachusetts. The engineering analysis of systems will provide an unbiased system-level analysis of any of the technologies under consideration, following rigorous analysis of the capabilities as they exist, the operational parameters provided by users and assessment of how humans will use and interact with the systems.”

“We are confident products will succeed or — at a minimum — fill a gap we have not been able to address by any other materiel or training means,” said Audet.

“We will be prepared to transition, but we know there is a road ahead before we get there. We aren’t committing to anything more than to bring the systems to a demonstration and educate the community at large on what these preliminary technologies can offer. In the meantime, we add a layer of third party independent analysis as a reassurance policy that we are mitigating bias and staying laser focused on user needs and meeting the demands of the future warfighting landscape.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy prepares for healthy Thanksgiving feast

As Thanksgiving approaches, Navy Culinary Specialists (CS) around the world are preparing to serve sailors a healthy variety of traditional fare.

This year, the Navy plans to serve an estimated 105,000 pounds of roast turkey, 24,000 pounds of stuffing, 54,000 pounds of mashed potatoes, 20,000 pounds of sweet potatoes, 5,000 pounds of cranberry sauce, and 4,500 gallons of gravy.


In support of the Navy’s ongoing Go for Green nutrition awareness program, the food offered in shore and ship galleys during Thanksgiving will be labeled to encourage healthy food choices; green (eat often), yellow (eat occasionally), and red (eat rarely), along with a salt shaker graphic to measure sodium content. The food classification is based on calories, total fat, cholesterol, and sodium content. Go for Green encourages healthier food and beverage selections to support peak physical and cognitive performance of sailors. The Navy food service team takes professional pride in their quality service and important contributions to fleet health and readiness.

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown

The combined leadership of Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, and U.S. Embassy Djibouti staff, serve a Thanksgiving meal to forward-deployed service members, civilians, and contractors, Nov. 22, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Shannon D. Barnwell)

About 7,000 Culinary Specialists serve in our Navy today. They receive extensive training in culinary arts, hotel management and other hospitality industry areas. Culinary Specialists provide food service, catering and hospitality services for sailors, senior government executives, and within the White House Mess for the President of the United States.

They are responsible for all aspects of the shipboard mess decks and shore duty living areas, and are vital to maintaining high crew morale on ships, construction battalions and shore bases.

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

popular

10 time-honored military traditions that civilians find weird

Some military traditions make sense to nearly everyone — little things that show mutual respect, like leaders serving food to their subordinates on holidays or NCOs electing to eat after their guys. Other traditions are odd at first blush, like messing with the new guy or passing through an archway after graduating a class or achieving a higher rank, but civilians can generally understand where they come from.

But then there are the ones that require a lot of explaining to your civilian family members. Every time, these story begins with a, “well, you see. It kinda goes back to…” and more often than not, the explanation just makes them tilt their head in confusion.

At one point, the following traditions may have meant something to one person or a group, but today, the original meaning is buried beneath decades of military bearing and tradition. We mostly just do them because, well, if it ain’t broke — and no one’s getting UCMJ’d for it — why bother stopping?


Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown
Ever since Hostess kinda went under, the tradition changed to use red helmets instead — which is definitely cleaner. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Katrine M Brisbin)

10. Paratroopers and cherry pies

When you finish going through Army Airborne School, your head will be spinning, filled with all of the information you’ll need to not shatter every bone in your body when you make a landing. You’ll have to master the art of hooking up your static line and perform countless parachute landing falls before you’re even able to get the chance to actually jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

Finally, the moment of truth arrives — you finally get to jump with your unit in the 82nd. Your superiors will recommend that you fill your cargo pockets with Hostess Cherry Pies first. They’ll often say it’s for some reason like, “in case you get hungry when you land” or whatever. Who are you to argue?

When your big moment finally comes and you take in the sights while falling gracefully, you’ll hopefully have your PLFs burnt into the back of your mind as second nature. Everything will happen so fast that you’ll forget those cherry pies in your pants. When you land, you’ll squish all those pies and leave a nice red stain on your uniform.

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown
There are great call signs out there, you just need to be lucky enough to snag one. (Fox News)

9. Actual callsigns

In pop culture, callsigns are the coolest things ever. You’ll often see some badass names, like Iceman, Maverick, or Snake used in TV and movies. They’re always just made up because they sound cool and the storytellers don’t really know how the military works.

In reality, callsigns are usually unit designations followed by a number to signify who they are in said unit. So, for example, the commander of the Alpha company “Black Sheep” would be known as “Black Sheep 6,” and the first sergeant of the same unit is “Black Sheep 7.”

If you’re looking for unique callsigns, those are in the aviation world, and they’re typically less cool and more nonsensical. For example, if you eat a Pop-Tart one time in front of another pilot, your callsign is now forever “Pop-Tart.” Good going, Pop-Tart. That’s your callsign until the end of time.

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown
You (and everyone else in the unit) will have to drink whatever you put in. Or do what most people do and hide in the bathroom until this bit is over. (U.S. Air Force photo by Don Peek)

8. The grog bowl

At civilian parties, if there’s a punch bowl, it’ll be centrally placed and it may or may not have some kind of alcohol in it. Whenever the military throws a unit ball, that punch bowl will most certainly have alcohol in it… plus a whole slew of other random things that would make anyone throw up.

Most of the leadership of the unit gets a chance to add one ingredient to the grog bowl (which is a toilet bowl) and offer some kind of nonsense to explain why their chosen ingredient has some kind of significance to the unit.

You can expect classic grog bowl ingredients, like hot sauce, because of the deserts the unit deploys to, ground coffee, because of the long hours the troops works, a cup of salt, because of the sweat that troops give to the cause, and a dirty sock because… reasons?

7. Blood wings and blood stripes

When civilians get promoted or graduate some school, the accomplishment is usually met with a party or a card that’s signed by everyone in the office. That sounds pleasant. Troops, on the other hand, almost always lose a bit of blood over it.

Blood wings and blood stripes are, essentially, the same thing. You get the wings from a school and the stripes from a promotion. Then, everyone takes turn punching it in. It’s technically considered hazing, but the troop receiving the blood wings/stripes usually agrees to it. There (typically) isn’t any malice or hate involved in the ceremony and troops usually walk away with a bit more pride in whoever bled for their new badge/rank.

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown
“A Mickey Mouse Challenge Coin? Really?” (U.S. Air Force photo by Josh Plueger/Released)

6. Challenge coin “duels”

There’s nothing really odd about challenge coins in general. It’s basically the same thing as collecting trading cards as a kid, but instead of aiming for a holographic Charizard, you’re aiming for the coolest-looking coin with the most badass backstory.

Usually, officers will keep the coolest coins on their desk in their office to casually gloat about and enlisted troops keep them in some drawer at home, but sh*t gets real when troops take their coins to the bars. The ensuing game basically goes like this:

Troops unsheathe their coolest coin. If you don’t have your coin on you, you buy the drinks. If everyone has a coin, whoever has the “least valuable coin” buys the drinks. Since the “value” is determined by backstory and design — both of which are subjective — this game almost always ends in a shouting match over who has to pick up the tab.

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown
Every airman thinks they can grow a mustache like Col. Robin Olds. The only reason his mustache is so majestic is because he literally gave zero f*cks about the rules. Rules all airmen have to follow. (U.S. Air Force)

5. ‘Stache contests

In case you haven’t nailed down the common thread between all of these traditions, the military is engaged in a perpetual pissing contest. Troops are in constant contest to see who can do literally anything better than the next guy; to see who is the most macho of the troops. It should come as no surprise that one of the most macho things out there, facial hair, gets quantified into some sort of challenge.

The problem with this is that the military doesn’t allow most versions of facial hair — that is, with the exception of a very thin mustache. A word of warning: The first two weeks of a mustache-off makes every contestant look pathetic.

Mustache contests usually begin at the start of the deployment (presumably, when troops’ wives have less of a say in the matter) and, after a certain point, someone is declared a winner. Yet, the Air Force has unanimously decided to make March their official contest month. Whichever airman grows the best mustache by the end of March wins a high five or whatever.

4. The West Point pillow battle royale

At some point during the first years of the most intense academy for the U.S. Army’s future officers, students are offered a unique way of handling the stresses of simultaneously earning a college education while enduring four years of constant military training. These future warriors, trained in all things warfare with the intention of becoming the Army’s next generation of great leaders, settle things the exact same way as children at slumber parties — with a pillow fight.

As goofy as this sounds, things got serious. Yes. “got” — very much in the past tense, as this tradition was unceremoniously banned in 2015 in response to numerous injuries. Most cadets donned full kevlars and vests and beat the hell out of each other with pillows. More than thirty plebes that year were sent to the hospital for serious injuries, despite the strict no-hard-objects-in-the-pillows rule.

Thankfully, they had PT belts on or this could have gotten even more out of hand.

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown
Don’t think you can just bring a spare cap that won’t be blown up. The troops will find it and make sure it’s also blown to smithereens. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord)

3. Blasting up the lieutenant’s patrol cap

In the technical terms, a “blasting cap” is a small, sensitive primary explosive device used to detonate a larger, more powerful and less-sensitive secondary explosive. Soldiers in the artillery world take this term literally whenever they welcome a new platoon leader.

When the platoon first goes out for a live-fire exercise with a brand new lieutenant, they’ll take the officer’s patrol cap (either willingly or otherwise) and tape it to the end of the barrel or backplate of a rocket pod. Then, the first round goes off; it’ll take the cap with it. The officer is then expected to retrieve the nearly-burnt-to-a-crisp cap so they can remain in uniform after the ceremony is done.

No one really knows when or where this began, but every artillery officer since then has had to buy a new cap the following day.

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown
The real question is, if they’re both military, do neither of them get spanked — or both? (U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

2. The sword butt tap at weddings

Most of the traditions on this list are kept within the realm of the military and don’t often affect civilians directly — with the major exception of military weddings. They are one of the most beautiful ways to introduce a new civilian spouse into our world. The troop’s comrades will attend wearing full dress uniforms, each carrying a sword to signify the protection they’ll offer the new spouse, as he or she is now kin.

The new comrades will serve as either groomsmen or bridesmaids and post guard outside of the chapel, or wherever the ceremony is held, and form a beautiful archway with their swords under which the married couple will walk.

Then, whoever is at the very end of the archway on the civilian spouse’s side will give a loving spank with their sword. Not a hard one, mind you, just a nice gentle way of letting them know that they’re now a part of the grander military family.

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown
Every weird little detail of the “Crossing the Line” ceremony has been replicated as far back as anyone can remember. It can’t be THAT weird if your sailor granddad was also doing it, right? (U.S. Navy)

1. The Court of Neptune

Whenever a Navy vessel crosses a certain point on the globe, all sailors who’ve never done so get to be initiated into an unofficial fraternity of sailors who’ve been there before. The most famous example of these ceremonies is the moment a vessel crosses the Equator at any point in the world.

Officially, it’s called the “Crossing the Line” ceremony, but sailors know it as “the Court of Neptune.” The uninitiated (known as “slimy polliwogs”) must bow before King Neptune (as portrayed by the ship’s captain) and entertain his queen, Davy Jones, the Royal Baby, and his dignitaries (portrayed by other high ranking members of the crew) with a talent show.

Regardless of how the young sailors perform, they’re found guilty of being polliwogs and must answer for their crimes. They’re “punished” by eating an extremely spicy or disgusting breakfast and are forced kiss the Royal Baby’s greasy belly. Only then can they have their slimy polliwoginess washed in seawater to finally become trusty shellbacks.

Follow any of that? Neither did any of us other slimy polliwogs…

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US says North Korea used VX in an assassination

The United States has determined that North Korea used chemical weapons, an apparent reference to the killing of leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother in 2017.


The State Department did not provide justification for the finding publicized March 2, 2018. But it comes nearly one year after Kim Jong Nam died at an international airport in Malaysia in an attack, authorities said, that used VX nerve agent.

The determination, made by the department’s international security and nonproliferation bureau, carries restrictions on U.S. foreign aid and financial and military assistance that North Korea’s heavily sanctioned government is already subject to.

Also read: Kim Jong Nam might have been plotting to overthrow his brother

It was posted on the website of the Federal Register and takes effect March 5, 2018.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has previously referred to Pyongyang’s use of chemical weapons. He told reporters in January 2018, “we know they’ve been used by the North Koreans.”

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

According to the Pentagon, North Korea probably has a long-standing chemical weapons program with the capability to produce nerve, blister, blood, and choking agents and likely possesses a chemical weapons stockpile that could be used with artillery and ballistic missiles.

Experts say the Feb. 13, 2017, death of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur airport is the only confirmed North Korean use of chemical weapon agents. North Korean defectors have charged that such chemicals have been used against prisoners and disabled people inside the authoritarian nation.

Related: Kim Jong Un suspected of ordering assassination of nephew

North Korea is believed to have provided chemical defensive equipment and technology to Syria and Libya in the past, and an upcoming report by a United Nations panel that monitors sanctions against the North says that in August 2016, the North transferred special resistance valves and thermometers known for use in chemical-weapons programs in Syria.

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown
Kim Jong Nam. (Photo from The Asahi Shimbun)

North Korean technicians continue to operate at chemical weapons and missile facilities in the war-ravaged Mid-east nation, according to details of the report obtained by The Associated Press.

The U.S. and other Western nations have accused Syria of using chemical weapons against rebel-controlled areas of the country, which the government denies.

North Korea, on March 1, 2018, denied it was cooperating with Syria on chemical weapons. In a statement circulated by its diplomatic mission at the U.N. in New York, the North’s foreign ministry said it “does not have a single record of developing, producing, and stockpiling a chemical weapon.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest memes for the week of August 3rd

If you’ve seen that recently-published graph that’s been floating around the internet that states Marines beat every other branch in terms of smoking, drinking, and sleeping around, you may think it’s just some Photoshopped meme or joke. It’s not. It’s actually a real thing. If you haven’t, we’re happy to show you:

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown
Rah!
(Department of Defense)

The fine folks at the RAND Corporation, the people who administered the survey on behalf of the DoD, probably had the best of intentions when they conducted it. They likely thought to themselves, “perhaps if the troops know how damaging their lifestyle is to their personal health, they’ll want to change.”

But, nah — that’s not how the military works. You put any sort of ranking on it and you’re just going to make things worse. In the immortal words of Matthew McConaughey, “you gotta pump those numbers up! Those are rookie numbers!”

Anyways, here’s some memes.


Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown

(Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown

(Meme via United Status Marin Crops)

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown

(Meme via The Senior Specialist)

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown

(Meme via Dysfunctional Veterans)

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown

(Meme via /r/USMC)

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown
Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown
Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown
Articles

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

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The aftermath of the explosion inside the Brussels metro. | Twitter


At least 34 people were reported killed and dozens more wounded after explosions ripped through Zaventem Airport and a metro station in Brussels on Tuesday morning.

The attacks came days after Saleh Abdeslam, a suspect in last year’s Paris attacks, was arrested in the Belgian capital, which is also the de facto capital of the European Union.

Clint Watts, a senior fellow at the George Washington University Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, said on Tuesday that the Brussels attacks were in line with an “iceberg” theory of terrorist plots.

That theory purports that, just as for every iceberg seen above water, the underlying mass of a terror network and its plots are not immediately visible — or, “for every attacker, there are usually three to four additional people who helped facilitate the plot.”

“That the eight attackers in Paris used more explosive belts than ever before seen in the West suggests a sizeable European terrorist facilitation network,”Watts wrote for War on the Rocks in November.

He added: “The iceberg theory of terrorist plots suggests we should look for two, three, or possibly four dozen extremist facilitators and supporters between Syria and France. This same network is likely already supporting other attacks in the planning phase.”

Belgian officials have long been aware of the existence of an ISIS-linked terrorist cell in Brussels, believed to be centered in the district of Molenbeek. Belgium’s interior minister, Jan Jambon, has called Molenbeek “the capital of political Islam in continental Europe,” and multiple suspects have been arrested there in connection to the Paris attacks.

Outside Belgium, at least 18 people have been detained across Europe since November for their alleged roles in the Paris attacks, The New York Times reported last weekend.

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View from exterior of Zaventem Airport | Instagram

‘Considerable planning and coordination’

Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels bear a shocking similarity to the methods employed by ISIS in Paris on November 13, experts said. Those attacks are believed to have been coordinated by ISIS’ external operations wing, using multiple attacks across the city to overwhelm the police and evade capture.

Just as the Paris attackers planned their assault for at least three months prior to the attack, experts believe the attacks that rocked Brussels on Tuesday morning were most likely months in the making, the timing driven more by a desire to act before being disrupted than by revenge for Abdeslam’s arrest.

“Twin coordinated attacks on Belgian transport sites. Maybe revenge for Abdelslam, but planned and prepped ages ago,” ISIS expert Michael Weiss, author of “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror,” tweeted on Tuesday.

Will McCants, author of “The ISIS Apocalypse,” agreed.

“Plots like this take weeks or months to put in motion,” McCants told Business Insider on Tuesday. “If the attackers are associates of Abdeslam, then they probably moved up the timetable of a preexisting plot to avoid capture.”

Significantly, traces of explosives were found in a Brussels apartment rented by the terrorists weeks before they carried out the terrorist attacks, The New York Times reported, suggesting the existence of a makeshift bomb factory in the heart of Belgium’s capital.

Terrorism expert Mia Bloom, professor of communication at Georgia State University and author of two books on terrorist-recruitment methods, told Business Insider “a plot of this caliber requires considerable planning and coordination.”

“It is likely that Abdeslam’s cell has been plotting this prior to his arrest (there was a substantial arms cache found),” Bloom said.

She added: “Coordinated attacks (multiple attacks in the same location, happening around the same time) tend to require the most planning. While it’s impossible to know for certain, in my humble opinion, it is highly unlikely that these attacks took only a few days.”

Geopolitical and security analyst Michael Horowitz largely echoed this sentiment in a statement to Business Insider.

“I think that more than a retaliation, the attacks (likely planned months ago), were in reaction to it: The cell was likely concerned that Abdeslam would talk and his capture eventually lead to dismantling of their own cell.”

JM Berger, coauthor of “ISIS: The State of Terror,” said in an email to Business Insider that while it was “very early to draw any major conclusions,” it was “certainly possible this attack had already been planned and the timetable was moved up after the arrest.”

A sophisticated ‘foreign infrastructure’

Analysts say the terrorist network’s ability to evade law enforcement after the Paris attacks long enough to plan and execute a major attack in the heart of the EU, even if its timeline was disrupted by Abdeslam’s arrest, is testament to the deep networks jihadists have consolidated across Europe.

The CT [counter-terrorism] federal police are actually very good,” Ben Taub, freelance contributor for The New Yorker on jihadism in Europe, tweeted on Tuesday. “It’s a numbers issue. Can’t keep up. Networks too deep.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

First she invented tech to help amputees — now she’s giving it to veterans

Amira Idris Radovic is a biomedical engineer who developed a device that helps amputees manage phantom limb pain — now, she helps provide them for free to veterans.

She has managed to provide veterans with over 50 ELIX devices, each from a $210 donation, and now she’s eligible for an Amber Grant that would award her $25,000. All you have to do is click to vote — no sign-ups, no e-mails. Just click to support.

Idris is giving back to the military community — let’s show her we’ve got her six.


TheraV Our Story

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How it works:

“We’ve learned that the reason people suffer form this pain is because of mixed signals that are being relayed to the nerve endings of the remaining limb and we found that we are able to overcome those mixed signals and disrupt them by using vibration technology,” she reported.

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown

According to a recent report from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Amputation System of Care, nearly 90,000 veterans with amputations were treated in Fiscal Year 2016.

“Phantom limb pain (PLP) refers to ongoing painful sensations that seem to be coming from the part of the limb that is no longer there. The limb is gone, but the pain is real. TheraV’s ELIX wearable specifically addresses phantom limb pain by stimulating periphery sensory nerves with vibrations. The vibrations activate large sensory nerve fibers, which carry touch and pressure stimulation to the brain. Activation of these large sensory nerve fibers closes the pain gate, thus inhibiting pain signals from reaching the brain.”

The Amber Grants began in 1998 to support women entrepreneurs. They have grown to a ,000 monthly grant and a ,000 annual grant. In March 2019, Amira won the Amber Grant and is now competing for the annual award.

With just two clicks, you can help her provide more devices for veterans with amputations.

Amira wants veterans to know that they can sign up on her website to get the device and is adamant about spreading the message that amputation doesn’t have to mean losing quality of life.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The military is the reason behind the ‘Amish Beard’

There’s no doubt that Amish communities in America have a distinctive look. Amish men wear a long, flowing, ZZ-Top-level beard that can make other hirsute pursuits just look pitiful in comparison. While they may not be the only ones sporting long, long whiskers these days, they’re likely the only bearded men you’ll see whose mustache areas are clean shaven — and the U.S. military is the reason why.


Among devoutly Christian Amish men, sporting a beard is like living the Bible. In the days and locales where the stories in the Christian Bible take place, beards were commonplace. When a young Amish boy gets married, he stops shaving his beard area and grows a facial homage to his biblical forebears, letting everyone in the community know this boy is now a man.

But they never stop shaving the mustache area. The Amish, a form of Mennonite, have many traditions and beliefs that separate them, not just from society, but also from other Mennonite and Christian groups. One such core beliefs is the growing of a beard.

Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard. – Leviticus 19:27

Another core tenet of Amish beliefs is pacifism and the rejection of military service – and the mustache is just one indicator of military service.

It used to be, anyway.

In the 1800s, British troops were actually required to wear some form of facial hair above the lip. This requirement lasted until warfare tech changed the game on the battlefields of World War I and a clean-shaven face was required to seal gas masks.

Related: How a change in warfare set men’s style for almost 100 years

In order to separate themselves physically from those who would engage in military service (while letting the world know they were married, because the Amish don’t exchange wedding rings), they decided to grow beards but shave their lips.

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown

British Army officers in the Crimean War.

It should be noted that the Amish prefer the term “nonresistance” as opposed to pacifism, because they are dedicated to avoiding confrontation in all areas of life, not just in military service.

Mustaches may not be as in vogue as they once were among military service members and regular troops are always clean shaven — almost everywhere in the western world — but still the old Amish tradition of keeping a clean upper lip lives on.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 thrilling non-profits that help veterans treat PTSD

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 11-20% of veterans are diagnosed with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in a given year. More and more veterans seek treatment for PTSD in order to learn how to address their symptoms, improve positive thinking, learn ways to cope when symptoms arise and treat problems related to trauma such as depression and anxiety or misuse of alcohol or drugs.


We are fortunate to be living in a time when America “supports the troops” and encourages the identification and treatment of invisible wounds. In addition to increased efforts by the Department of Veterans Affairs to treat PTSD, there are many veteran non-profit organizations who step in to help.

The treatments and opportunities are far-reaching and varied, including offering psychotherapy or meditation classes.

And then there are non-profit organizations that have learned that a little adrenaline can go a long way. Here are six of them:

Motorcycle Relief Project 2019

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Motorcycle Relief Project

Based in Colorado, Motorcycle Relief Project invites veterans on guided motorcycle adventure trips to decompress and learn some tools for managing stress. The organization creates a positive environment for veterans to connect with each other find some relief from everyday stresses by touring “some of the most scenic paved roads in the country as well as some amazing jeep trails and forest rides.”

These five-day trips are structured and led by professional staff and other veterans in order to allow participants to begin to re-frame their trauma with new narrative recovery through serving others:

“We know that you might not always be able to accept it when someone thanks you for your service, or that you don’t always feel worthy of someone’s gratitude or admiration just because you wore the uniform. We get that. But we also recognize that serving in the military or as a first responder is hard work. In difficult circumstances. With high demands and intense pressure. And for many of you, serving came at a great personal cost. So no matter how you may feel about your motives for serving or what you did or didn’t do while you were over there, the fact remains that you served. And that alone is enough for us to want to serve you back.”

Go to the Motorcycle Relief Project website to check out their program and apply.

Mercy, Love & Grace: The Story of FORCE BLUE (Trailer-HD Version)

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Force Blue

Force Blue unites the community of Special Operations veterans with the world of marine conservation for the betterment of both. By providing “mission therapy” for former combat divers, Force Blue retrains and retools veterans before “deploying” them on missions of conservation and restoration.

In the keenly unique organization founded by Marine Recon vet Rudy Reyes, Force Blue teams work alongside marine scientists to complete tasks such as surveying the health and disease of sea turtles and plant 100 yards of coral to help restore Florida’s Coral Reef.


To be considered for Force Blue, or to help sponsor a veteran, check out their website.

Retired UFC Hall of Famer, Army Veteran and Actor, Mr. Randy Couture

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Operation Jump 22

Operation Jump 22 was founded in 2017 by a team of Marines and a licensed skydiver to create an exciting event for veterans and help combat veteran suicide. Operation Jump 22 helped raise funds for Merging Vets and Players, an organization that matches up combat veterans and former professional athletes to help both transition to civilian life by connecting with their community.

On Nov. 2, 2019, Operation Jump 22 invited participants to help raise funds and then jump 13,000 feet out of an airplane. The event Go Jump Oceanside brought together veterans, first responders and the community to bring awareness to the alarming veteran suicide rates — and get a massive burst of adrenaline.

That positive surge of adrenaline, mixed with community support, can help reprogram the fight-or-flight response centers in the brain that are activated and imprinted during stressful situations like combat or sexual assault.

The next jump is on Nov. 7, 2020 if you’re looking for a little adrenaline of your own.
War Horses For Veterans Foundation For Combat Veterans

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War Horses for Veterans

A recent study found that PTSD scores dropped 87 percent after just six weeks of therapeutic horsemanship sessions. Conducted by Rebecca Johnson, a professor in the University Of Missouri-Columbia College of Veterinary Medicine and the Millsap Professor of Gerontological Nursing in the Sinclair School of Nursing, the study introduced veterans suffering from PTSD to basic horsemanship skills.

The veterans, working under strict ethical guidelines for the welfare of the horses, learned to groom and interact with horses before riding and caring for them.

War Horses for Veterans brings combat veterans together for multi-day all-expenses-paid programs that introduce the basics of horsemanship, including grooming and riding. Veterans can return as often as they want — as long as they bring another veteran with them.

DIAVOLO’s The Veterans Project

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Diavolo – Architecture in Motion

You may recognize the name from America’s Got Talent, where the contemporary movement company combined physics-defying acrobatics with mind-blowing sets, much like cirque-du-soleil.

In 2016, the company created The Veterans Project to give vets the Diavolo experience, from choreography to training to performing. The mission of The Veterans Project is to utilize Diavolo’s unique style of movement as a tool to help restore veterans’ physical and mental strengths through workshops and public performances all around the country.

From Los Angeles to Florida to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Diavolo offers its experience free of charge to veterans, helping them challenge their boundaries and tap into their own creative healing.

“I was diagnosed with PTSD when I returned from Iraq, and there was a moment early on in rehearsal with DIAVOLO when I realized it was the first time I have truly felt at peace since returning from war, and I’ve been back a decade.” — Chris Loverro, United States Army

Warrior Surf Foundation – Folly Beach, South Carolina – October 2015

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Warrior Surf Foundation

Warrior Surf enhances the physical and mental well-being of veterans and their families through surf therapy. By combining surfing and yoga with wellness and community, Warrior Surf channels the healing energy of the ocean to help break the cycle of trauma and help the body work through residual feelings of comfort and distress.

Surf therapy helps improve emotional regulation and frustration management while creating non-battlefield bonds and community connection. They hold several 12-week programs and 5-day travel camps throughout the year. In addition to surfing, vets who participate in the program work on wellness with individual coaching sessions as well as yoga to increase mobility and improve mindfulness.

Veterans interested in participating can register on the Warrior Surf Foundation website.

Outward Bound for Veterans 173rd Expedition

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Outward Bound for Veterans

Outward Bound for Veterans offers wilderness expeditions that purposefully scaffold wartime experiences (carrying heavy packs, sore shoulders, rubbery legs, sleeping out, strange noises, sweat, dirt, frustration and anger) in order to help veterans return home after wartime service.

By offering challenges that are physically and emotionally demanding — without the life-threatening experience of combat — Outward Bound gives veterans the opportunity to re-experience those conditions in a different context, which helps them transition back to civilian life. As a result, veterans successfully draw on the benefit of connecting with each other within the healing environment of nature.

Interested veterans can search for expeditions, which include everything from backpacking to whitewater rafting to rock climbing right here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Navy vet found a career as a Hollywood advisor and motocross competitor

Jacqueline Carrizosa is a Navy veteran who successfully leveraged her military experience into an exciting civilian career.


Her grit as a former rescue swimmer and gunner’s mate helped prepare her to become a tough motocross competitor and military advisor in Hollywood.

In this episode of the WATM Spotlight Series, Jackie tells us about her journey from rescue swimming to Hollywood during a photo shoot with photographer and former Marine Cedric Terrell.

When Jackie joined the Navy, she became a rescue swimmer while she was a gunner’s mate, starting with a class of thirty-two and graduating with twenty. She was the only woman in the class.

Being in the Navy gave her plenty of skills she’s carried over into civilian life. She has been a military advisor on several films, the most well-known of which was Battleship. Meanwhile, she now races motocross and is a full automatic machine gun instructor.

Modeling for motocross has been especially exciting; once again a woman in a predominantly male world, she’s expected to be girly while also having fun—and she’s certainly up for the challenge.

Editor’s Note: Carrizosa was recently injured while training for the Vegas to Reno ironman motorcycle race. She broke her back in two places and lost a kidney. Friends with the Veterans Training Fund have established a GoFundMe account to help with her medical bills.

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