Butterfly garden acts as 'spiritual refuge' for vets - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Butterfly garden acts as ‘spiritual refuge’ for vets

Veteran James Petersen noticed five unused planting beds on the grounds of the PFC Floyd K. Lindstrom Clinic in Colorado Springs. He realized they would be perfect for a butterfly garden.

Petersen is a social worker for the VA Eastern Colorado Healthcare System (VAECHS). He and his “Butterfly Brigade” filled the planters with soil and flowers. The brigade includes VAECHS volunteers and patients.

“The beds hadn’t been touched in years,” said Peterson. But he welcomed the challenge. “I thought this would be a great opportunity to engage our veterans, as well as create a place for them to socialize between appointments.”


The garden features perennial and annual flowers. It also contains milkweed, the only food eaten by the monarch caterpillar.

Butterfly garden acts as ‘spiritual refuge’ for vets

The garden is an official monarch waystation.

A painted lady butterfly stops at the garden.

“The monarch butterfly is endangered, declining almost 90% over the past 20 years,” Petersen noted. Because of their efforts, the garden now is an official monarch butterfly migration pathway station.

Petersen has planted flowers to attract butterflies before. When he returned from five years in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said he “found a lot of therapeutic value in gardening.” As a result, Petersen went through the master gardener program at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

“When I worked at the St. Louis VA last summer, I planted a monarch butterfly garden,” he said. “Several of the veterans on my caseload worked with me in planting the garden. They loved it.”

Butterfly garden acts as ‘spiritual refuge’ for vets

A painted lady butterfly stops at the garden.

Place of change for butterflies and veterans

“This is a place to meditate, minimize stress, socialize and observe the many changes butterflies encounter, much like our own lives,” said clinic director Kim Hoge. She further called the garden a “spiritual refuge” and thanked clinic employees for donating their time, money and resources to build it.

Peterson said just as caterpillars become butterflies, veterans change when they transition to civilian life.

“This garden will do our part for conservation. It will also create a therapeutic place for veterans to hang out,” he said. “They will appreciate the symbolism of transformation and metamorphosis. Especially those who are dealing with traumatic histories.”

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

When coronavirus hits home: How to quarantine the sick

Most people in the U.S. will be exposed to the coronavirus, according to the National Institutes of Health. But not everyone with COVID-19 develops a cough and fever. For every infected person who shows symptoms, five to ten others are asymptomatic, meaning they look and feel just fine for the duration of having the virus, but are spreading the virus fast. This is what social distancing is all about: Stay home, wash your hands often, clean your space and hopefully you’ll be able to avoid the asymptomatic spread. But when someone in your house is showing symptoms or simply knows that they’ve come into contact with someone who has been tested and found to have the virus a different kind of quarantine is required. You need a quarantine within a quarantine. The infected need to isolate within your own home.


In these situations, the goal is to isolate the sick person from the world, and the members of their household, for two weeks. It isn’t easy, but there are steps to take that can give those not infected a fighting chance. Here’s how to proceed.

This Is the Time for a Mask

While there has been much controversy over masks — primarily aimed at those healthy folks hoarding them while hospitals run out — if you have someone sick at home, they should be wearing one while around others in the house. If they don’t own one, you can try making your own out of household materials or cover your mouth with a bandana. “In this critical time we’re having, anything is better than nothing,” says Sophia Thomas, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

Leave Them Alone

Designate a room in your house where those who are sick can spend the next two weeks, and stay out of it as much as possible. If you don’t have a bedroom they can hole up in alone, keep your distance. “The most important thing is to try to stay six feet away from one another,” says Georges Benjamin, director of the American Public Health Association. Don’t let visitors into the home, especially those at high risk, such as grandparents.

If the sick person does have a room of their own, check up on them several times per day. Ask how they’re doing through the door or give them a video call if they aren’t too ill. If the infected person has more serious symptoms, you may have to venture inside, but take precautions including distance and gloves. If the person feels well enough to bend down, leave their meals outside the door.

Of course, sending a five-year-old to their room for two weeks is basically impossible. Don’t panic. “You do the best you can,” Benjamin says. Reduce your risk of infection by cleaning surfaces kids touch frequently, such as toys. Pay attention to your own cleanliness, too. “The most practical thing for most parents is to simply wash their hands as often as they can,” Benjamin says.

Butterfly garden acts as ‘spiritual refuge’ for vets

p1.pxfuel.com

Clean the House Like You Mean It

If a surface is visibly dirty, first clean it with a detergent and water. Then, disinfect it with a product that can kill viruses, such as bleach. Even if they look clean, wipe down high-touch surfaces with detergent and water often, including doorknobs, counters, tables, light switches, remote controls, cabinet handles, and sink handles. “The more frequently, the better,” Thomas says, but at least once daily. Use disposable gloves while cleaning, and don’t reuse them.

Appoint a bathroom for those who are ill, or, if you only have one, make sure it has good airflow. If the whole family must share a bathroom, immediately clean and disinfect after the sick person uses it.

Family members should not clean the room of someone who is ill, though the sick person may clean their own room if they’re up to the task. The sick person should use their own lined trash can, and family members should wear disposable gloves while disposing of the bag. Household members should also use gloves while doing the sick person’s laundry and washing their dishes.

Holy Crap, Is It Ever Time to Wash Your Hands

Wash your hands often, for at least twenty seconds after using the bathroom, before eating, and after sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose. Don’t share towels to dry your hands on. In fact, don’t share anything, including unwashed dishes and eating utensils. Avoid touching your face and wash laundry thoroughly, particularly if it is soiled by bodily fluids.

Butterfly garden acts as ‘spiritual refuge’ for vets

Hopefully Your Dog’s Loyalty Lies With the Quarantined

“We want to keep all of our family members healthy, and that includes our furry family members,” Thomas says. Though there are no cases of pets contracting COVID-19, sick family members should avoid petting their cats and dogs and should ask a different household member to care for them. If the sick person must pet a pup, they should wash their hands before and after contact and wear a facemask while interacting. They should also avoid sharing a bed with their fur baby.

How to Feed Yourself 

If you’re anything like the rest of the country, you probably have a sufficient stockpile of snacks. If you do run out of food, don’t go to the grocery store. Stock up your pantry using an online grocery service or order delivery from a restaurant. Pay online beforehand and ask the deliverer to leave the package outside your front door. You can also ask a neighbor or relative to deliver a care package to your door.

5 Signs You Need to Go to the Emergency Room

Before you go to the ER, call ahead. Let them know if you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and any other symptoms you may be experiencing.

  • Difficulty breathing: If breathing is painful or hard to do, seek immediate help.
  • Blue around the lips: A blue tint to the lips, tongue, and skin of the face means you may not be getting enough blood flow to your head.
  • Fever that won’t come down: If medications such as Tylenol can’t bring down your fever, seek help.
  • Chest pain: Though many people with COVID-19 may feel chest pain, significant pain deserves an emergency call.
  • Worsening of other conditions: The virus can exacerbate pre-existing conditions such as asthma.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This self-driving ship might be a game-changer for Marines

Getting supplies to Marines ashore is growing more complex as new threats reach the space between ships and the beach, so leaders are looking to high-tech self-driving ships to get the job done.

The Navy’s mysterious 132-foot-long autonomous Sea Hunter vessel could move fuel, ammunition, and other heavy supplies from large ships out to small teams of Marines, sea service leaders said May 8, 2019, at the Sea-Air-Space expo outside Washington, D.C.

“If we can do what we’ve demonstrated with Sea Hunter … with logistics, to program that connector to meet that force at a location to sustain them and provide them with what they need, that is where we’re going to have to practice, practice, practice and learn and adapt our structure to be responsive to that,” said Rear Adm. Jim Kilby, director of warfare integration.


Sea Hunter recently traveled from California to Hawaii and back again with hardly anyone operating aboard the vessel.

Butterfly garden acts as ‘spiritual refuge’ for vets

Sea Hunter, an entirely new class of unmanned sea surface vehicle.

(US Navy photo)

Marines and sailors recently practiced sustaining ground troops operating at various points ashore during a massive amphibious exercise called Pacific Blitz. During that exercise, it became clear they must leverage the distance unmanned vessels can travel without risk to personnel, Brig. Gen. Stephen Liszewski, director of operations for Marine Corps Plans, Policies and Operations, told Military.com.

“The unmanned piece is the untapped potential,” Liszewski said. “We know that is one way we can get after this ability to operate in a more distributed and lethal environment.”

Ideally, the services would use a mix of drone aircraft and unmanned ships to get the job done, he added. There are times when they’ll need the speed and range of unmanned aircraft, he said, but they can’t carry everything.

Butterfly garden acts as ‘spiritual refuge’ for vets

Sea Hunter, an entirely new class of unmanned sea surface vehicle.

(US Navy photo)

“With a surface connector, you’re going to be able to move larger volumes of things, particularly if you’re talking ammunition or bulk liquids like water or fuel,” Liszewski said. “Clearly, aviation speed or range is what you get, but it’s not one or the other. You’ve got to have both [surface connectors and air assets].”

The Navy Department is planning big investments for unmanned technology. Its billion shipbuilding budget request for 2020 included funds for two large unmanned surface ships.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are the potential new Air Force officer categories

The Air Force is inching closer to fragmenting the Line of Air Force category into six new, more specific, categories—including one apparently intended for “space operations.” The change to the Line of Air Force categories would affect an estimated 87% of its current officers.


Butterfly garden acts as ‘spiritual refuge’ for vets

USAF Secretary Heather Wilson

The current draft of the categorical changes was previewed by Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. Wilson emphasized that while the changes are not yet finalized, the 6 new tentative Line Air Force categories are:

  • Nuclear and missile operations
  • Air operations and special warfare
  • Information warfare
  • Combat support
  • Force modernization (including acquisition and RD)
  • Space operations
Secretary of the Air Force Confirmation Hearing

Wilson said that the decision to splinter the Line of Air Force into specific categories may only be confined to middle officer ranks.

According to Wilson, the final decision is expected to be set in stone by October.

The proposed re-haul would give a majority of officers a more specific category to adhere to. The current system in place has specified categories for chaplains, lawyers, and doctors—but officers are a part of a much more sweeping, generic category.

Butterfly garden acts as ‘spiritual refuge’ for vets

Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly

According to Air Force personnel chief Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, this change could disadvantage the upward mobility of some officers. Kelly referenced the need for officers to vary their skillsets so that they are competitive when job openings or promotions become available.

“But if, for example, acquisition officers had their own competitive category, they could stay longer at a base to provide more continuity within their program. Moreover, the lack of command opportunities that acquisition officers typically face would be less likely to hurt their promotion chances,” Kelly continued, “But more categories would give different career fields the opportunity to grow officers in their own unique ways, providing the best fit for them.”

Butterfly garden acts as ‘spiritual refuge’ for vets

This could mean big changes for officers—like those pictured here graduating from USAF OTS on Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama

(Airman First Class Matthew Markivee)

Wilson reiterated that the umbrella system of categorizing officers has led to some unequal footing in terms of experience levels in certain fields. Wilson used the example of colonels and lieutenant colonels in the Air Force, and how there is essentially a reliance on chance that a qualified candidate will fall into the position.

“And we may not have enough colonels in cyber, or lieutenant colonels in logistics, or somebody that’s coming along who eventually is being groomed to be the leader of one of our laboratories,” Wilson continued, “Not everybody’s career is going to look like everybody else’s — and it doesn’t have to.”

Wilson conceded that a change of this magnitude, like many others, will need support, “So we’re going to take it out to the force, get a lot of input, hope people post on it, blog on it, comment on it, have town hall meetings on it.”

Articles

Freeze-dried plasma is now battlefield ready

Since hemorrhage is the leading cause of preventable death in combat casualties, Air Force Special Operations Command is improving access to blood products on the battlefield.


Freeze-dried plasma is one of them.

Plasma contains coagulation factors, which are critical to the clotting process in the body. These need to be replaced during severe bleeding, said Lt. Col. Rebecca Carter, the AFSOC chief of medical modernization.

Normal blood is comprised of roughly 45 percent red blood cells, 50 percent plasma, and 5 percent white blood cells and platelets.

Butterfly garden acts as ‘spiritual refuge’ for vets

“The freeze-dried product is pathogen reduced and all white blood cells have been removed,” Carter said. “This greatly reduces the chance of a transfusion or allergic reaction.”

Carter said the typical plasma used in the U.S. doesn’t work well in a deployed environment.

“This liquid product requires freezing. Once thawed, it has a dramatically shortened shelf life,” she said. “The requirement to freeze and maintain this temperature makes the product impractical for battlefield use.”

Carter said preparing freeze-dried plasma is easy and straight forward.

“The kit comes with the freeze-dried product and, separately, sterile water for injection,” she said. “The medic takes the enclosed dual spike, inserts it into the sterile water and places the other end of the spike into the freeze-dried bottle while gently swirling. Then, the product will be available to infuse within three to five minutes.”

Before use, plasma is screened for infectious diseases, to include hepatitis and HIV, among others, Carter said.

“Each medical provider will be fully trained to administer it,” she said. “Personnel will decide if they wish to receive the product or not, if the circumstances happen to arise.”

Freeze-dried plasma isn’t brand new or experimental.

U.S. Army Special Operations Command was the first to deploy with freeze-dried plasma. Marine Special Operations Command and Navy Special Warfare Units are following suit, along with AFSOC.

The medical modernization team was crucial to this effort, said Col. Lee Harvis, the AFSOC command surgeon.

“They rapidly transform user needs from concept to development, equipping our medical personnel so they can provide the highest quality care under very austere conditions,” he said. “The instant a gap is identified, they investigate ways to field solutions.”

They strive for maximum utility with the smallest footprint, Harvis said.

Articles

This Army officer is bringing a collection to New York Fashion Week

Coming out to his military parents was difficult for Julian Woodhouse. It didn’t turn out the way he thought. He tried to suppress his sexuality and with that, any interest in being a fashion designer.


“I not only found myself as a person, but I also rekindled my interest in fashion and design,” he told the New York Times

That didn’t stop his interest in joining the military, however. Woodhouse is now a 26-year-old Army officer who also has a burgeoning fashion collection.

Butterfly garden acts as ‘spiritual refuge’ for vets
(photo via Instagram)

“I really love being in the military,” he told the Times. “I love serving my country, and I love the life.”

Woodhouse came to New York on leave so he could present his creations during New York Men’s Day, which opened fashion week.

Woodhouse is currently stationed in Korea, where his label Wood House is based. The New York Times’ Guy Trebay described his clothes as having “elements of soft suiting … infused with sensuality, but they are emphatically made for guys.”

Butterfly garden acts as ‘spiritual refuge’ for vets
(woodhouseofficial.com)

“I’m inspired a lot by the design philosophy and aesthetics designers in South Korea are going for,” he said. “I don’t want to push men outside of their comfort zones, but I think they are looking for something a little more directed.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Military warns that bully fishermen might start war with China

China’s “insatiable appetite” for seafood is straining the limited abilities of South American countries to enforce their maritime boundaries, according to a Dec. 13, 2018 article in Dialogo, a website run by US Southern Command.

Countries on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts have been affected, and most of the illicit fishing activity in those areas is done by Chinese vessels.


Juan Carlos Sueiro, fisheries director for Peru at the ocean conservation and advocacy organization Oceana, told Dialogo that Peru and Argentina saw “the largest congregation of these vessels in the world.”

“It’s not that they can’t fish in international waters, but their close presence generates controversy. For example, Oceana already identified vessels entering into Peruvian waters without a license or with duplicated ID,” Sueiro said.

Butterfly garden acts as ‘spiritual refuge’ for vets

Chinese vessel RUNDA 608 was detained on Oct. 6, 2018, in Peruvian territorial waters while fishing illegally.

(Oceana photo)

“Refrigerated fishing vessels can be found in international waters to transfer their captures, fuel, and supplies,” he said, adding that transshipment activity, which can launder profits from illegal fishing, had also been detected.

Officials and experts have said rising demand for fish and increased competition over dwindling stocks could spark new conflicts. Many of them have pointed specifically to China.

Fishing stocks around China have shrunken dramatically. But Beijing has expanded its distant-ocean fishing fleet, and those vessels have been involved in disputes as far afield as Argentina — where the coast guard has fired at and sunk them — and in Africa, where Chinese firms are building fish-processing facilities.

In a September 2017 article, retired US Navy Adm. James Stavridis and a coauthor said that Beijing was spending hundreds of millions of dollars annually to subsidize its long-range fishing fleet and that its coast guard often escorts those ships while they fish illegally.

“As such, the Chinese government is directly enabling and militarizing the worldwide robbing of ocean resources,” they said.

In September 2018, US Coast Guard Cmdr. Kate Higgins-Bloom wrote that “the odds that a squabble over fishing rights could turn into a major armed conflict are rising.”

Countries overplaying their hands with fishing and fisheries enforcement in contested waters and increasingly aggressive responses to illegal fishing are two ways that conflict could develop, Higgins-Bloom wrote. She added that “political leaders of rising powers will feel enormous pressure to secure the resources their citizens demand — even if it means violating international norms and rules.”

Indonesia has blown up boats caught fishing illegally, including a Chinese vessel, and the country’s fisheries minister has said what Chinese fishing boats “are doing is not fishing. It is transnational organized crime.”

“There’s no need to worry [about conflicts with other nations] as we have government vessels protecting us,” a Chinese fisherman said in September 2017, after the expiration of a fishing ban in the South China Sea.

Butterfly garden acts as ‘spiritual refuge’ for vets

Chinese icebreaker Xue Long conducts operations at an ice-flow camp in the Arctic.

The Arctic, where retreating ice has increased interest in commercial shipping and resource extraction, could also become a venue for that competition.

“I think the Chinese are very interested in the potential protein sources, the fishing stocks,” in the Arctic, Heather Conley, senior vice president for Europe, Eurasia, and the Arctic at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider in late 2018.

Nine countries, including China, and the EU signed an agreement in late 2017 prohibiting commercial fishing in the central Arctic for 16 years to allow study of the region — a deal meant to ensure there’s sufficient information to fish manageably “when these decisions have to be reached,” Conley said.

“We’re seeing anecdotal evidence of fishing stocks traveling north to get to cooler waters,” Conley added. “China certainly wants to ensure that … they’re not excluded from” those fishing grounds.

‘Confronting the Chinese voracity’

US Coast Guard officials have said they are on good terms with their Chinese counterparts when it comes to fisheries enforcement, though they are paying attention to what’s going on in the northern Pacific Ocean.

Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told Business Insider in October 2018 that the Coast Guard has “a good, functional working relationship” with China, describing an incident when the two services cooperated to stop a high-seas drift-netter, which uses massive nets to scoop up fish without regard to limits on what species can be caught.

“We identified that ship and responded with a Coast Guard cutter. It was a few hundred miles off the nearest mainland in that part of the world. The Chinese came out. It was a Chinese flagship, very cooperative,” Schultz said. “We had a Chinese ship-rider on our Coast Guard ship. We turned that ship over to the Chinese for prosecution.”

In South America, however, “the fight is not easy,” even with cooperation among countries in the region, Dialogo cautioned in the Dec. 13, 2018 article.

“China clearly intends to exploit regional seas, and many species already suffer the consequences,” the article adds. “Confronting the Chinese voracity for marine resources requires a regional commitment that can’t wait.”

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

Articles

This Marine tweaked his body armor to instantly treat a gunshot wound

A Marine corporal may have come up with a brilliant way to treat a gunshot wound the moment a bullet pierces body armor.


Cpl. Matthew Long, a motor transport mechanic, designed a tear-proof package filled with a cocktail of blood clotting and pain-killing agents that sits behind body armor, which would be released instantly if pierced by a bullet. Though Marine body armor, called “flak” jackets, come with small arms protective insert (SAPI) plates to stop bullets, they can have trouble stopping multiple rounds.

Also read: The Army is preparing its medics for a war without medevac helos

Long’s invention, if fielded, would render first aid immediately, without a Marine having to do anything. The seemingly-simple tweak could save lives when a medic is not immediately available.

Butterfly garden acts as ‘spiritual refuge’ for vets
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Matthew A. Long, right, a motor transport mechanic with Motor Transport Company, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, was recognized by Lt. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, the commanding general for III MEF. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. William Hester

The corporal was selected as a winner for his invention in September during the Corps’ Logistics Innovation Challenge.

“We thought we’d get one, maybe two ideas, but thanks to your support, we got hundreds,” Lt. Gen. Mike Dana said in a video announcing the winners. “We’re going to send all winners out to DoD labs to prototype their idea. These ideas might end up in the Marine Corps.”

Long and the nearly two dozen other winning projects will be considered for further use by the Marine Corps. As part of this, challenge winners are being partnered with government-affiliated labs to prototype, experiment, and implement their idea.

Other winners include a team of enlisted Marines who came up with a way to make affordable 3d-printed drones, an officer with an idea for a wrist computer, and glasses made for medical tele-mentoring.

Articles

SEALs punished over Trump flag

The consequences have come for Navy SEALs who flew Trump flags from their vehicles earlier this year.


According to a report from the Virginian-Pilot, the unidentified personnel, who were assigned to Naval Special Warfare Group Two, were reprimanded for flying blue Trump flags off their vehicles while they were convoying between training locations.

Butterfly garden acts as ‘spiritual refuge’ for vets
A Trump flag flying from the lead vehicle as SEALs convoy between two training locations. (YouTube screenshot)

“It has been determined that those service members have violated the spirit and intent of applicable [Defense Department] regulations concerning the flying of flags and the apparent endorsement of political activities,” Lieutenant Jacqui Maxwell told Newsline.com.

At the time, We Are The Mighty covered the incident, noting that in July, 2016, the DoD had reminded military and civilian personnel, “Per longstanding DoD policy, active duty personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or cause. Members on active duty may not campaign for a partisan candidate, engage in partisan fundraising activities, serve as an officer of a partisan club, or speak before a partisan gathering.”

Video of the event spread rapidly over social media, and was picked up by a number of media outlets in addition to We Are The Mighty, including the Daily Caller. One of the videos is below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbOd-gnWLt8
Articles

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

1. Legionnaires are instilled with a “fight to the death” attitude. Giving up is not really an option.

In April 1863, a battle between the French Foreign Legion and the Mexican army showed how effective and ballsy legionnaires really could be. With a total of just 65 men, the legionnaires fought back against a force of approximately 3,000 at the Battle of Camarón. Despite the overwhelming odds, the small patrol of legionnaires inflicted terrible losses on the Mexican forces and they refused to surrender.


Instead, their French officers actually called on the larger Mexican force to surrender multiple times. Holed up inside of a hacienda, only five men remained able to fight (most were killed or wounded) — and incredibly — mounted a bayonet charge against the opposing force, until they were ultimately surrounded and forced to surrender.

“Is this all of them? Is this all of the men who are left?” a Mexican Major said at the time, according to the book Camerone by James W. Ryan. “These are not men! They are demons!”

The Legion still celebrates and commemorates the battle today — and the wooden hand of their slain commander, Capt. Danjou, is the most prized possession at the Legion’s museum in Aubagne, writes Max Hastings.

Butterfly garden acts as ‘spiritual refuge’ for vets

2. Legionnaires who are wounded are granted automatic French citizenship.

Though troops serving the Legion hail from 138 different countries, they can become French citizens eventually. After serving at least three years honorably, they can apply to be citizens. But they also have a much quicker path: If they are wounded on the battlefield, they can become citizens through a provision called “Français par le sang versé” (“French by spilled blood”), according to The Telegraph.

The French government allowed this automatic citizenship provision in 1999.

Butterfly garden acts as ‘spiritual refuge’ for vets

3. More than 35,000 foreigners have been killed in action while serving with the Legion.

Throughout its history, the French Foreign Legion — and the fighters who make up its ranks — were seen as expendable. The foreigners who continue to join do so accepting the possibility of their death in a far-off place, in exchange for a new life with some sense of purpose. But meaningless sacrifice has gradually become a virtue in itself, according to a Vanity Fair article about the Legion.

“It’s like this,” an old legionnaire told William Langeweische of Vanity Fair. “There is no point in trying to understand. Time is unimportant. We are dust from the stars. We are nothing at all. Whether you die at age 15 or 79, in a thousand years there is no significance to it. So f–k off with your worries about war.”

Butterfly garden acts as ‘spiritual refuge’ for vets

4. The Legion used to accept anyone — criminals and misfits especially — with no questions, but now there is a thorough screening process.

Since its founding in 1831, the Legion has become the one place of escape for those with haunted pasts. Men with criminal records, shady business dealings, or deserters from their home country’s armies were accepted into the ranks, with no questions asked. Stripped of their old identity and given a new one, the new legionnaires are able to begin their new life with the slate wiped clean.

The legion will still accept deserters and other minor miscreants, but it’s not as easy as it once was. New recruits are given a battery of physical, intelligence, and psychological tests before they even get any kind of training. Later on in the process, recruits are screened for “motivation” in order to weed out those who don’t have the drive to make it in the ranks.

Some of the process was detailed by Simon Bennett at Vice:

Finally, after countless hours spent lingering in uncomfortable conditions, the only thing standing between us and a spot with the Legion was what was referred to as the “Gestapo.” Rumor had it that at this point, the Legion knew everything about you. The word Interpol is thrown around a lot—any financial, criminal, family, and employment background information is supposedly fair game. Call it a hunch, but I think that’s bullshit. Make no mistake, I believe someone, somewhere has access to all of that information. But a sweaty, apathetic French administration in a run-down, quasi-bureaucratic shithole in suburban Marseille isn’t that someone or somewhere. In any case, they called me in for an interrogation.

While they may not necessarily be running from their past when they join the Legion these days, all new legionnaires are still stripped of their old identities and given new ones, which they maintain for at least their first year of service.

“Legionnaires begin a new life when they join,” a legionnaire named Capt. Michel told NBC News. “Each and every one of them is allowed to keep his past a secret.”

Butterfly garden acts as ‘spiritual refuge’ for vets

5. The pay is terrible, and so are the benefits.

Legion recruiters could easily steal the infamous U.S. Marine Corps recruiting poster with the slogan, “We don’t promise you a rose garden.” The pay is terrible, as are the benefits, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Despite the promise of a very rough life and the possibility of being sent to fight anywhere, thousands continue to show up each year.

Legionnaires can expect deployments to austere environments and/or see plenty of combat. The Legion is currently in Afghanistan and Mali, for example.

Their starting pay is roughly $1450 per month for at least the first couple of years in. That’s a pretty small paycheck compared to the lowest-ranking U.S. Army soldier making $1546, which is guaranteed to go up to $1733 after being automatically promoted six months later (if they don’t get in trouble of course).

There is at least one bonus to the Legion if you fancy yourself a drinker: There’s plenty of booze. Even in a combat zone, legionnaires are drinking in their off time, and their culture of heavy drinking would make any frat-boy blush.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army says artificial intelligence could be a game changer

The Army is looking at artificial intelligence to increase lethality, and a senior Army official said the key to A.I. is keeping a proper level of decision-making in the hands of soldiers.

Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Dr. Bruce Jette spoke about artificial intelligence, modernization and acquisition reform Jan. 10, 2019, at a Defense Writers Group breakfast.


Jette said response times against enemy fire could be a crucial element in determining the outcome of a battle, and A.I. could definitely assist with that.

“A.I. is critically important,” he said. “You’ll hear a theme inside of ASA(ALT), ‘time is a weapon.’ That’s one of the aspects that we’re looking at with respect to A.I.”

Butterfly garden acts as ‘spiritual refuge’ for vets

Dr. Bruce Jette, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, discusses artificial intelligence and modernization with reporters at the Defense Writer’s Group breakfast Jan. 10, 2019.

(Photo by Joe Lacden)

Army Under Secretary Ryan McCarthy has been very active in positioning the Army so that it can pick up such critical new technology, Jette said.

Artificial intelligence technology will play a crucial role in the service’s modernization efforts, Jette said, and should incrementally increase response times.

“Let’s say you fire a bunch of artillery at me and I can shoot those rounds down and you require a man in the loop for every one of the shots,” Jette said. “There’s not enough men to put in the loop to get them done fast enough,” but he added AI could be the answer.

He said the service must weigh how to create a command and control system that will judiciously take advantage of the crucial speed that technology provides.

A.I. research and development is being boosted by creation of the Army Futures Command, Jette said.

Smoother process

One year after the Army revamped itself under the guidance of Secretary Mark T. Esper and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, the service has seen significant improvements in the acquisition process, Jette said.

The Army identified six modernization priorities and created new cross-functional teams under Futures Command, to help speed acquisition of critical systems.

One change involves senior leaders meeting each Monday afternoon to assess and evaluate a different modernization priority. Jette said those meetings have resulted in a singular focus on modernization programs.

Butterfly garden acts as ‘spiritual refuge’ for vets

Artificial intelligence, robotics and advanced manufacturing were the theme of the April-June 2017 issue of Army ALT magazine and its cover art is shown here.

(US Army photo)

“There’s much more of an integrated, collegial, cooperative approach to things,” Jette said.

The service took a hard look at the requirements process for the Army’s integrated systems. This enabled the Army to apply a holistic approach in order to develop the diverse range of capabilities necessary to maintain overmatch against peer adversaries, Jette said. One result is, the Army will deliver new air defense systems by December 2019, he said.

“I don’t deliver you a Patriot battery anymore,” Jette said. “I deliver you missile systems. I deliver you radars. I deliver you a command and control architecture.”

Now, any of the command and control components will be able to fire missiles against peer adversaries and can also leverage any of the sensor systems to employ an effector against a threat, he said.

“We’re looking at the overall threat environment,” Jette said. “Threats have become much more complicated. It’s not just tactical ballistic missiles, or jets or helicopters. Now we’ve got UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), I’ve got swarms. I’ve got cruise missiles, rockets, artillery, and mortars. I’ve got to find a way to integrate all this.”

A retired Army colonel, reporting directly to Esper, Jette provides oversight for the development and acquisition of Army weapons systems. He said that his role in the modernization efforts is to find a way to align procurement with improved requirements development processes.

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19

“Right now, tens of thousands of National Guard members are deployed to help us fight back against COVID-19, including those in critical medical specialties. Normally, they lead ordinary civilian lives as neighbors, coworkers, coaches and parents. However, when this crisis struck, they sprang into action as citizen soldiers and airmen, putting their lives on hold — and on the line — for our safety. If you appreciate those who are doing double duty to keep us safe, this is the time to donate!


Until the tide turns and our Guard troops can return to their families full-time, this will continue to be a huge and extremely stressful deployment. The extra comforts and support the USO can provide all of our deployed troops make a world of difference. Help us bring a little home to our heroes while they fight to keep our homes safe.”

They’ve raised ,309 of a 0,000 goal!

Click to donate!

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

Articles

How I applied the Corps motto of Semper Fidelis to my Iraqi ally

Back in 2014, ISIS assaulted into Iraq and gained ground so fast that to this infantry officer, it made the German blitzkrieg look like amateur hour. Within a matter of months, the terrorist group took control of several key cities and began a series of massacres that even Al Qaeda deemed, “too extreme.”


As the Iraqi Army and Police fell back towards Baghdad, I received a phone call that would change my life forever.

I was on my way to class when I got a call from a man I knew as “Captain.”  I could hear gunshots in the background and he was asking me, “Brother, can you help?”

Now, I’m a former Marine officer and served three combat tours in Iraq from 2006-2009. In 2014 I had moved on with life and was well on my way to growing the nasty beard and long hair of a graduate student.

But I couldn’t forget the Marine Corps motto that lived inside me: Semper Fidelis, Always Faithful. And now I had a good reason.

The Iraqi soldier we’ll call “Captain” to conceal his identity, saved my life in 2006.

I’ll never forget that as a boot platoon commander on my first deployment when the Captain shielded me from an incoming shot by pushing me down and charging a sniper. So when I got that call from Captain in 2014, I knew he was in some serious trouble, and I had to help.

That’s when I began a frantic effort to call my former commanders and write congressional leaders to do something…anything. But before Captain could get the massive airstrike that he needed to quell the ISIS assault, he received an ultimatum from the ISIS commander on the other side of the battlefield.

“We know who you are, and we’ll kill your kids if you don’t leave,” the ISIS commander told Captain.

With a credible threat against his life, the Captain and his family quickly fled to Turkey where they hoped to eventually resettle in the United States as refugees. With Captain out of Iraq and on a path to the U.S., I thought all was well.

But the Captain’s case got stuck in the backlog of millions fleeing the conflicts in Iraq and Syria. He  was quickly told that his case wouldn’t be processed for years which, when you are on the run from ISIS, might as well be a death sentence.

Let me put it this way, this was a dude that had fought with us for years and now there were people who never served telling me that they couldn’t process his paperwork. I thought WTF?

So, I did the one thing Marines always do. I took action and went to Turkey myself, filming the trip along the way. My journey to help the Captain eventually was released by National Geographic as a short documentary called “The Captain’s Story.”

Nearly three years later, I continue to advocate for other refugees like the Captain as a member of Veterans For American Ideals, a non-partisan “group of veterans who share the belief that America is strongest when its policies and actions match its ideals.”

Though the work is far from over, we’re starting to make a difference in doing right by our wartime allies and bring them the protection and safety they deserve.

Chase Millsap joined the WATM team earlier this year as Director of Impact Strategy which allows him to keep fighting for veterans and our allies. We’re glad he’s on our team… just don’t piss him off.
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