Why care packages are just as important for today's troops - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

Few things can truly lift a deployed troop’s spirits like hearing the words, “Hey you, you got mail” before having a big ol’ box plopped on their lap. It doesn’t matter what’s inside — just the fact that someone remembered them while they were away makes things better. Some troops are lucky enough to have family members who send out weekly boxes of momma’s cookies, but even those without a constant support network get love from churches, schools, and youth groups.

In the earlier years of the Global War on Terrorism, everybody sent care packages. There was a time when you’d be hard pressed to find someone who wasn’t putting something together to send abroad, whether it was for a cousin, a friend, a friend’s cousin — whoever. That same war still lingers today and troops are still struck with the same homesickness.

Care packages are the classic cure to homesickness and, even today, they remain the best remedy.


Don’t get me wrong. They will still fight each other over a box of Girl Scout Cookies.

(Photo by Steven L. Shepard, Presidio of Monterey Public Affairs)

Some of the older items that were frequently put in care packages for troops, like socks, bars of soaps, and candies that (hopefully) won’t melt after being left in the desert sun for hours, are still appreciated today. Any time troops get sent handwritten notes and children’s drawings, they’ll feel obligated to write back — but things have changed since the beginning of the war.

Fewer troops are in direct combat roles and, thankfully, deployments have gotten shorter. Today, troops are less likely to be put directly in harm’s way for over twelve months at a time, but they’re still not home. What this means is that necessities that may have once helped forward-deployed troops remember what a shower feels like are now stockpiled in the chaplain’s office.

Everyone learns how to play spades while deployed. Why not give your loved one a nicer deck of cards to play with?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Meredith Brown)

Living conditions while deployed have changed a lot since 2001. Today, it’s far less common to see grunts crammed in a hastily made hut. Showers are definitely more abundant and troops have access to places where they can buy their own hygiene goods. That’s not to say that every single American GI is living a life of luxury, but the general level of “suckiness” has been reduced.

In short, this means that troops aren’t hurting for baby wipes like they used to. They’re still helpful to troops who leave the wire, but they’ll more than likely just be used so a troop can skip showering for a day. What troops need now are things for the mind, not the body. Books, movies, and games help pass the time. Without electricity, troops will always pull out a deck of cards and get a game of Spades going.

The joys of having money and pretty much nothing to spend it on…

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by: Sgt. Frances Johnson)

The leaps and bounds in technology have also changed the definition of hot-ticket care-package items. Troops no longer need to wait in long lines and hope that there’s still enough time on their pre-paid card to call home. Bases have been getting better and more expansive WiFi networks through the USO, which now allows troops to simply use their smartphone to call home while off-duty.

This boost in technology also does a lot of heavylifting on the part of AAFES, the service that sells regular goods to troops. Instead of hoping that they might have a new pair of running shoes or a fresh hard-drive for storing movies in this month’s package from home, they can just order stuff off Amazon.

Military cooks always try to shove the healthy options down our throats. What we really want is some junk food that reminds us of being back home.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mackenzie Richardson)

Which brings us back to what troops of today actually want and need. Anything given by a family member with sentimental value is always going to hit home. As corny as it sounds, troops will still put photos of their family and loved ones up on display, just as they have since photography was invented.

Any comfy fleece blankets will be used instead of the Uncle Sam-issued sleeping systems. I’ve personally known troops to keep those cheapo blankets they give out on international flights and use them for twelve months instead of the issued gear.

Sweets are always going to be enjoyed and shared — especially the homemade goods. It doesn’t matter if it was their own momma who made the cookies or someone else’s momma, they’ll be devoured.

It’s kind of a taboo thing to say, but troops will always ask for it, so it’s worth mentioning. If you know that the deployed troop smokes or dips, they could really use some actual stuff instead of the maybe-poisonous, maybe-just-awful tobacco products the locals sell.

It might seem like ancient history to some, but troops are still deployed in the Global War on Terrorism. That war has drawn on long enough that the needs of deployed troops have changed, but homesickness (and its remedy) remains the same.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Decorated Marine and purple heart recipient begins new battle

Justin Constantine knows all about being challenged. In 2006, he survived an almost fatal gunshot to the head by a sniper in Iraq. It didn’t stop him. Instead, this now retired, Purple Heart recipient and decorated Marine fought through endless surgeries and therapy to become a successful entrepreneur and renowned motivational speaker.

President George W. Bush painted Constantine for his book, “Portraits of Courage,” and Constantine has received multiple awards for his work with veterans and advocacy efforts for those with disabilities. Constantine even gave a TEDx talk on being strong, which has transformed countless lives. Just as COVID-19 started igniting fear and anxiety throughout the world, he received a phone call from a doctor that would challenge his own strength.


Stage 4 cancer.

Constantine was told it was very severe and had spread from his prostate to his bones. Rather than let the currently incurable diagnosis stop him, Constantine is using it to motivate him to become an even better version of himself.

Constantine overhauled his diet completely, cutting out anything that could be harmful or “feed” his cancer. He exercises every day and implemented daily meditation into his routine. He shared that he’s lost 35 pounds since his diagnosis and is the healthiest he’s ever been. “I focus on why today was a good day and why tomorrow will be great too. I look at how I can infuse positivity in my life. It doesn’t mean unicorns and rainbows all the time, it means I make my glass half full,” Constantine shared.

Receiving his diagnosis during a world pandemic has been difficult, but Constantine has decided to continue to utilize his own past and current challenges to help motivate and encourage others. “I’m not saying it’s easy because you have to look at what your challenge is and choose to push past it. It takes effort,” he explained.

Constantine emboldens people to examine their lives and determine how they can have more purpose and happiness. “COVID is going to cast a long shadow over our lives. Things are a lot more complicated than they were a few months ago but with that comes time to think about what’s really important,” he shared.

Reports of increased suicide among veterans during COVID-19 has been present in the media, something that weighs heavily on Constantine. Despite dealing with his own significant medical challenges, he still remains focused on supporting veterans and encouraging them to seek support. “That’s so sad that someone has something that they are going through right now and it means life isn’t worth living. If they could step up and look down, they may see how many people care about them and want them to be here,” he said.

Constantine referenced his own experience of healing from his gunshot wound and then developing post-traumatic stress disorder. He sought counseling without hesitation for his PTSD, despite working for the FBI. He was very open about receiving services and it didn’t impede his continuing career. “I saw my counselor for 18 months for an hour each week. You could tell the difference in me if I missed a session. I encourage veterans to get the help they need and deserve for themselves and for their families,” he said.

Constantine often credits his wife, Dahlia, with being his rock. He shared that he knows how lucky he is to have her as his constant support and partner through life, especially since many people may not have that kind of presence in their own lives. To that he encourages all people and especially veterans who may be struggling to know they aren’t alone. “Together we are stronger; help is just a phone call away. There is always someone waiting to support you,” he said.

Throughout the past five months of the pandemic, Constantine has been consistently recording public motivational videos on his social media. He’s also been reaching out to veterans he identifies that may need support and doing his best to be an encouraging voice for them.

All while facing his own deeply personal challenge.

The effort Constantine exhibits may be born from his own experiences of recovering from his gunshot wound. When asked if he thinks surviving his near fatal wound made him more prepared to receive his current diagnosis, Constantine said yes. He explained that the experience definitely contributed to his commitment to overcoming cancer. “I think it was poignant. I feel that knowing that I overcame such a significant challenge before, makes me very confident that this too shall pass and I will push past this too,” he said.

Although Constantine may be facing the fight of his life, he continues to make the active choice not to fall into despair or spend his days thinking about his diagnosis. Instead, he’s doing what he’s always done: motivating others and living with purpose.


MIGHTY TRENDING

5 spots to keep in mind when you’re making Veterans Day plans

Veterans Day isn’t just a day to pause and reflect on the great sacrifices that troops have made in the name of this great country. It’s also a day of celebration and a moment for troops and veterans to take in the gratitude of the American people.

So, businesses across the country offer some sort of deal to anyone with a military ID, uniform, or veteran apparel, like a campaign cap. Sure, a free order of chicken wings might not be a fair trade for all that veterans have done for us, but it’s greatly appreciated nonetheless.

To help you properly celebrate Tactical Thanksgiving, we’ve put together a little guide here to make sure you don’t miss a spot on your tour of appreciation. Put the following places on your list and get ready for deals — all for the low, low price of just the gas in your car.


This list highlights types of businesses you should check out. For a list of specific spots that have officially announced Veterans Day discounts or freebies ahead of time, look here. Keep in mind, this list isn’t comprehensive and discounts may be subject to availability, but it’s definitely worth a read.

Make sure to adjust your schedule to account for a free breakfast, lunch, dinner, second breakfast, supper, late-afternoon snack…

Restaurants

Restaurants all over the country offer Veterans Day discounts — and that’s amazing. Most places you’ll go to will have little ways of making their meals more patriotic, too, like Red, White, and Blue Pancakes at IHOP or a burger adorned with a little American flag toothpick.

While the more well-known, chain restaurants are often able to take the financial hit of offering free meals, they might be extremely crowded — like, 2-hour-wait-times crowded. Meanwhile, the smaller, locally-owned spots may offer something smaller, like a free side, but you’ll likely get better service and a more personal “thank you.”

If you’re not the type to enjoy small talk during a haircut, at least it’s better than giving yourself a free haircut.

Barber shops

Getting a really good haircut isn’t cheap. And the places that offer a cheap chop typically aren’t all that good. For one day of the year, at least for veterans, this decision is made much easier, as even the good places offer their services for extremely low prices — some even offer free cuts.

What’s nice about getting a free haircut — in contrast to most other things on this list — is that when you let your barber know that you’re a veteran, it actually initiates a conversation. It’s much more personal than a quick thanks and a line item on the receipt.

If you’re in the Chicago area, I highly encourage you to take a visit to the National Veterans Art Museum. Every exhibit in there is made by our brothers- and sister-in-arms.

(National Veterans Art Museum)

Museums

Plenty of museums are free for veterans year round. Those that aren’t, however, typically offer free admission on Veterans Day.

If you look through the pamphlet of most any history museum, you’ll likely find that warfare is a central theme. And when you look deeper into most of the paintings in art museums, you’ll see that many of the beautiful pieces, adored by critics and enthusiasts alike, were created by veterans.

What better way to honor a fellow veteran’s work than by spending the day admiring some of it?

They always put on an amazing show for the troops and veterans at Disneyland on Veterans Day.

(Screengrab via 1st Marine Division Band)

Amusement parks and casinos

Many amusement parks close their gates around Labor Day — but some use Veterans Day as their final celebration of the year. This is perfect for veterans with kids or grandkids as it’s a way for the kiddos to enjoy the benefits of their service.

Or, if you’re not excited by cartoon mascots dancing around, know that most casinos on Veterans Day offer free cash credits for veterans. If you play your cards right (literally), you can take that free money walk away. Or just play one or two games and walk out with the remainder. Whatever floats your boat.

Nothing says “thank you for your service” better than a free beer or five.

(National Archives)

Your favorite bar

When the day comes to a close, there’s no better way to end a day of celebration than with a nice, hard drink. Head down to your local bar and you can probably get a free drink — either from the bartender or other patriotic patrons.

This one isn’t ever written down as an official thing, but it’s mostly agreed upon that bars will give veterans a free drink or two on Veterans Day.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army looks to ‘LiFi’ for secure future mission command

When investigating new ways of transmitting and communicating information, sometimes it helps to see the light.

This is the idea behind a new technology being investigated by the Research, Development and Engineering Command Soldier Center’s Expeditionary Maneuver Support Directorate, along with its industry partner, VLNComm of Charlottesville, Va.

“It’s a wireless system but instead of using radio frequencies it uses infrared light,” said Frank Murphy, an engineer on EMSD’s System Development and Engineering Team. “It is called LiFi, or light fidelity. It has many advantages.”


Murphy has been investigating ways to utilize the emerging commercially available technology in a tactical environment as the physical characteristics appear to solve many issues facing wired and wireless field command post network systems.

The technology will be used in expeditionary mission commands. EMSD has come up with a concept for using LiFi within any enclosed mission command platform. LiFi eliminates the problems associated with the time-consuming task of running data lines in tactical operation centers and command posts. Moreover, since the technology does not use radio waves, it cannot be detected outside the confines of the mission command platform.

“The technology uses light waves to transmit and receive data between the servers and the user’s computer,” said Melvin Jee, the leader of EMSD’s Command Post Platforms Branch. “As light cannot pass through walls, the enemy cannot detect the signal.”

The transceiver (pictured here) is simply put into a USB port and will then detect the signal and users will be hooked up to the IT network of their command post. Then a Soldier just needs a light shined overhead to have network access.

(Photo is courtesy of the RDECOM Soldier Center Expeditionary Maneuver Support Directorate)

Murphy’s investigation into the technology was inspired in part by Douglas Tamilio, the director of RDECOM Soldier Center, sharing an article about LiFi with RDECOM Soldier Center leadership. Murphy’s investigation was also inspired by the vision of Claudia Quigley, the director of EMSD, and the RDECOM Soldier Center’s ongoing partnership with the 82nd Airborne. The RDECOM Soldier Center and the 82nd Airborne have worked together extensively to find out ways to best meet the needs of warfighters.

Murphy explained that Quigley and other members of the directorate were working with the 82nd Airborne during a field exercise. During the exercise, Murphy noticed that the setup of IT cabling was proving to be a time-consuming and difficult task.

“They had a hard time setting up their IT network, which isn’t usually an NSRDEC area, but we felt that we could address the need,” said Murphy. “Tactical speed is absolutely essential for command post setup. LiFi is potentially faster, easier to install and doesn’t have the security and exposure issues of other technologies. LiFi is un-hackable and untraceable when used within the command post shelter.”

“It’s virtually impossible to find the wavelength the data is being transmitted on, so if LiFi is detected, it’s hard to intercept the data stream,” said Jee.

EMSD is working with industry partners. Murphy explained that the commercially available technology was modified to fit a tactical environment. The technology will affect how soldiers communicate and, thus, carry out a mission.

“A command post of any size is an information processing center,” said Murphy, “They take information from the field whether it comes in from a drone, soldier/squad reports, other personnel in the area, satellite information, information from wheeled vehicles, or from behind the front lines — all this information gets fed to the command post staff. They make a decision and then the information goes right back out. Lives depend on this communication.”

“LiFi is part of NSRDEC’s plan to provide a fully integrated platform with all of the necessary infrastructure in order for the warfighter to set up his command post,” said Jee. “Just as a house is fully integrated with power, lights, and network cabling — allowing the homeowners to just concentrate on the furnishings — NSRDEC plans to provide a fully functional house, allowing the warfighter and program managers to provide the “furniture.'”

“In a command post, everyone has a job to do and they have their information chain,” said Murphy.

“All these soldiers need network access. With this, you simply shine the light over their head. After you hook the transceiver into the USB port, the transceiver will detect the signal and you will be hooked up to the IT network of your command post. It’s as simple as that. We also hope to have it integrated into the wiring harness for the lighting so we can just roll up the tent and pack it away during a move.”

Murphy emphasized that the NSRDEC project is really a team effort and that several entities at the Natick Soldier Systems Center were important to the development of the technology. He also received “great guidance” from his branch chief, Melvin Jee, and from his team leader, Connie Miles-Patrick, System Development and Engineering Team, as well as the DREN team and people in the Natick Contracting Division.

He also credited the use of the Base Camp Integration Lab, or BCIL, which was created by and is expertly run by, Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems. A first-generation Li-Fi system prototype was recently set up at the BCIL and successfully demonstrated the capability to send and receive data using the BCIL’s IT network.

“The people at the BCIL were incredible,” said Murphy. “They gave us the perfect platform to showcase the tactical capabilities of this device. This project really showcases what Natick is all about. The Natick team dove in with both feet. Great things happen when people believe in each other and in an idea. We all want to help the soldier.”

Murphy believes that LiFi is truly the wave of the future.

“The demand for data inside the command post is only going to continue to increase,” said Murphy, “So data quantity and quality need to improve to meet this demand. This technology can be hooked up permanently in rigid wall mission command platforms, but it can be used anywhere. We will be bringing world-class communications, security, speed, and capability to the frontline soldier. Information in the field is a weapon. This technology will help the warfighter make better decisions and be more effective and lethal in the field. This changes everything in the IT network system. It’s a game changer.”

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

MIGHTY FIT

4 things you can do to take your mind off the pain of ‘planking’

Working out your core is one of the toughest and most painful parts of any exercise routine. Putting strain on your torso and getting that unique, deep burn isn’t a very appealing prospect to most people — they’d rather be making gains in their arms or chest.


Planking primarily targets your core muscles, like the hip abductors, pelvic floor, lower back, and lower chest. During a plank, all of these structures must work in concert to hold up the body’s weight, strengthening the entire group with a single exercise. Although most people only hold the position for between 30 and 60 seconds, this brief moment can feel like a freakin’ eternity.

To help all you hopefuls looking to strengthen your core, we’ve come up with a few proven remedies to get your mind off the anguish. Use these tips to hold a plank for long periods of time, build core strength, and, most importantly, get those abs to pop out.

Also Read: 5 workout machines you should skip while at the gym

www.youtube.com

Control your breathing

As you hold a plank, your body will tire out. Your torso will let your brain know it’s getting sore via pain receptors. Although it’s wise to listen to your body, at times like these, it’s better to distract yourself from every little message sent to the brain. A great way to do this is by focusing on your breathing.

Breathing deeply relaxes your body and blocks out distracting thoughts like, “when the hell will this exercise be over?” The next time you decide to shoot for a 45-to-60-second plank, inhale in on a 4-count and exhale for just as long. After just fifteen inhales and exhales, you’ll be at the 1-minute mark.

Easy, right?

www.youtube.com

Watch a motivational YouTube clip

Working out is meant to break you down physically. It takes mental strength to push through discomfort. That’s exactly why so many people hire trainers — for outside motivation that pushes them through those last, crucial minutes of intense training.

If you don’t want to shell out cash for a trainer, there are other ways to find the motivation to get into tip-top shape. Many people watch cool motivational YouTube clips to distract the mind and block out the physical pain. Via that smartphone you keep in your pocket at all times, you can quickly view a “moto” clip (like the one below) to get you through those final seconds of your plank.

www.youtube.com

Conduct an intra-modification

As with any other exercise, there are many variations of planks, each designed to focus on the various muscles that make up your core. You can use this information to your abdominal advantage. If you start out in a four-point plank and fatigue sets in, modify the exercise and move into a side plank.

The idea is to build up your strength gradually — go until you can’t.

www.youtube.com

Recite a music verse in your head

Everyone likes music. There’s no doubt that you’ve memorized a few verses during all those hours you’ve logged listening to the radio. So, as you set out to challenge your body via planking, start reciting a 45-to-60-second song verse in your head — not out loud — to get you through the tough, physical static hold.

Your abs will thank you later.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coasties get limited assistance from Legion during shutdown

The American Legion has stepped in with offers of limited assistance for Coast Guard personnel working without pay should the partial government shutdown continue.

In a statement on Jan. 7, 2019, Legion National Commander Brett Reistad also called on members of Congress to back the “Pay Our Coast Guard Act” introduced by Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota.

The bill would exempt the Coast Guard from the shutdown funding cutoff affecting its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).


The proposed exemption would also cover Coast Guard retiree benefits, death gratuities, and other related payouts.

Currently, about 42,000 Coast Guard personnel are working without pay. DHS and the Coast Guard were able to find funding for members’ last paychecks, which went out Dec. 31, 2018. The next paychecks for Coast Guardsmen are due Jan. 15, 2019.

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class John Cantu, with the Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team mans a mounted machine gun on a 25-foot Response Boat-Small in front of the Washington Monument in Washington.

(DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lisa Ferdinando, U.S. Coast Guard)

Reistad said the Legion backs the Thune bill legislation, “which will guarantee that these heroes who guarantee our safety and security will be paid on time and not miss a single paycheck.”

“Just because a Washington flowchart structures the Coast Guard under Homeland Security does not mean they should not be paid,” he added.

The Legion is prepared to offer financial assistance to some Coast Guardsmen.

“In the event that there is a delay in paying our Coast Guard, I have directed administrators of the American Legion Temporary Financial Assistance program to stand by and quickly administer requests made by active-duty Coast Guard members with children who need help with living expenses,” Reistad said.

However, he noted, “As a nonprofit, the American Legion is not capable of funding the entire Coast Guard payroll.”

The Veterans of Foreign Wars also called Congress to find a way to keep paying Coast Guard personnel.

“Our country needs this Congress and this White House to push through the rhetoric and take care of those who are on the front lines protecting our country,” B.J. Lawrence, VFW national commander, said in a statement. “What the Coast Guard and DHS do daily allows the rest of us to sleep easier at night. No one should ever take that for granted.”

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard team up to rescue fisherman in the Pacific

Earlier in October, the Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard worked together to save the life of a 73-year-old mariner in the Pacific Ocean.

In the morning hours of October 2, the Lady Alice, an 84-foot commercial fishing vessel sent out an emergency message. It was sailing approximately 150 miles east of Hawaii when one of its crew got sick. The victim’s fellow sailors notified the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, that the 73-year-old man was suffering from what appeared to be a stroke.


Despite administering medication to the victim, his shipmates were concerned that his situation might deteriorate. It was then decided that a team of Pararescuemen would jump next to Lady Alice and provide emergency medical care to the man.

A few hours later, three PJs from the 129th Rescue Wing jumped with their gear from an Air Force HC-130 Combat Talon II and then boarded the fishing vessel. Upon assessing the patient, the Air Commandos determined that he needed more advanced care and that a medical evacuation was necessary. The Navy was then called in, and an MH-60 Seahawk chopper from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 37 transported the patient directly to the hospital.

Pararescuemen assigned to the California Air National Guard 129th Rescue Wing transfer a patient from an HH-60G helicopter to land-based medical facilities. This image shows an older rescue by the unit (U.S. Air Force).

“One of the greatest difficulties when dealing with cases in the Pacific is distance,” said Michael Cobb, command duty officer for Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu in a press release.
“This is why partnerships with our fellow armed services are so important out here. The Coast Guard, Navy, and Air Force all have different capabilities and through teamwork, we were able to aid a mariner in need.”

Throughout the operation, a Coast Guard HC-130 from Air Station Barbers Point provided regular weather updates and general support.

The 129th Rescue Wing is part of the California National Guard.

This is another successful non-combat rescue operation for the Air Force’s Pararescuemen. Recently, and in two separate incidents, PJs saved a man and his daughter and a teen hiker who had gotten lost in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest.

This rescue operation showcased the interoperability between the three services, an interoperability that becomes ever more relevant and important. Great Power Competition (GPC) is the era of warfare, in which Russia, in the shorter term, and China, in the longer term, are the main threats to U.S. national security.

China currently fields the largest navy in the world. Although the U.S. Navy is aiming at a 500-ship fleet by 2045, it will be some time before that strategic vision turns into an operational capability. As a result, inter-service cooperation and interoperability are of the essence to enhance the overall effectiveness of the military.

The victim was the master of the Lady Alice. In a ship, a master is responsible for navigation. The rank used to exist in the Navy as well (it was a warrant officer position) but has long been replaced by the currently active rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade.

The rank of Master also appears in the popular film “Master and Commander,” starring Russel Crowe which takes place in the Napoleonic Wars. That version of the rank, which was between the rank of Lieutenant and Post Captain, was active in the Royal Navy during the Age of Sail and was given to officers who commanded a ship not large enough to merit a master or a captain (in rank).

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


Articles

Here’s What Life Is Like For US Army Tankers

With a 68-ton armored vehicle packing a 120mm cannon, U.S. Army tankers can take the fight to the enemy in just about any environment.


Tankers consider themselves part of a brotherhood with roots in World War I. Now driving the M1 Abrams tank, these soldiers continue that legacy today. Here is a taste of what their life is like.

Photo: US Army Sgt Sarah Dietz

Also Read: These Crazy Photos Show 30+ Ton Tanks In Flight 

The Abrams can fire different rounds for different purposes, and tank crews have to train in a variety of environments. That means they get a lot of time on the range.

Photo: US Army Sgt. Kim Browne

The crews are tested at twelve different levels, referred to as tables. The tables demand crews prove they can drive, fire, and coordinate together in battle in a variety of conditions.

Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Patrick Caldwell

The main gun is what most people think of when it comes to tanks, but crews also have to certify on the machine guns mounted outside, as well as the M9 pistols and M4 carbines they’re equipped with.

Photo Credit: Gertrud Zach/US Army

Crews generally have four members. There is a tank commander, a gunner, a driver, and a loader.

Photo: US Army Spc. Marcus A. Floyd

 The inside of the tank can be a little cramped with equipment and crew.

Photo: US Army Spc. Luke Thornberry

The driver sits in a small hole in the front of the tank. His control panel is located immediately in front of him.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Tankers sometimes bring their family to see the “office.”

Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Ruth Pagan

Much of the maintenance for the tank is done by the crew.

Photo: US Army Spc. Marcus A. Floyd

Considering everything the M1 is designed to withstand, it can be surprising that tanks sometimes break down because of soft sand or loose soil pushing a track out of place.

Photo: US Army Sgt. Richard Andrade

When tanks break down and have to be towed out, it takes specialized equipment. The main recovery vehicle for an Abrams tank is the M88. Here, an M88 rolls up the tread from a damaged Abrams before towing the Abrams to a maintenance area.

Photo: Us Army Sgt. Richard Andrade

Transporting tanks can also be problematic due to the tank’s weight. Crews will generally take their tanks to railways …

Photo: US Army Spc. Marcus A. Floyd

… or Naval ports for transport for deployments or exercises. Here, an Abrams tank is driven off of a ship.

Photo: US Navy

When the mission calls for it, M1 tanks can also be flown on the Air Force’s largest planes.

Photo: US Air Force Courtesy Photo

Air Force C-17s, like the one in the following photo, can carry one tank while C-5s can carry two.

Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Richard Wrigley

While on deployment, tankers can end up working for 20-hour days.

Photo: US Army

U.S. tank crews are commonly called on to train foreign allies. Recently, the Iraqi Army got a large number of Abrams tanks and U.S. soldiers provided training.

Photo: US Army Sgt. Chad Menegay

Sometimes the mission calls for tankers to operate on foot or from other vehicles. Here, tank crews conduct a patrol in Humvees.

Photo: US Army Sgt. Eric Rutherford

The tanker tradition dates back to WWI when the first combat cars and tanks took to the battlefield with tank crews leading the way into mechanized warfare.

Photo: Poster by J.P. Wharton, Public Domain

 Today, US crews continue the tradition, carrying armored combat into the future.

Photo: US Army Sgt. Aaron Braddy

Articles

Airborne satellite increases in-flight situational awareness for paratroopers

Army paratroopers load onto a C-17 Globermaster III aircraft during an airborne operations exercise on Fort Bragg, N.C., Oct. 11, 2012. The soldiers are assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller


Army paratroopers jumping out of C-17s to descend from the sky into an assault on enemy locations — will now land equipped with better intelligence information to achieve their combat objective, attack enemies and perform missions.

The Army has deployed and emerging airborne satellite system which allows paratroopers to communicate with voice, video and data while flying toward their mission.

The technology, called Enroute Mission Command Capability, or EMC 2, is currently fielded with the Global Response Force at Fort Bragg, NC, a unit including portions of the service’s 82nd Airborne. The GRF is tasked with forcible-entry parachute assault into hostile, high-threat areas, according to Army statements.

Used during the Gulf War in the early 90s, the GRF is tasked with a rapid mission to mobilize and deploy within 96 hours.

The idea with EMC 2 is to give Army paratroopers key, combat-relevant tactical and strategic information about their combat destination while in transit. For instance, EMC 2 can give soldiers an ability to view digital maps, battlefield assessments and intelligence information while traveling to a location instead of needing to wait until they arrive.

Paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team walk toward aircraft as they prepare for a mass-tactical airborne training exercise Feb. 25, 2013, Pope Army Airfield, Fort Bragg, N.C. Many of the paratroopers are carrying in excess of 100 pounds of gear. | U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

“This gives Global Response Force members eyes and ears as they are in route to their mission objective,” Paul Mehney, Director of Communications for Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

If paratroopers needed to land quickly and attack and objective for an offensive assault, raid, or hostage rescue – they would land on the ground already having combat relevant details such as location, composition, weapons or force structure of a given enemy location.

The mobile, airborne satellite network is a new extension of the Army’s Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, or WIN-T – a ground-based, high-speed radio and satcom network allowing commanders to chat, view digital maps and exchange data between forward bases and while on-the-move in vehicles.

“We will continue to develop this over the next several years,” Mehney added.

During recent demonstrations, EMC 2 has brought the capability into the cargo section of a C-17 using commercial satellite connections, bringing paratroopers on the move the ability to monitor developments while in transit. The EMC 2 technology uses modified Air Force C-17s engineered to operate with AN/PRC-152 wideband networking radio, commercial satellites and the ANW2 waveform.

“We are interested in helping the Army learn how it will make use of this to support scalable expeditionary operations in a range of environments,” Mehney explained.

Articles

The Mission Continues hits the ground in LA to give a grade school a facelift

It’s an overcast, slightly rainy day in the South LA neighborhood of Watts. Twenty-five volunteers — veterans and civilians — show up to help The Mission Continues’ 3rd Platoon Los Angeles revamp the athletic areas of Samuel Gompers Middle School. This project is the third for Gompers. Allison Bailey, TMC’s Western Region City Impact Manager, is worried that some of those who signed up might be no-shows because of the rain.


“We definitely can’t paint the lines on the field,” she says.

Bailey is an Army veteran and reservist with a tour in Iraq and one in Afghanistan under her belt. She started as a Mission Continues volunteer and now works for TMC full time.

The Mission Continues doesn’t just go out and do random projects; they want to make a lasting impact with tangible results. To do that, they forge long-term relationships with local communities.

A “platoon” launches when The Mission Continues determines there are enough veteran volunteers to support one. Platoons are dedicated to one geographic area. That’s why 3rd Platoon LA is often at Gompers; they are devoted exclusively to Watts school. That’s part of its “operation.” An operation is a focused effort for a platoon.

In Watts, TMC works with the Partnership for LA Schools. 3rd Platoon has been in this operation for over a year. Bailey does a lot of prep work for the three platoons and two operations in the LA area.

“The goal is to feel dedicated,” she says. “We’ve done a lot of projects here at Gompers Middle School and we try to get the staff and students involved as much as possible so they take ownership of the projects we do.”

Elizabeth Pratt, the principal of Samuel Gompers Middle School, is here with the volunteers. She’s worked with the veterans of The Mission Continues before. Students from the school are usually present, but since school is now out for the summer, there aren’t any around today. Still, Pratt is eager for things that will benefit the next school year.

“My students will have the ability next year to have an actual baseball field and soccer field,” Pratt says. “So not only will it enhance after school play, but it will also enhance our current P.E. program.”

The first time Allison came to Gompers, she walked the grounds with Principal Pratt. They talked in depth about the possibilities for the school and the projects TMC could work on. Since then, the two have exchanged a few ideas for what to improve. The last time they cooperated, Gompers got a beautiful outdoor gardening area.

“The students were so excited,” Pratt recalls. “The students and their families all came out. It gave everyone a real sense of pride.”

When the veterans from 3rd Platoon first came to Gompers, they shared some of their experiences as veterans with the students. They shared a lunch and answered the children’s probing questions. The two groups shared a lot with each other. Curiosity became cooperation and the veterans from TMC have returned to Gompers three times (to much fanfare from the student body).

The volunteers spend much of this otherwise gloomy Saturday on the Gompers campus. No one notices the weather.  They turn an open patch of grass and a mound of dirt into a baseball diamond and soccer field. They pull four large bags of garbage off the playground. They build benches, a basketball backboard, and two soccer goals from wood and PVC piping, then reline the courts. No one complains and everyone hungrily eats their well-earned pizza lunch. After only six hours, these twenty-five people have completely transformed the quality of the school grounds.

Daniel Hinojosa, an Army veteran and native of the LA area’s San Fernando Valley, now lives in downtown Los Angeles. This is his second visit to a TMC volunteer event.

“The progress is amazing,” he says. “It’s a neighborhood that definitely needs help and It feels good to help out. It gives me a sense of purpose. Everyone has a reason but for me, it’s not about money. Giving back to people is the most fulfilling goal I could possibly have.”

“It’s not about a connection to the school or the neighborhood,” Principal Pratt says. “People want to give to a place that needs the help. It brings people together in a very constructive way. It doesn’t just build up a part of the school; it builds school pride, neighborhood pride. It doesn’t matter if that neighborhood is Watts or Beverly Hills.”

If you live in the LA area and want to volunteer with a TMC platoon, check out the TMC LA website. Go The Mission Continues’ website to find out how to report for duty in your community.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Marines practice maneuvers that should keep China on its toes

Everything that is old may indeed be new again.

During World War II, US Marines moved from island to island, fighting bloody battles against entrenched Japanese forces determined to dominate the Pacific. Now, as the possibility of conflict with China looms, the Marine Corps is dusting off this island-hopping strategy.


Last week, US Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit led a series of simulated small-island assaults in Japan, the Corps announced March 21, 2019.

Marines with Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, during a live-fire range as part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s simulated Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations at Camp Schwab in Okinawa, Japan, on March 13, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish)

The 31st MEU, supported by elements of the 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, and 1st Marine Aircraft Wing; members of the Air Force 353rd Special Operations Group; and Army soldiers with 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, practiced seizing Ie Shima Island.

After the Marines seized the island’s airfield, US troops quickly established a Forward Arming and Refueling Point. Additional force assets, such as Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters and C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft, then moved in to deliver extra firepower.

An F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 being refueled at a Forward Arming and Refueling Point during simulated Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations at Ie Shima Training Facility on March 14, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dylan Hess)

Rocket artillery units brought in aboard the C-130Js carried out simulated long-range precision-fire missions while the stealth fighters conducted expeditionary strikes with precision-guided munitions.

“This entire mission profile simulated the process of securing advanced footholds for follow-on forces to conduct further military operations, with rapid redeployment,” the Corps said in a statement. The exercise was part of the Corps’ efforts to refine the Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations concept, which is the modern version of the World War II-era island-hopping strategy.

A Marine with Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, bounding toward a defensive position during a live-fire range as part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s simulated Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations at Camp Schwab.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish)

“It is critical for us to be able to project power in the context of China, and one of the traditional missions of the Marine Corps is seizing advanced bases,” Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week. “If you look at the island chains and so forth in the Pacific as platforms from which we can project power, that would be a historical mission for the Marine Corps and one that is very relevant in a China scenario.”

As its National Defense Strategy makes clear, the US military is facing greater challenges from near-peer threats in an age of renewed great-power competition. In the Pacific, China is establishing military outposts on occupied islands in the South China Sea while seeking to extend its reach beyond the first island chain.

With the US and Chinese militaries operating in close proximity, often with conflicting objectives, there have been confrontations. A close US ally recently expressed concern that the two powers might one day find themselves in a shooting war in the South China Sea.

Marines with Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, engaging targets while assaulting a defensive position during a live-fire range as part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s simulated Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations at Camp Schwab.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish)

“We continue to seek areas to cooperate with China where we can, but where we can’t we’re prepared to certainly protect both US and allied interest in the region,” Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, said at the Pentagon in May 2018.

“The United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific taking down small islands,” he said when asked whether the US had the ability to “blow apart” China’s outposts in the South China Sea. “We had a lot of experience in the Second World War taking down small islands that are isolated, so that’s a core competency of the US military that we’ve done before.”

It’s just a “historical fact,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin threatens to ‘react’ if US pulls from nuclear treaty

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the U.S. plan to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) was “ill-considered” and warned that Moscow will follow suit if the United States arms itself with weapons banned by the pact.

Putin spoke on Dec. 5, 2018, a day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington would abandon the INF treaty unless Moscow returns to compliance with the accord within 60 days.


His remarks came shortly after the Russian Foreign Ministry said it received official notification that the United States intends to withdraw from the INF unless Russia remedies what Washington says is a serious violation of the treaty.

Putin claimed that the United States was seeking to use Russia as a scapegoat for the demise of the INF by accusing it of a violation.

BREAKING! Putin Responds To US Ultimatum: Russia’ll React Swiftly If Trump Withdraws From INF Treaty

www.youtube.com

“They are looking for someone to blame for this…ill-considered step,” Putin told journalists in Moscow, adding that “no evidence of violations on our part has been provided.”

It is “simplest” for the United States to say, ‘Russia is to blame,'” Putin said. “This is not so. We are against the destruction of this treaty.”

President Donald Trump announced in October 2018 that the United States would abandon the INF, citing the alleged Russian violation and concerns that the bilateral treaty binds Washington to restrictions while leaving nuclear-armed countries that are not signatories, such as China, free to develop and deploy the missiles.

Putin said he understands the second argument.

“Many other countries — there are probably more than 10 — produce these weapons, but Russia and the United States have restricted themselves in a bilateral fashion,” he said. “Now, evidently, our American partners believe that the situation has changed so much that the United States should also have these weapons.”

“What will be the response from our side? Very simple: We will also do this,” he said, indicating that Russia will develop and deploy weapons banned by the treaty if the United States does so.

The United States says that Russia has already done that by deploying the 9M729, or Novator, which Washington says breaches the ban on ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 km.

In a joint statement on Dec. 4, 2018, NATO foreign ministers said that Russia has “developed and fielded a missile system, the 9M729, which violates the INF Treaty and poses significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security.”

The NATO ministers called on Russia to “return urgently to full and verifiable compliance,” saying it is now “up to Russia to preserve the INF treaty.”

Russian officials have repeatedly dismissed such demands and Putin gave no indication that Russia plans to abandon the 9M729, which it claims does not violate the treaty.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on Dec. 5, 2018, that the official notice from the United States cites unspecified evidence of alleged Russian violations.

“The Russian side has repeatedly declared that this is, to say the least, speculation,” Zakharova said of the U.S. allegation. “No evidence to support this American position has ever been presented to us.”

Zakharova claimed that Russia has always respected the treaty and considers it “one of the key pillars of strategic stability and international security.”

Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, told foreign defense attaches in Moscow on Dec. 5, 2018, that a U.S. withdrawal from the treaty would be a “dangerous step that can negatively affect not only European security, but also strategic stability as a whole.”

At the NATO ministerial meeting on Dec. 4, 2018, Pompeo said that Washington would abandon the INF in 60 days unless Moscow dismantles the missiles, which he said were a “material breach” of the accord.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“During this 60 days, we will still not test or produce or deploy any systems, and we’ll see what happens during this 60-day period,” Pompeo told journalists in Brussels.

“We’ve talked to the Russians a great deal,” he said. “We’re hopeful they’ll change course, but there’s been no indication to date that they have any intention of doing so.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that although Moscow has a last chance to comply with the INF, “we must also start to prepare for a world without the treaty.”

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the U.S. ultimatum was an “escalation of the situation.”

Peskov accused Washington of “manipulating the facts…to camouflage the true aim of the United States in withdrawing from the treaty.”

In a tweet on Dec. 3, 2018, Trump expressed certainty that “at some time in the future” he, Putin, and Chinese President Xi Jinping “will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race.”

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Moving again? VA offers military spouses job security, peace of mind

Passion for serving Veterans. Support from colleagues. Opportunities to learn and advance in a career. For VA newbies Nicole Locker and Jennifer McFarland, these are among the most appealing aspects of their positions.

Mission aside, what makes a VA career different when you’re a military spouse is the sense of security that comes with knowing you will still have a job the next time you have to move. That’s because we appreciate the transient nature of military service and offer remote work options and many varied job opportunities across the country.

We understand that one of the challenges you face as a military spouse is frequent relocation and the impact it has on finding and maintaining permanent employment. Of the more than 600,000 military spouses worldwide who are actively seeking employment, 30% are unemployed and 56% are underemployed. Yet military spouses are well-educated and highly qualified for a wide range of careers.

Locker, now a vocational rehabilitation counselor with VA’s Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), had shared her concerns about moving with a neighbor, a Veteran who also works at VA.

“I told her I was worried about finding a job when my active-duty husband gets orders to move for the military,” said Locker, who had been employed at a private university. “She was persistent in encouraging me to apply and apply and apply [to VA]. I finally completed the paperwork as a military spouse applicant and included supervisor experience I had gained from working in academia. I also mentioned how passionate I was about serving the military community, and somehow I got lucky and got my shot.”

McFarland, a Veterans Service Representative with VBA, was also concerned about job loss until she came to VA.

“As an active-duty spouse, the number one benefit is the job security,” McFarland said.

Other benefits Locker appreciates are the opportunities for professional growth and the collegial environment she works in, where a good portion of her team is either a Veteran or a military spouse.

“I’m now on a team of people with so much experience that you can get help at a moment’s notice if you need it,” said Locker. “There also are career growth opportunities and chances to find your specialty and grow more in that area, like supporting Veterans on campus or working on suicide prevention.”

The military spouse advantage

Both McFarland and Locker said their experiences as military spouses are invaluable in their VA careers. “Having the familiarity of military culture as a spouse helps me relate to the Veterans we serve,” said McFarland. “I feel like we are part of the same community, and Veterans sense the genuineness of my passion to help them as if they were my family.”

For Locker, being able to multitask and think on her feet are real career assets. “Adapt and overcome is the motto, right? We figure things out. We learn, we take notes, we ask questions – but we also understand chain of command and how to do that in a respectful way to be most effective,” she said. “While our family members are out deploying, we are managing the home front while also maintaining family responsibilities and our own career path and aspirations.”

A VA priority

Because we value military spouses, we make recruiting and hiring you a priority:

  • We tag VA opportunities ideal for military spouses on USAJobs.
  • We highlight key information – remote work opportunities, flexible work schedules, child care and health benefits – in our job announcements.
  • We use noncompetitive procedures approved by the federal government for positions covered under Title 5 hiring authority. That means when you apply to become a VA accountant, police officer or human resource specialist and meet the minimum qualifications, you’re hired.
  • We work with the Department of Defense to identify spouses with health care experience or training as a physician, nurse, social worker or occupational therapist. These positions do not require a USAJobs application.

Once you’re hired at VA, the sky’s the limit. Just read what Cheryl Mason, a former military spouse turned Veteran spouse, says of her experiences. Mason now oversees a staff of 1,200 lawyers, law judges, and operations and legal staff as Chairman of the VA Board of Veterans Appeals.

“There are an incredible number of paths to choose once you get your foot in the door,” McFarland continued. “I have seen numerous internal-to-agency-only job postings, which greatly improves our chances for new opportunities. I have only good things to say about my experience here so far. I look forward to learning more.”

Work at VA today

A career at VA relieved the job stress related to frequent moves for Locker and McFarland. See if a VA career is right for you, too.

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