Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

Who doesn’t love to watch the latest James Bond movie and fantasize what it must be like to use high-tech gadgets, sneak into secret bases and be the ultimate agent with a “license to kill?” A recent Netflix binge-watching “Churchill’s Secret Agents” a reenactment of British Special Operations Executive (SOE) training from World War II showed us that this secret network was way cooler than we ever thought.


Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

Founded in July 1940 when England faced the very real possibility of invasion by Nazi Germany, Henry Dalton, Minister of Economic Warfare and brainchild of the new force, envisioned highly-skilled spooks able to hide among local populations and inflict damage from behind enemy lines. Specializing in unconventional warfare which until then was not a common tactic of modern armies, SOE was tasked with sabotage, espionage and reconnaissance missions to disrupt the influence and spread of Nazi Germany and her allies. Long before the foundation of Special Forces, these daring men and women helped turn the tide of the war at a time when victory was far from certain.

The success of a secret agent relied heavily on your ability to appear completely harmless. Small but mighty was not, but totally should have been, the official body type slogan. In the series, not only were pocket-sized people accepted but preferred to their beefcake counterparts.

Taking into consideration the scenarios of an SOE agent, trying to bluff your way past Nazi guards as a woman in a floral dress seems far easier than that of an able-bodied man of fighting age. Few armies outside of the Soviets put women on the front lines and so the average German Soldier would not have detected any threat.

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

The show’s cast was composed of an eclectic mix who tackled operational tests quite differently, as would any drafted agent of the SOE. Grandmother Debbey Clitheroe was an unlikely front runner, but through the assessments overcame fears to become a favorite in the eyes of the instructors. Her best cover was the unlikelihood that she could ever be a threat.

Other top-ranking contestants hailed from ordinary fields like “math graduate” or “researcher” showing us that there was plenty more to espionage than close-hand combat and looking great in a tux.

Real agents relied on trustworthiness and a subtle way of doing things to build their networks. Accounts of spy networks during World War II are fascinating reads, including characters from all walks of life. There was, quite likely, a butcher, baker and candlestick maker somewhere in the mix, all pulling weight for the effort.

Double taps and shooting from the hip were highly unlikely to ever be taught at any gun course or any field manual in 1940. Unchivalrous but effective was what gave a single agent the advantage on a run-in with a pair or group of soldiers.

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

SOE’s impact on the war effort was immense, especially leading up to and during the Allied Invasion of Normandy. The Allies had been planning to invade France as early as 1942 and British Agents, along with their American counterparts in the Office of Strategic Services (the precursor to the CIA), were airdropped into occupied France to lay the groundwork for a successful campaign. The first SOE agents made their way into France in 1941 and quickly linked up with the French Resistance. From blowing up strategic railway tracks reinforcing the Normandy region with German troops to cutting telephone lines key to Germany communication efforts, SOE and their French allies caused chaos in the lead up to “D-Day.” SOE’s handiwork behind enemy lines was critical in ensuring the Allied spearhead into France did not fail.

The ingeniousness of what was taught and invented for SOE operatives became material to inspire films like James Bond. Everything from exploding pens to rat bombs were unconventional tools for unconventional warfare.

Although SOE’s usefulness was questioned as the war came to a close and the organization would be disbanded, the battlefield contributions of the agents would have an enormous impact on England, and the West’s perspective in the post-war world.

The need for an unconventional force capable of operating behind enemy lines quickly became a necessity as the Cold War highlighted the frequency of smaller wars rather than massive, highly detailed battlefields seen during World War II.

The lineage of today’s Special Forces and their tactics and procedures can be traced back to the framework laid by the SOE agents operating in occupied Europe. The men and women of SOE made enormous sacrifices by going where few dared to go to rid the world of tyranny by any means necessary.

Raise your hand if you’ll be applying for the next season.

Articles

US admiral says he’d nuke China if the president orders him to

The US Pacific Fleet commander said July 27 he would launch a nuclear strike against China next week if President Donald Trump ordered it, and warned against the military ever shifting its allegiance from its commander in chief.


Admiral Scott Swift was responding to a hypothetical question at an Australian National University security conference following a major joint US- Australian military exercise off the Australian coast. The drills were monitored by a Chinese intelligence-gathering ship off northeast Australia.

Asked by an academic in the audience whether he would make a nuclear attack on China next week if Trump ordered it, Swift replied: “The answer would be: Yes.”

“Every member of the US military has sworn an oath to defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic and to obey the officers and the president of the United States as commander and chief appointed over us,” Swift said.

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies
Adm. Scott Swift, commander of US Pacific Fleet, talks to Hawaii region chief selects and chief petty officers. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Katarzyna Kobiljak.

He added: “This is core to the American democracy and any time you have a military that is moving away from a focus and an allegiance to civilian control, then we really have a significant problem.”

Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Charlie Brown later said Swift’s answer reaffirmed the principle of civilian control over the military.

“The admiral was not addressing the premise of the question, he was addressing the principle of civilian authority of the military,” Brown said. “The premise of the question was ridiculous.”

The biennial Talisman Saber exercise involved 36 warships including the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, 220 aircraft, and 33,000 military personnel.

It was monitored by a Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy Type 815 Dongdiao-class auxiliary general intelligence vessel from within Australia’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies
China’s Type 815 Dongdiao-class auxiliary general intelligence vessel ship. Photo from Commonwealth of Australia.

Swift said China had similarly sent an intelligence ship into the US exclusive economic zone around Hawaii during the Pacific Fleet-hosted multinational naval exercise in 2014.

China had a legal right to enter the American economic zone for military purposes under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea — or UNCLOS— which defines the rights and responsibilities of nations sailing the world’s oceans, he said.

Governments needed to engage with Beijing to understand why the Chinese did not accept that the United States had the same access rights within China’s exclusive economic zone, Swift said.

“The dichotomy in my mind is why is there a different rules-set applied with respect to taking advantage of UNCLOS in other EEZs, but there’s this perspective that there’s a different rules-set that applies within another nation’s (China’s) EEZ? ” Swift said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force awards $9.2 billion for new fighter, bomber trainer

The Air Force awarded The Boeing Company a contract worth up to $9.2 billion for the Air Force’s new training aircraft Sept. 27, 2018.

The Air Force currently plans to purchase 351 T-X aircraft, 46 simulators, and associated ground equipment to replace the Air Education and Training Command’s 57-year-old fleet of T-38C Talons.

The indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract allows the Air Force to purchase up to 475 aircraft and 120 simulators. The contract is designed to offer taxpayers the best value both today and in the future should requirements change.


“This new aircraft will provide the advanced training capabilities we need to increase the lethality and effectiveness of future Air Force pilots,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather A. Wilson said. “Through competition we will save at least billion on the T-X program.”

The original service cost estimate was .7 billion for 351 aircraft.

The T-X program is expected to provide student pilots in undergraduate- and graduate-level training courses with the skills and competencies required to transition to 4th- and 5th-generation fighter and bomber aircraft.

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

(Boeing photo)

“This is all about joint warfighting excellence; we need the T-X to optimize training for pilots heading into our growing fleet of fifth-generation aircraft,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “This aircraft will enable pilot training in a system similar to our fielded fighters, ultimately enhancing joint lethality.”

The first T-X aircraft and simulators are scheduled to arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, in 2023. All undergraduate pilot training bases will eventually transition from the T-38 to the T-X. Those bases include: Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi; Laughlin AFB, Texas; Sheppard AFB, Texas and Vance AFB, Oklahoma.

An initial delivery order for 3 million provides for the engineering and manufacturing development of the first five aircraft and seven simulators.

The contract supports the Air Force’s objective of an initial operational capability by 2024 and full operational capability by 2034.

“This outcome is the result of a well-conceived strategy leveraging full and open competition,” said Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics. “It’s acquisition’s silver bullet.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery

The sacrifice of a Soldier is not measured by the medals he wears. The unfathomable courage in a split second is when the real sacrifice is made. Bravery is cultivated in the most critical hours of our lives; in a decision that is often not intentional, but innate.


For CPT (RET) Florent Groberg, his hardest battle came after the fight. August 8, 2012, changed his life forever. Eight seconds was the only separation between life and death. From this tragedy rose a man who is fiercely passionate about leadership, mental health advocacy and sharing stories about the heroes we’ve lost. But those eight seconds took something from him. Here is the story of CPT Groberg’s unexpected bravery.

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

In an interview with We Are The Mighty, Groberg said, “After the ceremonies, the awards and the newly acquired celebrity, I was alone. My new life was hard. Being in the hospital was hard. The surgeries, the pain and the lack of sleep and privacy only made matters worse. For years I wasn’t myself. I was angry that I was alive. I survived, and my brothers didn’t. They were leaders that had families. Kennedy had a wife and one-year-old twins. I was single. I had no one, only survivor’s guilt. Four of my brothers were killed that day: August 8, 2012.

“The day started off as normal, well, as normal as it can be downrange. We were headed to a meeting in the governor’s province. This was a green zone, so not much ever happened there. I was working as the security detachment commander. The task was simple: Get everyone to and from the meeting safely. Easy enough, right? Our team proceeded to travel outside of the wire. We were carrying high ranking officials that day, so of course, precautionary safety measures were in place.

“As we traveled further outside of the wire, I received notification that the security detail at our arriving destination had dispersed. This left me with an eerie feeling. Two motorcycles approached our convoy on the bridge. I noticed a structure to the left … someone was standing there. As the motorcycles stopped, the drivers dismounted and began to flee. The person near the building began walking toward us.

“He had on a suicide vest.

“I ran toward him, to keep him away from the others. SGT Mahoney helped me. [The bomber] detonated his vest. The blast sent me flying. Another bomber was near and prematurely detonated his device. I was severely wounded, but alive.

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

“Lying in the hospital, I replayed the scenario over and over. Wondering what I could’ve done differently to save my brothers. I was heavily medicated and suicidal. My brain became my own worst enemy. I felt like a failure. I didn’t feel worthy of being alive. I wasn’t myself. My thoughts were constantly racing. I needed out.

“I learned a lot about myself during those two years. I learned that anyone is susceptible to PTS and it’s okay to be vulnerable. We just don’t have to hold onto those thoughts. During my hospital stay, Travis Mills visited me and reminded me of my purpose. I needed that. I had a new mission — honoring my brothers by telling the stories of their bravery. In order to understand true patriotism, we must be willing to forgo our personal needs and put our country first. I did that. Not for a medal. I was just doing my job. I was willing to fight for what I was proud of.”

On November 12, 2015, CPT Florent Groberg was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama, in a White House ceremony. In the ceremony, President Obama said, “On his very worst day, he managed to summon his very best. That’s the nature of courage — not being unafraid, but confronting fear and danger and performing in a selfless fashion. He showed his guts, he showed his training; how he would put it all on the line for his teammates. That’s an American we can all be grateful for.”

Countless veterans, service members and civilians agree. Krista Simpson, who lost her husband SSGT Michael Simpson recently had the opportunity to hear CPT Groberg speak at the Military Influencer Conference. Her reaction to his speech was profound. “There is something so remarkable about a leader who has the courage and intelligence to allow his people to guide him through something that can be life or death,” she said. “The humbling honor to serve his country wasn’t lost on Medal of Honor recipient, CPT Florent Groberg from the moment he put on the uniform.

“I sat in the audience watching this brave man downplay the highest honor our country awards a soldier with deep admiration. He hates being called a hero. Flo believes the heroes are the families of the men and women who gave their lives in service to our nation. He acknowledged that there were families missing out on a life with their loved ones. Tears streamed down my face as he looked at me, nodding in recognition for the final sacrifice my husband, SSG Michael H. Simpson, made May 1, 2013. It’s men like Flo and our great nation that ignite the pride I have for his sacrifice.”

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

CPT Groberg was medically retired, awarded the medal of honor and wrote a book about his experience: 8 Seconds to Courage: Soldier’s Story from Immigrant to the Medal of Honor. He’s involved with organizations like Bravo Sierra, which helps strengthen the physical and mental wellness of current service members and veterans. CPT Groberg advocates for the mental well-being of our service members. If you are struggling with something, please speak up. CPT Groberg has a few suggestions on how you can remain mentally resilient during tough times.

For Troops:

  1. Go have a conversation with someone you trust.
  2. Don’t go through it alone. Keeping it in only leads to negative consequences.
  3. Remember: It’s okay to be hurt. Take responsibility for your healing, get help.

For Commanders:

  1. Don’t be judgemental. Listen to your troops. Understand the cause of their discord.
  2. Continue to evaluate the mental well-being of your troops. Incorporate training that will help eliminate the stigma of mental illness. Talk about TBIs, PTS and life after war.
  3. Remember: Not every individual suffers the same. No one solution will fix it all. Be vigilant but remain open.

And as CPT Groberg so aptly stated, “There is an opportunity to strengthen our troops. Banding together will make us healthier and a stronger fighting force. Turn the lessons from failed missions into paths that lead to success.”

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9 epic ways you can troll your radio guy

Messing around with your fellow Joes is always good fun. It’s a lighthearted way of letting them know that they’re one of the guys.


If you didn’t care about someone, you wouldn’t mess with them, right?

Every unit, from combat arms to support, has a communications (commo/comms) person. They range from being tasked to operate the radio systems to being a full specialization, from grunt AF to fobbit. These guys are there for us, but that doesn’t mean they’re not above some playful ribbing every now and then.

Doing any of the things on this list should always come from a place of mutual friendship. Don’t be a dick about it. Basically, don’t anything that would get you UCMJ’ed, impede the mission, or lose your military bearing.

1. Yell that you can’t hear anything on channel “Z”

Zeroize is a neat tool. It is designed to wipe out all of the information on the radio in case the worst happens. It’s also coincidentally very easy to access. Watch as their eyes grow big and run to your vehicle to set your radio back up.

 

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

2. Say “is this chip thingy supposed to come out of the SKL?”

For some reason, you get your hands on the most protected piece of equipment of a radio guy.

A quick explanation of what that key does is that it allows you to load Comsec. Ripping it out would essentially zeroize it. Don’t actually rip it out. But saying that you did will make commo guy sh*t himself.

3. During radio checks, say “Lickin’ Chicken” instead of “X this is Y, Read you Loud and Clear, over.”

Radio checks are boring. And it’s usually the last thing before rolling out on the 0900 convoy that we all arrived at 0430 to prep for.

When one person starts saying “Lickin’ Chicken,” it spreads like wildfire. Before you know it, everyone will say it during radio checks. On the commo guy’s end, it’s like hearing the same joke 100 times over and over again.

“uh… roger, over…” via GIPHY

4. Say that the antenna is still lopsided

Most commo dudes are perfectionists (emphasis on most). If the SKL was their baby, the OE-254 (cheap ass FM antennae) is the bane of their existence.

Theoretically, just attaching it will make it work. But that won’t stop radio operators from trying to get it juuuust right.

5. “Hotkey” your mic

Everything is set up. Everything is green. Things are finally working. Then someone leaves their hand mic under something that pushes the button down.

“No problem!” thinks the radio operator. Just double tap on their own mic to mute that person until they release the mic.

But if you intentionally hold down the push-to-talk button after they mute you to keep messing with them…?

6. During a convoy, ask why we don’t have any music playing

Different type of radio system. And there’s totally no way to solder an aux cable onto a cut up W-4 cable to connect your iPhone up to the net, blasting music out to everyone in the convoy.

Nope, never done it…

7. Ask us to fix your computer

Not all Signal Corps soldiers are the same. Radio operator/maintainers are the less POG-y specialization. They only pretend to be POGs to get out of Motor Pool Mondays or bullsh*t details.

Ask the other S-6 guys for that. If they do know how, it’s not their main task. It’s the computer guy’s.

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

“Sure, F*ck it. Whatever. Case of beer and I’ll look at your personal computer” (Photo credit Claire Schwerin, PEO C3T)

8. “Run out” of batteries

Batteries weight around 3 lbs each. A rucksack full of them surprisingly runs out faster than you’d think. So it’s fairly often that comms troops have to run back and forth to get more batteries.

Tell your radio maintainer that you’re running low and then just stockpile them for later, making them run around the convoy with a full ruck.

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies

9. Tell them that a drop test does nothing

This one is how you really dig into the saltier, more experienced radio guys.

A comms guy’s bread and butter is a fully-functioning radio. In most cases, the problem is simply putting the correct time in the radio. Others is making the radio work with their “commo magic.” That magic is almost always just kicking the damn thing or picking it up a few inches off the ground and dropping it. Ask any radio operator and they’ll tell you it works.

There’s no explanation — it just works. Saying that “It’s a bunch of circuits, why would that work?” will just have them bullsh*tting you on why they went all caveman for no reason and miraculously having things work.

Is there anything that we missed? If you have any ideas on how to mess with other job specialties?

MIGHTY TRENDING

The ‘Burn Pit Registry’ is for more than just post-9/11 vets

For Veteran and VA employee Martin Allen, the Burn Pit Registry has been both an inspiration and a way to help other Veterans. For six months, he has been charged with eliminating the backlog of Veterans waiting for confirmation of their eligibility to join the Burn Pit Registry through a manual check of their deployment history.


“It wasn’t until I became familiar with the registry and saw other Veterans who served in the same deployment areas as myself and served during the same time that I realized I was eligible for participation in the registry,” said Allen. “I had heard of the registry but didn’t think much of it because I thought it was primarily for the Veterans serving after 9/11.”

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade)

Allen is a Navy and Air Force Veteran who deployed to the Persian Gulf on a naval ship in 1990. He admits the shortened, everyday name of “Burn Pit Registry” reinforced the erroneous idea that the Burn Pit Registry wasn’t for Gulf War Veterans like him. The full name of the registry is the “Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry.”

Also read: 5 of the worst things to put in a burn pit

“Once I found out that I could join, I really wanted to be a part of the registry so I could understand the Veteran participant experience,” said Allen. “Joining the registry has been really helpful. Not only do I help Veterans with their eligibility checks, I sometimes walk them step-by-step through the process of signing up.”

Many Veterans who deployed after 1990 can join the registry. The registry is a way for these Veterans to document their concerns about exposures to burn pits and other airborne hazards. For Post-9/11 Veterans, joining the registry is easier than ever. The registry is linked to more current and complete DoD deployment records. This enhancement reduces or eliminates possible delays in joining the registry resulting from the performance of manual checks of deployment histories for Pre-9/11 Veterans by VA to confirm a Veterans’ eligibility to join the registry.

Binge-watch this: Netflix turns average citizens into top-notch British spies
(USAF photo by A1C Jason Epley)

The Burn Pit Registry is also a way for Veterans to be evaluated for any concerns that they might have related to exposures. Despite the opportunity of a free medical evaluation after completing the registry questionnaire, less than four percent of registry participants have been evaluated by a provider. The reasons for the low uptake are unclear, but may indicate Veterans are waiting to be contacted by VA.

Related: Veterans Crisis Line has answered more than three million calls

“Don’t wait. Once Veterans have submitted their questionnaire, they can immediately schedule a medical evaluation for the registry,” said Allen. “This evaluation is different than a compensation and pension exam for disability claims. Veterans shouldn’t confuse the two.”

Participants who wish to have an exam should contact a local Environmental Health Coordinator to schedule an appointment. These coordinators will guide registry participants through the next steps and work with VA’s environmental health clinicians to address any exposure-related health concerns.

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In many ways, the initial in-person registry evaluation is similar to any encounter between a clinician and a Veteran. The evaluation is tailored to each Veteran. To help you prepare for your visit, use these tips:

• Bring a copy of your completed Registry Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) to your visit;

• Have your questions written down;

• Tell your provider and team why you are in the clinic;

• Be prepared to discuss:

◦ Important deployment history and exposures of concern

◦ Important symptoms and health history

◦ Current symptoms-intensity, duration, onset, what makes them better or worse

◦ How the symptoms interfere with daily life

◦ Established health conditions, including onset and work up to date

◦ Concerns about the possible causes

◦ Other factors that may affect the management plan or overall health or mental health concerns such as tobacco, alcohol, or other substance use and family history

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

3 things Veterans should know about VA’s new electronic health record

VA is implementing its new electronic health record (EHR) system on Oct. 24 at initial sites in the Pacific Northwest. The implementation improves how clinicians store and manage patient information, including visits, test results, prescriptions and more. This will also mean some changes to how Veterans access their own health data online if their VA facility has changed to the new EHR.

Veterans who receive care at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Spokane, Washington, and its community-based outpatient clinics in Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint, Idaho; Libby, Montana; and Wenatchee, Washington, will be the first in the nation to use VA’s new electronic health record and patient portal, My VA Health. As a complementary tool to VA’s existing My HealtheVet patient portal, My VA Health will allow Veterans to manage their appointments, prescription refills, medical records and communication with health care providers online.


Since full implementation of VA’s new EHR is expected to occur over a 10-year period ending in 2028, most Veterans will not see immediate changes to how they view their medical records online. VA will continue to support its current EHR systems, including My HealtheVet, throughout the transition period to ensure there is no interruption to the accessibility and delivery of care. Veterans can expect to learn more as their local facilities prepare to migrate to the new EHR.

In the meantime, here are three key things Veterans should know about VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) program and My VA Health.

What is VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization program, and how does it impact Veterans?

EHRM is an effort to unite VA, the Department of Defense (DOD), the U.S. Coast Guard and community care providers on a single interoperable health information platform. This modernized system will allow VA to continue providing a world-class health care experience for Veterans across all VA facilities.

The new system will replace the department’s current electronic health record, known as the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), with a commercial, off-the-shelf solution developed by Cerner Corp.

The new EHR will create a paperless transition from receiving care as a service member through DOD to receiving care as a Veteran through VA. It will also support providers’ clinical decision-making by increasing their ability to make connections between a Veteran’s time on active duty and potential health issues later in life.

When will Veterans start using My VA Health?

Veterans will begin using the new My VA Health capabilities, accessible via VA.gov or My HealtheVet, when their local VA medical center or clinic transitions to the new EHR. Until then, Veterans will use only the existing My HealtheVet portal, which is also accessible via VA.gov. Mann-Grandstaff VAMC and its clinics are the first facilities introducing My VA Health to their patients.

Once My VA Health launches at a site, Veterans will be able use their current credentials to sign in to either My VA Health or My HealtheVet. This will ensure Veterans who have received care at more than one VA site have access to all of their records. For example, Veterans who receive care at Mann-Grandstaff VAMC and its four clinics will use My VA Health to manage their care from those sites and My HealtheVet to manage their health care from other VA and community sites. Historical records, including prior secure messages, will remain available on My HealtheVet.

Meanwhile, VA is working to make VA.gov the single place where Veterans can go for their health needs, so navigation between the two portals is not necessary. VA will provide resources to walk Veterans through these changes as EHRM deployment reaches their facilities.

How will Veterans at Mann-Grandstaff and its associated clinics access the patient portal?

Veterans will sign in as they do today, either through My HealtheVet or VA.gov, using any of the following accounts:

  • Premium DS Logon account
  • Premium My HealtheVet account
  • Verifiedme account

Once logged in, Veterans will be directed to My VA Health regarding care received at Mann-Grandstaff and its clinics and to My HealtheVet regarding care received at other VA locations. Veterans with basic or advanced My HealtheVet accounts can upgrade to a premium account using this guide.

Additionally, Veterans who receive care at Mann-Grandstaff VAMC and its associated clinics can visit this page for more information on My VA Health ahead of its introduction Oct. 24.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

It’s time to get together for Wreaths Across America

The United States has a number of holidays meant to honor those members of the armed forces who are serving, who have served, and who have given their last true measure of devotion on the battlefield. There’s an organization now that seeks to make sure we remember everyone in uniform through its mission to “Remember, Honor, and Teach.” And it all starts one day in December, decorating for one of America’s biggest holidays.


Men and women in the U.S. military are putting their lives on the line for Americans back home every day of the year, says Wreaths Across America. The group aims to remember and honor those warfighters while teaching future generations to do the same. Their mission restarts every year on the third Saturday in December (this year, it’s December 15), when volunteers around the United States place a wreath on a veteran’s grave, say their name aloud, and thank them for their courage and sacrifice.

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Wreaths Across America began with Morrill Worcester of Harrington, Maine, the owner of Worcester Wreath Company. As a young boy, he was sent on a trip to Washington, D.C. where he saw Arlington National Cemetery for the first time. The experience never left him and, after he became a successful entrepreneur, he decide to give back to the men and women who died so that he could make his fortune.

In 1992, the company saw a surplus in its product and he decided to use them in the older areas of Arlington National Cemetery, the ones that were receiving fewer and fewer visitors every year. When other companies got wind of the plan, they joined in. The local trucking company provided transportation to DC. Members of the local VFW and American Legion posts decorated the wreaths with red bows, all tied by hand.

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Volunteers from Maine and in the nation’s capital helped lay the wreaths on the graves in Arlington. It even included a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. For 13 years, Worcester quietly and solemnly did the honored dead this service without advertising or announcement.

In 2005, at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, someone noticed the wreaths on the grave markers in Arlington and posted a photo of its snow-covered majesty on the internet. It quickly went viral and those who couldn’t make the trip to DC wanted to do versions of the same in their own hometowns.

Since the company couldn’t possibly make enough wreaths to give to every grave in every state, they instead send seven wreaths to each state, one for every branch of the military and one for prisoners of war and the missing in action.

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The Clarion, Pennsylvania Civil Air Patrol has partnered with Wreaths Across America.

Since Wreaths Across America began in 2006, 150 sites across the United States hold simultaneous wreath-laying ceremonies. By 2008, that number doubled and wreath ceremonies were held in Puerto Rico and 24 cemeteries overseas. In 2014, the number grew to 700,000 memorial wreaths at more than 1,000 sites, including Pearl Harbor, Bunker Hill, and the September 11th sites.

Their volunteers managed to cover every grave in Arlington National Cemetery.

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Representatives of each branch of military service salute behind wreaths in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Ivy Green Cemetery in Bremerton during the Wreaths Across America ceremony.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Charles Gaddis)

Now the ceremonies are held on the third Saturday in December, and the movement of the wreaths bound for Arlington from Harrington, Maine is the world’s largest veteran’s parade. The annual wreath laying goals are surpassed now by education programs and partnership programs with local-level veterans organizations.

To learn more about Wreaths Across America, donate, or volunteer to lay wreaths, visit their website.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The first Hurricane Hunters flew through storms on a dare

Seventy-five years ago, on July 17, 1943, one Army Air Corps pilot dared another to fly his plane into the eye of a hurricane, and a new method of predicting storms and getting adrenaline highs was born.

Army Air Force Lt. Col. Joseph P. Duckworth flew an T-6 trainer aircraft into the eye of a hurricane headed to the Texas coast on a dare just to prove it could be done.


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After the flight, he wrote,

“The only embarrassing episode would have been engine failure, which, with the strong ground winds, would probably have prevented a landing, and certainly would have made descent via parachute highly inconvenient.”

But the dare proved fruitful, and Duckworth went back up with a weather officer. Studying the hurricane allowed the meteorologists to not only better predict that storm, but to start building a better understanding of how hurricanes form and move.

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Air Force 1st Lt. Tina Young examines data gathered while flying into the eye of Hurricane Ophelia on Sept. 14. Young is an aerial reconnaissance weather officer with the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Eaton)

This preceded a massive expansion of the Army’s weather reconnaissance squadrons, with new squadrons being stood up throughout the late 1940s and the ’50s with names like “Hurricane Hunters” and “Typhoon Chasers.” The introduction of satellites eventually made many of the formations unnecessary, leading to them being inactivated or re-missioned, but one unit remains in service.

The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, based in Mississippi, is an Air Force Reserve Unit still tasked with flying into the hearts of storms. But most of the missions into storms are now conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Aircraft Operations Center.

In fact, the widely covered video of hurricane hunters flying into Hurricane Florence was shot by an NOAA crew working to collect data on the storm before it hits the U.S. east coast.

And the U.S. has been transitioning to using drones for hurricane flights where possible, saving pilots, even if it does make the news releases less exciting.

Articles

6 special benefits that Medal of Honor recipients are entitled to

On the morning of Jul 18, Army Lt. Col. Charles Kettles became the newest recipient of the Medal of Honor, America’s highest honor for military valor.


Receiving the Medal of Honor confers a great deal of prestige on the recipient as well as an acknowledgement that the recipient and their unit members went through an especially dire and dangerous experience or gave a heavy sacrifice for the American people. The celebrity that goes with the medal allows recipients to cast light on issues that affect veterans and active duty troops.

But in addition to the intangible benefits like honor and stature, there are some tangible benefits that the military and the U.S. government give to medal recipients to acknowledge their sacrifice. Here are 6 special benefits that serve as an enduring “thank you” from the American people:

1. Preferred access to military academies for their dependents

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(Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Fincham)

Every American senator can nominate up to 10 candidates from their state for each of an allotted number of seats in the next freshman class at the Army, Navy and Air Force military academies. The number of slots changes from year to year, but the total number of names that state senators can put forward represents an annual “quota.”

But as a recognition of the sacrifice that MoH recipients have made for their country, recipients’ children can bypass this part of the selection process and put their name in for consideration regardless of whether there are open slots in that state’s  academy quota.

2. A monthly stipend

Every Medal of Honor recipient is entitled to a monthly stipend on top of all other pay or retirement benefits. This stipend was originally $10 a month in 1916 but has climbed to $1,299 per month.

The recipient’s base retirement pay is also raised by 10 percent.

3. Free, priority Space-A travel

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(Photo: US Air Force Master Sgt. Joseph Swafford)

Medal recipients are granted lifelong access to the military’s “Space A” travel, which allows active duty military members, some veterans and their dependents to hitch rides in empty seats on military planes. MoH recipients get preferred access, meaning they can jump the line.

4. Special parking spots at on-base amenities

Service members with an MoH also get lifelong access to other military benefits like the commissary, on-post gyms and pools and recreational facilities. Many of these facilities have reserved spaces for MoH recipients.

5. Special status in the exchange of salutes

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Medal of Honor recipient Col. Lewis Millett salutes the flag during a memorial ceremony commemorating the bravery of his men during the Korean War. (Photo: US Army Al Chang)

While military members aren’t required to salute Medal of Honor recipients, they are encouraged to do so as long as the recipient is physically wearing the medal, even when the recipient is in civilian clothes.

Also, while military salutes in other situations are always up the the rank structure — meaning the junior soldier salutes the senior one — anyone may render a salute to a MoH recipient first. There have even been cases of American presidents saluting MoH recipients.

6. Headstones with gold lettering and full burial honors

Medal of Honor recipients are guaranteed a burial with full military honors — an honor otherwise only guaranteed to retirees and active duty service members. This includes a nine-member team of six pallbearers, a chaplain, an officer-in-charge or noncommissioned-officer-in-charge and a bugler.

At the gravesite, the MoH recipient is also entitled to a special headstone with gold lettering.

Author’s Note: An earlier version of this story referred to Medal of Honor Recipient and Lt. Col. Charles Kettles as an Army major. He was a major at the time of the actions for which he received the award, but he retired and received the award as a lieutenant colonel. The author regrets this error.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why top military leader goes to bed thinking about logistics in Europe

Since Russia’s 2014 incursion in Ukraine, NATO leaders have been focused on securing the alliance’s eastern flank.

But defending that boundary and deterring threats to member countries there takes more than just deploying troops. It means moving them in and out, and, if necessary, reinforcing them, and that’s something that’s always on US and European military commanders’ minds.


“I will tell you that when I go to sleep at night, it’s probably the last thought I have, that we need to continue to improve upon, and we are, from a road, rail, and air perspective, in getting large quantities of hardware and software from west to east on continent,” US Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US European Command, said at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington, DC, on Tuesday.

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A US soldier guides an M1 Abrams tank off ARC vessel Endurance at the Port of Antwerp, Belgium, May 20, 2018.

(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jacob A. McDonald)

The US, which has drawn down its forces in Europe since the end of the Cold War, has put particular focus on both returning to Europe in force and on moving those forces around the continent.

This has included working at ports not used since the Cold War and practicing to move personnel, vehicles, and material overland throughout Central and Eastern Europe.

“We’re improving, but I will tell you, as a supreme allied commander of Europe and a commander of US EUCOM, I’m just not satisfied,” Wolters said. “It’s got to continue to get better and better and better, and we are dedicating tremendous energy to this very issue.”

“In US EUCOM, we have directors, which are flag officers that work for me, and they’re called J codes, and our J4 is our logistician, and he’s a Navy flag officer, and he’s probably one of the busiest human beings on the European continent,” Wolters added. “He gets to sleep about one hour a day, and his whole life exists from a standpoint of finding ways to improve our ability to move large quantities at speed from west to east in road, rail, and air, across the European continent.”

‘There will be some snags’

The renewed focus on moving US and NATO forces around Europe has highlighted the obstacles posed by varying customs rules and regulations, insufficient infrastructure, and shortages of proper transport vehicles.

Those would be challenges for any peacetime mobilization and led NATO to conclude in a 2017 report that its ability to rapidly deploy around Europe had “atrophied since the end of the Cold War.”

To correct that deficiency, NATO has stood up two new commands. One, Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia, will oversee movements across the Atlantic. The other, Joint Support Enabling Command based in Ulm in southern Germany, is responsible for movement on the ground in Europe.

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US Army vehicles during a tactical road march in Germany, April 22, 2018.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sharon Matthias)

“We’ve also recognized the need in NATO to improve in this area,” Wolters said. “Through NATO command structure adaptation … we elected to standup an entire new command called Joint Support Enabling Command, JSEC, and it’s run by … a NATO flag officer, and that commander’s sole purpose in life is to nest with all the nations to find ways to improve our ability to move large resources at speed from west to east across the continent.”

That will be on display during Defender Europe 20, the US Army’s largest exercise in Europe in 25 years, which will involve 37,000 troops from 18 countries — including 20,000 US troops deployed from the US — and take place in 10 countries in Europe.

Defender Europe 20’s actual drills won’t take place until next year, but, Wolters said, “it’s already started, because the benefit of a large exercise is all the planning that takes place beforehand.”

“The strategic message is we can demonstrate our flexibility and adaptability to lift and shift large forces to any place on planet Earth to effectively deter … and that’s incredibly valuable,” Wolters said.

But, he added, getting the logistics right on the ground may be the biggest obstacle.

“We want to make sure that from a border-crossing perspective and from a capability perspective in those 10 nations in particular that we’ve got it right with respect to our ability to lift and shoot and move and communicate with an exercise at speed,” Wolters said.

“There will be some snags along the way. We will find things that we’re not happy with. We will will after-action review those. We will find remedies in the future, and when we have another large-scale exercise we’ll demonstrate an ability to get through those snags … and we’ll just be that much quicker and that much faster in the future.”

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

How food can make or break Army Combat Fitness Test scores

In addition to physical exercise, proper nutrition plays a major role in overall health, fitness, and training for the Army Combat Fitness Test, says Maj. Brenda Bustillos, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command dietitian.

“It’s important for soldiers to recognize the impact proper nutrition has on them,” said Maj. Bustillos. “From how they get up and feel in the morning, how they recover from an exercise, how they utilize energy, and whether or not they have energy at the end of the day — proper nutrition is powerful, and stretches far beyond what we were taught as kids.”

Dietary decisions affect every soldier’s individual physical performance differently, too, she said, and has the power to impact careers “whether that be good or bad.”


Bustillos, a clinician who’s seen patients for the last 15 years of her career, believes the ground rules for healthy eating are only that — ground rules. “Every patient I’ve met with is different, and their needs are all different, too.”

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Soldiers weave through an obstacle course.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Travis Zielinski)

“Nutrition and dietary patterns are not one size fits all,” she said. “A registered dietitian understands this, and understands the biomechanics of each individual, along with the unique metabolic concerns they may have.”

She added, “How someone eats can be what makes or breaks them during big events, such as the ACFT. That’s why it’s important for soldiers to take advantage of resources available to them, and meet with a dietitian about what works for them while training for the test.”

Army combat fitness test

The ACFT is a six-event, age- and gender-neutral, fitness assessment set to replace the Army’s current physical fitness test by October 2020. It’s the largest physical training overhaul in nearly four decades, and is currently in its second phase of implementation, with every soldier slated to take the test as a diagnostic at least once this year.

The test is designed to link soldiers’ physical fitness with their combat readiness. Each event is taken immediately following the next, and aims to be an endurance-based, cardio-intensive assessment of overall physical fitness.

“The ACFT will require soldiers to properly fuel their bodies to be fully ready to perform,” she said. “The six events require many different muscle movements, with both aerobic and anaerobic capacities, making the fueling piece of fitness incredibly important — as important as physically training.”

Nutrition has often been attributed as “fuel for the body,” she said. For example, proteins repair you, and give the body the building blocks it needs for everyday activities, carbohydrates give the body energy, vitamins strengthens the bones, minerals help regulate the body’s processes, and water is essential for being alive.

But, nutrition also plays a role “in terms of preparation and recovery,” she said. It doesn’t matter if someone is training for a marathon or the ACFT, how they eat, or what they drink makes a world of difference.

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U.S. Army soldiers participate in a 2.35-mile run.

(U.S. Army photo by Senior Airman Rylan Albright)

For example, if a soldier wakes up early on an empty stomach when scheduled to take the ACFT, that soldier will lack the glucose needed for a good performance. This can make the short-term decisions as critical as the lifestyle choices made in the months prior to testing, she said.

“Consider an individual like an automobile,” Bustillos said. “If an automobile starts running out of gas, it will begin running on fumes, and then be completely empty. That’s how an individual [regardless of training leading up to the test] will perform, especially if they don’t properly fuel their body before an ACFT.”

Bustillos urges soldiers to always “train to fight,” meaning all their nutritional decisions, at all times, should holistically enhance their physical fitness, mental alertness, and overall health.

“If a soldier only eats right the night before, or morning of an ACFT — but not during the months of training leading up to it, they won’t do as well on the fitness test [regardless of physical activity],” she said.

The best course of action, according to Bustillos, is eating right “day in and day out” while training. “Muscles are hungry, and they need fuel, so if you implement a healthy dietary lifestyle while training, then your body performs much better while performing.”

Soldiers should consume a variety of healthy nutrients in their diet, she said. For example, carbohydrates, fats, dietary fiber, minerals, proteins, vitamins, and water should be taken in.

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(U.S. Army photo by Jorge Gomez)

When a soldier doesn’t eat properly in both short- and long-term capacities, muscles will break down because the body is continually searching for the fuel it needs to perform, she said.

“The night before an ACFT, a soldier should take in some proteins and carbohydrates,” she said, adding that carbohydrates are the No. 1 source of fuel for the brain and body.

Examples include moderately-sized, protein and carbohydrate-rich meals, such as a grilled chicken breast and brown rice, followed by a light breakfast the next morning, ideally two hours prior to taking the ACFT, she said. However, the possibilities for what foods to eat are seemingly endless, as long as they fall in the food healthy groups.

“I understand not everyone wants to wake up two hours before a performance test just to eat,” she said. “So, a light snack in the morning is also good. It can be a performance bar, a whole-grain English muffin, a banana, or just half of a muffin with smear of peanut butter — something to not disrupt the stomach while providing a fuel source for the body.”

With the ACFT around the corner, or if you have questions on how nutrition can enhance your lifestyle based on body type, Bustillos recommends you seek answers from a registered dietitian nearby.

“It’s important to remember there’s no such thing as bad foods, just bad dietary patterns,” she said. “As long as we’re eating well, taking good care of our bodies, and putting good things in it — it’s okay to have the scoop of ice cream, or sharing a tub of buttered popcorn with friends at the movies, those are certainly things that make life more enjoyable.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why do we put our military community at risk with on-base quarantines?

In our small town of Pacific Grove, Calif., an email alerted us that our community would be “hosting” 24 Grand Princess cruise passengers who display mild symptoms of COVID-19. The other California “hosts” are military installations, Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif., and Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego.


A press release sent out by the governor’s office tells residents, “We have an opportunity to provide an example of a compassionate humanitarian response,” but omits specific measures being taken to quarantine the passengers and protect the community, which is known for having an elderly population. The town jokes that people move here to die or multiply, with many young residents coming for the excellent schools and the elderly for the moderate climate and breathtaking Monterey coastline.

Why then was this elderly community chosen, despite our population’s median age being 49, over 10 years older than the national average? Because the passengers will be quarantined on government-owned land. This is also why military bases are “go-to” locations for other, more serious cases.
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The Pacific Grove coastline is just across the street from where the 24 quarantined Grand Princess cruise line passengers are staying. They will be monitored for the next two weeks as part of the state of California’s plan to contain the spread of the Coronavirus.

Why is it that the military community is always the first to be put at risk? As a military spouse and mother of three, I’m not so much scared of the Coronavirus as I am perplexed.

If military communities are already being asked to sacrifice more than most, don’t we at least deserve concrete facts on how we are being protected instead of attempts to pull at heartstrings?

The military housing areas on Travis Air Force Base and Miramar Naval Air Station are less than a mile away from where exposed citizens are being housed. I can’t imagine what these military families are feeling. As some previously in quarantine leave, new patients arrive. I hope that they are looped in, that they feel taken care of and reassured that their lives are just as important as those they are being asked to support.

While some communities may be better at communication than others, the press release likely caused more panic than reassurance. Given the current climate, words sent out through official channels carry weight. So instead of adding to the hysteria, I emailed the local public officials quoted in the article for clarification.

No response.

However, within 24 hours, I did get reassurance from every travel-related company I have ever had an online shopping relationship with that they were on top of COVID-19 and take sanitation seriously.

Shortly thereafter, I finally received an update from my daughter’s elementary school, the only reliable source of information. It seems that clarification from public officials was possible. But instead of hearing from the governor’s office again, our small town’s City Manager set the record straight, or as straight as possible given all this confusion.

According to his release, “the state of California made the determination” to temporarily house 24 exposed passengers (less than two miles from my house). Thankfully, it turns out that he did have good news. The 24 have tested negative for the virus and “are not permitted to leave the confines of their hotel rooms.”

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Costco runs feel like hoarding, but they are not. However, you might be a hoarder if you are one of the people who purchased all the paper towels, water and toilet paper.

Slightly relieved, I chuckled when I saw that “Outbreak” with Dustin Hoffman was trending on Netflix. Watching it served as a reminder that Americans don’t like rules or borders. We rebelled against the British. We conquered lands that weren’t our own. We believe rules are made to be broken. I hope these 24 are rule followers who regret our forefathers breaking from England and “displacing” Native Americans.

Unsurprisingly Costco was packed, leaving me either highly exposed or highly prepared. In the hidden back corner of the warehouse, a lady was positioned, not with samples, but with a clipboard and bouncer-like confidence, “we are out of water, paper towels and toilet paper.”

Twenty four hours after the first press release, I’m not scared of death or quarantine. We have Cheerios, bread, shelf-stable milk, charcoal and… champagne, because if I have to stay in the house with my three kids and husband for a month without toilet paper, I’m gonna need it.

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