From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations

My great uncle deployed to Vietnam when he was around 21 years old. I didn’t know about his deployment until I found out I was deploying to Afghanistan in 2009. My uncle, unlike most of the friends and family I had, knew the reality of what was coming. He had already supported me as a military service member, but when the word deployment became a part of the conversation, everything changed.

It wasn’t until my first care package from my uncle arrived that I realized how deeply our paths were connected. The care packages he sent were different from all the other care packages I received. Each one told a story. It could have been the contents of the box or the letter it contained. But no care package was sent without thought and care of what he would have liked to have opened while serving overseas. It was different from all the other care packages because he had been on the receiving end before.


One care package he sent had the book, The Pearl by John Steinbeck. The book on its own would have been nice to have something to read, but there was a story that went with it. In one care package he received from a family in Coos Bay Oregon for Christmas in 1967, he received The Pearl and read it throughout his deployment. I read it too. And sitting on my bunk in my tent, I felt a connection. That book, unlike most of the books I received, made it home with me and sits on my shelf. And every time I see it, I think of my uncle and the bond we share.

Years later after coming home I wanted to do a series for my blog focused on deployment stories. I loved reading the stories in the letters from my uncle and it inspired me to search out more stories and create a series with stories from the past and present-day wars. Not surprisingly, I was excited to include my uncle in this series. So, I sent off my questions and waited for a response. To my surprise, the response was not full of distant stories and fond memories. Instead, I could feel the hurt and pain that deployment can sometimes bring when hidden inside for years. It was something I had struggled with at times as well. Dark memories are sometimes easier to keep hidden.

From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations

I was disappointed with his short answers, but I understood his pain. Even though I write and talk about my deployment, sometimes questions can hit me off guard and a wall can go up so fast. And so, I quickly expressed an apology for bringing up pain and thanked him for the answers I received while I also worked to change my questions to focus on the story and not the combat. I was not giving up hope that a story was there.

He responded with an apology and a chance to start again. He said he had reread his answers and realized he was blunt and grumpy. Instead of receiving one-word answers and angry responses I received pieces of history gifted to me through his words and photos. It was a treasured gift and opened my eyes to the history of the Vietnam War and the struggles and challenges he faced. You can read the full interview here.

And it may seem silly or trivial to say that one interview, one group of questions, could help someone who had been hurt so deeply from war and then by those who treated him with indifference on his way home, heal. But there is power in telling your story. There is power in bringing the darkness to light. He once told me, “Until you asked about it, it never occurred to me that anyone would be interested in my story because I made it home in one piece when so many of my buddies didn’t…”

But the story isn’t over. My uncle continues his healing journey and is signed up and waiting for his turn to attend an Honor Flight to Washington DC. He talked about the excitement, anticipation and so many other emotions of going to the Vietnam Memorial and what that trip means to him. He knows it is the next step in his journey and knows it will mean a lot to him.

I never thought my deployment experience would have such an impact on my uncle’s life. I did not realize that the path to my deployment would cause me to want to hear more stories and share more experiences with others. How many people are out there thinking no one wants to know about their experience because they came home alive? But it is through the stories of those who are still alive that we can honor the legacy of those we lost.

There is so much power in telling your story and it is part of the healing journey. It likely won’t be easy but it is so important to share.

Do you know someone who has deployed to Vietnam?

Be sensitive, open and sincere and ask them about their story. Know that they might not be ready to tell their story, but you will never know if you don’t ask. And even if you never hear their story the power of asking one question can help them realize they do have a story to share and that might just be the first step in their journey that they need.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. threatens stronger response to Syrian chemical weapons

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser issued a crystal clear warning to Syria on Sept. 10, 2018, stressing that if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons again, it will face a “much stronger” response than before.

“We’ve tried to convey the message in recent days that if there’s a third use of chemical weapons, the response will be much stronger,” White House National Security Adviser John Bolton said Sept. 10, 2018, “I can say we have been in consultations with the British and the French who have joined us in the second strike, and they also agree that another use of chemical weapons will result in a much stronger response.”


The United Nations has accused Syria of launching dozens of chemical weapons attacks using both sarin and chlorine gas, and in response to two particularly devastating incidents, the US used military force to persuade the Syrian regime to adhere to acceptable warfighting methods.

The US first struck Syria on April 7, 2017, striking the Shayrat Airbase in Syria with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from the Mediterranean Sea in response to the use of chemical weapons (sarin) at Khan Shaykhun just three days earlier.

The chemical weapons attack, attributed to the Syrian regime, reportedly killed more than 70 people and injured over 550 more, at the time making it the deadliest such attack of the Syrian civil war since the chemical weapons attack in Ghouta four years prior.

The devastating attack just a few months into Trump’s presidency reportedly led the president to call Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and demand the assassination of the Syrian leadership. “Let’s f—ing kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the f—ing lot of them,” Trump told Mattis, according to an excerpt from Bob Woodward’s new book “Fear: Trump in the White House” the subject of much debate and controversy.

From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations

President Donald Trump and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro)

The president, Mattis, and the Pentagon have all denied that the conversations detailed in the book ever took place.

Almost one year after the first incident, the Syrian regime allegedly launched a second major chemical weapons assault on a suburb in Damascus, killing dozens of people in Douma. The US, supported by Britain and France, conducted coordinated strikes on Syria’s chemical weapons facilities, crippling but not eliminating the regime’s chemical weapons capabilities.

The strikes came from both sea and air, whereas the previous strikes were launched by two destroyers.

Syrian, Russian, and pro-regime forces are now massing around Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in Syria, and the US government has intelligence that the Syrian government may again use chemical weapons. The Pentagon has already begun preparing military options should the president decide to respond militarily to any use of chemical weapons in the Idlib offensive.

“The president expects us to have military options in the event that chemical weapons are used,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said Sept. 8, 2018, “We have provided updates to him on the development of those military options.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders warned that the US will respond “swiftly and appropriately” should Assad use chemical weapons against the Syrian people, and Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning explained Sept. 10, 2018, that “the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated by the US or the coalition.”

“As you have seen in the past, any use of chemical weapons has resulted in a very swift response by the United States and our coalition partners. We have communicated that to Damascus, and we hope that they adhere to it.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This proposed legislation could make it easier for troops to receive care packages

While deployed, there’s always a bit of joy that buzzes around the squad when a care package arrives. Troops gather around their squad leader as they disperse the sweets, trinkets, and amenities given by the charitable folks back home. It’s not uncommon for battle-hardened warfighters to genuinely crack an enormous smile when they receive something that reminds them of home.

Recently, certain regulations consolidated the shipping rates for packages being sent to an Army Post Office (APO), Fleet Post Office (FPO) or Diplomatic Post Office (DPO) mailing address — which only put added financial strain on those kind-willed folks sending packages. The costs can also really add up for charities who send mass quantities of care packages. Ultiltaemy, this means fewer care packages being sent to the troops still fighting overseas today.

There is a glimmer of hope. U.S. Congressman Donald Norcross of New Jersey’s First District recently introduced the “Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2019,” or H.R. 400, that aims to greatly reduce the costs and spread more cheer among the troops.


From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations

The secret to make a bunch of grown badasses smile like children? Girl Scout cookies…

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

All shipping rates for packages that crossed different shipping zones drastically increased January, 2018. While a package going to Michigan from California saw an increase of .60, any package sent from Smalltown, USA, to troops stationed in the Middle East had to pay nearly double.

Logistically speaking, the care package left the hands of postal employees long before they were dispersed at mail call. Any package sent would arrive at a postal gateway before being given to military personnel to complete its journey to a remote destination. The added costs are mostly meaningless seeing as the package is delivered by US military personnel once it leaves the US.

Congressman Tom MacArthur of New Jersey’s Third District tried last year to reverse these increases with a similar bit of legislation — Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2018, or H.R.6231. He aimed to curtail the costs and make it much cheaper to send troops a care package. This legislation would have listed any package to (or from) an APO/FPO/DPO address as Zone 1/2, making the weight of the package a non-factor in shipping costs so long as the contents fit inside a flat-rate box. This bill, unfortunately, did not succeed and MacArthur was unsuccessful in his reelection campaign.

The cost to send care packages remains unreasonably high, and organizations like the Operation Yellow Ribbon of South Jersey have had to reduce the number of packages sent purely because of the financial red tape.

From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations

Because our troops are still out there, and they need your support.

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

Now the torch to raise the morale of troops has been passed to fellow New Jersey Congressman Donald Norcross, a chair on the 115th Congressional Committee of Armed Services.

He’s proposed “Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2019,” which aims to cut the red tape and make the price of sending a care package comparable to the cost of sending a letter.

This bill will positively affect the lives of the countless troops still in harm’s way. Please contact your representative and let them know that you support “Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2019”, or H.R. 400.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Former Afghan interpreter detained, threatened with deportation

A former interpreter who helped US troops in Afghanistan before fleeing the country with his family was detained at the international airport in Houston, Texas, on Jan. 11, 2019, upon their arrival from Kabul, according to a Texas-based immigration advocacy group.

Mohasif Motawakil, 48, was detained by Customs and Border Protection along with his wife and five children, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) told The Washington Post. Though his wife and children have since been released, Motawakil is still being held by authorities.


RAICES said Motawakil served alongside US troops as an interpreter from 2012 to 2013, later working as a US contractor in his home country.

He and his family were reportedly traveling to the US on Special Immigrant Visas, which are hard to come by and granted to those whose lives are in danger as a result of their service with the US military.

Special Immigrant Visas take years to obtain, and tightened immigration controls have apparently made the process even more difficult for applicants.

“The father remains detained and his wife and children were allowed into the US pending the outcome of his proceedings,” CBP told The Hill, further explaining that “due to the restrictions of the Privacy Act, US Customs and Border Protection does not discuss the details of individual cases.”

The temporary release of the mother and the children was attributed to the efforts made by four Texas Democrats working on behalf of the family.

Texas Reps. Lloyd Doggett and Joaquin Castro called CBP while Reps. Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee supported the family at the airport.

Nonetheless, the family is is “confused and traumatized” by the situation, RAICES spokesman William Fitzgeral told The Post. Motawakil’s wife and children spent Jan. 11, 2019 at the Afghan Cultural Center in Houston.

The reason for the detention is murky, but Fitzgerald told The Post the family was threatened with deportation after someone — potentially a relative — opened sealed medical records, leading authorities to question the authenticity of the family’s documentation.

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

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Why you should stop chugging so many energy drinks

We’ve all seen them before. The cans, small shots, and uniquely packaged energy drinks that promise to give you an energy boost during the most important parts of your day. At first glance, it seems like a great idea: chug it down and get reinvigorated for the day. But, if you go beyond wanting to simply stay alert and begin to overindulge, you could wind up doing some serious harm to your body.


 

From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations
Spc. Kyle Lauth, assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, sips an energy drink before a dismounted patrol through the Hussainiyah town of the Istaqlal Qada district northeast of Baghdad, Dec. 29, 2008. (Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class JB Jaso)

Energy drinks became the beverage of choice for many service members during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research analyzed data collected during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2010 and found nearly 45 percent of deployed service members consumed at least one energy drink daily. Nearly 14 percent reported drinking three or more per day.

Related: Here are 5 healthy habits to work into your busy military lifestyle

Many of the most popular energy drinks are heavily marketed to young people, including military members. The marketing is sexy, the packaging is slick, the flavors are sweet like fruit drinks children crave, and the beverages are readily available on military bases and down range.

But, there are real reasons to avoid overusing energy drinks.

Energy drinks can cause drastic side effects

Energy drinks are loaded with caffeine, and too much of it isn’t good for you. Dr. Patricia Deuster, professor and director of the Consortium for Health and Military Performance at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, warns service members to avoid consuming more than 200 mg of caffeine every four hours. That means service members should add up the caffeine in their energy drinks, plus any other caffeinated beverages they may drink, like coffee and soft drinks.

“If it’s got more than 200 mg of caffeine, don’t use it,” cautions Deuster.

Deuster also warns female service members to be cautious about using energy drinks, noting the amount of caffeine you ingest relative to body weight is an issue for women. “Women get a higher concentration [of caffeine] since they tend to be smaller,” she said.

“Doctors don’t know what the effects of [energy drink] ingredients are in larger doses,” Deuster noted. “I don’t think anybody has an answer to the long term effects question.”

High amounts of caffeine can lead to increased blood pressure, panic attacks, heart palpitations, anxiety, dehydration, insomnia, and even bowel irritability when energy drinks are mixed with alcohol.

What is clear is consumers need to be more aware about what they’re putting in their bodies when it comes to energy drinks.

Energy drinks can activate your sweet tooth

From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations
Service members should use caution when consuming energy drinks due to their potential health risks. Most drinks average about 200 calories, which can lead to weight gain. (Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Heather Johnson)

Energy drinks are loaded with sugar. Some cans pack a punch of 27 grams of sugar — two thirds of the recommended daily maximum for men, and 2 grams more than the maximum doctors recommend for women. Some service members can double or even triple that if they drink more than one energy drink per day.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend keeping your intake of added sugars to less than 10 percent of your total daily calories.

They can make you pack on the pounds

From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations
Spc. Kevin Alexander of 138th Quartermaster Company grabs an energy drink at the Camp Atterbury Post Exchange. Most energy drinks contain anywhere from 70 to 200 milligrams of caffeine. The daily recommended intake of caffeine is no more than 300 milligrams. (Army photo by Sgt. David Bruce)

All of that extra sugar can cause your blood sugar to increase. Even the sugar-free versions of energy drinks can lead to weight gain, as research suggests artificial sweeteners may raise blood sugar, too.

Your body can also begin storing fat, especially if you’re unable to increase physical activity.

Energy drinks + alcohol = a dangerous cocktail

Energy drinks have become popular mixers for alcohol, raising concerns for health experts.

“A lot of the young people mix energy drinks with alcoholic beverages, then you’ve got a wide awake drunk,” says Deuster.

The CDC warns that when alcoholic beverages are mixed with energy drinks, the caffeine stimulant can mask the effects of the alcohol, which is a depressant. Often, the person drinking doesn’t even realize that they’re actually drunk. According to the CDC, that means people who mix alcohol with energy drinks are three times more likely to binge drink than those who don’t mix alcohol with energy drinks. Experts warn motor skills can be affected and some people engage in riskier behaviors while under the influence of alcohol and energy drinks. Additionally, both caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, which can cause dehydration if you’re not careful.

Some companies sell pre-mixed alcoholic energy drinks which have the same sweet or tart flavors as standard energy drinks. As the Army notes, the alcohol content in these beverages can be significantly higher than what’s found in beer.

These energy drinks with alcohol may appeal to underage drinkers because they’re cheaper than hard liquor and they’re marketed with a message that the drinker can last all day or all night long. The sugary nature of the beverages also makes drinkers feel they can imbibe longer than if they were having harder alcohol.

Energy drinks can ruin your good night’s sleep

Deuster raises concerns about a problem in the military with energy drinks and sleep. And, the data back up those concerns. While service members may initially use energy drinks to make up for a lack of sleep, overuse can lead to a harmful cycle. Excess consumption of energy drinks can cause sleep problems and hamper performance.

From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations
Marines and sailors with Regimental Combat Team 8 sleep during a C-17 Globemaster III flight from Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan, to Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan. (Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Clayton Vonderahe)

 

Dr. Nancy J. Wesensten, from the Center for Military Psychiatry and Neurosciences Research, tells Army Medicine that research on caffeine shows that it can be effective if used properly. However, Wesensten notes “because caffeine impairs sleep, individuals should stop all caffeine consumption at least 6 hours prior to scheduled sleep. Otherwise, sleep could be impaired without the person even being aware of it.”

As caffeine is the major ingredient in energy drinks, the CDC reports service members who drink three or more of the drinks per day were significantly more likely to report sleeping fewer than four hours per night. They were also more likely to report disrupted sleep and other illnesses. Lack of sleep can impact memory and a service member’s ability to pay attention when it matters most. Research indicates service members who drank three or more energy drinks each day also had difficulty staying awake during briefings or on guard duty.

The Army’s Performance Triad offer tips on how to get a better night’s sleep, including controlling light and temperature, as well as leaders ensuring service members have time for quality sleep.

You really don’t know what’s in them

These drinks are not regulated as dietary supplements. While the cans have nutrition labels, many do not list supplement information.

 

From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations
The Human Performance Resource Center cautions energy drink users to be aware of the drink’s ingredients. (Operation Supplement Safety graphic)

 

One area that’s concerning to Deuster is the ingredient taurine. The chemical compound is an amino acid found in animal tissue. Many manufacturers purport the ingredient will enhance mental and physical performance. Researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center report little is actually is known about taurine’s neuroendocrine effects.

So, what should service members use instead of energy drinks?

 

From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations
Dehydration is caused by not drinking enough water. The amount of water necessary to keep someone hydrated depends greatly on the weather, the amount of physical activity, and an individual’s physical fitness level. The symptoms of dehydration include lethargy, headaches and lack of energy. (Army photo by Sgt. Timothy R. Koster)

Deuster keeps it simple: “Good old water.” Appealing to service members’ frugality, she adds,

“If you want to save money, drink water.”

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The civilian’s guide to military Force Protection Conditions

The Army in Europe relies on five Force Protection Condition (FPCON) levels — Normal, A, B, C and D — or as the Army says, Normal, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta. The levels increase from lowest condition at Normal to the highest and most protective at Delta.

The U.S. Army Europe commander delegates responsibility to general officers for force protection, known as the GOFPs. The commander of 7th Army Training Command headquartered out of Grafenwoehr is the GOFP for USAG Bavaria and USAG Ansbach.

The GOFP is the lowest level of command within U.S. Army Europe authorized to change local FPCONs. Garrison commanders immediately begin implementing FPCON changes upon receipt of notification to change.

What is an FPCON?

From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations

The Force Protection Condition, or FPCON, does two things to counter terrorists or other hostile adversaries:

1. It sets the FPCON level at Normal, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie or Delta.

– Normal: Occurs when a general global threat of possible terrorist activity is possible. The minimum FPCON for U.S. Army commands is normal.

– Alpha: Occurs when there is an increased general threat of possible terrorist activity against personnel or facilities, the nature and extent of the threat are unpredictable.

– Bravo: Applies when an increased or more predictable threat of terrorist activity exists.

– Charlie: Applies when an incident occurs or intelligence is received indicating some form of terrorist action or targeting against personnel or facilities is likely. 100% ID card check required.



– Delta: Applies in the immediate area where a terrorist attack has occurred or when intelligence has been received that terrorist action against a specific location or person is imminent. 100% ID card check required.

2. When an FPCON level is set, certain force protection measures are implemented. For example, if an Army garrison elevates to FPCON Charlie, you might see increased security measures at the gates, or even gate closures and the presence of additional security forces.

When are FPCON levels raised?

The FPCON levels are raised as a threat increases or if an attack has occurred.

How do I know the FPCON?

The Force Protection Condition level is posted at each gate entrance and all entrances to garrison facilities. It is also located on the homepage at www.bavaria.army.mil.

How will I know what measures are implemented as the FPCON increases or decreases?

While specific FPCON measures are not releasable in the interest of security, there are some key tips to keep in mind:

– The FPCON level has been set at Bravo or higher since 2001.

– FPCON Charlie — which indicates that a threat is likely — sets into motion curtailment plans for nonessential personnel. If you are unsure if you are essential or nonessential personnel, contact your supervisor.

– FPCON Delta, the highest and most protective level, limits installation access to mission-essential personnel and other personnel as determined by the commander.

– What if you need to get on-post during FPCON Charlie or Delta? If you’re off-post and you live on-post, have children at school or need to get to the clinic, for example, and the Force Protection Condition has elevated to Charlie or Delta, stand by for further directions. Contact your supervisor or unit leadership for guidance. Connect to the USAG Bavaria Facebook page at www.facebook.com/USAGBavaria and ensure you’re registered in AtHoc — the Army’s mass-warning notification system.

– No matter what the FPCON is, always carry two forms of photo ID when entering U.S. military installations, according to the Army in Europe regulation on installation access control.

– Increased force protection measures do not necessarily indicate an increase in an FPCON. Army garrisons in Europe also implement random antiterrorism measures known as RAM.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

European rivals call for UN-backed peace process in Syria

The leaders of Turkey, Russia, France, and Germany have reiterated calls for a UN-backed political process to end the war in Syria that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after a summit in Istanbul on Oct. 27, 2018, that “the meeting demonstrated there is common determination to solve the problem.

“A joint solution can be achieved, not through military means, but only through political effort under the UN aegis,” she added.


Along with Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and French President Emmanuel Macron gathered for the talks in search of an end to the seven-year civil war in the Middle East country.

Following the summit, the four leaders issued a statement calling for the convening of a committee by the end of 2018 to work on constitutional reform as a prelude to free and fair elections in Syria.

“We need transparent elections, that will be held under supervision of international observers. Refugees should take part in this process as well,” Merkel said.

From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations

German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

(Flickr photo by Philipp)

Macron said a “constitutional committee needs to be established and should hold its first meeting by the end of 2018. This is what we all want.”

“Creating it will become a part of the political settlement in Syria,” Macron said.

The summit’s final communique also supported efforts to facilitate the “safe and voluntary” return of refugees to their Syrian homes.

The final statement rejected “separatist agendas aimed at undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria as well as the national security of neighboring countries.”

Many obstacles to a peace agreement remain. They include divided opinions about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Russia and Iran.

Western countries, meanwhile, condemn Assad for what they call indiscriminate attacks on civilians and Turkey has been helping insurgents trying to remove him from power.

Putin told a news conference that a settlement in Syria cannot be reached without consultations that include Syria and “our Iranian partners,” describing them as “a guarantor country of the peace process, the cease-fire, and the establishment of demilitarized zones.”

Asked about the possibilities of a second summit of the four countries, Putin said the countries have “not negotiated this yet, but everything is possible.”

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

MIGHTY FIT

How Navy SEALs swim for miles without getting tired

With the beginning of summer, pools all over the US are opening for recreational swimming — but in the Navy, recruits are getting ready for the brutal Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, or BUD/S, that will turn some of them into Navy SEALs.

In the SEALs, where recruits of the elite special operations unit are pushed to their limits, there is no room for inefficiency. So it developed a more efficient swimming stroke: the combat swimmer stroke.


The stroke combines the best elements of breaststroke and freestyle to streamline a motion that not only reduces resistance on a swimmer’s body, but makes the swimmer harder to spot underwater.

Here’s a sample of the stroke:

Unlike freestyle, the combat sidestroke calls for the swimmer to stay submerged for most of it.

To do the combat swimmer stroke, dive in or kick off as you would in freestyle, but at the end of your glide, do a large, horizontal scissor kick instead.

Now comes the unique part — as the horizontal scissor kick tilts your body so that one arm is slightly higher than the other, pull that arm back while leaving the other outstretched.

Turn your face up toward the surface as you pull that arm down, take a breath, and begin to pull down your other arm. Another scissor kick, then reset your arms. You should not switch your orientation or the order in which you pull back your arms.

www.youtube.com

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown:

Using the combat swimmer’s stroke, Navy SEALs can go for miles in grueling training events that push their physical and mental strength.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Coast Guard loosens its tattoo policy to bring in new recruits

For the second time in two years, the Coast Guard is relaxing its policy on tattoos in what officials say is an effort to widen the pool of eligible service recruits.

According to a new policy document released Oct. 3, 2019, Coast Guard recruits and current service members may now sport chest tattoos as long as they are not visible above the collar of the Coast Guard operational dress uniform’s crew-neck T-shirt.

The new policy also allows a wider range of finger tattoos. One finger tattoo per hand is now authorized, although the location of the tattoo is still restricted. It must appear between the first and second knuckle. And ring tattoos, which were the only kind of finger tattoo previously authorized, will be counted as a hand’s finger tattoo, according to the new guidance. Thumb tattoos are still off-limits.


Finally, in a change from previous guidance, hand tattoos are also allowed. While palm tattoos remain out of bounds, Coasties and recruits can sport a tattoo on the back of the hand as long as it is no more than one inch in any dimension. One finger and one hand tattoo are allowed on each hand, according to the new policy.

From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations

The Coast Guard released a graphic to explain its new tattoo regulations.

“I am pleased to see the Coast Guard’s new tattoo policy reinforces a professional appearance to the public while adopting some of the very same tattoo standards that are now acceptable among the public,” Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Jason Vanderhaden said in a statement. “The new tattoo policy will expand our recruiting candidate pool and provide those already serving in the Coast Guard with a few new options.”

The Coast Guard last updated its tattoo policy in 2017 with rule tweaks that offered a little more leniency. Chest tattoos were allowed to creep up to one inch above the V-neck undershirt, where previously they had to remain hidden; ring tattoos were authorized.

Unlike some other services, the Coast Guard has not restricted tattoo size of percentage of body coverage on tattooable areas, but the 2017 policy stated that brands could be no larger than four by four inches and could not be located on the head, face or neck.

The most recent policies serve to relax strict regulations handed down in 2005 to address overabundant body ink.

“The 1940s, party-hard sailor is not the image we’re going for,” Chief Petty Officer Keith Alholm, a spokesman in the Coast Guard’s Seattle-based 13th District, told the Kitsap Sun at the time.

The 2005 rules — the first update to the Coast Guard’s tattoo policy in three decades — limited Coasties to tattooing no more than 25% of an exposed limb, among other restrictions.

From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations

(Photo by Andrew Leu)

The other military services have all issued updates in recent years to address concerns in the active force and current trends in the recruitable population.

In 2016, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter warned that services’ tattoo policies could be preventing otherwise eligible young people from serving. As the percentage of prospective recruits who can meet fitness, education and background standards shrinks, the service branches have even greater incentive to remove secondary barriers to service.

The Army loosened its tattoo policy in 2015, saying society’s view of body ink was changing; the Navy thrilled sailors with a significantly more lenient set of rules in 2016. The Marine Corps also released a relaxed 2016 tattoo update, and the Air Force did a 2017 about-face, allowing airmen to sport coveted sleeves.

Military officials have said they’re working to find the line between professionalism and practicality when it comes to tattoos.

“This is not an episode of [History Channel show] Vikings, where we’re tattooing our face. We’re not a biker gang, we’re not a rock and roll band. We’re not [Maroon 5 lead singer] Adam Levine,” then-Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Military.com in 2017. “You can get 70 percent of your body covered with ink and still be a Marine. Is that enough?”

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

Articles

Silver coating may be the future of military cold weather clothing

Engineers at Stanford University have created a coating of silver nanowire that retains up to 90 percent of the user’s body heat, allowing wearers to stay comfortable in lower temperatures and reducing visibility to enemy infrared.


From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations
U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Sarah Mattison

“Let’s say you want to make your clothes reflect heat, you need metal,” Yi Cui, the lead scientist on the project, said in Popular Science. “But you’re not going to put metal on your body.”

The coating allows sweat to pass through it, so troops wouldn’t get soaked, and in extreme cold an electric current from a battery could raise the temperature of the silver and quickly warm the soldier. The downside to the electric current is that it would light up any infrared sensors the soldier was hiding from.

To apply the coating, researchers dip garments into a solution of silver. When it dries, it leaves behind extremely thin and flexible nanowires of the metal. It only takes about $10 to coat a garment with the silver, Benjamin Wiley, an assistant professor of chemistry at Duke University, told OZY.

The actual silver used is less than a gram and costs about 50 cents. The main focus of the research so far has been been for civilian use, sweaters that would reduce the need for inefficient heating of homes and offices in the winter. So, there’s a chance these fabrics will be available at the mall before they’re issued to troops. Cui estimated they would be on store racks by 2018 if there are no unforeseen issues.

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This impostor saved lives in the Korean War pretending to be a Navy surgeon

In the ultimate example of “fake it til you make it,” Ferdinand Demara boarded the HMCS Cayuga, a Canadian Navy destroyer during the Korean War. He was impersonating a doctor, which was fine until the ship started taking on more serious casualties and Demara was left as the ship’s only “surgeon”.


From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations
Ferdinand Demara in Canadian Navy uniform.

This is the point where most people would throw up their hands and announce the game was up, but Demara wasn’t ultimately labeled “the Great Imposter” for nothing. He had a photographic memory and a very high IQ.

So the new doctor went into his quarters for a few minutes with a medical textbook, came back out and then operated the 16 badly injured troops — including one who required major chest surgery — and saved them all.

There is no word on which textbook you can read to learn how to perform surgery in a few minutes, but whichever one it is, it’s totally worth the money. There is also no mention of how Demara managed to board the vessel and how no one recognized there was a new crewman aboard with no papers.

Demara’s identity was somehow discovered after this incident and he could no longer live under different identities (he was even featured in Time Magazine). He previously worked as civil engineer, a zoology graduate, a doctor of applied psychology, a monk (on two separate occasions), an assistant warden at a Texas prison, philosophy dean at a Pennsylvania college, a hospital orderly, a lawyer, cancer researcher, and a teacher.

There was even a movie made about his life starring Tony Curtis. After that level of recognition, Demara could no longer blend in and integrate himself as he once did.

From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations

An interesting note, Demara never sought financial gain, just the experience of the job. He died in 1982.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The COVID-19 effect: Navy ships

When the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) returned to sea in late-May following a two-month long battle against the novel coronavirus, the aircraft carrier was ground zero for a new normal for Navy ships at sea.

In the early months of the global pandemic, the Roosevelt had become itself a COVID-19 “hotspot.” The virus ultimately cost one Roosevelt crewmember his life and infected 1,150 sailors. As the ship resumed its mission with a scaled-back crew, facemasks, frequent handwashing, enhanced cleaning measures, reduced mess deck seating, one-way corridors and other protocols to mitigate COVID-19 had become the norm within the fleet.


“We can protect our force, we can deploy our Navy, and we will do both,” Vice Adm. Phillip Sawyer, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans and Strategy, told reporters on an April 15 call. “Face-coverings, hand-washing, ship-disinfecting are now part of our daily routine throughout the Navy.”

Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, argues the pandemic has served as a wake-up call for the Navy.

“The Navy trains for all sorts of contingencies but if operating during a global pandemic was one, it was so far down the list as to be irrelevant,” Rubin said. “Politicians thought we were past this age and flag officers and civilian planners were no different.”

From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations

Navy Seaman Kyle Pavek stands lookout watch aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during a replenishment-at-sea with the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197). Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Julian Davis.

Less than a month after the first sailor aboard the Roosevelt tested positive for the coronavirus, the Navy issued updated guidance aimed at maintaining ongoing fleet operations and defeating “this unseen enemy.” The Navy’s “Pre-Deployment Guidance” and a “COVID-19 Recovery Framework” outline shipboard changes that will be experienced by sailors:

Pre-deployment:

  • Mandatory medical screenings for existing medical conditions that place personnel at higher risk for COVID-19 complications.
  • Daily personal screening questionnaires and temperature checks.
  • Testing and isolation of anyone with flu-like symptoms.
  • 14-to-21-day restriction of movement (ROM) period for potentially asymptomatic people to present symptoms.
  • 14-day ROM period before external crew, ship riders (contractors, technical representatives) and direct support personnel can embark during an underway.

Deployment:

  • Enforcement of personal hygiene practices and, whenever possible, physical distancing.
  • Ongoing screening for potential COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Maximum personal protective equipment (PPE) use.
  • Separate and segregate cleaning teams from critical watchstanders.
  • Restrict visitors.
  • Minimize contact with delivery personnel.

Additional guidance outlines specific steps to be taken to clean a ship or facility following a COVID-19 outbreak, using three categories of requirements depending on the degree to which the space is operationally significant and the level of access required.

“These measures allow fleet leadership the ability to monitor the health of the force in a controlled and secure environment so they are ready to accomplish assigned missions and support to the goal of preventing the spread of the COVID virus to U.S. forces, allies, partners and the community. These frameworks cover testing for personnel as well,” Cmdr. Patrick L. Evans, Public Affairs Officer for Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in an email response. He noted commanders have the authority to issue more specific guidance to units within their areas of responsibility.

“In addition, our ships are enforcing social distancing, minimizing group gatherings, wearing PPE and cleaning extensively,” he added. “Quarterdeck watchstanders are screening anyone who walks on board and referring sailors with symptoms to medical evaluation.”

From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations

Navy Quartermaster 3rd Class Patrick Souvannaleut, left, and Quartermaster 3rd Class Elizabeth Weil, right, stand spotter lookout during a replenishment-at-sea as the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt approaches the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197). Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Wheeler.

Navy officials have acknowledged “day-to-day actions must assume COVID is present” because asymptomatic personnel are likely to be aboard all ships. That point was driven home in mid-May when 14 Roosevelt sailors who previously contracted the virus tested positive a second time after returning to the ship following a mandatory quarantine period and two negative COVID-19 tests.

Retired Navy Capt. Albert Shimkus, a registered nurse and certified nurse anesthetist who previously commanded the hospital ship USNS Comfort, maintains sailors must take individual responsibility for following COVID-19 prevention protocols and “recognizing you could potentially be a carrier that could affect and infect your shipmates.”

As the Navy adjusts to the operational realities the pandemic presents, Shimkus, whose views are his own and do not represent the U.S. Naval War College, U.S. Navy or Department of Defense, stresses the Navy’s core values must ring true.

“Given the nature of what this crisis is ‘Honor, Courage and Commitment’ speak volumes about how we will treat ourselves and each other and about doing the ethically and morally correct thing,” said Shimkus, Associate Professor, National Security Affairs, Naval War College. “That’s all related to a command environment that is healthy and a command environment that is willing to do what’s right for the members of their command.”

Shimkus is confident Navy leaders at sea and ashore will rise to the challenge.

“Good leadership in the context of this crisis is being transparent to their crew and members of their organizations,” he explained. “Telling the truth and being able to be understood by your crew, opening up questions and answering them to the best of your ability is part of good leadership and commitment to doing the right thing.”

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Over the last two decades, special-operations forces have become the go-to choice for policymakers and military leaders around the world.

The successes of US and coalition special-operations units in the Global War on Terror (GWOT) and in Syria against ISIS have showcased the importance and utility of small teams of highly trained troops.

While the US and its allies have been fighting in the Middle East, the Chinese military has been paying close attention, especially to US special operations. As a result, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is increasingly investing resources in its own special-operations forces.

So with everyone gearing up for great power competition, how do Chinese special operations measure up against the US’s and what are the biggest difference between the two?

US special operators

From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations
US Army Special Forces members perform an airborne operation near Mont Saint Michel in France, May 18, 2019.

US special-operations units can be divided into unofficial tiers.

Delta Force and SEAL Team 6 would be at the top (Tier 1), followed by the 75th Ranger Regiment, Night Stalkers, MARSOC, and SEAL and Boat Teams (Tier 2), and then the Special Forces Groups (Tier 3). Air Commandos are harder to categorize since they most often augment other units rather than deploy as teams.

It’s important to note that these tiers have more to do with mission sets and funding than with the quality of the troops.

For example, SEAL Team 6 is part of the National Mission Force (the Pentagon’s first responders, in layman’s terms) and has far more money to spend and resources to use than a “vanilla” SEAL team, but both are manned by SEALs.

Chinese special operators

From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations
China navy Jiaolong, or “Sea Dragon” commandos during an exercise.

Irregular warfare and special operations have been part of Chinese military culture since the time of Sun Tzu, whose writings highlighted the value of specialized individuals and units in warfare.

However, modern Chinese special operations are fairly new. The first unit, the Special Reconnaissance Group, was established in 1988. In the late 1990s, as part of PLA’s modernization, seven Special Operations Groups of between 1,000 to 2,000 men were created.

Now there is one special-operations brigade-size unit in each of the five theater commands, which are a rough equivalent of the US’s combatant commands.

In addition, there are numerous smaller special-operations units of varying size in the other branches. The Chinese Navy, Air Force, and Rocket Force (the branch responsible for China’s nuclear and conventional missiles) each have a dedicated special-operations unit.

The Navy’s Jiaolong (Sea Dragons) is probably the most famous Chinese special-operations unit after it successfully recaptured a ship from pirates in the Gulf of Aden and assisted the evacuation of civilians from war-torn Yemen, which became the subject of a Chinese propaganda movie.

All in all, China has between 20,000 and 40,000 special-operations troops of varying quality.

Crucially, Chinese special-operations units have more than doubled in number in the last two decades, showing that Chinese leaders are paying close attention to the high-reward, low-cost characteristics of special-operations units.

Both special but not the same

From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations
Chinese Navy Special Forces, or “Jiaolong Commando,” repel onto a ship during an exercise.

Since the early 2000s, the PLA has undergone a drastic modernization and professionalization process, transitioning from a mainly conscript force to a smaller, mostly volunteer military, though conscription remains as a policy.

The new force’s main aim is to fight short wars against regional adversaries while having a technological advantage.

Chinese special-operations units, and the PLA as a whole, have gained from that modernization and learned from the example provided by Western special-operations units over the past 60 years, but Chinese forces are still untested in combat.

On the other hand, US special-operations units have amassed an astounding level of combat experience in the last two decades. It’s not uncommon to have operators with double-digit combat deployments and hundreds of real-world operations under their belts.

Chinese special-operations units are also regionally focused and lack a centralized command like the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM). This could limit their effectiveness and hurt interoperability.

From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations
A member of the “Jiaolong Commando.”

Moreover, Chinese special-operations units lack the dedicated aviation and maritime assets that American commandos have, namely the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Special Boat Teams, SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams, and the Air Force’s Special Operations Squadrons.

Without specialized insertion platforms, the utility of Chinese commandos is limited and their geographic scope localized. However, according to the US Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO), the PLA is establishing aviation brigades that might resolve some of these asset shortcomings.

Additionally, there is a difference in mission sets.

Chinese special-operations units focus on direct action, special reconnaissance, and counterterrorism. Unlike US commandos, they don’t conduct unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, counterinsurgency, hostage rescue, civil affairs, and psychological operations.

In a nutshell, in terms of mission sets, Chinese commandos are closer to World War II special-operations units than to modern US special operations. It’s not that they aren’t capable, but their scope is more limited, a reflection of the PLA’s strategic priorities.

People first

But perhaps the biggest and most important difference is the people.

“Humans are more important than hardware,” is one of the five US special-operations “Truths.” Western special operators take pride in their independence and out-of-the-box thinking, which is encouraged if not expected by their leaders.

Units like Delta Force, the SEAL Teams, the Special Forces Groups, and allied units like the Special Air Service (SAS) excel because of their noncommissioned officers. When planning operations, it’s these NCOs who come up with the ideas and approach. Ironically, the British SAS have titled this enlisted-driven process “the Chinese Parliament.”

Conversely, elements of Chinese military culture, in particular the use of conscripts as well as differing views on unit cohesion, pose a significant barrier to small-team independence.

Allegiance to and scrutiny by the Communist Party complicates things further and adds another level of bureaucracy.

China is used to stealing and copying military technology and concepts, which is believed to be behind Beijing’s advances in fighter jets and other weapons. But when it comes to special-operations units, these cultural aspects aren’t easy to mimic.

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

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