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.

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 CULTURE

‘The Off-Islander’ sees a Vietnam vet turned private investigator looking for a missing man in 1982 New England

Growing up, my stepdad kept a series of paperback books high up on the shelf. They were novels by an author named John MacDonald with distinctive color-based titles like The Green Ripper and The Scarlet Ruse. They featured a unique sort of private investigator named Travis McGee. When I was old enough to reach them, they became my entry point into the mystery genre.

Travis McGee was a departure from the hardboiled detective stories of an earlier era. The classic noir private investigator was a world-weary gumshoe navigating dark streets and negotiating femme fatales, corrupt cops, and mobsters to close the case. Mcgee was different. Travis was a bon vivant and knight-errant, a handsome man who saw life as something to be enjoyed rather than endured as he cut a swath through both Florida’s prettiest women and its most colorful villains to close cases. Think 1980’s Magnum PI set in Fort Lauderdale and you get the picture.


All of this is my way of saying I was feeling a little bit of that MacDonald vibe when I read Peter Colt’s debut novel, The Off-Islander.

For sure, Colt’s Andy Roark is a different character than MacDonald’s McGee. Andy is a good bit rougher than McGee due to his military and cop background and as he describes himself, ‘doesn’t always conform to rules and regulations’. But Roark, much like McGee has a sensitive core with an appreciation for books and music, good food and drink, and a preference for educated women who appreciate art. He even partakes of marijuana though he rather stick to beer and bourbon.

The plot of the novel isn’t a complex one. It is a missing person case, which sees Andy travel through Boston and Nantucket Island looking for someone who obviously does not want to be found. Like most mystery novels, there are some complications as Andy works the case. Only some of those complications are resolved by the end of the novel but the loose strings do not otherwise affect the resolution of this procedural.

That is not to say I did not enjoy this novel. I enjoyed it very much. The plot is dripping with New England atmospherics. Where McGee’s novels were all Florida sun, Colt sets his story in the bleak windswept bogs and shores of Massachusetts. Andy’s investigation takes him from the gray environs of Boston to charming Cape Cod store fronts besieged by whipping rain and wind. It is the perfect setting for hard-edged people with secrets they’re willing to kill to keep. The book is also informed by Peter Colt’s real life experience as a veteran, police officer, and former resident of Nantucket Island. This lends the text an added layer of authenticity and intimacy in his description of the setting and Roark’s detective deductions.

In addition, notable in this book was Andy’s military past. Though McGee was also a veteran, MacDonald left McGee’s service ambiguous and it never really played much of a role in how portrayed his character. Colt on the other hand keeps coming back to Andy’s service in Vietnam in just about every chapter of the book. Roark is still clearly dealing with his unresolved feelings towards his service and in a melancholic touch, it seems to be the shadow that ruins his relationships with the women in his life. The title of the book, ‘The Off-Islander’ is not just descriptive of Andy’s alienation from the closed community of Nantucket Island – it also speaks to his personal post-war isolation from polite civil society.

Ultimately, this is a good debut novel which launches what I help to be a great series of adventures featuring an appealing private investigator. It was an easy afternoon and evening read set in the part of the country which I reside and love. I enjoyed my time sleuthing with Andy. I ended the novel hoping to see him get a Vietnam-free night of sleep, a good stiff drink, and a healthy relationship with a good woman in the second book.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Marines and British soldiers practice handling POWs and bombs

Marines with 2nd Intelligence Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force continued to build a strong relationship with British Army Reserve soldiers with 5th Military Intelligence (5MI) Battalion, during Exercise Phoenix Odyssey from Sept. 11-19, 2019.

The purpose behind the exercise originated in 2014 to improve interoperability by increasing cohesion between British and US military units so they are better prepared to work alongside one another. This year, the training was hosted on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

The weeklong training placed the two units inside the Infantry Immersion Trainer (IIT) on MCB Camp Lejeune.

Inside the IIT, the military members conducted detaining operations, handling prisoners of war and finding improvised explosive devices.


US Marine Corps Cpl. Nathan Fiorucci, ground sensor operator, assigned to 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, reviews notes during Exercise Phoenix Odyssey at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Sept. 10, 2019

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Austin Livingston)

US Marines with 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, and a British soldier with the UK’s 5 Military Intelligence Battalion, clear a room at the Infantry Immersion Trainer during Exercise Phoenix Odyssey at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Sept. 11, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Livingston)

A US Marine with 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, and British soldiers with the UK’s 5 Military Intelligence Battalion, provide security at the Infantry Immersion Trainer during Exercise Phoenix Odyssey at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Sept. 11, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Livingston)

US Marines assigned with 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, and soldiers with the UK’s 5 Military Intelligence Battalion, plan their next training operation at the Infantry Immersion Trainer during Exercise Phoenix Odyssey at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Sept. 11, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Livingston)

US Marines with 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, and British soldiers with the UK’s 5 Military Intelligence Battalion, are debriefed at the Infantry Immersion Trainer during Exercise Phoenix Odyssey at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Sept. 11, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Livingston)

US Marines with 2nd Intelligence Battalion and British soldiers with 5 Military Intelligence Battalion conduct room-clearing operations while participating in a live-action simulation during Exercise Phoenix Odyssey on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Sept. 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Livingston)

“We train together to learn how to work with one another in the intelligence operations center so that in the event we have to deploy, it’s important we understand how to do the same processes,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Tevis Lang, a master analyst with 2nd Intelligence Battalion. “If we understand each other, we can work together anywhere.”

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

Articles

39 Awesome photos of life in the US Marine Corps infantry

YouTube, We Are The Mighty


From fighting pirates in the First Barbary War of 1801 to seizing the Kandahar International Airport in 2001 and beyond, Marine Corps infantrymen have been fighting and winning our nation’s battles for more than 200 years.

Known as “grunts,” infantrymen receive specialized training in weapons, tactics, and communications that make them effective in combat. And while many things have changed for grunts over time, they continue to carry on the legacy that was forged from the “small wars” to the “Frozen Chosin” to the jungles of Vietnam.

After more than a decade of war following the 9/11 attacks, many grunts have deployed to combat …

Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

… In Iraq, where they earned their place in history at Nasiriyah, Najaf, and Fallujah (shown here), and many others.

Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

While others deployed to Afghanistan, into the deadly Korengal Valley …

Photo Credit: Darren Allen

 … Or more recently to Marjah, in Helmand Province.

Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

But before infantrymen join their units, they need to complete initial training. For enlisted Marines, that means going to the School of Infantry, either at Camp Pendleton, California or Camp Geiger, North Carolina.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

For officers, their training at Infantry Officer Course in Quantico, Va. involves both tactics and weapons, along with a more intense focus on how to lead an infantry platoon.

Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

While most enlisted grunts become 0311 riflemen, others receive more specialized training, like 0331 machine-gunners, which learn the M240 machine gun (shown here), the MK19 grenade launcher, and the M2 .50 cal.

Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

0341 Mortarmen learn how to operate the 60 mm (shown below) and 81 mm mortar systems, which help riflemen with indirect fire support when they need a little bit more firepower.

Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

0351 Assaultmen learn basic demolitions, breaching, and become experts in destroying bad guys with the SMAW rocket system. The Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon (SMAW) is shown below.

Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

Packing even more punch that’s usually vehicle-mounted, 0352 Anti-tank missilemen learn their primary M41 SABER (below) heavy anti-tank weapon and the Javelin, a medium anti-tank weapon.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Some more experienced infantrymen go into specialized fields, such as Reconnaissance or snipers (below).

Photo Credit: Zac Mercoli

Always present is a focus on mission accomplishment, and to “keep their honor clean” — to preserve the legacy of the Corps …

Photo Credit: Library of Congress

… That grunts are proud of. Always remembering heroics from the Chosin Reservoir Marines in Korea …

Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

… To those who fought in Vietnam jungles, or the storied battles of Hue and Khe Sanh.

Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

Since Vietnam, grunts have been repeatedly been called upon for minor and major engagements, such as Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and Operation United Shield in Somalia in 1995 (below).

Photo Credit: Darren Allen

But it’s not all combat.

Photo Credit: Darren Allen

Marine grunts are constantly training, whether it’s practicing amphibious landings …

Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

… Or learning the skills needed to survive and thrive in a jungle environment.

Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

Sometimes they take a break to catch up on their reading.

Photo Credit: Michael Sinclair

And when they’re not training, they are trying to have fun.

Photo Credit: Josh Boston

Sometimes … maybe too much fun.

Photo Credit: Donnie Hickman

While technology has made today’s infantrymen even deadlier, the life of the grunt has always been spartan.

Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

Grunts often work in rough conditions, and they need to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Photo Credit: Nate Hall

And quite often, they need to be self-sufficient. At remote patrol bases, that means everything from burning their trash and other waste …

Photo Credit: Paul Martin

To fixing their morning coffee in any way they can.

Photo Credit: Daniel Evans

Grunts learn to appreciate the little things, like care packages from home …

Photo Credit: Matt McElhinney

… Any privacy they can get …

Photo Credit: Daniel Evans

… Or a “FOB Pup” to play around with in between missions.

Photo Credit: Daniel Evans

When they get into a fight with the enemy, they battle back just as their predecessors did.

Photo Credit: Zac Mercoli

And with solid training and leadership, they can easily transition, as Gen. Mattis says, from no worse enemy to no better friend.

Photo Credit: Nate Hall

When things don’t go exactly as planned …

Photo Credit: Josh Boston

… Grunts can usually shake it off with a smile.

Photo Credit: JC Eliott

Especially in a combat zone, humor helps a unit through tough times.

Photo Credit: Zac Mercoli

And there are plenty of opportunities for laughs.

Photo Credit: Marc Anthony Madding

Whether it’s graffiti on a barrier …

Photo Credit: JC Eliott

 Or taunting the Taliban with a Phillies t-shirt.

Photo Credit: Zac Mercoli

But the bottom line is that grunts are the Marine Corps’ professional war-fighters.

Photo Credit: Nate Hall

They forge brotherhoods that last for a lifetime.

Photo Credit: Nate Hall

And they never forget those who didn’t make it home.

Memorial ceremony for Sgt. Thomas Spitzer. (Photo Credit: US Marine Corps)

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA has a SWAT team, and they’re good

If you think it’s hard getting tickets to a summer blockbuster on opening night, try getting into Kennedy Space Center these days to see a Space Shuttle launch.


After two and a half years of anticipation, people around the world want to see NASA boost back into action and the show sells out quick. Thinking about slipping in through the back door?

Think again.

After climbing wall obstacles, Emergency Response Team members from Kennedy move to the next challenge during a SWAT Round-Up International event. (Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann)

Along with the formidable force of standard security at Kennedy, a highly trained and specialized group of guardians protect the Center from would-be troublemakers. They are the members of the Kennedy Space Center Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team and they mean business.

“We’re here 24-7,” said SWAT commander David Fernandez. “There’s never a point when SWAT is not here, so we’re ready to respond to something if needed at a moment’s notice.”

NASA contracts the 29-member team from Space Gateway Support (SGS) to protect Kennedy’s employees, visitors, and national assets like the Space Shuttle from any potential threat. The SWAT team carefully prepares for special events like launch day and the arrival of astronauts and VIPs, but it also stands ready every day for possible problems that may arise.

Additionally, the SWAT team provides support to Kennedy security when special expertise may be needed to diffuse a dangerous situation. Skills like rappelling, defensive tactics, or marksmanship may be used to help keep the peace.

To stay sharp and fit for their job, members of the team have to pass annual physical fitness tests and maintain updated certifications for using their weapons.

“The training that we do out here is very intense sometimes,” Fernandez said. “But that’s because we’re at a stage which could be considered by some to be advanced. The training has to be more intense and challenging.”

Members of the Emergency Response team, or ERT, carry a battering ran and equipment through an obstacle area during an event of the SWAT Round-Up International. Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann

As a part of staying in shape, members of the Kennedy Space Center SWAT team participate in competitions with the most elite teams around the world. SWAT officers hone their skills in events testing their speed and accuracy with special weapons and equipment. In 2019, the team from Kennedy placed 10th out of 55 teams at the annual SWAT Roundup in Orlando, Fla.

SWAT team logo Members of the SWAT team admit that one of the best parts of their job is getting the “big-boy toys.” But senior officer Eric Munsterman said there is also a rewarding bond they share with one another.

“In the civilian world, outside of police work or fire work, I don’t see where you’re going to find [camaraderie] as strongly as we develop it,” Munsterman said.

They may have their differences during the week, but when they suit up and go to work, that all goes away, Munsterman said.

Through a strong commitment to each other, members of the SWAT team ensure things at Kennedy stay safe. If you plan to come see a Space Shuttle launch, make sure you have a ticket.

“If anybody means harm to the astronauts or anyone else that works out here, they’re not getting past us,” Munsterman said.
Articles

These US soldiers spent Christmas Eve raining hell on ISIS

On Christmas Eve, Soldiers in Staff Sgt. Johnathan Walker’s section shiver as freezing rain falls upon their position.


U.S Army Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, load a round into M777 artillery piece to support the Iraqi security forces during the Mosul counter offensive, Dec. 24, 2016, in northern Iraq. Battery C is supporting the ISF with indirect fires in their fight against ISIL. (Photo Credit: 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson) U.S Army Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, load a round into M777 artillery piece to support the Iraqi security forces during the Mosul counter offensive, Dec. 24, 2016, in northern Iraq. Battery C is supporting the ISF with indirect fires in their fight against ISIL. (Photo Credit: 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson)

“Fire!” yells Walker as he makes a cutting motion through the rain with his hand. A round leaves the tube of the M777 artillery piece with its trademark boom and smoke, and the artillerymen begin to move again. The sounds of their boots impacting the mud and gravel echo through the gun pit.

It may be the holiday season, but the mission for the Soldiers of Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, continues. The Iraqi Security Forces are battling ISIL in Mosul, and the artillerymen are supporting them with indirect fires.

U.S Army Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, execute a fire mission to support the Iraqi security forces during the Mosul counter-offensive, Dec. 24, 2016, in northern Iraq. Battery C is supporting the ISF with indirect fires in their fight against the ISIL. (Photo Credit: 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson) U.S Army Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, execute a fire mission to support the Iraqi security forces during the Mosul counter-offensive, Dec. 24, 2016, in northern Iraq. Battery C is supporting the ISF with indirect fires in their fight against the ISIL. (Photo Credit: 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson)

“We provide overmatch capability to the maneuver commander,” explained Sgt. 1st Class Scott Young, the platoon sergeant of 2nd Platoon, Battery C, during his rounds of the gun line. “When air support isn’t available, either due to weather or not having the assets in the area, we can bring effects onto targets. As long as there is an observer out there, we can shoot.”

“Task Force Top Guns” has provided fire support for the Iraqi Security Forces ever since arriving in early May. The battery has fired more than 4,000 rounds in support of their maneuvers.

They’re also credited with conducting the first conventional air assault mission during Operation Inherent Resolve, during which they rapidly moved artillery pieces by air to establish a new firing position. At the completion of the fires, the guns were moved back to their starting location.

“We’ve denied territory so the enemy can’t maneuver, obscured friendly movements, and we have precision capability, which is critical in this fight,” Young said, pointing in the direction of Mosul to emphasize his point.

“If there is a target in a built-up area, we can hit it while minimizing damage to the surrounding area. We pride ourselves on our accuracy.”

U.S. Army Sgt. Scott Martineau, Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, moves towards his position on an M777 howitzer during a fire mission to support the security forces during the Mosul counteroffensive, Dec. 25, 2016, in northern Iraq. Battery C is supporting the ISF with indirect fires in their fight against ISIL. (Photo Credit: 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson) U.S. Army Sgt. Scott Martineau, Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, moves towards his position on an M777 howitzer during a fire mission to support the security forces during the Mosul counteroffensive, Dec. 25, 2016, in northern Iraq. Battery C is supporting the ISF with indirect fires in their fight against ISIL. (Photo Credit: 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson)

The rain picks up and a slight fog takes shape in the distance as Walker’s crew awaits their next command. The weather has changed in Iraq, and the Soldiers have switched from their summer lightweight combat shirts to multiple layers in an attempt to stave off the wind-chill.

“Fire mission at my command,” comes the transmission over the radio, and the artillerymen spring into action, beginning the crew drill to load the artillery piece, just as they have done for the past eight months. The Soldiers move quickly through their tasks, and Walker gives the signal once more. Another boom reverberates in the pit.

“It feels good to know that we’re being called on to support the fight and we’re having an effect,” Walker said in between missions. During each crew drill, he encourages his men to keep up the effort. “That’s the reason why we’re out here. We do everything with a sense of urgency and there’s no room for mistakes.”

Battery C has received multiple calls for fires as the Iraqi Security Forces have moved deeper and deeper into Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq and the site of a major operation with the goal of liberating the city. ISIL has been dug into the city for two years.

“There’s a lot more variables in weather like this,” said Walker. “People move a little slower, the rounds are slippery, and morale may drop. It’s the job of crew chiefs on the line to keep on pushing the sections to complete the mission. Rain or shine, when we get the call, we have to react.”

The radio sounds soon after, and the artillerymen are once again called to action.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Security Airmen getting new special ops-like helmets

The Air Force has been busy this summer. From providing the latest class of recruits to Space Force to issuing better fitting body armor to women airmen, it seems like the protectors of the sky are really looking to expand and develop on its commitment to its force. This comes after the push in 2018 for Air Force defenders to get updated weapons, along with revised training and fitness standards.

Now, security airmen are next in line to receive a uniform upgrade. Soon, they’ll be issued new special ops-like helmets. This next generation of ballistic helmet is just the latest initiative that the Air Force is taking to ensure its personnel remains safe.


This new helmet is going to replace the older and far less-adaptable Advanced Combat Helmet. The ACH is what security forces currently wear, and many airmen have complained about its bulk and weight. Adding to the challenges is that the ACH is designed for ground units, so airmen have struggled with it, and in some cases, have had to outfit and modify it with bulky additions to accomplish different mission sets.

Not only will the new helmet come with better padding, built-in railings to easily attach accessories, but they’ll also be lighter and cooler. The Air Force Security Forces Center is now sending out new ballistic helmets as it phases out the ACH.

The 71st Security Forces Squadron, located at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma, was the first squadron to receive the helmet. Soon airmen everywhere will receive the upgrade.

An Air Force press release said that the initial response to the new helmet has been positive. Master Sgt. Darryl Wright, 71st SFS logistics and readiness superintendent, said that the new version is the “most agile helmet” he’s worn in 19 years.

The helmets are part of the Air Force Security Forces Control initiative to modernize not just weapon systems but also individual protective gear. Included in this refresh is contingency support equipment and deployable communications systems, both of which will be paramount to successfully defeating the enemy in future conflicts. In the future, the Air Force plans to roll out a newly revised M18 modular handgun system, M4A1 assault rifle, M110A1 semi-automatic precision engagement rifle, M320A1 grenade launcher, and modular, scalable bests.

“We’re identifying salient characteristics of the best individual equipment industry has to offer at the best value to achieve standardization across the force,” said Lt. Col. Barry Nichols, AFSFC director of Logistics. “This effort is instrumental in keeping Defenders throughout the security forces enterprise ready and lethal with procurement of the most cutting-edge and innovative equipment available in order to accomplish missions safely and effectively.”

These changes all come after the Air Force’s Year of the Defender 2019 exercises, where the service conducted a detailed and extensive review of all security forces. This review explored areas that could be improved upon, both in terms of equipment and gear to tactics, training, and general morale boosts. To date, the Air Force has successfully worked through over 900 specific items that needed to change and has spent almost 0 million to update their gear.

The Air Force currently field about 25,000 active-duty security forces airmen. There are an additional 13,000 in the Air National Guard and Reserve components. Of the forces 38,000 airmen, about 98 percent are enlisted. This aligns the entire branch of the Air Force with the Army’s lightest light infantry unit.

Brig. Gen. Andrea Tullos, career security forces officer, said that the Air Force has “expeditionary roots,” and that the branch is “a blend between light infantry and a military police company.”

Collectively, these big changes are helping the service gain air superiority over the peer adversary that could potentially pose a big threat to the military. As the Air Force continues to look toward the future and the likelihood of conflicts with either Russia or China, the Air Force needs to be able to pick up the slack safeguarding forward-deployed squadrons instead of relying on ground forces. This new helmet upgrade is yet another step to making sure that can happen.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Sorry Marines, these apps are banned from your government phones

Bitcoin, gaming and dating apps are now officially banned from government-issued Marine Corps phones. The ruling came down in mid-August that Marines are now no longer allowed to use gambling and dating apps, along with cryptocurrency applications or anything that attempts to override and bypass tools or download rules.

One of the reasons for the ban is because, like all things tech-related, the possibility of these phones become targets is very real. Smartphones are part of most Marines’ professional life, which means they’re full of compromising information. In turn, that makes them a very real target.


This order extends beyond unit issued phones to include personal cell phones. Marines are cautioned not to use any apps that the government has already deemed a risk, like TikTok and WeChat, which has already been banned by the Pentagon.

TikTok and WeChat

TikTok is a popular social media platform that allows users to upload short videos. Pentagon officials worry that the app could be used to spread misinformation and propaganda. The moderators of the platform are censoring content to appease the app’s owners in China.

TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is based in China. There are fears that the company might share user data with the Chinese government, either intentionally through data requests or unintentionally through surveillance software.

Like TikTok, WeChat is a Chinese owned company that’s considered a ‘super-app’ because it combines the functions of financial services, travel, food delivery, ride-sharing, social media, messaging, and more. Its popularity is due in part to the fact that the Chinese government shuts out other foreign tech companies and penalizes people who try to override the laws. WeChat is known to censor and surveil their users on behalf of the government and turn over the government’s information when “sensitive information” is discovered.

This concern over American military members using Chinese-owned apps is nothing new. In fact, concerns about these two applications have been brewing for over a year. Both Microsoft and Twitter are currently in talks to acquire TikTok, but a sale could be far off and incredibly messy. Microsoft wants to buy TikTok in the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, but so far in the history of social media, no company has ever split up a social network along regional lines.

Mobile apps like WeChat, which have so obviously been created to be the third arm of government surveillance, pose immediate risks to military members. OPSEC becomes harder and harder to control and maintain in the digital world, and users can inadvertently give away too much information.

A Lance Corporal Learns the Ultimate Lesson

Last year, during a mock training exercise in California, a Maine lance corporal took a selfie that gave up his location, which resulted in his entire artillery unit being taken out by the mock enemy force. More than ten thousand Marines were at Twentynine Palms for an air-ground combat training mission, which was the biggest training event of its kind in decades. IN addition to Marines being present, sailors and NATO forces participated in the event.

The selfie allowed the mock enemy to geo-locate the lance corporal and his unit, which resulted in his ‘death’ and the ‘death’ of the rest of his unit. While the lance corporal learned this lesson without loss of life, others might not be so fortunate, which is one of the many reasons military leaders consistently stress the need for digital OPSEC.

The Marine Corps won’t issue numbers that show just how many Marines have tried to put dating apps, games and cryptocurrency apps on their government phones. Now, any app that can be classified into these categories is blocked from the Apple Store and Google Play. The only applications Marines can access are those that the Marine Corps has determined necessary to conduct authorized activities.

As with other branches of the military, the Marine Corps has the final say in which apps can be installed on official mobile devices.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the legendary Memphis Belle was brought back to life

Through the cockpit windscreen, Capt. Robert Morgan saw flashes of light from the wings and engine cowling of a German Focke-Wulf Fw 190 at his 12 o’clock and closing at an incredible rate. Each wink of light from the fighter’s wing root meant another 20mm cannon shell was heading directly at his B-17F Flying Fortress at over 2,300 feet per second.

Having no room to dive in the crowded formation of B-17 bombers of the 91st Bomb Group, he pitched up. The Luftwaffe fighter’s shells impacted the tail of the aircraft instead of coming straight through the windscreen.


Over the intercom Morgan heard his tail gunner, Sgt. John Quinlan, yelling that the aircraft’s tail was shot to pieces and what was left was in flames.

(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

It was January 23, 1943. Morgan and his nine crewmen aboard the “Memphis Belle” had just fought their way through a swarm of Luftwaffe fighters, dropped their bombs on a Nazi submarine base in the coastal city of Lorient in occupied France and were fighting to survive the return trip to the Eighth Air Force base in Bassingbourn, England. Morgan began calculating if the crew should bail out and become prisoners of war before the tail tore completely off the bomber trapping the crew in a death spiral culminating in a fiery crash.

A moment later, Quinlan reported that the fire in the tail had gone out. The “Memphis Belle” and its crew would survive the mission; the crew’s eighth and the bomber’s ninth.

(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

They would have to survive 17 more missions to complete the required 25 to rotate home. All would be flown during a period of World War II when the Luftwaffe was at the height of its destructive powers.

Against all odds, the “Memphis Belle” crew flew those missions, their last to once again bomb the U-boat pens at Lorient on May 17, 1943, before returning safely to England for the final time. Bottles of Champagne were uncorked and radio operator Tech. Sgt. Robert J. Hanson collapsed onto the flightline and kissed the ground.

(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

For the “Belle” itself, it was only mission 24 and the plane had to fly once more with an alternate crew on May 19.

The B-17 and its crew would be the first to return alive and intact to the U.S. They were welcomed as heroes and immediately embarked on a 2 ½-month, nationwide morale tour to sell war bonds. The tour was also to encourage bomber crews in training that they too could make it home. It made celebrities of both the “Belle” and its crew.

Ironically, the two and a half months of press conferences, parties and glad-handing officers and politicians was about the same amount of time during the “Belle’s” combat tour that 80 percent of the 91st Bomb Group’s B-17s and their crews were lost to German fighters and anti-aircraft fire.

“Eighty percent losses means you had breakfast with 10 men and dinner with only two of those 10,” Morgan said in an interview after the war. During the totality of the air war over Europe more than 30,000 U.S. Airmen aboard heavy bombers, like the B-17, would be killed.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

Seventy-five years to the day after that 25th mission, the Museum of the U.S. Air Force will honor the bravery of those bomber crews, some of the first Americans to take the fight to the Nazis in WWII, when they unveil for public display the largely restored B-17F, Serial No. 41-24485, “Memphis Belle” as part of a three-day celebration, May 17-19, 2018.

Download the Museum Brochure Here

According to the museum curator in charge of the “Memphis Belle” exhibit, Jeff Duford, the weekend will include more than 160 WWII re-enactors showcasing their memorabilia, WWII-era music and vehicles, static displays of other B-17s, flyovers of WWII-era aircraft and presentations of rare archival film footage. The “Memphis Belle” will be the centerpiece of an exhibit documenting the strategic bombing campaign over Europe.

“The ‘Memphis Belle’ is an icon that represents all the heavy bomber crewmen who served and sacrificed in Europe in World War II,” Duford said, “In many ways the ‘Memphis Belle’ is the icon for the United States Air Force.

“You look at the U.S. Marines, they have this wonderful icon of the flag being raised over Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima and everyone recognizes that. It symbolizes service and sacrifice and tenacity and teamwork. Well, the Air Force has that symbol too, and it’s this airplane. It demonstrates teamwork. The crews had to work together. The planes in formation had to work together. The formations had to work together with the fighter escorts.”

The service and sacrifice of the young men still leaves Duford awestruck even after working on the “Belle” project for a decade.

(U.S. Army photo)

“How does one climb inside of this aircraft knowing that they are probably not going to come home? And they don’t do that one time; two times; three times; 10 times – they have to do it 25 times,” said Duford. “Once they got inside the airplane, they had no place to run. There were no foxholes to be dug. The skin on those airplanes is so thin that a bullet or flak fragment would go through it like a tin can because that’s essentially what it was.

“The odds were that every 18 missions, a heavy bomber was going to be shot down. So when you think the crew had to finish 25 missions to go home, statistically it was nearly impossible. It was one-in-four odds that a heavy bomber recruit would finish their 25 missions. Those other three crew members would’ve been shot down and captured, killed or wounded so badly they couldn’t finish their tour.”

The fact the “Memphis Belle” crew survived their tour was of great value to the U.S. Army Air Forces in maintaining support for the daylight strategic bombing campaign over Europe, which was still, in fact, an experiment.

“Back then, there was no book on high altitude strategic bombing. The generals didn’t know any more than we did. They had to figure bombing strategy as we went along,” said Morgan in a book he would write after the war, “The Man Who Flew the Memphis Belle”.

The B-17 was named the “Flying Fortress”, because it was bristling with .50 caliber machine guns covering every angle of attack by German fighters, save one. The theory was that all that defensive firepower would be amplified by heavy bombers flying in tight formations, called “boxes”, enabling them to protect each other from attacking fighters.

While the German Messerschmitt and Focke-Wulf fighters sometimes paid a price for attacking the formations, they soon developed tactics that exploited a design weakness in B-17Fs, like the “Memphis Belle”.

German Luftwaffe models used in fighter pilot training show the fields of fire covered by the machine guns of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

While twin .50 caliber machine guns in top and belly turrets and the tail and single .50 cal. gunners protected the bomber, the 12 o’clock position was covered by a lone .30 caliber machine gun – no match for the German fighters. Because the bomber formations had to fly straight and level to initiate their bombing run, the Luftwaffe fighter pilots began attacking the formations head on. The ensuing carnage was ghastly.

“The secret to the B-17 was the capability of flying in tight formations, so tight that the wings were often almost touching,” wrote Morgan. “We were able to put out an amazing amount of firepower… but, I also positively feel that was a bit of divine intervention for our crew.”

While the addition of Allied fighter escorts helped fend off some German attackers, the fact that the B-17s had to fly at 25,000 feet or lower to maintain any semblance of accuracy on target put them in the range of the deadly German 88mm anti-aircraft gun. No amount of machine guns or friendly fighters could counter the dense flak approaching targets while flying straight and level.

Bomber crews had to just grit their teeth and pray.

“They felt like they were a great crew. They were tightly knit, confident and dedicated to what they were doing,” said Duford. “However, being in those formations, flying straight and level with enemy anti-aircraft and fighter aircraft, there certainly was a little bit of luck for them too.”

Luck, both good and bad, was also a factor in the “Belle” crew, despite not being the first crew to complete 25 missions, being the one to return to the U.S. for a bond and morale tour.

The “Belle’s” selection for the morale tour was the result of a film project about the strategic bombing campaign that was the brainchild of USAAF Gen. Hap Arnold and a Hollywood director, William Wyler, who had volunteered to serve his country in the best way he knew how.

It was hoped that a film documenting a bomber crew as they successfully completed a combat tour would calm new recruits, who were hearing stories of the carnage overseas, and assuage the doubts of the public, press and politicians that strategic bombing was a failure.

Wyler, an immigrant who was born in the Alsace region of modern-day France when it was part of the German Empire prior to World War I and who would go on to win three Best Director Academy Awards, including one for “Ben-Hur”, was commissioned as a major and headed to England with a film crew to document the fight in skies over Europe.

Wyler and his cameraman flew with B-17 combat crews and began filming missions of a B-17F of the 401st Bomb Squadron of the 91st Bomb Group named “Invasion II”. His staff also began interviewing and making publicity photographs of the crewmembers, as they drew closer to completing 25 missions.

However, on April 17, 1943, the reality of war spoiled the Hollywood ending during their 23rd mission to Bremen, Germany. Invasion II crashed after being hit by flak over Borhmen, Germany, setting the cockpit and wing on fire. The crew managed to bail out, but all became prisoners of war.

Wyler regrouped and found a plane and crew with the 324th Bomb Squadron that was also close to completing their combat tour. The “Memphis Belle”, named for Morgan’s girlfriend, Margaret Polk of Memphis, Tennessee, and its crew took center stage.

The crew of the 358th Bomb Squadron Boeing B-17F ‘Hell’s Angels’ completed its 25th mission on May 13, 1943.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

While the crew of “Hell’s Angels” completed their tour on May 13, 1943, four days before the “Belle”, there was no film of that plane and crew. Consequently, it was the “Belle” and its crew that would fly mission 26 back to the U.S. and receive a hero’s welcome.

Wyler’s film, “Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress”, would be released and distributed by Paramount Pictures the following year.

(National Museum of the U.S. Air Force photo)

It was a film that came with a high price tag. One of Wyler’s cinematographers, 1st Lt. Harold J. Tannenbaum, a veteran of World War I, was killed in action during the filming when the bomber he was in was shot down over France on April 16, 1943.

Until the end of the war, the “Belle” was used as a training aircraft, but instead of being torn apart for scrap like most of the other 12,700 B-17s built during the war, the city of Memphis, Tennessee, put the aircraft on display for nearly 50 years.

The historic aircraft came to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in October 2005, when work began on a careful, multi-year conservation and restoration effort including corrosion treatment and the full outfitting of missing equipment.

Casey Simmons arrived shortly after the “Memphis Belle” as a restoration specialist for the museum.

(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

From the beginning, it was apparent that priority one in the restoration was getting it right. His first assignment was to fabricate a glycol heater that was missing from inside the left wing. No visitor to the museum would ever see it.

“I know it’s there and that’s cool because it’s going to get all the parts that it needs to be a complete aircraft,” said Simmons. “When you don’t have the part you try and find a part from another airplane or you go to the blueprints and make the part completely from scratch.”

While the museum has other B-17s in its collection, the “Memphis Belle” requires a whole other level of patience and dedication.

(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

“Other restoration projects are typically a general model of a certain aircraft. So it represents a lot of them. This one is a specific aircraft, so you have to get it right; exactly to the rivet,” said Simmons.

The museum specialist did not try to restore the “Belle” to how it rolled off the Boeing line, but utilized films, photos and records from its time in combat to bring the B-17F back to fighting trim, scars and all.

“There are certain damage spots on the “Memphis Belle” that were fixed over time, so we have to make sure that those show up on the aircraft the way they were,” said Simmons. “If they put five rivets in an area as opposed to the standard four that are supposed to be there, we have to get that correct… When you go through video footage, old film footage, or photographs, and you do find a little glimpse of what you’re looking for, that’s a big moment. We have to get it right for those bomber crews.”

The bravery of those bomber crews continued after all the whoopla back home died down. Even Morgan was eager to get back in the fight.

While on a morale tour stop in Wichita, Kansas, Morgan caught a glimpse of the future of strategic bombing, the still secret B-29 Superfortress. He volunteered immediately to train on the new bomber and earned command of his own squadron of B-29s that deployed to Saipan in the Pacific Theater.

On November 24, 1944, his 869th Squadron of the 497th Bomb Group was the first, other than Doolittle’s Raiders in 1942, to bomb Tokyo. He would go on to complete another 24 combat missions in the B-29 before the end of WWII. He retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 1965 as a colonel.

While the restoration and display of the “Memphis Belle” will ensure the story of the dedication, bravery and airmanship of its 10 crewmembers that returned home safely in 1943 honors all the Airmen that fought in WWII, Duford is particularly enthusiastic that the exhibit will allow Museum of U.S. Air Force visitors to learn the story of the little known 11th crewmember of the “Memphis Belle”.

As much as any Airman, he embodied the spirit and sense of duty shared by all the heavy bomber crews.

“It’s the story of one of the waist gunners, Emerson Scott Miller,” said Duford. “You don’t see him in any of the war bond photos and you don’t see his name listed as one of the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew members. He came overseas as a technician repairing the autopilot systems on B-17s. He was safe. He didn’t have to fly the missions but he decided he wanted to do more and volunteered to fly in combat. He joined the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew after they had flown about nine or 10 of their missions. So he had flown 16 of his missions when the rest of the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew completed their 25th.

“Capt. Robert Morgan really wanted Scott Miller to come back on the war bond tour, but Miller hadn’t finished his 25th mission, so he had to stay. While the ‘Belle’ crew was celebrated and famous and there were parties for them, Scott Miller was still flying in combat.”

Fittingly, Miller finished his 25th mission aboard another B-17 on July 4, 1943, but for him, there were no parades, no press conferences, no meeting movie stars and no special duties.

“We got in touch with Scott Miller’s family,” said Duford. “They donated a trunk full of artifacts, and so Scott Miller has a place in the exhibit and his story will be told… He could have just simply done his duty repairing those autopilot systems and gone home safe. But he put his life on the line and then was forgotten. Now he’s going to be remembered now and for generations to come.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

Articles

This may be one concrete way the VA can make a dent in vet suicides

On June 27, the Department of Veterans Affairs released finalized plans to provide emergency mental health coverage to former service members with other-than-honorable administrative discharges.


“Suicide prevention is my top clinical priority,” Secretary David Shulkin, who is also a physician, said in a VA news release. “We want these former service members to know there is someplace they can turn if they are facing a mental health emergency — whether it means urgent care at a VA emergency department, a Vet Center, or through the Veterans Crisis Line.”

This is the first time a VA secretary has implemented an initiative specifically focused on this group of former service members who are in mental health distress, the release stated.

US Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin. VA Photo by Robert Turtil.

Effective July 5, all Veterans Health Administration medical centers will be prepared to offer emergency stabilization care for former service members who present at the facility with an emergent mental health need.

Under this initiative, former service members with an OTH administrative discharge may receive care for their mental health emergency for an initial period of up to 90 days, which can include inpatient, residential, or outpatient care, the release stated.

During this time, VHA and the Veterans Benefits Administration will work together to determine whether the mental health condition is a result of a service-related injury, making the service member eligible for ongoing coverage for that condition.

DoD Photo by Megan Garcia

Since Shulkin announced his intent in March to expand coverage to service members with OTH administrative discharges, the VA has worked with key internal and external stakeholders, including members of Congress, Veterans Service Organizations and community partners on the issue, the release stated.

Veterans in crisis should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 (press 1), or text 838255.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A cartoonish look at how an epic airlift prevented World War 3

Everyone knew in the closing days of World War II that the Soviet Union was destined to clash with the rest of the Allies. But when it attempted a blockade of West Berlin that amounted to a siege in 1948, it still took the world by surprise and threatened World War III. Luckily, President Harry S. Truman was able to call on Western air forces to resupply Berlin by air for over a year.


Berlin Airlift: The Cold War Begins – Extra History

youtu.be

The Berlin Blockade, as it was known, was in reaction to Western Power attempts to re-stabilize the German economy and currency after World War II. Both the Soviet Union and the West wanted Germany to lean toward them in the post-war world because it would act as a buffer state for whichever side won.

But, beyond that, Russia wanted to ensure that Germany would never again be strong enough to invade the Soviet Union. Remember that the German military under the Kaiser had invaded Russia only 30 years before the Germans under the Fuhrer invaded the Soviet Union. The Soviets didn’t want to suffer that again.

So Soviet Premier Josef Stalin sabotaged the first attempt to overhaul the German economy, and when the Western Powers attempted to introduce the new German Deutsche Mark behind his back, Stalin instituted a total blockade of West Berlin.

Germany had been split up after the war, with America, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union all taking control of one section of the country. But each Allied power also got control of a section of Germany’s capital, Berlin, even though Berlin sat entirely within the Soviet Sector of the country.

So the Soviets could choke off the ability of France, America, and Britain to resupply their troops simply by closing the roads and rails that fed into the city, and they did.

This left those countries with a serious problem and only crappy choices. Do nothing, and the troops are starved. Pull the troops out, and the Soviets take control of the entire capital. Try to resupply them in force, and you’ll trigger a war, for certain.

So the senior advisers to Truman suggested that he simply give in, and pull the troops out. Better to lose the city than fight another war, and allowing the troops to starve to death was no option at all.

A C-54 flies into Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport in 1948 as part of the Berlin Airlift.

(U.S. Air Force Henry Ries)

But Truman, a veteran of the front lines of World War I, and the man who decided to drop the atom bombs was not one to shy away from a confrontation. He ordered the city held and required his generals to find a way to get supplies in.

Their best plan was an audacious airlift called Operation Vittles. Experts from Britain estimated that it would take 4,000 tons of supplies per day to keep the city going. Carrying that many supplies via plane would be tough in any situation, but the task was made worse by the limited amount of infrastructure in Berlin to receive the supplies.

Berlin only had two major airports capable of receiving sufficiently large transports: Tempelhof Airport and Royal Air Force Station Gatow. These stations would need to receive well over 1,000 flights per day if the mission were to be achieved with the planes immediately available, mostly old C-47s.

But in the early days of the airlift, the air forces would fall well short of 4,000 tons per day. Instead, they would hit more like 70 and 90 tons per day, slowly growing to 1,000 tons per day. But, after a few weeks when it became clear that the airlift would need to continue indefinitely, the U.S. Air Force brought in an airlift expert to increase the throughput.

Maj. Gen. William H. Tunner was a top operations officer for the Military Air Transport Command, and he took over in order to make the operation much more professional and precise. Under Tunner, the military brought in new planes that would max out the reception capability of Tempelhof and Gatow.

The C-54s could carry more supplies, but they also over-stressed the landing surfaces. Workers rushed out between landings to spread sand to soften the damages to the landing surface. And, as winter set on, an entirely new landing strip was constructed at Tempelhof.

Almost 1.8 million tons of supplies were delivered by the time the operation was over.

(U.S. Air Force)

And the miracle worked. Tunner got the daily total to over 4,000 tons, then set record days at 4,500 tons, 5,000 tons, and beyond.

Eventually, the Soviet Union had to admit that the blockade had failed. The German people had rallied around the Western powers, and the West was in a better position after 15 months of airlift than it had been before the start. The western sections of Berlin and Germany became decidedly pro-American and British, and the Soviet Union had to use the force of arms to retain control of the Soviet sections.

This should have been predictable. After all, there are few sights that might make a government more popular than its planes flying overhead, dropping candy and delivering food and fuel, for over a year as you’re barely able to stave off starvation.

The Cold War was on, but Western logistics had achieved the first great victory with no violence. But, approximately 101 fatalities were suffered in the operation.

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This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

Fabian Hambüchen knew from childhood that he was going to compete in the Olympic Games — and he knew that he was going to get gold.

In 2016, his dream came true at the Olympic Games in Rio where he won gold on the high bar. But the path to gold was anything but easy: the life of a gymnast is characterized by the pressure to perform, setbacks and injuries, and experiences that demand a lot of mental strength.


At the Fibo 2018 sports fair in Cologne, Fabian Hambüchen told Business Insider about his most excruciating defeat and how he fought his way back to the top mentally.

How your brain can scupper your plans

As reigning World Champion, Fabian Hambüchen travelled to Beijing in 2008 to go for gold.

“I was the favourite. I had the opportunity to win several medals and it was expected that I’d get gold on the high bar,” he said.

His chances were good — but his thought process sabotaged him and he ended up with a bronze medal.

“When I qualified, it went great. I was in the best starting position possible. But then these thoughts went through my mind: I really want to become an Olympic champion. This is my big dream. I want this, I want this, I want this.” These thoughts “set him on a completely wrong track” and led him to slip up.

The disappointment was immense. “I compensated by training harder and harder until my body told me its limits,” he describes the time after the games. “I hurt myself, yet I carried on. In the end, I injured myself even more severely: I tore my Achilles tendon.”

Fabian Hambu00fcchen

That was when Fabian Hambüchen realised he had to change something: his way of thinking. He had to get stronger not physically but mentally.

“I didn’t respond sensibly. I trained too much, I was too ambitious, and my injury stopped me in my tracks — but in the end it was the best thing that could have happened to me. It was then that I began to realise that there are other ways of moving forward.”

Hambüchen’s tips for mental strength

Gymnastics is a tough scene, in which Hambüchen started training very early. He received mental support from his uncle, a qualified teacher who had specialised in mental coaching.

Hambüchen now has some of his own tips for mental strength. One thing he learned after winning bronze in Beijing was to focus only on what was essential. Question why it actually is that you’re doing what you’re doing.

“I remind myself that the reason I’m doing this sport is that I love gymnastics and I enjoy doing it. When we do sport as kids, we all do it because we enjoy it; not because we’re training to become world champion or to get rich off it,” he said.

Hambüchen said that if you keep reminding yourself of this and keep looking within yourself, searching yourself and asking yourself about why it is you’re doing what you’re doing, it can quickly ground you again, renew your energy, gratitude and motivation. And there’s a positive side-effect with gratitude: studies have shown that gratitude increases well-being and reduces the risk of depression.

“We tend to try and change situations we can’t,” said Hambüchen. Another trick for mental strength is to remember what is and isn’t in your hands.

“What’s the point in wasting energy on things you can’t control? I’m not walking up to the high bar wondering what kind of referees are sat there. They’re all just people, the rating is subjective and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

This applies not only to sport but, studies show, to work or to one’s personal life. Don’t allow others to take control of you — it’s up to you to give others the power to ruin your day.

“It’s important to focus on the self and to try to be the best version of yourself,” advised Hambüchen.

Of course, this is all a lot easier said than done. Hambüchen stresses that it took him years to mentally train himself into mastering this technique. But it paid off.

“Understanding what needs doing and then applying it to the situation with the right approach is a huge challenge. But if you internalise this message and are completely in touch with yourself, you can call on your maximum performance. None of this guarantees success but, rather, it serves as a technique to fall back on when your mind is getting in your way. And it works.”

Recovering from physical injury

“I’ve learned to learn from defeats, to analyze them and to think about what I can change to do better,” said Hambüchen. Even after that, not everything went well. “But I still thought differently, I wasn’t so dogged in how I went at things.”

It was this new way of thinking and mental strength that helped him win silver at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and then gold in Rio in 2016, despite having a torn supraspinatus muscle.

Tower Bridge : 2012 Olympic Rings

These victories are largely due to his mental strength. With the help of his doctor he suppressed the pain and his health wasn’t constantly in the fore of his mind.

“The shoulder is a joint that’s very well supported by muscles. So you can do it without that one string. Everything beyond that was a matter of the mind.”

He was unable to train for three months due to the injury. Normally, after such a long break, it takes weeks and months to get fit again — but Hambüchen only had three weeks remaining before the national championships to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio.

“During this time I gave my training my all, adjusted mentally and paid close attention to my diet. “I lost five to six kilos in two to three weeks and was really fit.” And he won the gold medal on high bar.

After winning gold, Fabian Hambüchen ended his international career. He’s learned an important lesson in life: there’s no point in allowing others to negatively influence you and in constantly worrying about things that aren’t in your hands.

With this newly acquired mental strength, he was able to call on his abilities precisely when he needed them and, as a result, was able to celebrate the greatest victory of his career.

“Another four years of giving it my all and to then be rewarded with gold is such an accomplishment … it was mad, and just awesome.”

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

Articles

Navy vet Sturgill Simpson’s country music breakthrough

Atlantic Records


On his fantastic new album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, Sturgill Simpson uses life at sea to inspire songs about separation from family and a longing for home. Simpson himself grew up in Kentucky and claims he joined the Navy on a whim when driving past a recruiting station.

After three years which included service in Japan and Southeast Asia, he left the service. “I wasn’t very good at taking orders,” he told Garden and Gun in 2014.

After he came home and started a music career, it turned out he wasn’t very good at taking orders from Nashville, either. Simpson wasn’t cut out for the kind of trucks-and-beer pop country that’s dominated the charts over the last decade and made his name on independently-released albums. He had a breakthrough with 2014’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, produced by Dave Cobb (who’s made a name for himself producing fellow Nashville rebels Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell).

Atlantic Records signed Simpson and gave him total freedom to make Sailor’s Guide, which he produced himself. What he made is a compact album (39 minutes, just like the old days!) that combines ’70s Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson with Stax Records-style horns, Al Green keyboard grooves and a Elvis in Memphis vibe.

On the track “Sea Stories,” he talks about joining the Navy:

Basically it’s just like papaw says:

“Keep your mouth shut and you’ll be fine”

Just another enlisted egg

In the bowl for Uncle Sam’s beater

When you get to Dam Neck

Hear a voice in your head

Saying, “my life’s no longer mine”

He also includes a cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom,” where he adds a new lyric. After the line “You don’t know what it means” (where there’s a howling guitar squall on the original version), Simpson sings “to love someone,” a line he says he imagined was there for years after he first heard the Nirvana version. Fans of the BeeGees (and the innumerable soul covers of the song) will appreciate the “To Love Someone” reference.

There’s zero Autotune on the vocals, so this kind of gritty, soulful music may sound a bit weird to fans of Little Big Town or Florida-Georgia Line. None of the songs sound like truck commercials, so you’re probably not going to hear this music on commercial country radio. If Chris Stapleton got your attention last year, though, Simpson’s album is a logical next step into the world of traditional country.

The album’s for sale in all the digital music stores, CDs are really cheap at Amazon and you can stream it on Spotify or Apple Music before you buy. Check out the first two videos from the album below.

Sturgill’s daring cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom” 
The album’s first single is “Brace for Impact (Live a Little)”