Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership

*My editor sent me this after listening to the episode:
“I wanted to let you know that this was by far one of my favorite episodes to edit. It provided great insight into leadership skills.”*

The Professionals Playbook” t-shirts are now available here.

My guest today is Scott Mann who spent 23 years as an Officer in the United States Army, 18 of those as a Green Beret in Army Special Forces, where he specialized in unconventional missions in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Panama, Iraq, and Afghanistan.


He is the author of two international best-selling books: Game Changers and Straight Talk About Military Transition.

He’s also given 3 TED talks.

In our conversation we talk about how Green Berets build rapport with local tribes, how he almost took his life after leaving the military, and how leaders can connect with their people.

Order of Topics:

  • Using SOF training for COVID-19
  • How Green Berets compare to other SOF units
  • How to go into a village and establish trust
  • Interpersonal techniques
  • Architect of the Afghan SOF program
  • Almost committing suicide
  • How to transition from the military
  • Green Beret principals
  • How to build relationships
  • Leadership training

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This episode was edited by Trevor Cabler

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

Articles

Reports of sexual assault in the military increase

Reports of sexual assaults in the military increased slightly last year, U.S. defense officials said Monday, and more than half the victims reported negative reactions or retaliation for their complaints.


The defense officials, however, said an anonymous survey conducted last year showed some progress in fighting sexual assault, as fewer than 15,000 service members described themselves as victims of unwanted sexual contact. That is 4,000 fewer than in a 2014 survey. Sexual assault is a highly underreported crime, so the Pentagon uses anonymous surveys to track the problem.

The new figures are being released Monday. Several defense officials spoke about the report on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the data ahead of time.

For more than a decade, the Defense Department has been trying to encourage more people to report sexual assaults and harassment. The agency says greater reporting allows more victims to seek treatment.

Overall there were 6,172 reports of sexual assault filed in 2016, compared to 6,083 the previous year. The largest increase occurred in the Navy, with 5 percent more reports. There was a 3 percent jump in the Air Force. The Army and Marine Corps had slight decreases.

Retaliation is difficult to determine, and the Defense Department has been adjusting its measurements for several years. It seeks to differentiate between more serious workplace retribution and social snubs that, while upsetting, are not illegal.

Two years ago, a RAND Corporation study found that about 57 percent of sexual assault victims believed they faced retaliation from commanders or peers. Members of Congress demanded swift steps to protect whistleblowers, including sexual assault victims, who are wronged as a result of reports or complaints.

Data at the time suggested that many victims described the vengeful behavior as social backlash, including online snubs, that don’t meet the legal definition of retaliation.

Officials are trying to get a greater understanding about perceptions of retaliation. They’ve added more questions and analysis to eliminate instances when commanders make adjustments or transfer victims to protect them, as opposed to punishing them or pressuring them to drop criminal proceedings.

As a result, while 58 percent of victims last year said they faced some type of “negative behavior,” only 32 percent described circumstances that could legally be described as retribution. This includes professional retaliation, administration actions or punishments. In 2015, 38 percent reported such actions.

Despite the small increase in reports last year, officials focused on the anonymous survey. The survey is done every two years and includes a wider range of sexual contact.

In 2012, the survey showed 26,000 service members said they had been victims of unwanted sexual contact, which can range from inappropriate touching and hazing to rape. The numbers enraged Congress and triggered extensive debate over new laws and regulations to attack the problem.

The surveys have shown a steady decline. Monday’s report shows 14,900 cases were reported. Of those, 8,600 were women and 6,300 were men. It marks the first time more women than men said they experienced unwanted sexual contact. There are far more men in the military and the total number of male victims had been higher, even if by percentage, women faced more unwanted contact.

The decrease in reports by men suggests a possible reduction in hazing incidents, officials said.

About 21 percent of women said they had faced sexual harassment, about the same as two years ago. The percentage of men dipped a bit.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why even F-35 pilots still have to fly ‘by the seat of their pants’

Being able to fly by the seat of your pants is still an important skill for a fighter pilot. Although modern fighters have an incredible array of sensors that feed them real-time information out to the horizon, a good pilot still listens to how the aircraft is talking to them. 

When aircraft were introduced in the early 20th century, most of them had limited–if any–instruments. Pilots flew them based on feel. Because the seat is the primary contact point between man and machine, the term seat of your pants was coined, although in actuality it encompasses all the senses a pilot experience during a flight. 

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership
Cockpit of a World War I era Fokker D.VII (U.S. Air Force photo)

The buffet approaching a stall, the increase in sound as you go faster, the G-forces on the body during a turn—these are all indicators of how the aircraft is flying. But the question remains, with millions of lines of code providing updates on every conceivable parameter, why is it still important to use this basic way of flying in a modern fighter?

As humans we read information sequentially, that is, we can only read one piece of information at a time before moving onto the next. When flying, the order in which we read this information is called our crosscheck. By understating what the aircraft is doing without looking at a dial, or Heads up Display (or even a quick glance in our augmented-reality helmet for the F-35), we can instead focus on something else. This is useful in basic flying; however, it becomes critical when flying and employing the complex weapon systems onboard our aircraft.

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership
This F-15A cockpit is certainly dated, but it offers a decent representation of just how much information pilots have to track while flying combat operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

In a single-seat multi-role fighter there is always more to do than what you’re capable of. For example, during an Air Combat Maneuvering (ACM) engagement—which is you and a wingman versus multiple adversaries—you’re expected to maintain deconfliction from several aircraft while maneuvering to kill the adversary, all while maintaining situational awareness of additional threats and monitoring your fuel and weapons state—no easy task with closure rates often over 1,000 knots (1200 mph). 

By freeing up your crosscheck to focus on these other tasks, you increase your lethality on the battlefield. What’s difficult is that these dozens of variables change in importance based on the phase of flight, as well as the conditions you’re flying in.

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership
The streamlined cockpit display in an F-35. Even with all this data fusion, F-35 pilots still need to know how to fly by the seat of their pants. (Lockheed Martin photo)

For instance, when flying in the weather, you can no longer fly by seat of the pants, but instead must spend the extra time looking at you instruments. By not being able to see the horizon due to being in the clouds, it’s easy to get disoriented and start dive towards the ground even through your body feels like it’s flying straight-and-level.

Knowing when to trust your seat of the pants feeling versus when to focus on your instruments is one of the most important skills for a fighter pilot to master. It’s a perishable skill that needs to be constantly refined. However, when dialed in properly, it’s amazing how much data a pilot can ingest at once. 

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

PBS Memorial Day Concert to air May 24, 2020

Capital Concerts announced that a special presentation of the NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT, hosted by Tony Award-winner Joe Mantegna and Emmy Award-winner Gary Sinise, will air on PBS and feature new performances and tributes filmed around the country to honor all of our American heroes.

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the traditional live concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol will not be held – to ensure the health and safety of all involved.

The special 90-minute presentation of the NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT will air on Sunday, May 24, 2020, as a celebration to the heroes currently fighting COVID-19. This year marks its 31st year as a way to honor and remember our troops, Veterans, wounded warriors, all those who have given their lives for our nation and their families.


“In this unprecedented time, when the nation needs it most, we will bring Americans together as one family to honor our heroes,” said Executive Producer Michael Colbert. “This has been the mission of the NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT for 30 years, and we look forward to sharing stories and music of support, hope, resilience, and patriotism.”

America’s national night of remembrance will feature new appearances and performances by distinguished American statesman, including: General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret); Tony, Emmy and Grammy winner and two-time Oscar nominee, Cynthia Erivo; world-renowned four-time Grammy Award-winning soprano superstar Renée Fleming; country music star and Grammy-nominated member of the Grand Ole Opry, Trace Adkins; Grammy Award-winning gospel legend CeCe Winans; Tony Award-winning Broadway star Kelli O’Hara; Tony Award-nominated actress Mary McCormack; members of the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of top pops conductor Jack Everly; and a special message from General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Broadway and television star Christopher Jackson will open the show with a performance of the national anthem. The broadcast will also feature performances from previous concerts by Academy Award-nominated actor Sam Elliott; Oscar nominee and Emmy and Tony-Award winner Laurence Fishburne; and actor/producer/director Esai Morales.

Woven throughout the program will be messages of thanks and support from prominent guest artists for active-duty military, National Guard and Reserve and their families, Veterans, and Gold Star families; the messages include gratitude for for first responders, doctors, nurses, grocery clerks, truck drivers, postal workers – all those who are on the front lines, putting their lives at risk now in the fight against this virus.

Hosts Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise will also share several powerful segments that highlight stories of generations of ordinary Americans who stepped forward and served our country with extraordinary valor in its most challenging times.

The NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT airs on PBS Sunday, May 24, 2020, from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m. E.T., as well as to our troops serving around the world on the American Forces Network. The concert will also be streaming on Facebook, YouTube and www.pbs.org/national-memorial-day-concert and available as Video on Demand, May 24 to June 7, 2020.

Other participants

Also participating in new and some past selected performances are members from the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, the U.S. Army Chorus, the U.S. Army Voices and Downrange, the Soldiers’ Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band, the U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters, the U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants, and Service Color Teams provided by the Military District of Washington, D.C.

The program is a co-production of Michael Colbert of Capital Concerts and WETA, Washington, D.C. Executive producer Michael Colbert has assembled an award-winning production team that features the top Hollywood talent behind some of television’s most prestigious entertainment awards shows, including the ACADEMY AWARDS, GRAMMY AWARDS, COUNTRY MUSIC AWARDS, TONY AWARDS, and more.

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

popular

How Russia guaranteed a Union victory in the Civil War

It’s hard to determine which is more surprising: the British aching to send troops and materiel to aid the Confederacy during the Civil War or that the first “Special Relationship” was between the U.S. and Russia against the British. Both of these facts are true and for the latter negating the former, we can thank one Cassius Marcellus Clay.


Clay was more than just a namesake for the greatest boxer of all time. He was also a politician, representative, officer in the Mexican War and Civil War, abolitionist, and ambassador with a pedigree in badassery. This man once frightened an opponent so much that the man killed himself the night before they were supposed to duel, which is probably the only duel story to top Andrew Jackson’s.

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership
There was also a lot of screaming. Probably.

When Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860, he tapped Clay to be his ambassador to the Imperial Russian Court in St. Petersburg. Since the Civil War broke out before Clay left for Russia in 1861 and there were no Federal troops in Washington at the time, Clay raised an Army of 300 volunteers to maintain an active defense of the capital until troops arrived.

The Kentucky politician started his life born to a family of planters (who fought in both the Revolution and the War of 1812) and became one himself before his foray into politics. Despite being a wealthy planter from Kentucky, the Yale-educated Clay became a staunch Abolitionist, opposed to slavery in any form, which would eventually cost him his seat in the legislature.

He started an anti-slavery newspaper called True American which immediately earned him death threats. He was threatened so often and he was so steadfast in his beliefs, he had to seal himself and his press in his office in Lexington, defending the building with two four-pounder cannons.

While giving a speech promoting the abolition of slavery, he was attacked by six brothers for expressing these views. They beat him, stabbed him, and tried to shoot him, but Clay fought off all six with his Bowie knife, killing one of them in the process.

Clay was so infuriating to his pro-slavery opponents, they hired a political gun to assassinate him. The would-be assassin shot Clay in the chest, but the bullet didn’t kill him. Despite being restrained by the assassin’s friends, Clay drew his Bowie knife and cut off the man’s nose and left ear, then gouged out his eye before throwing him over a wall and into a nearby river.

The Russian-British rivalry raged during the American Civil War. British politicians openly advocated intervention in the war and even had a secret plan to burn Boston and New York in sneak attacks from Canada. E. D. Adams’ Great Britain and the American Civil War notes the U.S. considered Russia a “true friend” and was suspicious of British neutrality while Secretary of State William Seward actively advocated war with France.

While in St. Petersburg, Clay won the support of Russia for the Union cause and convinced Tsar Alexander II to threaten worldwide war with England and France to keep them from intervening on the side of the Confederacy, with whom they both sympathized. The Russian Baltic Fleet arrived in New York harbor in in September 1863 and the Russian Far East Fleet arrived in San Francisco that October. The Tsar ordered his Navy to be under Lincoln’s command if war broke out.

Clay was recalled by Lincoln in 1862 and commissioned a Major General in the Union Army. He refused to accept the commission unless Lincoln freed slaves under Confederate control. The President ordered him to Kentucky to assess the effect of Emancipation on the population there, as Kentucky was seen as a vital border state. When Clay returned, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. He left for Russia again the next year and served there until 1869, where he helped secure the Purchase of Alaska, presumably because the Tsar was afraid of him.

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership

In his later years, Clay had so many enemies, he kept cannons to defend his home and office. His daughters became staunch Women’s Rights advocates.

MIGHTY GAMING

Army turns to virtual battlefield to train squads

A four-man team of soldiers sits in a nondescript building on Fort Belvoir, Va., each at his own desk, surrounded by three monitors that provide them individual, 3D views of an abandoned city.

On screen, they gather at the corner of a crumbling building to meet another team — represented by avatars — who are actually on the ground in a live-training area, a mock-up of the abandoned city. They’re all training together, in real time, to prepare for battles in dense urban terrain.


That’s the central goal of the Synthetic Training Environment (STE) — immersive, integrated virtual training — presented during a Warriors Corner session at the 2018 Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington. The Army has been working toward this kind of fully immersive training experience for decades, and leadership hopes to have it operational as early as 2025.

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership

In May 1993, Army RDA Bulletin dedicated several articles to the concept and execution of distributed interactive simulation (DIS), “a time and space coherent representation of a virtual battlefield environment” that allowed warfighters across the globe to interact with one other as well as computer-generated forces, according to John S. Yuhas, author of the article “Distributed Interactive Simulation.”

Better, faster, stronger

While the name of the program seems to emphasize individual simulation units, its overarching purpose was to bring together thousands of individuals and teams virtually in real time. Central to DIS was the idea of interoperable standards and protocol, allowing each community — “trainer, tester, developer, and acquisitioner” — to use the others’ concepts and products, Maj. David W. Vaden wrote in “Vision for the Next Decade.”

The article explained that “distributed” referred to geographically separated simulations networked together to create a synthetic environment; “interactive” to different simulations linked electronically to act together and upon each other; and “simulation” to three categories — live, virtual and constructive. Live simulations involved real people and equipment; virtual referred to manned simulators; and constructive referred to war games and models, with or without human interaction.

Sound familiar?

DIS has much in common with STE. Both provide training and mission rehearsal capability to the operational and institutional sides of the Army (i.e., soldiers and civilians). They even share the same training philosophy: to reduce support requirements, increase realism and help deliver capabilities to the warfighter faster.

Users of STE will train with live participants and computer simulations, with some units training remotely. However, STE takes virtual reality training to a new level altogether by incorporating advances in artificial intelligence, big data analysis and three-dimensional terrain representation.

Current training simulations are based on technologies from the 1980s and ’90s that can’t replicate the complex operational environment soldiers will fight in. They operate on closed, restrictive networks, are facilities-based and have high overhead costs for personnel, Maj. Gen.

Maria R. Gervais, commanding general for the U.S. Army Combined Arms Training Center and director of the STE Cross-Functional Team, said in an August 2018 article, “The Synthetic Training Environment Revolutionizes Sustainment Training.”

The Synthetic Training Environment

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Those older technologies also can’t support electronic warfare, cyberspace, and megacities, the article explained. For example, soldiers in the 1990s could conduct training using computers and physical simulators — like the ones showcased in Charles Burdick, Jorge Cadiz and Gordon Sayre’s 1993 “Industry Applications of Distributed Interactive Simulation” article in the Army RDA Bulletin-but the training was limited to a single facility and only a few networked groups; the technology wasn’t yet able to support worldwide training with multiple groups of users in real time, like the Army proposes to do with the STE.

Gervais presented a promotional video during “Warriors Corner #13: Synthetic Training Environment Cross-Functional Team Update,” which said the STE will provide intuitive and immersive capabilities to keep pace with the changing operational environment. The STE is a soldier lethality modernization priority of the U.S. Army Futures Command.

“With the STE, commanders will conduct tough, realistic training at home stations, the combat training centers and at deployed locations. The STE will increase readiness through repetition, multi-echelon, multidomain, combined arms maneuver and mission command training. And most importantly, the STE will train soldiers for where they will fight,” said Gen. Robert B. Abrams, then-commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command, in the same video. Abrams is now commander of United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, U.S. Forces Korea.

Today, simulations in the integrated training environment do not provide the realism, interoperability, affordability and availability necessary for the breadth of training that the Army envisions for the future. The STE will be able to do all that — it will be flexible, affordable and available at the point of need.

“This video helps us get to shared understanding, and also awareness of what we’re trying to achieve with the synthetic training environment,” Gervais said during the AUSA presentation. “But it also allows us to understand the challenges that we’re going to face as we try to deliver this.”

Challenges ahead

“We don’t have the right training capability to set the exercises up,” said Mike Enloe, chief engineer for the STE Cross-Functional Team, during the presentation. “What I mean by that is that it takes more time to set up the systems that are disparate to talk to each other, to get the terrains together, than it does to actually have the exercise go.”

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership

The Synthetic Training Environment will assess Soldiers in enhancing decision-making skills through an immersive environment.

(US Army photo)

The Army’s One World Terrain, a 3D database launched in 2013 that collects, processes, stores and executes global terrain simulations, has been the “Achilles’ heel” of STE from the start, Enloe said. The Army lacks well-formed 3D terrain data and therefore the ability to run different echelons of training to respond to the threat. The database is still being developed as part of the STE, and what the Army needs most “right now from industry is content … we need a lot of 3D content and rapid ways to get them built,” Enloe said. That means the capability to process terrain on 3D engines so that it can move across platforms, he said, and steering clear of proprietary technologies. The STE is based on modules that can be changed to keep up with emerging technologies.

The Army also needs the ability to write the code to develop the artificial intelligence that will meet STE’s needs — that can, to some extent, learn and challenge the weaknesses of participants, he said.

Retired Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, 32nd vice chief of staff of the Army, emphasized during the presentation that the Army needs to move away from the materiel development of the STE and focus on training as a service. “I believe that a training environment should have two critical aspects to it,” he said: It should be a maneuver trainer, and it should be a gunnery trainer.

Changing the culture

Brig. Gen. Michael E. Sloane, program executive officer for Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation (PEO STRI), said the leadership philosophy of STE’s development is about fostering culture change and getting soldiers capabilities faster. “We have to be proactive; the [cross-functional teams] have to work together with the PEOs, and we’re doing that,” he said. “Collectively, we’re going to deliver real value to the soldier, I think, in doing this under the cross-functional teams and the leadership of the Army Futures Command.”

Many organizations are involved with STE’s development. The U.S. Army Combined Arms Center-Training and the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command capability managers are working requirements and represent users. PEO STRI is the materiel developer. The U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence is responsible for the infantry, armor and combined arms requirement. And finally, the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology (ASA(ALT)) serves as the approval authority for long-range investing and requirements.

With the Futures Command and ASA(ALT) collaborating throughout the development of STE, Sloane believes the Army will be able to reduce and streamline acquisition documentation, leverage rapid prototyping, deliver capabilities and get it all right the first time.

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership

Soldiers prepare to operate training technologies during the STE User Assessment in Orlando, Fla., in March 2018.

(Photo by Bob Potter)

Gervais reminded the AUSA audience in October that she had spoken about STE at the annual meeting two years ago, explaining that the Army intends to use the commercial gaming industry to accelerate the development of STE. “I did not believe that it couldn’t be delivered until 2030. I absolutely refused to believe that,” she said. In 2017, the chief of staff designated STE as one of the eight cross-functional teams for Army modernization, aligning it with soldier lethality.

Since then, STE has made quite a bit of progress, Gervais said. The initial capability document for the Army collective training environment, which lays the foundation for STE, was approved in 2018. The Army increased its industry engagement to accelerate the development of STE, according to Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley’s direction, which led to the awarding of seven other transaction authority agreements for One World Terrain, followed by a user assessment in March 2018. In June, Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark T. Esper and Milley codified STE in their vision statement. “We’re postured to execute quickly,” Gervais said.

In the meantime, she said, there has been a focused effort to increase lethality with a squad marksmanship trainer in the field to allow close combat soldiers to train immediately. The Army also developed a squad immersive virtual trainer. “We believe we can deliver that [squad immersive trainer] much quicker than the 2025 timeframe,” she said.

Conclusion

STE is focused on establishing common data, standards and terrain to maximize interoperability, ease of integration and cost savings, Gervais said. With the right team effort and coordination, she believes STE can be delivered quickly. Perhaps in a few short years, STE can achieve the lofty goal that DIS had for itself, according to Yuhas: Revolutionize the training and acquisition process for new weapon systems.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

3 awesome movie weapons that would actually get their users killed

In this era of massive budget blockbusters and even bigger “shared universe” movie franchises, it’s safe to say that we’re not always looking for realism at the cinema. While films are capable of conveying lots of different sorts of messages, the common thread that binds them is entertainment, and as such, reality often falls to the wayside in favor of plot convenience, storytelling, or sometimes, just a lack of scientific understanding.


Movies that are “based on a true story” tend to bear little resemblance to the “true stories” they’re based on, movies about the military almost invariably fail to capture the culture or even the vernacular of American troops, and the Fast and Furious franchise has a physics all its own… but some movies do a good job of establishing that the rules of their cinematic universes are similar to our own, only to offer up weapons that, at best, don’t make sense, and at worst, would leave their user reduced to little more than a puddle of goo.

Some of these nonsensical weapons play small roles in the movies they inhabit, while others, like these, have become cultural touchstones; serving as symbols of the fictional universes they inhabit and the fandoms they inspire. These weapons are cool, dynamic, exciting… and would totally get you killed in a real fight.

DS9 VS. The Klingons – Hoards of angry Klingons invade the station

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The Klingon Bat’leth

While the Klingons had already been around for some time before “Star Trek: The Next Generation” introduced the Bat’leth, the unique double-sided sword quickly became visually synonymous with the Empire of warrior aliens. There’s just one problem: melee weapons make no sense in a galaxy full of handheld phasers and disruptors, and even if they did — the Bat’leth is one useless melee weapon.

While most bladed weapons offer the user an increase in reach, the Bat’leth’s curved shape makes it more awkward for extended one-handed strikes like a bow or staff might allow, and while held in the traditional two-handed way, it offers little more than a solid defense against other melee weapons. Perhaps this is why the mighty Klingons always find themselves bested in hand to hand combat by humans, Bajorans, and anybody else the plot finds convenient, despite their fierce reputations.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUbXyd-fK8Q
Jedi vs Trade Federation Droids – The Phantom Menace [1080p HD]

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The Jedi/Sith Lightsaber

This one is sure to ruffle feathers, as the Star Wars fandom has devoted a great deal of time and energy to explaining away how these energy weapons must really work. However, as of Disney’s purchase of the franchise, canonical sources have been slashed, and we’re left once again with lightsabers that work without the plot-hole filler that was once allotted.

What we’re left with are extremely hot energy weapons that, as others have pointed out, shouldn’t work because the beams have endpoints, but assuming they did — anything that could burn so easily through feet of steel as depicted in the films would also melt the meat off of your hands as you held it. It would take so much heat to do what lightsabers are depicted as doing, it wouldn’t be safe to be in the same room as one, let alone to start swinging it like a baseball bat.

Iron Man – Raptor Jet Scene

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Tony Stark’s Iron Man Suit

The Iron Man suit has become one of the most recognizable symbols of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and with good reason. The MCU as we know it was born with the first Iron Man movie and in many ways, Stark serves as the Skywalker of the series… but that doesn’t change the fact that the suit that grants him his powers would actually be his undoing.

While the Iron Man armor may protect Tony from impacts and penetration, it can’t stop inertia. Iron Man is regularly shown taking hard, nearly instant turns at jet-fighter like speeds and even hitting the ground at similar velocities (whether intentionally or otherwise). Even if the armor offered protection from impact, the inertia of those movements would turn Tony Stark into chunky stew.

In reality, the first Iron Man movie likely would have ended with Pepper Potts prying the suit open only to let what was left of the titular hero pour out… which is why maybe it’s not always good to be completely realistic with one’s movie weapons.

Articles

F-35 pilot: Here’s what people don’t understand about dogfighting, and how the F-35 excels at it

Since 2001, Lockheed Martin and US military planners have been putting together the F-35, a new aircraft that promises to revolutionize aerial combat so thoroughly as to leave it unrecognizable to the general public.


Detractors of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter have long criticized the program as taking too long and costing too much, though overruns commonly occur when developing massive, first-in-class projects like the F-35.

Related: This is how the F-35 is being tested against Russian and Chinese air defenses

But perhaps the most damning criticism of the F-35 came from a 2015 assessment that F-16s, first fielded in the 1970s, had handily defeated a group of F-35s in mock dogfight tests.

According to Lt. Col. David “Chip” Berke, the only US Marine to fly both the F-22 and the F-35, the public has a lot of learning to do when assessing a jet’s capability in warfare.

“The whole concept of dogfighting is so misunderstood and taken out of context,” Berke said in an interview with Business Insider. “We need to do a better job teaching the public how to assess a jet’s capability in warfare.”

“There is some idea that when we talk about dogfighting it’s one airplane’s ability to get another airplane’s 6 and shoot it with a gun … That hasn’t happened with American planes in maybe 40 years,” Berke said.

“Everybody that’s flown a fighter in the last 25 years — we all watched ‘Top Gun,'” said Berke, referring to the 1986 film in which US Navy pilots take on Russian-made MiGs.

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership
Lockheed Martin photo

But planes don’t fight like that anymore, and comparing different planes’ statistics on paper and trying to calculate or simulate which plane can get behind the other is “kind of an arcane way of looking at it,” Berke said.

Unlike older planes immortalized in films, the F-35 doesn’t need to face its adversary to destroy it. The F-35 can fire “off boresight,” virtually eliminating the need to jockey for position behind an enemy.

The F-35 can take out a plane miles beyond visual range. It can pass targeting information to another platform, like a drone or a US Navy destroyer, and down a target without even firing a shot.

While US Air Force pilots do train for classic, World War II-era dogfights, and while the F-35 holds its own and can maneuver just as well as fourth-generation planes, dogfights just aren’t that important anymore.

Berke said dogfighting would teach pilots “great skill sets” but conflict within visual range “doesn’t always mean a turning fight within 100 feet of the other guy maneuvering for each other’s 6 o’clock.” Berke also made an important distinction that conflicts within visual range do not always become dogfights.

Also, “within visual range” is a tricky term.

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership
An F-35 Lightning II from Eglin AFB flies with an F-16 Fighting Falcon from Luke AFB at the Luke Airshow. Lockheed Martin photo.

“You could not see a guy who’s a mile away, or you could see a guy at 15 miles if you got lucky,” Berke said, adding that with today’s all-aspect weapons systems, a plane can “be effective in a visual fight from offensive, defensive, and neutral positions.”

“We need to stop judging a fighter’s ability based on wing loading and Gs,” Berke said of analysts who prize specifications on paper over pilots’ insights.

Furthermore, Berke, who has several thousand flying hours in four different airplanes, both fourth and fifth generation, stressed that pilots train to negate or avoid conflicts within visual range — and he said no plane did that better than the F-35.

Even in the F-22 Raptor, the world’s most lethal combat plane in within-visual-range conflicts and beyond, Berke said he’d avoid a close-up fight.

“Just because I knew I could outmaneuver an enemy, my objective wouldn’t be to get in a turning fight and kill him,” Berke said.

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership
Even in the world’s best fighter jet, nobody would choose a dogfight. US Air Force photo

Though it might be news to fans of “Top Gun” and the gritty, “Star Wars”-style air-to-air combat depicted in TV and films, the idea of a “dogfight” long ago faded from relevance in the world of aerial combat.

A newer, less sexy term has risen to take its place: situational awareness. And the F-35 has it in spades.

Articles

This is how the Army teaches you to ‘see green’ — not brown, black or white

Recently, the Huffington Post article “Becoming A Racist: The Unfortunate Side Effect Of Serving Your Country?” has been making its rounds across the veteran community.


Basically it’s a story about how a small group of veterans who were radicalized in Iraq and Afghanistan provide security for fringe Neo-Nazi groups. It continues with an anecdote about the author’s NYPD lieutenant uncle and his prejudice.

The piece argues that not enough is being done to aid returning veterans with Post Traumatic Stress from becoming racists. To the article’s defense, it does say the percentage of veterans pulling security for the Right Wing groups is a small one. And I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t heard a racial slur used by a piece of sh*t during my time in the U.S. Army.

However, it glosses over the U.S. military’s extremely hard stance against those ****heads and the astronomical percentage of troops who learned to see their fellow service member as not white, brown, or black, but “green.”

All the Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces have unequivocally denounced racism and hatred within their branch. Every value within each branch goes directly against what we all stand for. There is no way in Hell any soldier can truly live by the Army values if they are not loyal to and respect everyone on their left and right.

The Army’s diversity mission statement is: “To develop and implement a strategy that contributes to mission readiness while transforming and sustaining the Army as a national leader in diversity.” In every sense, we are.

The term “seeing green” refers to removing your view on another troop’s personal identity and welcoming them as a brother or sister in arms who also swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Of course, we still understand that they are of a different ethnicity. We’re not blind. We only place importance on their rank and position.

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership

We just assume that no matter what race you are, wherever you comes from, whatever religion, gender, or orientation: if you’re a young private – you’re probably an idiot no matter what. And if you’re a second lieutenant, you’re probably an idiot who’s also in the chain of command.

Troops come from all walks of life. I’ve served with former surfers from California, ranchers from Texas, and computer analysts from Illinois. Troops who grew up in the projects of Harlem to the high rises of Manhattan to trailer parks outside Atlanta to the suburbs of Cleveland.

I will forever be honored knowing they all embraced me as a brother. The life story of my friend, Spec. Allam Elshorafa, is proof that serving in the military will make you “see green” far more than the minute group of f*ckfaces that do radicalize.

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership
Still one of his coolest photos was when he was a Private First Class. (Courtesy of Facebook)

Arriving at my first duty station in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, I wasn’t the most popular guy in the unit. I quickly realized that awkwardly talking about World of Warcraft wasn’t doing me any favors with avid fishermen and party guys, yet they still always looked out for me as one of their own.

In Afghanistan, I got to know Elshorafa. He was a Muslim born in Jerusalem. His family moved to Dallas when he was younger and as an adult, he enlisted to defend his new American home.

We quickly became friends. We’d talk about cartoons we saw as kids, video games we played as teens, and movies we hated as adults.

Things shifted when the topic of “why we enlisted” came up. He told me it was his life’s goal to help teach others that “not all Muslims are terrorists.” They are a fringe group that preys on other Muslims and are a blight on his religion.

One of radical Islam’s recruitment methods is to point at racism of westerners to rally disenfranchised Muslims. Yet, for all of the vile hatred those sh#tbags spew against the West, the largest target of Islamic terror is still other Muslims.

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership
A little compassion goes a long way. (Photo via Military.com)

Islamic terror to Elshorafa was the same as how every group deals with the radical sh*theads. Not all Christians are Branch Davidians, and not all Republicans are in the Alt-Right. To him, America was his home and we were his family. I, and everyone else in the platoon, embraced him as such.

My brother-in-arms ended his own life in June 2017. He joined the staggering number of veterans that still remain one of the most tragic concerns within our community. The loss still pains me, and I wear the memorial band every day.

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership
I’ll never take it off, brother. I even argue with the TSA over taking it off.

It didn’t matter what race or religion either of us was, Elshorafa had my six and it will always hurt that I didn’t have his in his time of need.

He taught me about his faith and never attempted to convert me. He invited me to join him at an Eid al-Fitr celebration and the food was amazing. Just as you learn the players of every other football team other than your own by hanging out with their passionate fans, you learn in the military about others’ ways of life by bullsh*tting with them.

Everyone embraces the same suck on a daily basis. We all bleed the same red. And we all wear the same ‘green.’

MIGHTY HISTORY

This German general told Hitler off in the most satisfying way ever

Known as the Lion of Africa, General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck was one of the most respected military minds of World War I and, reportedly, he never suffered a defeat in battle. Born in 1870 to a military family, Lettow-Vorbeck started his military career at the age of 11 by joining the cadet corps in Potsdam, Germany.

By 18, the future officer finished school as valedictorian and was appointed lieutenant of the 4th Footguards. After that, he began working with the U.S. during the historic Boxer Rebellion, where he polished his guerrilla warfare tactics. Through outstanding performance, Lettow-Vorbeck quickly worked his way up in rank.

Lettow-Vorbeck was next sent to German South-West Africa (which is known as Namibia today) to put down a rebellion fueled by Herero and Namaqua tribesmen. After suffering injuries, he was moved to South Africa to recover. In his absence, the quelling of the local insurrection devolved into what’s now considered the first instance of 20th-century genocide — nearly 100,000 locals were killed.

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership
Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck (middle) with two other Germans, 1919.

Afterward, the Prussian officer spent a few years back in his homeland of Germany until 1914, when he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and given command over colonial troops in German East Africa.

Then, World War I broke out. As war raged, the German governor of the African colony, Heinrich Schnee, was determined to remain neutral. Lettow-Vorbeck had other ideas. Knowing full-well that the African theater was a sideshow to the real war, the Lieutenant Colonel set out to entangle as many British troops as possible.


Although highly outnumbered, Lettow-Vorbeck and his men successfully held a front using guerrilla tactics and avoiding fighting out in the open — a smart move when you have fewer troops than the opponent. Lettow-Vorbeck’s maneuvers helped defeat the British, Belgian, and Portuguese armies. For his actions, he was promoted to the rank of major general. The new general was well-respected by all of men, including the Askari troops he commanded due to the fact that he was fluent in Swahili, their native tongue.

Once the war had ended, he returned to Germany and received a massive, hero’s welcome from his countrymen.

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership
Lettow-Vorbeck reaching a heroes welcome.

Although the general was a known anti-semite, he wasn’t a faithful member of the Nazi party. Because of this, Lettow-Vorbeck maintained a great distrust of Adolf Hitler. In letters he wrote, he expressed a thorough distaste for Hitler’s racist rhetoric.

In fact, when Hitler offered him the ambassadorship to the Court of James in 1935, he told Hitler to go f*ck himself.

Some literature suggests that Lettow-Vorbeck didn’t use those exact words — in fact, his words weren’t so kind.

MIGHTY MONEY

They started at the bottom, now they are billionaire veterans

These are the guys who have lived the American dream. Five former enlisted warriors from various services who raised their right hand when it was time to serve, then got out and hustled to earn what they knew could be theirs.


These veterans went from E-1 to billionaire.

Related: 9 incredibly successful companies founded by military veterans

1. John Orin Edson, Army – Net worth: 1.6 Billion

Mr. Edson’s service began during the Korean War when he enlisted in the Army, where he spent three years in the signal corps.

Once out, Edson began selling his own racing boats from a parking lot in Seattle, Washington. He eventually bought the rights to Bayliner Marine for a reported $100.00 and developed the company. Edson sold it to Brunswick for $425 million.

He joined the billionaire’s club through sound investing and now reportedly spends his days flying helicopters and cruising yachts.

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership
Stays calm and makes billions (Image from Forbes)

2. Daniel Abraham, Army – Net worth: 1.8 Billion

When Abraham finished his service with the infantry in 1947 Europe, he returned stateside where he bought the Thompson Medical Company. At the time, the company had revenue of $5,000.00 annually. Today, the company is still around and is doing quite well.

He joined the billionaire’s club through his interest in the weight-loss industry, which led to his development of Slim-Fast Foods. You may have heard of it.

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership
Slim-Fast money! (Image from Gossipextra.com)

3. David Murdock, Army – Net worth: 4 Billion

Mr. Murdock dropped out of school in the 9th grade and was drafted into the Army during WWII. Once out, Murdock moved to Detroit and was homeless for a time, but he managed to get a $1,200 loan to buy a failing diner.

He flipped it for a small profit that he used to move to Arizona. There, Murdock began a career in real estate, acquiring many businesses, including the pineapple and banana producer Dole Food Company, which he developed into the giant it is today.

Murdock joined the billionaire’s club by selling his 98-percent share of the sixth largest Island of Hawaii. He believes in health and has vocal plans to live to see his 125th birthday.

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership
(Image via Kim Brattain Media YouTube)

4. Charles Dolan, Air Force – Net worth: 5 Billion

Charles Dolan served in the Air Force before beginning his endeavors in telecommunications. Dolan got his start producing sports clips that he sold for syndication.

In the 60s, he established Teleguide, a platform that provided information services through cable television to hotels in New York. Dolan created the predecessor to what would become HBO.

He served as executive chairman of AMC Networks, which includes AMC, WETv, IFC, and the Sundance Channel, as well as the independent film business, IFC Entertainment.

Dolan serves as chairman to Cablevision now and, after stepping down as CEO, he bought the Red Sox… No big deal.

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership
Go Sox! (Image from NetWorthHQ.com)

Also Read: 5 essential business values from a veteran-owned company

5. John Paul DeJoria, Navy – Net worth: 4 Billion

Born in Echo Park, California to immigrant parents, John Paul served two years in the Navy before getting out. He went from homeless to living in his car to Billionaire through pure hustle.

He went salon to salon, selling hair products wherever he could, developing his company Paul Mitchell Systems with partner Paul Mitchell.

His true rags-to-riches, American-dream story continues as DeJoria is still part of several businesses, including the Patron Spirits company.

He’s also a former member of the Hells Angels. How’s that for keeping it real?

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership
Started at the bottom now he’s here! (Image from Forbes)

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 common military signs that freak out civilians

The military is used to ignoring warning signs for things that aren’t actually all that dangerous. After all, once you know how a military range works, you realize that only a couple thousand square yards of the range is actually dangerous, and “Overhead Artillery” just means whistling noises (unless someone really screws up).

These 6 signs are shrugged off by troops but make civilians panic.


“Overhead Artillery Fire” sign

“Overhead artillery fire” sounds super scary, and the idea that you have to drive through artillery fire to get to a recreation area might seem crazy to civilians. But, for any familiar with artillery operations, this is no big deal.

Artillery rounds are dangerous and must be treated with care — but they follow predictable paths. As long as the crew doesn’t screw up big time, creating a short round by using too little powder or calibrating the gun to an improper angle, then any artillery rounds passing over this road will be dozens or hundreds of feet above the road.

How civilians see this sign: “There are live explosives in the air that could land here at any time!”

What service members see: “Someone gets to work way out here in the woods.”

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership
It’s actually shockingly safe to operate near unexploded ordnance — if you’re careful. So, you know, watch your step, but don’t lose your sh*t.
(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Shane M. Phipps)

 

“Unexploded Ordnance”

Signs like these can be intimidating. After all, even if you don’t know what ordnance is, “unexploded” implies that something explosive is present. And you’re not allowed to leave the road because of the danger of the unexploded whatever-ordnance-is, so that’s frightening.

And unexploded ordnance is a real danger. It can be anything from missiles to bombs to grenades and more. But these are basically dud missiles and bombs and whatnot. And, military explosives are actually pretty stable, so it takes a lot to set one off accidentally. So just, you know, don’t go kicking anything you don’t recognize.

How civilians see this sign: “If you try to change a tire here, you will die.”

What service members see: “If you’re going to dig a latrine hole, do it carefully or somewhere else.”

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership
FOD is literally just any debris that vehicles or people bring on the runway with them. It just means debris, and they’re mostly talking about rocks and metal.
(U.S. Air Force Airman Ty-Rico Lea)

 

“FOD Check Point!”

Gonna be honest, this one is only scary because civilians don’t know what FOD is. Anyone rolling onto an Air Force runway is going to have to pass one of these signs, and for civilians they seem like a super serious warning about some mysterious danger.

But FOD stands for “foreign object debris,” which basically just means trash or rocks. Jet engines are fairly fragile, and small rocks, loose bolts, tools, etc. can be sucked into the engine and destroy it. Remember, “The Miracle on the Hudson” happened when a plane struck a flock of geese and lost all engine power.

How civilians see this sign: “An unknown danger, possibly dragon-based, is going to kill us all!”

What service members see: “Crap, we gotta get out and check the tires for rocks.”

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership
Fun Fact: The Air Force took this photo for an entire news story about this one spot on Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, where unobservant drivers can actually shut down a runway by driving down the road when it isn’t their turn.
(U.S. Air Force Gina Randall)

 

This is basically just a traffic light for areas in which airplanes and cars operate close to one another. The big danger when planes are taxiing here or in similar places isn’t that they’ll crash, though. Air Force instructions require a ground guide walking under the wing to ensure the wing won’t strike an object if a plane is taxiing within 25 feet of a significant obstacle or object.

So, it’s mostly a formality. After all, the planes aren’t taxiing on the actual road, just a nearby taxiway. But the plane has to stop if a car drives down the road at the wrong time, slowing airfield operations.

How civilians see this sign: “Stop now, or a plane will turn on its engines and throw your whole car hundreds of feet with powerful jet wash.”

What service members see: “Just wait a sec’ or some bureaucratic nonsense will slow down our operations here.”

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership
To be honest, there’s about 100 meters of “impact area” that’s completely safe to walk through. And in the rest of the fenced-off area, just be careful where you step. You’ll be fine. Probably.
(Kerry Raymond, CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

There is a live-fire range with actual bombs and lasers on the other side of this fence. And sure, bombs are dangerous. And modern lasers could damage your eyes if you look directly at them for too long.

But, really, the lasers don’t do much damage, and the live bombs are typically a few old duds that failed to go off. Like the “unexploded ordnance” sign above, you really just need to be careful not to kick an unexploded bomb.

How civilians see this sign: “On the other side of this fence, a steel rain falls on a landscape of live bombs. Sauron himself would not survive here for even a minute.”

What service members see: “This isn’t the entrance to the range. Walk around until you find it.”

An MP poses with a checkpoint sign, because when it’s historic it’s somehow not cliche.

 

Military checkpoints of any kind sound frightening. “Armed troops are going to search our vehicles!?” But, really, the military police and random Joes assigned to gate guard and other checkpoints are spending more mental energy debating whether they’re going to play Destiny 2 or Call of Duty tonight than they are on searching some random yuppie’s Subaru Outback that might have weed hidden under the passenger seat.

Honestly, as long as there isn’t an AT-4 in the vehicle, the occupants have little to worry about.

How civilians see this sign: “Jack-booted thugs are going to search our little car and abduct our child because we don’t have her birth certificate on us!”

What troops see: “You might have to get out of your car so the Blue Falcons can feel good about their job for five minutes.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Marine Veteran is pioneering a new VA program to help veterans and their families

This post is sponsored by the UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center (VFWC).

The UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center is honored to continue to serve and support the military-connected community during COVID-19! For appointments call (310) 478-3711 x 42793 or email info@vfwc.ucla.edu

Every Marine knows the saying, “Pain is Weakness leaving the body.” It’s the motto that drill instructors use to encourage recruits to dig just a little deeper during boot camp and it’s often repeated when physical training takes a turn from hard to brutally hard. The military, especially the Marines, know that pain is the beginning of resilience, our ability to bounce back from difficult situations and complete the mission. But while some pain often prepares our servicemen and women for strength in war, we are often at a loss for what to do when our families or even children are challenged with pain and stress once we return. So when the VA wanted to start helping veteran families they smartly turned to one of the few and the proud.


Marine Veteran Tess Banko is no stranger to pain. By twenty three years old, she had survived homelessness, a massive back injury (for which she was medically discharged) and the suicide death of her husband, also a Marine. When her world seemed to be coming apart, Tess did the opposite of what most of us would do. Instead of allowing her pain to overwhelm her, she fought back. She dug into her pain both physically and mentally. Along the way, she volunteered to empower and assist others, went to college (she was crowned homecoming queen), and ultimately, found the tools inside to help her (and her family). Tess is the epitome of resilience and now she’s bounced back to take on a new mission.

Today, Tess is the executive director of the UCLA/VA Veterans Family Wellness Center, a one of a kind partnership between UCLA and the West Los Angeles VA system. Tess and her team are part of the first VA program specifically designed to help not only veterans, but their families. To support their work, the team is relying on cutting edge research from UCLA just a few blocks from the VA campus. UCLA, the university which revolutionized kidney transplants and invented the nicotine patch, is now offering veterans and their families a state of the art resiliency program. Families Over Coming Under Stress (FOCUS) is a resiliency training regimen for individuals, families with children and couples facing adversity or issues like traumatic stress.

With Tess at the helm, she’s not only pioneering a new way of thinking for the VA, she’s also helping others find their path through trauma. Tess sat down with We Are The Mighty to discuss her work, passion and journey into resilience.

WATM: First things first, thank you for everything you do for military families. How do you describe yourself and your work here at VFWC?

Tess: Well it’s really easy to give a title. I’m the executive director of the UCLA/VA. Veteran Family Wellness Center. But really, I’m a social worker and public administrator.

WATM: And a Marine? What made you join the Corps?

Tess: I think it was really a lot of wanting to be part of something that made a difference. When I was younger I used to go to the [El Toro] airshow with my grandfather and that’s the first time I ever laid eyes on a Marine standing there in the uniform. You know guiding people, I mean it was airshow duty. I didn’t know at the time probably how much fun that wasn’t, but they were motivating and just really interacting with the public, and there were are all these exciting machines and demonstrations. So, it really made an impact on me as a little girl. The wider world was calling.

WATM: Did your family have a history of military service?

Tess: I didn’t find out until many years later that my own grandfather was actually in the Army. He never told those stories to the family because I think he was embarrassed. He said that a lot of his friends were being sent off to war but he served two years in a non-combat role, got out and went into aerospace engineering and he was one of the first Mexican-American designers of bomb and missile systems at White Sands, NM. I personally saw the military as one of the only places that you could go as far as your own two feet would take you basically or your hard work that you put into it. That’s one of the reasons why I was excited to join.

WATM: Wow.

Tess: And I like a good challenge. The Marine Corps seemed like a good fit. So I joined [as] an engineer.

WATM: Did you find the challenge you were looking for? Especially as a female Marine in the engineers.

Tess: When I joined it was very idealistic. I wanted to be just one of the guys and I saw myself in that way. I never saw myself in terms of being a woman, only a Marine and that actually caused a lot of problems and disappointment at the time as we have only just begun to move more fully into gender integration among the services. And it was really challenging for me because as I said I never saw myself as anything other than a Marine. I always just wanted to do my job.

WATM: What made you transition out of the Marine Corps?

Tess: I got hurt.

WATM: You got hurt?

Tess: Yes. We were training and I noticed that there was something wrong with my back because my leg had stopped functioning. I was in my early 20’s and the command atmosphere gave this impression that you had to white knuckle it through anything. I was told, ‘There’s no problem, there’s no problem. You just need to keep going.’ It turned out that I had a herniated disc in my back and it was it was crushing the nerve to the point where it began to permanently kill the nerves. I was standing there on the rifle range and I just fell over on my side because my leg finally gave up. They called an ambulance and rushed me into emergency surgery in Japan.

WATM: Did you feel like you had the resiliency skills that prepared you for that experience?

Tess: My life growing up was challenging. My parents were very young when they had children. I was the only person in my immediate family to successfully graduate from high school. My parents had dropped out at 17, which kind of spells disaster for a young couple with four children. And so it was really a life of learning to adapt, moving from place to place, experiencing homelessness as a child, living between motels and being chased by bill collectors. You know all that bad stuff for [a child] but even from a young age I adopted a viewpoint of life that was more curious than anything. It was less ‘Oh my God, why is this happening to me?’ and more ‘huh this interesting.’ It was just a minor shift of perspective. I developed that curiosity and a different way of looking at problems and I think that’s a key part of resilience.

WATM: Did you know what resilience was growing up?

Tess: I did not. I think it was something that I saw modeled by example. My grandmother was a very kind and giving woman, she taught me so much. She always went out of her way to help people in the community even when she seemed in the midst of a lot of uncertainty in life. So, paying that forward, even on active duty I was volunteering in the local community teaching English to Okinawan children. I’ve always been so curious about other people and their lives. It’s a great education.

WATM: And then you lost your husband (also a Marine). How do you process all of that?

Tess: It was a surreal experience having the casualty assistance team knock on the door. I can remember I opened it a crack. It didn’t make sense in my mind what was happening so I opened the door a crack and a Marine stuck his foot to keep me from shutting it. Then I saw the Colonel. And then it finally hit me that it was real. My husband wasn’t coming home. When you’re actively experiencing shock, pain or trauma it’s less thinking about resilience and more survival mode kicking in. It was one second, one minute at a time. The days blurred together. I mean being emotionally injured is much like being physically injured, it can take a long time to wrap your head around. There’s no linear pathway. Also, processing trauma is not just about moving through pain but about overcoming fear. There’s the fear that you as a person or things in your life will never be the same. Sometimes you don’t know what other people are going to think. Usually some of the fear ties back to being afraid that people are going to judge you if you feel broken. And I think that really was hard for me to overcome, but it was necessary. I think that being gentle with yourself is a skill.

WATM: You not only survived but thrived? You went back to college and grad school and now you literally work with Neuroscientists.

Tess: The science behind the brain fascinates me because people that are in pain sometimes seem to think, ‘I’m damaged forever and I’m never gonna be able to do or be anything. There is no coming back from this.’ I understand where you’re at if it’s crossed your mind, I’ve been there too, but there’s so much possibility. We can’t change what happened but our brain is essentially plastic and able to rewire. The body and mind actively try to repair themselves, and we can support our own process through building resilience. There are a lot of tools for that belt, resilience isn’t just a buzzword.

WATM: Is that thesis behind your team’s work at the VFWC?

Tess: Exactly. The center is a place of hope and healing. We teach tangible skills, identifiable tools, for veterans and their families to be able to overcome challenges and build better relationships. The FOCUS model that’s our cornerstone is pretty incredible.

WATM: Is there anybody else out there that’s focusing on families like this?

Tess: Not in this way. From a wellness-based resilience perspective this is the first center of its kind, especially paired with the VA which traditionally only sees individual veterans. They took a huge step to open their doors to couples and families too. When you think about it, though, our families, friends and communities are on the front lines supporting after military service.

WATM: So this is a groundbreaking VA partnership all based in science?

Tess: Yep. That’s why UCLA is such an amazing partner because the VFWC is just blocks away from world class researchers. The Center falls under the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and the Nathanson Family Resilience Center which focus on resilience for all families, not just veterans. The research behind our programs is about understanding what drives human behavior and growth. Based on that, VFWC programming is tailored to veterans and their families with really firm research and evidence backing it up.

WATM: Classic, intel drives operations model. But you have specific model for your programs as well. What is FOCUS?

Tess: FOCUS is Families Overcoming Under Stress. It’s a holistic model that was co-created between UCLA and Harvard University and currently in use on over 30 active duty military bases around the world. Our center represents the first wider translation of FOCUS from active duty into the veterans community, which are distinctly different populations. It’s a departure from traditional therapy models.

WATM: What can veterans and their families expect when they come to the center?

Tess: When somebody comes into the center in general we start with a consultation that helps us to really guide veterans and family members to the resources that they might be needing. It’s starting where the individual is. We have individual, couples, early childhood, military sexual trauma, and combat veteran adaptations, plus group sessions and special workshops and events. We keep our doors open for veterans and family members regardless of discharge, benefits or when they got out. The building we’re housed in also offers veterans with VA benefits massage, reiki, mindfulness and yoga. There’s even a drum circle and Taichi.

WATM: And children?

Tess: Especially children. Research that was done as far back as the Holocaust indicates that trauma can be passed down from generation to generation. In cases of post-traumatic stress, suicide and even repeated deployments, the effects of secondary trauma is a very real thing. A lot of the times we see families with children who don’t know how to talk to them about certain issues or there’s not a huge understanding of the developmental piece of what’s behind behaviors. Kids aren’t just mini-adults, the human brain is still developing until the age of 25! So, we support both the parents and children to find a closeness and ability to communicate more as they move through the journey.

WATM: That sounds pretty awesome especially for the VA. How would you describe starting the center?

Tess: It’s been a lot of pioneering. Improvising. Being resilient. There are so many people who care in the VA system and a whole lot of need. Offering another avenue for assistance is important to the team here.

WATM: What is your vision for the center and the future of resilience in the VA?

Tess: I would love to see the VA expand the VFWC’s holistic wellness model to include centers in every facility, especially coupled with a research institution. Veterans and their families would really benefit. Both our families, and wider communities for that matter, are really impactful in our individual wellness. One of the great things about the VFWC is our ability to seek additional community resources. It’s a long table and there is no one size fits all for wellness, reintegration, and healing.

WATM: So now you you’ve gone through your own experience gone through two years here. What does resilience mean to you?

Tess: I think the Marine Corps says it really, well you adapt and you overcome. Sometimes it seems like pull-through comes from out of nowhere because we’re born with it, but sometimes life can bring those levels low. Resilience is that wellspring that allows for course correction and being able to bounce back. Resilience to me also means working on saying, “hey something’s wrong here” and being open to assistance. First step for me personally of breaking the cycle was my own acknowledgment of what I was facing. For instance, I couldn’t talk to my family being sexually assaulted on active duty and I now know that’s common to those who have experienced trauma. I simply didn’t have the vocabulary, I had to organize the words in my own mind. We really need each other to get through hard times, so it’s crucial to develop.

WATM: What does 2019 look like for you and VFWC?

Tess: We’re working on piloting a new transition program, TEAM, for those at any point after active service based on the core FOCUS model paired with the ideas of identity ,mission, meaning and purpose. These are four essential elements of transition. Your perception changes along the transition to civilian life just like my perception changed of myself when I got out of the Marine Corps. It really was a rediscovery of who I was, where I was. I had to find a new mission. For me that happened to be serving people, but it could be different for others. It can be challenging to figure these things our while also providing for yourself or a family. We want to offer veterans and their families the resilience tools before they even need them.

WATM: Do you have any advice specifically to the families

Tess: There is no one size fits all to happiness, health and healing. If one thing doesn’t work, move forward. No matter what you face, keep reaching out and moving forward. Families, you are vital to service. You’re heard and seen. You matter.

Marine Veteran Tess Banko is the executive director of the UCLA/VA Veterans Family Wellness Center (VFWC). To learn more about the center’s work or begin your own resilience training please contact familycenter@nfrc.ucla.edu or Phone 310-478-3711, ext 42793.

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