At outposts in Afghanistan and Iraq, on all the ships at sea, and wherever troops serve worldwide, flags are being flown at half-staff to honor the passing of former First Lady and military spouse Barbara Bush.
President Donald Trump called Mrs. Bush a “woman of character” in issuing the order that flags be flown at half-staff at all military installations.
“On this solemn day, we mourn the loss of Barbara Bush, an outstanding and memorable woman of character,” Trump said. “As a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, military spouse, and former First Lady, Mrs. Bush was an advocate of the American family.”
Bush, wife of the former President George H.W. Bush and mother of former President George W. Bush, died April 17, 2018, at age 92 at the family home in Houston, Texas. She was a Navy wife in World War II as her husband served in the Pacific.
Mrs. Bush was only the second woman in American history to have a son follow his father to the White House. Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams and mother of John Quincy Adams, was the first.
In his statement, Trump said he was ordering flags flown at half-staff “at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations,” and “throughout the United States and its territories and possessions until sunset, on the day of interment.”
“I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations,” he said.
USS Freedom (LCS-1), the lead of the Freedom-class of littoral combat ships, brought some much-needed positive attention to the LCS in 2010 when it carried out a deployment in Southern Command’s area of operations. In just seven weeks, it made four drug busts while accomplishing a host of other missions.
It’s no secret that the development and deployment of the Littoral Combat Ship has been rife with problems. This big success was exactly what the class needed to secure an export order. Well, to be more specific, a modified version of the Freedom has found an international buyer.
According to a showing at the 2018 SeaAirSpace Expo, Lockheed Martin has been hard at work modifying and upgrading the Freedom-class LCS. Not only have they designed a guided-missile frigate based on this ship (which is to compete for selection via the Navy’s FFG(X) program), they also designed the Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC), which is, essentially, a frigate designed to serve as a general-purpose vessel.
The RIM-162D Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile is the primary anti-air armament of the Multi-Mission Surface Combatant.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Matthew J. Haran)
The MMSC maintains many of the same armaments as the Freedom-class LCS; it’s armed with a 57mm gun, RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles, and the ability to operate two MH-60 helicopters. The MMSC, however, brings more punch to the table. For starters, it’s armed with eight over-the-horizon anti-ship missiles, either RGM-84 Harpoons or Kongsberg NSMs.
Also on the MMSC: an eight-cell Mk 41 vertical-launch system. Each cell in this system holds up to four missiles, meaning the MMSC is armed with 32 RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles. This is a huge step up in air-defense capabilities. This plethora of missiles is joined by Mk 32 torpedo tubes for lightweight anti-sub weaponry, like the Mk 54 Lightweight Hybrid Torpedo or Mk 50 Barracuda.
USS Freedom (LCS 1) is the basis for Lockheed’s Multi-Mission Surface Combatant.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Laird)
Currently, the MMSC has secured an export order with Saudi Arabia as part of a massive arms package that was worked out last year with the United States. Although this ship is impressive, it does drive us a little crazy that this is what the LCS could have been.
Flight Lieutenant Alan Pollock was an enthusiastic but mischievous member of the Royal Air Force in 1968 when he found out that the British Parliament, composed at the time of members who were cutting military spending, had slashed the plans for a 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Royal Air Force. Among the list of events cut were flybys by RAF pilots. So, Pollock stole a plane and conducted his own flybys of Parliament and other locations on the day of celebrations anyway.
The buildup to the dramatic day had started innocuously enough. British pilots had been dropping leaflets and toilet paper rolls on each other for a while, partially to keep up training and partially to break the monotony of training with constrained budgets.
But the pilots taking part in these little pranks were also busy griping about their limited flight hours and the growing obsolescence of their equipment. Britain was investing in new missile technology that was cheaper than planes and pilots but left, in the pilots’ opinion, a gap in defenses. One plane after another was retired from service with no replacement.
The anxious pilots were always on the lookout for further cuts to their budgets and standing, and they learned that the 50th celebration of the Royal Air Force would no longer feature flights of most aircraft. Most of the pilots grumbled a little, but then got right back to work.
Flt. Lt. Alan Pollock was in a Hawker Hunter when he decided to take a flight down the River Thames and, eventually, through Tower Bridge.
(Airwolfhound, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Pollock, on the other hand, was ensnared by a devious idea. What if he just did a few low-level flights through London anyway? In a series of decisions that he would later blame at least partially on the dual cold medicines he was taking at the time, he grabbed a map from another aviator and sketched a tentative plan for a flight through London.
He didn’t think it would really come to anything, though. He was scheduled to fly on April 5, 1968, the celebration date of the 50th anniversary (which actually occurred on April 1). Bad weather at the destination airfield made the flight questionable until the last moment. While the men waited for the weather decision, Pollock got in a small argument with a superior and found himself feeling more maverick than normal.
When the men finally took off, Pollock was number four in a flight and watched a plane ahead of him peel off to go back past the departure airfield, likely to give them a flyby salute to celebrate the anniversary. Pollock was supposed to continue with the rest to their home field, but he saw the rest of the planes banking toward home and figured, screw it, he was going to London.
The Tower Bridge in London, the same bridge that Alan Pollock flew through in 1968 during a protest.
(Diliff, CC BY-SA 3.0)
He dropped audio connection with the other pilots and signaled that his comms were messing up and he’d make his own way home. Instead, he went to the River Thames and started flying over the bridges through London.
He flew past Westminster Abbey and other landmarks in his RAF Hawker Hunter and then turned to the Houses of Parliament and did three quick passes over it. Ironically, Parliament was discussing new rules for noise abatement as Pollock surged power to his engines to make the tight turns over the building.
He turned back out over the Thames and passed over a few more bridges until he reached Tower Bridge, a famous landmark with a lower span for vehicles and a higher one for pedestrians. The opening intrigued him, and he found himself flying right through the gap in the middle of the bridge.
When he made it home and landed, his command didn’t know what to do with him, and Pollock suggested they arrest him. They did so, but Parliament didn’t want a large fuss that would call more attention to the funding cuts Pollock was reacting to with his protests.
So, instead of court-martialing him, the Royal Air Force trumped up his medical issues and discharged him for that, ending his over 10-year career. Pollock described his career in an extended series of interviews with the Imperial War Museum from 2006 to 2009. The Thames River Run was described in detail in segment 24 of 25.
I’m calling it now. This weekend will be one of the quietest weekends in recent history. Why? It has nothing to do with 2nd MARDIV’s insane level of micromanaging and everything to do with how lower enlisted troops think.
For starters, it’s a non-pay day weekend for the second time in a row. Less shenanigans when everyone is broke as Hell. Secondly, NCOs will know exactly where everyone is located at any given moment. Friday night? They’re all out seeing Avengers Endgame. Saturday afternoon? In the barracks playing the new Mortal Kombat game. Saturday night? Probably seeing Avengers again. Sunday? Too hungover (I said quiet, not uneventful) and Sunday night will be Game of Thrones.
If you’re an NCO trying to find a good reason to cheer up your sergeant major, pointing out the lack of blotter reports on their desk will surely help.
Here’s to a quiet, entertainment filled weekend. Enjoy some memes.
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
(Meme via Not CID)
(Meme via Lock Load)
(Meme via Call for Fire)
(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)
(Meme by Devil Dog Actual)
(Meme via Valhalla Wear)
(Meme via Private News Network)
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)
(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)
(Meme by Ranger Up)
My ass is firmly in the “why leave a perfectly good aircraft” category.
Call me a leg, but at least we use Air Assault these days.
Ridley Scott’s “G.I. Jane” gave audiences an inside look into Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, with Demi Moore starring as a female trainee.
Except it’s not called BUD/S — the movie calls it CRT for some reason — and the technical errors don’t stop there. We sat through two hours of sometimes horrific technical errors so you don’t have to. Here’s the 39 that we found.
1:53 Senator DeHaven references an F-14 crash at Coronado. Although it is possible that an F-14 could crash in the area, it’s worth pointing out that Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado, has no F-14s assigned to it.
3:00 The senator says that nearly 1/4 of all jobs in the U.S. military are off-limits to women. It’s actually much closer to 1/5th.
4:31 The admiral makes the first mention of “C.R.T — Combined Reconnaissance Team,” which he refers to as SEALs. There’s no such thing as CRT. The training program that Navy SEALs go through is called BUD/S, or Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL.
4:37 The admiral says SEAL training has a 60 percent drop-out rate. According to the Navy’s own figures, the drop-out rate is closer to 75-80 percent.
11:50 O’Neill says she has survived Jump School and Dive School. As an intel officer, it’s highly unlikely that she would ever attend these schools.
13:13 Royce mentions to Lt. O’Neill that BUD/S training is three months. It’s actually six.
14:01 Now we’re introduced to Catalano Naval Base in Florida. It doesn’t exist. BUD/S actually takes place at the Naval Special Warfare Training Center in Coronado, Calif.
14:21 Lt. O’Neill pulls up to the base in a Humvee. If she were going to a training school, she would’ve just driven a civilian vehicle or taken a taxi from the airport like everyone else. She wouldn’t be picked up by a driver in a tactical military vehicle (although that possibility could have happened but it would’ve been a government van).
14:23 The gate guard says “Carry on.” He’s enlisted, and she’s an officer. If anyone is going to say that, it’s going to be the officer, not the enlisted guy.
14:46 Yes, Lt. O’Neill is wearing a beret right now. And no, people in the Navy don’t ever wear one.
20:00 Capt. Salem welcomes the new class and says they are all “proven operators in the Spec-Ops community.” He mentions that some of the trainees for CRT are SEALs. Why would SEALs be going through initial SEAL training? (This is just another screw-up coming from calling BUD/S the fictional “CRT.”)
20:07 Salem mentions that some of the trainees are from Marine Corps Force Recon. You can’t become a Navy SEAL unless you’re in the Navy.
26:20 A Huey helicopter is about 10 feet away from the trainees who are exercising in the water, but Command Master Chief Urgayle can give a rousing speech about pain that everyone can hear just fine.
26:50 After his speech about pain, Urgayle hops on the Huey and heads out. I wish I could have a Huey as a personal taxi to take me around.
36:27 Using an M-60 machine gun to fire over trainees’ heads is believable. The Master Chief using a sniper rifle to fire live rounds at trainees during training? That is not.
36:31 Are you frigging serious with this reticle pattern right now?
36:52 This course looks less like training and more like Beirut in the 80s. What the hell is with all the flames everywhere?
37:19 Now there is a jet engine shooting afterburner exhaust in trainees’ faces. Wtf?
39:00 Apparently the Master Chief has moved his sniper position from away in a bunker to the perspective of Lt. O’Neill, looking up at Cortez on top of the wall.
48:56 The instructors throw two live smoke grenades and fire rounds from an MP-5 submachine gun to wake up the trainees. The sound doesn’t really match, unless they are shooting live rounds at people. In which case, it’s probably not a good idea to shoot live bullets at a cement floor.
53:01 I know Capt. Salem really likes his cigars, but smoking one during PT?
54:19 Lt. O’Neill gets waterboarded as Urgayle explains how effective the technique is at interrogation. This is not something taught at BUD/S.
57:07 The base gate says Naval Special Warfare Group Two. The base in the movie is located in Jacksonville, Fla., but the actual Group Two is based in Little Creek, Va.
1:05:44 Now the trainees head to SERE school, which the movie says is in Captiva Island, Fla. The Navy (or any other branch) does not hold SERE training at this location. Also, BUD/S trainees don’t attend SERE school. They would attend SERE after they earned the Navy SEAL Trident.
1:06:00 Instructor Pyro is giving a speech about SERE in the back of a noisy helicopter. The trainees wouldn’t be able to hear him.
1:09:36 Lt. O’Neill says over the radio: “Cortez, target ahead. Belay my last. New rally point my location.” She didn’t give Cortez an order, so saying “belay my last” — aka disregard that order — doesn’t make sense.
1:10:00 Slavonic wants to get a helmet at SERE school for a souvenir? Sure he’s a total idiot, but no one is that dumb.
1:12:32 Now that everyone is captured at SERE training, it’s worth pointing out that SERE is actually a three-week course, one week of which is dedicated to survival. Apparently GI Jane skipped straight to resistance.
1:30:00 Why the hell is there a baseball bat just sitting there next to ring-out bell? Oh, the director wanted to make Lt. O’Neill look like a badass. Ok.
1:40:15 Lt. O’Neill is back in training, and now the trainees are on an Operational Readiness Exercise in the Mediterranean Sea, on a submarine. The Navy isn’t going to put trainees on a sub stationed overseas before they are SEALs while they are still undergoing BUD/S training.
1:42:28 The captain asks the Master Chief if the trainees are ready to conduct a real-world mission into Libya. He says yes, and the military viewing audience is — if they haven’t already — throwing things at their TVs.
1:49:19 There’s a firefight happening and bad guys coming towards them but these almost SEALs are literally smoking and joking.
1:54:29 An M-16 firing doesn’t sound like a .50 caliber machine gun. But it does in this movie.
1:54:53 O’Neill fires her M203. The sound it makes is basically a “thoonk” sound. The movie sound effect is like a bottle rocket.
1:55:26 Ok, so basically every sound effect in this firefight sequence makes me want to shoot the TV.
1:56:36 This Cobra attack helicopter can easily shoot the bad guys from a distance. But let’s just go to 10 feet off the ground so the enemy has a chance to shoot the pilot in the face.
1:57:03 The helicopter crew chief just shot a bad guy with his 9mm from 100 yards or so. That’s a pistol, not a sniper rifle.
1:59:00 Master Chief hands O’Neill her SEAL Trident and says “welcome aboard.” Except it’s not a trident. It’s some weird, made-up badge that says SEAL CRT. This is purely fictional, and made all the more ridiculous by the instructors themselves not wearing that badge but wearing the SEAL Trident instead.
1:59:23 In the very next scene after the class graduates, O’Neill is seen wearing the SEAL Trident. Except she was just handed that fake SEAL CRT Badge.
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 email@example.com
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.
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.
In the military, we’ve been trained to dress, work, and even negotiate. Here are a few of the most common military “pet peeves” that can be turned into positives while adjusting to civilian life.
1. Attention to detail
You notice EVERYTHING! How one dresses, how their hair is a little more shaggy, or their desk is a little more crowded…
USE IT! Focus your attention to detail toward what they do well, compliment them, and turn your attention toward editing yourself, your work and your portrayal of yourself. Civilians do not know the world you’ve come from, and won’t appreciate it until you let them in. Teach them through actions to focus on a RELEVANT set of details.
2. To be early is to be on time
Unless you’re using the “European” or “island time” mentality, you’ve been accustomed to being 15 minutes early to everything. That’s great, and your pet peeve for others just being “on time” should be dismissed. Why? Simply because YOU were holding sentry, observing the area. And though others may have missed something, in your opinion, you can be their eyes and ears and report as needed. Your pet peeve for them has now become an asset. Hey, take those 15 minutes to meditate! A little spiritual centering never hurt anyone.
3. Doing the ‘right’ thing when no one is looking
Veterans adjusting to civilian life still have Integrity. Have it. Just because you may notice that your co-workers lack it: BE the example, and begin to teach your ways through assertive practice. Don’t be a tattle-tale, but teach the benefits of integrity. The honest worker is not only trustworthy, but loyal. Loyalty is leadership.
4. Active listening
Having drill sergeants and MTIs for motivation make for a quick lesson in active listening! However, civilian folks do not have a comparative analysis for this quick and dirty “study.” Again, BE the example, be a mentor. Engage. Listen. Decide. Reply. Print it and put it on your desk. Through your actions, and your awareness of this personal lacking in others, you are building your relationships around you passively; and believe me, they’re watching, and learning. Just remember, listening has no words…so truly LISTEN.
Use your pet peeves to your advantage while adjusting to civilian life by modifying your perception of the situation these are seen in. Simply because you are a modeled machine with certain values and habits does not mean that those around you do not possess these same values; they may just be dormant, culturally unpracticed, or uncultivated. As always, we live to teach whether we want to or not, so speak softly, and rather than “carry a big stick” as Teddy Roosevelt would have you, carry your arsenal of tools in a positive light.
Bronze statues can be seen almost anywhere but one rarely hears the amazing stories behind their creation.
The spouse of an Air Force Reserve airman at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, recently sculpted a bust of Senior Airman Daniel Johnson, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal technician, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Johnson was killed in action Oct. 5, 2010, while serving during Operation Enduring Freedom.
“My husband has a contact with the EOD Warrior Foundation, so through the contact we came up with the idea to give back in some way because the military family and the EOD family had done so much for our family,” said Stephanie Hunter, spouse of Senior Master Sgt. Stephen Hunter, 944th Civil Engineer Squadron EOD program manager. “Lauren (the point of contact) was very helpful. She got behind the idea and sent out emails looking for Gold Star families we can honor.”
Gold Star families are those with family members in the U.S. Armed Forces who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of their country.
The response was massive. Stephanie and her husband received a flood of emails from families hoping to memorialize their fallen heroes. One email in particular connected with Stephanie in a special way.
“We chose to honor Senior Airman Johnson because his duty background mirrored my husband’s, plus Johnson is from Minnesota, my home state, so I felt a bit of a hometown connection with him.”
A sculpted bust of Senior Airman Daniel Johnson, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal technician.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Stephen Hunter)
Johnson was assigned to the 30th CES at Vandenberg AFB. He deployed in 2009 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Johnson deployed again in 2010, this time to Kandahar, Afghanistan. There, he was credited with single-handedly saving an Afghanistan National Army soldier injured by an improvised explosive device.
“I just wanted to make the Johnson family proud of this memorial for their son and realize that he’s not forgotten,” Stephanie said. “The Johnson family has been very supportive of this project.”
Hunter said he’s very proud of his wife’s contribution to his military family.
“I’m in awe of Stephanie’s unique way of supporting the EOD community and our fallen comrade,” he said.
Even though sculpting the bust was a labor of love, Stephanie was dissatisfied with her work.
“I’m an artist and extremely critical of my own work,” she said. “Sometimes all I can see is what’s wrong with the project. But Jim Johnson (Senior Airman Johnson’s father), gave me approval to move forward. I felt great.”
The sculpted bust is now at a foundry where a mold will be made before being cast in bronze.
“The sculpture is going to change a couple times before the final product, so it’ll be a different feeling when I finally see it in bronze,” Stephanie said. “It’ll be permanent.”
The Johnson family intends to place the finished bust at a climbing center in Mukwonago, Wisconsin.
Stephanie hopes her work will encourage others to give back to the Air Force family.
“I just want to inspire others to do the same thing for their military family and do something outside of themselves,” she said. “I’m extremely honored and humbled to be part of this project and I’m thankful to the EOD Warrior Foundation for helping to support this project.”
The U.S. Navy submarine service was barely two decades old when the submarine USS O-5 began taking on water in the Panama Canal Zone in October 1923. A cargo ship slammed into the submarine without warning and the boat began taking on water. The crew began to abandon ship.
One lifelong sailor, Henry Breault, could have escaped, too, but he went down with a shipmate that couldn’t escape. The two were trapped in the sunken hull until the next day. For that heroism, President Calvin Coolidge presented Breault with the Medal of Honor.
He was the first member of the submarine service to receive the award and the only enlisted submariner to receive it for duties aboard a sub.
The USS O-5 was never a very lucky ship. Fifth in the line of 16 O-class submarines, she entered service six months too late for World War I. Before even leaving for Europe, an explosion killed her skipper and one of her officers. By Oct. 28, 1924, Breault and the USS O-5 were among a contingent of submarines moving to enter the Panama Canal. That’s when disaster struck.
Or more accurately, that’s when the United Fruit Company struck.
Either through human error or miscommunication (or likely a mix of both), the UFC’s SS Abangarez was moving to dock when it hit the USS O-5 on its starboard side, creating a 10-foot hole in its control room. The ship rolled to the left and then right before sinking bow first.
Most of the crew were rescued but five were missing, including Breault and Chief Electrician’s Mate Lawrence Brown. Breault had actually escaped the sinking boat when he realized Brown was still asleep down below. He went back into the submarine and closed the deck hatch behind him. The two ended up trapped in the torpedo room below the surface.
When divers discovered crewmen were alive inside, work began to get them out. The only way to do that was to lift the boat the full 42 feet above the waterline. Luckily for them, they happened to be in the Canal Zone, the home of some of the world’s heaviest lifting cranes. The crane barge Ajax, one of the largest in the world, made its way to the wreck as soon as possible.
After three failed attempts and a full 31 hours, the canal crews and sailors were able to lift the sub up high enough to open the torpedo room hatch and free their comrades.
Breault had been sailing since age 16 and was a sailor for the rest of his life, dying just two days before the Japanese hit Pearl Harbor on Dec. 5, 1941.
The war didn’t go well for the King, and he lost entire sections of his country in 1642 and 1644. By 1646, he had only one good castle left, Goodrich Castle at Herefordshire, but it was defended by a very loyal knight. In June 1646, Parliamentarians demanded that the Royalists surrender, but were politely rebuffed.
Except for some missing lead, this is basically what Goodrich Castle looked like after ole’ Meg was done with it. Note that the castle builders hadn’t designed the walls and towers to have those gaping holes in them.
(David Merrett, CC BY 2.0)
So, a siege ensued. For six weeks, the Parliamentarians attacked with artillery and managed to destroy the castle cisterns and a number of other structures, but the defenses held. So, the Parliamentarian commander, Colonel John Birch, commissioned a massive mortar from the local blacksmith.
“Roaring Meg” could fire an approximately 200-pound ball loaded with about 4 pounds of gunpowder that would explode in the courtyard, devastating nearby buildings with the blast wave and shrapnel. Meg destroyed buildings and walls and, combined with the mining operations happening at the same time, forced the defenders to surrender.
Now, Meg is a historical display, but a group of men got together to see what, exactly, a replica Meg could do. Because of modern ideas of “safety,” and “survival,” and “not being horribly maimed for the purposes of entertainment,” the men decided to fire the mortar at a caravan without any explosives loaded inside the ball. Then, after getting their hit, they would place explosives with similar power into the caravan and blow it up that way.
The video is pretty sweet (even if it took them a lot of shots to actually hit the caravan, which is normal with an old-school mortar). Check it out above.
Several key organizations recently came together to advance exoskeleton technology for the soldier during an intensive three-day Operations and Maneuver and Technology Interchange meeting.
The User Technical Touch Point Exoskeleton event was a three-day living classroom, hands-on experience. It offered an interactive forum for operational and technology immersion on both infantry maneuvers and technology demonstrations. Groups of several Military Operational Specialties, or MOS’s, were represented, laying down their kits and equipment and walking observers through a day “in the field, on the job.”
Operational vignettes and subject interviews offered context on the physiological and cognitive demanding infantry tasks, before, during, and after operations. Vendors, requirement developers, and engineers discussed “what they are and what they aren’t” in the current exoskeleton marketplace, debunking the Hollywood “iron man” effect and focusing on real-time products: the Dephy Exo Boot and Lockheed Martin’s ONYX.
Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division show some of the equipment that they use during everyday tasks and learn how an exoskeleton can help.
(Photo by David Kamm, RDECOM Soldier Center)
Soldiers were encouraged by the endurance improvement, mobility, and lethality benefits of donning the systems. Those who wore the systems commented on how it felt to wear an exoskeleton and the relationship between a new user and the system. Their candid feedback regarding form, fit and function will help developers prioritize and make modifications to the systems in preparation for a Fall 2019 VIP demonstration.
Observers commented on the flexibility of use as the systems were adjusted with minimal effort from one user to the next over three days. User comments, such as those made by field artillery soldiers, emphasized the potential value of having an exoskeleton or exoskeleton-like system to provide enhanced endurance during operations, which means a positive impact on lethality and combat effectiveness.
“The importance of this User Touch Point event was two-fold: it gave those involved in developing this technology the ability to better understand the physical aspects of the tasks and duties of the soldiers and gain an understanding of the soldier’s perspective in how this capability can be of value,” said James Mingo, a senior military analyst at TRADOC. “They understand it.”
“It provided hand-on experience to the movement and maneuver soldiers of some of the top seven combat MOS’s,” said Raul Esteras-Palos, Robotics Requirements Division, Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate, or CDID, Maneuver Center of Excellence, or MCoE. “This event is an effective way to gain valuable feedback necessary for the advancement of the Army’s exoskeleton program.”
Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division show some of the equipment that they use during everyday tasks and learn how an exoskeleton can help.
(Photo by David Kamm, RDECOM Soldier Center)
Soldiers believe that endurance translates into improved lethality while preserving the body from the effects of what is already strenuous work. Comments included discussion on injuries (lower back, neck, shoulder and leg) directly related to both training and combat conditions, impacts that are well documented in the medical community.
The RDECOM Soldier Center is preparing soldier touch point events with 82nd and 101st Airborne, followed by meetings with requirement developers, stake holders and senior leadership. The data from these User Touch Point events will be made available to the Lethality Cross-Functional Teams.
“Major General Piatt, CG 10th MTN DIV’s support has allowed us to tap into the expert knowledge of some of the most experienced Army professionals of our Nation,” said David Audet, branch chief, Mission Equipment and Systems Branch at the RDECOM Soldier Center. “This was a unique opportunity for developers and engineers. We are indebted to the troops for their selfless service and owe them the opportunity to listen to their concerns and take action.”
Teams from the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Soldier Center, Program Executive Office Soldier, the Maneuver, Aviation, and Soldier Division at ARCIC/TRADOC, requirement developers from the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, Army Research Labs, exoskeleton developers from Dephy Inc. (Massachusetts) and Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control (Florida), and other support contractors attended the event.
Historically, male Marines hailing from west of the Mississippi went to boot camp at MCRD San Diego in California while those from east of the Mississippi trained at MCRD Parris Island in South Carolina. Meanwhile, all female Marines trained in gender-segregated units exclusively at Parris Island. However, all that is about to change.
Following a Congressional order, the first group of female recruits will train at MCRD San Diego to earn the coveted Eagle, Globe and Anchor. They will be the first female recruits to train at the depot in its 100-year history. The move is driven by the National Defense Authorization Act. With it, the military’s goal is to progressively integrate women across all aspects of its ranks, from training to combat. Parris Island has trained female platoons alongside male platoon for two years now. San Diego will follow their model of integrated training. The Marine Corps is the last service to integrate its basic training based on gender.
About 60 female recruits reported to the new Lima Company, composed of 400 recruits, on the evening of January 25, 2021. The recruits were put into a two week quarantine, before beginning the six phase, 13 week training to become Marines. The female recruits will make up a full platoon within the company and train alongside five male platoons. Like the integrated units at Parris Island, they will have female drill instructors and a female commander.
The historical move at San Diego will serve as a proof-of-concept to fine tune future integrated training. However, female and male recruits will be held to the same training standards. “Anyone who shows up at the yellow footprints is who we’re here to train,” said Lt. Col. Tracy Maese, “and the fact that we get to train female recruits here at MCRD San Diego is just a super exciting, monumental day in Marine Corps history.”
While these recruits won’t have to face the infamous sand fleas of Parris Island, the Marine Corps affirms that their training will be no less challenging and that the title of United States Marine will be hard-earned. The NDAA mandates that Marine Corps training facilities be integrated by 2028.