Here's how to find your 'tribe' once you leave the military - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military

You’re 11 years old, standing in the middle of the school lunchroom with your meal tray. As you gaze over top of your sandwich, anemic vegetables, and cookie snack pack, you anxiously wonder who will make room for you at their table.


Whether we’re 11, 27, or 80, our human bodies read social anxiety like a physical threat. Will you be able to find and keep food? Experience physical safety? Find meaning in work and life? Throughout history, all of these things have been made exponentially more difficult without a tribe or group.

Today, we know that being disconnected from others and feeling lonely is extremely dangerous to your health. In fact, it’s even more dangerous than smoking.

Think Sparta, Not Lone Wolf

Stress hormones surge when you’re feeling lonely or rejected, and when they’re elevated too long, you may begin to have difficulty communicating, displaying empathy, or engaging in high-level thinking. This makes connecting with others even more challenging, and your isolation can easily become self-perpetuating.

The good news is, you can increase your health and performance at work and home by finding or building a tribe.

Strong Spartans

The strange but true fact is that there’s nothing more important to your physical health than community. This is true even if you’re an introvert. It’s true even if your tribe embraces unhealthy behaviors like smoking, high rates of divorce, alcohol abuse and more.

 

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
Staff Sgt. Robert George, a military training instructor at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, marches his unit following the issuance of uniforms and gear. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)

 

In the military, your tribe is easy to identify. Your tribe may be your branch of service, unit, platoon, or even fireteam. From the first day of training, you and other members of your tribe are working to overcome challenges together. Camaraderie continues as you train, deploy, and socialize together in the coming years.

In Gates of Fire, his epic novel about the Spartan 300, Steven Pressfield writes:

“War, and preparation for war, call forth all that is noble and honorable in a man. It unites him with his brothers and binds them in selfless love…There in the holy mill of murder the meanest of men may seek and find that part of himself, concealed beneath the corrupt, which shines forth brilliant and virtuous, worthy of honor before the gods.

For many, military service offers the kind of community they’ve never experienced. In this community, we may find purpose, self-knowledge, identity, and so much more. Challenged by our tribe, we grow stronger, faster, and ideally into better leaders.

However, when we inevitably leave the military, we may find ourselves unmoored – adrift in a sea of isolation and alienation that threatens to sink us into depression, stress, and declining performance at work and home.

Crossing the Chasm

In the age of an all-volunteer military, we often hear about the military-civilian divide. It’s not just a divide, though – it’s a chasm.

If you’re a male veteran, only about 12 percent of peers in your age group have served in the military. If you’re a woman who served, that number drops to 3 percent.

When you leave the military you’ll likely struggle to find people who have a deep understanding of your service, experiences, and the unique culture and traditions of military life. Data shows us that alienation – or feeling out of place – is strongly correlated with PTSD and other stress injuries. Finding or building a tribe is critical to good physical, relational, and mental health.

When you’re part of a group and have a deep sense of belonging, a relaxation response takes place in your body and brain. In fact, every system of your body works better when your relaxation response firing. For example, when you’re relaxed and eating a salad, your body absorbs 17 percent more iron than when you’re stressed and eating a salad. Being part of a community results in a positive cycle.

So how do I find a tribe?

As you begin your search for a tribe, one of the most important things you can do is stay humble. Don’t let your veteran status, and all the good things that come with it, become a limiting factor as you build new relationships. Build relationships with veterans and civilians alike.

On the veteran front, give yourself permission to be around people who understand what you’ve just lived through. A great starting place is any post-9/11 veteran organization – they’ll get you connected with veterans who are in a healthy place.

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
Team Rubicon volunteers on assignment (TeamRubiconUSA.org). Photo: Kirk Jackson, Team Rubicon

Team Red White and Blue’s entire mission is to build social community at the local level – to bring people together. Team Rubicon and The Mission Continues can help you discover purpose through service.

Purpose is also key. Ask yourself what your passion, ideal volunteer work, or dream venture looks like, then get to work. You may find your civilian tribe doing volunteer work, as part of a faith group, or while living your purpose-driven life.

Finding your tribe may feel tough at first, but like most things it gets easier with practice.

CHECK OUT THESE TRIBES

  • Volunteer with Team Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster response nonprofit, to rebuild communities around the nation after natural disasters.
  • Meet up with civilians and fellow veterans for a hike, run, or yoga class with Team Red White Blue.
  • Put your unique skills to use for a local non-profit, and get paid doing it, as part of The Mission Continues.
  • Check out a faith community of your choosing
  • Sign up for a local sports league or class

About the Author

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military

Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, “Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance”, here.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Navy declassifies 300 pages of probe into 1963 USS Thresher disaster

Nearly six decades after a Navy submarine plummeted to the bottom of the sea during a deep-dive test, families of those lost in the tragedy are finally getting a look at hundreds of documents about the accident the service has long kept under wraps.

The Navy on Wednesday released the first 300 pages of a court of inquiry on the catastrophic 1963 loss of the nuclear-powered submarine Thresher. The documents provide details into the Navy’s worst undersea accident, which claimed the lives of 129 men onboard.


While Navy leaders say they’re committed to being transparent with the families and the public about what caused the Thresher — the first sub in its class — to sink, it took a court order to reach this point.

Capt. Jim Bryant, a retired Navy submarine officer, sued his former service in 2019 to get it to release the full 1,700-page report on the Thresher accident. A federal judge ordered the Navy in February to begin releasing portions of that report monthly to the public.

“I think I’m doing the Navy a favor,” Bryant told Military.com this week. “This is a significant historic event … and the reactions were very sound. It’s a really good story here for the Navy.”

Rear Adm. Bill Houston, director of the Undersea Warfare Division at the Pentagon, told reporters Tuesday that Navy leaders don’t believe the newly released Thresher documents “will shed any additional light on her loss.” Still, he added, the Navy is committed to releasing additional portions of the report monthly, despite much of it remaining classified.

“This process requires coordination between many organizations, and takes time to be done correctly,” Houston said. “But the Navy knows this is the right thing to do.”

He declined to comment on Bryant’s lawsuit prompting the documents’ release.

The first batch of documents released this week includes witness and exhibits lists, findings of facts, opinions, recommendations and initial testimony. Families were notified in a letter sent last month from Vice Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander of Naval Submarine Forces, that the Navy was working to declassify the documents and make them public.

Joy MacMillan and her brother Tim Noonis lost their father, Walter “Jack” Noonis, to the Thresher accident. Both credited Bryant for the time he put into pushing the Navy to release the documents. The decision to do so “should have been automatic,” MacMillan said.

“We would definitely want to know,” she said. “We know it won’t bring them back, but it does help to understand how something like that could have happened to our family.”

MacMillan’s mother, who passed away in 2016, had four children under the age of 10 when the Thresher sank.

“It was intense, but I think my mom did a fabulous job picking her boots up and marching forward, but I would never say that it was easy,” MacMillan said. “I feel that it would’ve been an honor to all the moms to get this information.”

Bryant said the families — along with the rest of the public — deserve access to the answers.

“Naval history is important,” he said. “And when the technology is no longer of danger to national security — well, I think we should know about it.”

How Tragedy Led to Change

The Thresher had just completed a months-long overhaul period when — on April 10, 1963 — the sub began dive tests off the coast of Massachusetts.

It was accompanied by the submarine rescue ship Skylark, which received garbled communications about the Thresher experiencing minor difficulties.

The court of inquiry determined that the Thresher sank due to a piping failure that resulted in a loss of power and the inability to blow ballast tanks quickly enough to avoid sinking. Houston said this week that the Navy stands by those initial determinations.

Bryant wanted to know more, though, and was unsatisfied with the Navy’s original decision to publicly release just 19 of the 1,700 pages of documents from the court of inquiry. It was only after a Freedom of Information Act request failed to shake loose the documents that he took the Navy to court.

The families and the public have a right to know more about the decisions that led up to the accident, he said. In 2018, Bryant wrote a piece for the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine arguing that data showed the Thresher “very likely had already sunk below her 1,300-foot test depth limit when she reported minor difficulties.”

“The result,” he wrote, “was a hull collapse that could have been avoided with more testing and better planning.”

Noonis, who said he’s read everything he could find publicly on the Thresher, said he’d like the Navy to further analyze acoustical recordings of the Thresher accident that were picked up by the Navy’s Sound Surveillance System, known as SOSUS.

Bryant described an analysis Navy Reserve Lt. Bruce Rule provided during 1963 testimony about what the SOSUS picked up on the Thresher’s sinking. According to Bryant’s April 2020 Proceedings article titled “USS Thresher (SSN-593) Disaster: Ten Questions Our FOIA Lawsuit Hopes to Answer,” Rule’s observations reject the Navy’s assessment that there was major flooding on the sub before implosion.

While Noonis said he’d like to see the Navy take another look at that claim, he isn’t holding out much hope — especially since the service isn’t releasing the documents by choice.

“They were forced to release it,” he said. “I don’t have a lot of faith in the government coming out and changing their conclusion. … Bureaucracies aren’t fond of finding fault with themselves.”

People who study technology need access to any information available about major accidents to understand the decisions leading up to them, so they don’t repeat the same mistakes, Bryant said this week.

Despite the battle over the documents, though, Bryant credits the Navy with taking important steps in the aftermath of the Thresher tragedy to help prevent other undersea mishaps. That’s why he said he wants to see the service share any documents it has that can help others understand what went wrong.

Houston said the Thresher remains a defining event for the submarine service. Every new Navy submariner learns about the vessel.

“From day one, every new submariner checking onboard discusses the impact of Thresher to the submarine force, and the significant improvements that transpired as a result of her loss,” he said.

The Navy’s Submarine Safety program, known as SUBSAFE, was born out of the Thresher accident. SUBSAFE has “drastically improved quality control and assurance in the fabrication, construction and maintenance of submarines,” Houston said.

“Since the program’s inception, no SUBSAFE-certified submarines have been lost at sea,” he said.

MacMillan said she’s grateful the accident led to change, but said without the Navy releasing the full probe, no one can be certain all possible steps have been taken to prevent something similar from happening again.

“Was it the main coolant pump? Was it just a push too fast for a deeper dive in the Cold War?” she said. “It really does feel like it’s been [more than enough] time to know what really occurred.”

Now, as the Navy begins releasing never-before-seen documents on the accident that prompted those changes, Houston said the service must balance being transparent while still protecting information relating to national security.

Bryant said he and his attorney feel the Navy’s plan to release about 300 pages connected to the Thresher probe every month is reasonable, but noted they’ll be closely monitoring what is held back or redacted.

If the Navy refuses to declassify information they feel should be made public, Bryant said, “We’re going to fight them over it.”

MacMillan said she hopes the documents being released prove to the public that it’s possible to take on powerful organizations that might be reluctant to release information. Bryant didn’t have a stake in the Thresher accident, she said, but fought to do the right thing.

“If you work long and hard enough, you can get to the truth,” she said. “… As a 6-year-old child kind of still frozen in that time period, I think it’s high time that they come up with something.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch Taliban drug labs get the A-10’s BRRRRRT

The Air Force recently released two new videos of A-10 Warthogs taking out Taliban narcotics production facilities in Afghanistan, as the Trump administration continues to quietly ramp up the US’ nearly 17-year war in the country.


The videos are rather shocking. One shows several missile strikes that turned the black and white video nearly all-white for a few seconds before flames can be seen rolling up.

Also read: Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back

“The Taliban have nowhere to hide,” Gen. John Nicholson, commander of Resolute Support in Afghanistan, said in February 2018, after the Air Force dropped a record number of smart bombs from a B-52 on Taliban training facilities.

“There will be no safe haven for any terrorist group … We continue to strike them wherever we find them. We continue to hunt them across the country.”

 

 

But a BBC study published in late January 2018 showed that the Taliban operates in about 70% of Afghanistan, and fully controls about 4% of the country.

The Taliban’s numbers have also reportedly grown three-fold in the last few years. In 2014, the Taliban’s forces were estimated to be about 20,000. Currently, they’re estimated to be at least 60,000-strong.

Related: Watch an A-10 light up a Taliban vehicle in Afghanistan

The US announced in November 2017 that it would begin targeting the Taliban’s revenue sources, much of which is opium and heroin, with airstrikes.

“October and November 2017 were two of the deadliest months for civilians,” according to the latest SIGAR report. “Press reports stated several civilians were killed during the November 2017 bombings.”

These casualties “could erode support for the Afghan government and potentially increase support for the insurgency,” the SIGAR report said.

 

 

Around the same time that Nicholson announced that the US would hit the Taliban “where it hurts, in their narcotics financing,” Afghan farmers told Reuters that drug labs only take about three to four days to rebuild.

Analysts speaking to Reuters characterized the US’ strategy in Afghanistan as a pointless game of “whack-a-mole.”

More: Watch what it’s like to be the target of an A-10

On March 13, 2018, Defense Secretary James Mattis said that the US is seeing signs that the Taliban are interested in returning to the negotiating table with Kabul.

“Mattis offered few details about the Taliban outreach and it was unclear whether the latest reconciliation prospects would prove any more fruitful than previous, frustrated attempts to move toward a negotiated end to America’s longest war,” Reuters reported.

Articles

The US military took these incredible photos this week

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE:

An F-35A Lightning II team parks the aircraft for the first time at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Feb. 8, 2016. The aircraft arrived at the base to conduct operational testing in order to determine its combat capabilities.

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Connor J. Marth

An A-10 Thunderbolt II takes off from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Jan. 28, 2016. The A-10 has excellent maneuverability at low air speeds and altitude, and is a highly accurate and survivable weapons delivery platform.

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski

Senior Airman Daniel San Miguel, an aerospace propulsion journeyman with the 35th Maintenance Squadron, oversees an F110-GE-129 engine being tested during its afterburner phase at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Feb. 4, 2016. Each engine is tested multiple times for consistency and safety to ensure each engine has the capability to reach peak performance.

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Deana Heitzman

ARMY:

A U.S. Army paratrooper, assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, conducts airborne operations at Fort Hood, Texas, Feb. 9, 2016.

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Javier Orona

Army readiness is paramount to accomplishing a full range of military operations and winning the nation’s wars. The 82nd Airborne Division is a critical component of this requirement by being prepared to rapidly deploy anywhere in the world within 18 hours or less.

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Javier Orona

NAVY:

Members of the U.S. Navy Parachute Team, the Leap Frogs, perform a drag plane during a training demonstration at Skydive Arizona. The Leap Frogs are in Arizona preparing for the 2016 show season.

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
U.S. Navy photo by Bruce Griffith

Sailors assigned to the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) render honors to a column of Indian naval vessels to mark the conclusion of India’s International Fleet Review (IFR) 2016. IFR 2016 is an international military exercise hosted by the Indian Navy to help enhance mutual trust and confidence with navies from around the world. Antietam, forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, is on patrol in the 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class David Flewellyn

MARINE CORPS:

Capt. Robert Mortenson, a company commander with Black Sea Rotational Force, spends time with a Norwegian search-and-rescue dog during cold-weather training aboard Skoganvarre, Norway, Feb. 5, 2016.

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Immanuel Johnson

U.S. Marines provide security for a Japan Ground Self Defense Force CH-47 Chinook during Forest Light 16-2 in Yausubetsu Training Area, Hokkaido, Japan, Feb. 1, 2016. The exercise strengthens military partnership, solidifies regional security agreements and improves individual and unit-level skills.

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Tyler S. Giguere

COAST GUARD:

“I will maintain a guardian’s eye on my crew at all times, and keep a cool, yet deliberate, hand on the throttle.” – Coast Guard Surfman’s creed

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
U.S. Coast Guard photo

U.S. Coast Guard crews work hard and train hard to be ready – regardless of weather conditions!

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
U.S. Coast Guard photo

MIGHTY TRENDING

Top US general wants more firepower to counter Russia

The top US general in Europe told Congress March 5, 2019, that he needs a lot more firepower to counter the threat from Russia.

“I am not comfortable yet with the deterrent posture that we have in Europe,” Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, head of European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander Europe, told the Senate Armed Services Committee, Stars and Stripes reported.

“While the US maintains a global military superiority over Russia, evolving Russian capabilities threaten to erode our competitive military advantage,” he explained. He told lawmakers there continue to be shortfalls across all warfighting domains.


He requested more troops and warships, as well as more cyber assets and more intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets to confront Russia, which boldly seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and is rapidly modernizing its armed forces to “erode” the US military’s advantage.

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military

Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, head of European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander Europe.

“In light of Russia’s modernizing and increasingly aggressive force posture,” the general explained, “EUCOM recommends augmenting our assigned and rotational forces to enhance our deterrence posture.” He added that he has requested the addition of two more US Navy destroyers to bolster strength of the four ballistic-missile defense capable ships already stationed in Spain.

“I’ve asked for two more destroyers for EUCOM,” he said, according to CNN. “We need greater capacity particularly given the modernization and growth of the … Russian fleets in Europe.” He said that he would like to see carrier and amphibious strike groups rotating through Europe more frequently.

He also encouraged regular naval activities in the Black Sea. “They frankly don’t like us in the Black Sea,” the general said. “It’s international waters and we should sail and fly there.” As is, the US routinely sends destroyers into the waterway, where they are shadowed by Russian vessels.

Russia is in the process of bolstering the strength of its forces on NATO’s doorstep, adding new tank and missile units to its Baltic forces.

Russia argues that its actions are a direct response to NATO’s military build-up. “We are forced to provide an adequate response, carrying out strategic containment events with the plans of stepping up combat capabilities of military formations and units,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu recently told Russian state media.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, argued for greater deterrence capabilities March 5, 2019, according to Stars and Stripes, stating that any “perceived weakness will only provoke further aggression from Putin.”

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

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Happy New Year’s! We didn’t do anything special. It’s the same basic idea from last year: 13 awesome memes from around the Internet.


1. Gen. Washington believed in proper accountability (via Team Non-Rec).

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
No one went anywhere in Valley Forge without their weapon and night vision.

2. When the pilot can’t find the KC-130 and has to stop and ask for directions:

(via Air Force Nation)

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
Now he just has to find somewhere to turn around and take off.

SEE ALSO: 5 real-world covert operations in FX’s ‘Archer’

3. Dream big, Marines (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
If this were real, Starkiller Base would become the top re-enlistment destination.

4. Because professionalism and talent are completely separate traits:

(via Air Force Nation)

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
This saved screen probably got someone in trouble.

5. It’ll be great. A nice, country drive (via Military Memes).

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
Just remember to do 5 to 25-meter checks for IEDs at every stop.

6. Diamonds are a soldier’s best friend (via The Most Combat Engineer Man in the World).

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
Maybe do legs some days, just to balance it out.

7. It’s probably not a Facebook hoax this time (via Coast Guard Memes).

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
Finally, a ship perfect for all those unpatrolled puddles.

8. How combat engineers announce their arrival:

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
They probably didn’t bring cookies.

9. That lance corporal life:

(via Military Memes)

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
Don’t hate the lance corporal, hate the promotion system and attrition problems that leave you stuck with him.

10. 10 bucks says this was a profile pic within 24 hours (via Humor During Deployment).

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
Would’ve gotten more likes if the airmen carried weapons up there.

11. Try to be more specific, photographer (via U.S. Army W.T.F! moments).

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military

12. Everyone makes fun of the PX Ranger until he’s the only one who gets to duel the Jedi wannabe (via Broken and Unreadable).

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military

13. Yes, first sergeant hates you (via Marine Corps Memes).

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military

Articles

Airman seeks to rejoin pararescue team despite loss of leg

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
Staff Sgt. August O’Neil, Air Force Wounded Warrior, and fellow pararescueman and Wounded Warrior, Staff Sgt. Nick Robillard, prepare to deliver the Care Beyond Duty flag during the opening ceremony of the 2016 U.S. Air Force Trials at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 26, 2016. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry


In July 2011, Air Force Staff Sgt. August O’Neill, a pararescueman, was sent to rescue a group of Marines pinned down in Afghanistan when enemy insurgents opened fire on his team’s helicopter.

A round bounced off the helicopter’s door, tearing through both of O’Neill’s lower legs and critically wounding his left, resulting in 20 surgeries over the next three-and-a-half years as doctors tried to save the limb.

O’Neill finally told doctors to remove his left leg last year, but he remains determined to continue his career as a pararescueman.

Determined to Resume Career

“I haven’t looked back since,” said O’Neill, who’s training with the 342nd Training Squadron here, as he prepares to requalify for assignment to a pararescue team.

“I knew I wasn’t done doing this job,” he added.

Pararescue isn’t an easy job for any airman, let alone one who’s had their leg amputated just above the knee, but O’Neill believes he’s still up to the task.

“There are going to be issues that come up here and there,” O’Neill said. “But I’m sure I’ll make it back on a team. Just like anybody who hasn’t been in their job for a long time … I basically need to make sure everybody else knows that I’m capable of doing the job, and … I need to make sure I haven’t lost anything that I need.”

Pararescumen serve in one of the most physically demanding fields in the armed forces, with the journey from basic training to joining an operational unit spanning almost two years, according to the technical training course guide.

Seeking a ‘New Normal’

O’Neill said he isn’t expecting any special treatment as he trains over the next few months to demonstrate his mission readiness.

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
Wounded warriors and Air Force pararescuemen Staff Sgt. August O’Neill, right, and Staff Sgt. Nick Robillard pose for a portrait with the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program flag at the 2016 U.S. Air Force Trials at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 26, 2016. | Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry

“I wouldn’t want to do this job if I couldn’t meet the same qualifications as everybody else, because that would put the people on my team at risk,” he explained. “You’re only as strong as your weakest member, so if I can’t keep up with them, that means they’re carrying me and that’s not something that I want.”

Living with a prosthetic is a minor annoyance in terms of his daily routine, O’Neill said. He doesn’t sleep with the leg on, for example, so he has to hop to the bathroom or the refrigerator when he wakes in the middle of the night.

“It’s just finding a ‘new normal’ for all the things I was able to do with two legs before,” he explained. “I’ve just been finding ways to get everything done.”

That minor annoyance turns into a bigger challenge during pararescue training, where O’Neill will have to depend on his ingenuity and adaptability to meet the other demands to the job.

“Anything from picking up a patient — where I can’t just roll down on a knee and lift them up — I have to find a different way to brace myself to get people up and move out,” he noted. “Everything is challenging, but it’s just a matter of finding out how to do it.”

As if navigating this “new normal” wasn’t enough, O’Neill said his training has been grueling.

“It’s tough mentally and physically,” he said. “You aren’t pushed to your limit — you’re pushed beyond that — to the limits that the instructors know you can reach. There are so many qualifications that you need to keep up with that you … can’t do so without being mentally prepared.”

One thing, at least, hasn’t changed for O’Neill since returning from his injury.

“I don’t like running,” he chuckled. “I’ve never been a distance runner and after four years of not running … that’s still difficult, but I can still run. It’s not as pretty as it was before, but I’m able to at least get the job done.”

Articles

5 ways officers know there will be an incident during liberty call

Liberty call is a roller coaster of emotions. There are times when you can almost feel it in the air that something is going to go down over the weekend. There are tell-tale signs more obvious that others. When you see the stars align and the following events happen, keep your phone on. You’re going to need it, sir or ma’am.

1. The boot drop

Across the board in every branch there are ranks earned through time in grade. All a troop has to do is keep their nose clean at the entry-level position over a certain amount of time to rate the next rank. Is it easier said than done? Sort of. Don’t break the law and you’ll be fine. However, since majority of troops are those who exhibit good character, they will be promoted in waves. It’s not intentional– it mainly has to do with when they went to boot camp and their MOS school that will affect when a unit receives new pups.

The seasoned captain knows to place extra NCOs on duty in his company to prevent the opportunity for hazing. The difference between hazing and tradition is humiliation. The military has made great leaps to prevent and discourage hazing. Now-a-days kicking down a troop’s door and making them chug six beers at three in the morning is hazing. Back in my day it was free beer. Take that, stupid seniors. Don’t do it now though, you’ll go to real a** pounding jail.

2. Deployment is around the corner

Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military
New Marines with Kilo Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, stand in formation during liberty call at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, Jan. 16, 2020. After the Marines were reunited with their families, they were dismissed for six hours of on-base liberty. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Grace J. Kindred)

You know that meme with the dog who doesn’t bite but will hurt you in other ways? Like saying that Kuwait isn’t a real deployment (*because it isn’t). Exactly, whether a deployment meets the infantry’s certified bad a** criteria or not, a unit is going to do what a unit is going to do. They’re going to party. That means a commander has to check the blotter. For the uninitiated, a police blotter is a public record of arrests made the prior evening. Your command will find out if you screwed up.

The brass would rather you went down for selling state secrets to the former Soviet Union than a D.U.I. – don’t do that either! In all seriousness though, officers better give one hell of an entertaining safety brief that communicates ‘don’t F this up for all of us’. I hope you took a course in stand up comedy in college, sir (or ma’am) because a good safety brief does deter stupid sh*t.

Officers, don’t put your reputation on the chopping block for a troop who came back hot during the unit drug test. Everyone is Rambo when they come back. Do not let your personal bias get in the way of protecting the rest of your troops. The odds that there was a mistake at the lab after post-deployment leave block are slim to none. Someone is going to pop.

Apes. Together. Strong. Apes on leave throw poop at everyone.

Yes, it’s your leave block too. However, an officer’s rank is on their shoulders to symbolize the burden of leadership. A phone call once every few days on a long leave block does make a difference. If an incident is going to happen you can at least get ahead of it and prevent it by staying informed. The Navy hits port after being months at sea. A Marine Expeditionary Unit is how the Marine Corps and the Navy can liberate any country in the world at a moment’s notice. Every ocean on the planet has a fleet of angry, bored Marines and sailors. Yet every valve needs a pressure release, or it will explode. When they hit port, R&R needs to be steady and controlled or sh*t will hit the fan. The command needs to make sure that there are plenty of tourist options available.

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U.S. sailors and Marines assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) participate in a guided tour of Vatican City during a port call, Oct. 31, 2013. The Nimitz was deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Kelly M. Agee/Released)

When we stopped in Dubai, I went skiing indoors at the U.A.E. mall and had chai at the Burj al Arab. We were so caught up in tourist stuff that no one got in trouble. Ports with no activities except alcohol were the most problematic, so, officers should expect the bare minimum if they plan the bare minimum. Honestly, there shouldn’t be any excuse for not incorporating morale because officers have better opportunities to access the internet on a Navy ship than enlisted. Put the social media down for one day and Google some fun stuff.

3. A holiday leave block longer than a 96

The risk is higher but that doesn’t always mean something will happen. Months like December are a minefield, so, calling your troops to at least check up on them is a worthwhile investment. You don’t want to do it. They don’t want to do it either. It’s reminder that, before they do some Wolf of Wall Street shenanigans, that they still have a career to get back to.

4. The 2nd promotion wave

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Marines from Alpha Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, march to meet families and friends prior to beginning liberty call at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Dec. 17. Family Day allows recruits to reunite with families for the first time since leaving for Marine Corps recruit training. 

Those E1s that got promoted to E2s are now ready to climb to E3s. The difference this time around is that they’ve ‘gotten with the program’ and won’t snitch if they’re getting hazed. It could be something as small as a light tap on their chevrons or full blown meritorious a** beating. In a good unit, it shouldn’t get out of hand, but officers know what they have. Even if your platoon doesn’t break the rules, if you got a bunch of rowdy, recently promoted war fighters, you’re in a rough ride.

5. The lance corporals are getting out

Terminal lances are out of f**ks to give. They’re a wild card even if they are getting out. They may be bitter from their four years of service and will disregard the rules. But even the lance corporals like to have a good time – find fun things to do in every port, or have them voluntold for plenty of admin.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Special Forces medic will receive Medal of Honor

A former medic with the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) that heroically fought his way up a mountain to render aid to his Special Forces teammates and their Afghan commando counterparts will receive the Medal of Honor.

The White House announced Sept. 21, 2018, that former Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Shurer II went above and beyond the call of duty April 6, 2008, while assigned to Special Operations Task Force – 33 in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. He will receive the highest military award for valor at a White House ceremony, Oct. 1, 2018.


In April 2008, Shurer was assigned to support Special Forces operators working to take out high-value targets of the Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin in Shok Valley.

As the team navigated through the valley, a firefight quickly erupted, and a series of insurgent sniper fire, rocket-propelled grenades, and small arms and machine gun fire forced the unit into a defensive fighting position.

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Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II graphic.

Around that time, Shurer received word that their forward assault element was also pinned down at another location, and the forward team had sustained multiple casualties.

With disregard for his safety, Shurer moved quickly through a hail of bullets toward the base of the mountain to reach the pinned-down forward element. While on the move, Shurer stopped to treat a wounded teammate’s neck injury caused by shrapnel from a recent RPG blast.

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Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Shurer II.

After providing aid, Shurer spent the next hour fighting across several hundred meters and killing multiple insurgents. Eventually, Shurer arrived to support the pinned down element and immediately rendered aid to four critically wounded U.S. units and 10 injured commandos until teammates arrived.

Soon after their arrival, Shurer and his team sergeant were shot at the same time. The medic ran 15 meters through a barrage of gunfire to help his sergeant. Despite a bullet hitting his helmet and a gunshot wound to his arm, Shurer pulled his teammate to cover and rendered care.

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Medal of Honor.

(US Army photo.)

Moments later, Shurer moved back through heavy gunfire to help sustain another teammate that suffered a traumatic amputation to his right leg.

For the next several hours, Shurer helped keep the large insurgent force at bay while simultaneously providing care to his wounded teammates. Shurer’s actions helped save the lives of all wounded casualties under his care.

Shurer also helped evacuate three critically wounded, non-ambulatory, teammates down a near-vertical 60-foot cliff, all while avoiding rounds of enemy gunfire and falling debris caused by numerous air strikes.

Further, Shurer found a run of nylon webbing and used it to lower casualties while he physically shielded them from falling debris.

Shurer’s Medal of Honor was upgraded from a Silver Star upon review.

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

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Here’s how this Marine learned to cope with traumatic brain injury

“I learned about the Semper Fi Fund through a class I was in at Camp Pendleton, California, to learn more about traumatic brain injuries and how they affect you,” says Sergeant Nora Mund, who was deployed to Afghanistan for seven months in 2010. “After being in that group for over a month, the Fund gave us iPads to help us organize our medical appointments and daily activities, and also to have apps to help improve memory.”


Nora, a Colorado native, enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2006 – “mainly because I wanted to explore the world and knew that I needed more discipline in my life.” She deployed in March 2010 to Afghanistan, where she remained until October of that year.

Also read: Rob Riggle doubled-down on his USMC service while clearing rubble at Ground Zero

“I was a squad and team leader in the Female Engagement Team (FET) assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marines and 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines,” she explains. “The FET team was designed specifically to interact with the local populace of Afghanistan and to assist the area commander on missions and community outreach.”

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Her job also put her in a position to witness firsthand the types of combat realities that can lead to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and, in her specific case, TBI (traumatic brain injury).

“I remember walking alongside a road heading to our destination,” she recalls, “and the next thing I know an explosion happens to my left and the dust that surrounded me is so thick I couldn’t see more than a foot ahead of me.

“It wasn’t until about six or seven months after my return home that I had a medical appointment and they told me I have a traumatic brain injury,” Nora continues.”They also discovered that I had herniated disks in my neck that causes a lot of pain in my back and numbness in my left arm. I had occupational therapy for almost a year working on my memory, plus physical therapy for my back and neck.”

Today, Nora is a full-time student at the University of Colorado, where she is working to get her Bachelor’s degree in psychology. “I’m also a research assistant for the Canines Providing Assistance to Wounded Warriors (C-PAWW) initiative, where we study the interaction between humans and their animals,”she says. “We hope to influence policy makers with hard science showing how service and companion animals help veterans and other vulnerable populations.”

On May 21, 2014, Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter recognized Nora on the floor of the House of Representatives, saying (in part): “Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize and honor Sergeant Nora Mund for her service to our country. She was the first female assigned to serve as the senior armor / small arms repair technician for the Marine Corps Infantry Officer’s Course, Quantico, Virginia. Sergeant Mund volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan with Operation Enduring Freedom and was selected to serve on the Marine Corps’ first Female Engagement Team. Through her courageous service, Sergeant Mund charted the path for future generations of women to serve in the military. I extend my deepest appreciation to Sergeant Nora Mund for her dedication, integrity and outstanding service to the United States of America.”

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“I’m excited to take life on,” says Nora. “When you’re injured, you have a tendency to view the oncoming days in such a negative light, so when you learn that there are good days in your future, you have energy and excitement for the future.”

“I think it’s important to let this generation of veterans know that they may not know it now, but they have great futures ahead of them–if they only just believe in it.”

We Are The Mighty is teaming up with Semper Fi Fund and comedian Rob Riggle to present the Rob Riggle InVETational Golf Classic. The veteran-celebrity golf tournament will raise money and awareness for Semper Fi Fund, one of our nation’s most respected veteran nonprofit organizations, in support of wounded, critically ill and injured service members and their families. Learn more at InVETational.com.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Combat-search-and-rescue flying in support of Florence victims

Reserve and active duty pararescuemen were undergoing dive and jump training Sept. 11, 2018, in Key West, Florida, when they were recalled back to their home units to immediately begin the process of pre-positioning for Hurricane Florence search-and-rescue operations.

Reserve airmen within the 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, put their lives on temporary hold to respond to a natural disaster.


“When we returned to Patrick (AFB) that evening, we unpacked our dive gear and repacked all of our hurricane gear,” said Senior Master Sgt. Joe Traska, 308th Rescue Squadron pararescueman. “We went home to see our families briefly and returned the following morning to begin the trip to Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.”

In all, 140 Reservists dropped what they were doing on a Wednesday afternoon to fix and fly search-and-rescue aircraft, and perform everything imaginable in-between, to get four HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and all the necessary personnel and equipment heading north to Moody AFB, Georgia, when the prepare-to-deploy order was given Sept. 12, 2018.

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HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter aircrew airmen with the 334th Air Expeditionary Group, sit alert on the Joint Base Charleston, S.C.flightline Sept. 16, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kelly Goonan)

The 920th RQW airmen integrated forces with active duty personnel at Moody AFB’s 23rd Wing and began posturing for an official disaster relief operation as one cohesive Air Expeditionary Group, waiting out Hurricane Florence as it crawled through the Carolinas.

Two days later, Maj. Gen. Leonard Isabelle, director of search-and-rescue operations coordination element for Air Force North Command, officially established the 334th Air Expeditionary Group tasked with positioning the fully integrated forces of airmen and assets for relief efforts to assist those most severely impacted by Hurricane Florence.

Within 18-hours, 270 airmen working together seamlessly picked up and moved their search-and-rescue operation from middle Georgia forward to Joint Base Charleston, S.C.

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Senior Master Sgt. Will Towers checks the tail rotor blades as part of his preflight checklist at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., Sept. 16, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kelly Goonan)

However, the coastal installation was still under evacuation orders leaving the 334th AEG faced with establishing a bare base operations center while contending with lingering unfavorable weather conditions.

“The base had to literally open their gates for our arrival,” said Lt. Col. Adolph Rodriguez, 334th Mission Support Group commander. “They (JB Charleston officials) began recalling critical personnel to give us the necessary assistance for this operation to be a success.”

With the aid of the host installation, the 334th AEG was at full operational capability, ready to conduct search-and-rescue missions when the first HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter landed Sept. 15, 2018.

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Col. Bryan Creel, 334th Air Expeditionary Group commander, discusses search-and-rescue operational plans with Lt. Col. Jeff Hannold, 334th AEG deputy commander, at Joint Base Charleston on Sept. 15, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Technical Sgt. Kelly Goonan)

Switching gears from readiness training in South Florida to real-world operations in South Carolina is a prime example of, “being constantly fluid and flexible,” said Capt. Jessica Colby, 334 AEG public affairs officer. “Search and rescue is often like that: You never know where you’re going to go, you never know how big of a footprint you can bring, or what will be needed.”

There is one constant in situations like these, training, explained Rodriguez. “Reserve citizen airmen must constantly train to not only stay current, but to propel their capabilities beyond just meeting the minimum requirement. Honing their proficiencies will ultimately provide the best possible performance in real-world operations. All of the readiness training efforts that the 920th RQW has conducted has better positioned the Wing to this current operational pace.”

“The same capabilities which make the U.S. armed forces so powerful in combat also lends themselves extraordinarily well to disaster relief.”

“It’s amazing what these citizen airmen did inside and outside their Air Force specialty codes,” Rodriguez said. “They’re doing things they’re trained for, and accomplishing tasks beyond their job scope with zero deficiencies and zero mishaps.”

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



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The 6 worst things about being the junior soldier in your squad

Being the new guy in a squad is just something every soldier has to go through. They work hard, prove themselves, and earn a little respect and rank as fast as they can. Until they do, junior soldiers put up with these 6 problems.


1. Crappy roommates

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Photo: Youtube.com

All enlisted soldiers start off with a random roommate in the barracks, but they get more say on roommates the longer they’re in the unit. If they get tight with the barracks noncommissioned officer, they may even have their own room.

The new guy to a unit has cultivated no relationships, and so can’t influence anyone. They are going to be roomed with whichever member of the squad is most disliked by the barracks NCO. This member is usually dirty, undisciplined, and annoying. Also, since the roommate is senior to the new guy, he can order the new guy around. Have fun in your new home, boot!

2. Literally everyone is in charge of them

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Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson

There’s an Army saying, “If there are two privates on a hill, one of them is in charge.” It’s meant to illustrate that soldiers are never without leadership, but it also means that even the young soldiers in the squad can give the younger guy a legal order. And what about the youngest guy?

Well, he’s in charge of nothing and every squad member is in charge of him. If he screws up, he’s hearing about it from everyone in the squad.

3. No respect

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Taking orders from everyone is bad enough, but the junior soldier doesn’t get any respect even though they do all the work. It makes sense. The squad has endured combat together. They’ve cleared buildings, fought for ground, and buried friends as a unit. Then this new guy comes along and wants to be part of the group? Nope. Gotta earn your camaraderie, noob.

4. Most dangerous positions and assignments

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Photo: US Army Sgt. Kimberly Lamb

The junior-most members will get plenty of chances to prove themselves, since they’re often in the most dangerous positions. For the infantry, he’s likely to be the first one in the door on a clearing mission, and he’s more likely to be assigned as gunner in a vehicle on a movement.

For the POGs, the junior squad member is the one most likely to get tasked out on a mission. Commander needs someone to pull a guard shift at the gate? It’s not like Pvt. Snuffy has anything going on. Gunny wants a volunteer for convoy security? Pfc. Schmuckatelli better grab his gear.

5. They’re the canaries in the coal mine

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Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger

The most dangerous time to be the junior member is when there is a chemical or biological attack. The military dons protective gear when it’s hit with biological or chemical agents, and troops don’t take the gear off until their best detection kits say the threat is gone. But, the kits can’t detect everything and someone has to take the first unprotected breath.

And that’s where the junior soldier comes in. The unit takes away their weapon and has them unmask for a short period. If they don’t show signs of trouble, the rest of the unit unmasks. If the soldier does start reacting to a chemical compound, the unit keeps their masks on and sends the junior guy to a hospital. Get well soon!

6. Long hours and low pay

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Photo: US Army Sgt. John Crosby

No one in the military is getting rich, and just about everyone works long hours. But, the junior guys usually work the same hours for even less pay than everyone else. A new E-2 in the military makes $1734 a month. They work an eight-hour day plus do an hour of mandatory physical training every morning. So, not counting any assignments, overnight guard duty, or additional physical training, an E-2 makes about $8.67 an hour before taxes.

They may get great benefits and education incentives, but the paychecks can be depressing.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran hilariously bungles fake US aircraft carrier attack

Late last month, Iran once again put on a show using their fake U.S. Nimitz-class aircraft carrier as a target for military drills and helicopter-fired missiles. The demonstration was intended to show America that Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard were prepared to take on the mighty U.S. Navy in the strategically valuable Strait of Hormuz. Instead, however, it appears Iran’s plans may have backfired, with the fake aircraft carrier now sunk at the mouth of an economically important harbor–adding a dangerous hazard right in the middle of a shipping lane.

The United States has been at odds with Iran since the nation’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, wherein the ruling dynasty that was supported by the United States was deposed by the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s Islamic Republic. Today, Iran and the United States remain locked in an idealogical battle of wills, with Iran directly funding terror organizations the world over through its Al Quds force, and the United States working to support its allies and interests in the Middle East.


The mock Nimitz-class aircraft carrier was first built by Iran in 2013 and completed in 2014. At the time, the large vessel was described as a movie prop. In February of 2015, however, the vessel, which isn’t as large as a real Nimitz-class carrier but was clearly modeled to resemble one, was then used as a target in a series of war games Iran called Great Prophet IX.

The barge-in-aircraft-carrier-clothing was then repaired once again in 2019 and just a few weeks ago, the newly refurbished vessel was towed out into the Strait of Hormuz for another bout of target practice. The Strait of Hormuz is the only route between the Persian Gulf and the open ocean, making it an extremely important waterway in the global oil supply chain. Experts estimate that something in the neighborhood of 20% of all the world’s oil passes over the Strait of Hormuz.

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Because of the waterway’s immense importance and it’s proximity to Iran, the Strait of Hormuz is a common site of overt acts of aggression between the U.S. Navy and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

And indeed, as we often see Iran threaten to do to America’s real aircraft carriers, Iran TV aired footage of commandos fast-roping onto the deck of the ship from helicopters, as well as fast attack boats swarming around the hulking structure. The spectacle was dubbed “Great Prophet 14,” and culminated with firing on the floating barge with a variety of missiles.

“We cannot speak to what Iran hopes to gain by building this mockup, or what tactical value they would hope to gain by using such a mock-up in a training or exercise scenario,” Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich told The Associated Press.
“We do not seek conflict, but remain ready to defend U.S. forces and interests from maritime threats in the region.”

It seems likely that, although Iran’s fake aircraft carrier is smaller than a real Nimitz-class vessel, it’s used both for training and propaganda. Because Iran’s leaders see the United States as their clear opponent, the use of the the carrier offers a chance to rehearse a great war with the United States without having to suffer the consequences of such a conflict. However, Iran may now be facing a different kind of negative consequence, with the mock carrier taking on water and eventually sinking in an area of the waterway that is not deep enough to allow ships to pass over the sunken target.

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After the carrier remained somewhat visible for a while, it has since submerged beneath the waters of the Bandar Abbas harbor — which is only 45 feet deep. That means large ships cannot pass over where the carrier came to rest without risking serious damage.

In other words, in Iran’s fervor to show America how effectively it the nation’s military could defend their territorial waters, they inadvertently made it significantly less safe for them to operate in those same waters.

Iran will almost certainly need to attempt to salvage the vessel; not just for the sake of another round of target practice, but because its presence will pose a significant risk to any large ships trying to travel into or out of the harbor it now rests beneath. It isn’t currently clear if Iran even has the means to mount such a salvage effort, however. So, for now, Iran’s fake American aircraft carrier may pose a more direct threat to Iranian interests than the real Nimitz carriers America often sails through the nearby Strait of Hormuz.

This is far from the first big blunder for Iran on the world’s stage this year. In May, the Iranian military unintentionally fired an anti-ship missile at one of their own vessels, killing 19, and in January, Iranian air defenses accidentally shot down a Ukrainian airline, killing all 176 on board.

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

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