New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

Landing Home takes you right into the trenches, forcing you to acknowledge the impacts of America’s 20-year war. Viewers must confront the reality of veterans struggling after they return home.

Douglas Taurel plays Luke, an Army veteran returning home after serving in Afghanistan. Taurel himself is best known for his gripping one-man play, The American Soldier, in which he plays multiple characters, bringing the viewer from the Revolutionary War to the current conflict in the Middle East. The play itself and all of his unforgettable relationships built with veterans of every walk of life inspired Landing Home.


The child of Jewish Argentinian immigrants, he grew up with his father who was in love with America and her promises. A deep love he passed to his son.

“The thing that got me going was being involved in 9/11. I was coming out of the second tower when that second plane hit it,” Taurel shared. “I couldn’t join [the military] because I was blind in my left eye. But that’s what got me involved in working with veterans.”

Taurel began furiously reading and following America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. While researching other wars he read letters from soldiers who’d been involved in all of America’s conflicts, describing their experiences. As he was reading, he made a shocking revelation. They were all the same, whether it was written during the Civil War or modern times, the struggles of these veterans couldn’t be differentiated. That discovery led him on a six-year journey to creating The American Soldier.

But he wasn’t done yet.

“The series really came from the QA we always have after the play. Vets would come up to me after the show and share their stores. Everyone always said ‘you have to turn this into a movie’,” Taruel said. While he didn’t think it was feasible to fit all his characters into a movie, he decided to create a modern soldier who embodied those characters for a web series.

Taurel wanted it to be a real and true compilation of all of the veteran stories he’d been privy to. On set, 17 of the cast and crew were veterans themselves. Launched through Vimeo, the first episode is an immediate poignant reminder of how difficult reintegration is for veterans. Something as simple as a birthday party is overwhelming for a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Landing Home brings viewers along on the journey of a former soldier trying to reintegrate into civilian life. The obvious struggle Luke walks through is a heartbreaking reminder of the cost of war, as his story is an accurate depiction of a true veteran. Each episode is filled with moments that bring you deep inside to feel the effects of combat.

“We have a history as a nation of not taking care of our veterans, that goes back to the Revolution,” Taurel said. “It is a beautiful country, but it has been paid in blood. If we honored our veterans more, we’d think about war a whole lot differently. It’s easy to go to war when you aren’t involved.”

There’s another scene, in a bar that stands out. Luke is obviously struggling and an older gentleman sits beside him. A quiet and heavy silence sits in the air. Then the man says, “Where did you serve?” This moment stands out because one veteran immediately knew another and their fight, on sight.

“We owe our veterans so much. I think we’ve become selfish as a country. We’ve forgotten the people who have given us the liberties and freedoms we have,” Taurel explained. He continued, “That’s why I do the projects that I have, I want people to understand what service really means.”

The series does not hold back. The raw and true compilations of the experiences of America’s veterans in Landing Home will move you. Taurel hopes that viewers walk away with a deep understanding of what “Thank you for your service” really means.

You can watch Landing Home by going to Vimeo. To learn about the other work Taurel is involved in, click here.

Articles

How the feds used prison labor to build defective combat helmets

Spoiler Alert: This is not an Article 107 News article.  The federal government paid over $53 million to two companies to build combat helmets between 2006 and 2009.  The cost is not the problem.  The problem is almost 150,000 Army and Marine Corps combat helmets were defective.


And oh by the way, prisoners made the helmets.

First of all, the prisoners came from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, working under… wait for it… a federally owned company called Federal Prison Industries.  But wait, there’s more!  FPI, also known as UNICOR, received the sub-contract from a privat vendor, ArmourSource LLC.

So, a private company was awarded a government contract to make combat helmets after normal bidding procedures. No problem.

The private company then sub-contracted out a federally owned company for cheap prison labor and reaped a $30.3 million windfall as a result. That’s a problem, even if just from a perception viewpoint.

Furthermore, FPI received its own contract to make helmets for the US Marine Corps.  A federally owned company received a contract from its “owner,” and all without competitive bidding.  True to form, the government recalled the helmets after multiple deficiencies. This isn’t a case of “lowest bidder;” this is a case of negligence.  It is negligent to entrust the lives of American soldiers with equipment made by federal prisoners.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration
Army photo by Spc. Alexandra Campo

A recently released Justice Department summary details the negligence and lack of quality control. Deficiencies included:

  • Scrap kevlar used in between layers (therefore, won’t stop bullets)
  • Blisters and bubbles which caused decreased effectiveness (therefore, won’t stop bullets)
  • Prisoners pried off kevlar pieces to use as potential weapons against guards (less material means, yep, won’t stop bullets)

And my personal favorite:

  • Prisoners prepared and conducted quality certifications on order from the FPI staff, and FPI staff signed the certifications without checking the prisoners’ work.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration
Advanced Combat Helmet. Photo from US Army.

Consequently, ArmourSource settled for $3 million and still makes products for the military. The loss to the military was over $19 million. That seems like an unfair trade if you ask me.

If ever there was a time for people to call for accountability in the government contracting process, this is it. Discuss it, debate it, and actually support the troops you say you support.  War is a money-making machine and if you didn’t understand that after the $5 billion “Universal Combat Pattern” debacle then you do now.

I understand prison industry is a vital tool for teaching job skills and reducing recidivism rates.  What I do not understand is how anyone with a simple knowledge of course of action analysis felt it was a good idea to allow federal criminals to build US military equipment and put soldiers’ lives at risk.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Disney World just announced the 2019 military discounts

It’s finally here! You’ve been waiting, and Disney has officially announced the Special Military Rates for 2019.

We didn’t know if the Armed Forces Salute was going to be available to us in 2019, but magic does exist, and we have the results!

As reported from Militarydisneytips.com:


For 2018 and 2019 they come in two types:

  • The Theme Park Hopper Option, which allows you to visit multiple parks on the same day
  • The Theme Park Hopper Plus Option, which allows 4 entrances to a variety of non-theme Park Disney venues in addition to your 4 theme park days
New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

Disney World 2018 Armed Forces Salute Prices (Valid through Dec. 19, 2018)

  • Four-Day Park Hopper Tickets for 6.00
  • Four-Day Park Hopper Plus Tickets for 6.00
  • Five-Day Park Hopper Tickets for 6.00
  • Five-Day Park Hopper Plus Tickets for 6.00

Disney World 2019 Armed Forces Salute Prices (Valid Jan. 1, 2019 through Dec. 19, 2019)

  • Four-Day Park Hopper Tickets for 1.00
  • Four-Day Park Hopper Plus Tickets for 1.00
  • Five-Day Park Hopper Tickets for 7.00
These tickets can be purchased at Shades of Green, your local Base Ticket Office, or Disney Theme Park ticket booths (Sales tax will be added at Disney World ticket booths), through Dec. 15, 2018, for 2018 tickets and purchase 5-Day Military Promotional Tickets now through Dec. 15, 2019 and 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets now through Dec. 16, 2019 for the 2019 Salute offer.

Disneyland Ticket Blockout dates (Dates that these tickets may not be used):

  • March 23, 2019 through April 8, 2019

California rates have not yet been announced! More to come for the West Coasters. Also, note the Disney Armed Forces Salute benefit is for the member only. While spouses may use their member’s benefit, they are not entitled to a benefit of their own. They only use the discounts in place of the member. Non-spouse dependents (kids) are not eligible.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials

In the aftermath, and from the ashes of Dec. 7, 1941, which propelled the United States into World War II, rose a new call and opportunity to serve in the Navy, the Naval Construction Battalions. Today, they are known as Seabees.

At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Navy used civilian contractors to construct and support bases and other locations. However, with an increasing need to be able to defend and resist against military attacks, civilians could no longer be used. According to the Seabee Museum and Memorial Park, under international law it was illegal to arm civilians and have them resist the enemy. “If they did they could be executed as guerrillas.” On Jan. 5, 1942, Rear Adm. Ben Moreell received approval to organize the Naval Construction Force. In a matter of days, the first naval construction unit deployed.


Today, with seven rates ranging from Builder (BU) to Engineering Aide (EA) to Utilitiesman (UT), Seabees are a fully-functioning construction crew. They are strategically placed, ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, and able to build, erect and salvage in various types of environments. Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 303 Detachment Pearl Harbor is one such unit.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

Construction Electrician 3rd Class Mitchell Labree, a Sailor assigned to Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303 detachment Hawaii, measures a wooden beam in order to build a shipping crate for a piece of steel salvaged from the USS Arizona.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Allen Michael McNair)

CBMU 303 Detachment Pearl Harbor has the unique opportunity to assist and service the land from which they were birthed. One of their current projects is assisting Jim Neuman, History and Heritage Outreach Manager at Commander Navy Region Hawaii, and his team with the USS Arizona Relics Program.

“The USS Arizona Relics Program was born in 1995 when Congress authorized the Navy to move pieces of the wreckage out to educational institutions and not-for-profit organizations,” said Neuman.

The program is currently focusing on a part of the Arizona that was removed in the 1950’s due to corrosion and safety concerns. Before its removal it acted as a foundation for a makeshift platform where visitors to the Arizona could stand and where ceremonies could be conducted. It was a precursor to the white memorial structure known and visited today.

The Seabees and Neuman have taken on the responsibility to cut sections of the previously removed portion of the Arizona and ship them to various approved locations.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

Steelworker 3rd Class Cameron Fields, crew leader at Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303 detachment Hawaii, cuts a piece of steel salvaged from the USS Arizona.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Allen Michael McNair)

“Mostly people come to us. We have a lot of Pearl Harbor survivors that know about this [effort],” said Neuman. “They will reach out to local museums and share what they would like to see. As long as you are a legitimate educational institution or not-for-profit and the piece will be on public display, you can acquire a piece.”

A sentiment both the Seabees and Neuman have in common is the need to share a piece of history with others.

“Because of the amount of time [the section] has been out here, we want to make sure we get as much of it out to the public as possible,” said Neuman. “It doesn’t help for it to sit here and no one get a chance to see it.”

Builder 1st Class Christian Guzman, attached to CBMU 303 Detachment Pearl Harbor, who has helped lead the Seabees in this project, appreciates the opportunity for he and his team to recover sections for the public worldwide.

“We have a special tie to Pearl Harbor and World War II because that’s how we began. It is of historical significance that we, as Seabees, are able to work on the USS Arizona,” said Guzman.

Neuman explained that the Seabees were the obvious choice when considering how to satisfy the different request through the program.

“It is Navy history, Navy legacy, so it made sense that if we were going to have somebody actually cutting pieces of the [Arizona] wreckage we should have the Seabees do it,” said Neuman. “Because of their legacy, what they do historically and their mission, they have enthusiastically embraced it, which I really appreciate.”

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

Steelworker 3rd Class Cameron Fields, crew leader at Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303 detachment Hawaii, cuts a piece of steel salvaged from the USS Arizona.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Allen Michael McNair)

To date, the Seabees of CBMU 303 Detachment Pearl Harbor have completed three phases of the project. Those phases consisted of cutting and shipping out various sized pieces to: Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in Arizona, the Panhandle War Memorial in Texas, and the World War II Foundation in Rhode Island.

They are currently working on phase four which will be shipped to the Imperial War Museum in London, England.

“Britain was an ally in World War II. When the Empire of Japan surrendered on Sept. 2, 1945, on the USS Missouri, they didn’t only surrender to the U.S. they surrendered to the allies as well. They all signed the document so I’m thrilled that the museum sees the significance,” said Neuman. “They want to tell the whole story of World War II, not just the part they played. Visitors to the museum will be able to see part of the USS Arizona, and I think that’s great.”

The Seabees and Neuman will continue to partner together, work on the removed section of the Arizona and ship pieces out until there is nothing left.

The Seabees are proud to be a part of this undertaking as well as other jobs they execute around the island of Oahu.

“We have a whole spectrum of skill sets. This project only showcases a snippet of our diverse capabilities,” stated Guzman.

This article originally appeared on United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

Humor

The truth about cell phones in Basic Training

Thank god you got out when you did! The moment you received your DD-214, it was officially an end of an era. Hopefully, your branch won’t fall victim like all those other, weaker branches did. It’s Lord of the Flies in here.

New recruits are arriving in droves and they’re pulling out their cell phones to record themselves talking back to their drill sergeants. If the drill sergeants have a problem with it, they whip out their stress cards, go back to eating their Tide Pods, and continue listening to their music (which, coincidentally, has gotten progressively worse since your generation, too).


New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration
I saw it on Facebook. It has to be a thing, right?
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

In case you couldn’t tell, that introduction was slathered in enough satire to make Duffel Blog proud. If it wasn’t clear enough, don’t worry — stress cards weren’t ever a real thing and only a handful of people actually ate Tide Pods to get attention on social media.

The bit about cell phones, however, does have some basis in reality, but it’s nowhere near as overblown as you might think. First of all, phone calls are still a privilege (not a right) that’s dispensed at the discretion of the drill sergeant. If the drill sergeant says, “no phones this week,” that’s the final word.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration
Just like the old days… Or you know, like theu00a0Marines…
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron Bolser)

Which leads directly into the next concern shared by many millennial-fearing vets. Let’s set the record straight: No. Privates in Basic are not allowed to keep their cell phones on them at all times. When Soldiers are allowed to use their phones, usually on a Sunday night, they follow the same rules as they were “back in the day” with pay phones. This time around, however, instead of allowing a line to form behind the phone, drill sergeants simply free recruits’ phones from lock-up.

Drill sergeants still monitor all phone use and often restrict photography, texting, and social media usage. If the recruits can send texts or check Facebook, it is entirely because the drill sergeant saw fit to reward them with such privilege. If the recruits are not allowed, then it’s just standard voice calls (wait — do phones still have a “voice call” feature?).

Either way, once their extremely short lease on phone time is spent, the phones are locked back up until the privilege is earned again.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration
The standards have never (and will never) change. Only technology has.
(Photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink)

The amount of pay phones in operation has dropped 95% since 1999, and a good portion of those that remain are in New York City. The pay phone business is far too dated to remain competitive in today’s world but the need for trainees to inform their family that they “just got here” and that they’re “doing fine” hasn’t magically evaporated.

So, yes. The military is an ever-changing, ever-adapting beast, but the high level of professionalism that you grew to love hasn’t been destroyed by the rise of cell phones.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Everything you need to know about Star Trek from Comic-Con 2020

Star Trek continues to expand its universe, giving its 2020 Comic-Con@Home panel much to explore. Here are the spoiler-free highlights:


Star Trek: Discovery – Season 3 | NYCC Teaser Trailer | CBS All Access

www.youtube.com

1. Star Trek: Discovery returns Oct. 15

The cast of Discovery tuned in to perform a live read of the first act of Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2 — the season 2 finale of the time-traveling, multiverse-exploring series. They then weighed in on where their characters left off at the end of season 2 and where they will begin in season 3, which will begin to air in October 2020.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – New Star Trek Series To Follow Captain Pike, Spock, and Number One

www.youtube.com

2. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds hints at the unknown

“We’re gonna get to work on a classic Star Trek show that deals with optimism and the future,” promised Strange New Worlds star Anson Mount, who will reprise his role as Captain Christopher Pike.

The Discovery spin-off leaves behind Pike, Ethan Peck’s Spock, and Rebecca Romijn’s Number One to share a new chapter in the Enterprise’s story.

With Pike having seen his future, Mount said that, “When you see how it’s all going to end, and it’s not so pretty, what do you do with that?” He continued, “How do you move forward? I think he’s probably going to wrestle with how he can best utilize the rest of his life for the good of the world, the universe.”

Star Trek: Lower Decks | Season 1 Official Trailer | CBS All Access

youtu.be

3. Star Trek: Lower Decks premieres Aug. 6

Lower Decks is a new half-hour animated comedy series from Emmy Award winner Mike McMahan (Rick and Morty). It will focus on the support crew serving on one of Starfleet’s least important ships, the USS Cerritos. Taking place in 2380, the show’s timeline rests “in the TNG era” between Star Trek: Nemesis and before Star Trek: Picard.

SDCC 2020 | Star Trek: Picard Panel | ComicCon@Home

www.youtube.com

4. Star Trek: Picard

Speaking of which, the cast of Picard reunited digitally to talk about Jean-Luc Picard’s crew aboard the La Sirena. Reflecting on the show’s (critically acclaimed) first season, Sir Patrick Stewart shared the challenges of bringing the iconic character back to life. “It was at first very challenging, because thanks to our brilliant team of writers we are living in a very different world, a very complex world, a profoundly troubled world, which might just be appropriate for the time we’re living in.”

As for what will come next for Picard and his companions, series creators are remaining tight-lipped.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

12 gifts to give veterans this holiday season

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For you, The Mighty:

~ Our top picks for veteran-positive holiday giving ~

12. Combat Flip Flops

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

For flip flops and sneakers handmade in international combat zones, talk to Combat Flip Flops. Everything they sell empowers local entrepreneurs seeking to resurrect their communities from the cycle of poverty-bred violence and extremism. Seems like a heavy burden for a humble thong sandal to bear, but founder Matthew Griffin has the humor and the heart to pull it off.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

11. Heroes Vodka

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

For the most patriotic, pro-veteran martini you’ll ever have six of, you need a bottle of Heroes Vodka. Founder Travis McVey sought to make the clear spirit of America and hit it out of the park on his first try. A portion of his yearly profits goes directly to AMVETS. Try sipping. You’ll be shaken and stirred.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

10. Down The Road Beer Co.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

For a 4 pack of the most artfully brewed craft beer ever to emerge from the 3rd Armored Cav, seek out Down the Road Beer Co. Founder and veteran brewmaster, Donovan Bailey, has a winning formula at work in his Greater Boston brewery and now you can sample every variety he makes at his brand new taproom.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

9. Alpha Outpost

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

For a tactical subscription box of uncommon design and curation, check out Alpha Outpost. Every box has a theme and every theme gives rise to a new cache of gear that will inspire you to get out there and use your free time for kicking ass.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

8. Black Rifle Coffee Co.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

For small batch, veteran-roasted coffee with three heaping teaspoons of patriotic sass, chase down a bag of Black Rifle Coffee Co. Their beans yield a cup of joe so black, a sip is like a sniper round to the dome. Lovely.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

7. Ranger Up

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

For big-hearted, patriotic message tees and lighthearted youtube tomfoolery, look no further than Ranger Up. Founder Nick Palmisciano is a vocal advocate of remembering where you came from and the values for which you fought. And in his spare time, he dabbles in action cinema.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

6. Stella Valle

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

For Modern Day Charm Jewelry made by and for #WomanWarriors, give Stella Valle a look. The Dellavalle sisters went to West Point, served tours in Afghanistan, and took Shark Tank by storm in their quest to forge a successful jewelry brand in their own image.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

5. Sword & Plough

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

For fashionable bags made from military surplus by veteran manufacturers, check out Sword & Plough. The Nuñez sisters went to West Point, served with the 10th Special Forces Group, and took Kickstarter by storm in their quest to make an ethical, feminist, pro-veteran fashion accessories brand that gives back as much as it takes.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

4. stubble & ‘stache

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

For the premium beard oils, mustache lotions and mutton chop tinctures favored by U.S. Special Forces, you need to track down stubble & ‘stache. Founder Nicholas Karnaze started the company in honor of a fallen brother and grooms a war beard for civilian application to this day.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

3. Uncharted Supply Co.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

For the best designed, most soundly equipped bug out bag on the market, seek out Uncharted Supply Co. Their seventy2 survival bag gives you everything you need to ace the first 72 hours of an emergency, all in one seriously svelte package.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

2. Cappy’s Dry Rub

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

For a tactical array of spices that will 10x your flame-grilling game, load up on Cappy’s Dry Rub. LA-based Vietnam vet, Gene “Cappy” Holmon takes his meat seriously and so should you, especially considering how much cooking you’re likely to be doing this holiday season.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

1. Propper

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

For all the operationally-perfected tactical wear you could ever need for deployment or rugged homeland applications, pay a visit to Propper. They’ve been supplying the U.S. military since 1967, including garments, tac bags and body armor. Their spill-proof tactical pants are a godsend around the WATM offices…

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

Bonus Round:

Bottle Breacher

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

For the perfect, vet-sensitive stocking stuffer, optimize his beer with Bottle Breacher. Former Navy SEAL Eli Crane took his garage-mod ammo onto ABC’s Shark Tank and walked away with a deal. Almost two years later, there doesn’t appear to be a limit to Crane’s artistic inventiveness with the .50 caliber shell.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

Fieldcraft Survival

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

For a thorough schooling in the tactical skills and, more crucially, the head game of survival, enroll in a course at Fieldcraft Survival. Former Green Beret Mike Glover will guide you toward competence in the honorable art of self-reliance and you’ll probably only cry a little bit.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

Sandboxx

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

For a digital solution to the analog task of getting morale-boosting mail to your loved ones in the field, sign up for Sandboxx. The app-based communications platform transforms your 140 character missives and sentimental selfies into physical letters, and then sends them to servicemembers with a postage-paid, return envelope included.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

The Mission Continues

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

For renewed purpose and service-oriented deployment on the homefront, volunteer with The Mission Continues. They take your hard-won leadership skills and put them to good use in the many American communities badly in need of rebuilding.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

Articles

This glamour model thanks the Air Force for jump-starting her life

Ashley Salazar did a lot of stupid stuff growing up, probably no different from the stupid stuff we all did. But unlike many who made mistakes as teen, Salazar was “saved” by joining the Air Force.


New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration
Suddenly a Cubs fan.

“A lot of people don’t even believe I served in the military,” she says. “All they see is a pretty girl, but I was a tomboy growing up. Everyone does the kind of stupid stuff I did. When I joined, Uncle Sam became my dad in a way, making sure I stayed out of trouble. It pushed me to be more than I ever thought I could be.”

She joined the Air Force because of the September 11th attacks. She actually had a potential modeling and acting career before enlisting, since her mother was also a model. But enlisting was something Salazar felt she had to do.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration
Slicksleeves (aka Airman Basic, E-1)

“I had a modeling agent, but I was really affected by 9/11. I was seventeen years old then,” she recalls. “I had to wait a year to join. But I did as soon as I could. I talked to Marine recruiters  and I talked to Coast Guard recruiters, but the Air Force seemed to call me the most. I wanted to serve my country. We have to fight for ourselves as Americans, but we also have to fight for those who don’t have the freedoms we have.”

The Air Force got a super troop in Airman Salazar. She was an element leader in basic training and despite a few stumbles, she graduated from Radiology technical training with a Commander’s Award that hadn’t been awarded in five years. Adversity is where Salazar thrives.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

“I first got pregnant with my daughter in radiology school. I was having very hard time as a C student. But something happened to me, where she made me go from C student to A student – from the bottom to the top of my class.” She was promoted early in a “Below the Zone” promotion and made Staff Sergeant this first time she tested for the rank.

See Also: 32 Terms Only Airmen Understand

She spent much of her career at Keesler and Scott and she did everything she could to be part of the Air Force mission. She trained into mammography, volunteered to deploy to field hospitals, and even volunteered for Security Forces augmentee duty, a job few Airmen look forward to.

“All the cops were deployed,” she says. “I was young, 18 years old, and I could go do my part. Not just for the civilians back home but for all the military members who had spouses and children. I could deploy so they don’t have to. I did have to experience things I would have rather not have seen. Everyone does.”

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration
(This is not one of those things.)

Salazar was stationed at Keesler AFB in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Mississippi, and Alabama. As hospital personnel, she was not able to evacuate the base and spent the aftermath, using X-rays to identify bodies —and body parts. In the meantime, she lost everything in the storm. When it came time to be relocated, she opted for Scott AFB in Illinois, to be closer to her family.

She liked her hospital job, but her favorite aspect of her Air Force career was a much higher calling: Honor Guard.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

“I did over 600 Honor Guard ceremonies between the two bases and I was flight leader while at Scott,” Salazar recalls. “Being able to give back and thank the families is the most gratifying thing I’ve ever experienced. I know someday when I pass, someone is going hand a flag to my family and it means a lot, it was and honor and it was humbling to be able to do that for people.”

Her modeling came up again after photos of her at an Air Force Christmas party wearing a red dress appeared on the Medical Group’s website. Everyone wanted to know who that woman in red was. The base photographer who took the photos begged Salazar for months to let him use her as a model. She was never really thinking of being a model.

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration
Salazar was Playboy’s Miss Social of 2013

 

“To be honest, I’m 5’7″ and a little bit big around the top,” she says. “And they like women who are thin and not shapely in the fashion world. Besides, I felt old at 23 or 24 and I thought 18-year-olds were the ones who modeled, not 24 year old airmen with kids. I finally caved and we did some photos. Shortly after, I was signed with an agency and then I got my first billboard across from the St. Louis Cardinals stadium.”

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration
But… what about those Cubs?

After that, she started doing regular modeling work using her military leave, while still maintaining her Air Force career. She even expanded into doing her own photography for others. Eventually, she did a volunteer charity calendar that got her into hot water.

“Being a Super Troop kinda hurt me in the end because the standards of professionalism in the Air Force are so high, if you mess up once, it’s unforgiving,” Salazar says. “It was a dress jacket with a little cleavage, nothing from the waist down, and I was just saluting. Which cost me my quarterly award. They also took an oak leaf cluster. I didn’t want to bring any discredit on myself or on anyone.”

Salazar left the Air Force in 2008, when the U.S. job market was tanking on an epic scale. People were losing their jobs, no one was hiring. As a recently divorced, recently separated airman, Ashley Salazar had to take care of her daughter and her mother. She turned to her creative work.

“I started this blog when I started photography,” she says. “I would interview people and take their photos and put them on this Tumblr page. Fast-forward five years and now we have this thing called MollMag which is now wildly popular. It’s been my baby and now I’m taking it to the next level. We have a new international edition released in South Africa which we started in 2013.”

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Salazar is also a supporter of breast cancer research, as the disease runs in her family.

Ashley is also currently in a contest to be the model for Pink Lipstick Lingerie. For her, it could mean a huge difference in her life and for her family.

“The one thing I haven’t been able to do as a model is be a model for a lingerie company,” she says. “It’s a great opportunity to get into a catalog. A lot of these companies also use models for those funny Halloween costumes they have at stores every year. If I win this vote, they’ll fly me to New York to do these shoots for them. Once you get into the catalog industry, its much more likely for your career to take off.”

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Through all her hard times, her experience in the Air Force has always stayed with her. It toughened her, it changed her, it prepared her for anything she might have to do in the civilian world. That experience gives her an edge, a down-to-earth, can-do mentality that keeps her from giving up where so many others might have in her position.

“I’ve been told no so many times for so many things,” she says. “Being a mom means I have a couple of stretch marks. Real women do. In the beauty world, that’s not ideal. It’s a competitive industry and it’s hard. My husband now taught me to embrace my body to accept myself my body for what it was and be happy with myself as we started to fall in love, I began to feel more comfortable and that’s when the bikini photos started to come out.”

New series brings viewer into stark reality of veteran reintegration

“They only show one perspective of beauty out there, but real women are mothers too. I wanted to see a mother in Playboy, because it affects people around the world. Women all over the world see these women and then hold themselves to that standard. And they might think ‘well, if I don’t look like that, then I’m not beautiful,’ but that’s not true.”

After the Air Force and her husband, Ashley credits her glamour model success to her fans.

“I’m lucky to have fans,” she says. “I’m grateful for every one of them. I don’t care if they follow all my work or just like my Facebook page because they think I’m hot. I’m thankful for each fan and I hope they stick around.”

To see more of Ashley Salazar’s work, visit her website.

Follow Ashley on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis left a clear message in his resignation letter

US Defense Secretary James Mattis announced his resignation from the Trump administration on Dec. 20, 2018, setting in motion the end of what has been a tumultuous tenure working with President Donald Trump.

In his resignation letter, Mattis told Trump, without saying his name, that the president has a “right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned” with his own.


Mattis’ resignation follows Dec. 19, 2018’s controversial announcement of a plan to pull American troops out of Syria.

But it was the outgoing defense secretary’s warning about the shifting nature of great-power relations he hopes his successor will study closely.

Under Mattis’ watch, the administration has drawn an unambiguous line in the sand. Beginning with Russia and, historically, moving out of engagement with China, and into confrontation.

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Members of the 5th Special Forces Group conducting weapons training during counter-ISIS operations at the al-Tanf garrison in southern Syria.

(US Marine Corps photo)

“I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly at odds with our own,” Mattis wrote in his resignation letter.

“It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model — gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic and security decisions — to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies.”

Russia, under its President Vladimir Putin, has already shown its capacity and willingness to reach into the heart of US democracy.

The latest twin reports to front the Senate show in excruciating detail how even the smallest manipulation of social media platforms can meddle in US public life with just a single troll farm — the unit called the Internet Research Agency — tucked away somewhere in a Moscow warehouse.

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President Donald Trump.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Opaque and unsettling

While the Trump administration has appeared in an unflattering light amid what US policy expert believe is an unsettling relationship with Russia, Putin has been steadily picking at the edges of Crimea, presenting the greatest military threat to Ukraine in years.

But it is with China where Mattis and the administration have barged into a new period of strategic competition — and where the slide toward conflict is most acute.

That confrontation has been encouraged by the Trump administration itself, with the tearing down of so many aspects of the rules-based order that has governed global politics in the post-World War II era.

“My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear eyed about malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues,” Mattis wrote in his resignation letter to Trump.

The Trump effect has isolated allies and invigorated adversaries, former Australian Prime Minister and noted sinologist Kevin Rudd said in November 2018.

Speaking at the Hudson Institute in October 2018, US Vice President Mike Pence delivered a landmark address signaling the US’s intent to challenge an increasingly assertive and belligerent China, directly accusing it of “meddling in America’s democracy.”

Pence accused China of stealing American intellectual property, eroding US military positions, and driving the US out of the Western Pacific.

It was only on Dec. 18, 2018, when China’s President Xi Jinping, the country’s strongest autocratic leader since Mao Zedong, made a gloating speech marking China’s furious economic progress, with more daunting promises of “miracles that will impress the world.”

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Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Delivered with slumped shoulders in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Xi spoke for 90 minutes before touching momentarily on a vision for a new kind of Chinese expansion aimed at exporting its model of technocratic dictatorship to other like-minded nations.

“The past 40 years eloquently prove that China’s development provides a successful experience and offers a bright prospect to other developing countries, as they strive for modernization,” Xi said, about 40 minutes into his speech.

This is exactly where China is now placed as it looks across the Pacific and into Central Asia to covertly or overtly use the One Belt One Road initiative to expand its industrial, technical, and digital prowess into developing neighbors that are vulnerable to the authoritarian siren song of, for example, surveillance techniques now being rolled out in the beleaguered western province of Xinjiang.

China’s vast data-collection platforms — WeChat alone has more than a billion users, and are harvesting ever-deeper data on behalf of the state — would be happy to do the same for other nations.

In December 2018 Danielle Cave, a senior analyst at the Australian Security Policy Institute’s International Cyber Policy Centre, told Business Insider that developing nations that do not share the US’s aversion to unreliable actors like the embattled telecommunications giant Huawei, are ready and willing to marry into China’s cheap, buy-now-pay-later model of total autocratic technocracy.

The person Trump chooses to replace Mattis will need to see, with the same clarity that “Mad Dog” could, the chasm between the words of America’s strategic adversaries and their actions in this new, dangerous, fragmented — and increasingly lonely — global theater.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

DOD & VA to hold ‘closed door’ conference on burn pits

Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs officials are meeting in March 2019 in Arlington, Virginia, for a two-day symposium on burn pits and airborne pollutants but, as with previous Joint VA/DoD Airborne Hazard Symposia, the meeting is closed to the public and press.

The symposium’s purpose, according to documents from the first meeting in 2012, is to “provide an opportunity to discuss what we know, what we need to know and what can be done to study and improve care” for veterans and troops who “might have suffered adverse health effects related to exposure to airborne hazards, including burn pit smoke and other pollutants.”


Attendance is tightly controlled, with Pentagon and VA officials convening to discuss topics such as a joint action plan to address potential health conditions related to exposure, the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Burn Pit Registry, monitoring deployment environments and the impact of exposures on the Veterans Benefits Administration, according to a copy of the first day’s agenda obtained by Military.com.

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A soldier pushing a bulldozer into the flames of a burn pit at Balad, Iraq

(US Army photo)

Members of several veterans service organizations and advocacy groups have been invited to speak, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, Burn Pits 360 and the Sgt. Sullivan Circle.

But those veterans’ representatives are allowed to attend only a handful of sessions on the first day, March 14, 2019, including opening remarks and segments on outreach and education, as well as a brown-bag lunch during which they can discuss concerns and issues.

All events scheduled for March 15, 2019, remain unpublished.

Neither the VA nor the DoD responded to requests for information on the event. Veterans advocates also declined to discuss the meeting or their participation, with some expressing concern that they would be prevented from receiving future invites.

Thousands of troops serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere were exposed to airborne pollutants while working and living near burn pits used to dispose of trash, medical waste and other types of refuse at area military bases.

Some have developed a chronic lung disease, constrictive bronchiolitis, while others have developed skin rashes, autoimmune disorders and various types of cancer, including glioblastoma, a brain cancer rarely seen in young adults, that they believe are related to burn pit exposure.

Veterans and advocates have pressed the VA for years to recognize these illnesses as related to burn pit exposure and want them to be considered “presumptive” conditions, a designation that would automatically qualify them for disability compensation and health services.

The VA says it lacks the scientific evidence to directly tie burn pit exposure to certain diseases but has granted service connection for several conditions associated with burn pits, deciding each claim on a case-by-case basis.

In 2011, the Institute of Medicine reviewed all available studies, reports and monitoring data on burn pit utilization and combustibles exposure and concluded that there was not enough evidence or data to draw conclusions about the long-term consequences of exposure.

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A service member tosses unserviceable uniform items into a burn pit

(DoD photo)

More than 140,000 veterans have enrolled in the VA Burn Pit and Airborne Hazards Registry.

From June 2007 through Nov. 30, 2018, the VA received 11,581 claims applications for disability compensation with at least one condition related to burn pit exposure. Of those, 2,318 had a burn pit-related condition granted, according to VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour.

During the same time frame, the VA processed nearly 13.5 million claims; burn pit-related claims made up less than a tenth of a percent of those claims.

“VA encourages all veterans who feel their military service has affected their health to submit a claim, which will be adjudicated using the latest scientific and medical evidence available,” Cashour said.

The Pentagon and VA are developing a way to track environmental exposures in service members starting with the day they enlist. The Individual Longitudinal Exposure Record, or ILER, will record potential and known exposures throughout a service member’s time on active duty. A pilot program is set to begin Sept. 30, 2019.

But those who have suffered exposures in the past 30 years will need to rely on Congress to pass legislation to assist them, the Defense Department to continue researching the issues, and the VA to approve their claims.

Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, Wounded Warrior Project, IAVA, Disabled American Veterans, the Fleet Reserve Association, the Military Order of the Purple Heart and Military Officers Association of America all have made burn pit and toxic exposure issues a top legislative priority this year.

Several lawmakers, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, have introduced legislation that would require the DoD and VA to share information on troops’ exposure to airborne chemicals and provide periodic health assessments for those who were exposed.

The meeting is to take place at the Veterans Health Administration National Conference Center in Crystal City, Virginia.

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

Articles

US Marine Corps fights social media misconduct

Since February, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service has scanned nearly 131,000 images across 168 social media sites and has reviewed information related to 89 persons of interest as a result of incidents related to the nonconsensual sharing of explicit photos and other online misconduct.


Among all persons of interest, 22 are civilians, and 67 are active-duty or reserve Marines. Five of these cases remain with NCIS as they investigate, while 62 have been passed to appropriate Marine commands for disposition.

To date, command dispositions have resulted in one summary court-martial, two administrative separations, seven non-judicial punishments, and 22 adverse administrative actions. These cases span beyond the Marines United Facebook page and include a spectrum of behavior.

While many cases involve photos, clothed or explicit, some involve verbal remarks without images.

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USMC photo by LCpl. Nicholas J. Trager, Combat Camera, SOI-E

On June 29, a Marine plead guilty at a summary-court martial related to the non-consensual sharing of explicit photos on the Marines United Facebook group. The Marine was sentenced to 10 days confinement, reduction of rank by three grades, and a forfeiture of two-thirds of one month’s pay. Additionally, the process to administratively separate the Marine is underway.

According to Gen. Glenn Walters, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps and head of the Marine Corps Task Force that is addressing cultural issues with the Corps, the scope and apparent tolerance by some Marines for online misconduct has resulted in updates to Marine Corps training, policies and orders to ensure that Marines understand the expectations of what is and is not appropriate on social media.

“While those changes address the immediate behavioral issue, we also remain committed to addressing and evolving our culture by changing the way we educate, train, and lead our Marines – we will not tolerate a lack of respect for any member of our team,” said Walters.

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USMC photo by Staff Sgt. Greg Thomas

To help guide commanders and to ensure they have the appropriate information available to discuss and train Marines on online misconduct, the Marine Corps created a Leader’s Handbook in April 2017. According to Task Force personnel, the handbook provides leaders guidance on how to report and review each case. It also provides a range of potential accountability mechanisms available to commanders.

In addition to the updates to policies and orders, the Marine Corps has adjusted how it handles reports of online misconduct. Any allegation is now reported to NCIS for review and investigated if criminal in nature. If not criminal in nature, the cases are passed to the appropriate command for disposition. Additionally, commanders are now required to report allegations of online misconduct to Headquarters Marines Corps.

“I think it’s important to recognize that our understanding of the issue has evolved over time,” said Walters. “How we handle cases today is much different and more effective as a result of what occurred with Marines United. Moving forward, we are planning to establish a permanent structure that can address all of the factors that contribute to the negative subculture that has allowed this behavior to exist.”
Articles

China just deployed troops to its first overseas base alongside US outpost

China dispatched members of its People’s Liberation Army to the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti July 11 to man the rising Asian giant’s first overseas military base, a key part of a wide-ranging expansion of the role of China’s armed forces.


The defense ministry said on its website that a ceremony was held at a naval peer in the southern Chinese port of Zhanjiang presided over by navy commander Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong.

It said the personnel would travel by navy ship but gave no details on numbers or units. Photos on the website showed naval officers and marines in battle dress lining the rails of the support ships Jingangshan and Donghaidao.

China says the logistics center will support anti-piracy, U.N. peacekeeping and humanitarian relief missions in Africa and western Asia. It says it will also facilitate military cooperation and joint exercises as the PLA navy and other services seek to expand their global reach in step with China’s growing economic and political footprint.

Djibouti is already home to the center of American operations in Africa, Camp Lemonnier, while France, Britain, Japan and other nations also maintain a military presence in the small but strategically located nation.

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Chinese special operations forces raid a civilian ocean transport during a counter-piracy mission. (Photo from Chinese Ministry of Defense)

Multinational anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden that China joined in 2008 have also given its navy ready access to the Mediterranean, and, in 2011, it took the unprecedented step of sending one of its most sophisticated warships together with military transport aircraft to help in the evacuation of about 35,000 Chinese citizens from Libya.

In 2015, China detached three navy ships from the anti-piracy patrols to rescue Chinese citizens and other foreign nationals from fighting in Yemen. The same year, it took part in its first Mediterranean joint naval exercises with Russia.

Intel

This is how secure the US Bullion Depository really is

This inconspicuous building just off the Dixie Highway may not seem too tough — until you realize it’s one of the most secure locations in the world. There’s a reason why “Fort Knox” is synonymous with high-end security.

The U.S. Army post around the U.S. Bullion Depository, Fort Knox, isn’t that much different from any other military installation. To gain entry, a civilian can sign onto post at the visitor’s center. But even troops stationed there can’t just casually swing by the depository.

Not much is truly known about the inner-workings of the depository; there certainly are no photographs or schematics available. What is public knowledge is only what’s visible from the outside, interviews resulting from the 1974 tour, and first-hand accounts from the former, extremely-select handful who’ve set foot inside.

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The greatest Bond film of all time, ‘Goldfinger,’ had to make everything up for the movie. But it does serve as the basis for how most people perceive the depository.
(United Artists and Eon Productions)

From the outside, you can see the many fences that lay between the building and the highway. Several of them are said to be electrified. Each corner of the building has a guard tower manned by an unspecified amount of security guards who watch over each sector. The land between the fences is also said to be mined.


Construction on the building itself was completed in December, 1936, and the known building materials include 16,000 cubic feet of granite, 4,200 cubic yards of concrete, 750 tons of reinforced steel, and 670 tons of structural steel. All of this for a 2-story-tall building with a 1-story basement — sounds pretty secure, right?

In addition thousands of pounds of steel and stone, there’s an entire battalion of U.S. Mint Police that cover the place.

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One can also assume you wouldn’t be able to just dig right into it either.
(Warner Bros.)

The politicians and journalists who were granted access to the building in 1974 entered through the 20-ton steel door and got to look into one of the many compartments. That compartment held 36,236 gold bars, stacked from floor to ceiling. At the time, the gold was valued at $42,222 per Troy oz., which meant they got to see $499.8 million of gold.

The rest of the security measures are up for speculation. The Fort is rumored to be outfitted with laser wire and seismographic sensors to ensure no one approached undetected. The corridors can, apparently, be flooded at a moment’s notice. And security measures are constantly re-worked to improve and re-improve before anyone knows better.

There’s one thing we know for sure about the inside: There really is gold in there and it gets audited yearly.