3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

It’s particularly poignant when members of the military community share their own stories. Hollywood has a fascination with depicting battles, wars, and heroes, but there’s an intimacy and truth that comes from the minds of those who actually lived those experiences.

Who better to explore war than those that fought it? Than those that are haunted by it? Than those who lost someone on the battlefield?

In honor of Veteran’s Day, we are proud to amplify the stories of three members of our own community who are exploring the military experience from very different, and yet very universal, perspectives. From memoirs to war poems to coffee digital publications, these storytellers are contributing to the dialogue about what it means to serve.

You won’t want to miss their work:


Just got my copy of #TheKnockattheDoor. I’ve read #BrothersForever and am looking forward to reading this. @TMFoundation @rmanionpic.twitter.com/adIdbBkBs3

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Ryan Manion

Ryan Manion has devoted her life to carrying on the legacy of her brother, 1st Lt. Travis Manion, who was killed in the line of duty while serving in the United States Marine Corps. On April 29, 2007, Travis was ambushed in the Al Anbar province of Iraq, along with his fellow Marines and their Iraqi Army counterparts. “Leading the counterattack against the enemy forces, Travis was fatally wounded by an enemy sniper while aiding and drawing fire away from his wounded teammates,” reads his bio on the website of the Travis Manion Foundation, which empowers veterans and families of the fallen to thrive.

Ryan, who has served as the President of the foundation since 2012, is a well-respected member of the military community. On Nov. 5, 2019, Ryan joined Heather Kelly and Amy Looney Heffernan to release Knock at the Door, a book that shares their experiences about joining the Gold Star family and the inspiring and unlikely journey “that began on the worst day of their lives.”

BABGAB It’s time to caffeinate the troops! For every bag of BRCC coffee you buy through November, we’ll donate a bag to the deployed troops overseas spreading freedom on a daily basis. #brcc #americascoffee #babgabpic.twitter.com/vBANDYQnmL

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Logan Stark, U.S. Marine Corps

Logan Stark trained as an Infantry Assault Marine with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines before becoming a Scout/Sniper on multiple deployments, including one to Sangin, Afghanistan. After his military service, he earned a degree in Professional Writing from Michigan State University, where he directed For the 25, a film about his Afghanistan deployment.

As the film garnered attention, Stark went on to write for USA Today and the New York Times’ At War blog. Now, he’s the Producer of Content at Black Rifle Coffee Company, where he manages the creation and dissemination of caffeine and freedom social media content. BRCC recently launched Coffee or Die, their online magazine sharing military stories and humorous anecdotes from the vantage point of veterans.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

2019 Gannon Award Winner “The Art Of Warrior Poetry”

Justin Thomas Eggen, U.S. Marine Corps

Justin Thomas Eggen’s military career within 2nd Route Clearance Platoon, Mobility Assault Company, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division includes operating as a heavy machine gunner during Operation Moshtarak and clearing the IED threat for Operation Black Sand and Operation Eastern Storm in Sangin, Afghanistan. Like most veterans, Eggen struggled with many invisible wounds when he returned home from combat.

He decided to face the emotions straight on and became a writer, using pen and ink to explore his deployments through poetry. Since the release of his first book, Outside The Wire: A U.S. Marine’s Collection of Combat Poems Short Stories Volume 1, Eggen has released several volumes of work and connected with other veterans on speaking engagements, book tours, and a spoken word book tour with two other veteran poets they dubbed “The Verses Curses Tour.”

Articles

US officials want to deploy 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan

President Donald Trump’s senior advisers said they have proposed sending additional troops to Afghanistan to weaken the Taliban in an effort to bring about negotiations.


In order to send the reinforcements, Trump must approve the recommendation by his senior military and foreign policy advisers aimed at breaking a military deadlock in the war that began in 2001, U.S. officials told The New York Times. The proposed additional troops would work together with a greater number of Afghan forces and operate more closely to the front lines.

The new strategy, which is supported by top Cabinet officials, would give the Pentagon the authority to set troop numbers in Afghanistan and to carry out airstrikes against Taliban militants.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war
A couple hug before the last group of the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade Soldiers deploy for Afghanistan at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Sunday. The Raptor Brigade has deployed about 800 Soldiers in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel with U.S. Forces Afghanistan.

U.S. officials told The Washington Post the new plan expands the U.S. military role in Afghanistan to stem an increasingly confident and resurgent Taliban to force it back to the negotiating table with the Afghan government.

The recommendation was created after a review of the 15-year war — America’s longest — conducted by the Department of Defense, the Department of State, U.S. intelligence agencies and other government agencies.

In Afghanistan, there are 13,000 international troops — 8,400 from the United States — assisting the Afghan security forces, mainly in training and advising roles, but U.S. troops also carry out counter-terrorism operations.

The proposed plan would send an additional 3,000 to 5,000 U.S. troops, including hundreds of Special Operations forces. The U.S. government would request NATO nations to send thousands of troops. The final number of how many U.S. troops would be sent depends on how many troops NATO allies are willing to send.

Trump is expected to make a decision before the May 25 NATO summit in Brussels.

The Taliban frequently launches attacks, generally targeting Afghan troops, international troops and government officials. In April, the Taliban launched an attack in which it killed more than 140 soldiers stationed at Camp Shaheen, which serves as a headquarters of the Afghan National Army.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA releases new findings on the connection between TBI and dementia

VA and the Kristine Yaffe Lab at the University of California, San Francisco, have taken a new approach to understanding the association of mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) — with and without loss of consciousness (LOC) — with dementia among veterans. Their recent study, one of the largest in the United States, included 178,779 veterans in the VA health care system who were diagnosed with various levels of TBI severity.

The study found that TBI with and without LOC are both associated with a heightened risk of developing dementia. Even mild TBI without LOC was associated with more than a twofold increase in the risk of a dementia diagnosis.

The study was part of the Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium (CENC), a federally funded research project devised to address the long-term effects of mild TBI in military service members and veterans. CENC is jointly funded by VA and the Department of Defense.


TBI overview

TBI is a complex physiological condition that can arise when a brain experiences trauma, either directly or indirectly, during any of a variety of moderate to catastrophic events. TBI has been researched and studied in-depth by some of the world’s leading neurologists, neuropsychologists, neuropsychiatrists and other leading mental health experts. Their goal is to develop treatments, tools and resources to help those affected by TBI return to their previous, or close to their previous, quality of life and cognitive ability. TBI among veterans is a key focus area of VA physical and mental health care, and VA conducts research every day to help unravel the intricacies of TBI’s symptoms and effects.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit)

In the past 10 years, researchers and clinicians have confirmed that TBI may be a risk factor for dementia, but they have yet to determine why. Some professionals think dementia may be related to the injury itself, while others believe that head trauma may cause toxic and abnormal proteins associated with dementia to build up over time.

Advice for veterans experiencing symptoms of TBI

Evaluation by a physician is critical to help identify and address symptoms of TBI. TBI can be difficult to diagnose because it has many causes, such as motor vehicle collisions, sports-related injuries and falls. Among veterans, TBI may be caused by a single event, such as an IED blast, but also may occur over time as a result of repetitive jolts to the head or neck. If you have had a recent head injury, or if you had a head injury in the past and are concerned about recent changes in your memory, consult your physician for a screening.

During a TBI evaluation, you and your doctor will discuss what caused your injury and ways to deal with any physical, cognitive and behavioral symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating and headaches. You also will explore how these symptoms affect your daily life. Your doctor may recommend counseling to help you learn ways to manage the effects of TBI. Because a TBI can affect the way the brain functions, medications may be needed or changed to assist in recovery and coping.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

To learn more about TBI symptoms and treatment for veterans, visit VA’s mental health page on TBI or go to MakeTheConnection.net, which features videos of veterans talking about their experience with TBI.

Understanding dementia risk factors

Although there is a slightly elevated risk for dementia among those who have experienced TBI, that does not mean everyone with TBI is at risk. TBI is only one of many risk factors for dementia, including genetic markers, that are being studied. No matter what risk factors you may have, it’s important to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle, monitor your heart health and try to remain mentally and physically active.

The future of TBI and dementia research

The VA health care system recognizes that more research is needed to further understand and provide the best health care to veterans with TBI. This study suggests that veterans with TBI — in particular, older veterans — should be monitored and screened at regular intervals for any signs of memory changes. Research collaboration among VA, universities and national organizations such as the National Institutes of Health will continue to expand our knowledge of TBI and related conditions and opportunities to prevent and treat them.

About the VISN 21 MIRECC

VA’s VISN 21 MIRECC is committed to improving the clinical care of veterans with dementia and with post-traumatic stress disorder through the development of innovative clinical, research and educational programs. This center’s approach is to identify risk factors for cognitive decline in older veterans and to develop and implement novel countermeasures to minimize this decline.

For more information on VISN 21, visit www.mirecc.va.gov/mirecc/visn21.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US nuclear warheads face a $1 billion setback, thanks to a $5 part

An official with the National Nuclear Security Administration told lawmakers that a $5 commercial capacitor it had tested for the Navy’s W88 submarine-launched missile and the Air Force’s B61-12 bomb was insufficient, causing delays in the upgrades and driving up the cost by as much as $1 billion, USNI reports.

Charles Verdon, deputy administrator for defense programs at the NNSA, explained that early testing indicated that the $5 commercial, off-the-shelf capacitors would have served their purpose in the short term, but didn’t withstand the stress that decades of wear — 30 years or so — would put on them.


“Early tests on the capacitors now in question and subsequent tests including component, major assembly and full-up integrated system flight tests demonstrated that these components meet requirement today,” Verdon told the House Armed Service Committee strategic forces subcommittee on Sept. 25, 2019. “Industry best practices were used to stress the components beyond their design planned usage as a way to establish confidence that they will continue to work over the necessary lifetime of the warhead.”

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

(United States Department of Defense)

“During stress testing, a few of these commercially available capacitors did not meet the reliability requirements.”

Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the under secretary for Nuclear Security and administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, disclosed the faulty parts at a subcommittee hearing in May 2019, Nuclear Security and Deterrence Monitor reported at the time.

The NNSA originally estimated the upgrade cost for the W88 to be between .4 billion and .1 billion, and for upgrades to be delivered in December 2019. The NNSA budgeted between .3 and .5 billion for B61 refurbishment. But the failure of the capacitor could cost both projects up to id=”listicle-2640638602″ billion combined, USNI reports. The W88 is used with Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile, and an inert B61-12 gravity bomb was dropped from a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber in March 2019.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Instead of using the capacitor, the NNSA will use capacitors built to its requirements, which will cost per unit.

Despite the delays, Verdon believes that the entire upgrade program will come out in the balance, according to Defense News, because the program has a cushion of funding for delays, and the setbacks from the W88 and B61-12 upgrades will yield “design simplifications” for upcoming refurbishments to the 80-4 and W87-1, decreasing costs in the long run.

But in terms of readiness for near-term deployments, it’s not clear how the forces will be affected by the delay. The US Strategic Command (STRATCOM) and the Navy are working together to determine the effect of the delay, USNI reports.

Insider reached out to the Navy’s strategic systems programs, as well as STRATCOM, regarding short-term mission readiness. The Navy did not respond to request for comment, and STRATCOM was unable to give answers to the questions by publication time. The NNSA was unable to furnish answers to Insider’s questions on Sept. 26, 2019

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s the island where the Pentagon trains for a full on cyber war

Only a few have gone through the extensive background checks needed to access Plum Island — where a secretive branch of the US government runs exercises to prepare for all-out cyber war.

The speck of land in the Long Island Sound, owned by the Department of Homeland Security is largely deserted. The main attractions are a defunct lighthouse and a center that studies infectious animal diseases.

It is also the perfect setting for the US government to stage mock cyber attacks on the power grid.


Every six months, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) — part of the Pentagon — ferries over experts who work to jumpstart a dead grid, while warding off a series of cyber threats.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

A map showing the location of Plum Island, New York.

(Google maps)

The exercise prepares them for a worst case scenario: if hackers succeed in taking the US electric system offline.

In Ukraine people have already seen the consequences of such an attack. Hackers plunged thousands of people into darkness when they compromised parts of the electric grid in 2015 and 2016.

The country’s security services blamed Russia, which had occupied Crimea shortly before, and would ultimately annex it from Ukraine.

The US has not yet seen an attack on its grid. But the FBI and DHS warned that Russian government hackers have in the past managed to access other critical infrastructure like the energy, nuclear, and manufacturing sectors.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

DARPA staged what a cyber attack on the US power grid could look like in November 2018.

(Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)

Walter Weiss, the program manager overseeing the DARPA exercises, told Business Insider that his team is one of many studying how to defend the grid.

Weiss also sent Business Insider images of the site where DARPA carries out its operations.

“What we do that’s different is that we start from the assumption that an attack would be successful,” Weiss said.

“What scares us is that once you lose power it’s tough to bring it back online… Doing that during a cyber attack is even harder because you can’t trust the devices you need to restore power for that grid.”

Without electricity, the experts cannot count on light, phone service, or access to the computer networks they need to restart the grid. Their only source of power are old-fashioned generators which need to be refueled constantly.

That means the the specialists cannot focus solely on fighting off cyber attacks, Weiss said, because so much of their focus is taken up with other things.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

Experts have to jumpstart a dead grid during the exercise.

(DARPA)

Without being able to communicate, the tiniest misstep can set the team back dramatically.

Practicing on Plum Island in particular is useful, Weiss said, because it mimics the isolation that could come with a full-scale cyber attack on the mainland.

“That’s something we like about the island: You have what you brought with you,” he said.

With the exercise, DARPA hopes to reduce how interdependent the different teams are, because it is so hard to coordinate. The less time they need to waste trying to stay in contact, the quicker they can get power back to a population waiting in darkness.

Especially in a developed country like the US, every aspect that citizens consider a basic necessity would be affected — from light, to communication, to running water, to transportation.

“I’m trying to think through whose life would still be normal in the US or in England without power,” Weiss said. “I’m having a really hard time.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The only time a US blimp was ever lost in World War II combat

Airships like zeppelins and blimps lost their appeal somewhere between World Wars I and II. It might have had something to do with the Hindenburg going down in a massive, fiery wreck in front of the whole world. By the time World War II came about, airships were a thing of the past for every military except the United States, which is a shame because you did not want to f*ck with an airship.


They seem like goofy floating targets just begging to be shot down but getting to them was a lot harder than anyone might think. More than that, they were really effective at locating enemy submarines and then blowing them into oblivion. Of the 89,000 ships protected by airships during WWII, only one was ever lost.

And only one airship was ever lost, and it happened off the coast of Florida in July 1943.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

Blimp-Submarine combat seems like it would be adorable.

The missions of blimp crew was an easy one, use the massive range of sight the blimp had over the ocean waters, locate enemy submarines, then call in for fighters and bombers to come finish the subs off. They had some weapons, a few depth charges, and a .50-cal machine gun, but not something to take on a submarine head-to-head. But K-74 did just that.

A 252-foot airship, K-74 was performing its usual mission in the Florida Straits when it spotted German U-boat 134 on radar. The airship came down from the cover of the clouds to find the boat on the surface of the water. Seeing that the U-boat was headed for a merchant convoy, Lt. Nelson Grills decided he couldn’t just wait for backup and had to act fast. As the ship moved to intercept the boat, the sub’s conning tower exploded with 20-mm rounds.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

U-134 under attack from the RAF earlier in 1943. The sub survived the meeting.

K-74 was able to drop two charges on the sub as it flew overhead, but the charges did nothing to silence the 20mm guns. The blimp returned fire, but the submarine had hit one of the airship’s engines, and she was losing altitude fast. Then it caught fire. The next thing he knew, the crew had begun to abandon ship – all because he couldn’t follow protocol. But the ship didn’t explode in a Hindenburg-like burst of flame. It gently fell to the surface of the water, and the crew climbed aboard the deflated ship.

Gills helped his crewmen escape, but as they climbed the balloon part of the ship, Grills got separated when he stayed behind to destroy the ship’s classified documents and top-secret cargo.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

The ship’s commander was found when another K-ship spotted him in the water below just a few hours after his ship went down. His crew was in the water all night and was found by a seaplane the next day. Most of them survived, except for one. The crew was being circled by sharks as planes flew overhead and surface ships moved in for a rescue. The USS Dahlgren had come on scene to pick them up, and even though the Dahlgren’s crew managed to keep some sharks away with small arms, one of the K-74 crewmen was pulled under by a shark and disappeared.

All was not lost, however. K-74 damaged the enemy submarine in the action. The U-boat was forced to limp home heavily damaged. Eventually, it was found at sea by the British Royal Air Force, who swiftly finished it off near the Cies Islands.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How troops learn to sleep anywhere, any how, any way

Sleep is, apparently, one of those things that medical professionals tend to claim is vital to not dying. While in the military, you’ll get so little sleep that your body grows accustomed to functioning at a high level with just four hours of non-continuous sleep.

For one reason or another, putting aside large chunks of time for that vital sleep just doesn’t happen. So, troops quickly learn how to rack out at the drop of a dime while smothered in their gear. Or they find a nice, cozy spot underneath a HUMVEE in the glaring Afghan sun with only their rifle and pebbles to keep them comfy.

It’s really an impressive skill — and it’s usually among the first truly mastered by even the most average of recruits.


3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

That’s not to say that calories are a good thing either. It’s a level of complication that can’t be footnoted into an article about sleep deprivation, though.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth)

The biggest contributing factor to this mastery over snoozing is that troops are constantly on the move. The human body is only meant to exert so much effort and that limit is pushed daily by all troops. Normally, the body needs to both sleep regularly to rebuild damaged muscles and eat healthy foods to replenish what’s lost.

Troops supplement this by maintaining a higher-than-average caloric intake. It’s assumed that an average active male in their twenties should take in about 3000 calories to function normally. The average deployed troop takes in three MREs per day, which totals 3,750 calories.

Contrary to popular belief, eating calories is actually a good thing if you’re moving about as much as troops do. This intake means that the body has more to work with when it finally has time to recharge.

Troops exhaust themselves by being constantly in motion. When an opportunity to knock out arises, even if it’s just for a few minutes, it will be seized.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

And you really don’t want to try that while on guard duty. That’s still punishable under the UCMJ.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Charles M. Willingham)

The next contributing factor is that troops are generally sleep deprived and have their sleep cycles interrupted constantly. Starting in basic training, a drill sergeant could wake everyone up at 0100 for sh*ts and giggles, have a special someone pull fire guard at 0300, and wake up for the rest of the day at 0500.

The body does most of its recharging during cycles of REM sleep, the first of which starts after roughly 45 minutes of sleep and again in another 45 minutes. The rigors of training, however, rarely permit troops to achieve multiple cycles of REM, so the body tries to recharge as much as possible during those first 45 minutes. As this pattern of interrupted sleep becomes the norm, the body adapts and requires less time to get into REM cycles.

In essence, this pattern resembles polyphasic sleeping — which is a terrible thing to try without adding in a solid, 6-8 hour chunk of rest into the mix.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

Even if it’s in broad daylight on a pile of sharp rocks.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ken Scar)

The body actually can’t handle this type of sleep deprivation but, by sheer power of will (and a metric f*ck-load of caffeine), troops can shut off their body’s warning signs.

Troops’ bodies can endure this for a few days, typical of a combat mission while deployed, but a dearth of sleep can’t last for weeks. There will have to be a time when that troop hits their rack to get a full night’s rest.

And when they do, it’s some of the best sleep they’ve ever gotten.

popular

The awesome way ‘Jedi Knights’ helped win Desert Storm

When Gen. “Stormin'” Norman Schwarzkopf was preparing for a counter-offensive against Iraqi invaders in Kuwait, he was disappointed by the initial plans put forward by his staff. The plans looked, to him, like they might fail — or at least require many more lives, time, and lost equipment than any coalition nation would be happy losing.


Into the breach stepped the “Jedi Knights,” graduates of a new Army training program, the School of Advanced Military Studies, that emphasized creative thinking combined with a deep understanding of maneuver, logistics, and the art of war. These Jedis worked with other planners and commanders to make seemingly impossible maneuvers, like the vaunted “left hook” that crippled Iraqi defenses, possible.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

The SAMS graduates were like this — except for the mask and the lightsaber and the robes.

(Photo by Simon King)

The story started in September, 1990, when Schwarzkopf put out the call for new blood on his planning team. Four recent SAMS graduates were sent straight to him, arriving in theater within weeks of the call. When they were assembled, Schwarzkopf gave them a seemingly impossible task: Draft a new offensive war plan within two weeks while not telling anyone what they were doing or asking any questions that could expose their purpose. For the four top planners, led by Col. Joseph Purvis, this presented a series of challenges. They couldn’t tell any lower-level staff why they needed to know details, like exactly how many trucks a unit had or how quickly their slowest vehicles could move on sand up a hill.

Meanwhile, they were tasked with planning an offensive using a force comprised of over 30 nations’ militaries — all with different equipment and organizational structures — against 43 Iraqi Divisions dug into desert terrain.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

I mean, everyone was glad for the help, but the more tank types you bring, the more details you have to keep track of.

(Photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. H. H. Deffner)

If that wasn’t challenging enough, someone up their chain (many civilian and military leaders have claimed credit since the war) had envisioned a “Left Hook” attack that required an entire corps to secretly move through the massive desert with limited ability to resupply while facing a numerically superior force.

But this was the exact challenge that the year-long SAMS program prepared graduates for, infusing into them a deep understanding of strategic planning. Purvis’s team at Central Command reached out to other SAMS graduates at both American corps and every subordinate division they could find and set up a backdoor network for asking their detailed questions about equipment numbers and unit strengths.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

What emerged from the planning cell, working with troops at Third Army, VII Corps, and XVIII Airborne Corps, was a plan for forces that focused on breaking the Republican Guard units and other forces and had little emphasis on holding ground. ‘Envelope and destroy,’ not ‘clear and hold.’

In other words, rather than focusing on liberating Kuwait and destroying Iraqi forces in the process, the coalition would focus on breaking Iraqi forces and allow liberation to naturally follow. Coalition units wouldn’t need to stay in place and hold ground.

The SAMS graduates across the force worked with the four planners at top to create realistic timelines for movements, emphasizing speed but acknowledging environmental facts, like how an armored column needs time to re-form, refuel, and rearm for attacks after long drives through the desert.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

The “Left Hook” was a massive undertaking that needed to be accomplished with secrecy and finesse so the Iraqis would keep their attentions to the east until it was too late.

(Photo by U.S. Navy PHC D. W. Holmes II)

They recommended a large logistics buildup to support a “short duration, high tempo, high consumption ground offensive.”

Translation: If you throw everything at them in the first week, there won’t be anything left to fight against (or with) in the second.

Plans were drawn up that utilized most divisions for their specific strengths. Airborne forces moved throughout the battlefield, guarding supply lines and keeping isolated Iraqi forces cutoff. Air assault soldiers used their helicopters to strike deep into Iraqi territory and disrupt defenses.

VII Corps, commanded by Lt. Gen. Tommy Franks, was the largest armored force the U.S. had ever assembled and was the main effort for cracking the back of Iraqi defenses, crushing the Republican Guard and setting the conditions for liberation.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

Iraqi forces had the advantage of being on defense but, uh, still had a rough go of it.

(U.S. Department of Defense)

What followed was one of the most successful ground operations in the history of war. Both the coalition and the Iraqis mustered approximately 650,000 troops each for the combat in Desert Storm, but the better trained, better equipped, and better coordinated attacking force dismantled one of the world’s largest armored forces in just 100 hours.

(H/T to Kevin C.M. Benson, whose doctoral dissertation, “Educating the Army’s Jedi: The School of Advanced Military Studies and the Introduction of Operational Art into U.S. Army Doctrine,” provided a number of important details)

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids

The dandelion is the flower of the military child and when I learned this, as a military parent, I was disappointed. Why would they pick such an ugly flower (or is it a weed?) to represent military kids? When I looked at dandelions, I saw the problem they caused in my yard, but there is more to a dandelion’s story. When you look past the nuances in the yard you can see a bigger picture.

The next summer as we prepared for our PCS and as the dandelion flowers transitioned from flowers to puffs of seeds, I would watch them blow in the wind and the realization of why the dandelion was chosen to represent my military kids dawned on me. It suddenly made so much sense.


3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

Photo: Tessa Robinson

Dandelions are made up of three main parts: The flower (seeds), the stem and the roots. They are tough, can survive almost anywhere and are constantly moving and starting over. One summer I decided to tackle my dandelion problem head on. It was an endless battle, but through my struggle I learned so much about this tough flower. The new dandelions that had just arrived in the spring were easy to remove from the dirt. Their roots were barely beneath the surface, as if they hadn’t decided if they should stay or be ready to move on to a new patch of land. But when I encountered a dandelion that had made it through a few seasons, not only was the dandelion on its own a tougher challenge to remove, but its roots were deep into the ground making it even more difficult. Each one seemed to also have a group of friends surrounding it. The landscape around one dandelion was changed not only by making its mark in the yard, but also by adding to its journey by bringing others in along the way.

Military kids often have to form new friendships fast. Just as quickly as they find friends, they are uprooted from all that is familiar to them. They learn to say goodbye and continually start over. It is a part of the life they lead. As we try to move forward at each assignment and build our roots and networks, we can’t forget the friends we made. We talk about friends from different assignments or those who have moved on before us. And while the friendships were special for a season, we always knew they were only for a season. At least for right now.

A few weeks after arriving at our new assignment our two year old, who had never experienced a PCS, said he was ready to go back home. He had been on vacations before and that is what this move across the country felt like, but now he was ready to go back to what was normal and familiar. We tried to explain to our son that this was our new home until it was time to move again. I don’t think he understood all the implications and challenges, but as military kids seem to do, naturally, he let the words slide off his back and began to make his new life in our new home.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

Photo: Tessa Robinson

Dandelion seeds don’t have any say on where the wind will take them when it is time to venture on. And just like military kids who are along for the ride, they go where their parents and the military take them and find a way to be resilient and start all over again. They put down roots, create new friends, find routines and then a strong wind blows and they get to do it all over again.

And as painful as it is sometimes to watch them toss in the wind, when the dust settles and they find their footing and begin to bloom at each new location you see the beauty that a military life gives. It doesn’t change the pain of saying goodbye to friends. It doesn’t make the tears go away or the fear of being a new kid at school go away. Somehow, through it all they keep pushing forward. It is the only life they have known and despite their choice, they are stronger for it.

Could they have picked a more beautiful flower to represent military children? Of course, there were a lot of different options before landing on a weed. But if you compare a dandelion and a military child the similarities are uncanny. And now when I see dandelions in my yard, I smile and think of how beautiful, tough, and adaptable my children are.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

Photo: Tessa Robinson

MIGHTY GAMING

Watch this YouTuber take on the DoD Cyber Awareness Challenge

All members of the Department of Defense, including troops, must undertake an annual training to test their knowledge of cyber awareness. A few years back, they changed the test up just slightly to make it far less of a bore and more like a crappy 90s text-based video game.

Everyone freaking hates this training and, if it weren’t mandated at the Pentagon level, no one would willingly subject themselves to it. That is, of course, with the exception of YouTube’s biggest star, PewDiePie.


3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

He had only the trophies and Jeff to keep him company.

(PewDiePie)

Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, known by most as “PewDiePie,” grew in popularity through his video-game related content — particularly his “Let’s Play” format, through which fans could watch him play games as he delivered hilarious commentary.

His videos have actually created success for many smaller, indie games, particularly in the horror genre. He’d showcase otherwise-ignored games, give them a glowing review or overreact to intense moments, and his rabid fans would immediately buy said game, propelling it into the spotlight. He has since become the biggest YouTuber, currently sitting at 65 million subscribers.

Recently, he finally took on the dreaded Cyber Awareness Challenge — with commentary provided throughout, of course. Being the avid gamer that he is, the ‘Challenge’ proved trivial, but he actually took it far more seriously than anyone in the military does.

Unlike the god-awful test of old, the modern training awards “trophies” for getting everything correct, so PewDiePie gave it his all.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

That’s literally the exact same answer that everyone gives for that question. The dude stole a phone in the Pentagon… You better go grab that phone!

(PewDiePie)

As he slogged through, he coincidentally ripped the exact same moments of the training that troops mock relentlessly. The training wastes no time in offering pieces of painfully obvious guidelines. For example, the very first tip the government puts out there in promotingcyber awareness is “don’t look at pornography at work.”

He also ran into many of the overly stupid characters that populate the training, like Tina, the coworker that constantly tries to get you to download stuff, and Jeff, the IT manager that tells you just how proud of our work he is in the most monotone fashion possible — but for some odd reason only has a box of tissues on his desk?

Pewds, who never served in the U.S. military, was ill-prepared for many of the minute details — like taking your CAC/PIV out of the computer whenever you walk away — but actually did very well. He did, however, fallfor some of the traps that seem to violate common sense.At one point in the training, your phone is stolen and you’re given the opportunity to chase down the thief, and so he did. But the correct answer is to”alert the security POC.”

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

BZ, PewDiePie. You managed to sit through the same crap all troops do without clawing out your eyes. BZ.

(PewDiePie)

PewDiePie passed the DoD Cyber Awareness Challenge with flying colors and was given the Certificate of Completion that every member of the Department of Defense needs to turn in.

He says he’ll print it, which is exactly what you’re supposed to do. Instead of turning it in to his S-6 to reinstate his government computer permissions, I’m sure he’ll hang it on his wall or something.

To watch the same training that sucks the soul out of the military (complete with hilarious commentary), check out the video below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Thousands more died in the Nazi blitz due to ignored spy reports

Imagine you had some of the world’s best spymasters, espionage rings, and analysts in the world, that intellectuals around the world were enamored with you and wanted to feed you information, and that all of that intelligence was needed to protect your massive military as it faced off against an existential threat to your people, your government, and your nation.

Then imagine you ignored all of that information because, like, can you ever really trust a spy?


3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

Richard Sorge, one of the most successful (and dead) spies of World War II.

(Bundesarchiv)

That was the reality for many of the spies in World War II, especially Richard “Ika” Sorge, whose spy reports gave a detailed breakdown of the Nazi blitz preparing to smash into the Soviet Union. He watched his nation fail to marshal its troops to face the threat.

Sorge born in 1895 to a German engineer working in Baku, Azerbajin, then a part of the Russian Empire and a major oil-producing region. He served in World War I with the German military but fell in love with communist ideology. After the war, he began teaching Marxism and got a PhD in political theory.

He moved to Moscow in 1924 and was recruited into Soviet intelligence and sent to China, then Japan. Through a surprising bit of luck, Sorge was able to meet up with a German officer named Lt. Col. Eugen Ott in Japan and become a member of the Nazi party.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

Richard Sorge was wounded in World War I.

(Photo by Eva Tilden)

As the conflicts that would flare up into World War II grew, Sorge was a member of the Soviet intelligence as well as the Nazi party and was respected in China and Japan. Better, he had intelligence assets available in all four countries. He was also a famous womanizer. In all four of these countries, he had women who fed him intelligence information that they wouldn’t dare tell anyone else.

He used the intelligence he gathered in Tokyo to ingratiate himself with the Germans who wanted to keep an eye on their Pacific ally. The trust he built up through feeding Berlin information allowed him to gather a lot of intelligence about the Nazis that he could feed to his true masters in Moscow.

In 1938, Sorge got in even deeper with the Nazis when his German handler got sick and his old friend Ott, who had helped him join the Nazi party in the first place, asked him to take on the task of drafting the German Embassy’s dispatches to Berlin, filled with all sorts of great information to pass on to his Moscow superiors.

In 1940 and 1941, Sorge was able to tap into his networks in China and Germany to paint a detailed picture of one of the most important points in the war: The German blitz against the Soviet Union.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

A Soviet T-34 burns in the field during Operation Barbarossa.

(Bundesarchiv)

Sorge, reporting from Tokyo, achieved a shocking level of precision, detailing the size of the force and pinpointing the week that the Nazis would invade. He reported that the attack would take place sometime between June 20 and 25. Operation Barbarossa, as it was named, launched on June 22.

Between Sorge and a spy in China, Walther Stennes, Moscow received 42 reports, all of them brushed aside by Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin who thought he had the measure of Hitler.

When the Germans struck, they hit with almost 4 million soldiers who were reinforced over the following weeks and months by units from Italy, Croatia, Slovakia, and Hungary.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

German officers pose with a captured Soviet plane.

The Soviet military, ill-positioned and -prepared, saw entire units swallowed up, killed, and captured as the Nazis cutoff unprotected supply lines and overran barely fortified positions. 600,000 Soviet troops were killed, captured, or seriously wounded in the first week while 4,000 aircraft were destroyed, many of them still on the ground.

Germany penetrated the Soviet Union 200 miles deep along a nearly 1,800-mile front in only seven days.

Of course, the Soviets were able to push the German forces back, largely thanks to delusional planning on the German side. Germany had expected to conquer Moscow before true winter set in and failed to properly equip its troops for fighting in the frozen wasteland that Russia quickly became. Commanders, chasing the operation’s impossible timetable, failed to secure their gains and left their own lengthening supply lines too lightly guarded.

The harsh winter and Soviet counterattacks hit hard. Russia, with its superior resources and manpower, was able to bleed Germany for its treachery and bloodshed.

But all of this came too late for the thousands unnecessarily lost in those opening days, as well as for Richard Sorge. Sorge continued to send information back to Moscow, including one important report that was actually read and believed. He was able to determine with a high degree of certainty that Tokyo would not enter the European Theater unless it was clear that Russia had lost, preferably if Moscow fell.

The Red Army moved massive numbers of troops from their Easter Front to the west, hastening their success against Hitler.

Even more impressive, Sorge had a contact with the Japanese premier’s closest advisers, and he was able to feed them information convincing them to keep invading further south into China and towards European positions in Asia, relieving pressure from Soviet Forces on the Eastern Front.

But Sorge’s luck ran out. On Oct. 10, 1941, security police arrested two members of Sorge’s espionage ring, and one of them spilled all the beans. Sorge was arrested and eventually cracked, admitting to being a communist spy. He was executed on Nov. 7, 1944, refused even his dying cigarette.

MIGHTY MOVIES

If only every vet could get a ‘Queer Eye’ episode

I wish every veteran could get a makeover from the Queer Eye Fab Five — and before you reach for your beers and bullets, hear me out: the military teaches us to suck it up and prepares us for the worst conditions on earth…and that gruffness becomes the standard of living even after we get out.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Not for us. Not for our families.

Just ask Brandonn Mixon, U.S. Army veteran and co-founder of Veterans Community Project, an organization that provides housing and walk-in services for service members in order to end veteran homelessness. Mixon literally builds houses for homeless vets.

The Queer Eye team decided to return the favor, helping Mixon finish his own home, upgrade his professional look, and learn to process his service-connected Traumatic Brain Injury. In spite of all the good Mixon does for his brothers and sisters in arms, Mixon confided to Karamo Brown that he feels like he’s failing in life.

“Who told you that you’re failing?” Brown pressed.

“I did.”

He’s not the only vet who feels this way.


MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why soldiers and Marines get along so well

There’s a never-ending pissing contest between all of the branches of the U.S. Military but, at the end of the day, we’re all still one big, happy, dysfunctional family. We’ll always throw barbs at our brothers while we work with them because we expect the same jokes to be thrown our own way.

No two branches better demonstrate this love/hate relationship than the Marines and the soldiers. Yeah, the Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy and yes, the Air Force was once a part of the Army, but — sorry, sailors and airmen — it’s the soldiers and the Marines who inevitably become the closer friends in the end.


3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

Train. Go to the field. Deploy. Clean. That’s about it for both branches…

(U.S. Army)

1. Our missions are similar

Marines and soldiers often share the same FOBs, the same areas of operation, the same interpreters, and the same objectives. It’s bound to happen when both branches pride themselves on being Uncle Sam’s premier door kickers.

Hell, both branches even share the same joke about one another. You’ll hear both Marines and soldiers talk about how “we’re the first ones in and it’s up to those guys to clean up the mess!” And no matter who says it, there are historical examples of it being true.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

“Locker room talk” has nothing on “deployed smoke pit talk.”

(U.S. Marine Corps)

2. We get each other’s low-brow humor

When life gets rough, the only thing you can do is joke it off — the more stressful the situation, the raunchier the humor.

Don’t get me wrong. Sailors can tell some pretty dirty, messed-up jokes, but leave it to the Marines and the soldiers to find the line you shouldn’t cross… and then go a few clicks past it.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

There’s a certain finesse required to kicking in a door that only our brothers would find admirable.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

3. We share the same values

Can you shoot well? Can you max your PT test? Can you insult the boot/FNG to the point that they have to pull out a stress card? Can you and your boys drink an entire bar dry in a single evening? Awesome! You’re one of us.

We also both value our ability to speak with our fists over “soft skills,” like reasoning and negotiation. Don’t believe me? Just watch as either group shows up to a new FOB and there’s an open bunk in the back corner. Someone will get choked out and the winner will get a year in the best spot.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

And we both want to smack the ever living sh*t out of that one person who always jokes, “if it ain’t rainin’, we ain’t trainin’!”

(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Henry Chan)

4. We understand each other’s pain

Jokes about how much it sucks to be stuck in the motor pool until 2130 because the some butter-bar misread the serial number on a pair of NVGs are universal — because it happens all the friggin’ time to all of us.

But the empathy runs much deeper than that. Both groups also left in the field for a few weeks just to come back to the monotony of garrison life, where we spend most of our time cleaning things as we wait for the totally-going-to-happen-this-time visit from a general.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

Here’s to you, you glorious bastards!

(U.S. Army)

5. We both mock our brother’s branch viciously

It’s beautiful when Marines and soldiers sh*t-talk each other. You poke fun at the Navy, and sailors will get defensive. You mock the Air Force, and airmen will probably just agree with you, sucking the fun right out of the joke.

When soldiers and Marines go at it, you’d be surprised by how even the lowest blow is matched by another vicious, hilarious comment… that gets laughed off just as quickly.

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