NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Shrinking ice coverage in the Arctic has drawn the attention of NATO, Russia, and other countries to the high north, where the promise of more accessible waterways means potential military and commercial competition.

Since Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea and incursion in Ukraine, however, NATO members have been concerned about Moscow’s actions closer to home, and developments in recent weeks indicate the alliance is focusing on securing waterways around Europe, in the Baltic and Mediterranean seas and the eastern Atlantic — all areas that could be contested in a conflict with Russia.

Below, you can see what NATO is being warned about, and what the alliance is and isn’t doing to address it.


NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

A Russian Ilyushin Il-22 Bizon and a Su-27 Flanker, flying along the Baltic coast, May 14, 2019.

(UK Ministry of Defense)

The Baltic Sea, bordered by six NATO member countries and with Russia’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg, at its eastern end, has always been a busy area.

Encounters between NATO forces and Russian forces at sea in the Baltic and in the skies over Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, where NATO members carry out air patrols, have been on the rise since 2014. (The air policing mission has actually been going on since 2004.)

That encounters include an incident this summer in which a Russian Su-27 fighter escorting Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s plane turned into a NATO jet, forcing it away.

These tensions have come with military buildup as well.

Starting in 2016, NATO deployed some 4,500 troops in battle groups to the Baltics and Poland. Since the end of 2017, Sweden, which like Finland is not part of NATO, has sent new military forces to Gotland Island, which it had withdrawn from in 2005.

In Kaliningrad, an exclave that is home to Russia’s Baltic Fleet, Moscow has deployed new weaponry, including nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, and upgraded facilities, including what appear to be active nuclear-weapon storage bunkers.

Summer 2019, Russia also set up a helicopter base on Gogland, a small island between Finland and Estonia. Estonian officials played down the military significance, but the base is still seen as a Russian move to assert its power in the region and keep its neighbors guessing.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

The guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge participates in a photo exercise during exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) in the Baltic Sea, June 9, 2018.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Theron J. Godbold)

NATO countries along the Baltic have sought a more robust presence, and Germany has taken the lead.

Among NATO members, Germany, which has been criticized for the paucity of its defense spending and the quality of its armed forces, has taken the lead and tried to bring NATO and the EU closer together on Baltic security.

Vice Adm. Rainer Brinkmann, deputy chief of the German navy, said in September 2019 that Russia was the “one main challenge” in the Baltic and that Western partners “must take appropriate measures to cope” and “to prevent the Baltic Sea from being a ‘mare clausum,'” or “closed sea.”

Like its neighbors, Russia has legitimate reasons to be in the Baltic, but the number of actors there, each with their own national and commercial interests, make it a delicate situation, according to Christopher Skaluba, director or the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

“I think [the Russians] know that aggressive actions in the Baltic are likely to get the attention, in a way they probably didn’t want, of the NATO nations and Sweden and Finland.”

“The Baltic is pretty small place. There’s a lot of players. That piece of it gets really ugly really quick,” Skaluba told Business Insider in October 2019. “I think for lots of reasons, there are more incentives to avoid [conflict] than there are to … catalyze it.”

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

An F-35B fighter jet aboard the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, Oct. 13, 2019.

(LPhot Kyle Heller/UK Ministry of Defence)

A new battle of the Atlantic.

Russia’s navy is increasingly active in the North Atlantic, and though the level of that activity and the size of Russia’s navy don’t appear to reach that of the Cold War, it has set NATO on edge.

Growing tension between NATO members and Russia in the Atlantic has been called “the fourth battle of the Atlantic,” following World War I and II and the Cold War.

The UK in particular has struggled to keep up, calling on NATO allies to help track Russian subs thought to be lurking in and around British waters.

“In 2010, a Royal Navy ship was called on just once to respond to Russian navy ships approaching UK territorial waters. Last year we had to respond 33 times,” the UK’s then-defense minister, Gavin Williamson, said in May 2018.

The Royal Navy has built new aircraft carriers, equipping them with Britain’s first F-35s, and acquired US-made maritime patrol aircraft after scrapping its Nimrod patrol aircraft in 2010.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Royal Navy frigate HMS St Albans is currently the Nations on call warship for escorting foreign warships.

The UK and its allies in Europe want to keep “a critical choke point” between them open.

While any conflict in the Atlantic today is likely to look much different than previous battles, it’s likely to involve the English Channel and waters around it, especially the North Sea — at least that’s the concern of the five European countries who effectively revived the Cold War-era “Channel Committee” November 2019.

The pact signed on Nov. 7, 2019, by senior navy leaders from Germany, France, the UK, Belgium, and the Netherlands pledges to “harmonize” naval purchasing plans, potentially to include common procurement, according to Defense News.

But the countries also want to increase personnel exchanges and joint training and eventually recognize the professional qualifications of service members across the group.

“The Channel area is the front door to Central Europe and an important gate to the Baltic Sea,” the text of the pact says. “It is the critical choke point for the maritime traffic between the United Kingdom and continental Europe.”

The committee is also another military tether between mainland Europe and the UK, whose future relations with the rest of the continent remain in doubt amid the turmoil of Brexit.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

The Mediterranean has also become a venue for what the US and others see as an emerging great-power competition.

NATO members in southern Europe have been focused on immigration from the Middle East and North Africa and the threat of terrorism emanating from those regions.

But Russian naval forces are a constant presence in the Mediterranean, traveling to and from Moscow’s bases in the Black Sea and and its base in Tartus, Syria, which is Russia’s only such facility outside the territory of the former Soviet Union.

With the ongoing civil war in Syria, the eastern Mediterranean has also become a venue for military operations, with Russian subs demonstrating their new ability to strike targets on land with missiles.

The Russian presence around the Mediterranean and Black seas, Iran’s presence in Syria, and antagonistic intra-alliance relations with Turkey all present security challenges for NATO, according to a recent Atlantic Council report.

“As the south becomes more congested and contested, and great-power competition intensifies, NATO defense, deterrence, and containment mission in the south is increasingly urgent and more complex,” the report states.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

US Navy destroyer USS Carney fires it MK 45 5-inch lightweight gun at night while on patrol in the Mediterranean Sea, Sept. 11, 2016.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Weston Jones)

The lack of a strategy in the Mediterranean could have more serious consequences for the alliance as a whole, according to one deputy secretary general.

NATO has made a lot progress improving its defense and deterrence against Russia since 2014, “but it was more talk than action when it came to addressing problems in the south,” Alexander Vershbow, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council and coauthor of the report, said during its presentation October 2019.

“This theme figured prominently in my farewell address to the North Atlantic Council three years ago, and unfortunately the situation hasn’t changed all that much since then,” added Vershbow, who was deputy secretary general of NATO and US ambassador to Russia.

According to the report, “many of the conventional defense and deterrence challenges associated with NATO’s east are now reemerging in the south,” including enhanced Russian anti-access/area-denial capabilities, provocative actions in the Black Sea, and hybrid activity on the ground.

Though NATO has taken steps to remedy its shortcomings in the Mediterranean — such as setting up a “hub of the south” at Joint Forces Command in Naples, Italy — establishing a maritime-focused enhanced southern presence there could be a way to counter Russia and sharing the burden of doing so among members, Vershbow said.

“Russia is back with a vengeance in the eastern Mediterranean and in the Black Sea,” which adds a geopolitical dimension to NATO’s need to project stability and bolster defense and deterrence, Vershbow added.

“The lack of an effective southern strategy could put alliance solidarity at risk if the publics in the southern NATO countries see the alliance as failing to address what they consider to be their priority concerns,” Vershbow said. “It could undermine their willingness to share the burdens of collective defense against Russia, and everybody loses in that scenario.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Legendary pilot will be honored by all-female flyover

Nine female pilots at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia, say they feel privileged to be selected as volunteers to perform the “missing woman” formation Feb. 2, 2019, for an aviator who paved the way for their success: U.S. Navy Capt. Rosemary Mariner, who died last week at 65.

“We’re fortunate to be chosen,” said Cmdr. Leslie “Meat” Mintz, executive officer of Strike Fighter Squadron 213 (VFA-213). Mintz, a career weapons system officer on the Super Hornet, spoke to Military.com on Jan. 31, 2019, ahead of the flyover.


The tribute, announced by the Navy, will take place as Mariner receives a full military graveside service at New Loyston Cemetery in Maynardville, Tennessee.

The pilots have performed other flyovers, Mintz said. But “it’s certainly the first time I’ve done this for a female aviator. Everyone is truly humbled to be a part of it.”

Mariner was one of the first eight women selected to fly military aircraft in 1973, according to her obituary. A year later, she became the Navy’s first female jet pilot, flying the A-4E/L Skyhawk and the A-7E Corsair II. She died Jan. 24, 2019, after a years-long battle with cancer, the service said.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Rosemary Mariner is shown in the 1990s when she was commanding officer of a squadron on the West Coast.

(U.S. Navy photo)

She was also the first female military aviator to command an operational air squadron, and during Operation Desert Storm, commanded Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 34 (VAQ-34), the Navy said.

Among other achievements, she executed 17 arrested carrier landings in her career, and, as an advocate for the pilot community, helped pave the way for those who came after. Mariner retired in 1997.

“She shaped generations of people with that confidence in them and helping them find their path,” said Katherine Sharp Landdeck.

Landdeck, an expert on the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II (WASPs) and a professor at Texas Woman’s University, told NBC News on Thursday she saw her friend Mariner as a brave “and badass” pilot.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Lt. Emily Rixey, left, Lt. Amanda Lee, middle, and Lt. Kelly Harris, right, talk to each other in a hangar bay on Naval Station Oceana.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Raymond Maddocks)

“Landing on carriers? That’s pretty badass. You’re not just landing a jet. You’re landing a jet on a runway that’s rising up and down in the seas, and I think, as a woman doing it, you’ve got everybody on deck watching. Very cool under pressure,” Landdeck said in the NBC News interview.

Mintz will be flying alongside Cmdr. Stacy Uttecht, commander of Strike Fighter Squadron 32 (VFA-32); Lt. Cmdr. Paige Blok, VFA-32; Lt. Cmdr. Danielle Thiriot, VFA-106; Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Hesling, NAS Oceana; Lt. Christy Talisse, VFA-211; Lt. Amanda Lee, VFA-81; Lt. Kelly Harris, VFA-213; and Lt. Emily Rixey, Strike Fighter Weapons School Atlantic.

On Feb. 2, 2019, like any mission, the women will brief the plan before four F/A-18F Super Hornets and a single F/A-18 E-model launch from Oceana, roughly 400 miles from Mariner’s burial site. One of the jets will act as a backup in case something in the flight plan gets reshuffled, Mintz said.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Female Aviators, Flight Officers, and aircraft maintainers pose for a group photograph.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Raymond Maddocks)

The jets will hold until the signal is given for the missing formation “so that the timing is perfect,” she said.

Uttecht will lead the formation. Mintz will be backseat in a jet on the flank as Thiriot pulls up thousands of feet into the sky.

The crew appreciates “the outpouring support, the text messages, the Facebook messages, for what we’re doing,” Mintz said.

“It’s truly an honor to do this … for Capt. Mariner. I’ve been in this business for 19 years. I really haven’t thought about male vs. female gender issues because it’s strictly merit-based. ‘Can you fly? Can you perform?’ [but] really I owe that to her,” she said.

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

MIGHTY MONEY

Market takes a dive on news of Trump victory

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe
The DOW took a hit after Trump was declared the President-Elect, a slump that was felt around the world.


The stock market took a massive dive just before and moments after Donald Trump was declared the President-Elect around 0230 today.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that there was a moment of panic felt around the world as countries like Australia, Mexico, and Japan had market slumps in response to voting results showing Trump’s gradual climb.

Fortune reported that the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped almost 650 points during after hour trading; SP 500 was down 4 percent, the Nikkei was down 5 percent, and the Mexican peso had plummeted almost 12 percent. The drop in the Mexican peso was the largest the currency has seen in over 20 years.

The Economist reports that “vague and erratic” statements from Trump in regards to trade and foreign policy have the rest of the world worried.

This might motivate some service members and veterans to pull their funds out of Thrift Savings Plans, 401(k)s, and other investment tools. Before they do that, take note that the dive was temporary and seems to be recovering. According to The Guardian, U.S. yields (interest rates) on U.S. debt is on the rise.

That bounce, according to The Guardian, is due in part to Trump’s acceptance speech.

Alex Edwards of UKForex wrote “[Trump’s] appeasing tone has definitely helped” the market response.

Jeremy Cook of World First writes “It’s because he sounded more presidential.”

That said, Paul Krugman from the New York Times writes “If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never.”

So how does this impact your investment and retirement dollars?

Most experts would say don’t panic just yet. Right now, it’s still unclear how exactly Trump’s election will impact the U.S. and global economies in the long run. It would be premature to pull funds out of the TSP and other market investments, but should you decide to do that, consult a financial advisor.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Western Union helped the US enter World War I

At the height of World War I, British intelligence provided the United States with a secret telegram sent from German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmerman to the government of Mexico. The telegram promised the Mexicans a military alliance if the United States entered the war against Germany. The Germans promised Mexico it would help them recover the American territories of Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico it lost in the Mexican-American War.

The interception of the telegram was one of the earliest big wins for signals intelligence. Maybe the Kaiser shouldn’t have sent it via Western Union.


NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

“Hopefully no one breaks this code STOP It would mean we lose the war STOP We’re paying by the word STOP”

The note from Zimmerman was sent to the German ambassador to Mexico, Heinrich von Eckardt, letting him know that the German high command intended to resume its policy of unrestricted submarine warfare in the coming days. This strategy, while effective at keeping the British Isles from getting its necessary supplies also had the adverse effect of killing innocent civilians from neutral countries – countries like the United States.

On May 7, 1915, this policy resulted in the sinking of the luxury liner RMS Lusitania, killing some 1,128 people. And 128 of those people were American civilians bound for England. The incident was illegal under international law and sparked widespread anti-German outrage in the U.S. You know relations are strained when Americans rename their food to sound less German.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

“Sauerkraut” is still “Liberty Cabbage” to me.

The note read:

We intend to begin on the first of February unrestricted submarine warfare. We shall endeavor in spite of this to keep the United States of America neutral. In the event of this not succeeding, we make Mexico a proposal of alliance on the following basis: make war together, make peace together, generous financial support and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The settlement in detail is left to you. You will inform the President of the above most secretly as soon as the outbreak of war with the United States of America is certain, and add the suggestion that he should, on his own initiative, invite Japan to immediate adherence and at the same time mediate between Japan and ourselves. Please call the President’s attention to the fact that the ruthless employment of our submarines now offers the prospect of compelling England in a few months to make peace.
Signed, ZIMMERMANN

This wasn’t even the first time the Germans tried to incite the Mexicans against the U.S. There were at least five other occasions when the German Empire funded or assisted efforts to create tensions in North America. President Wilson even had to send U.S. troops to occupy Veracruz during his administration. What the Germans didn’t take into account was the fact that Mexico was already in the middle of its own civil war, Mexico didn’t stand a chance against the U.S., even then, there was already a peace agreement in place, and Mexico knew Germany couldn’t actually support it in any meaningful way.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

“Mexico: We are with you. But not like… there. We have to be here. But good luck in your war with the US.”

The British sent the telegram to the U.S. Ambassador to Britain, who eventually got it to President Wilson. Wilson promptly gave it to the American media. When delivered to the American people, who were already anti-Mexican and anti-German, the result was explosive. To make matters worse, Zimmerman admitted the telegram was genuine in a speech to the Reichstag, and the Germans soon sunk two American merchant ships with u-boats. Three months later, in the face of American public opinion, Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

There’s a race going on for fastest military helicopter

Right now, the fastest military helicopter in the world is the U.S. Army’s Chinook, but the Army is looking at a new family of vertical lift helicopters, and both top contenders are much faster than the Chinook. But the U.S. isn’t the only major power looking for new helicopters, and Russia claims that its offering will be the fastest in the world.


NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Sikorsky’s X2 demonstrator flew for years, allowing company engineers to gain important experience now used on the SB-1 Defiant, a prototype for the Army, pictured above.

(Robert Sullivan)

Whoever wins will be well positioned to sell their hardware to allied militaries, including those countries that fall into both countries’ spheres of influence, like India or the Philippines.

America’s top contenders are the SB-1 Defiant from Sikorsky and the V-280 Valor. The SB-1 Defiant is part of a fairly new breed; the compound helicopter, which features a pusher propeller at the back of the bird instead of a normal tail rotor. The V-280 Valor, while impressive and capable of extreme speed (about 70 percent faster than a Chinook), is actually a tiltrotor, so we’re going to largely ignore it for the rest of this discussion.

So, on the U.S. side, that leaves the SB-1 Defiant and its projected speed of 287 mph, about 50 percent faster than the Chinook. To achieve this high rate, the Defiant will send up to 90 percent of its engine power to that pusher propeller at the back of the aircraft. Most helicopters generate forward movement by tilting their main rotor blades, requiring a lot of fuel and power for relatively little forward flight power. The Defiant would give buyers a huge advantage in speed and range.

But Russia, through the state-owned Rostec company, wants in on the action, too, but their program is nowhere near as far along as Sikorsky. They announced in February, 2018, that they would be creating an experimental helicopter that is supposed to debut in and conduct its first flight in 2019.

They have not released a name or design, but there are some recent hints as to how they might create a helicopter that could fly over 200 mph, enough to beat the Chinook.

First, in March, 2018, Rostec’s United Engine-building Corporation announced that it had started work on a next-generation engine for helicopters that it hoped to make 15 percent lighter than comparable engines. If Boeing were able to trim the weight of the Chinook’s engines by 15 percent, that would save the aircraft 250 pounds — that’s something, but far from enough to surpass the Defiant or Valor in a race.

But Rostec found another way to potentially increase the available power and longevity of engines. UEC says their new granular nickel alloy, VV725, represents a shift in materials science. Currently, most aircraft use 0.04 percent carbon or less because lots of carbon in the alloy makes it strong, but brittle.

VV725 contains 0.12 percent carbon; three times as much as standard offerings. Rostec and UEC think they’ve avoided the brittle problem by adding other materials, like hafnium and tantalum. If UEC’s numbers are right, the long-term strength of the aircraft will be raised 8 percent.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

A Ka-52, a derivative of the Ka-50 attack helicopter, flies at Torzhok Air Base in Russia. The helicopter has stacked rotor blades like the Sikorsky SB-1 Defiant, but no pusher propeller like the one that makes the Sikorsky Raider so fast.

(Airliners.net, Alex Beltyukov, CC BY-SA 3.0)

And, with the ability to increase engine strength while also reducing weight, they might have a chance at reaching 250 mph or faster. The Ka-50 has a maximum speed in level flight of 196 mph, and it has a similar main rotor blade to the SB-1 Defiant but no pusher propeller. Add the propeller with the upgraded engine, and that thing might outrun the Chinook.

But the SB-1 Defiant is scheduled to fly within weeks or months and could be adopted in the 2030s. Typically, it takes around 15 years from first flight to an aircraft entering service, military helicopters included. Russia’s Ka-50 first flew in 1982 but didn’t reach combat units until 1995. But the design of the Ka-50 began in early 1977. So, 18 years from original design work to the finished product.

That means that Russia’s offering will likely reach the market well after the SB-1 Defiant, so it needs to be able to outrun the Defiant — not the Chinook — to take the crown as the world’s fastest military helicopter. The Defiant is expected to hit 287 mph, largely thanks to Sikorsky’s more than 10 years of experience with the X2 Demonstrator, a push propeller aircraft that first flew in 2008.

Can Rostec, whose fastest helicopter is currently the Mi-35M with a top speed of about 208 mph, close the gap?

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

A Russian Mil Mi-35M, the country’s fastest military helicopter.

(Anna Zvereva, CC BY-SA 2.0)

An important note is that the Mi-35M was originally created by the company Mil, the firm which made nearly all Soviet-era Russian helicopters. Not all of that company’s expertise survived its acquisition by Rostec.

So, it’s not impossible. Russia has built great helicopters in the past. But Russia is suffering from serious funding problems. And their most recent weapons acquisition programs were unimpressive. The much-hyped Su-57 created buyer’s remorse in India, and that country bailed on buying the jet, mostly because it was underpowered.

And Russia’s premier new tank, the T-14 Armata, might or might not be as capable as advertised, but Russia won’t buy it right now because they can’t afford it.

So, a new, revolutionary helicopter will be a big stretch, but not impossible. And with the high speed of the Ka-50, it’s easy to imagine Russia ripping off the SB-1 Defiant’s push propeller, provided they can keep their airframe stable with all that extra propulsion from the rear. The final outcome in the race will likely be apparent by the end of 2019 or 2020, but neither helicopter will be fielded by a military until 2030, if ever. So, you know, stay tuned.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How one Navy spouse will literally walk through her husband’s next deployment

In the military space, there are all kinds of strength, variations of independence and endless examples of courage. Jennifer Mabus, 2018 Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) thru-hiker and new Navy spouse is planning to literally walk away from it all (again) with her husband’s next deployment.

In the spring of 2018, Mabus and her now-husband Owen began a long-distance friendship at quite possibly the most inopportune time in each’s lives. Mabus was setting out to hike the PCT and Owen, a Navy diver, was gearing up for deployment. With one quick chance to see each other on a layover work trip, the two had just one shot at meeting face to face before both set out.


PCT 2018 Day 1 | The Day I Poured Out My Dad’s Booze

youtu.be

“We communicated every chance we got the entire time I was on trail and he was deployed, but there was never any tension. We were both doing our things and clearly understood that from the beginning,” says Mabus, who credits their communication and mutual respect aiding to the love within their story.

Mabus, a mechanical engineer, made the cross country move to Virginia this January, taking her first steps into life as a military spouse. “My dad was a Ranger. I had some idea about what this life would be like, but it wasn’t what I imagined being ideal for myself to be honest.”

“Coming into military spouse life, it is the partner who undergoes major changes. It’s a challenge to face the potential of losing some of your identity, to be the one who is left behind,” says Mabus hesitantly in reflection of still searching for her niche now.

Luckily for Mabus, adaptation was a skill she honed while on trail. “Humans can adapt to anything. On trail, no matter how great your plan was, the likelihood was that it would be altered or changed. That’s a lot like military spouse life I’m finding out.”

Couples bring all sorts of skills and expectations into marriage, but for these two, the mutual understanding of accomplishing huge feats (deployment and thru-hiking) simultaneously or otherwise, was a goal they wouldn’t lose sight of. Pre-pandemic, Mabus had coordinated a thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) at the same time Owen was to deploy.

“He knows how much life this brings to my life. Being married now, we had to check-in emotionally because there would be a chance, I may not be home when he gets back from deployment,” she says nervously.

Dependents worldwide understand the monumental pressure of holding down the fort when service members are gone. While certainly unique, Mabus’ plan to pursue her own hard thing might not be so shocking to comprehend after hearing just a few of her reflections of her time on trail.

“There’s a deep disconnect from life’s stressors and a newfound connection to yourself that happens. This isn’t a weekend getaway, it’s dedicating every day to walking forward with extreme intention,” a feeling she has yet to find elsewhere.

“I’ve never been prouder of myself, of my body, or the trust I had in what I could do,” she said.

When asked about keeping up with communication expectations now as a married couple Mabus shared, “Last time, I sent postcards from each town I reached. We both left messages, videos and picked up conversations when each had the chance. The understanding that each of us might be out of touch for a few days or delayed in responding is important.”

Managing expectations for military couples is an obstacle we all tackle in ways unique to our relationship. Missing “scheduled” calls and experiencing what feels like radio silence for days on end is taxing. Imagining deployment when both parties not only accept, but expect to both give and receive these lags in communication has to eliminate byproducts like resentment, fear or even anger.

The unexpected mix of experiences and perspectives that live within the military spouse community is everything that keeps the group (military spouses) amazing. Mabus’ outlook, strength and unique plan will undoubtedly shake up a few mindsets, and for that we’re giving her the biggest high five we can. We’ll be catching up with her Youtube trail diary (from 2018) and low-key stalking her Instagram for her next adventure.

https://www.instagram.com/thewhimsicalwoman/

MIGHTY TRENDING

Wounded veteran finds new purpose with Jaguars

On his second deployment to Afghanistan, then-Sgt. Sean Karpf led his squad along a narrow pathway between two streambeds in Kandahar.

Up ahead, about 300 meters, a group of suspicious men scrambled on the rooftop of a building. He and his squad moved in closer to pull security.

As he walked on the pathway, which had been previously cleared, his left boot stepped on a pressure plate. A buried bomb exploded.


In a daze, Krapf remembered looking down at the cloud of smoke. He had ringing in his ears; he could taste the chemicals from the bomb.

“It was just chaos,” he recalled of the June 2012 incident. “I could hear people yelling my name, but I was still stunned at that point and I really did not know what was going on.”

Today, Karpf, 33, wears a prosthetic on his left leg that was later amputated below the knee.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Former Sgt. Sean Karpf, who lost his lower left leg after he stepped on a pressure plate that detonated a buried bomb in Afghanistan, now works as a strength and conditioning associate for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

(Courtesy photo)

He can often be seen in the weight room or on the practice field for the Jacksonville Jaguars — his favorite NFL team since he was 10 when they began to play in his hometown.

In his first year as a full-time strength and conditioning associate for the team, Karpf has found a new purpose in life that drives him.

Helping players get ready for each weekly battle on the gridiron against opposing teams reminds Karpf of his days as an Army sergeant.

“I love the preparation that goes into the games,” he said in a phone interview Dec. 18, 2018. “It brings me back to military training.”

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Former Sgt. Sean Karpf was a squad leader with the 82nd Airborne Division.

(Courtesy photo)

Recovery

Once the smoke cleared, the squad leader with the 82nd Airborne Division saw his injured leg and began to push himself out of the crater the bomb had left.

A medic put a tourniquet on him and he was placed onto a litter. As a medevac helicopter began to land, the Taliban insurgents fired a machine gun toward it and it lifted back up.

A firefight ensued and Karpf, who was still calling out orders to his squad, said an Army attack helicopter swooped in to make a few gun runs so the other helicopter could pick him up.

Karpf, who had played linebacker for a semipro football team in North Carolina, was about to face the biggest test in his life.

He spent over a year at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and had more than 20 surgeries.

The following year, he returned to sports. He competed in several swimming and track and field events in the Warrior Games and took home four gold medals.

“When I was working with the physical therapist, I made sure I got in extra work,” he said. “I had that goal in mind and I think it helped with my recovery.”

He also received a presidential send-off at the White House for a four-day bicycle ride that he and other wounded warriors participated in.

To the sergeant’s surprise, then-President Barack Obama spoke of his recovery and training in his speech.

“I didn’t even know that he was going to talk about me,” Karpf said, laughing. “I was sitting there on the bike and he mentioned my name and told the crowd I was competing in Warrior Games. I was like, wow, that was pretty cool.”

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Former Sgt. Sean Karpf, left, who lost his lower left leg after he stepped on a pressure plate that detonated a buried bomb in Afghanistan, now works as a strength and conditioning associate for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

(Courtesy photo)

Dream job

Once he left the Army after almost six years, Karpf moved back to Jacksonville. No longer in uniform, depression began to set in and he stopped staying active.

He then started a program through a nonprofit that allowed him to take college courses and do an internship in the local community. He chose his favorite sports team.

At first, he did various office jobs for the Jaguars but then gravitated toward the weight room to help out players.

When his brief internship ended, the father of two was asked to come back to intern for the entire season in 2017.

Following the Jaguars loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game, Karpf came in for his last time with the team to clean out his locker.

Karpf was asked to report to Tom Coughlin, a two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach who now serves as the Jaguars’ executive vice president of football operations.

Coughlin decided to take on the former soldier full time.

“I thought this would be a heck of a guy to hire for our strength and conditioning program because of what he brings to the table,” Coughlin said in a recent ESPN video about Karpf. “And also for our players to maybe get to know a young man who had made those kind of sacrifices for his country.”

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Former Sgt. Sean Karpf, a strength and conditioning associate for the Jacksonville Jaguars, gave U.S. flags encased in shadow boxes to players who support the local community, including veterans and their families.

(Photo by Alex Brooks)

Being able to be around the game he loves has been therapeutic for Karpf, who has just started on a master’s degree in injury prevention.

“As far as with the [post-traumatic stress disorder], it’s made it easier,” he said.

He also shares a special bond with those on the team, a similar connection he once had with his fellow soldiers.

“You can see a brotherhood, but it’s not as prevalent as in the military,” he said. “But it’s still that team atmosphere and everybody coming together with that same goal in mind.”

As he was preparing to leave after last season’s final game, he gave folded U.S. flags encased in shadow boxes to players who volunteer in the community, some of those efforts helping veterans and their families.

“I did that before I realized that I was coming back,” Karpf said. “It was my way of saying thank you for everything you do in the community.”

As an honor to Karpf, some players even kept the flags on display in their lockers.

“It’s pretty cool going through the locker room and seeing the flags,” he said. “It means a lot to me.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

US snipers train with ally to sharpen shooting skills

The art of sniping is more than just proper cover, concealment and sight alignment; it demands vigilant situational awareness, flawless timing and solid arithmetic skills.

U.S. soldiers had a five-day Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) with Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers at a base outside of Amman, Jordan, in October 2019. The Military Engagement Team-Jordan (MET-J), 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard; in collaboration with Jordan Operational Engagement Program (JOEP) soldiers; 1st Squadron, 102nd Cavalry Regiment, 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 42nd Infantry Division, New Jersey National Guard.


“As a group, we [MET-J, JOEP] were able to collaborate and come up with a good exchange,” said U.S. Army Master Sgt. Johnny Vidrio, with MET-J, 158th MEB, AZANG, “The sniper field is a perishable skill so you have to use it a lot to retain it. We are working with the JAF to keep our exchanges going.”

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

A U.S. Army soldier, with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, adjusts the scope of a Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers’ rifle during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)

Snipers are known for their specialization in shooting targets from long-range distances with a modified weapon, as well as their reconnaissance abilities. Vidrio, who served as the Sniper SMEE team lead, has more than 20 years’ experience with various weapons systems through his civilian and military occupations.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

A U.S. Army Soldier, with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, discusses a mathematical equation with Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) Soldiers during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)

Vidrio explained how the MET-J shared information on how the U.S. Army executes sniper tasks and in turn, the Jordanians shared their way of doing the same task. The exchange not only reviewed basic sniper skills but incorporated different approaches to instruct the material to other soldiers. The two nations were able to work through the Jordanians’ Basic Sniper Manuel which provided a platform for the Jordanian snipers to hone their basic skills and enhance their teaching techniques.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

A rifle faces downrange during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange between Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, and the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)

“The more you teach with a group, the more comfortable you will feel teaching by yourself,” explained Vidrio, “That’s what we were doing, helping them feel comfortable about teaching.”

MET-J facilitates and conducts military-to-military engagements with regional partners within the U.S. Army Central area of responsibility in order to build military partner capability and capacity, enhance interoperability and build relationships.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

A Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) sniper looks downrange through a tactical monocular during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)

Areas covered during the Sniper SMEE included setting up a comfortable firing position, weapons maintenance, correcting malfunctions, zeroing and determining wind values, to name a few. The snipers discussed how half value, full value, tail and headwinds affect the drift of a bullet. They examined techniques to find the directional movement of wind, such as observing the path of dust, smoke, trash or mirage waves, that are near an intended target. Target range estimation was calculated through a mathematical equation, but each nation used a different formula.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers practice setting up firing positions during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)

“They [JAF] have a different calculation for range estimation, this was new to American snipers,” said Vidrio “We learned a whole new way of estimating distance and ranges.”

SMEEs allow open information flow and an opportunity for coalition soldiers to work together, learn and grow from one another, which is beneficial to both counties. The United States is committed to the security of Jordan and to partnering closely with the JAF to meet common security challenges.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers hold certificates of appreciation given to them by U.S. Army Soldiers after the completion of a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)

One soldier who expressed favor in ongoing SMEEs with U.S. Army was JAF Sgt. 1st Class Ghareeb Alaomary, sniper instructor and logistics coordinator. He too specifically found value in the transfer of knowledge with the arithmetical equation calculations for target distance and range. “The mathematic equation formulas given [by the U.S.] were new information for us,” explained Alaomary, “It added to their [JAF snipers] knowledge to help make more accurate calculations.”

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers pose for a photo after the completion of a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at Joint Training Center-Jordan in October 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)

According to Alaomary, the exchange between the two countries was engaging and an abundance of wisdom was shared, which resulted in a successful exchange. They plan to take the knowledge gained through the Sniper SMEE back to their individual units to cross-train with their comrades.

“I would like to give a special thanks for the effort you [U.S. Army] have dedicated to the students and the valuable information you have provided,” said Alaomary.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

A U.S. Army Soldier, with 1st Squadron, 102nd Cavalry Regiment, 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 42nd Infantry Division, New Jersey National Guard, looks downrange through a tactical monocular during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange between the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) and Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)

The U.S. military has a long-standing relationship with Jordan to support our mutual objectives by providing military assistance to the JAF consistent with our national interests. Our people and governments have a historic, unbreakable, strategic relationship that spans decades and different administrations. Jordan is not only one of the United States’ closest allies in the region but in the world as a whole. This isn’t going to change.

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

Articles

94 unknown US WWII vets are being exhumed and possibly identified

Military and Veterans Affairs officials are digging up the remains of 94 unidentified Marines and sailors killed on a remote atoll in the Pacific during one of World War II’s bloodiest battles.


The servicemen were killed in the Battle of Tarawa in 1943 and buried as unknowns at a national cemetery in Honolulu after the war.

Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency spokeswoman Maj. Natasha Waggoner said March 28 advances in DNA technology have increased the probability of identifying the unknowns.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe
U.S. Marines storm the beach at Tarawa Atoll, November 1943. (U.S. Archives)

More than 990 U.S. Marines and 30 U.S. sailors were killed in the three-day battle. About 550 are still unidentified, including some still in Tarawa, Waggoner said.

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific spokesman Gene Maestas said the disinterments began in October. The cemetery, which is also known as Punchbowl, expects to transfer the last eight servicemen to the military next Monday.

The exhumations come two years after the Pentagon announced new criteria for exhuming remains from military cemeteries for identification.

Shortly after, it dug up from Punchbowl cemetery the remains of nearly 400 unknowns from the USS Oklahoma who were killed in the 1941 Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. The work to identify them is expected to take about five years.

Waggoner said her agency doesn’t have an estimate for how long it will take to identify the Tarawa remains. That’s because some of the skeletons from Punchbowl are incomplete and parts of some bodies are still in Tarawa.

The agency recently received Pentagon approval to exhume some 35 Punchbowl graves believed to hold the unidentified remains of servicemen from the USS West Virginia, which was also hit in the Pearl Harbor attack.

The agency will schedule these disinterments after it gets a permit from the state of Hawaii, she said.

Tarawa, which is some 2,300 miles (3,700 kilometers) southwest of Honolulu, is today part of the Republic of Kiribati.

During the U.S. amphibious assault on Tarawa 74 years ago, Japanese machine gun fire killed scores of Marines when their boats got stuck on the reef at low tide. Americans who made it to the beach faced brutal hand-to-hand combat.

Only 17 of the 3,500 Japanese troops survived. Of 1,200 Korean slave laborers on the island, just 129 lived.

The U.S. quickly buried the thousands of dead. But these graves were soon disturbed as the Navy had to quickly build an airstrip to continue their push west toward Japan.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New T-7A Red Hawk honors Tuskegee Airmen

The Air Force’s all-new advanced trainer aircraft, the T-X, has officially been named the T-7A Red Hawk.

Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan made the announcement during his speech at the 2019 Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Sept. 16, 2019.

Donovan was joined on stage by one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, Col. Charles McGee, who flew more than 400 combat missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Also seated in the audience were members of the East Coast Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen.

After a short video highlighting the aircraft’s lineage, Donovan said, “ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the newest Red Tail!” A drape was then lifted to reveal a quarter-scale model of a T-7A Red Hawk painted in a distinct, red-tailed color scheme.


“The name Red Hawk honors the legacy of Tuskegee Airmen and pays homage to their signature red-tailed aircraft from World War II,” Donovan said. “The name is also a tribute to the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, an American fighter aircraft that first flew in 1938 and was flown by the 99th Fighter Squadron, the U.S. Army Air Forces’ first African American fighter squadron.”

Boeing T-X Becomes T-7A Red Hawk

www.youtube.com

The Tuskegee Airmen subsequently painted their Republic P-47 Thunderbolts and North American P-51 Mustangs with a red-tailed paint scheme.

The T-7A Red Hawk, manufactured by Boeing, introduces capabilities that prepare pilots for fifth generation fighters, including high-G environment, information and sensor management, high angle of attack flight characteristics, night operations and transferable air-to-air and air-to-ground skills.

“The T-7A will be the staple of a new generation of aircraft,” Donovan said. “The Red Hawk offers advanced capabilities for training tomorrow’s pilots on data links, simulated radar, smart weapons, defensive management systems, as well as synthetic training capabilities.”

Along with updated technology and performance capabilities, the T-7A will be accompanied by enhanced simulators and the ability to update system software faster and more seamlessly. The plane was also designed with maintainers in mind by utilizing easy-to-reach and open access panels.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Two Boeing T-X trainers.

The T-7A features twin tails, slats and big leading-edge root extensions that provide deft handling at low speeds, allowing it to fly in a way that better approximates real world demands and is specifically designed to prepare pilots for fifth-generation aircraft. The aircraft’s single engine generates nearly three times more thrust than the dual engines of the T-38C Talon which it is replacing.

“The distance between the T-38 and an F-35 is night and day,” said Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein. “But with the T-7A the distance is much, much smaller, and that’s important because it means the pilots trained on it will be that much better, that much faster at a time when we must be able to train to the speed of the threat.”

A .2 billion contract awarded to Boeing in September 2018 calls for 351 T-7A aircraft, 46 simulators and associated ground equipment to be delivered and installed, replacing Air Education and Training Command’s 57-year-old fleet of T-38C Talons.

The first T-7A aircraft and simulators are scheduled to arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, in 2023. All undergraduate pilot training bases will eventually transition from the T-38C to the T-7A. Those bases include Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi; Laughlin AFB and Sheppard AFB, Texas; and Vance AFB, Oklahoma.

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

What it’s like living off the grid during Covid-19

Living off the grid can feel like a dream. The water is fresh, the grass is green; hard work is rewarding, and mistakes are taken in stride. As the threat of Covid-19 has pushed urban families inside, and made crowded suburbs feel even more crowded, the idea of living on the side of a mountain in the middle of nowhere has taken on new appeal.

My family and I lived off-grid for years, drawing water from a mountain spring, power from the sun, and wood from the forest for heat. Today, our daughter is eight, and we live a little closer to town. We still take in plenty of the raw beauty of the mountain, but we’ve found living off the grid to be a different kind of social distancing. As our daughter aged, we wanted her to have rich friendships, and the long drives became taxing. This is something almost no one thinks about, and we’ve seen it happen to many urban transplants like us, young men and women who forged into the mountains, made love, had kids, then realized they were alone.


Fortunately, we still live in New Mexico, where even the towns are largely populated with wildness. Within a short walk from our door is a protected wilderness with rivers, canyons, forests, and geothermal hot springs. We spend a great deal of time outside, and I even teach a tiny school – an independent group of 1st through 3rd graders – within this wilderness zone. The land is an immense part of our life and education.

When news of the pandemic first struck, and public schools were shut down, many of us were slow to appreciate the impact it would have on rural communities like ours. But the stress quickly caught up with us. As of this writing, we have 31 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in our county and zero deaths. New Mexico as a whole has been a national cool spot, but the impacts of the disease are visible everywhere – from the obvious, like masks and protocols in the grocery store, to the curious, like the out of state cars and vans camped along the river. The impact on our health has been minimal, but the impact on our well-being — and that of our children — has been palpable.

What is it like for families living off the grid in other communities? I recently reached out to my network of off-grid parents across the U.S. to ask how the pandemic is affecting them. This is what life is like for them during Covid-19.

We’re Grateful for a Simple Life

“A year before the world changed, we piled our family of five into an RV seeking a simpler life. We eventually settled on six acres in rural New Hampshire — a decision I am profoundly grateful for every day. Once it became apparent that the pandemic would change our lives for the near future, it was easy to make the most of our situation. My husband cut a trail through our wooded lot for nature hikes. It provides ample opportunities for educating our three little adventure seekers. And since we were already homeschooling our eldest before the schools were closed, we were prepared. We’re learning to grow vegetables. Next come the chickens. Every time I run on our dirt road – without a soul in sight – I thank the canopy of trees for cleaning our air and keeping us healthy.”

Katherine, 40, New Hampshire

Forest Kindergarten Made a Difference

“I started a forest kindergarten four years ago, after 25 years in the classroom. I wanted a shift in my life, and also felt the need to reintroduce children to the simple classroom of nature. But when the pandemic hit, it put everything in a new light. The kids and I have been stuck in rain and snow many times, and we have learned to help each other in all manner of circumstances. The children learned how to use what we had, not to wish for what we did not. During the pandemic, the children stayed home, and I sent parents activities, recorded songs and stories.

It has been a challenging time, but at graduation I decided to make individual home visits, outside the house, with social distancing. One girl led me to a stream and we sang a song together to the water, and gave thanks. She proudly showed me her garden. On another visit, we gathered around a fire outdoors and sang a song about the heartbeat of the universe. The child showed me his lost tooth with pride. Another boy met me in the woods where we had gathered before, and led me to a familiar spot. I pretended to have grown old and forgetful. “Don’t worry,” he said, “I will lead you on a good path!” My heart sang. For these children, our connecting point has been nature, and weathering the storm.” — Silke, 54, New Mexico

We Have Not Been Stressed

“We have been working the whole time. We’ve been biking, walking the dogs, playing board games, and cleaning up trash in the forest. We even taught the kids how to cook and bake. We have taken precautions, but rarely wear masks except at our jobs. No, we are not stressed – we’re fortunate. Covid-19 hasn’t impacted us very much.” — Shaniqua, 51, Michigan

It’s Mentally Exhausting

“We haven’t had much impact from the disease itself, but we do have many friends reacting with different levels of precautions. There’s little consistency. We don’t want our daughter to be isolated at home, and we think it’s okay for her to see friends on a one-on-one basis, outside, with basic precautions. Lots of others seem to think so too, but not everyone agrees. Some people laugh at our precautions and want to give us a hug, others think we are far too easygoing. The constant conversation – who is seeing who, on what terms – is mentally exhausting.” — Daniel, 40, New Mexico

We’ve Realized That Parenting Is Never Finished

“Our kids are in their early 20’s. Both lost their jobs and came to stay with us to wait out the most intense phase of the virus. Having them back in our immediate lives has been both glorious and challenging. Unable to be with friends, the four of us have had the chance to live deeply in each other’s lives. Breakfast, lunch, dinner; problems, joys, ideas, blather – we’re all in it together. This often includes sitting endlessly around the kitchen table and discussing current social problems – from this nation’s entrenched racism to how communities can reopen in a safe manner. I love listening to my kids’ insights. Living with them during the pandemic has been a powerful reconnection and important education.” — Paul, 61, New Mexico

We’re Grateful for Our Lifestyle

“Our town was hit with a big wind storm at the beginning of the pandemic, so most of our neighbors went without power for nine days. We had solar and propane appliances. Living off grid during the pandemic has been the same as it always is – a little more tiring and a little more rewarding than “normal” life. Our son is two. We handwash most of his clothes by the river, tend a large garden, and appreciate the house we built together. The only bill we pay is our cell phone bill. I’ll admit that some days I have thought to myself, “you’re insane for doing this,” but the pandemic has made me nothing short of grateful for our chosen lifestyle.” — Ashley, 26, Maine

We’ve Had a Lot More Quality Time at Home

“This pause has given us time to be more firmly rooted in our life off grid in the mountains. Before, we were spending hours in the car driving to town for this or that. Now, we keep looking at each other and wondering how we would have had the time to build the horse corral, expand the garden, mend the fences, and tend to the details of homeschooling 4 children. We had long suspected something like this pandemic was coming, so we were prepared with lots of seeds, a grip of hens, beans, and tons of potatoes. I think we ate 50 pounds of potatoes just in April! The kids got creative with forts, fairy houses, sword fights. They have been reading lots of books and listening to podcasts. We adults have been more challenged. The heavy news in our world is a lot to bear without community. But projects and lots of space has kept us somewhat sane.” — Lindsy, 46, New Mexico

We’re Scared

I had life threatening pneumonia in 2002 and was on a ventilator for 3 days. My husband is 75 years old, has muscular dystrophy and diabetes, and is in a wheelchair. We decided our only option was to socially isolate on March 13th. We have cut ourselves off from any personal contacts. Generous friends leave groceries and packages outside our home in an old cooler. We are blessed to have friends like them. Isolation is difficult, but it is easier with my loving companion of 31 years. This time has brought us closer together. Now, we are considering leaving the safety of our home, the safe cocoon we have created. I am scared. How do we negotiate the complexities of social distancing while keeping ourselves safe?” — Lisa, 64, New Mexico

We’ve Been Less Busy and More Playful

“We’ve been less busy due to social restrictions. In the beginning of the pandemic, when we were very strict about isolation, I was my daughter’s only playmate. She turned our hikes into stories and games. Often we were either two Olympic gymnasts taking a walk before our performances, or 2 princesses of different countries chatting about what it means to be a princess. It was a gift to become a more connected part of her play, and get more insight into what types of stories and themes are alive for her.” — Megan, 41, New Mexico

Part of Me Doesn’t Want to Return to “Normal Life”

“My family and I live in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. We live on two acres surrounded mostly by national forest, and our nearest neighbors are acres away. This pastoral setting has been a tremendous blessing in our lives and especially so since the onset of the pandemic. Needless to say, it is not difficult to social distance here. We spend quite a bit of time outdoors – hiking, biking, playing in our pond, gardening, and eating meals out on our deck. As parents of a six year old boy with lots of energy, the most challenging aspect of the pandemic has been the closure of his school and lack of playtime with other children his age. Since he doesn’t have siblings, his mother and I have become his primary sources of play and social interaction.

While we certainly spend time playing with him under normal circumstances, the amount of time and effort spent trying to keep him engaged in developmentally appropriate activities has increased dramatically and taken its toll on us as parents. On the other hand, the pandemic has had unexpected positive impacts in our daily lives as well. My wife and I are working less, which means we are spending more time at home and less time in town. Being at home allows us to give more attention to our son, the care of our home, and the land. Our garden is much larger this year. Part of me doesn’t want to return to “normal life” and would much rather continue as it is, without the pandemic of course. The question is whether we can take the lessons of this time and redesign our lives with more balance. I have hope that there are many parents out there asking the same questions. After all, crises give rise to new ideas and I know there are grassroots movements sprouting up even as I write this. Change will come.” — Brock, 43, New Mexic0

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Rob Riggle and Seth Herzog are livestreaming a comedy show tonight. Here’s how to watch.

One of the few perks of quarantine is watching the entertainment community rally around those of us at home by providing us with incredible content to consume while we’re eating all of our quarantine snacks and longing for the days of simply being around other people.

If you’re going to be in social isolation, you might as well be laughing through it. And tonight, thanks to the great folks at the Armed Services Arts Partnership, you absolutely will be when you watch renowned comedian Rob Riggle interview Seth Herzog and other veteran comics perform. Here’s how to watch.


NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

The what

Tune in to ASAP’s live-stream show featuring a conversation with Rob Riggle and Seth Herzog, and stand-up comedy from ASAP veteran comics. Tonight’s event is just one in a series of great performers. For the full list, visit ASAP’s website.

Rob Riggle is a comedian, actor, and Marine Corps veteran best known for his roles on The Daily Show, Saturday Night Live, The Hangover, and The Other Guys.

Seth Herzog is a NYC-based stand-up comedian featured on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

The where

Access to the live-stream will be provided to ticket holders after registering. Space is limited. Here’s where you can purchase tickets for only . Stage Pass holders gain free access. All proceeds from ticket sales support ASAP’s community arts programs.

The who

The Armed Services Art Partnership’s mission is to cultivate community and growth with veterans, service members, military families, and caregivers through the arts. Learn more here.

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Michael Garvey and Liberty perform at The White House in Oct. 2016.

The why

For one, this show is going to be awesome. Also, ASAP has an incredible mission. Here’s their story:

We believe that trauma and loss breeds creativity and discovery.

The veterans and military families in Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP)’s community prove this point. But, it also holds true for our founder, Sam Pressler. After losing a family member to suicide while in high school, Sam turned to comedic expression to cope. When he later learned about mental health challenges affecting veterans through his college research at William Mary, Sam felt compelled to act. While at WM, he launched the country’s first comedy class for veterans, as well as the largest veterans writing group in the Southeast. Within a year, a supportive community formed – one that gave veterans permission to process and express, connect and grow, heal and serve others.

After receiving the Echoing Green Fellowship, Sam converted the student organization into ASAP, a 501(c)3 non-profit. Today, ASAP is thriving in the D.C. Metro area and Hampton Roads, VA, serving thousands of veterans and military families, and empowering its alumni to become artistic leaders in their communities. As a result of our impact in the communities we serve, we have received significant attention. We have performed at The White House, have been featured on a PBS documentary, and have been recognized by Forbes 30 Under 30 list for “Social Entrepreneurship.”

The reintegration of our nation’s veterans is not just a veterans issue. It involves veterans and civilians, community arts organizations and local health providers, military recruiting and VA care. It requires social, physical, and artistic outlets just as much as it demands traditional medical care. Through our collaborative, community-driven, and deeply focused program model, we are forging a new path for veterans to reintegrate into civilian life, and for our communities to welcome them home.

Articles

This veteran buried treasure in the Rockies and left hidden clues for hunters

When veterans retire, they often set out to pursue the hobbies they never had time to do in service. For Forrest Fenn, that meant the hunt for buried treasure.


But this Air Force veteran didn’t want to go looking for others’ valuables, so he buried his own.

A decorated war hero, Fenn flew 300 missions over Vietnam and was awarded the Silver Star and two Distinguished Flying Crosses.

After he retired from the Air Force in 1970, he started an art gallery with his wife Peggy in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

He successfully battled cancer, but vowed if it ever came back, he’d hike into the desert with a chest full of booty and wait for treasure hunters to find him and his loot.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

“If it comes back, I’m going to grab a pocketful of sleeping pills, take a treasure chest filled with treasure and a copy of my bio, and I’m going to walk out into the desert,” Fenn told writer Margie Goldsmith. “Sometime they’ll find my bones and the treasure, but my bio will be inside the box, so at least they’ll know who I was.”

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe
Forrest Fenn in his home. (Photo from Visit New Mexico)

But the cancer never came back. So Fenn, “tired of waiting,” went ahead and buried the treasure in the Rocky Mountains near his home.

“It’s difficult so it won’t be found right away, but it’s easy enough so that it’s not impossible to find it,” Fenn told Goldsmith who wrote about the treasure for the Huffington Post. “I want sweaty bodies out there looking for my treasure — they just have to find the clues.”
The treasure is buried in an honest-to-God treasure chest and contains gold nuggets, gold animal figurines, and gold coins, as well as some gems and valuable historical artifacts.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe
Forrest Fenn’s treasure. No joke. This is buried somewhere. (Forrest Fenn)

Before you lace up your hiking boots, note that the search may not be an easy one. More than one hiker has gone missing looking for the treasure and digging on public lands could be problematic.
One of those treasure hunters, Randy Bilyeu of Colorado, died in his search.
As of this writing, the treasure has not yet been found. Fenn, now 80 years old, advises people to wait until after the snow melts in spring to begin their search.
“The treasure is not hidden in a dangerous place,” Fenn told the Daily Mail UK. “I’ve said many times not to look for the treasure any place where an 80-year-old man couldn’t put it.”

Clues to the treasure’s location can be found in Fenn’s book about his life. “The Thrill of the Chase: A Memoir” is only available at the Collected Works Bookstore in downtown Santa Fe. Proceeds from the book benefit cancer patients who can’t pay for treatments.

Fenn says the following poem contains at least nine clues. Good luck!

As I have gone alone in there

And with my treasures bold,

I can keep my secret where,

And hint of riches new and old.

Begin it where warm waters halt

And take it in the canyon down,

Not far, but too far to walk.

Put in below the home of Brown.

From there it’s no place for the meek,

The end is drawing ever nigh;

There’ll be no paddle up your creek,

Just heavy loads and water high.

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,

Look quickly down, your quest to cease

But tarry scant with marvel gaze,

Just take the chest and go in peace.

So why is it that I must go

And leave my trove for all to seek?

The answers I already know

I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak

So hear me all and listen good,

Your effort will be worth the cold.

If you are brave and in the wood

I give you title to the gold.

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