Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

Graduating with a degree or certification is an important milestone and a huge accomplishment. Right now, though, you may be facing some economic challenges as you look for a job during a time of fierce competition and high unemployment rates.

Good news: VA is still hiring. New, open positions are posted daily on our career site, www.vacareers.va.gov.


“VA is always looking for motivated, highly qualified candidates in direct patient care and support positions to help us achieve our mission of providing the very best health care to our nation’s Veterans,” said Darren Sherrard, associate director of recruitment marketing at VA.

At VA, we support new graduates through tuition reimbursement and loan forgiveness programs, and provide pathways to continue your education if you choose.

Pay off your loans faster

At VA, you don’t have to let student loan debt hold you back. We provide many programs to help you pay off your debt faster, from several types of tuition reimbursement to federal loan forgiveness for those working in the public sector.

Through the Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP), some employees may be eligible for up to ,000 in debt repayment assistance. Be sure to ask about eligibility for SLRP when submitting your application.

Medical professionals in hard-to-fill direct patient care positions might be able to receive up to 0,000 in student loan repayment through the Education Debt Repayment Program. Check job descriptions to see if positions are eligible.

Federal jobs, like those at VA, are also eligible for loan forgiveness. After making 120 payments on your loans while employed full time in public service, you could have your remaining debt balance waived.

Continue your education

Gain marketable skills, valuable training and hands-on work experience through the Pathways Recent Graduates Program. You’ll receive a mentor and a supervisor for dedicated guidance and support, and once you successfully complete the program, you may be eligible to convert to a full-time position.

We also provide scholarships to some full- and part-time employees who pursue degrees in health care. As a VA employee, you can sign up for general or specialized courses from nearby colleges and universities or broaden your work experience through temporary assignments to other agencies.

Enjoy other generous benefits

In addition to education support, you’ll receive competitive pay and performance-based salary increases.

Want to explore another part of the country? We have facilities across the United States and its territories.

Other perks include:

  • Up to 49 days of paid time off each year.
  • Paid vacation that accrues right away, unlimited accumulated paid sick leave and 10 paid federal holidays.
  • Premium group health insurance effective on the first full pay period after start date.
  • A robust federal retirement package.

Work at VA

Consider making a VA career your first career. Help care for those who have bravely served their nation.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S., allies warn Syria against chemical attack in new offensive

The United States, France, and Britain are warning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad not to use chemical weapons as he launches a campaign to retake the last remaining rebel-held province in Syria.

In a joint statement issued late on Aug. 21, 2018, the three Western powers said “we remain resolved to act if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons again” as it embarks on a military offensive in Idlib Province after reasserting control over most other rebel-held areas of the country since 2017.


Assad’s forces have started heavily bombing and shelling Idlib, which lies next to the border with Turkey and where holdout rebels from all over the country were transported in recent months under Russian-brokered deals offering them safe passage to Idlib if they surrendered territory they once held around Damascus and other areas.

Assad’s assaults against major rebel strongholds in the country’s seven-year civil war have followed a pattern, with initial heavy bombing and artillery attacks followed by the alleged use of chemical weapons in an apparent attempt to intimidate rebels and force civilians to flee the area under siege.

In light of this pattern, the three Western powers stressed their “concern at the potential for further — and illegal — use of chemical weapons.”

The ruins of the 2018 American-led bombing of Damascus and Homs.

Britain, France, and the United States said that “our position on the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons is unchanged” since the three powers staged air raids in April 2018 to eliminate sites where chemical weapons allegedly were made, in response to an alleged chemical attack that occurred in Douma weeks earlier.

“As we have demonstrated, we will respond appropriately to any further use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime, which has had such devastating humanitarian consequences for the Syrian population,” the three powers said.

Assad has denied using chemical weapons, and efforts by Western powers at the UN to rebuke Syria over alleged chemical attacks have been batted down by Syria’s biggest ally, Russia, in recent years.

The impasse at the United Nations is what led the United States, Britain, and France to act on their own in early 2018

The three allies released their warning to Syria on the anniversary of what they called a “horrific” sarin-gas attack in Ghouta outside Damascus that killed more than 300 people five years ago.

That attack, which the West blamed on Assad’s forces, led to a U.S.-Russian agreement to rid Syria of its chemical stockpile and its means to produce the deadly chemicals.

But despite the agreement, numerous chemical attacks have occurred since then, with most of them documented by the global chemical weapons watchdog and blamed on the Syrian government.

The UN Security Council is scheduled to discuss the situation in Syria in August 2018.

Featured image: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 weirdest names for military operations in history

While researching another story, I came across a recent exercise designed to steel NATO for battling Russian subs. The war game was named for a ferret-like creature that subsists on insects and worms.

Exercise Dynamic Mongoose.

Nothing like a small mammal to drive terror into an adversary’s heart.

How do military leaders come up with these? In the case of the US, military commands are assigned blocks of the alphabet, say from AA to AD, from which they can choose two word names. Such as Agile Diver. The rules forbid “commercial trademarks,” “anything offensive to good taste,” or that are similar in spelling to a code word.

They also set aside words for certain commands. “Cheese,” for example, is only to be used by the chief of naval operation’s office. Ditto “rabbit.”

(Great Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill specifically warned about “frivolous” words, saying no one would want to tell a grieving mother her son died in an operation named “Bunnyhug.”)

Here’s a totally objective guide to the worst-named military operations and exercises of all time.


Bold Alligator is a large-scale amphibious exercise that showcases naval forces like the US Marines.

(US Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nicholas Guevara)

1. Exercise Bold Alligator

Alligators are cold-blooded and pretty low energy most of the time.

Ferrets make great pets.

(Photo by Alfredo Gutiérrez)

2. Operation Black Ferret

Ferrets are small, furry mammals that have been domesticated. The wild ones are known to dance a gig to hypnotize their prey, according to Mental Floss.

Operation Black Ferret was a search and destroy mission in Vietnam.

Mermaid performer Paisley Easton.

(Weeki Wachee Springs State Park)

3. Operation Mermaid Dawn

In addition to not finding ferrets frightening — setting aside “The Big Lebowski” scene where a ferret scares the Dude in a bathtub — I don’t especially find the prospect of mermaids at dawn threatening.

Rebels named their 2011 assault on Tripoli, according to this excellent overview of military naming by Mental Floss.

This was the name for a 2005 mission to seize weapons and propaganda before a referendum on the Iraqi constitution.

(US Army)

4. Operation Flea Flicker

Got an itch?

(Photo by Ricky Kharawala)

5. Operation Cajun Mousetrap III

What about the mousetrap makes it Cajun? And did this mousetrap work better the 3rd time around?

This was the name of a nighttime raid on Samarra, Iraq in 2004.

The saxophones of the US Air Force’s jazz ensemble.

(Airman 1st Class Jalene Brooks/US Air Force)

6. Exercise Steadfast Jazz

This is one jazz set that just doesn’t quit!

Fully 6,000 troops in NATO’s ready-response force participated in this ludicrously named 2013 exercise.

Hat tip to Business Insider’s Pentagon Correspondent Ryan Pickrell for the suggestion.

The mongoose’s connection with this massive NATO naval exercise remains unclear to the author.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amanda S. Kitchner)

7. Exercise Dynamic Mongoose.

Notably, NATO also has an Exercise Dynamic Manta.

(Photo by Jan Kahánek)

8. Operation Therapist


How does it make you feel?

The was the name of a 2005 Army mission in Tikrit, Iraq.

A US war game had a name pretty similar to a Nirvana hit.

Notable mentions.

These operations and exercises almost made the cut.

Gringo-Goucho: Aircraft carrier exercises involving the US and Argentine navies. The term “gringo” occasionally has a pejorative meaning for English-speaking Americans.

Team Spirit: A joint US-South Korea training that ended in 1993, and that keeps reminding me of Nirvana’s 1991 hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

Operation Desert Snowplough: Reportedly a name for a Danish operation during the Iraq War.

Operation Frequent Wind: The evacuation of civilians from Saigon in 1975.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Which military branch SHOULD you join?

So you’re thinking about joining the military. Good for you, you little patriot! Whether it’s for the experience or the benefits or maybe just the emptiness inside you that makes you want to be a hero call to serve a higher good, the military has a lot to offer.

But not all military experiences are equal. There’s a major difference between being a Marine Scout Sniper and an Air Force Linguist. Both have pros and cons, so let’s talk about some of them, starting with the culture and mission of each branch.

Keep in mind that these are broad generalizations. A Special Operations mission in any branch will differ significantly from, say, a Public Affairs perspective, which will also influence the training requirements and deployment tempos for the individual.


As a note, this article was written based on a compilation of Department of Defense publications, interviews with veterans and my own experience. It cannot cover everyone’s experience, so it’s important to do your own research and talk to veterans (not just the first recruiting officer you meet).

As an additional note, the Boot Camp descriptions here are for enlisted personnel – officers have shorter boot camps because they undergo less academic training during boot camp itself and more during additional officer training. This isn’t the only difference between being an officer and an enlisted member; from the mission to the pay to the benefits, the experiences are extremely varied — once you’ve found a branch you like, make sure you check out our article about commissioning compared to enlisting.

If you want to join the military, it’s wise to reflect on why that is and what you want your life and job to look like. This is a good place to start:

What New Marine Corps Recruits Go Through In Boot Camp

www.youtube.com

U.S. MARINE CORPS

Boot Camp:

“What you’re really made of can only be revealed at the brink of exhaustion. Marine Recruit Training will take you there. Only those who possess the never-quit spirit required of every Marine will find the strength they never knew they had, the willpower they never knew they needed and the commitment to find that second wind even when it hurts to breathe to overcome the Marine boot camp requirements.”

Phase One — Weeks 1-4

Recruits transition from civilian to military life with strenuous physical training and martial arts as well as Marine Corps history and classes. They learn Marine Corps culture and values, including how to wear the uniform and handle weapons.

Phase Two — Weeks 5-9

The second phase consists of combat skills and marksmanship training. Recruits undergo gas chamber training and the Crucible.

Phase Three — Weeks 10-13

Recruits undergo specialty training such as combat water survival and defensive driving.

Physical Fitness Test:

  1. Pull-ups or push-ups (as many as you can; you can only max out on pull-ups — with push-ups you can get a maximum score of 70 points)
  2. Crunches or plank pose (as many crunches as possible in two minutes or holding plank pose for up to four minutes and twenty seconds)
  3. Timed run (three mile run in 28 minutes or less for men, 31 minutes or less for women)

Combat Fitness Test:

  1. Movement to Contact (timed 880-yard sprint)
  2. Ammunition Lift (lift 30-pound ammo can as many times as possible overhead in set amount of time)
  3. Maneuver Under Fire (300-yard course that combines battle-related challenges)

Deployments: The Marines remain at a 1:2 deployment-to-dwell ratio (or 1 year deployed with 2 years at home), which Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps General Robert Neller referred to as “unsustianable.” The goal is to achieve a 1:3 deployment-to-dwell ratio.

Culture: Marines are trained for combat and they are very good at that mission, which they should be proud of.

Unfortunately, the Marine Corps still struggles with health and care of its service members. A 2018 Annual Suicide Report showed the Marine Corps had the highest rate of active duty suicides, with a rate of 31.4 per 100,000 (compared to the Army with 24.8, Navy with 20.7 and Air Force with 18.5).

The Marine Corps also had the highest reporting rate of sexual assault with 5.7 percent, followed by the Army at 5.5 percent, Navy at 4.8 percent and the Air Force at 4.3 percent.

What Army Recruits Go Through At Boot Camp

www.youtube.com

U.S. ARMY

Boot Camp:

Army Basic Combat Training comes in three phases and lasts about ten weeks depending on your military occupational specialty (MOS) — in other words, your job for the Army.

During the Red Phase, you learn the basics about Army life, such as how to wear the uniform and comport yourself. You also get your ass in line with physical readiness training and formation marching. Also, as a treat, you get your introduction to Chemical Radioactive Biological and Nuclear readiness, including getting gassed proper usage of breathing masks.

During the White Phase, you receive weapons and hand-to-hand combat training. You continue your physical readiness training, including obstacle courses and rappelling from the 50-foot Warrior Tower.

During the Blue Phase, you receive advanced weapons training, including machine guns and live grenades. You embark on a multiple-day land navigation course to test your survival skills. If you pass all of your challenges, you become a fully qualified Army Soldier. Huzzah.

Physical Fitness Test:

  1. Two minutes of push-ups
  2. Two minutes of sit-ups
  3. Timed two mile run

Army Combat Fitness Test:

  1. 3 repetition maximum deadlift
  2. Standing Power Throw
  3. Hand release push up arm extension
  4. Sprint-Drag-Carry
  5. Leg Tuck
  6. Two mile run
Deployments: The Army has maintained a high operations tempo when it comes to deployments. Current high deployment thresholds consist of 220 days deployed out of the previous 365 days, or 400 days deployed out of the previous 730 days.

In 2017, the Secretary of Defense’s standard was a 1 to 2 deploy-dwell ratio — or one year deployed with two years at home, for example — with the “red line” at 1 to 1. At the time, that ratio was at about 1 to 1.2 or 1.3, according to Army Times. It isn’t uncommon to expect 12-18 month deployments.

Culture: Like the Marine Corps, the U.S. Army has a proven history on the battlefield. Soldiers are trained to operate under a “suck it up” attitude to endure long deployments and combat as well as physical and mental stress. The Army has the second highest reported incidents of suicide and sexual assault, just behind the Marine Corps. Anyone joining the Army can expect to join a branch with a proud lineage, but it’s wise to evolve your own sense of self-care and to learn how to protect your health and the health of your battle buddies.
US Air Force Recruit BOOT CAMP Documentary

www.youtube.com

U.S. AIR FORCE

Basic Military Training:

Air Force BMT consists of eight and a half weeks where recruits are introduced to military life through academics and uniform wear as well as physical fitness and weapons training. Academics and certifications, such as learning the Code of Conduct and becoming CPR certified, remain peppered throughout training.

Air Force recruits will complete a Tactical Assault Course and M9 pistol training, but unlike the Army or the Marine Corps, airmen are not required to qualify on the weapon during BMT. Active duty enlisted personnel and officers will qualify on their weapon only as required by their job or deployment status.

Compared to the Marine Corps and Army and even the Navy or Coast Guard, with firefighting and water survival, the Air Force BMT is probably the least strenuous of the branch boot camps.

Physical Fitness Test:

  1. One minute of push ups
  2. One minute of sit-ups
  3. Timed one and a half mile run

Note that this test is less strenuous than the Army/Navy/Marine Corps fitness tests. Soldiers and Marines are more likely to become “boots on the ground” in combat zones.

Deployments: The Air Force maintains an Air and Space Expeditionary Force (AEF) deploy-to-dwell tempo system, depending on career fields: The deployment categories are called tempo bands. Air Force officials have created five tempo bands: A through E. Tempo Band A reflects the original AEF cycle of a 1:4 dwell ration based on 120-day deployments. Bands B through E are based on 179-day deployments. Tempo band B is a 1:4 dwell ratio — or six months deployed 24 months home. Tempo band C is a 1:3 dwell, band D is a 1:2 dwell and band E, reserved for the most stressed career fields, is a 1:1 dwell, or six months out, six months in.

Culture: Other branches like to tease the “Chair Force” due to its reputation for cleaner housing and higher quality chow halls. The average Air Force mission will be less physically strenuous or dangerous than that of the Marine Corps or Army.

You might say the Air Force operates with the motto of “work smarter not harder,” and for better or for worse, this pays off. In recent reports, the Air Force had the lowest number of active duty suicides and sexual assaults. That being said, if you want to join the military to get in the fight and kick down doors in a combat zone, there are few Air Force positions available.

Boot Camp: Behind The Scenes at Recruit Training Command (Full documentary, 2019)

www.youtube.com

U.S. NAVY

Boot Camp:

Recruit training or “boot camp” is about seven weeks long for the U.S. Navy. It will include physical fitness and Navy heritage, as well as seamanship and firearms training. The first two weeks are a challenging adjustment period filled with medical screenings and physical training as well as military education, including uniform wear and rank recognition.

The next four weeks include class and hands-on training environments that cover everything from firefighting and shipboard damage control to water survival and weapons training. Navy sailors aboard a ship must know how to respond to ship emergencies including flooding and fires as well as how to survive at sea. Every sailor is a qualified swimmer, able to swim 50 yards and complete a five minute prone float.

The final hurdle for Navy recruits is called Battle Stations, which includes numerous obstacles to test everything learned in the weeks prior.

Physical Readiness Test:

(Note, in 2020, the U.S. Navy will be introducing changes to the PRT)

  1. 1.5 mile run for time
    1. Alternate per commander’s discretion: 500 yard swim for time
    2. Alternate per commander’s discretion: Stationary cycle calorie burn in 12 minutes
    3. Alternate per commander’s discretion: 1.5 mile treadmill; run/walk for time
    4. (2020 alternate per commander’s discretion: 2 kilometer row machine test)
  2. Two minutes of curl-ups
    1. (To be replaced by forearm plank test)
  3. Two minutes of push ups
Deployments: Deployments will depend on what type of ship and mission sailors are assigned to, but they are often around seven months and during that time, sailors might not see land for long periods of time. While at sea, there are no breaks: you stand a 6-12 hour watch, even on Sundays, although there are often “holiday routines” with modified shifts. Ship/shore rotation tends to happen after about three years, depending on the job. Some career fields have longer ship rotations and some have only shore duty stations. It’s important to research ahead of time to try to secure the best job suited for you and your capabilities.

Culture: Navy ships especially continue to operate in historical fashions, so change is slow. Segregation of ranks is still strictly enforced (junior enlisted does not mingle with senior enlisted and fraternization with officers is especially prohibited in such close quarters). While women do serve at all ranks, there is still sexism and harassment in alarming numbers (though statistically less than the Marine Corps and the Army).

What It Takes To Survive Coast Guard Boot Camp

www.youtube.com

U.S. COAST GUARD

Boot Camp:

U.S. Coast Guard boot camp consists of eight weeks that begin with military and physical fitness fundamentals and mature to hands-on application of Coast Guard proficiencies. Recruits learn firefighting and marksmanship as well as seamanship and water survival. Recruits must pass a three part swimming test (swim circuit) that includes a six-foot jump followed by a 100 meter swim and treading water for five minutes.

Physical Fitness Test:

  1. One minute of push ups
  2. One minute of sit-ups
  3. Timed 1.5 mile run
  4. Swim circuit

Deployments:

The Coast Guard consists of about 40,000 active duty members. As such, it is a very selective branch with missions that involve everything from Search and Rescue to Maritime Protection. Coast Guardsmen “deploy” every day in their duties and units and cutters can be away from port for months at a time. Coast Guard deployments tend to be more frequent, but can be as short as a few days or as long as several months.

Not all Coast Guard assignments are on “the coast” — there are inland assignments protecting inland waterways and lakes. The Coast Guard will also deploy to combat zones to provide additional support to maritime operations or to augment the Navy throughout the world.

Once you’ve researched the differences between each branch, there is still one more major consideration that can affect your military experience: whether to enlist or commission. We go into the benefits and downsides of each right here — check them out!

Articles

Russia fires sub-launched cruise missiles at ISIS fighters

Russian warships in the Mediterranean Sea have fired four cruise missiles at the Islamic State group’s positions in Syria, the Russian defense ministry said on May 31.


The announcement came as Syrian government troops pushed ahead in their offensive against IS and militants in central and northern Syria.

Moscow said in a statement that the Admiral Essen frigate and the Krasnodar submarine launched the missiles at IS targets in the area of the ancient town of Palmyra. There was no information on when the missiles were launched.

Syrian troops have been on the offensive for weeks in northern, central and southern part of the country against IS and U.S.-backed rebels under the cover of Russian airstrikes, gaining an area almost half the size of neighboring Lebanon.

Hmeymim airfield in Syria. | Photo via Russian Ministry of Defense

Most recently, Syrian troops and their allies have been marching toward the IS stronghold of Sukhna, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) northeast of Palmyra.

The strategic juncture in the Syrian desert aids government plans to go after IS in Deir el-Zour, one of the militants’ last major strongholds in Syria. The oil-rich province straddles the border with Iraq and is the extremist group’s last gateway to the outside world.

Russia, a staunch Damascus ally, has been providing air cover to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s offensive on IS and other insurgents since 2015. Moscow had fired cruise missiles from warships in the past, as well as from mainland Russia against Assad’s opponents.

Also read: Israeli air strike hits huge Hezbollah weapons stockpile in Syria

As the fighting against IS militants is underway near Palmyra, Syrian troops clashed with U.S.-backed rebels in the country’s south on May 31, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Mozahem al-Salloum, of the activist-run Hammurabi Justice News network that tracks developments in eastern Syria.

The fighting came days after the United States told Syrian government forces and their allies to move away from an area near the Jordanian border where the coalition is training allied rebels.

The warning comes less than two weeks after the Americans bombed Iranian-backed troops there after they failed to heed similar warnings.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said on May 30 that the U.S. dropped leaflets over the weekend telling the forces to leave the established protected zone.

In the northern city of Raqqa, the de-facto capital of IS, warplanes of the U.S.-led coalition destroyed the main telecommunications center in the city, the IS-linked Aamaq news agency said. The Sound and Picture Organization, which documents IS violations, said land telecommunications were cut in most parts of the city after the center was hit.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations against Syrian airfield while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017 local time. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams)

The bombing came a day after U.S.-backed Syrian fighters reached the northern and eastern gates of Raqqa ahead of what will likely be a long and deadly battle. The city has been subjected to intense airstrikes in recent days.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces militia that is fighting IS in northern Syria had struck a deal with the IS offering it a safe corridor out of Raqqa. He added that soon after the Russian Defense Ministry had spoken about the agreement, some IS fighters started moving toward Palmyra.

The SDF has denied reports that it allowed IS fighters to leave the city.

“The Russian military spotted the movement and struck the convoy so it never reached Palmyra,” Lavrov said. “And so it will be in all situations when the IS is spotted anywhere on the Syrian territory. It’s an absolutely legitimate target along with all its facilities, bases, and training camps.”

“The current situation shows gaps in coordination between all those who are fighting terrorism in Syria,” Lavrov added, voicing hope that the U.S.-led coalition wouldn’t allow the IS to escape from Raqqa.

Syrian troops backed by Russian airstrikes captured Palmyra in March 2016 and Moscow even flew in one of its best classical musicians to play a triumphant concert at Palmyra’s ancient theater. IS forces, however, recaptured Palmyra eight months later, before Syrian government troops drove them out again in March 2017.

Russia’s defense ministry said its statement that the strikes successfully hit IS heavy weapons and fighters whom the group who had deployed and moved to Palmyra from the IS stronghold of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Sunni militant group and its self-proclaimed caliphate.

Related: US special ops are trying to figure out how to counter Russia’s new way of warfare

Moscow said it had notified the U.S., Turkish, and Israeli militaries beforehand of the upcoming strike. It added that the Russian strike was promptly executed following the order, a testimony to the navy’s high readiness and capabilities.

Russia has been busy mediating between Assad and Turkey and the West who seek his removal. Earlier this month Russia, Iran, and Turkey agreed to establish safe zones in Syria, signing on to a Russian plan under which Assad’s air force would halt flights over designated areas across the war-torn country. Russia says maps delineating the zones should be ready by June 4.

Associated Press writer Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this report.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Help reunite these WWII enemies who became best friends after the war

A crowdfunding campaign has launched to reunite two World War II veterans who fought against each other during the war and became as close as brothers after the war. The mission is to bring the two World War II veterans together again for a mini-documentary in Normandy, France.

They fought each other in Tunisia, Africa; however, they reunited decades after, and became friends, even as close as brothers. Sadly, there is not much time left, it may be even the last opportunity to do so. Graham lives in the United Kingdom and Charley in Germany, with their health decreasing and them getting older each day, it may be the last opportunity to have them meet again. But with your help, they may be able to reunite one more time and have their last encounter and story told in a mini-documentary.


This is their story


In late March 1943, Allied and Axis forces prepared for one of the fiercest battles of the World War II African campaign near Mareth, Tunisia. It was here, where after four months on the run, Rommel’s Africa Corps took one of its last stands. Enclosed on one side by rocky, hilly terrain and the Mediterranean on the other, capturing Mareth proved a difficult proposition for the British Eighth Army.

In order to outflank the Axis forces, the British 8th Armored Brigade, along with New Zealand infantry swung southwest and then north through an inland mountain pass to attack the Axis troops from behind.

They ran into the German 21. Panzer Division. Karl Friedrich “Charley” Koenig, only newly arrived in Tunisia as a 19-year-old officer candidate, waited for his first combat as a loader in a Panzer IV of Panzer-Regiment 5.

‘Charley’ Koenig

Across the hardscrabble Matmata hills, Sherman tanks of the Sherwood Ranger Yeomanry Tank Regiment readied themselves for the attack. In one sat machine gunner and co-driver Graham Stevenson. Graham had fought at the battle at El Alamein and bailed out of a tank as a 17-year-old. Taking part in the hard fighting all along the way from Alamein through Tunisia, he had just barely reached the tender age of 18.

On March 23rd, Panzer Regiment 5 and the Sherwood Rangers tanks stalked one another and engaged in individual tank battles. Shells whistled loudly by Charley’s tank, his experienced commander advising calm. Their Panzer IV would not be knocked out on this day, but it would not be for long.

The next day, a radio signal warned the Germans of an incoming RAF Hurricane IID tank buster attack. Scrambling out of their Panzer IV, Charley’s crew moved side-to-side as Hurricanes swept in from all directions at nearly zero altitude firing their powerful 40-millimeter cannon.

An accurate Hurricane pilot hit the rear of the tank, shortly before a lone British artillery shell, fired out of the blue, made a direct hit on their front deck. A half-track arrived in the night to tow them to the be repaired. Charley was now out of the way, while Graham and his crew took part in the Tebaga Gap battle on March 26th, the Shermans and the Maori infantry inflicting a severe mauling on the 21. Panzer-Division.

Graham Stevenson

Graham survived Africa and returned to England with the Sherwood Rangers to train in Sherman DD swimming tanks for the invasion of Normandy. Due to a slight disagreement with a commanding officer that landed him in the guardhouse, he came in on Gold Beach, Normandy a bit later than his Sherwood Ranger comrades.

In his first day of hedgerow fighting, untested and frightened infantrymen escorting his tank fled under fire, leaving Graham and his tank commander to conduct their own reconnaissance. Just steps outside of his tank, Graham was hit and nearly killed by German machine gun fire. As an artery bled out, his life hung on a thread. Luckily, a nearby aid station saved his life. But his war ended there.

Charley’s career ended in May, 1943, when he was taken prisoner by the Americans and transported to camps in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Belgium, and England before returning home in 1947. Even decades later, he could never forget the war in Africa, and his honorable opponents.

In 1991, he sought out the Sherwood Rangers and found Ken Ewing, head of the southern branch of the Sherwood Rangers Old Comrades’ Association. It wasn’t long before they became like brothers. After Charley attended ceremonies for the regiment in Normandy and Holland, he was invited in as a member of the Association, where he was accepted wholeheartedly by the remaining British World War II veterans, including Graham, who was in the same tank crew with Ken.

Graham and Charley in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

Graham and Charley in Bayeux

On Gold Beach, the German bunker which stood in the way of the Sherwood Rangers’ entry into Normandy still stands sentinel. On that spot this June 6th , the Sherwood Rangers dedicated a plaque to the tankers who fought and died to take this beach.

Now, Graham and Charley are the only members of Sherwood Rangers Old Comrades’ Association left alive who fought in Africa 75 years ago. Their friendship, which has transcended the brutality of war to reveal that mutual respect, healing, and reconciliation can exist between former enemies, sends a powerful message to future generations.

Heather Steele, Founder and CEO of non-profit organization World War II History Project, has launched a $25,000 crowdfunding campaign to make this reunion and filming of a mini-documentary happen. You can help make this possible — I’ve spoken with Heather and she’s incredible passionate to make this happen. There are various perks available for your kind donations from getting personalized postcards from the Veterans to flying in a WWII bomber or riding a tank!

Click here to Donate to the Crowdfunding Campaign!

MIGHTY CULTURE

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

They’re the oldest and the most recognized armored division in the Army. The first division to see combat in Germany during WWII and the first mash-up of reconnaissance and cavalry units in all of Army history. Here’s everything you thought you knew but didn’t about America’s Tank Division.


Kentucky Wonders, Fire and Brimstone or Old Ironsides?

After the division was organized in 1940, commanding general Maj. Gen. Bruce Magruder was the division’s first commander. His friend, Gen. George Patton, had just named the 2nd Armored Division “Hell on Wheels,” and Magruder didn’t want to be left behind. So, he held a contest to find an appropriate nickname for the new division.

Over two hundred names were submitted, including “Kentucky Wonders” and “Fire and Brimstone.” Gen. Magruder hated all the names submitted and decided to take the weekend to find the best one. It just so happened he’d recently purchased a painting of the USS Constitution, whose nickname was, wait for it, Old Ironsides. It’s said that Magruder was impressed by the correlation between the Navy’s unwavering spirit during the war and his new division’s. It was then that he landed on the nickname Old Ironsides, and the name’s been the same ever since.

The first enemy contact was in North Africa, and it was rough.

Contrary to what many think, the Old Ironsides didn’t engage with the Germans as their first combat experience. Instead, they traveled to North Africa and participated in Operation Torch, part of the Allied Invasion.

Operation Torch was intended to draw Axis forces away from the Eastern Front and relieve pressure on the Soviet Union. It was a compromise between the US and British planners. The mission was planned as a pincer movement with the Old Ironsides landing on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. The primary objective for the Old Ironsides was to work toward securing bridgeheads for opening a second front to the rear of German and Italian forces. Allied soldiers experienced unexpected resistance from Vichy-French units, but the Old Ironsides helped suppress all resistance and were heading toward Tunisia within three days.

The invasion of Africa helped win the war

The invasion of North Africa accomplished a great deal for the Allies since American and British forces finally had the offensive against the Germans and Italians. For the first time, US and UK directives were able to dictate the tempo of events. Forced to fight on both the western and eastern fronts, the German-Italian forces had the additional burden of having to plan and prepare for attacks in North Africa.

However, the harsh conditions of North Africa were quick teachers for the new Old Ironsides soldiers. In February 1943, the Old Ironsides met a better trained German armored force at Kasserine Pass, and the division sustained heavy losses in both service members and equipment.

The division was forced to withdraw, but the Old Ironsides used their retreat time to review the battle and prepare for the next one. After three more months of hard fighting, the Allies claimed victory in North Africa.

The Old Ironsides were recognized publicly for their efforts and then moved to Naples to support Allied forces there.

The Infamous Winter Line Attack

As part of the 5th Army, the 1st Armored Division took part in the attack on the Winter Line in November 1943. Old Ironsides flanked Axis forces in the landings at Anzio and then participated in the liberation of Rome in June. The unit continued to serve in the Italian Campaign until German forces surrendered in May 1945. One month later, Old Ironsides was moved to Germany as part of the US occupation forces stationed there.

WWII to present 

In the drawdown after WWII, the 1st Armored Division was deactivated in 1946 but was then reactivated in 1951 at Fort Hood, where it was the first Army unit to field the new M48 Patton tank. Currently, the unit home is Fort Bliss, Texas, but it previously was housed at Baumholder, Germany. With the relocation, the unit went from roughly 9,000 soldiers to more than 34,000.

In 2019, the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team turned its smaller vehicles in for Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers

The Air Force’s protracted pilot shortage has garnered considerable attention.


Air Force officials said this spring that the force was 1,555 pilots short — about 1,000 of them fighter pilots. But the shortage of pilots continued to grow during the 2017 fiscal year, which ended in September.

At that point, it had expanded to 2,000 total force pilots — active duty, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve. That includes nearly 1,300 fighter pilots, and the greatest negative trends over the past two fiscal years have been among bomber and mobility pilots, Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen told Business Insider.

Read More: This is why the Air Force pilot shortage is only getting worse

But fliers aren’t the only ones absent in significant numbers

According to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, the lack of maintainers to keep planes flying has also become a hindrance on the service’s operations.

“When I started flying airplanes as a young F-16 pilot, I would meet my crew chief … and a secondary crew chief at the plane,” said Goldfein, who received his commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1983, in a briefing in early November, adding:

We’d walk around the airplane. I’d taxi out. I’d meet a crew that was in the runway, and they’d pull the pins and arm the weapons and give me a last-chance check. I’d take off. I’d fly to a destination [where] different crew would meet me. Here’s what often happens today: You taxi slow, because the same single crew chief that you met has to get in the van and drive to the end of the runway to pull the pins and arm the weapons. And then you sit on the runway before you take off and you wait, because that crew chief has to go jump on a C-17 with his tools to fly ahead to meet you at the other end. This is the level of numbers that we’re dealing with here.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Krystalane Laird (front) and Helena Palazio, weapons loaders with the 169th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, download munitions from an F-16 fighter jet that was just landed after a month-long deployment to Łask Air Base, Poland. (South Carolina Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson)

‘The tension on the force right now is significant’

The pilot and maintainer shortages are part of what Air Force officials have called a “national air-crew crisis” that has been stoked by nearly 30 years of ongoing operations, hiring by commercial airlines, as well as quality-of-life and cultural issues within the force that drive airmen away. In recent years, pressure from budget sequestration has also had a impact on Air Force personnel training and retention.

The maintainer shortage has been a problem for some time. In 2013, the total shortage was 2,538. But the force’s drawdown in 2014 — during which the Air Force shed more than 19,800 airmen — added to the deficit. Between 2013 and 2015, the shortage of maintainers grew by 1,217, according to Air Force Times.

By the end of fiscal year 2015, the service was short some 4,000 maintainers, Yepsen told Business Insider.

Blue Angels pilots greet Thunderbirds maintainers.

The shortage of maintainers created hardship for the ones who have remained.

The commander of the 52nd Maintenance Group at Spangdahlem Air Force Base in Germany told Air Force Magazine in late 2016 that workdays had stretched to 13 or 14 hours, with possible weekend duty meaning air crews could work up to 12 days straight. In the wake of the 2014 drawdown, maintainers at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina saw their workdays extend to 12 hours or more, with weekend duties at least twice a month.

“There comes a point where people stop and say it isn’t worth it anymore,” Staff Sgt. Stephen Lamb, an avionics craftsman from the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Shaw, told Air Force Times in March. “I’ve seen, in the past few years, a lot of good friends walk out the door.”

As with pilots, the Air Force has made a concerted effort to improve its maintainer situation. In 2016, the force quadrupled the number of jobs eligible for initial enlistment bonuses — among them 10 aircraft maintenance and avionics career fields.

The Air Force has also offered senior crew chiefs and avionics airmen perks, such as reenlistment bonuses and high-year tenure extensions. At the end of 2016, 43 Air Force specialty codes, many of them flight-line maintainers, were being offered bonuses averaging $50,000 to remain in uniform for four to six more years.

Air Force Airman 1st Class Nathan Kosters, a crew chief with the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, prepares to launch an F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter during Red Flag 17-1 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 7, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel services, said earlier this year that the service closed 2016 with a shortage of 3,400 maintainers, warning that the ongoing shortage held back personnel development.

“Because of this shortage, we cannot generate the sorties needed to fully train our aircrews,” Grosso told the House Armed Services’ personnel subcommittee at the end of March.

According to Yepsen, the Air Force spokeswoman, that shortage has continued to decline, falling to 400 personnel at the end of fiscal year 2017. Several Air Force officials have said they hope to eliminate the maintainer shortage entirely by 2019.

But the health of the Air Force maintainer force won’t be solved by simply restoring its ranks. The complex aircraft the Air Force operates — not to mention the high operational tempo it looks set to continue for some time — require maintainers with extensive training. Air Force units can only absorb and train so many recruits at one time.

Read Now: If you’re a retired military pilot, the Air Force wants you back

“We have to have time to develop the force to ensure that we have experienced maintainers to support our complex weapons systems,” then-Col. Patrick Kumashiro, chief of the Air Force staff’s maintenance division, told Air Force Magazine in late 2016. “We cannot solve it in one year.”

Heftier bonuses for senior air-crew members are also a means to keep experienced maintainers on hand for upkeep of legacy aircraft and to train new maintainers, with the addition of those new maintainers allowing experienced crew members to shift their focus to new platforms, like the F-35 fighter and the KC-46 tanker.

“While our manning numbers have improved, it will take 5-7 years to get them seasoned and experienced,” Yepsen told Business Insider. “We are continuously evaluating opportunities to improve our readiness as quickly and effectively as possible.”

“We’re making the mission happen, but we’re having to do it very often on the backs of our airmen,” Goldfein said during the November 9 briefing. “The tension on the force right now is significant, and so we’re looking for all these different ways to not only retain those that we’ve invested in, but increase production so we can provide some reduction in the tension on the force.”

Articles

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years

Congress sent President Donald Trump legislation to provide the biggest expansion of college aid for military veterans in a decade.


The Senate cleared the bill by voice vote on August 2, passing the second piece of legislation aimed at addressing urgent problems at the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs in as many days. The House passed the bipartisan college aid legislation last week.

The measure is a broad effort to better prepare veterans for life after active-duty service amid a rapidly changing job market.

Building on major legislation passed in 2008 that guaranteed a full-ride scholarship to any in-state public university — or a similar cash amount for private college students — the bill removes a 15-year time limit to tap into GI benefits and increases money for thousands in the National Guard and Reserve.

USMC photo by Sgt. Melissa Marnell

Veterans would get additional payments if they complete science, technology, and engineering courses. The bill also would restore benefits if a college closed in the middle of the semester, a protection added when thousands of veterans were hurt by the collapse of for-profit college giant ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges. Purple Heart recipients, meanwhile, would be fully eligible for benefits, regardless of length of time in service.

“This bill invests in the proven success of our veterans,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. “When our veterans return home, they should have every opportunity available to them to pursue their desired profession and career.”

The panel’s top Democrat, Jon Tester of Montana, says the bill “also does right by Guardsmen and Reservists by getting them the education, housing, and health care that they have earned. I look forward to working with President Trump to quickly sign our bill into law.”

Tester is one of the more vulnerable Democrats up for re-election next year, seeking another term in a state Trump won last year.

Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., (left) and Jon Tester, D-Mont (right)

The Senate, on August 2, backed a measure that authorizes $3.9 billion in emergency spending to avert imminent bankruptcy in the VA’s Veterans Choice Program of private-sector care. About $1.8 million of that money would bolster core VA programs, including 28 leases for new VA medical facilities.

The education benefits would take effect for enlistees who begin using their GI Bill money next year.

For a student attending a private university, the additional benefits to members of the Guard and Reserve could mean $2,300 a year more in tuition than they are receiving now, plus a bigger housing allowance.

Army Photo by Sgt. Alexander Snyder

A wide range of veterans’ groups had supported the expanded GI Bill benefits. The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, hailed the proposal as launching a “new era” for those who served in uniform.

According to Student Veterans of America, only about half of the 200,000 service members who leave the military each year go on to enroll in a college, while surveys indicate that veterans often outperform peers in the classroom.

Veterans of Foreign Wars estimates that hundreds of thousands of veterans stand to gain from the new benefits.

The expanded educational benefits would be paid for by bringing living stipend payments under the GI Bill down to a similar level as that received by an active-duty member, whose payments were reduced in 2014 by 1 percent a year for five years. Total government spending on the GI Bill is expected to be more than $100 billion over 10 years.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the Supreme Court’s ruling on burn pits will have catastrophic effects

Burn pits are, without a shadow of a doubt, the post-9/11 veteran’s Agent Orange. Countless troops have been exposed to the toxic gases given off by the mishandling of dangerous substances, and twelve veterans have died as a direct result of this negligence. Everything from heart disease to lung cancer has been found in veterans who have been exposed to the fumes.

There were over sixty different lawsuits raised against KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton that oversees the waste “management,” and each was struck down in court. A final nail was added to the proverbial coffin recently when the Supreme Court ruled to uphold the decision of the Court of Appeals, stating KBR wasn’t liable for their actions because they were under military direction.


The ruling also goes for the Open Air Sewage pits that were constructed by KBR. In the simplest of terms, there were giant ponds of literal human sh*t next to troop housing and no one thought that it was a problem.

(U.S. Navy)

This means that the mishandling of waste, as conducted by KBR, that put the lives of troops and veterans at risk has been permitted by the highest court in the land. Any attempt to seek compensation by those affected will now be struck down using this ruling and Halliburton will remain protected.

Not only is this horrible news for the troops and veterans who’ve been affected by burn pits, but it sets a precedent that protects civilian negligence if done for the U.S. military in a war zone. According to MilitaryTimes, KBR argued that they cannot be sued because they, essentially, were operating as an extension of the military. They also claimed that the only way to control contractors’ actions was through military oversight.

While the burn pits are the subject of the majority of the lawsuits, there are more claims against KBR. One such claim revolves around the wrongful death of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, a Green Beret at the Radwaniyah Palace Complex in Baghdad, Iraq. In January, 2008, he was electrocuted to death while trying to take a shower in a facility constructed by KBR. The plaintiffs argue that KBR was well aware of the shoddy work, but it wasn’t fixed and the troops were not warned.

This case was also dismissed.

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it…

It is true that, in the past, the U.S. military has instructed personnel to burn waste in the absence of an alternate method of disposal, but it’s never been done at the scale for which KBR is responsible. There is a massive difference between troops in an outlaying FOB burning an oil drum filled with human waste and the 147 tons of waste burned daily at Balad in 2008.

The U.S. military is by no means blameless in this situation. It did put a “stop” to burn pits in Iraq in 2009, but the Government Accountability Office found 251 such pits in Afghanistan and 22 in Iraq in August, 2010. Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs is taking proper steps to right this wrong with the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry. If enough people register, our military will be forced to look at the true scope of this problem and act accordingly.

The truth is, there was a better solution to handling the waste, but that was skipped in favor of the most expedient route. Now, countless veterans have terminal illnesses for their actions and the Supreme Court has just given future contractors in the ability to take shortcuts — even if it’s certain to put troops in harm’s way.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The terrifying surgeries to remove grenades from soldiers

At first thought, the idea of a human being hit by some kind of large explosive that not only doesn’t detonate and kill the person, but then somehow becomes lodged inside their body necessitating its removal via surgery seems like the invention of some hack Hollywood writer somewhere. However, while rare, the scenario is something that has happened a surprising number of times.

Now, as you may have already guessed, cases of unexploded ordnance becoming lodged inside of human beings are limited almost exclusively to military personnel. In fact, according to a 1999 study of 36 instances of this exact trauma, it is described as a uniquely “military injury” with it being additionally noted that there were — at the time the paper was written — no known cases of something similar occurring in reviewed civilian literature. This said, during our own research, we did find a handful of cases of non-military personnel sustaining an injury that resulted in an explosive becoming lodged inside their body.


The M79 grenade launcher.

(USAF)

Going back to the military though, by far the most common weapon to cause such an injury is the M79 grenade-launcher, which according to the aforementioned study was responsible for 18 of the 36 injuries discussed therein.

Further, according to the fittingly titled paper, “Stratification of risk to the surgical team in removal of small arms ammunition implanted in the craniofacial region,” small munitions, such as certain types of armor piercing and tracer rounds, can occasionally ricochet and become lodged inside a person without the explosive innards going off. Even in a case such as this, removal of the round is of paramount importance and the surgery team is noted as being in extreme peril in doing it. (And, note here, contrary to popular belief and Hollywood depictions, in most cases, it’s safer to leave regular bullets and the like in the body than try to get them out. Of course, if the thing inside the body is explosive, that’s a whole different matter.)

Going back to grenades and the like, amazingly, while you’d think something like having a large live explosive lodged somewhere in your body would be a surefire recipe for an untimely and rather messy death, fatalities from this particular kind of injury are surprisingly rare.

For example, according to the first study quoted in this piece, of the 36 known cases from WWII to the modern day, there were only 4 fatalities (about 11%). Even more important here is that all 4 died before surgery could even be attempted owing to the injuries being especially severe, with half being hit in the face and the other two being struck by rocket launchers. Which, any way you slice it, is not the kind of injury you’d expect a person to be able to walk off, whether the explosive went off or not.

Retired Gen. William Kernan shakes hands with Pfc. Channing Moss after presenting him the Purple Heart at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Nevertheless, stories of soldiers surviving even these kind of injuries exist. For example, consider the case of one Pvt Channing Moss who was hit by a “baseball bat-sized” rocket propelled grenade that buried itself in his abdomen almost completely through from one side to the other, with part of the device still sticking out. He survived.

Then you have the story of Jose Luna, a Colombian soldier who was accidentally shot in the face by a grenade launcher and was up and walking around after several rounds of surgery to remove it and repair the damage as best as possible.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the literature we consulted is that in every case where a patient with unexploded munitions inside their body was able to make it to surgery, the surgical team were able to remove the explosive without it exploding and they further went on to survive. In fact, according to the aforementioned study covering the 36 known cases, there wasn’t a single one where the explosive in question detonated “during transportation, preparation, or removal.”

A fact that almost certainly influences this statistic is that Explosive Ordnance Disposal experts are often on hand to offer advice before and during surgery. On top of this, from the moment a foreign object inside of a person’s body is identified as an explosive, multiple steps are taken to reduce the likelihood of it detonating. These measures include things like keeping the patient as still as possible and limiting the use of electronic or heating devices during surgery.

In addition, to protect the surgical team and others should the worst happen, the surgery to remove an explosive is usually (if time and circumstances allow it) conducted away from people in an area designed to absorb the damage from the explosion.

(US Navy)

Surgeons are often also given protective equipment, though some choose to forgo this as it can impede their fine motor skills, which particularly need to be on form when removing undetonated explosives and operating on individuals who are severely wounded to boot. We can only assume these surgeons are already heavily encumbered by the size and density of the balls or ovaries they presumably have given their willingness to operate on a patient who might explode at any second.

On a related note, official US Army policy states that any soldier suspected of having unexploded ordnance in their body are not supposed to be transported for medical treatment, as the risk of the ordinance exploding and killing other soldiers is considered too great. However, this rule is seemingly universally ignored in the rare event such a scenario occurs.

As one Staff Sgt Dan Brown so eloquently put it when discussing the aforementioned case of Pvt Channing Moss who had an explosive in him powerful enough to kill anything within 30 feet of him,

“He was American, he was a solider, he was a brother and he was one of us. And there was nothing gonna stop us from doing what we knew we had to do…”

Thus, the soldiers involved carefully bandaged his giant wound and chose not to inform their superiors of his exact condition in case they’d order them to follow the aforementioned rule. Instead, they just reported he had a severe shrapnel injury. The soldiers then carried him to an extraction point while under heavy fire for part of the time. The crew that then airlifted the soldiers were made aware of the situation and likewise agreed they weren’t going to leave Channing behind as the rules stated should be done, even though it would have meant all their deaths if the device had exploded mid-flight.

Role players take part in a simulated unexploded ordnance victim scenario during Exercise Beverly Herd 17-1 at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, March 2, 2017. During this scenario the surgeon was required to remove the UXO and safely hand it over to the 51st Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal team for further disposal.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Gwendalyn Smith)

Once back at base, there was no time to setup an isolated medical station to get Channing away from the rest of the wounded, as he was in critical condition as it was. So they just operated right away, including at one point having to deal with the fact that his heart stopped mid-surgery and they were limited on their options to get it going again given the explosive embedded in his body. In the end, it all worked out and Channing got to go home to his six month pregnant wife and eventually met his daughter, Yuliana, when she was born a few months later.

In any event, as discussed at the start of this piece, there are also rare cases of civilians accidentally getting explosive devices stuck inside their bodies, though in all cases much less heroic than the military based events. For example, consider the case of a 44 year old Texas man who had an unexploded large firework mortar lodge itself inside his right leg after he approached the tube containing the firework, thinking it was a dud, only to have it violently shoot off and embed itself in said appendage. Luckily for him, it did not then explode as it was designed to do. The good news was that all went well from there on, with the main precautions taken simply not using any electrical or heat applying device during the removal stage of the surgery.

So yes, to answer the question posed at the start of this article, someone having an explosive device surgically removed from their body is not just a Hollywood invention, but does occasionally happen in real life. Although we couldn’t find any known incidences of megalomaniacal crime lords embedding explosive devices in their underlings to ensure loyalty and obedience. So that one’s on Hollywood I guess.

Further, while the occasional terrorist will shove some explosive in one of their orifices, to date these have generally been pretty ineffective, even in one case where the device, stuck up the suicide bomber’s rectum, went off when the bomber was standing right next to the intended target — Saudi Prince Muhammad bin Nayef. Nayef sustained only minor injuries while the suicide bomber had his midsection blown to pieces. Naturally, he didn’t survive.

Saudi Prince Muhammad bin Nayef looking happy about not being blown up.

It should also be noted that the often depicted scenario of surgically implanting explosives in such cases, at least thus far, hasn’t really been a thing according to the various counter terrorism agencies out there who’ve mentioned it as a possibility. This is despite many a media report implying such does happen.

In the end, as a Terrorism Research Center report noted, the procedure involved in surgically embedding in a human body an explosive large enough to do real damage is extremely complex, requiring extensive medical support and expertise with high risk to the patient surviving the procedure and being then fit enough to execute the mission. They also note that even then it takes too much time to be worth it when considering planning and recuperation time after. Thus, at least to date, terrorist organizations have stuck with more conventional methods of suicide bombing. For these reasons, while security experts are attempting to plan for this possibility, to date it’s noted not to be “on the radar” yet.

That said, one case of a device embedded in humans that sometimes explodes and causes damage is the case of pacemakers. It turns out that, while rare, these sometimes explode during cremation of a body that has one. While usually the damage is minimal, in 3% of the cases looked at in the paper Pacemaker Explosions in Crematoria: Problems and Possible Solutions, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, the cremator oven structure was destroyed beyond repair by the explosion, including in one case also causing injury to a worker. However, it would appear this is still a pretty rare event, and in most cases the worst that happens is a loud bang startling crematoria employees.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why beauty queens make tough-as-nails warriors

Cultural norms create a lot of stereotypes about the ideal warrior. We all know that warriors must be strong in both mind and body. Yet, there is still a perception that only men can fill military ranks while women, known as the “weaker sex” (except when it comes to childbirth), of course, must sit at home and wait.

Then, there’s the notion that even if a woman were a strong warrior, she couldn’t possibly also be attractive, right?


But wait! 2017’s Wonder Woman wasn’t just an exciting piece of fiction, it also challenged every stereotype we hold about today’s warriors. Its star, Gal Gadot, was Miss Israel, but she also served in the Israel Defense Forces, proving that beauty and being badass are not mutually exclusive.

Now, a cadre of millennial beauty queens who serve or have served in the military are exploding stereotypes and breaking barriers everywhere with a wave of their scepters (or maybe their 9mms). This is because warriors and beauty queens actually have a lot in common.

Physical and mental conditioning

On deployment, MREs are more likely on the menu than yogurt, fish, vegetables, and fruit. But while MREs might nourish you enough to get the mission done, they’re not exactly packed with beautifying supernutrients.

Allison (Alli) Paganetti-Albers, Miss Rhode Island USA 2005, former Army Capt., and host of WATM’s ‘Troop Soup,’ had to be lean for competition, but was required to stay within Army height and weight standards. She was restricted from going on a diet that would jeopardize her ROTC scholarship. Her first commitment was to her Army contract, so she chose to stay within those standards and won her pageant anyway.

The toughness that comes from military training and experience translates into confidence on the runway. And the opposite is also true — pageantry helps in achieving military goals. Staying on task, thinking positive, turning off negative feelings, and pushing away fear of failure are all essential to thriving in the pageant world, and help build a strong discipline.

Teamwork and being part of something greater than one’s self

In the military, the team is everything. You depend upon the people to your left and right. The satisfaction of being part of a great military team is unmatched.

But aren’t queens just about themselves? Not really. Amazingly, the stereotype of extreme cattiness typically doesn’t exist.

Pageants should be part of something greater than self. There’s no room to tear each other down. If you don’t feel a sense of teamwork in pageantry, you’re doing something wrong. There must be a sisterhood and collaboration,” says Alexandra Curtis, Miss Rhode Island America 2015 and Rhode Island National Guard Sgt.

Another way beauty queens are about others is how they use their platforms. Besides her work with the ALS Association, Alexandra is very much into helping young women get into politics. She was inspired by women who blazed the trail before her by combining political office with Reserve and Guard careers. And her sister queens devote time to great causes, such as helping wounded veterans, visiting with active military members, and inspiring schoolchildren.

There’s an extra sense of community responsibility among these contestants because they’re military women. They feel they have to be good role models in both careers as they represent the country first, themselves second.

Goals and obstacles

When you’re serving, the goal is accomplishing the mission. In pageantry, the goal is winning the title. But both military and pageant careers require facing down hurdles — just ask Marina Gray, Miss Maine USA 2018 and National Guard Sgt. Marina broke out of poverty and neglect when she became legally emancipated from her parents at age 16. From that moment on, she lived on her own and supported herself.

She enlisted in the Guard as a way to help pay for college. Her love of the Maine Coast helped, but her outlook was most important. She grew up religious. “The best way to beat adversity is to be optimistic. Don’t ask ‘why me?’ Think: ‘It happened to me because I could handle it’. Things happen for a reason.”

Marina felt some discrimination from her male peers, not because for being a beauty queen, but because of her gender. She dealt with it by working even harder and became a 2015 Soldier of the Year, a 2017 NCO of the year, and earned various fitness awards. “I’ve faced much adversity in my life and the way I’ve overcome all my road bumps is what I think makes me a beautiful person. I think character shines much brighter than any shade of lipstick.”

Yes, these women are gorgeous, but don’t be fooled by their beauty. They’re also about grit and determination. In their commitment to the warrior ethos and pageantry, two seemingly different careers, queens and warriors are more alike than not. They’ve tossed a couple of grenades at the notion that you cannot be beautiful and talented and strong and brave at the same time
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Friendly fire kills 18 US allies

At least 18 members of the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces were killed in a U.S.-led coalition air strike that mistakenly targeted them in Syria’s Raqqa province.


In a statement released on April 13, U.S. Central Command said 18 SDF fighters died in the air raid south of the city of Tabqa on April 11. The attack was believed to be hitting members of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant ( ISIL, also known as ISIS).

Syrian girls, carrying school bags provided by UNICEF, walk past the rubble of destroyed buildings on their way home from school on March 7 in al-Shaar neighborhood, in the rebel-held side of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. (IZEIN ALRIFAI/AFP/GImages)

SDF was founded in Syria’s mainly Kurdish northeastern region in October 2015, and is made up of at least 15 armed factions, mostly fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units and the Free Syrian Army.

“The strike was requested by the partnered forces, who had identified the target location as an ISIS fighting position. The target location was actually a forward Syrian Democratic Forces fighting position,” CENTCOM said.

“The coalition’s deepest condolences go out to the members of the SDF and their families. The coalition is in close contact with our SDF partners who have expressed a strong desire to remain focused on the fight against ISIS despite this tragic incident.”

The coalition added it is assessing the cause of the friendly fire attack.

The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on April 13 at least 25 other SDF fighters were killed in clashes against ISIL in the suburbs of Tabqa.

The incident occurred as U.S.-backed Syrian forces prepare to retake Raqqa, ISIL’s stronghold in Syria, as they move in from the city’s north.

SDF captured the strategic Tabqa airbase from ISIL in March. The airbase is 28 miles west of Raqqa,