This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez and his platoon patrol the sandy streets of Djibouti, the hot East African sun scorches their path with temperatures upwards of 115 degrees. Passing through impoverished villages, Rodriguez began to notice a devastating trend — most of the children are barefooted.

It was during his visit to an orphanage that, Rodriquez immediately thought of his own two daughters and made it his personal mission to do something about the shoeless orphans.

“While on patrol, every few weeks we passed a local orphanage where children gather for their meals,” Rodriguez said. “Children aged 5-8 sleep along the walls outside and wake up to shower in the orphanage. They eat cups of peanut butter for protein with crackers. Since there is no refrigeration, that is the most protein they are able to get. That’s their lunch — crackers. So I thought you know what? This would be a great mission for my church back home.”


While on emergency leave due to his father’s passing, Rodriguez pushed past his grief to talk to students and coordinate a sandal drive with the school that his daughters attend, Blessed Sacrament Elementary School in Laredo, Texas. Their Catholic school is part of the parish that Rodriguez and his family belong to.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant for the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, stands with several of the children in Djibouti. Rodriguez gifted 500 sandals to barefoot orphans and children during their deployment.

(Photo by Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura)

“I am very active in my daughter’s school and I wanted to get my daughters involved and proactive in something in Africa as well,” Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant for the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, said. “I talked to the principal, who said she would talk to Father Wojciech, the priest in charge of his church in Laredo. The school sent out flyers thru the National Junior Honor Society asking parents to donate one pair of sandals.”

On Veteran’s day, Rodriguez who is completing his fourth deployment, visited his daughter’s school to talk about his service in the military and the children in Djibouti.

“I described how the weather was there, how hot it was and asked them to imagine standing outside, barefooted in Laredo,” Rodriguez said. “My daughters and their classmates are at that age where they are learning to help others and how to ask for help as well. I want them to learn a sense of compassion.”

From September to December, his daughter’s school collected six boxes filled with roughly 500 sandals of varying sizes. After the sandals were collected, the students raised money to send the two by three-foot shipping boxes to Djibouti for Rodriguez and his unit to deliver to the children.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant for the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, hands out sandals to barefoot orphans and children with his platoon during their deployment, February 2019 in Djibouti.

(Photo by Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura)

“This is the first time that we have done something so big that reaches out of the country,” Cynthia Sanchez, math and science teacher at Blessed Sacrament School. “It’s a trickle-down effect, from parents, and at school they are learning how to help others so that they can teach their own kids.”

Normally, the school participated in blanket, canned food and sweater drives, and periodically will make trips to feed the homeless.

“They feel good and warm inside about helping others with no incentives but because they want to give it,” said Sanchez. “We weren’t expecting that amount. A lot of parents and kids wanted to do their part and National Junior honor Society members went outside of the school into their communities to get donations.”

Anxiously waiting for the packages to arrive, Rodriguez received the sandals in February.

In order to distribute the sandals in the community, Rodriguez coordinated with the local orphanage and the village elder for approval.

After he received approval, Rodriguez and his platoon set out to deliver the sandals to the children of the community.

“When we handed out the sandals the children were so surprised,” Rodriguez said. “Their happiness turned into overwhelming joy, to trying to be next, I made sure they all were good. It got chaotic at times but these children had nothing but what they were wearing and most were barefooted.”

Rodriguez, who kept close contact with his daughter’s school immediately alerted the school, via e-mail, that he had handed out the sandals to the children.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

Children from Djibouti pose for a photo after receiving sandals from Texas Army National Guard Soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez and his platoon, February 2019 in Djibouti.

(Photo by Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura)

In response, Anacecy Chavez, a Blessed Sacrament School teacher wrote:

“When I read this my heart jumped. You are a super hero for me and many others for serving our country and helping those around you.”

The Director of the orphanage, Caritas Djibouti, also thanked Rodriguez and his daughter’s school for their donation.

“We had the good surprise a few days ago to receive, through Mr. Rodriguez, a nice and generous donation of shoes for the street children here at Caritas,” said Francesco Martialis, director of Caritas Djibouti. “It was such a generous support which will be usefully used for sure! And also many thanks for the Church support that we feel, from here Djibouti, an isolated place, through your donation. It is precious to us.”

Rodriguez, who has been a soldier on the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force for 18 years, is no stranger to getting involved into the community. Task force members routinely support local law enforcement agencies and community-based organizations in an effort to detect, interdict and deter illicit drug activity.

In addition to being an involved member of his church, Rodriguez said that his experience as a task force member enhanced his ability to build relationships on an international level, communicate and coordinate with partners in order to make the drive a success.

Although Rodriguez’s tour is coming to a close, he has continued to solidify the connections of his church at home with the local Djibouti church — which coincidentally are both named Blessed Sacrament.

Rodriguez spoke to the Bishop of the Djibouti Catholic Church about maintaining contact in the case that they may be able to provide more donations for the children.

“It is great to hear that our young youth are striving to be humanitarians as that is something this world is missing more of,” Rodriguez said. “It gives me great pride to know that the sacrifices we make as soldiers to protect our country is giving our youth the opportunity to grow into caring, responsible and giving citizens of our communities.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 New Year’s resolutions every military spouse will break

There’s something magical about the approach of a New Year. After all, it’s the time we tend to create wonderful fantasies about what the coming year will bring. Untold riches, a beautiful new hobby, and a six-pack that would make Schwarznegger shed a tear are at the top of many lists.

However, come the end of January – let’s face it. The struggle bus is real and the wheels are about to come off. And you know what? That’s ok!

This New Year, give yourself some grace if you make – and then break – these resolutions.


This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

1. Limit Family Screen Time, Starting with Fortnite

I guess we could cut back an hour…or two…and parent by using less screen time in the house. But, since we’re talking crazy, I could also churn my own butter, but that’s not happening either.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

2. ‘Marie Kondo’ the $@%& Out of this House Before We PCS

Converts swear by organizational queen Marie Kondo’s life-changing magic of tidying up. And soon, you too find dreams of nice, clutter-free spaces dancing in your head. This year is finally THE YEAR to de-clutter before a PCS.

But let’s face it. Once you pull out every piece of clothing and lay it on your bed, it doesn’t take long to realize this little exercise does anything but spark joy. Back into the closet it goes, right next to “The Box” and the curtains you swore would fit in the next house.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

3. Not Go Into Feral-Mode Every Time My Spouse Leaves

Whether it’s a lengthy deployment, or the seemingly never-ending rounds of TDYs – it’s oh so tempting to set the loftiest of lofty self-improvement goals to stay busy while our spouses are away from home.

But, if you find yourself having ice cream, mac and cheese, or wine for dinner for a week straight, that’s ok too. We’ve all been there.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

4. Stay on Top of the Laundry

Is that the third time I’ve washed the same load of laundry – because I left it overnight in the machine? Someone remind me – why did we ever want to grow up and become adults?

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

5. Not Buy Plane Tickets Before Leave is Finalized

Until one magical commercial later. Disney – here we come. Hopefully.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

6. Finally, Step Outside of my Comfort Zone

This is the year I’m finally going to do it! I will step outside of my comfort zone, meet that village I keep hearing about, learn a new hobby, and sign up for ALL of the things. Crochet, CrossFit and Zumba – here I come!

Right after I finish catching up on my latest Facebook gossip and hiding in my car for five minutes in the commissary parking lot to avoid people…

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

7. Learn to Better Manage my Time

Ok, who are we kidding? I call foul and blame the military for teaching us constant lessons in the fine skill of “hurry-up…and wait.”

This year, let’s resolve to give ourselves grace and let go of the pressure to be perfect. Regrets? None.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

23 Parenting memes that will make you feel seen

It’s no secret that this year is super strange for parents. Still reeling from months in quarantine, working from home and homeschooling, parents everywhere are now staring down the barrel of summer vacations with far fewer options than they had in previous years. Parents are navigating uncharted territory, and there’s no doubt it’s putting their parenting skills, their patience, their sanity to the test. But here’s the thing, you’re not alone, parents. We’re all in this together. All you can do is take it one day at a time, power through and find a way to cope. Someday this will all be a distant memory. In the meantime, they say laughter is good medicine, so here are a few parenting memes that will make you feel seen and perhaps LOL just a little. Enjoy!


This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

(Via Failedgags.com)

Bruh

I think I need to change my name.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

(Via Scary Mommy)

What?

But they’ll hear the crackle of a candy wrapper from down the block.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

(Via NoIdeaDaddyBlog)

Worst coworkers ever

Can I speak to your manager?

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

(Via FowlLanguageComics.com)

Fowl language

Well played life, well played.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

(Via Imgur.com)

Find your zen

Wait until we get home.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

(Via me.me)

Google

Let’s hope no one checks my search history.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

(Via Someecards)

Summer

Giving wine for a teacher appreciation gift doesn’t seem so stupid now, does it?

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

(source unknown)

You got this

Shouts from the couch: “Wear your helmet!”

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

(Via Alyceoneword)

WATCH THIS!

Maybe 199 is the sweet spot and their trick will actually work?

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

(Via FB.com/JulieBurtonWriter)

#truth

For answers: Divide and conquer.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

(Via BadParentingMoments)

Cleaning

Moving might be easier.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

(Via TheOutnumeredMother)

The days are long, the years are short

Is this thing on?

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

(via conservativememew.com)

Tarjay

Target: Therapy for moms since 1902.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

(Via @LurkAtHomeMom)

PUT ON YOUR SHOES

Mental note: Just start with Batman.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

(Via boredpanda.com)

Beast mode

There’s bread on the counter and water in the sink. Cheers!

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

(Via @closetoclassy)

E.T. find me a nap

Try as I may.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

(Via Myquestionablelife)

All the motivation

Rules? What Rules?

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

(Via @SamPsychMeds)

Socks

This wasn’t on my “summer with the kids” bingo card.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

(Via Ramblinmama)

Time flies

And hours go by like minutes while I’m scrolling.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

(Source Unknown)

So early

Brace yourselves and hydrate!

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

(Source Unknown)

Empathy is important

Yup, sounds about right.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

(Via Someecards)

Whose kid is this?

Your circus, your monkeys.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

(Source Unknown)

Seriously

There’s gotta be a box around here somewhere…


Articles

Paris attack planners obliterated in drone strike

Two Islamic State leaders behind the terrorist attacks in Paris last year were killed in a U.S.-led drone strike Dec. 4 in Raqqa, Syria, the Pentagon confirmed Tuesday.


The two targets, Salah Gourmat and Sammy Djedou, worked with external terror operations and recruitment of foreign fighters in Europe. They were directly involved in facilitating the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people.

Gourmat and Djedou were close associates of Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, ISIS’s former chief spokesman who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in August.

Walid Hamman, the third terrorist killed in the drone strike, was a suicide attack planner, Hamman was convicted in absentia by a Belgian court for a terror plot foiled in 2015.

“The three were working together to plot and facilitate attacks against Western targets at the time of the strike,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters.

All three were part of a terror network led by Boubaker Al-Hakim, who died in another U.S.-led airstrike Nov. 26.

“Since mid-November, the coalition has now successfully targeted five top ISIL external plotters, further disrupting ISIL’s ability to carry out terrorist operations beyond Syria and Iraq,” Cook said.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This American President started his day in the most veteran way possible

Our first president, George Washington, sold whiskey from one the country’s largest distilleries after leaving office — but reportedly never drank his own supply. Instead, Washington sipped a dark porter style of beer mixed with molasses that was brewed in Philadelphia. His presidential successor, John Adams, loved drinking hard cider, rum, and Madeira wine during his time off. The eighth President of the United States, Martin Van Buren, drank so much whiskey that he earned the nickname, “Blue Whiskey Van.”

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

Many of our Presidents turned to their alcohol beverage of choice in order to relax after a long day’s work. However, one president flipped the script and decided to start his days by knocking back a shot of his favorite: bourbon.


It’s reported that President Harry S. Truman liked to start his days with a nice, brisk walk and a shot of Old Grand Dad (bourbon).

Truman appreciated a strong Old Fashioned and, reportedly, would complain to his staff if he felt the cocktail was too weak. Although it may seem unhealthy for a person of his position to consume such a potent drink so early in the morning, he actually prided himself on maintaining a nutritious diet.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans
Truman sitting at a table with Roosevelt discussing some presidential stuff.

In a diary entry, dated January 3, 1952, Truman wrote:

“When I moved into the White House, I went up to 185. I’ve now hit an average of 175. I walked two-miles most every morning at a hundred and twenty-eight steps a minute, I eat no bread, but one piece of toast at breakfast, no butter, no sugar, no sweets. Usually have fruit, one egg, a strip of bacon and half a glass of skimmed milk for breakfast, liver & bacon or sweetbreads or ham or fish and spinach and another non-fattening vegetable for lunch with fruit for dessert. For dinner, I have a fruit cup, steak, a couple of non-fattening vegetables, an orange, pineapple, or raspberry for dinner. So, I maintain my waistline and can wear suits bought in 1935!”

On behalf of the veteran community, we say well done, sir.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US forces in Africa have accused Chinese troops of harassing pilots

Since the US and Chinese militaries became neighbors in the small African country of Djibouti, they haven’t been getting along very well.

Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, the director of intelligence at the US Africa Command, has accused the Chinese military of “irresponsible actions,” telling reporters recently that Chinese forces at a nearby base have been harassing US forces at the neighboring Camp Lemonnier base.

Berg, according to the Washington Times, said that the Chinese military has attempted to restrict access to international airspace near its base, targeted US pilots with ground lasers, and sent out drones to interfere with flight operations.


She also accused the Chinese military of “intrusion activity,” explaining that there have been “attempts to gain access to Camp Lemmonier.”

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

U.S. Marines at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.

(DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Lonzo-Grei D. Thornton, U.S. Marine Corps)

The US base, which opened in 2001 and is home to roughly 4,000 US military and civilian personnel, is an important strategic facility that has served as a launch site for US counter-terrorism activities in east Africa.

China opened its base, its first overseas military installation, nearby in the summer of 2017. China insists that the purpose of what it calls an “overseas support facility” is the “better undertaking its international responsibilities and obligations and better protecting its lawful interests.”

The movement of Chinese forces into the area have made US military leaders uneasy. “We’ve never had a base of, let’s just say a peer competitor, as close as this one happens to be,” Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, AFRICOM commander, told Breaking Defense just prior to the opening of China’s facility. “There are some very significant operational security concerns.”

The laser incidents Berg mentioned were first reported last year, when the Pentagon sent a formal complaint to Beijing after two C-130 pilots suffered injuries.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

A C-130 Hercules cargo plane.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs argued that the latest allegations against it do “not align with the facts,” adding that “China has always abided by international laws and laws of the host countries and is committed to maintaining regional safety and stability.”

Senior Captain Zhang Junshe, a military expert at the People’s Liberation Army Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told the Global Times, a state-affiliated Chinese publication, that the US has been sending low-flying aircraft to conduct spying operations near the Chinese facility.

The Global Times said that US accusations were “just the same old tune struck up again by the US to defame China.”

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

Articles

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal

The Air Force Special Operations Command runs 37 Reaper drones that have just been upgraded with better sensors, upgraded weapons software, and extra fuel tanks so they can kill more targets and watch more objectives on missions against ISIS and other enemies.


This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans
An MQ-9 Reaper prepares to land after a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

Identifying ISIS targets often requires a long information-collection period, and killing them takes a rapid engagement once the kill order is given. The upgraded drones are better at both stages of the hunt.

The sensor ball from the original MQ-9 Reapers was replaced with a high-definition camera. The software that controls the camera was also upgraded to enable automatic detection of threats and the ability to track 12 moving targets at once. Better communications gear was installed to allow ground controllers and others to see the higher quality video coming from the drones.

Reapers can carry up to 14 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. The upgraded version carries the same munitions but can now fire them in a “super ripple,” firing a missile every 0.32 seconds. The external fuel tanks give the Reaper pilots more time to identify targets, track them, and plan the engagement before firing.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans
An MQ-9 Reaper on the flightline. Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. John Bainter

All this comes at a cost to weight. To increase thrust and improve takeoff performance, a system to inject alcohol and water into the engine was added and a four-bladed propeller was incorporated. The landing gear was also improved.

American drones have already had a lot of success in the fight against ISIS. Jihadi John, the British-born militant who conducted many of the Islamic State’s early, high-profile executions, was killed by two Hellfire missiles fired from a drone.

A drone strike in Jul. 2015 killed 31 insurgents including Hafiz Saeed, the man thought to have led ISIS in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The drones were upgraded under a $34 million Medium Altitude Long Endurance Tactical (MALET) Lead-Off Hitter (LOH) contract.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s communist party might be cracking under trade pressure

The intensifying trade war between China and the US has caused a massive rift between the countries, but sources say tension is also rising internally among elite members of the Communist Party of China.

Over the past decade, President Xi Jinping has worked diligently to consolidate power and cement his rule over China, claiming control over the country’ military and government and cracking down on all forms of political dissent.


In the process, Chinese propaganda has pushed hard on the portrayal of China as a strong, nationalistic country, with Xi at its core.

Several sources close to the government told Reuters that this aggressive branding had backfired, further provoking the US as it ramps up tariffs in one of the largest trade wars in economic history.

An anonymous government-policy adviser told Reuters of a growing concern among leadership that China’s economic outlook had “become grim” as its relationship with the US deteriorated over trade.

“The evolution from a trade conflict to trade war has made people rethink things,” the policy adviser said.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“This is seen as being related to the exaggeration of China’s strength by some Chinese institutions and scholars that have influenced the US perceptions and even domestic views.”

Two additional sources told Reuters that disapproval was being felt among senior government members and that backlash might hit the close Xi aide and chief ideological strategist Wang Huning, who has been widely credited for crafting Xi’s strongman image.

“He’s in trouble for mishandling the propaganda and hyping up China too much,” a source tied to China’s leadership and propaganda system said.

And discontent has echoed through the ranks of China’s Communist veterans.

Sources told the Japanese daily Sankei Shimbun that several party elders including former President Hu Jintao and former Premier Wen Jiabao sent a letter in July 2018 to Communist leadership urging a review of economic and diplomatic policy and noting the party’s tendency toward personality-cult leadership.

A veteran member of the Communist Party who was said to be close to Hu told Sankei Shimbun that signs of waning support for Xi’s “dictatorial regime” had been emerging since June 2018, as Xi’s prominent presence in state propaganda was beginning to diminish. In July 2018, Xi’s name was noticeably absent from the front pages of the state mouthpiece People’s Daily — twice in one week.

July 2018, Xi swiftly called for a meeting with the powerful Politburo decision-making body, made up of the party’s 25 most senior members, reportedly outlining plans to stabilize the economy hit hard by US tariffs.

Xi was most likely gearing up for the annual Communist summit at the resort of Beidaihe, where top party leaders gather to discuss party policy behind closed doors.

The retreat, which is often kept secret, is said to be underway, and Xi’s leadership and US-China trade are likely to be high on the agenda, according to Taiwan News.

China and the US have kicked their trade war into high gear, as the US announced it would impose 25% tariffs on billion worth of Chinese goods starting August 23, 2018.

In response, China announced 25% tariffs on billion worth of US goods meant to take effect the same day — though critics have suggested China is running out of cards to play as the US imports more Chinese goods than the reverse and can deal far deadlier blows to China’s economy.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

For the ten days immediately after you graduate Marine Corps boot camp, you’ll feel like the world’s biggest badass. That brief high comes to a crashing halt when you report to the School of Infantry. If you’re a poor crayon-eater who signed an infantry contract, you go to the Infantry Training Battalion. You’ll arrive thinking that becoming a Marine means you’ve been given superhuman abilities only to very quickly find your all-too-human limits.

There, you’ll be deprived of sleep (yet again) and you won’t be fed on a regular schedule. It’s not a fun experience, but you’ll come out the other side a better warrior, a lethal Marine. Still, that doesn’t mean we should ignore all the following reasons why the Infantry Training Battalion is terrible.


This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

In retrospect, boot camp isn’t so bad…

(U.S. Marine Corps)

You thought boot camp was as bad as it gets…

…and you were wrong. So, so wrong. Your Drill Instructors built you up to think that earning the title of Marine was the toughest task on Earth. You used that promise to reason with yourself — nothing else will ever be this bad, right? Then you get to the School of Infantry and realize that boot camp was only the worst time of your life up until that point.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

Spoiler alert: You’re not as tough as you think you are.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

You’ll show up cocky

There’s a level of pride that comes with becoming a Marine. Fresh out of boot camp, many of us take that pride a step too far and become just plain cocky. When you get to SOI, you learn the hard way the pride comes before the fall. You’re quickly put in place and realize you’re just a small detail in a much bigger picture. You are far from the toughest guy around.

Truth hurts.

You actually get some time off

West Coasters know what we’re talking about — you get your weekends, if you’re lucky enough to be spared the wrath of your Combat Instructors, that is. This sounds like a good thing, but it makes Sunday mornings unbearable. Dread sets in as you anticipate the return of the week… and your Combat Instructors.

You’re sleep deprived the entire time

In boot camp, Drill Instructors are required to allow you eight hours of sleep per night — with the exception of the Crucible. Maybe that’s a rule for Combat Instructors, too, but, if you’re a grunt, it sure as hell doesn’t seem like it is. You’ll find yourself standing in front of your wall locker at 2 a.m. wondering what the f*** you’re doing.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

Combat instructors are just… scary.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

The Combat Instructors are scarier

Drill Instructors are scary at first, but you get used to them. Your Combat Instructors are plain terrifying and they never stop being that way, not even after you graduate.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

You get used to them after a while.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

You eat MREs all day

Nobody likes MREs — nobody. This sucks, but it’s best to consider it training in its own right because, as a grunt, you’re going to eat a lot of them.

Still, that doesn’t make them taste any less like cardboard dog sh*t.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Tim Kennedy and Tom Clancy’s The Division 2: A collab made in Valhalla

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 is the follow-up to the uber-successful third-person shooter, Tom Clancy’s The Division. In a recent promo for the game, Tim Kennedy takes us on a stroll through about 5 minutes of absolute carnage that is so downright exciting that, after watching, gun nuts are gonna have to wait for the blood to return to their head before standing.


The Real Endgame Weapons Of The Division 2

www.youtube.com

For those of you who don’t know, Tim Kennedy is a Ranger-qualified Special Forces sniper. Oh, and he has a bronze star with V device. Oh, and he was an accomplished UFC fighter. In short, he’s a certified American badass, the kind that the boogeyman checks his closet for before going to bed.

As badass as the whole video is (a cave literally f**king explodes), the part that really lures you in is seeing how emphatically Tim Kennedy talks about guns. You can tell the dude just loves shooting — it’s infectious to watch. I mean, he talks about a bolt action as passionately as Shakespeare talked about love or, like, a Danish kingdom…. And it’s much easier to watch Tim Kennedy blow s**t up for 5 minutes than it is to watch a prince whine about his daddy problems for 3 hours of a 5-act play. But hey, to each their own.

Thank god there’s no VR component yet for The Division 2 because if it got any closer to real life, I don’t think many would last long in a match with a dude who is so metal that he admittedly shoots guns as a way to quiet his mind.

Tim Kennedy showcases three separate weapons: the Macmillan Tac-50 sniper rifle, the M32A1 grenade launcher, and “the crossbow” (which happens to have a bolt with a little surprise attached).

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

The Macmillan Tac-50

This rifle was, as Tim Kennedy puts it, “originally made to shoot down enemy airplanes.” In real life, the lethality of one round can reach out to over a mile. In The Division 2, it seems like it could easily pin down an entire team behind cover while your teammates close in to finish them off with some CQB. Or, for all the sniper mains out there, it could be a deadly accurate way to eliminate an unsuspecting enemy from across the map.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

The M32A1 grenade launcher

This thing functions as an explosive revolver. It carries 6 high-explosive grenades, and it’s perfect for a demolitionist build. A perfect gun for taking out clumps of enemies who stick in close proximity which, in the first Division, was of great tactical advantage. Maybe not anymore… Oh, and apparently Tim Kennedy makes the same sound we do when fake-firing an explosive weapon, Doogah doogah, doogh dooghhh!”

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

The crossbow

This crossbow isn’t your run-of-the-mill crossbow. Even Tim Kennedy said he wouldn’t ever really bring one of these into a legitimate combat situation. But it’s a video game, and it’s fun, so… Why the hell not? Attached to the end of the bolt (don’t call it an arrow around Sergeant Kennedy) is a high-octane explosive. This weapon seems like the perfect thing to shake things up in a game and lay some destruction from high range — with high accuracy….

Oh, and did we mention Tim Kennedy blows up a van with it?

Get your hands on Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 for PS4, Xbox One, or PC on March 15th.

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How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper

In Iraq’s capital city of Baghdad during the 1980s, a family of six brothers and one sister — all very close in age — played in the streets and parks of their hometown, enjoying the simple things in life they had at the time. Through the decades, the times and the city had changed, and the streets and parks were not as simple.


Alsaeedy, the son of an Iraqi army reserve officer, said Iraq was a joyous place to grow up. “We played basketball, walked to school — all the children in the neighborhood were close,” he added. “There were negatives in politics, but we believed in our father, and everything was fine.”

Alsaeedy’s dream was to travel. “Everybody’s goal [in high school] was to travel the world, places like [the United Kingdom], U.S., and Europe,” Alsaeedy said. He kept that dream with him before pursuing a degree in biochemical engineering at the University of Baghdad.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans
Capt. Robert Duchaine, B Company Commander, 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, visits with children Oct. 31 at a Kindergarten school in the Khadamiyah area of western Baghdad. He took this opportunity when his unit conducted a joint mission with Iraqi Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division to hand out toys and school supplies. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Bob Miller).

“I was in my second year of college when everything happened — the troops arrived,” he said. “It was a year later when it seemed things began to settle down. We all were trying to educate ourselves on the matter, because we believed — and still do — that the U.S. forces and allies were there to transform the country and help. We felt there was not going to be any more tyranny system or sects of families taking over the country, doing whatever they felt they wanted … so we believed in the change and welcomed it.”

Trouble Finding Work

After graduating from college, Alsaeedy needed to find work, preferably in the engineering field. But it was extremely hard to come by, he said, due to the nature of the country and the fact that most employers hired only within their sects.

“I did not know exactly what to do or what I wanted to do, but I did know that I wanted to work for and with the service members,” he said. “It was not just about money or security. It was about being a part of something important to me.”

Unable to break into the U.S. contractor market, Alsaeedy’s education and skill set eventually gravitated employers to him within the private sector. In 2005, he found stability in the information technology field as a networking specialist for satellite communications.

“Then one day a man came into the shop and it changed my life forever,” he said. “He inquired about an internet network to be installed on a military base in Baghdad. I took the job. After the work was complete, they were very satisfied and needed more, so they hired me full-time. My English was very fluent, and I became a translator for them, too.”

While the years passed, Alsaeedy’s experiences and relationships grew through the ranks, and by 2007, he was a popular name among higher-ranking officials with the U.S. Air Force and the Marines in Qaim, Iraq.

Integrated Into Brotherhood

“I saw in the soldiers what very few of us [natives] see,” Alsaeedy said. “They were trustful, pleasant and respectful; they integrated me into their brotherhood.”

Insurgency propaganda said the Americans were in Iraq to destroy everything, Alsaeedy said.” But they were not,” he added. “They were building. They built infrastructure for the population and barracks for the Iraqi army. They supplied resources increasing our livelihood [and] creating jobs for husbands and fathers.”

At the end of 2007, Alsaeedy received some big news. Then-President George W. Bush allowed vetted contractors who had worked for the U.S. government for at least five years to be granted special immigrant visas for them and their families. The visa allowed them to live and work in the United States. At the end of 2009, Alsaeedy said, things started to change as U.S. troops began to withdraw.

“The protection was decreasing and so was the structure,” he said. “I knew if I stayed, my family and I were going to die soon.” In 2010, Alsaeedy met his five-year requirement to qualify for the special visa for him and his family to move to the United States.

Settling in Virginia

He settled in Norfolk, Virginia, where a new country and culture surrounded him. What he once knew as a world of war was now a life of peace and the pursuit of happiness, he said. He was immediately hired, and he worked for an oil and gas company from 2011 to 2012.

Alsaeedy said he felt grateful to the United States for the opportunities he’d received.

However, Alsaeedy said he “wanted to give them more.”

He enlisted into the U.S. Army in August 2013 as a combat engineer. Shortly thereafter, he attended basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Alsaeedy demonstrated his potential and quick-learning abilities, as well as outstanding physical fitness. He was afforded the opportunity to attend airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia, upon graduation.

“I found out that I was going to be assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division,” he said. “I knew it was an honor and a prestigious unit. I remember seeing the ‘Double-A’ patch in Iraq. And to realize that I am now one of those paratroopers along with my family — I was beyond excited and humbled. However, it truly did not hit me until I came to Fort Bragg and walked through the division’s museum. That’s when I realized I was a part of something special.”

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans
Paratroopers assigned to Charlie Company, 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division operate a satellite transmission terminal during a joint training exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C., June 22, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anthony Hewitt/Released)

In 2014, Alsaeedy arrived full of energy to Alpha Company, 307th BEB. He was a new Panther Engineer, and he integrated just fine among his leaders and peers.

“We did a lot of training,” he said. “We went to every kind of weapons range you could think of. I learned demolitions, steel cutting, [went on] too many ruck marches, and was just very happy.”

Returning to Iraq

But Alsaeedy’s heart was holding a deep secret: there was something missing.

“My real dream was to return to Iraq,” he said. “I wanted to be an asset to the unit. I had the language, the background and culture. I knew if I ever went back, I would put myself out there to be as valuable as I could for the 307th.”

In early 2015, the 3rd BCT deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. At the time, it was the newest campaign in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. There, paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division provided advice and assistance to Iraqi security forces.

In a twist of fate, Alsaeedy’s unit operated in the neighborhood where he was raised. His dream finally came true.

“It wasn’t easy at first,” Alsaeedy said while looking up with teary eyes. “But it was my leadership. They understood my situation. They supported me. It made my job and task much easier.”

Alsaeedy’s background and capabilities soon became an asset for his battalion commander all the way up to division command sergeant major and higher-ranking officials in tactical operations centers around the area of operations.

With his hard work and commitment to his leadership and the unit’s mission, Alsaeedy received the first battlefield promotion for a noncommissioned officer during the OIR campaign. He was pinned with the rank of sergeant during the fall of 2015 upon the unit’s redeployment to Fort Bragg.

Great Things

His accomplishments and accolades did not stop there. “When I became an NCO, great things began to happen for me and my family,” Alsaeedy said. He attended the Warrior Leader’s Course soon after becoming a sergeant, learning technical skills and correspondence in the craft of an NCO.

Alsaeedy’s motivation and physical fitness separated him from his peers. He wanted to go to Sapper School and master his craft as an engineer. “I may have had a more advanced role during deployment, but I am still an engineer in the 307th,” he said.

Early 2016 came around, and he began training with the division’s Best Sapper Team as it prepared to compete in the U.S. Army Best Sapper competition.

To keep himself busy and find new challenges, Alsaeedy attended the two-week Fort Bragg Pre-Ranger Course, which evaluates and prepares future candidates for the U.S. Army’s Ranger School at Fort Benning.

He never went to Sapper School, though. Immediately upon graduating the Pre-Ranger Course, he was put on a bus to Ranger School. Alsaeedy went straight through the 62-day course, a course that normally has a high attrition rate.

“I have been busy, that’s for sure,” he said. “But I felt the more I accomplish as an NCO and a paratrooper, the more I am giving back to the Army.

“I am just so grateful. I cannot put into words how I feel, landing the opportunity during the mid-2000s to becoming a citizen, a soldier deployed to my hometown and a Ranger,” he continued. “My wife and child love the installation, the people, and my daughter is receiving a great education from the schools on Fort Bragg. The Army adopted me, and I am forever in debt to the most professional and perfect organization: the 82nd Airborne [Division].”

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7 principles of parenting from a Marine Corps drill instructor

Master Sergeant Chris Lopez is a former Marine Corps drill instructor, combat vet, and father of 3. But if you think he gets in his kids’ face, Full Metal Jacket-style, every time their common sense goes AWOL, you have a major malfunction. Because, getting 90 recruits to do whatever he wants? Easy. Getting one 4-year-old to pick up his socks? Hard. You can’t treat a toddler the same way you treat a grunt because the toddler is going to beat you in a screaming match every time.


That said, Lopez has a core set of principles that are equally applicable on the parade ground as the playground. You bet your ass he has an opinion on modern day, “let them feel their feelings” philosophies on discipline — and it’s not what you think.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans
Flickr

1. The goal is self discipline

“When we get a batch of new recruits, we don’t know what degree of structure they’ve had in their lives. We try to set a baseline. Your basic function is to bring the heat, to stress them out, and to be an enforcer,” says Lopez. Fortunately for your kid, you’re intimately familiar with exactly how much structure they’ve had in their lives, so you don’t need to bring any heat right off the bat (newborn infants are notoriously hard to train, anyway). The long-term goal, says Lopez, is to make sure that your kids are doing the right thing when there’s nobody there to supervise them — not doing the right thing just as you’re about to take away the iPad.

2. But sometimes you need “imposed discipline”

Speaking of iPads, Lopez has found the one that belongs to his son is a useful tool when he’s displaying a lack of self-discipline. He doesn’t make the kid drop and give him 20. Rather, “We do the timeout thing but it’s usually after some verbal warnings. We don’t do corporal punishment. We go with things my kids are more attached to; if he’s not listening and being polite and it gets to the point where we have to punish, he doesn’t get it back until tomorrow. That’s when it hits home. To me, it’s the same effect as when I was a child and it was like getting spanked.”

3. Where empathy meets strategy

Speaking of punishment, Lopez isn’t so hardass that he goes all R. Lee Ermey on toddlers. “All 3-year-olds want to do things that are dangerous. I try not to let it get to point where it becomes a tantrum with my son. I’ll change the channel. If I tell him to stop doing something, and he won’t do it, I’ll explain why again and I’ll divert his attention. You can punish them, but they’re not going to understand why. It’s a rough one to identify before you get unreasonably upset, So I’ll remove both of us from the situation.” Childhood Development And Empathy Queen Dr. Laura Markham would be impressed.

4. The difference between punishment and correction

Lopez isn’t trying to bounce a quarter off his kid’s Elmo sheets. “The way we do it in our household is as close to the way the Marine Corps does it,” he says, “We don’t believe in the zero defect mentality, where as soon as you make a mistake you’re punished. I’m a firm believer that there’s a difference between punishment and correction. If your child makes an honest mistake it’s not a big deal. It’s not as big a deal as they know the right answer and do something bad.”

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans
Giphy

5. Being afraid of mistakes is worse than making them

“I don’t believe in physically doing something to somebody, or making them go out and digging a fighting hole. I believe in education,” says Lopez. “Allow your children — or the guys that you’re leading — to make those mistakes. That’s where you’re going to get your best ideas. If you’re constantly critiquing [recruits] on how to do things, they’re never going to learn to solve the problems themselves.” That’s easy for him to say — he’s never seen your kid dig a fox hole.

6. “Because I said so” isn’t a reason

Kids are like soldiers, in that they only get the benefit from the how’s and why’s of rules once they can follow them. “As training progresses, the explanations start happening more,” says Lopez of his recruits. “The more you explain why you’re making them do what they’re doing, the more buy in, and the more efficient they are in doing the task. The goal is to be as patient as I can, and explain things as well as I can, without me saying ‘Because I said so.'”

7. How to go from major to dad

“Any drill instructor will tell you, it’s very intoxicating.” says Lopez. “You have 90 kids who want to be a Marine. They’re going to run over every other recruit to prove that to you. It’s very difficult to go from 90 recruits doing everything you want them to do, to home, where you have to wait a half hour for your toddler to pick up their socks and shoes.”

Some guys hit the gym, and some hit the bar, but for Lopez, he has one trick that takes him from Big Daddy on the base to Private Dad at home. “When I was an instructor, I’d use audiobooks like a reset button. It gave me something to focus on other than work, so I could go back and be the normal person I am. Being a drill instructor you’re not going to act the way at home that you do to the recruits.” What works best? James Patterson? Deepak Chopra? Being A Chill Father For Dummies? “Anything by Mark Twain. I’m actually listening to James Joyce right now. The Portrait of An Artist As A Young Man.” Pvt. Daedelus, reporting for duty.

MIGHTY TRENDING

After 100 years, the USS Conestoga was finally found

The wreckage of the USS Conestoga, a Navy tug that also served as a minesweeper and fleet tender in World War I, was been found off the coast of California 95 years after the ship was lost with all hands. It was found 2,000 miles from where it was presumed lost.


Conestoga was laid down in 1903 in Maryland and launched in Nov. 1904 as a civilian tug. In 1917, the Navy purchased and commissioned the ship for minesweeping duties.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

During the war Conestoga served on the East Coast, transporting supplies and guns, escorting convoys to the Caribbean, and taking part in patrols. She carried a 3-inch deck gun to use against enemy ships.

After the war she continued to serve in the Atlantic until she received orders to American Samoa. Unfortunately, the ship would never make it there.

Conestoga underwent alterations and a refit in 1920 in preparation for the long trip to American Samoa, then headed for Mare Island, arriving Feb. 17, 1921 after a stop in San Diego. At Mare Island Conestoga received final repairs and supplies and headed for Pearl Harbor on Mar. 25, the final scheduled stop en route to American Samoa.

This was the last time the ship was seen afloat. It was scheduled to arrive Apr. 5 at Pearl Harbor and was erroneously reported to have arrived Apr. 6. On Apr. 26, it was clear that something had happened to the ship and the Navy launched a search.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

The fleet at Pearl Harbor and planes stationed at Hawaii took part in the operation. A garbled distress call heard on Apr. 8 made the Navy believe that the ship was near Hawaii and so the search centered there.

After the Navy gave up Conestoga as lost, a mystery hung over the fate of the ship for nearly 95 years. But an Aug. 2009 coastal survey by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spotted a wrecked ship near Southeast Farallon Island. The Farallon Islands form an island chain 30 miles from the San Francisco Coast.

In Sep. 2014, a remotely operated vehicle was used to photograph the site and an Oct. 2015 survey collected more information. Some details of the wreck, including the lack of a 3-inch gun on the deck, made researchers think it wasn’t the Conestoga. When a researcher went through the footage carefully, he spotted the mount for the weapon and a hole where it probably fell through the deck.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

The USS Conestoga‘s 3-inch, 50-caliber deck gun. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

The mount, combined with distinct features of the engines and boilers, finally allowed the Navy to say with certainty that they had found their lost ship, 2,000 miles from the original search area.

Damage to the ship suggests that it encountered a sudden storm soon after it left the California coast to cross the Pacific. Naval researchers believe that the ship was heading to the Farallon Islands to escape the storm when the rudder was damaged and it lost the ability to steer. The bilge pumps also failed, dooming the ship.

The ship’s wreckage and the remains of the 56 sailors lost when it sank are now protected by the Sunken Military Craft Act. Officials have said they have no plans to recover the wreckage or otherwise disturb it.

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