Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

As the United States approaches the 20-year mark of the war on terror, the country continues to lose her service members. But we aren’t losing the vast majority of them to combat with the enemy. Instead, accidents and suicide are inflicting most of the devastation.


In 2019, a Congressional report compiled the data from 2006 through 2019. The results determined that 12,116 of the 16,652 killed in service during that period didn’t die from combat related causes. That’s 73% who weren’t lost due to fighting an enemy during war but instead – most died accidentally or by suicide.

Since 2015, the non-combat related deaths have been outpacing those lost while fighting. According to the Defense Reauthorization Act of 2019, in 2017, almost four times the amount of combat related deaths were attributed to training accidents. The number has continued to grow, causing alarm within the military and government.

These accidental deaths are often attributed to training and safety insufficiencies.

The increasing numbers led many members of the Armed Services Committee to state that America is “at a crisis point.” The committee’s 2019 proposal for funding addressed rebuilding the military so that its members can safely meet the needs of present and future threats to the country. That same proposal called for more training, equipment repair and increased readiness on land, at sea and in the air.
Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

But some of the battles they will face are within their own minds.

Since 2004, the suicide rates for the military have increased substantially. Tragically, 23.2% of all service member deaths from 2006 to 2019 were labeled by the Department of Defense as “self-inflicted.” In 2019, the Air Force’s numbers were trending so high that their Chief of Staff called for a resiliency and suicide prevention stand down, which was unprecedented.

A 2019 historical study within the Army painted a picture for the increased numbers. The data within the study demonstrated that there was a decrease in suicides for the Army during the active combat of the U.S. Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II and the Korean War. But beginning with the Vietnam War, the numbers changed and continued to climb. By 2012, the rates of suicide within the military surpassed the rates of suicide within the civilian world.

Accidental deaths and increasing suicide rates highlight the increased danger that America’s troops encounter a long way from the battlefield. Ensuring that those who raise their right hand to defend this country have effective and safe training environments with working equipment is vital. Their mental health support should also be continual and ongoing, with the stigma of seeking help eradicated from the top down. We owe them all of this – and so much more.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 business lessons from the ‘Black Hawk down’ raid

It is a day that should always be remembered — and studied.

On Oct. 3, 1993 a large special operations force unit set out to capture a Somali warlord, Mohamed Farrah Aidid, who was causing the deaths of Somali civilians by capturing international food aid and killing international peacekeeping forces who were providing security for the food relief effort. The “routine” combat operation to capture Aidid was drastically changed when one, and then two, Black Hawk helicopters were shot down in a dense urban area of Mogadishu that was swarming with militia. The mission instantly transformed from a capture mission into a multi-pronged rescue filled with tragedy, heroism, bravery, brotherhood, and lessons for the future.


Mogadishu, Somalia on Oct. 3, 1993 is a reminder of the sacrifices of the fallen and wounded U.S. servicemen as well as the unparalleled efforts to reduce the suffering for the Somali people.

Lesson #1: The team is the most important.

As the events unfolded from the planned capture mission into multiple rescue missions, street fighting, medical evacuations, and resupply missions, the military personnel realized they were fighting for each other. A SOF mission planning tenant is that “humans are more important than hardware”. The military understands missions cannot be accomplished without personnel, and business needs to learn that employees matter most.

In business, it is amazingly easy to focus on revenue, profitability, and stock prices, but Oct. 3, 1993 clearly reminds us that it is employees that need to be an overarching focus for a successful business in periods of crisis.

Lesson #2: Stability in success is an illusion.

During the prior raids in Mogadishu, the SOF unit had used a well-rehearsed and well-executed combination of helicopter and ground convoy insertion and extraction tactics that performed well. On Oct. 3, 1993, the various militia in Mogadishu used RPGs in a ground-to-air role instead of the traditional ground-to-ground role. This change in how RPGs were used immediately put at risk the heavy reliance on helicopters when two Black Hawks were shot down using RPGs.

Businesses need to learn that any stability in their product line, pricing, and customer base can vanish overnight when the competition rapidly adapts.

Lesson #3: Building teamwork & relationships before the battle. 

Prior to the battle, the SOF forces trained together and many had known each other for years. The times before adversity are the most important because it is during the times of quiet that learning occurs, relationships are built, and methods perfected. It was really all the time before the battle that prevented Oct. 3 in Mogadishu from turning into a tragedy.

Business needs to realize that during the “good” times, business needs to take a very hard look at products, implement solid employee training programs, value customers, and develop broad product and service lines to begin improving business results before the competition acts.

Lesson #4: Difficult training triumphs over adversity.

The SOF in the Battle of Mogadishu were Rangers, Special Operations Aviation, the legendary “Delta” Force, and other military units. These groups are some of the most highly-trained military forces in the world. The central point for business (that the military realizes) is that you may never fully know when you will enter your most challenging point, which is why constant, difficult training is vital to success.

Business leaders must understand that constant, challenging, up-to-date and difficult training is the only way to remain constantly prepared for challenges that you cannot fully anticipate.

Lesson #5: Success in one area does not mean success in another.

In 1993, the U.S. military was supreme in the world. It had been a central player in forcing the Soviet Union to abandon communism for democratic reforms. In the Middle East, Operation Desert Storm built a strong coalition that destroyed the regional military power, Iraq, in less than a week of conventional ground combat.

The unexpected challenge for the U.S. military in Mogadishu was that the militia forces were an exceptionally effective, and highly untraditional, military force adept at fighting in the dense, confusing urban terrain of a major city. The lesson for business is that just because you are strong in one product category or one market does not mean that you will be strong in others.

Lesson #6: Lower level leaders with initiative bring success.

Encouraging and developing leaders with initiative is one of the hallmarks of SOF. A great deal of the success that US forces experienced in Mogadishu came from lower level leaders who understood that the initial plan had to be modified, observed what needed to be done, and then took multiple successful actions to ensure that the follow on plan was successful. The lesson for business is that few product launches or new business initiatives succeed exactly according to plan.

Business needs to encourage the development of trained, bright, and focused leaders and instill them with a spirit of initiative, so they seek out problems when initial plans fail to deliver success at the end. Initiative is one of the most powerful forces in employees.

Lesson #7: Learn, reshape your operations, and prepare for the next fight.

Finally, SOF never rest in examining their mistakes and creating new methods, tactics, and equipment to ensure success in the future. The Battle of Mogadishu continues to be relentlessly studied and examined by the very people that fought the battle to improve for the future.

Oct. 3, 1993 brought about a renewed focus on urban fighting, new medical technology to halt bleeding faster, and renewed focus on fighting as a combined force of air and ground teams working together. Business needs to adopt the military process of an after-action review, or debrief, to learn how to make every operation a study for future improvement. An effective team never rests in their desire to be even greater.

The business challenges of COVID-19 continue to demonstrate that life and business are transforming in unpredictable and dynamic ways. When a business focuses on their team, expects and plans for instability, builds teamwork, trains their employees, understands the strategic relevance of prior success, builds employee initiative, and constantly learns how to be better that organization is prepared to succeed in a world of chaos and challenge.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Hollywood honors the behind-the-scenes liaison who makes military movies happen

As Hollywood’s awards season wraps up with the Oscars, it’s easy to believe that Hollywood glamour and military might are like oil and water: Two very separate worlds that only intersect on the screen.

While Hollywood might love taking military stories and putting them up on the screen, the military involvement is usually all but forgotten when the red carpets are rolled out and the glitterati are all dressed up in their tuxedos and gowns with the flash bulbs popping.


Like the military, for every high-profile celebrity, there’s a couple hundred crew members supporting them, from the always present agents and assistants, to the camera and lighting crews, and even the guys who drive the trucks and cook the food every day on set. Just as any admiral or general could never win a battle without the hard work of the brave men and women in their command, every big-name actor and director also owes their celebrity on the work of the often under-appreciated crew behind the scenes.

One of those valuable yet often under-appreciated components is that provided by the US military, which could fill an article on its own, but we’ll leave that for another day.

Among the many awards offered by Hollywood this year, one award deserves special recognition.

The California On Location Awards recognizes the contributions of the logistical backbone of Hollywood: the location professionals and public employees responsible for making filming possible. Without the contributions of location managers and public employees, Hollywood could never venture off the studio lot, and it’s the location managers who negotiate with the city, state, and federal employees in order to facilitate access to public roads, gritty alleys, exquisite mansions, alien landscapes, and the tanks, aircraft carriers, and military transports required to give any military-based project the level of realism viewers expect.

One man has been responsible for providing much of the military hardware seen on screen.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

Phil receives his award from the California On Location Awards.

(Courtesy of Kent Matsuoka)

That man is Phil Strub, the recently retired Department of Defense’s Entertainment Liaison. A former Navy cameraman and Vietnam vet, he used his GI Bill to earn a film degree from USC, and was appointed to the Entertainment Liaison Desk at the Pentagon in 1989 following the phenomenal success of Top Gun; not only for Hollywood, but for DoD as well.

As the Department of Defense’s point person for any project wishing to use US military assets on screen, Phil has provided a constant bridge to Hollywood for almost 30 years. From his first project, Hunt For Red October to the new Top Gun, Phil has been a true asset to Hollywood and America.

This year, the COLAs recognized Phil’s contributions to Hollywood with its Distinguished Service Award. Presented by David Grant, Marvel’s VP of Physical Production, he praised Phil’s efforts on their films, from the first Iron Man to the eagerly awaited Captain Marvel.

While Hollywood loves to honor themselves for their own contributions, this award is a testament to Hollywood’s appreciation of all that DoD and the brave men and women who serve can provide, and for that reason, was one of the most important, under-reported award given out this year due to the morale value such awards have in sustaining Hollywood’s continued relationship with its government partners.

If there’s one thing the military does well, it’s recognizing the immense value of each and every member of its chain of command. Whether it be the individual qualification certificates, promotion ceremonies, retirement shadow boxes, or the fruit salad of ribbons on a soldier’s chest, they make a point of recognizing every individual from the lowest enlisted recruit to the five star brass, and understand that such recognition is important to unit cohesiveness and morale.

It’s a lesson Hollywood would do well to remember. It’s not just the big names that deserve recognition, but the hundreds of lesser known craftsmen behind the scenes who also deserve their 15 minutes of fame. Without them, the big names wouldn’t have anything to celebrate.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Navy just changed who gets to wear the coveted gold stripes

The Navy announced updates to uniform policy, grooming standards, uniform item availability and mandatory possession dates for new uniform items in NAVADMIN 075/19, released March 25, 2019.

Highlights include:

A command/unit logo shoulder patch is now an option for wear on the left shoulder pocket of the Navy Working Uniform (NWU) Type II and III in place of the Don’t Tread On Me shoulder patch.

Black leather and non-leather gloves can be worn with the black NWU parka fleece liner.


NWU Type III O-6 rank insignia will be available for purchase and optional wear in silver thread starting June 1, 2019, for easier visual recognition and distinction from the E-4 insignia.

Effective June 1, 2019, all enlisted sailors with 12 years of cumulative service in active or drilling reserve time in the Navy or Marine Corps may wear gold rating badges and gold service stripes on dress uniforms in lieu of red rating badges and stripes.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

The gold rank insignia of a Boatswain Mate Chief Petty Officer.

Women have the option to wear smooth or synthetic leather flat shoes (flats) in service and service dress uniforms.

Nursing T-shirts may be worn with service uniforms, NWU Type I, II and III and flight suits.

The message provides clarification on the definition and manner of wear for ponytail hairstyles.

Effective immediately, sailors who are assigned to Joint/Unified Commands are authorized to wear the command’s identification badge only during the period of assignment.

Also read: This is why some sailors wear gold stripes, and some wear red

Navy Exchange (NEXCOM) uniform stores will provide a free replacement collar if needed to improve the fit of the officer and chief petty officer (CPO) service dress white coat (choker) effective March 1, 2019.

The NAVADMIN announces the completion of the testing and evaluation of the improved female officer and CPO slacks and skirts.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

It also provides the schedule for when the NEXCOM Customer Contact Center and Uniform Centers will have slacks and skirts, the Improved Safety Boot (I-Boot 4) and the optional physical training uniform available for purchase.

The dates for when sailors must possess new uniforms and uniform components are listed in the NAVADMIN.

Sailors can ask questions and provide feedback and recommendations on Navy uniforms via the “Ask the Chiefs” email, on the Navy Uniform Matters Office (UMO) website, through MyNavy Portal at https://www.mnp.navy.mil/. Select Professional Resources, U.S. Navy Uniforms and “Ask the Chiefs”. Sailors can also contact UMO via the Navy Uniform App that can be downloaded at the Navy App Locker https://www.applocker.navy.mil/ and the Apple iTunes and Google Play stores.

Read NAVADMIN 075/19 in its entirety for details and complete information on all of the announced uniform changes, updates and guidelines at www.npc.navy.mil.

Get more information about the Navy from US Navy facebook or twitter.

For more news from Chief of Naval Personnel, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnp/.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This proposed legislation could make it easier for troops to receive care packages

While deployed, there’s always a bit of joy that buzzes around the squad when a care package arrives. Troops gather around their squad leader as they disperse the sweets, trinkets, and amenities given by the charitable folks back home. It’s not uncommon for battle-hardened warfighters to genuinely crack an enormous smile when they receive something that reminds them of home.

Recently, certain regulations consolidated the shipping rates for packages being sent to an Army Post Office (APO), Fleet Post Office (FPO) or Diplomatic Post Office (DPO) mailing address — which only put added financial strain on those kind-willed folks sending packages. The costs can also really add up for charities who send mass quantities of care packages. Ultiltaemy, this means fewer care packages being sent to the troops still fighting overseas today.

There is a glimmer of hope. U.S. Congressman Donald Norcross of New Jersey’s First District recently introduced the “Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2019,” or H.R. 400, that aims to greatly reduce the costs and spread more cheer among the troops.


Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

The secret to make a bunch of grown badasses smile like children? Girl Scout cookies…

(Photo by Steven L. Shepard, Presidio of Monterey Public Affairs)

All shipping rates for packages that crossed different shipping zones drastically increased January, 2018. While a package going to Michigan from California saw an increase of .60, any package sent from Smalltown, USA, to troops stationed in the Middle East had to pay nearly double.

Logistically speaking, the care package left the hands of postal employees long before they were dispersed at mail call. Any package sent would arrive at a postal gateway before being given to military personnel to complete its journey to a remote destination. The added costs are mostly meaningless seeing as the package is delivered by US military personnel once it leaves the US.

Congressman Tom MacArthur of New Jersey’s Third District tried last year to reverse these increases with a similar bit of legislation — Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2018, or H.R.6231. He aimed to curtail the costs and make it much cheaper to send troops a care package. This legislation would have listed any package to (or from) an APO/FPO/DPO address as Zone 1/2, making the weight of the package a non-factor in shipping costs so long as the contents fit inside a flat-rate box. This bill, unfortunately, did not succeed and MacArthur was unsuccessful in his reelection campaign.

The cost to send care packages remains unreasonably high, and organizations like the Operation Yellow Ribbon of South Jersey have had to reduce the number of packages sent purely because of the financial red tape.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

Because our troops are still out there, and they need your support.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Meredith Brown)

Now the torch to raise the morale of troops has been passed to fellow New Jersey Congressman Donald Norcross, a chair on the 115th Congressional Committee of Armed Services.

He’s proposed “Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2019,” which aims to cut the red tape and make the price of sending a care package comparable to the cost of sending a letter.

This bill will positively affect the lives of the countless troops still in harm’s way. Please contact your representative and let them know that you support “Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2019”, or H.R. 400.

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What life was actually like for a viking berserker

Many myths and legends surround the Vikings. Known for being fierce raiders, courageous explorers, and competent traders, the Viking Age lasted from roughly 793 AD until 1066 AD. It should be noted, however, that much of their history wasn’t written from their perspective and is therefore skewed. Only two literary works, the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda, and some sagas were known to have survived the ages. Historians are now looking at Vikings in a different light because of recent evidence surfacing that disproves many of the myths about the “heathen savages” to the North.


Modern historians characterize Vikings more as fur traders than the bloodthirsty savages they’re often depicted as. The most barbaric and over-the-top of these Viking stories were of the
Viking berserker. Berserkers were said to have been lone Viking warriors who donned nothing but a bearskin (or a “bear coat,” which, in Old Norse, is pronounced, “bjorn-serkr” — sound familiar?), took psychedelic drugs to block out pain, and destroyed anyone foolish enough to stand in the way of their ax. Though not entirely wrong, these are definitely exaggerations.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

Verdict is still out on if they fought dragons or wrote books on how to train them. (Bethesda Studios’ Elder Scrolls IV: Skyrim)

First of all, there were three different
warrior cults who were often bunched into the same category. They are the well-known Berserkers (whose bear coats are often attributed to the worship of Thor, Tyr, or Odin), the Ulfhednar (who wore wolf coats for Odin), and the Svinflylking (who wore boar coats for Freya). Each devotedly fought for a different Norse god and each took on the aspect of the animal whose pelt they wore.

These tribal groupings contradict the “lone savage” stereotype. All berserkers — especially the wolf coats — were used in combat as a complement to other Vikings. Scandinavian kings would use the berserkers as shock troops to augment their forces. The pelt they wore was similar in function to modern-day unit insignias. You could tell who was a berserker on the battlefield because their “battle cry” was to bite down on their shield.

Secondly, their defining pelt wasn’t the only thing they wore, either. As intimidating as it would be to see a burly Viking wearing nothing but a bear coat, war paint, and the blood of their enemies, this kind of garb was nowhere near as common as the myth would have you believe. The
Volsung Saga corroborates the idea of a frenzied, mostly naked warrior, but logically speaking, the frozen tundras of Scandinavia would be too damn cold to spend weeks displaying what Odin gave them to their enemies. They may not have worn chainmail — which was very uncommon among Vikings since coastal raiding would rust the iron — but wood carvings showed them as at least wearing pants.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

Who knows? Maybe a few berserks did leave this world the same way they came in, you know, naked and covered in someone else’s blood. (Woodcarving via Antiqvitets Akademien)

Finally, we arrive at the myth about the hallucinogens. The first accounts of Vikings “going berserk” because they ate magic mushrooms was hypothesized in 1784 by a Christian priest named Odmann. He came to a conclusion that connected the berserkers to the
fly agaric mushroom because he read that Siberian shamans did the same when they were healing. There are two problems with this theory. First, the mushrooms are extremely toxic and would leave any warrior in no shape to fight. Second, these mushrooms were never mentioned anywhere until 1784 — long after the Viking age.

Now, that’s not to say that they didn’t take something for the pain in battle. Stinking Nightshade was discovered in a
berserker grave in 1977. Mostly used as medicine, the plant was also used in war paint. If the nightshade were crushed down and made into a paste, it could be applied to a warrior to slightly dull their senses.

The effects would be similar to someone running into battle after popping a bunch of Motrin.

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Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

Whether you love them or hate them, it’s hard to deny that Vikings are insanely cool. The Viking era lasted from about 793  – 1066 AD, and the lore surrounding these ancient people is fascinating. Not all of the stereotypes about Vikings are accurate, however. Keep reading to find out which Viking myths are real, and which are pop culture embellishments. 

Myth #1: Vikings wore those goofy horned helmets.

Fact or Fiction: Fiction

viking helmet
Replica Viking helmet, “The Vikings Begin” exhibit, Nordic Museum, Seattle, Washington, U.S. Photo by Joe Mabel

No one is entirely sure how this rumor became so securely cemented in our portrayal of vikings, but the classic horned Viking helmet wasn’t actually a thing. While earlier Norsemen did wear horned helmets for cultural ceremonies, the Viking era was decidedly horned-hat-free. They did have helmets for combat, just not with horns. 

Myth #2: They were basically pirates.

Fact or Fiction: Fiction…mostly

Technically speaking word Viking is derived from a Scandinavian term, “viking”, which does mean pirate. The meaning behind it, however, is totally different from the modern definition of piracy. Then, it meant a person who explored the high seas. Going “a Viking” was more a verb than a title, and it meant far more than mindless theft and violence. 

Myth #3: Vikings were uncivilized brutes.

Fact or Fiction: Total fiction

Yet again, pop culture did Vikings dirty- literally. Modern representations often portray Vikings as filthy, ruthless war machines. While they were remarkable warriors, they were actually among the more civilized peoples of their era. They were shockingly focused on personal hygiene. A number of items like combs, razors, and tweezers have been found at Viking sites. They also bathed weekly or more, which was exceptional compared to most Europeans at the time. 

They were ahead of the equality curve, too. While girls did get married at a disturbingly young age, they had considerably more freedom than women from other cultures. Aside from thralls, or slaves, Viking women had the right to request divorces, reclaim their dowries, and inherit property. 

Myth #4: They wrote using ancient runes.

Fact or Fiction: Fact

Vikings had their very own alphabet. If you’ve ever watched “The Lord of the Rings” movie series, the runes from the movie are surprisingly similar to real Viking runes. The Vikings recorded historical events into large rocks, which later became known as rune stones. These stones helped tell modern historians much of what we now know about ancient Scandinavian culture.

Myth #5: They were ruthless warriors.

Fact or Fiction: A little of both

Vikings weren’t peaceful, but they weren’t senseless killers either. Their reputation to be killing machines began after a raid on the monks of Lindisfarne. The monks there were killed or captured, the church pillaged, and the library burned. This was the start of the Viking migration from Scandinavia, and it gave them a harsh reputation of being a crude people with no respect for religion or knowledge.

They didn’t do much to dispel that assumption. They conducted raids on countless cities, monasteries and coastal villages. Still, there were two plausible reasons for their plundering habits. 

Firstly, they were NOT devoid of culture or religion; they just weren’t Christian, and they were frequently persecuted for it. Forced baptism and other unfortunate practices led to tension between pagan Vikings and their Christian neighbors. Secondly, the harsh winter conditions of their homeland made it difficult for them to survive without the “help” of towns with more plentiful resources. 

They didn’t always destroy towns, however. After initial raids, Vikings often imposed a tax called Danegeld on their victims. Towns could avoid further attacks by paying up, providing a slightly less dark means of survival for the Vikings.

Myth #6: Vikings were a formal group.

Fact or Fiction: Fiction

Vikings weren’t actually a formal nation. The term Viking covers all the Scandinavian peoples who engaged in overseas exploration and warfare. Vikings were composed of tribes from what is now Sweden, Denmark and Norway. The tribes didn’t live in harmony, either. When they weren’t fighting other nations, they were fighting each other.

Myth #7: Vikings were all about war. 

Fact or Fiction: Fiction

This really comes down to your definition of Viking, honestly. If you mean Viking explorers then sure, they spent a lot of time in battle. If you’re just talking about ancient Scandinavians during the Viking era, then you’d be dead wrong. Most of the people of the era were farmers, not fighters. While their aggressive counterparts razed villages, they raised livestock and grew oats and barley for the winter months. 

They also liked to have fun. They developed early skis, similar to those invented in Russia at a similar time. It became an efficient way to get around their icy homeland, and they enjoyed it so much that they worshipped a skiing god named Ullr.

Myth #8: Viking ships were next-level.

Viking ship
A Viking ship at a museum in Oslo, Norway. Image by Larry Lamsa

Fact or Fiction: Definitely fact

As much as Vikings were known for destruction, they had a great deal to contribute as well. For over 1000 years, the Norse honed the craft of ship-building. They made a wide range of vessels, and they’re responsible for inventing the keel. The keel made boats faster and more stable, which allowed the Vikings to travel longer, faster, and farther across the Atlantic than any before them.

Their most famous ships featured a series of oars and a large, red, woolen sail. They were also strikingly beautiful. Ship-crafting was an art to the Vikings. Their vessels boasted finely carved dragon heads for good luck. 

Myth #9: People were born into the Viking life.

Fact or Fiction: Fiction

Referring back to number six and seven, being a Viking was less a nationality than a career choice. Young Scandinavians could choose to become farmers, or they could choose to become Vikings. The only reason you hear more about Norse Vikings than Norse farmers is pretty simple; decapitating people is way more thrilling to read about than herding sheep. 

Myth #10: They buried their dead at sea.

Fact or Fiction: Mostly fiction.

While the visual of sending a lost loved one out to sea, shooting a flaming arrow into the ship, and watching it burn into a final sunset, is dramatic as hell, it’s not very realistic. Most Viking burials were much less elaborate. Norsemen were often buried in large burial mounds with their prized possessions or cremated in ceremonial pyres. Some of the mounds were made in the shape of a ship, however, to represent their safe journey to the afterlife. 

Can’t get enough of Viking lore? Read about one of the most feared Vikings of all time here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This vet and real-life Santa makes wooden toys for kids every year

Where the Marine Corps has its Toys for Tots, the Army can count on its elderly retirees – at least one of them, anyway. As of Christmas, 2019, Army veteran Jim Annis turned 80 years old. For the past 50 Christmas seasons, the former soldier spent months creating hundreds of wooden toys for children who otherwise might not have anything to open on Christmas morning. When the Salvation Army comes through for these families, Annis comes rolling along right behind them.


Annis spends hundreds of dollars from his own pocket every year to make wooden toys for needy children. The one-man Santa’s Workshop spends much of his free time throughout the year crafting and painting these toys in preparation for Christmastime. By the time he’s ready to donate the pieces to the Salvation Army, Annis has created as many as 300 toys, finished and ready to hand out to the little ones.

“When the Salvation Army gives out the food and clothes to people in this area, I give out my toys,” Annis told Raleigh-Durham’s ABC-11 affiliate. “It feels like you’re sort of forgotten about at Christmas time.”

In case you’re bad at math, creating 300 toys per year for the past 50 years, makes for about 15,000 toys total. But for Annis, it’s not about the money. He was one of those needy children during his childhood. He came from a working family with five children to take care for.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

Jim Annis, a one-man Santa’s Workshop.

(WTVD ABC-11)

Annis gets wooden scraps for free from homeowners and pays only for the tools of production and the acrylic paint for the toys. His costs run about id=”listicle-2641673298″,000 but his return on investment is the smiles of young kids who will get a toy for Christmas this year. Kids can get an array of cool, handmade toys, from fire trucks and dolls to piggy banks. Jim Annis will also make special gifts for American veterans and their loved ones.

“I have to sort of feel right in here,” Annis told North Carolina’s Spectrum News. “That’s the joy I know I’m giving some of the kids, I’m giving them something that I didn’t have a whole lot at Christmas time.”

If you want to donate to materials to this vet’s Christmastime cause, you can call Jim Annis at 919-842-5445.

Articles

Navy to fire 150Kw ship laser weapon from destroyers, carriers

The U.S. Navy is moving at warp speed to develop lasers with more lethality, precision and power sources as a way to destroy attacking missiles, drones aircraft and other threats.


“We’re doing a lot more with lasers,” Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, director, Surface Warfare Division, said earlier this month at the annual Surface Naval Association national symposium.

The Navy plans to fire a 150-kw weapon off a test ship within a year, he said. “Then a year later, we’ll have that on a carrier or a destroyer or both.”

Related: The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet

That’s quite a jump from the kw AN/SEQ-3(XN-1) Laser Weapon System (LaWS), which deployed in 2014 on the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce.

And the kind of power needed to power such a weapon won’t come with a simple flip of a switch.

“The Navy will be looking at ships’ servers to provide three times that much power,” says Donald Klick, director of business development, for DRS Power and Control Technologies. “To be putting out 150 kws, they (the laser systems) will be consuming 450 kws.”

That is more than most currently operational ships are designed to accommodate, at least when they are conducting other tasks. “Few power systems onboard ships can support sustained usage of a high-powered laser without additional energy storage,” noted a recent Naval Postgraduate School paper titled “Power Systems and Energy Storage Modeling for Directed Energy Weapons”.

The paper said, “The new DDG-1000 may have enough electrical energy, but other platforms … may require some type of ‘energy magazine.’ This magazine stores energy for on-demand usage by the laser. It can be made up of batteries, capacitors, or flywheels, and would recharge between laser pulses. The energy magazine should allow for sustained usage against a swarm of targets in an engagement lasting up to twenty minutes.

The ship’s integrated power system, which includes its electric propulsion, helps generate up to 78 megawatts of on-board electrical power, something seen as key to the future when it comes to ship technologies and the application of anticipated future weapons systems such as laser weapons and rail guns. The ship’s electric drive uses two main turbine generations with two auxiliary turbine generators which power up two 35-megawatt advanced induction motors, developers explained.

Ideally, it would charge up as fast as it discharges, allowing for indefinite use (as long as there is ship’s fuel to expend). Low maintenance, high safety, and long lifespan are other desirable characteristics.

DRS Power and Control Technologies is one of the companies which is developing a specialized energy source. “We have enough for well over 100 shots before we go to recharge,” DRS’s Klick said during a break at SNA, pointing out there’s even a mode for continuous recharge. “If you’ve got power this kind of power, you don’t go Winchester.”

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops
The Laser Weapon System (LaWS) aboard USS Ponce. | US Navy photo

The DRS system uses a Li-Ion battery subsystem designed and provided by Lithiumstart housed in three distributed steel, welded cabinets that are 48″ x 66″ x 100″ – although they are modular, Klick says, and can be arranged for a tailored fit. Each cabinet contains 18 drawers with 480 Li-Ion phosphate cells in each drawer.

The redundant power modules can provide 465 k each for a total of 930 kw. It can hold that full-power mark for about three minutes, Klick says – although most “lases” are normally of relatively short duration.

An at-sea demonstration of the magazine is slated for 2018, Klick says, mostly with the 150-kw laser being developed by Northrop Grumman for the Office of Naval Research.

The system still must go through rigorous Navy certification testing, Klick says.

He also sees the energy magazine as a candidate for other U.S. military units. “We’re looking at Air Force Special Forces on a C-130. You have to strike a car, but you’re worried about collateral damage. With that pinpoint accuracy, you don’t have to worry about collateral damage. You can just cause a car to stop running. There’s a lot more capability.”

Long-Term Effort

The Navy has already been working with Northrop Grumman on a three-year deal to develop a ship-board laser weapon engineered to quickly incinerate enemy drones, small boats, aircraft, ships and missiles, service officials told Scout Warrior.

“This system employs multi-spectral target detection and track capabilities as well as an advanced off-axis beam director with improved fiber laser technologies to provide extended target engagement ranges. Improvements of high power fiber lasers used to form the laser beam enable the increased power levels and extended range capabilities. Lessons learned, operating procedures, updated hardware and software derived from previous systems will be incorporated in this demonstration,” Dr. Tom Beutner, director of the Air Warfare and Weapons branch, Office of Naval Research, told Scout Warrior in a written statement at the time of the contract announcement.

A previously established 12-month, $53-million deal between Northrop and the Office of Naval Research will develop a Laser Weapon System Demonstrator through three phases; the phases include an initial design phase, ground-testing phase and then weapons testing at sea aboard a Navy Self Defense test ship, a Northrop statement said.

“The company will design, produce, integrate, and support the shipboard testing of a 150-kilowatt-class solid state (electric) laser weapon system,” the Northrop statement added. “The contract could grow to a total value of $91 million over 34 months if ONR exercises all of its contract options.”

Office of Naval Research officials told Scout Warrior an aim of the developmental program is to engineer a prototype weapons for further analysis.

“The possibilities can become integrated prototypes — and the prototypes become reality when they become acquisition programs,” an ONR official said.

It is not yet clear when this weapon might be operational but the intention seems to be to arm surface ships such as destroyers, cruisers and possibly even carriers or an LCS with inexpensive offensive or defensive laser weapons technology.

“It is way too early to determine if this system will ever become operational. Northrop Grumman has been funded to set-up a demo to “demonstrate” the capabilities to senior leadership, who will then determine whether it is an asset worth further funding and turning into a program of record,” a Navy official told Scout Warrior.

Both Navy and Northrop Grumman officials often talk about the cost advantages of firing laser weapons to incinerate incoming enemy attacks or destroy enemy targets without having to expend an interceptor missile worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Navy officials describe this as getting ahead of the cost curve.

“For about the price of a gallon of diesel fuel per shot, we’re offering the Navy a high-precision defensive approach that will protect not only its sailors, but also its wallet,” said Guy Renard, director and program manager, directed energy, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.

As mentioned, the Navy has already deployed one laser system, called the Laser Weapons System, or LaWS, which has been operational for months.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops
A rendering of the weapon system in action. | Boeing

LaWS uses heat energy from lasers to disable or destroy targets fast, slow, stationary and moving targets. The system has successfully incinerated UAVs and other targets in tests shots, and has been operational aboard an amphibious transport dock in the Persian Gulf, the USS Ponce.

The scalable weapon is designed to destroy threats for about $59-cents per shot, an amount that is exponentially lower that the hundreds of thousands or millions needed to fire an interceptor missile such as the Standard Missile-2, Navy officials explained.

While at sea, sailors have been using the LaWS for targeting and training exercises every day and the weapon has even been used to disable and destroy some targets, service officials said.

Navy sailors and engineers have discovered some unanticipated intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance value from the laser weapons system by using its long-range telescope to scan for targets as well, Navy officials said.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops
USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) during first at-sea tests and trials in the Atlantic. | U.S. Navy

Laser weapons are expected to figure prominently in the Navy’s future plans in several respects. New Navy platforms such as the high-tech destroyer, the DDG 1000 or USS Zumwalt, is engineered with an electric drive propulsion system and extra on-board electrical power called an Integraed Power System. This system is in part designed to power-up ship electrical systems and accommodate emerging future weapons systems such as lasers and rail guns.

“Laser weapons provide deep magazines, low cost per shot, and precision engagement capabilities with variable effects that range from dazzling to structural defeat against asymmetric threats that are facing the US Naval force,”  Beutner added.

In addition, laser weapons integrate fully into the Navy’s emerging “distributed lethality” strategy aimed at better arming the surface fleet with a wide array of offensive and defensive weapons.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch a Coast Guardsman jump onto a narco-sub full of cocaine

The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro not only earned their pay recently but they also once again proved themselves worthy of their boat’s namesake. After struggling to catch up to a narco-sub filled with 17,000 pounds of cocaine, the crew hopped aboard the partially-submerged craft, opened the hatch, and apprehended the crew as the boats all sped along at the water line.


If for some reason you didn’t actually think the Coast Guard was cool, just watch this Coastie bang on a cartel submarine like they personally violated his property.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Virginia dairy farm that used to hold Army spies is now a winery

Fauquier County, Virginia, might not be the place you think of when you imagine covert ops training, but that’s exactly what’s happened at an isolated farmhouse and working dairy.

In use since 1803, “Vint Hill,” as it was initially known, had several owners before the Army purchased it in 1942 – just in time to train a group of service members in the fine art of espionage. Reframed and repurposed throughout the years, Vint Hill has served as one of the most essential intel-gathering sites you’ve probably never heard of.


History

Vint Hill is situated near the Signal Intelligence Service headquarters in Arlington but was far away enough from the city that its location and its purpose remained a secret. It was here that the Army housed its Monitoring Station No. 1, a covert spy base.

Established by the Army’s Signal Intelligence Service, the 701-acre farm was built in part because the Army needed a secure location near the SIS and a cryptography school.

The geography of Vint Hill was key in the Army’s decision to train there. Not only did it boast a quiet countryside vibe where trainees could really get into their coursework, but it also provided “quiet electromagnetic geology,” which made it the perfect place for intercepting radio signals. During WWII, that’s exactly what service members stationed at Vint Hill did.

Perhaps the most famous is the interception of a message from a Japanese ambassador to Germany. That message, sent in 1943, described German fortifications, contingency plans, and troop strength information.

Once the message was decoded, the information was instrumental in planning the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944.

The NSA recently released documents that further detail the influence that Vint Hill had on WWII planning. It was a crucial intelligence-gathering station throughout all of WWII and beyond.

After WWII

After WWII, Vint Hill became the first field station of the Army Security Agency, an arm of the NSA. The facility conducted signals intelligence operations.

Declassified Army intelligence lists Vint Hill as one of the largest intercept facilities in the world.

Not only did it serve as an intercept facility, but Vint Hill was also a signal school, signal training center, and a refitting station for selected signal units returning from or heading to deployments.

During and following the Korean War, the station’s footprint was expanded significantly, making it a major intelligence hub during the Cold War. Vint Hill personnel intercepted key Soviet diplomatic and military communication sent over teleprints that helped form and shape America’s military posture.

In 1961, the Army Electronic Material Readiness Activity moved to Vint Hill and took over the management of signals intelligence and electronic warfare maintenance for the Army Security Agency.

By 1973 however, Vint Hill’s mission had changed to research. Its main goal was to aid and assist in the development and support of intel and electronic warfare info gathering for the Army, DoD, and our partner allies. The EPA took over operations of Vint Hill’s photographic interpretation center from the DIA, and Vint Hill was renamed as the Environmental Photographic Interpretation Center.

However, that didn’t last long. By the late 1979s, Vint Hill was on the list of installations to be closed, and all projects on site were halted. A change in policy in 1981 reversed that decision, and Vint Hill remained open.

Serving as the “giant ear” of the NSA was the core focus of Vint Hill in the early 1980s and eventually became a development and testing site for signal equipment for the CIA and FBI. IN 1993, Vint Hill was once again on the chopping block. This time, the closure stuck. Most personnel were reassigned to Fort Monmouth and Fort Belvoir.

Vint Hill closed officially on September 30, 1997. Now, the site hosts several engineering and tech companies, including the FAAs Air Traffic Control System Command Center. There’s a Cold War museum open on-site, but most notably, the former intel-gathering installation is home to the Vint Hill Craft Winery and the Old Bust Head Brewery. There’s even a dance school and a gymnastics school run on the property. Talk about reinvention after time in service.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch: These are the best & worst things about the Naval Academy

The US Naval Academy is located just outside Annapolis, Maryland. It began in 1845 and trains officers for their posts in the US Navy and US Marine Corps. Competition to get into the Academy is fierce – and it doesn’t end at Admission. Getting accepted into the Naval Academy is tough, which makes for an extra-competitive environment inside the Academy. Then, during exam time, the students turn even more competitive than usual (yes, that’s possible). Many students exhaust themselves studying so much they end up losing sleep, and it’s all because of that competitive spirit. Everyone wants to be the best. 

A Naval Academy Freshman’s Ideal Trainer

Freshmen at the Naval Academy have it especially rough. They start in late June, but not with regular classes. Instead, it’s just 50 days of hard training. That might sound like par for the course at a Military training institution, but here’s the kicker. The freshmen’s trainers are the upperclassmen at the Academy. It’s their job to teach the newbies how to be in the Navy, and they sure do take it seriously. Picture a lot of yelling. It’s for a good cause though. Otherwise, many of those freshmen probably wouldn’t make it past the first year.

Then, when school starts in the fall, freshmen have to wake up early for 5:30 am physical training several times a week. Once again, their trainers are upperclassmen whose only goal is to whip the newcomers into shape. To make matters even worse, winters in Annapolis are cold and dark. Waking up in the dark, before the break of dawn, to work out in the cold under the command of upperclassmen can be brutal. One student recalls even having to roll in the freezing mud. Luckily, after freshman year, Naval Academy students no longer have to endure that crack-of-dawn training. 

Your Grades Control Your Life

The Naval Academy also has some pretty strict rules around academic success. Any student who falls below a 2.0 GPA their first semester of the year spends the second semester on punishment. And what is the punishment? They are not allowed to go out on the weekends, which means no dates. For a person in their early 20s, that’s a miserable existence, that’s for sure. 

It’s not all bad surprises at the US Naval Academy though. If you keep your grades high, you may get to travel to amazing places for free. All of it is part of education, but traveling in the Alaskan wilderness to learn wilderness training is a lot cooler than taking a field trip near home, right? Traveling to Cambodia and Vietnam to learn about military history is a lot more interesting than learning it from a book. 

Preparation is the First Step to Success

The US Naval Academy is the best training you’re going to get if you want to join the Navy or Marine Corps. The rules in place are precisely what make it the best. These secrets from Naval Academy insiders might sound intimidating, but they’re not meant to scare anyone off. Instead, the idea is to prepare students for what they’re getting themselves into. Being prepared is the first step to success, after all. 

Related: Here are 5 times US Navy ships returned to the fleet with severe damage.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This amazing Air Force cadet is now a Rhodes Scholar

A U.S. Air Force Academy student from Tennessee has been named a Rhodes Scholar.


The Rhodes Trust said Nov. 18 that Jaspreet “Jesse” Singh, of Oak Ridge, is one of 32 students from the United States who will receive full financial support to study at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops
Each year 32 young students from the United States are selected as Rhodes Scholars.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Mike Kaplan)

According to the trust, Singh is a senior at the Air Force Academy, where he is pursuing a bachelors’ degree in mechanical engineering. Singh‘s research addresses questions of policy, ethics, and the management of military assets and nuclear weapons.

Now Read: This Mayor took time off to go to war in Afghanistan

Singh has interned at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and conducts research at the Center for Aircraft Structural Life Extension. He also has completed several ultra-marathons.

At OxfordSingh will read for master’s degree in engineering science.

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