Uplifting story of the day: Marine turns the tables on his injury - We Are The Mighty
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Uplifting story of the day: Marine turns the tables on his injury

Uplifting story of the day: Marine turns the tables on his injury


On August 9, 2014, Staff Sergeant Brandon Dodson lost both his legs to an improvised explosive device blast in Shah Pusta, Afghanistan. He was on his fifth deployment.

About 19 months later, in mid-March 2016, Brandon completed a Team Semper Fi surf camp. It was his fifth time surfing since his injury.

“What’s really interesting about surfing,” says Brandon, who was born and raised in California and surfed all his life, “is it’s the only thing in my life that’s easier since I’ve been injured. Sitting versus having to stand up, I actually surf better now than I did before.”

“The part that’s really difficult is getting from the car to down by the water and paddling out through the breakers,” Brandon continued. “I’m either in big prosthetic legs, or short house legs or a wheelchair — none of which work well in sand. Once I’m in the water, though, I’m totally independent.”

Brandon’s journey to the waters off San Clemente, California by way of Afghanistan has been a truly remarkable one.

Born at Naval Air Station Lemoore in central California (his father was a Marine), Brandon enlisted in July 2003 and was deployed to Iraq a year later. He served as part of a Marine Expeditionary Unit on a ship off the coasts of southeast Asia in 2006, and deployed to Iraq a second time in 2007.

After returning home and serving as a drill instructor in San Diego, Brandon was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 and again in 2014. He uses the word “surreal” to describe that most recent deployment.

“We were living in nice built-up barracks with anywhere from 3-man rooms to 12-man rooms,” he explained. “We had Wi-Fi, we had a gym, we had a nice chow hall, we had laundry, we had salsa nights, movie nights — we had all the amenities. We’d go from that to doing patrols outside the wire for five days and killing bad guys.”

When Brandon stepped on the pressure plate connected to five pounds of homemade explosives, he was on day one of a three-day operation—the last patrol of his deployment. He was MEDEVAC’d to Camp Bastion, where he remained in a coma for two days.

Uplifting story of the day: Marine turns the tables on his injury

“I was told I needed 19 liters of blood transfused into me,” he recalls. “I bled out roughly four times the amount of blood in a human body. Then they flew me to Landstuhl; that’s where I woke up. I was there for 3 days, in and out of surgery. I landed in Bethesda August 14, and I’ve been here ever since.”

Brandon’s wife, Jasmine, first learned about the Semper Fi Fund during his initial recovery in Bethesda and Brandon got to know the Fund’s representatives as his recovery progressed.

“When you’re inpatient at Walter Reed, you’re approached by about 1,000 nonprofits that want to see you,” he explains. “The Semper Fi Fund stood out because they had actual people that came around that were damn near employees at the hospital, they’re there all the time. They were so nice, they had so much good advice, and they were able to talk to my wife and family and were able to comfort them in so many ways.”

The support provided to Brandon and Jasmine and their family included helping Brandon’s mother and two brothers with their wages so they could step away from their jobs and be with him during his initial recovery period.

Uplifting story of the day: Marine turns the tables on his injury
“They helped us to go on a family vacation for my one-year Alive Day,” Brandon added, “and they provided me with the ability to participate in multiple different events — not just surf camp, I did a water skiing camp, another surf camp in Virginia Beach, and I handcycled the Marine Corps Marathon in 2015 with Team Semper Fi.”

“A lot of guys that are injured like me, traumatically injured, some don’t take advantage of opportunities like this,” Brandon says. “They’ll sit and not go on trips and they don’t want to go out in public and not try anything new, and I think that’s the wrong way to go about it. My wife and I, we’ve taken every trip and opportunity—stuff I’ve done before, like surfing, and stuff I haven’t done.”

“The Semper Fi Fund, they’re the best nonprofit for wounded warriors out there, and they help in any capacity. Not just handing out money, even though that’s part of it, but if you need a special adaptive piece of equipment or car modifications, plus they run all these adaptive sports programs—surfing, skiing, all kinds of athletic sports. Anything you can think of, they offer a camp for it. As a Marine, I would say that the Semper Fi Fund is the number-one nonprofit, they’re amazing.”

Looking back over his experiences of the last dozen years or so, Brandon says that he doesn’t get worked up over small things anymore (“like dumb stuff I see on Facebook”)—and has reached an interesting family-oriented perspective on his injury.

“There’s nobody really handicapped in my life, nobody’s in a wheelchair,” he says. “My wife and I, we both had really healthy families growing up, so I was never really exposed to handicapped people at a personal level. It’s not like I was judging them in any way, I don’t think, I was just unaware.”

“Now, what really makes me happy is that my son was only 18 months old when I was injured, so the way he’s growing up, this stuff is not gonna faze him at all. That’ll make him a better person, which makes me happy.”

We Are The Mighty is teaming up with Semper Fi Fund and comedian Rob Riggle to present the Rob Riggle InVETational Golf Classic. The veteran-celebrity golf tournament will raise money and awareness for Semper Fi Fund, one of our nation’s most respected veteran nonprofit organizations, in support of wounded, critically ill and injured service members and their families. Learn more at InVETational.com.

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The strangest covert weapons American spies carried in WWII

The Office of Strategic Services was a joint intelligence and operations agency founded by the Americans during World War 2. It served as a precursor to the CIA and was ran by a man who went by Wild Bill Donovan. The OSS did fascinating work and was invaluable to the war effort. They honed and created some of the modern intelligence tactics and techniques we still use today. They also took part in designing a variety of different technologies, including several OSS weapons. Some were effective and efficient… Others were a little crazy. Here are 5 of the weirdest OSS weapons for your consumption.

Related: PIPPA LATOUR: THE WWII SPY TURNED HUMBLE HERO

The Sedgley OSS .38

The Sedgley OSS combined a gun with a glove for one heckuva knockout punch. This might be my favorite OSS weapon. The Sedgley OSS .38 is a single shot pistol attached to a heavy leather glove. It was loaded with a single 38 caliber round that would fire when the plunger was depressed. The plunger was oriented to depress when the user punched a bad guy.

Uplifting story of the day: Marine turns the tables on his injury

To be fair, the OSS .38 was not just an OSS Weapon. It was issued by the Navy to allow Sailors to have a quick attack weapon if they encounter the Japanese when clearing brush in the dense islands of the Pacific.

That’s actually where the gun saw success. Well, not exactly success, but more success than most OSS weapons. It was indeed issued, but there doesn’t seem to be any recorded uses of the Sedgley OSS .38.

Related: GREEN BERETS AND FOREIGN WEAPONS… LIKE KIDS IN A CANDY STORE

The Stinger Pen Gun

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar… but sometimes a pen is a gun. One of the more famous OSS Weapons is the Stinger pen gun. This covert gun looked like a pen and could be carried quite discreetly. The Stinger pen gun was designed to be disposable. It fired a single .22 Short round, and users discarded it after it was fired.

Uplifting story of the day: Marine turns the tables on his injury

The operator could hide the Stinger Pen Gun in a shirt pocket, approach their target, put a single round of .22 Short into his face, drop the gun and take the cannoli. It’s super small and very simplistic. Unlike most OSS Weapons, these stingers went into full production with over 50,000 produced and distributed.

Pen guns were not uncommon at the time and were also quite cheap. In America, they have since become NFA weapons that required a tax stamp, lots of paperwork, and a 200 dollar fee. You can find de-milled Stinger Pen Guns every now and then, however, if you want your own example of the most common OSS Weapon of World War II.

Related: 3 ‘ADVANCED’ RUSSIAN WEAPONS THAT TURNED OUT TO BE SCIENCE FICTION

The Welrod Mk 2

The Welrod Mk 2 is not a weapon developed by the OSS. It was developed by the Brits, but American OSS agents did put it to good use. I think that qualifies it for our list of OSS weapons. The Welrod Mk 2 is a single shot, bolt action pistol. That’s already weird enough. However, it gets even weirder when you acknowledge the integrally suppressed design.

Uplifting story of the day: Marine turns the tables on his injury

The Welrod Mk2 came together to be a superbly quiet weapon. An automatic pistol makes all kinds of noise, including the noise of the slide reciprocating, and the Welrod eliminated that. The Welrod came in both .32 ACP and 9mm. Though as you’d imagine, a single-shot pistol isn’t great for gunfights.

It is great for assassination missions, however. Well, kind of great. It’s an option if you have to get close to your target to eliminate him, or could work well for removing sentries and silencing guard dogs. The Welrod reduced the sound of a gunshot down to a very impressive 73dB, or less than half of that of a standard 9mm round. That’s not movie quiet, but it’s about as close as a centerfire gets.

Related: THE STRANGEST SPEC-OPS FIREARMS IN SOCOM’S ARMORY

The Flying Dragon SAC 46

SAC 46 is a heckuva name for a pistol, but like most things in the military, it has another name, and apparently, that name is the Flying Dragon. OSS weapons often exemplify their mission and how spies work. In this case, that means the weapon was quiet–very quiet. It’s a dart gun that propels a dart down a very long 32-inch barrel via a CO2 cartridge, making it similar in some ways to the BB guns you can buy at Walmart.

Uplifting story of the day: Marine turns the tables on his injury

The poison dart would strike the enemy in silence, deliver a lethal dose of poison, and allow the operator to disappear into the shadows. The design was nutty but it was rather efficient. It propelled a dart roughly a hundred feet with a good degree of accuracy. The weapon was also designed to be assembled quickly and easily–something spies always appreciate.

Users had to load the cartridge and dart into the gun, and then attach the two 16 inch sections of barrel. If need be, they could use a single portion of the barrel at the expense of range and accuracy. Assembly may have been easy, but reloading was a strenuous effort that required taking the weapon completely apart. It doesn’t seem the SAC-46 made it past the prototype stage.

The William Tell

Remember the story of Wiliam Tell? The archer who shot an apple off his son’s head? It’s a bit of folklore that’s fascinating and has roots that date all the way back to the British bowmen. One of our OSS Weapons was named in his honor, and honestly, for a good reason. While technically a bow, it wasn’t just any bow; The William Tell was a very modern, incredibly quiet crossbow… of sorts.

Uplifting story of the day: Marine turns the tables on his injury

You might also say the William Tell was a sort of slingshot that used a rubber harness instead of a traditional pair of upright arms and rubber line. This odd combination of a crossbow and slingshot resulted in a very compact and silent weapon. The William Tell was reportedly the quietest weapon in the OSS armory. Not only is the William Tell audibly sneaky, but it also lacked a flash associated with a firearm.

The design was compact, with a folding stock, and was designed for close-range, silent eliminations of enemy fighters. However, testing proved the design had significant shortcomings. Most notably, the weapon wasn’t entirely effective at taking down threats silently, despite its quiet operation. Sure, you can get the arrow in them silently, but it might not stop the guy who caught the bolt from screaming about it.

OSS Weapons – Poke, Prod, and Punch

The early world of international spies was a fascinating one. OSS weapons clearly showed no lack of imagination, even though they might show a lack of overall usefulness. Wild Bill Donovan and his boys and girls were hell on the Nazis regardless of the crazy weaponry they wielded. Have I missed any? If so, let me know below!


This article by Travis Pike was originally published by Sandboxx News.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy’s two-piece, flame-resistant uniform undergoes second round of tests

U.S. Fleet Forces (USFF) Command will begin a second round of testing in 2019 on a two-piece organizational clothing variant that offers flame resistance and moves the Navy one step closer to delivering sailors a safe, comfortable, no-cost alternative to the Improved Flame Resistant Variant (IFRV) coveralls, with the same travel flexibility as the Type III working uniform.


USFF conducted the initial wear test on two-piece variants from May through September of 2018 and collected feedback from nearly 200 wear-test participants across surface, aviation, and submarine communities about everything from colors and design, to comfort and options like buttons and hook-and-loop fasteners. The command also received feedback from more than 1,700 sailors in an online survey about colors and design.

Uplifting story of the day: Marine turns the tables on his injury

An information graphic describing the modernized, two-piece, flame-resistant organizational clothing wear-test design components for sailors.

(U.S. photo illustration by Bobbie A. Camp)

Fleet survey responses indicated that sailors liked the functionality of the Type III but would like to see the design in traditional Navy uniform colors. More than 70 percent of E-6 and junior sailors surveyed liked the navy blue blouse and trouser while a khaki version was the preference for chiefs and officers.

Uplifting story of the day: Marine turns the tables on his injury

Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anthony Flynn, assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), demonstrates the operational de-blousing capability of the flame-resistant, two-piece organizational clothing prototype.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stacy M. Atkins Ricks)

“Leaders are listening to the fleet when it comes to this design,” said USFF Fleet Master Chief Rick O’Rawe, a wear-test participant. “We have an obligation to keep our sailors safe in inherently dangerous environments, but we also want to be mindful of their time. This is going to be something that’s safe, easy to maintain, and doesn’t require half-masting of coveralls when it’s hot or having to change clothes every time you leave the ship. Never again should we have to pass the words ‘all hands shift into the uniform for entering port or getting underway.'”

Uplifting story of the day: Marine turns the tables on his injury

Lt. Jamie Seibel, assigned to U.S. Fleet Forces (USFF) Command, demonstrates the operational wearability of the flame-resistant, two-piece organizational clothing prototype (khaki variant) aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG-72).

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stacy M. Atkins Ricks)

The updated design, which won’t require sailors to sew on components, will be tested by 100 officers and enlisted sailors to see how well it performs from wash-to-wear without ironing, and how it holds up to laundering. The two-piece variant will allow for de-blousing in extreme climates and challenging work environments. An undershirt will continue to be tested with a flame-resistant, moisture-wicking fabric in black.

Uplifting story of the day: Marine turns the tables on his injury

A sailor assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun (DDG 103) demonstrates the operational wearability of the black Gortex parka and the flame-resistant, two-piece organizational clothing prototype navy blue variant.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stacy M. Atkins Ricks)

I have received so much feedback just from wearing the two-piece around the command every day,” said Yeoman 1st Class Kelly Pyron, a wear-test participant assigned to USFF. “The best part is that we’ll be able to transit from the ship and run errands in the two-piece; having one standard underway and in-port across the board will be much more convenient. I am excited to see the wear test moving into the next phase of evaluation.”

Once approved, the new prototype will serve as an alternative to the IFRV coverall for operational commands. The coverall may continue to be the prescribed clothing item for some sailors in applicable work environments.

Pyron expressed, “If a clothing item, that I will not have to buy, can make my life easier while keeping me safe, I’m all for it.”

Articles

Navy keeps T-45 Goshawk fleet on the ground

Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, Commander, Naval Air Forces, is visiting T-45C training commands across the fleet April 6 to April 8 to address recent concerns.


Shoemaker is visiting Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas, NAS Pensacola, Florida, and NAS Meridian, Mississippi, to talk face-to-face with instructor pilots and student pilots about their physiological episodes experienced in the cockpits of T-45C training aircraft. Shoemaker will listen to their concerns and communicate the ongoing efforts to tackle the problem.

On Friday, March 31, roughly 40 percent of flights in the T-45C training commands in Meridian, Pensacola and Kingsville were canceled because of the operational risk management issues raised by local IPs.

“Our instructor pilots were implementing a risk management practice we require they do prior to all flights,” Shoemaker explained. “It was important for me to come talk with my aviation team members and hear their concerns as we work this challenging issue together. We ask a lot of our pilots, and we owe it to them to ensure they understand we are doing everything we can to fix this problem and that they have access to top leadership.”

Uplifting story of the day: Marine turns the tables on his injury
A T-45C Goshawk training aircraft assigned to Carrier Training Wing (CTW) 2 makes an arrested landing aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). The ship is conducting aircraft carrier qualifications during the sustainment phase of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan T. Beard/Released)

“This will remain our top safety priority until we fully understand all causal factors and have eliminated PEs as a risk to our flight operations,” Shoemaker continued. “The NAE [Naval Aviation Enterprise] has been directed to expedite solutions for PEs and to prioritize those efforts.”

Engaging with aircrew face-to-face at their home stations is only the most recent in a series of activities undertaken by CNAF and the NAE to deal with PEs. Even before the concerns were raised by the pilots, CNATRA had scheduled expert engineers to visit the training sites and educate them on the ongoing efforts to fix the machines, and to enable the engineers to hear pilot feedback directly. The Navy implemented an operational pause for its T-45C fleet Wednesday at the direction of Shoemaker in response to the T-45C pilots’ feedback about the potential for PEs. That operational pause has been extended to allow Naval Aviation Leadership time to review the engineering data and developing a path forward for the fleet that will ensure the safety of its aircrew.

“We have the right team of NAVAIR [Naval Air Systems Command] program managers, engineers and maintenance experts in conjunction with Type Commander Staffs, medical and physiological experts immersed in this effort working with the same sense of urgency to determine the root causes of PEs,” Shoemaker said.” To tackle this as effectively as possible, we are using an ‘unconstrained resources’ approach to the problem, meaning we have not been nor will we be limited by money or manpower as we diligently work toward solutions.”

As far back as 2010, NAVAIR established a Physiological Episode Team (PET) to collect data, investigate occurrences of PEs and coordinates with technical experts to identify and develop solutions based on root cause determinations. Naval Aviation has provided training and encouraged reporting of PEs since the development of the PET.

Finding the causes is a challenging problem on a complex, highly sophisticated platform. Though the number of components and configurations of the aircraft make finding “smoking guns” difficult, Naval Aviation has continued to implement multiple lines of effort across over the past couple years to mitigate the risks. Naval Aviation requires pilots train in the simulator using a Reduced Oxygen Breathing Device to improve aircrew recognition of physiological symptoms related to hypoxia.

The improved On Board Oxygen Generating System material, known sieve bed (filter) material has been installed in all T-45, and new oxygen monitors are being fielded as part of an operational test in Pensacola. Sorbent tubes, devices that detect contaminants in breathing gas air, are also are being provided to pilots and, as soon as our inventory supports, will be required on every flight to help ensure we capture any PE event that might yield clues to the contamination agent.

Other mitigating efforts in place include: refinements to aircrew procedures; improved maintenance practices and procedures for better system reliability; releasing Air Frame Bulletin (AFB)-794, which changes inspection intervals to improve the rate of component failure detection; procurement of a cockpit pressurization warning system.

In one of his many previous messages to the Force, Shoemaker explained that, “Our aviators must be able to operate with confidence in our platforms and in their ability to safely execute their mission. To help ensure we eliminate this risk, collection and reporting of event data and your continued leadership is critical.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

95 year old veteran passes hours after achieving dream to visit WWII Memorial

A 95-year-old World War II veteran died during a so-called Honor Flight carrying him home from a weekend in Washington, DC.

Frank Manchel was returning home to San Diego, California, after an all-expenses-paid trip to DC honoring WWII veterans when he died on May 5, 2019, the non-profit Honor Flight San Diego said in a statement.

The American Airlines flight was about an hour from landing in San Diego when Manchel collapsed, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Dave Smith, founder of Honor Flight San Diego, told the Union-Tribune that Manchel’s death was “almost instantaneous.”

“He was laughing, chatting, having a good time — and then he collapsed,” he said.


Manchel, who served as an Army technical sergeant in WWII, had flown to DC with 82 other veterans, family members, and volunteers, to visit historic landmarks in the country’s capital.

The group visited the WWII Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Air Force Memorial, the Navy Yard’s museum, and the military electronics museum.

Manchel’s sons, Bruce and Howard, as well as his 93-year-old brother, Jerome, and nephew, David, joined him on the trip.

Bruce Manchel said in a statement on May 6, 2019 seen by INSIDER that his father died after “the most amazing weekend, surrounded by his newest best friends.”

“We thank all of you — Honor Flight San Diego, American Airlines, San Diego International Airport, friends, and supporters for your concern and for allowing the weekend to be so special for all of us to share together.”

Following Manchel’s death, an American Flag was draped over his body, and two chaplains on board the flight said prayers.

When the plane landed in San Diego, veterans saluted as they passed by his body.

Honor Flight San Diego told INSIDER that American Airlines offered to take Manchel’s remains and relatives to Detroit, Michigan, at no charge ahead of May 9, 2019’s funeral. Honor Flight San Diego’s founder will be in attendance.

This is the seventh death to happen during an Honor Flight Network flight, the Associated Press reported. Honor Flight San Diego requires veterans and their guardians to complete medical questionnaires before flying.

In 2018, fewer than 500,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII were still alive, according to US Department of Veterans Affairs statistics cited by the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.

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

Articles

Pearl Jam’s guitarist Stone Gossard pays tribute to military members in new single

When the global COVID-19 pandemic prevented Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard from touring with the band in 2020, Gossard didn’t just sit at home and wait for the virus to pass him by. Like any musical great, he began to explore new sounds with new collaborators.

The result of that exploration is his side project, Painted Shield. The electronic rock collab includes singer-songwriter Mason Jennings, drummer Matt Chamberlain and keyboardist Brittany Davis.

Painted Shield is releasing its first new single since November 2020 with a new song, “4th of July” — a tribute to those who served in the armed forces of the United States and what it takes to come home.

Uplifting story of the day: Marine turns the tables on his injury

“The lyrics to this song were inspired by the stories of friends of mine who have served in the military,” the band told WATM. “It touches on the recovery work needed to integrate back into civilian life after being in conflict.”

Painted Shield’s 2020 self-titled debut album was an entirely new collaboration for Gossard and the band, an electronic departure from Pearl Jam’s distinctive sound. The mix resonated with fans of Pearl Jam and electronic music, as the debut saw 1.5 million streams and a complete sellout of its initial LP pressing. 

The band’s latest comes not only on Independence Day, but at a time when much of the U.S. military is looking back at 20 years of war in Afghanistan. As the war winds down, the single comes at a time when the United States is taking a critical look at the effect of the Global War on Terrorism.

“4th of July” is about these struggles and more.

“The music reflects that inner and outer struggle, the acoustic guitar and melancholic folk melody mirror the simplicity of the child world while the electric guitar, organ and drums slash, defend, and erupt and mirror the complexity of the adult world,” the band said. “There is a tension represented that I hope encapsulates and reflects the human struggle, the struggle for peace and love in the face of violence and fear.”

“4th of July” is especially relevant in that it’s also about why people join the military in the first place — where they come from and how that affects their world view.

Painted Shield’s new single, available now, is another kind of departure from Gossard’s previous work, even with Painted Shield’s previous album. 

It’s unlike anything the band has done in the past, but it feels familiar; a recognizable mix of Gossard’s 90’s grunge roots with the war protest songs of the Vietnam era with hints of Giorgio Moroder. It all comes together into a song that is at once edgy and nostalgic. 

“4th of July” is a fitting tribute to the men and women who served in the Armed Forces, looking back on how their service started and has evolved through decades of war and conflict, at home and abroad. 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

Eyes roll at the sight of yet another transition story. We all get it; it’s hard to transition from military to civilian life. I have read many a story myself and note positively that everyone brings up a new eureka moment for me that I didn’t experience myself, but that I totally get. My transition story doesn’t boast any novel epiphany though it does come from the aspect of a career SMU pipe-hitter.

“You’re not on the pods anymore, Geo… you need to get off the pods and throttle back a bit. I mean not a bit but a whole, whole lot!” explained my boss, Conan, also from my same SMU in Fort Bragg, NC.


Pods refer to the two benches on the exterior of the MH-6 Little Bird helicopter on which two men on each side of the aircraft can ride into an assault scenario. To many of us, riding the pods into an assault objective hanging on with one arm and lighting up targets on the ground with the other arm was the penultimate of brash aggression and acute excitement of living life on the very edge.

Uplifting story of the day: Marine turns the tables on his injury
(A complex brown-water insertion of a Klepper kayak. Photo courtesy of the author)

 

“SMUs will always be around, because no amount of technology will ever replace raw unadulterated aggression.” (SMU Squadron Commander)

I stood tall in my new office cubicle at my new job as a civilian, having just separated from the Service. My job/title was Project Manager. This was my new life, this square. “This is going to be great!” I pallidly promised my psyche. I fervently thanked the creator for the “shower door” on my cube that I could slide closed to prove to the world that I was not really there.

It was plastic, but it was translucent rather than transparent; that is, you could see through it, but only gross shapes rather than defined detail like… a shower door does. If a body were to remain very quiet and still, nobody could detect your presence in the cube. This thing I did fancy.

Carol from HR then stood in my open doorway in her blue office dress to welcome me and list the ground rules — the corporate culture of life in office cube city. She recited those edicts as they appeared chiseled in granite:

• “No, singing or playing of music;

• no cooking food;

• avoid speaker phones

• watch your voice volume

• deal with gas in the restroom

• always knock before entering a cubicle

• no “prairie-dogging”

In fact, whatever it is you find yourself doing in your cube for the moment just stop it!

“Er… no prairie-dogging? Yeah, so… what might prairie dogging be?” I posed.

“Well Mr. Hand, prairie dogging involves the poking of ones head over the top of one’s cubicle walls and… and looking around!” Blue-dressed Carol from HR became a blurred and indistinct pattern from the other side of my show door as I closed it in her incredulous face.

“Well, I never… I AM NOT FINISHED MR. HAND!”

I popped one’s head up over the top of one’s cubicle and explained: “Yes, yes you are finished, Ms. Carol from HR… and please watch your voice volume — TSK!”

Within the hour my shower door flew open and there stood Conan, face awash with concern.

“Woah, now that is a great, big, fat, bulbous-assed no-go here in cube city—entering without knocking… tremendous transgression, Conan!” I warned.

“There was a complaint about you from HR, geo…”

We talked. Conan was right, and there was no dispelling that. I apologized and thanked him. We shook hands as we always did when we parted or met. So with a crappy first morning behind me, I vowed to make the best of the rest. I headed to the break room for a cup of coffee to calm myself down.

Uplifting story of the day: Marine turns the tables on his injury
(Low-profile office cubicles offer no substantial privacy)

 

I embraced the notion that there might be nobody in the break room, but my crest fell for there were a man and woman seated at a table enjoying lunch. The noon hour had crept up on me though I scarce remarked. I held my breath and went about for that cup of Joe.

Men are great around just each other, but they get stupid and inclined to comport themselves like jackasses whenever a woman is around too. This fellow saw that I was engaged in an action that was somewhat contrary to break room policy, and he began:

“Excuuuuse me there, partner… but you’re not supposed to…”

“SHUT UP; SHUT THE PHUQ UP, PARTNER!!” I delivered to the man without even turning to look at him, not fully knowing from whence my outburst came.

“I’m screwed!” I thought, “I didn’t check the volume of my voice!” unable to sort through the gravity of which coffee offense I had committed just then. It was not the volume that was the greater offense, rather the content of my delivery.

The woman left the break room immediately at a cantor. Partner remained for the mandatory tough-guy extra seconds, me leaning against the counter, staring at him all the while sipping my incorrect procedurally-obtained break room coffee. He then sauntered out with backless bravado.

My shower door flew open without a knock. Once more, I reeled at Conan’s blatant disregard for cube rules. I endured the pod speech strewn with constant “I’m sorry, Conan” interrupts. This time his speech contained a threat annex to it. I needed to take that seriously. We two shook hands, as we always did when we parted or met.

A few months ago I was riding on the pods doing 90 MPH hanging on with one arm like a rodeo rider, spitting jacketed lead at targets on the ground, sprinting from the touched-down chopper at full speed smashing through doors and lighting up all contents… now I was born again into a world where the penultimate cringe comes from the shrimp platter at the buffet not being chilled down to the proper 54-degrees (Fahrenheit).

I had to turn this thing around, but wasn’t sure how. I accepted my plight with this eight-word phrase, one that I came to lean on in countless occasions: “We’ll just have to figure it out tomorrow.” And so it went for the next 16 years there at that same job.

I didn’t have to re-invent myself as I feared, but I did develop a set of guidelines that would steer my path over the next more than a decade and a half. There were the company rules, and then there were my rules. My rules were better than the company rules. They were simple. Though I never formally wrote them down, I can list them still for the most part:

1. Don’t ever tell anybody what the real rules are

2. Don’t ever hurt anybody in the company or customer base

3. Don’t ever damage any company or customer property

4. Don’t ever wear corduroy pants on a day you might have to run many miles.

5. Don’t ever allow yourself to be stuck in a position with a boss who sucks.

6. Don’t ever cheat entering time into your pay invoice

7. Never litter

8. Never threaten another employee within earshot of a witness

9. Remotely bury any items that could get you fired or that you just don’t want to deal with

10. Never reveal the locations of buried items

11. Eventually, return all clandestinely-acquired tools and equipment

12. (most important of all rules) ALWAYS WORK ALONE!

Uplifting story of the day: Marine turns the tables on his injury
(The author on left and teammate on right, lift off with an MH-6 for more gun runs, not giving one-tenth of a rat’s ass about the temperature of the shrimp platter. (Photo courtesy of SMU Operator MSG Gaetano Cutino, KIA)
Articles

Filipino soldiers wore helmets made from coconuts during WWII

Following the Spanish-American War, the Philippines ceased to be a Spanish colony. Instead, the islands became the largest colonial commonwealth of the United States. Alongside American units from the states, Filipino soldiers formed native units trained and equipped to defend the islands from foreign invasion…mostly.

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Lt. Ceasr Basa wearing a dress version of the guinit helmet (Public Domain)

Despite the economic and strategic importance of the Philippines, military preparedness stagnated following WWI. In fact, despite the widespread use of steel helmets during WWI, the Philippine Constabulary and Commonwealth Army were not issued such protective gear. Rather, their helmets were made of the pressed fibers of coconut husks.

Called the guinit, or Filipino Sun Helmet, the headgear resembled a European pith helmet. The guinit featured a domed center and a broad rim that went all the way around. Its rim narrowed at the sides and extended over the front and back. Although the coconut husk construction offered little to no protection from bullets and shrapnel, the guinit helmet shielded its wearer well from the scorching Filipino sun.

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Guinit helmets were only useful as protection from the sun (Public Domain)

Though historians have not pinpointed the exact origin of the guinit helmet, it was likely developed parallel with the first Philippine Commonwealth Army uniforms in 1935. By the time of the Japanese invasion in 1941, it was standard issue in most Philippine Army units, including the fledgling Army Air Corps and Navy torpedo unit. One exception were the Philippine Scouts. Under the command of U.S. Army officers, the Philippine Scouts were issued more modern gear like steel helmets and even the M1 Garand.

Notably the guinit helmets were part of Philippine President Manuel L. Quezon’s efforts to boost the Filipino economy and make the Army self-reliant with locally produced gear. “That’s why the garrison belts used for training were made of abaca, the blankets came from Ilocos, the guinit hat from Quezon,” said Resty Aguilar, Executive Director of the National Historical Commission. Like British pith helmets, the officer version of the guinit helmet sported a colored puggree. The cloth band denoted the branch of service: blue for Army and red for Constabulary.

Uplifting story of the day: Marine turns the tables on his injury
The 1st Regular Division on parade in Manila shortly before the outbreak of the war in the Philippines (Public Domain)
MIGHTY HISTORY

All Green Berets are inspiring. Here are 5 of the best

It’s the mission of all branches of the U.S. military to protect all citizens, defend liberty and uphold the Constitution. Being a good citizen entails giving back to each branch in every way we can.

The Green Berets, founded in 1952 by John F. Kennedy, are celebrating their 68th birthday today. Take a moment to honor some special members of the “warrior-diplomat” ranks as they continue to protect and honor our country.


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Matthew Williams

Look to the heroic acts of Sergeant Matthew Williams, who took heroic action to save the lives of his fellow soldiers in the Battle of Shok Valley, which took place in Afghanistan in 2008.

According to other Berets who had been in Williams’ regimen, Williams helped to evacuate two soldiers who had been shot from the battle. Williams saved the soldiers’ lives and endured minimal casualties.

Williams had been deployed multiple times, serving in Afghanistan and in other areas of need. Trump upgraded Williams’ Silver Star, which he earned in 2008, to a Medal of Honor on October 3, 2019.

Regarding Williams’ actions, Trump noted that, “Matt’s incredible heroism helped ensure that not a single American soldier died in the battle of Shok Valley.” Further, he noted that,””Matt is without question and without reservation one of the bravest soldiers and people I have ever met. He’s a brave guy. And he’s a great guy.”

Williams added, “”I hope I can wear the Medal with honor and distinction and represent something that’s much bigger than myself, which is what it means to be on a team of brothers, and what it means to be an elite Special Forces soldier.”

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Ronald J. Shurer

Additionally, another Special Forces Soldier who fought in the same battle was also awarded a Medal of Honor: Ronald J. Shurer. Shurer, a medic, ran through open fire to aid a soldier who had shrapnel stuck in his neck. In total, Shurer aided four wounded soldiers despite suffering gunshot wounds himself.

The deep moral dedication needed to selflessly aid others in the face of a surprise attack by 200 soldiers is astounding and something to be proud of.

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Humbert Roque “Rocky” Versace

The valor of the Green Berets stretches back to their inception. Humbert Roque Versace (nicknamed “Rocky” by his colleagues) joined the Armed Forces in Norfolk in 1937, and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bush for his heroic actions as a prisoner of War in Vietnam.

In addition to his prestigious Medal of Honor, Versace was honored in the Pentagon Hall of Heroes by Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki.

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Melvin Morris

Like Versace, a number of Green Berets have been awarded a Medal of Honor for heroic action in Vietnam. However, soldier Melvin Morris was awarded a MOH not for heroic action as a prisoner of war, but for retrieving the body of a fallen sergeant after pushing back enemy lines single handedly with a bag of grenades. The Beret even was able to free his battalion from the enemy forces that oppressed it in this crusade.

That’s badass.

Morris was shot three times in the endeavor but survived after being rushed to medical care. He was awarded a MOH by President Obama in 2014 and was later indicted into the Hall of Heroes.

Kyle Daniels

The Green Berets are not only heroes – they are also innovators. 10th Group Special Forces soldier Kyle Daniels was tired of seeing the American Flag burned in times of trial, such as the ones we’re in now, and invented a flag that physically won’t burn. The Firebrand Flag Company now proudly boasts fireproof flags, a symbol of the America we know and love. Fire and oppression won’t bring us down.

Each member of the U.S. Armed Forces, before being indicted to the military, pledges to:

“Support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; [that I will] bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and [that I will] obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me.”

President Kennedy established the Green Berets with the promise that the elite unit of the military would be, “A symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom.” The Green Berets are not just capable of their mission, they are excellent in upholding their duty to our country.

Honor any Green Berets you may know, today and any other day. It’s all too easy to forget that the life of an American soldier is dedicated to the well-being of our country, something which, in good conscience, should not be forgotten and honored in every way possible.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch Iranian sailors in a close encounter with a US carrier

A central tenet of Iran’s Persian Gulf naval defenses is the use of speedboats — lots and lots of speedboats. The tactic is so widespread that retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, in command of the fictional Iranian navy, used explosives-laden speedboats to take on the U.S. Navy in a massive war game in 2002. He won that war game and managed to sink an entire carrier battle group.

In ten minutes.

Related: That time a Marine general led a fictional Iran against the US military – and won

One of those Iranian speedboats — run by the very real Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps — recently encountered the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Persian Gulf, and filmed the entire episode.


The crew of the IRGC naval vessel filmed the massive American aircraft carrier as it traversed the Strait of Hormuz. The whole of the video was aired on Iranian state television.

The waterway is the passage for nearly a third of all the world’s oil shipping and the United States maintains a naval presence there as a means of keeping the way open for use by everyone. Meanwhile, the Islamic republic has recently been the target of economic sanctions from the Trump Administration.

Warning the Nimitz-class carrier to “keep well clear” of Iranian Revolutionary Guards boats via radio, the speedboats foolishly approached the American vessel – all the while reminding the ship to “refrain from the threat or use of force in any manner.”

The video also shows Iranian sailors taking high-resolution photos of the ship with a very, very long lens as American helicopters hover overhead. Sailors can be seen walking on the flight deck next to American fighter and intelligence aircraft. With a fleet of other speedboats in tow, the video shows the reality of serving in the Persian Gulf, as two ideological adversaries share the same body of water during a tense international standoff.

Iran had a similar encounter with the Theodore Roosevelt in the past, using a drone to shadow the carrier in 2017 and came close to threatening the lives of American F-18 pilots. The most egregious encounter came when Iran captured 10 American sailors in 2016 that they said drifted into Iranian territorial waters.

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Photos of that capture were also broadcast on state television.

The video aired on Iranian state television as part of a documentary about the situation in the Persian Gulf. It’s thought by many to be a show of strength in the face of tough American sanctions as the Trump Administration slashes at Iranian oil exports.

Articles

Marine receives Silver Star for thwarting assassination attempt

The Marine Corps will present the third-highest combat award to an Iraq War veteran on Thursday, following a review that upgraded his commendation.


Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Glenn M. Walters, is slated to present the Silver Star Medal to Capt. Andrew Kim, an officer serving with Marine Corps Logistics Operations Group, at the Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms on Thursday.

The ceremony stems from a Pentagon initiative to review all valor awards after Sept. 11, 2001. Kim initially received a Bronze Star Medal for valorous actions performed on Aug. 6, 2003, while serving as a counterintelligence specialist with Task Force Scorpion of the 1st Marine Marine Division in Iraq, according to a press release issued Monday by the Marine Corps.

An Iraqi man approached Kim, his team chief, a linguist and a source. He suddenly drew a pistol and shot Kim’s team chief in the neck.

A sergeant at the time, Kim immediately returned fire, killing the assassin. He was then hit repeatedly by small arms fire from the rear. Disregarding his own wounds, Kim ushered his fallen team chief into a vehicle and exited the ambush’s kill zone, pursued by five Iraqis in a white pickup truck.

His vehicle sprayed by volleys of enemy fire, Kim drove to a light armored reconnaissance security element and ordered a deadly counterattack on the enemy — “bold” actions theMarine Corps concluded showed “undaunted courage and complete dedication to duty,” plus “gallantry and effectiveness under fire” that “saved the lives of all those conducting the mission,” according to this award citation.

Articles

Pentagon reveals covert Chinese fleet disguised as fishing boats

The Pentagon’s new report on China’s developing military capabilities exposes the fighting force on the front-line of China’s quest to control the seas.


The Chinese Maritime Militia, a paramilitary force masquerading as a civilian fishing fleet, is a weapon for gray zone aggression that has operated in the shadow of plausible deniability for years. Supported by the People’s Liberation Army Navy “grey hulls” and Chinese Coast Guard “white hulls,” the CMM “blue hulls” constitute China’s third sea force.

The CMM engages in “low-intensity coercion in maritime disputes,” according to the Department of Defense report.

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A Pentagon report reveals that China has a covert fleet of fishing trawlers intended to wreak havoc in the maritime ‘grey areas’ of the South Pacific. (US Navy photo)

“China has used coercive tactics, such as the use of law enforcement vessels and its maritime militia, to enforce maritime claims and advance its interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict,” the report explains. For instance, after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague discredited China’s claims to the South China Sea last July, Beijing dispatched the CMM to the territories China aims to control.

“China is building a state-owned fishing fleet for its maritime militia force in the South China Sea,” the Pentagon report introduced.

China presents the CMM as a civilian fishing fleet. “Make no mistake, these are state-organized, -developed, and -controlled forces operating under a direct military chain of command,” Dr. Andrew Erickson, a leading expert on Chinese naval affairs, explained during a House Committee on Armed Services hearing in September.

The maritime militia, according to the Pentagon, is a “subset of China’s national militia, an armed reserve force of civilians available for mobilization to perform basic support duties.” In the disputed South China Sea, “the CMM plays a major role in coercive activities to achieve China’s political goals without fighting, part of broader [People’s Republic of China] military doctrine that states that confrontational operations short of war can be an effective means of accomplishing political objectives.”

The Department of Defense recognizes that the CMM trains alongside the military and the coast guard. A 2016 China Daily article reveals that the maritime militia, a “less-noticed force,” is largely “made up of local fishermen.” The article shows the militia training in military garb and practicing with rifles and bayonets.

“The maritime militia is … a component of China’s ocean defense armed forces [that enjoys] low sensitivity and great leeway in maritime rights protection actions,” explained a Chinese garrison commander.

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A helicopter attached to Chinese Navy ship multirole frigate Hengshui (572) participates in a maritime interdiction event with the Chinese Navy guided-missile destroyer Xi’an (153) during Rim of the Pacific. (Chinese navy photo by Sun Hongjie)

The CMM is not really a “secret” weapon, as it has made its presence known, yet throughout the Obama administration, government publications failed to acknowledge the existence of the maritime militia. “We have to make it clear that we are wise to Beijing’s game,” Erickson said in his congressional testimony.

The CMM harassed the USNS Impeccable in 2009, engaging in unsafe maneuvers and forcing the U.S. ship to take emergency action to avoid a collision. The maritime militia was also involved in the 2011 sabotage of two Vietnamese hydrographic vessels, 2012 seizure of Scarborough Shoal, 2014 repulsion of Vietnamese vessels near a Chinese oil rig in disputed waters, and 2015 shadowing of the USS Lassen during a freedom-of-navigation operation. China sent 230 fishing vessels, accompanied by several CCG vessels, into disputed waters in the East China Sea last year to advance China’s claims to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands administered by Japan.

Commissar of the Hainan Armed Forces Department Xing Jincheng said in January that the members of the Maritime Militia should serve as “mobile sovereignty markers.” He stated that this force is responsible for conducting “militia sovereignty operations” and defending China’s “ancestral seas,” territorial waters “belonging to China since ancient times.”

“I feel that the calm seas are not peaceful for us,” he said. “We have to strengthen our combat readiness.”

While the maritime militia has been mentioned by Navy officials, as well as congressional research and commission reports, the new Department of Defense report is the first high-level government publication to address the third sea force. “The fact is that it is there,” U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Scott Swift said in November, “Let’s acknowledge that it is there. Let’s acknowledge how it’s being command-and-controlled.”

Dragging the maritime militia into the light significantly limits its ability operate. “It is strongest—and most effective—when it can lurk in the shadows,” Erickson wrote in the National Interest.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s old flying boat fleet is getting new upgrades

When you can’t afford to buy a lot of new planes, refurbishing the ones you have is a viable alternative. We’re seeing this play out, to an extent, in the ongoing saga of re-winging A-10 Thunderbolts in the Air Force inventory. But the United States is not the only country polishing up old birds.


According to a report by NavyRecognition.com, Russia is taking a bunch of Soviet-era flying boats in for some serious upgrades. The anti-submarine sensors in these airframes, including the radar and magnetic anomaly detectors, are being updated. They’ll also be outfitted with the latest Russian anti-submarine torpedoes and depth charges.

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A right-side view of a Soviet Be-12 Mail patrol/anti-submarine warfare aircraft in flight. (U.S. Navy photo)

Flying boats have been on the decline since the end of World War II. Despite the fact that having them means any bay, inlet, or atoll can be a base, they have a somewhat shorter range than land-based planes and typically hold less of a payload. Russia, however, has found itself short on ASW planes, especially since the end of the Cold War.

The Soviets built all of 62 Il-38 May maritime patrol planes, 100 Tu-142 Bear F anti-submarine planes, and 143 Be-12 flying boats. That’s a total of 305 anti-submarine planes – and this total includes planes that were exported. By comparison, the United States and Japan have combined to produce 757 P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft. The United States has also produced 280 Lockheed S-3 Vikings for carrier-borne ASW operations.

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A front view of a Soviet Be-12 Mail patrol/anti-submarine warfare aircraft in flight. (DOD photo)

Today, the numbers for Russia look even worse. Russia has a grand total of 20 Il-38s and 24 Tu-142s in service, plus a half-dozen Be-12s for search-and-rescue missions. By comparison, the United States Navy has 67 P-3s in service, plus 69 P-8 Poseidon multi-mission planes. That figure does not include 30 P-8s on order.

Russia, it seems, is on the short end of the anti-submarine warfare stick. With this glaring shortage, you can see why Russia is looking to modernize some old planes.

Check out the video below to learn more about Russia’s refurbishing.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wfosca_XLOE
(New Update Defence | YouTube)
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