USNS Invincible harassed by Iranians – AGAIN - We Are The Mighty
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USNS Invincible harassed by Iranians – AGAIN

The missile-range instrumentation ship USNS Invincible (T AGM 24) was involved in a second incident with Iranian forces in as many weeks, this time with speedboats from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.


According to a report by BusinessInsider.com and Reuters, the speedboats came within 600 yards of the Invincible, forcing the ship to change course. Last week, an Iranian frigate came within 150 yards of the Military Sealift Command vessel, an action deemed “unprofessional” by the Department of Defense.

USNS Invincible harassed by Iranians – AGAIN
USNS Invincible (T AGM 24). (MSC photo)

Iran recently carried out a number of ballistic missile tests, drawing sharp criticism from Nikki Haley, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Iranian government officials have openly called for the destruction of Israel in the past.

Related: Test shows that A-10 can obliterate Iran’s small boat swarms with ease

Iran has a history of provocative actions in the Persian Gulf region. Last summer, the guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) was harassed by similar speedboats while carrying out routine operations. The Cyclone-class patrol craft USS Squall (PC 7) fired warning shots at other speedboats that harassed the ship in the region.

USNS Invincible harassed by Iranians – AGAIN
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. (Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi)

That fall, Iran also threatened U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft and also pointed weapons at a Navy MH-60 helicopter. This past October, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels fired anti-ship missiles at the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) multiple times, not scoring any hits.

The Nitze later carried out a Tomahawk strike on the rebels.

In January, less than two weeks before President Trump was sworn in, the guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) fired warning shots at Iranian speedboats.

Also read: The US Navy unloaded on the Iranians in the most explosive surface fight since WWII

Iran was listed in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Freedom of Navigation (FON) Report for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 for “Restrictions on right of transit passage through Strait of Hormuz to Parties of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea” and “prohibition on foreign military activities and practices in the EEZ.”

USNS Invincible harassed by Iranians – AGAIN
Guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94), front, steams in formation with USS Stout (DDG 56), USS Mason (DDG 87), USS Monterey (CG 61) and USS Roosevelt (DDG 80). The Mason and Nitze have been involved in three missile ambushes by Iran-backed Houthi rebels off the coast of Yemen. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan U. Kledzik/Released)

The 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World noted that Iran has over 180 speedboats of various types, armed with heavy machine guns, RPGs, and multiple rocket launchers. When asked about the incident, a spokesman for United States Central Command said, “we do not comment on the movement and destination of U.S. Navy vessels in the AOR.”

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This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

Finances are stressful in emergency situations, and it doesn’t matter what rank you are. From an unexpected death in the family to a broken car courtesy of the deployment curse, financial emergencies happen no matter how well you plan for them.


Fortunately for service members, their spouses, and veterans, there’s a little safety net in place for each of the services to help when these things happen, dubbed the “Emergency Relief Fund.”

Army:

The Army has the Army Emergency Relief, a non-profit that helps soldiers, retirees and families with resources in a pinch. Additionally, AER provides access to interest free loans, grants, and scholarships.

The AER is endorsed and run by the Army.

National Guard:

The National Guard has the National Guard Soldier and Airman Emergency Relief Fund, which provides up to $500 to eligible households. For more information, check out the National Guard’s publication on its emergency relief fund.

Air Force:

The Air Force has the Air Force Aid Society, and it provides emergency assistance, education support, and community programs. While the AFAS is a private non-profit, it is “the official charity of the United States Air Force.”

Coast Guard:

The Coast Guard has Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, wich is a private non-profit organization that works closely with the Coast Guard to provide interest free loans, grants, and counseling.

Navy / Marine Corps:

The Navy and Marine Corps share a relief fund called the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. The NMCRS is a non-profit that, though unaffiliated with the Department of Defense, can be found on nearly all Navy or Marine Corps bases.

The NMCRS is completely funded by donations and on-base thrift stores, and it provides financial assistance and counseling, quick assist loans, education assistance, health education and post-combat support, budget for baby classes, emergency travel, disaster relief, and the on base thrift stores.

American Red Cross:

For service members, family members, and eligible veterans who are not near an installation, there is The American Red Cross. The Red Cross works alongside the above mentioned aid societies to provide assistance.

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These Afghan moms are taking up arms to fight the Taliban and ISIS

As radical terrorist groups continue to wreak havoc around Afghanistan, a group of women are taking up arms against them.


The Afghan National Police have resorted to arming and training local women to fight the Taliban and Islamic State militants. In many cases, the women had lost their sons, husbands, and other loved ones to the ongoing violence.

“If we fear [ISIS] and the Taliban today, our future will be ruined tomorrow,” one unnamed woman told Al Jazeera.

Female members of the Afghan National Police train the local women in small arms and basic tactics, specifically in the northern reaches of Afghanistan.

USNS Invincible harassed by Iranians – AGAIN
Army photo by Sgt. Chloé Barnes.

“Every week, around 40 or 50 people join,” said Najiba, a female police officer.

Some Afghans do not approve of women fighting in the army or police, but the increasingly desperate situation has forced the security forces to take desperate measures. Afghan forces only control or influence approximately 60 percent of the country’s districts, according to a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

ISIS’s Afghan branch, known as Islamic State-Khorasan province, holds significantly less territory, but the group has been able to engage in several deadly terrorist attacks across the country.

USNS Invincible harassed by Iranians – AGAIN
Army photo by Sgt. Chloé Barnes.

“It’s been forced on us,” Gen. Rahmat of the Jowzjan province police told Al Jazeera in an interview. “It’s not a woman’s job to fight. But that’s the situation now. Women have joined the police and army, too.”

Fighting the Taliban and ISIS is a risky proposition for the women, but many see it as their duty. Sara Khala, one of the women training to fight the militants, lost her son to the Taliban, forcing her to care for his orphaned children.

“I have to take revenge for him,” she told Al-Jazeera. “I’ll cook dinner and give it to them. Then I’ll go wherever the Taliban and Daesh are. I’ll take my gun and fight them.”

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Bill requiring women to register for the draft passes Senate

USNS Invincible harassed by Iranians – AGAIN
A Marine Corps drill Instructor commands a recruit to run in place during a function in Van Nuys, California, on March 12, 2016. Marine Corps photo by Alicia R. Leaders


A provision that would require women to register for the military draft alongside men for the first time in American history was included as part of the massive 2017 National Defense Authorization Act that passed the Senate handily on Tuesday with an 85-13 vote.

The language requiring the draft for women was added in committee and received little debate on the Senate floor, but has created a firestorm of controversy on and off Capitol Hill. It comes as the military services welcome women into previously closed ground combat units in keeping with a mandate from Defense Secretary Ash Carter given late last year.

On Feb. 2, a panel of top military leaders including Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, and Navy Secretary Ray Mabusall told the Senate Armed Services Committee they supported drafting men and women in light of the changes to combat assignments.

“It is my personal view that based on this lifting of restriction for assigning [job specialties], that every American that is physically qualified should register for the draft,” Neller said at the time.

In the House, which previously passed its version of the NDAA, an amendment requiring women to register for the draft passed narrowly with a 32-30 vote, even though its author, California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, voted against it.

“I’ve talked to coffeehouse liberals in San Francisco and conservative families who pray three times a day,” Hunter said April 27, as the House Armed Services Committee marked up the bill. “Neither of them want their daughter to be drafted.”

The Senate proposal was hotly debated on the floor June 7 by Republicans Ted Cruz, from Texas, and John McCain, from Arizona.

Cruz complained that the provision including women in the draft entered the bill through committee, rather than in public, open debate.

“I’m the father of two daughters. Women can do anything they set their mind to, and I see that each and every day,” Cruz said. “The idea that we should forcibly conscript young girls in combat to my mind makes little or no sense. It is at minimum a radical proposition. I could not vote for a bill that did so without public debate.”

McCain countered that including women in the draft was a matter of equality.

“Women who I have spoken to in the military overwhelmingly believe that women are not only qualified, but are on the same basis as their male counterparts,” McCain said. “Every leader of the United States military seems to have a different opinion from [Cruz], whose military background is not extensive.”

Currently, U.S. law requires most male citizens and immigrants between the ages of 18 to 25 to register in the selective service system. The Senate NDAA would require all female citizens and U.S. residents who turn 18 on or after Jan. 1, 2018, to register as well.

Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah introduced an amendment that would have removed the draft language from the bill, but it was unsuccessful. Another Republican, Rand Paul of Kentucky, filed an amendment that would have gotten rid of the draft altogether, but it too failed to get traction.

The House and Senate must now reconcile their versions of the NDAA in conference before final passage.

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This ‘RoboCop’ handgun is a suppressor and pistol all in one

When it debuted as a prototype a couple years ago, what was billed as the world’s first integrally-suppressed handgun available to the everyday Joe seemed a bit far fetched.


It was a Rube Goldberg contraption — with a Smith Wesson MP 9mm frame and this weird chunk of metal bolted onto the front, a crazy action and mismatched parts. But the thing was quiet and functional and promised to change the way shooters thought about the art of the possible.

USNS Invincible harassed by Iranians – AGAIN

Fast forward two years, and suppressor giant SilencerCo is poised to release its new Maxim 9 handgun to the commercial market. And by the looks of it, Omni Consumer Products would be proud. And heck, maybe the Detroit PD would be interested in picking a few up even if RoboCop is still a thing of science fiction.

“This gun is disruptive by design; it is the future of firearms,” says SilencerCo CEO Joshua Waldron. “Additionally, the Maxim 9 is just the beginning, as we intend to make more integrally suppressed platforms so all types of firearms can be quiet out of the box.”

Now more than a combination of prototype parts, the Maxim 9 is a handgun built from the ground up by SilencerCo, which holds about 75 percent of the U.S. market in suppressors but has strayed into the high-tech shooting accessory market and now the pistol-making world. With a 4.38-inch barrel and an overall length of just over 9.5-inches in its shortened configuration, the Maxim 9 is just 2-inches longer than a Glock 17 — but shoots with a bark under 140 dB (an unsuppressed 9mm comes in at around 160 dB).

Think about that. Most suppressors add on another 4-to-6 inches to the length of a handgun, so a Glock 19, for example, would stretch out to a whopping 12 inches or more. Not something you could carry every day and draw at a moment’s notice.

But SilencerCo hopes to make the Maxim 9 an everyday carry gun for law enforcement, teaming with holster makers to build off-the-shelf options for the men and women in blue.

USNS Invincible harassed by Iranians – AGAIN
The Maxim 9 comes standard at a full length of 10.75 inches but can be shortened to just over 9.5 inches. (Photo from SilencerCo)

“The Maxim 9 solves a dilemma that customers have had for decades: do they choose a short, loud pistol or a quiet, yet longer pistol with a sound suppressor attached to the muzzle,” SilencerCo says. “Now, consumers can have the best of all worlds in this short-but-quiet firearm that retails for less than a quality pistol and quality silencer combined.”

And now the Maxim 9 has all the bells and whistles of today’s state-of-the-art handguns, including an under-barrel KeyMod accessory rail, a slide cut for a pistol optic and aggressive stippling.

Sure, its suggested retail price is around $1,400, but SilencerCo has a point. A handgun and silencer all in one and not having to deal with pistons, threaded barrels and all that? And come on, who wouldn’t want to look like RoboCop at the range or on the job?

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Today in military history: Armistice ends the Korean War

On July 27, 1953, the Korean War ended in armistice after three years of fighting.

The war began in June of 1950 when communist North Korea crossed the 28th parallel to invade South Korea. Within days, the United States came to the South’s defense, just as the People’s Republic of China aided the North.

When the Korean War started, victory was far but assured. The North Korean attack on June 25, 1950, took the U.S. and South Korea by complete surprise, and the Communists were able to make large gains in a very short amount of time.

The battle lines swung as wildly as the momentum of the war itself before grinding into months of stalemate as the two sides haggled at the negotiating table. Every time the pendulum shifted, more American and UN forces were captured by the North Korean and Chinese forces.  The first reports of enemy atrocities filtered into the UN headquarters as early as two days after the invasion started.

The fighting was horrible enough — but the war crimes in addition to state-sanctioned fighting were unimaginable. On top of the numerous forced marches and torture, seven Korean War Massacres stand out as egregious examples of the systematic, inhumane treatment of POWs at the hands of Communist forces. According to the Potter Report, consisting of more than 200 pages of testimony from Korean War veterans and massacre survivors before Congress, the estimated number of American POWs who died from enemy war crimes was 6,113. The total number of UN forces who were victims ranged between 11,662 – 20,785.

It was a brutal three years which cost the lives of nearly 3 million Korean and Chinese militants and civilians, as well as 50,000 Americans. 

North Korea today is a militant totalitarian dictatorship criticized for its humanitarian crimes against its people. A peace treaty was never signed, and reunification negotiations have never been successful, so the peninsula remains divided, with a patrolled demilitarized zone and palpable tension at its center.

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8 girly songs only a real squad leader sings

The infantry squad leader is a billet that demands leadership and integrity. There is an unofficial rite of passage that every squad must endure. I’m not talking about the first order issued or the trials of combat. No–it’s when your squad leader sings his favorite, stereotypically “girly” songs. Maybe it’s boredom or his brain has turned to soup because of all the stupid he has to put up with.

In Afghanistan, our squad leader lost a bet to our Staff NCO and had to do a patrol debrief wearing spandex short shorts. What we saw was not meant for mortal eyes. The constant stretching and Ke$ha songs, however, were not mandatory. If he had to pay the price, so did all of us. If your squad leader doesn’t sing ridiculous songs at some point, is he even a real leader?

 Ke$ha – Tik Tok

Vietnam Veterans had Jimi Hendrix and Creedence Clearwater Revival – meanwhile, we have this. Out of all the things that can give someone PTSD, I can’t listen to this song without remembering the horrors of that day. Was it worth it Staff Sergeant?

Pinkfong – Baby Shark

If you have had kids this song has given you PTSD. Naturally, drill instructors sunk their teeth into it immediately at the height of it’s popularity.

Katy Perry – Firework

For a long time, Katy Perry was the darling of the Marine Corps. She has done numerous shows for the troops on USO tours and even made a tribute music video. She has partnered with UNICEF and Generosity Water to help children around the world. Her humanitarian resume stretches decades into the past making it less inhibiting to be a fan in uniform. If your squad leader didn’t at least hum this during a tactical halt, sweating and losing his marbles – yet happy, then it wasn’t a real deployment.

Britney Spears – Baby one more time

A classic. A must have on the list. Generally the older SNCOs sing this because of their aversion to pop culture, although ironically, this is pop culture – but old.

Christina Aguilera – Genie in a Bottle

Same as above.

Lady Gaga – Bad Romance

When I was a devil pup embarking on my first deployment, this song hit the air waves. Unfortunately for us, since we were without internet, it was one of the only songs people would sing. Mother Monster is beautiful and a great singer. However, when her lyrics come out of the mouth of the leadership, you start reevaluating your life choices.

The Navy’s theme song

As is tradition.

Aqua – Barbie Girl

We’ve all sung this one. Laugh it up because then we’re going in a fun run when its over. Even the Russians are doing it!


Feature image: Screen capture from YouTube.

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Geopolitical Expert: ‘China is at virtual war with the United States’

Last month’s massive breach of federal employees’ data allegedly at the hands of Chinese hackers, made public Thursday, indicates a treacherous new reality in the global cyber game.


“It’s very serious indeed,” geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer, the founder of Eurasia Group, told Business Insider.

“China’s offensive cyber capabilities have consistently surprised the United States in terms of breadth and sophistication of attacks.

“The latest attacks revealed yesterday show millions of existing and former US government employees with their private data now in the hands of the Chinese state.”

The Obama administration has refrained from making any official statements about China’s role in the attack on the Office of Personnel Management, since it is still so difficult to trace a data breach back to its original source.

An unnamed official told Reuters that information taken includes security clearance information and background checks going back decades.

“This is deep. The data goes back to 1985,” the official said. “This means that they potentially have information about retirees, and they could know what they did after leaving government.”

Reuters notes that the Office of Personnel Management “conducts more than 90% of all federal background investigations, including those required by the Department of Defense and 100 other federal agencies.”

The data includes details about the private lives of more than 4 million US government workers.

These federal employees “are the people who hold US secrets,” national security expert Douglas Ollivant explained to Business Insider, referring to the employees’ varying levels of government security clearance.

“And now the hackers likely have access to blackmail-able levels of information, such as the employees’ passports, Social Security numbers, history of drug use or psychological counseling, foreign contacts, etc.”

Whether the attack was state-sponsored remains to be seen, but few doubt that the stolen personnel data will ultimately end up in the hands of the Chinese government.

“This is a really big deal,” Ollivant added. “Some might consider it an act of war.”

Further, the alleged hack is part of Beijing’s evolving cyber-espionage operation.

“Having a large database of personal information on key individuals that have access to critical infrastructure or classified information gives China an advantage in whatever agenda they have,” Mark Wuergler, a senior cybersecurity researcher at Immunity Inc., told Business Insider.

“By breaking into one organization it points in the direction of the next juicy target to siphon data from, or add to, an arsenal of leverage over a superpower,” Wuergler said.

The Chinese are masters of the long game, Wuergler added, and Chinese hackers have been known to infiltrate servers and maintain their access for a year or more to quietly spy on their targets.

“They are really good at what they do, and when they break into something it’s not just smash and grab,” Wuergler said, noting that hackers in the OPM network had been there for months before they were even detected.

According to Wuergler, a “complete overhaul” of the network and systems we use today would be needed to deter attacks like this in the future.

As Bremmer sees it, however, such efforts at deterrence would be largely futile given China’s determination to remain embedded in American networks.

“There’s no effective defense against these attacks and, as we’ve seen, there’s also no effective deterrence,” he said. “China isn’t trying to engage in ‘integrity’ attacks against the US — they don’t want to destroy American institutions and architecture as, after all, they’re hugely invested in American economic success.”

That said, Bremmer added: “We should be very clear: China is at virtual war with the United States, and the threat is far higher than that of terrorism, which gets the lion’s share of attention — and, in the post-9/11 world, funding.”

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea just fired off newer, faster missiles

North Korea tested a “new type” of missile on Jul 25 in the first test since President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Korean border last month, South Korea has determined.

North Korea test-fired two short-range missiles, one flying 267 miles and another 428 miles. Seoul assessed the weapons to be “a new type of short-range ballistic missile.”

Many observers quickly determined that the test was an attempt to get the Trump administration’s attention in the wake of several leadership summits that failed to produce an outcome desired by either side or possibly a warning to South Korea as it strengthens its military.


What Would Happen If North Korea Launched A Nuclear Weapon

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What Would Happen If North Korea Launched A Nuclear Weapon

Evidence from the past couple of months seems to suggest that North Korea is also strengthening its arsenal to counter regional threats to its offensive capabilities — some of the most important cards it holds in ongoing nuclear negotiations.

North Korea twice in May tested a new short-range ballistic missile, a weapon known as the KN-23 which some have compared to Russia’s SS-26 Iskander. It is unclear if the weapons tested Thursday included a modified variant of this weapon or something else entirely.

The North Koreans are “developing a reliable, operable missile that can defeat missile defenses and conduct a precision strike in South Korea,” Grace Liu, a weapons expert at the Jams Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, told Reuters in May.

Jeffrey Lewis, another CNS expert, suggested at that time that the weapon’s maneuverability seemed to indicate it was designed to skirt missile defenses, such as the Patriot and THAAD batteries deployed in South Korea.

Looking at the missiles tested July 25, US officials told Reuters that their preliminary analysis indicated the weapons were similar to the ones tested in May but noted that the latest test appeared to involve missiles with enhanced capabilities.

One official revealed that North Korea appeared to be decreasing the time it takes to launch missiles, thus reducing the time the US and its allies have to detect a launch. North Korea has repeatedly demonstrated an interest in solid-fueled missiles like the KN-23, weapons that can be fueled in advanced and launched quickly for surprise attacks.

The missiles launched July 25 reached an altitude of only about 30 miles, an altitude generally consistent with previous tests of the KN-23.

“If it’s very low and very fast, that shortens warning and decision time,” Adam Mount, director of the Defense Posture Project with the Federation of American Scientists, told CNN. “Those kinds of things could be useful in a retaliatory situation, but it’s even more relevant for a first strike.”

Melissa Hanham, another well-known missile expert, told Reuters in May, that the types of weapons North Korea is testing, weapons deemed by the Trump administration to be less important than the intercontinental ballistic missiles the country was building and testing in 2017, are the types of weapons “that will start the war.”

South Korea described the July 25 missile test “as a military threat and an action undermining efforts to alleviate tensions on the Korean Peninsula,” CNN reported.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

These 6 military habits — kick ’em or stick with ’em?

Life without orders is like staring into the abyss — of choices. We all know finding a new groove is essential to success after the military, but which habits should die-hard, and which should you begrudgingly hang onto?


While it may seem like pulling a complete 180 is you “sticking it to the man,” he actually gave you a few good pointers.

USNS Invincible harassed by Iranians – AGAIN

Cursing – kick it

Swearing like a sailor may be the language of choice across all branches of the military, but average America is not ready to wade through the sea of f-bombs to catch your intended meaning. They also, sadly, don’t see the value in violent bluntness or the off-the-cuff nickname you would love to metaphorically slap them with.

While it would be abso-bleeping-lutely great if everyone could just cipher through like the rest of us, one slip up from the old….mouth and you can kiss that job or promotion goodbye.

Stay training- for something that matters – stick with it 

The military is always training to achieve a specific goal or purpose. Your skills are constantly being sharpened, forcing you to become better than the day before. The discipline of living within a constant training cycle is a pace that throws many veterans for a loop after service.

As a civilian, you can pick what to train for, but the key to connecting who you are now to what you were before, could be remaining diligent in your training. Learn to cook like a chef or get a black belt; just do it with a clear date to make the cut.

USNS Invincible harassed by Iranians – AGAIN

Wake up and grind – stick with it

We’re melding two habits into one here – keeping up with PT and waking up early. There are clearly more hours in the day and zero chances for your pants to stop fitting if you keep with the military way of working out.

No one loves frosty morning runs, but no one hates the endorphins high that you get before breakfast, either. Take comfort, and a feeling of camaraderie in the fact that you’re in the best company before dawn, powering through PT like a warrior.

Living paycheck to paycheck – kick it 

While there are many things to complain about in terms of military pay, there is one thing – a reliable paycheck, to count on. It would be great to believe that anyone past PFC would have a solid grasp on finances, that’s not the case.

Getting smart about not just how you’re spending, but what you actually need in terms of salary to support your lifestyle, is a requirement for success. Civilian life doesn’t come with BAS, BAH, and plenty of other little perks you don’t realize you have.

Take a hard look at your Leave and Earnings Statement well before you get out. If it looks like the grid of confusion, stroll yourself into one of the many free financial programs on post or online open to the military community.

USNS Invincible harassed by Iranians – AGAIN

Contingency plans – stick with it

No one takes over a compound without a plan b, so why tackle an entire second career without one? If your squad leader didn’t drill it into your head hard enough, they’re important, and you must be prepared to activate the next on the list when or if things go south.

Waiting for orders – kick it 

Every day that you served, orders were waiting for you. The simplicity of a highly scheduled life is difficult to replicate, and after a short vacation from it turns out to be something most veterans miss.

Luckily, the military taught you what to do. Taking initiative in the absence of orders is battlefield common sense. Creating the mission (see above) and executing a series of orders, which, if followed, will achieve success, is how you make it one day at a time.

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The surprising link between spirituality and performance

Throughout history, humans have often weaponized faith. This makes any discussion of the intersection between wellness and spirituality especially tricky because it can be divisive – which is counterintuitive to our relatively inclusive military and veteran cultures.


However, as a Marine I’m always ready to tackle tough things, and as a social scientist invested in teaching veterans how to optimize their performance at home and work, I cannot ignore the compelling data surrounding the positive effects of spirituality.

USNS Invincible harassed by Iranians – AGAIN
Maj. Alejandro Sanchez, chaplain, Puerto Rico Army National Guard, says a prayer during the ceremony that marked the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. (U.S. Army photo)

What does spiritual fitness have to do with anything?

There are explicit, direct, trackable ties between resilient trait cultivation and spirituality. These ties include common-sense connections to things like behavioral health, social support, and philanthropic leanings, and the more mysterious connection between positive thoughts and their impact on us at a cellular level.

From Stanford to Duke University to Oxford, some really interesting research is being conducted globally on the ways in which spirituality and religiosity (self-reported connection to organized religion) can improve everything from healing and recovery time to pain tolerance and longevity. The protective effects faith offers when it comes to depression and anxiety conditions are especially significant.

USNS Invincible harassed by Iranians – AGAIN
U.S. Army paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division, pray before the Chaplain’s Anniversary Jump onto Sicily Drop Zoneat Fort Bragg, N.C., July 25, 2013. Deputy Chief of Chaplains, Brig. Gen. Charles R. Bailey led the prayer. Fort Bragg Chaplains celebrated the 238th anniversary of the Chaplains Corps with an airborne operation. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brian P. Glass/Released)

Many scholars and scientists who are not religious do believe that at some level we’re wired for spirituality. For example, at the top of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs sits transcendence – or the human need to connect with something bigger and outside of ourselves.

The protective factors offered by spirituality and religiosity are very powerful – even more powerful than many of the behavioral health practices that the military currently invests in financially. Because of this, the topic deserves a closer look in any honest conversation about building resilience.

So what’s the tie-in to resilience?

The links between spirituality, religiosity, and resilience can be found in three main areas that are significant not only statistically, but also practically in terms of health benefits.

1. Behavioral Health

People who identify as individually spiritual enjoy a number of benefits at the psychological and neurological levels. However, these health benefits are amplified and extended with higher levels of subjective religiosity – in particular when people take their spirituality a step further and practice it with some kind of community.

For example, binge drinking and promiscuous sex – which are high-risk for our bodies – are generally discouraged by major world religions. Religious people across demographics and age exhibit lower rates of smoking, alcohol abuse, drug use, and almost all risk-taking behaviors than their nonreligious peers. They also enjoy lower rates of depression and anxiety, better mental health, and even a slower progression of dementia.

In short, people who gather around an idea of virtue and live it out with community support are less likely to engage in physiologically high-risk behaviors. This tendency toward healthier living results in better long term health outcomes.

2. Social Support

People who are very religious tend to be members of a faith community and enjoy strong social ties as a result.

USNS Invincible harassed by Iranians – AGAIN
Chaplain Commander Dale Marta of the 14th Marine Regiment, HQ Battery leads a memorial service, in Agadir, Morocco, in honor of those that lost their lives on April 18 at the West Fertilizer Plant. A similar ceremony was held two days prior in honor of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.

Many faiths encourage both the practice of gratitude and giving to others outside of the social contract (which is essentially the idea that if I do something nice for you, you’ll do something nice for me). They prompt members to give to people who can’t fulfil their end of the social contract. This is the essence of philanthropic giving, which has demonstrated physical, mental, and emotional health benefits.

Of course, you needn’t be spiritual to give generously, but religious Americans give significantly more both financially and in terms of volunteer hours than their nonreligious peers.

3. Positive Thought

Researchers have found an inexplicable link between the practice of prayer and lowered blood cortisol levels and increased high-level cognitive capabilities. Because the brain influences bodily functions like heart rate, blood pressure, and the immune system, shifting what happens in the brain through spiritual practice can have significant physical impacts.

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U.S. Marines participate in a formation run prior to a physical-training competition. Elements of the 15th MEU are ashore in Djibouti for sustainment training to maintain and enhance the skills they developed during their pre-deployment training period.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jamean Berry)

In fact, in prayer (unlike in meditation) the relationship centers of the brain light up. The parietal lobes light up too. These lobes are on the side of the brain and allow you to experience feelings of empathy. In the Christian tradition there’s a sacred text that speaks to being transformed by the renewal of your mind, and today we’re understanding that spiritual practice can actually grow your empathy and increase your ability to connect deeply with others.

Aren’t there downsides to religion?

It’s true that all of the benefits of a beloved social community can also turn negative. If acceptance lowers blood cortisol levels, rejection raises it. So many people have been battered by faith communities around the world. However, although finding an affirming community of faith is a complicated process, it is also important because it reinforces the helpful behaviors and activities listed above.

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U.S. Army Capt. Christopher Butera (left), chaplain of the Fires Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, receives ashes from Capt. Robert Allman, chaplain of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment. The Regiment hosted a prayer breakfast in observance of Ash Wednesday. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Joshua Edwards)

If you’re curious, but don’t have a tradition you feel drawn to, commit to doing some research. Maybe take a cultural literacy course on world religions to orient yourself. Then, carve out time to ask yourself big questions in a sincere way. Do some research, some learning, and look for an affirming faith community that feels like an authentic choice and fit.

The three pillars of a resilient life are social support, self-care, and spirituality. The individual value of these pillars is backed irrefutably by science, and – when practiced together – their benefits increase exponentially.  

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Resources

This PTSD and trauma-engagement program welcomes veterans of all faith backgrounds. It provides resource for active duty servicemembers and veterans looking to bring spirituality to their day to day.

  • Big Question Inspiration
  • What has “faith” or “spirituality” looked like in my past? What does it mean to me?
  • How would I assess my current spiritual health? Do I spend time on it? Do I think about it at all?
  • What do I believe?
  • Where do I need to go to learn more?
  • Who can I reach out to as I figure this out?

About the Author

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Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, “Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance”, here.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

The President visited wounded service members at Walter Reed

President Donald Trump paid a holiday visit Dec. 21 to wounded service members at Walter Reed National Medical Center, hailing them as “some of the bravest people anywhere in the world.”


During his visit, the president awarded the Purple Heart to 1st Lt. Victor Prato of the 127th Airborne Engineer Battalion, who was injured last month while deployed in Afghanistan.

Prato, 25, of Somers, New York, suffered multiple soft tissue injuries following a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device blast, according to the White House.

“One of the most powerful moments of my life watching @POTUS give the Purple Heart to this American Hero,” wrote press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Twitter, where she posted a photo of Prato. “Amazed by the strength and resilience of the men and women in our Armed Forces.”

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Purple heart medals. USMC photo by Cpl. Sara A. Carter

Trump also met with other sick and injured service members from all branches of the armed forces, Sanders said.

Trump told reporters as he was leaving the White House en route to the medical center that he was going to “say hello to some of the bravest people anywhere in the world.”

“We’re just going to wish them a merry Christmas, a happy New Year,” he said. “We love those people.”

Also Read: DARPA’s new bionic arm is now available for vets at Walter Reed — Video

The president last visited the military hospital complex in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside of Washington, in April.

During that visit, he awarded a Purple Heart — his first — to an Army sergeant recently wounded in Afghanistan during what is now America’s longest war.

Trump is expected to return to the facility in the new year to undergo a physical.

Articles

The tactics to achieve victory in Iraq are changing

Although training of the Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga is a major part of the operation, the overall narrative has changed; the U.S. is more humble and modest in its approach than a decade ago.


The tactical assembly area for U.S. forces south of Mosul is as nondescript as could possibly be. In a nearby field the M109 Paladin howitzers, mobile artillery that drives around on tank treads, nestle amid earthen berms. Their supply vehicles are dug in behind them.

The field is full of mud, odd for northern Iraq, but it had been raining a lot in late March.

Lt. Micah Thompson, a platoon leader, says “We have the capability to address all targets; the point of the Paladin is a mobile artillery system. The fight that we bring is the precision munition capability. We are able to program and set those fuses and provide those rounds downrange in rapid time in order to accomplish [our task].”

He’s one of the recent generation of U.S. Army soldiers serving in Iraq, and he’s enthusiastic about providing fire support to the Iraqi security personnel who are slowly clearing Mosul of Islamic State fighters.

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An AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter flies over the desert terrain between Tall’Afar and Mosul, Iraq. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Matson

Behind the muddy field, the rest of the quiet U.S. Army base goes about its business in close proximity with the Iraqi Federal Police and Emergency Response Division, two Iraqi units leading the battle for Mosul.

This is the tip of America’s spear in the battle against ISIS, but in contrast to previous U.S. campaigns in Iraq, the Americans are letting the Iraqis set the tempo. Lt.-Col. John Hawbaker, a commander in the 73rd Cavalry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, joined the army in 1998 and served in Iraq in 2005-2006.

He says ISIS represents the “same barbarism, evil and cruelty” that the U.S. faced back then, but is “a much larger and conventional threat. We were doing counter-insurgency with U.S. leadership, the difference now is the Iraqi Security Forces conduct a fight not as a counter-insurgency but against a conventional force.”

This is a key difference in the U.S. outlook. In 2006, Gen. David Petreaus played a role in crafting a U.S. field manual on Counterinsurgency, later referred to as COIN, or counter-insurgency strategy.

In those days the U.S. Army was dealing with a “comprehensive civilian and military effort taken to simultaneously defeat and contain insurgency and address its root causes,” as the FM 3-24 Insurgencies and Countering Insurgencies manual of May 2014 described it.

H.R McMaster, now the national security adviser, but then a colonel, trained his regiment to deal with manning checkpoints and treating Iraqi civilians with dignity, to prepare to fight in Tal Afar, northwest of Mosul. George Packer in a 2006 piece in The New Yorker described not only how McMaster led Iraqis in rooting out insurgents, but how “Americans are not just training an Iraqi Army, they are trying to build an institution of national unity.”

Ten years later, the U.S. has given up some of these grandiose pretensions, with a much smaller footprint on the ground and a reduced visible presence. U.S. Army vehicles I saw don’t fly the U.S. flag and the only way you know they are U.S. vehicles, according to one local Iraqi, was that they use old MRAPs (Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected vehicles).

“We have multiple ways we assist,” says Hawbaker. “You saw the artillery in direct fire, mortars, and we also help coordinate air strikes, and we also help coordinate intelligence sharing, so we give them a lot of info on disposition and what he [ISIS] is doing and what he [ISIS] is thinking and intelligence for them to better array their operations.”

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The Kurdish Peshmerga platoon of the Joint Iraqi Security Company marches to class, Mosul, Iraq. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Everything is focused on aiding the Iraqis, not leading them. The Iraqi Army sets the tempo and the goals, and the U.S. advises. For instance, on April 12, the Department of Defense noted that the U.S. carried out eight air strikes in Iraq, hitting vehicles, mortars, snipers, and bomb factories.

Although training of the Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga is a major part of the operation, the overall narrative has changed; the U.S. is more humble and modest in its approach than a decade ago.

Instead of trying to rebuild the Iraqi Army as an institution — which the U.S. was struggling with in the wake of the 2003 invasion when the army was disbanded and competent, but Ba’athist officers were sent packing — the U.S. continually stresses that it “supports” the Iraqi Army.

This has allowed Iraq to take ownership of the war, and to make the mistakes and climb the learning curve that inevitably results in their soldiers improving.

This strategy has been effective at fighting ISIS over the last two years, but it has also been slow. The battle for Mosul has taken six months, and will likely take more, even as question marks are raised about what comes next in ISIS-held Tal Afar, Hawija, and parts of Sinjar and Anbar.

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